Staying Healthy: My 1200 Calorie Life

Brett and my chief goal right now is staying healthy. We’re both in good health for the most part, and mainly are dealing with the aches and pains of growing older, although they are currently minor for both of us. Back in June my doctor recommended I lose 25 pounds. Sigh, the story of my life. I gained weight during our travels because although we walked a lot, I also ate a lot. Croissants and pastries for breakfast every morning in France, pasta in Italy, bakery visits in Japan, and hot cocoa and cookies every afternoon in England all came with a price.

In June I signed up once again for MyFitnessPal to track my eating, the calories and macros, and Brett and I got serious about walking every day, especially so once we decided to do a 11-day walking tour in 2022. MyFitnessPal has the biggest food & calorie list available online, and includes many, many brands. I have to do some research now and again to figure out which listing is the most accurate before I include it in my daily food plan, but for the most part I can find almost everything I eat on their lists, including things like Costco casseroles and desserts. Nothing is off the table for me as far as food is concerned these days, but I if I can’t fit it in my daily food plan or a serving means I have to go without a meal than it doesn’t get eaten.

Based on my age and fitness level at the time at the time I signed up, MyFitnessPal recommended I limit my calories to 1200 per day. Yikes! I initially wasn’t sure how this was going to work as I was sure 1200 calories would probably leave me feeling hungry all the time and I wouldn’t therefore be able to stick with it. Thankfully, after nearly five months that hasn’t turned out to be true at all, and I’m actually eating quite well these days, losing weight, and feeling great. Everything I eat these days gets measured except for vegetables – no eyeballing is allowed! Vegetables I allow myself to eat as many or as much of as I want.

Last week I took pictures one day of what a day’s eating looks like these days for me:

Breakfast: One cup blueberries, 1/2 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt, and two tablespoons of my much-loved Anahola granola. Total calories: 235. I typically have this five mornings a week (because I love it), sometimes substituting fresh papaya for the blueberries. On other mornings I’ll have a slice of unbuttered toast (Dave’s 21-grain), a fried or poached egg, and one slice of bacon, or one pancake with a tablespoon of jam. I usually eat at about 10:45 in the morning because I’ve found if I eat earlier I get hungry sooner and end up feeling hungry all day. I have just one cup of half-caff coffee in the morning. I miss coffee, but I’m doing fine with one cup, and it is savored.

Lunch: Three-fourths cup leftover pork fried rice. Total calories: 251. I usually eat leftovers in some form for lunch, and try to keep my calories at less than 300.

Afternoon/evening snacks:  I have one packet of Shelley Senbei rice crackers every afternoon. Total calories: 81. I always have these around 3:00 in the afternoon, and they keep me satisfied until dinner. My evening snack is always one tablespoon of peanut butter: Total calories: 90. I eat this fairly late at night – it keeps me from waking up feeling hungry or from being tempted to go out and eat whatever’s handy. If I get to feeling very hungry between meals, which thankfully doesn’t happen often, I’ll often have something like a slice of frozen dragonfruit which is low calorie (20) as well as fun to eat, like a popsicle.

Dinner: This day’s dinner was one Sabatino’s smoked chicken sausage with basil and cracked pepper, and a big serving of roasted vegetables. I do not count calories from vegetables, but I do count the oil used for roasting. Brett and I also always allow ourselves a small dessert each evening. At the time these pictures were taken we were still enjoying a Costco pumpkin pie (divided into 20 slices), but our typical dessert is a small two-inch piece of cake or occasionally some ice cream. Total calories for dinner: 456

Total calories for the day: 1113. I never thought I’d be able to do this, but well, here I am and it’s going well. I know these days and at my age what and how much I eat is important, especially for what we want to achieve in the future. That’s been my main motivation for sticking with it. I also know it will be easier to walk long distances when I’m not carrying around a bunch of extra weight.

I drink at least six 14-ounce glasses of water every day to stay hydrated. Brett and I have a cocktail three evenings a week: Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. We both enjoy gin & tonics, at 110 calories each, but I always fit it in to that day’s calorie allotment. I used to enjoy having a glass of wine, but wine can bother my stomach these days, and I tended to drink it too quickly while I linger over a G&T.

I take four daily supplements: two prebiotic capsules/day, two probiotic capsules/day, one multivitamin, and one additional vitamin D capsule. Although we get lots of sunshine here, the additional vitamin D helps facilitate bone health. The probiotic and prebiotic are for stomach health, and they have made a real difference these past few months. All are taken on the recommendation of my doctor. I also eat at two Tums each day, to make sure I get the recommended daily amount of calcium. 

Our walks provide me with an additional calorie allowance of 250-350 depending on how long, and how fast we walk (Brett burns more because he weighs more). Currently we’re walking 3.5 miles at 4.5 mph, a pretty fast clip. My meal plan and daily calories, however, are figured out the evening before, without the extra exercise calories added in because there’s always a possibility we won’t be able to walk for some reason (like today, for example). For now we’re walking for exercise, but once we get our distance up to five miles our daily walks will segue into walking for further distances and for endurance.

A year ago I could not have imagined doing this and enjoying it, but here I am. I’ve still got a few pounds to go to make my doctor happy, but after that I’m just going to keep going and see where it takes me.

Sunday Morning 10/18/2020: Oh, the Humidity!

We thought we’d get only one sunset this past week, but . . .

. . . then this happened yesterday evening!

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

While temperatures thankfully dropped some this past week, the humidity remained high and uncomfortable all week. We usually had a breeze through the apartment most of the time and the ceiling fans kept the air moving otherwise, but being outside was awful, and we came home after walking each day drenched in sweat. We heard thunder on Friday night, and rain finally arrived early yesterday morning. It lasted all day, and broke the humidity, but made for a gloomy day and kept us inside. Today is much nicer, thank goodness.

Hawaii has extended the quarantine until the end of November as they just can’t seem to get a handle on COVID-19; last week, for example, there were 60+ new cases in one day and four deaths. However, the new testing regime went into effect this past week – no quarantine if you test negative three days before arrival – and the number of visitors increased dramatically. YaYu will have to quarantine when she arrives before Thanksgiving because Bryn Mawr will test her four days before she departs, so she’ll be out of the range. Although Brett and I are not required to do so, we plan to quarantine with her for the most part, and will only go out to walk in the park (which is very, very socially distanced) and we’ll also probably do a quick in and out at the outdoor farmers’ market each week for fresh produce. But otherwise we’ll be at home, and plan to have enough groceries on hand that we don’t have to go to Costco, Walmart, or another supermarket for the duration of her quarantine. YaYu is terrified of bringing the virus home to us and already is making plans to protect herself as much as possible on her journey back. Speaking of which, one of her flights home has of course already gotten messed up. Hawaiian cancelled the flight we booked and put her on an earlier flight, which departs from Honolulu less than half an hour after her flight from Seattle arrives. That’s not enough time for her to get to the flight, and it’s also the last flight of the day which would leave her in the Honolulu airport overnight if she misses it. Southwest has a flight that leaves a couple of hours later, but I want to talk with Hawaiian first to find out if the flight she’s booked on happens to be a connecting flight for her flight from Seattle because if so they will hold the flight. If not, my plan is to take a credit for the Hawaiian flight (and use it to get her back to school at the end of January) and then book her on Southwest. I’m currently nervous about committing to anything though as Southwest could change their schedule as well.

Assembed now and ready to go except for some firewood.

This past week Brett and I headed to Home Depot for a couple of things, and while we were there we saw they had outdoor fire pits back in stock (they sell quickly here). We had been talking about getting one for a while, to enjoy out in the yard, and decided to buy the simplest and most affordable one, just under $50 with our discount. Now we have to find fire wood, not the easiest thing to do on the island. There is a local tree service that sells firewood, so we’re going to check out their prices, but our other idea is to take along a bag or two whenever we go to the beach and collect some driftwood. We’re excited about being able to sit outside in the evening under the stars (the fire should keep bugs at a distance), and to toast marshmallows and make s’mores with YaYu when she’s home.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m almost to the end of Sex and Vanity – it’s been so much fun to read and connect it to A Room With a View as I go along. Kevin Kwan even gave the characters the same first names (which took me a few pages to catch on): there’s Lucie, Charlotte, George, a Mr. Beebe, Cecil, Freddy, and so forth, and he also snuck in Merchant and Ivory! There’s even an elderly pair of sisters, although this time they’re from the Philippines. Kevin Kwan of course puts his own fun spin on the culture, spending habits, and decadence of the rich to add to the mix. Our copy of the new Ian Rankin book, A Song for the Dark Times, arrived mid-week and I’ve got that started as well – it’s my day book, with Sex and Vanity saved for at night.
  • Listening to: We woke up to a much nicer morning today than yesterday, when it was pouring rain. There are clouds today but blue skies as well, and yesterday’s storms broke the humidity. The birds are going nuts outside this morning – lots of chickens making lots of noise for a change, but also lots of happy birds singing. Brett made coffee and is reading, and it’s really just a lovely, perfect morning!
  • Watching: We’re still barreling through Homeland at three episodes each evening, with a break for The Great British Baking Show on Friday. The most exciting TV news this week was that Season 4 of The Crown will be out on Netflix in mid November and will cover the Princess Diana years.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re going food shopping on Tuesday! We’ve done very well these past three weeks if I do say so myself, and haven’t run out of ideas of what to fix, but supplies are getting low now. Tonight we’re having rice and beans (Cuban black beans), and during the rest of the week dinners will be grilled chicken and roasted cauliflower, egg roll in a bowl, hamburgers, and chicken coconut curry over jasmine rice, with leftovers filling in the blank spaces. I finally made the Bacardi rum cake last Friday – our neighbor gave us the last of his rum – and it turned out great in spite of not being baked in a Bundt pan (which was in our lost box). It will last through this coming week and into the next but I’ve already got a plan for the next cake: dark chocolate with coffee frosting.
    Yummy Bacardi rum cake – finally!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I filled out our ballots and turned them in to the election office in Lihue last Wednesday – now we wait. We got in only six days of walking this week as it rained all day yesterday. The humidity made walking difficult earlier in the week, especially on Thursday and Friday, but we persevered. It felt at times as if we were enveloped in a wet blanket. We’re now doing 3.5 miles in about 50 minutes which is a great workout. Otherwise all we accomplished was our errand to Home Depot and the regular stuff around here.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am having my annual mammogram done tomorrow, the last of my physical stuff for the year. It’s the one test I’m always most nervous about as there has been cancer on both sides of my family, so I always hold my breath until the results come back. I’m happy and grateful to get it done though. Thankfully the whole test experience is easy and less painful these days, and the clinic is somewhat luxurious and spa-like. We are also looking forward to trying out the fire pit, hopefully this coming week if the weather stays nice. We plan to go down to Barking Sands and start our driftwood hunt there as the beach usually has a good supply, but that trip will also depend on the weather.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a nice conversation with our son and grandkids yesterday, and got caught up. The empty Japanese hibachi that sits next to the kitchen finally got to me this past week and I decided it was time to find something to put in it, so we headed to Home Depot where I bought a big monstera plant which fits perfectly. I also bought another plant and ceramic pot to put in our giant bathroom. Our baby avocado tree continues to grow, and this past week we moved the seed into a larger jar as the tap root it’s sending down had reached the bottom of the small jar we started it in. The seed has split enough that we can see a tiny green sprout inside and the seed it sprouting more roots, but we think it’s still going to be a while before the actual plant emerges so we’ve still got our fingers and toes crossed that our little tree keeps moving in a positive direction!
    A little green tree is emerging in the center
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: The fire pit was a splurge, but otherwise it was a very low-spend/no-spend week. Our trip to Home Depot and a quick trip to the farmers’ market were our only spending this week, and there was no change from either place so we didn’t have to put anything into the change/$1 bill jar. We used our military discount at Home Depot though – 10% off of everything. No food was thrown out this week, and all leftovers were finished. I earned 2,279 Swagbucks.
    Farmers’ market haul this week: bananas, big head of cauliflower, three BIG cucumbers, an avocado, green beans, and zucchini all for $15.
  • Grateful for: I’ve been feeling very thankful this week for our little apartment, for the fresh air that flows through it, the lovely yard out back, the sunset views, and the cozy, comfortable space it provides. It’s just the right size for Brett and I these days, and exactly what we hoped for when we came back to Kaua’i.
    I love how our living room came together – it’s a great place to relax.
  • Bonus question: What, in your opinion, is the most under-rated candy bar? This question popped up on Twitter the other day, and the replies were a lot of fun to read – people really do have their favorites! In my opinion, the two most underrated candy bars were/are the Milkshake Bar and the Zero bar, both of which are absolutely delicious when frozen. Zero bars are still around (I see them at Walmart) but Milkshake bars are sadly no longer being made, although they apparently still have a cult following. Many people also recommended freezing a Charleston Chew, something I’ve never tried. Another underrated candy bar in my opinion is the Heath Bar (or Skör Bar). Toffee covered with chocolate is just about perfection in my book. One last underrated candy is the Chunky chocolate bar, small but mighty, and filled with nuts and raisins – so rich and yummy! The most underrated candy combination in my book is a frozen Reese’s peanut butter cup enjoyed with a cold, frosty root beer. They make an unbelievably good pairing.

The upstairs neighbor departs tomorrow – no more stomping, yelling, etc. Some people came over to see him on Thursday when his quarantine ended – two big guys – and we never heard a thing while they were there, not even footsteps. Nothing, which made us more confused than ever as to why the neighbor causes so much noise. We briefly chatted with him on Thursday and were genuinely happy to hear that he has landed on his feet back on the mainland with a good job. He and our other neighbors held a garage sale yesterday to get rid of the last of his stuff, his car is on it’s way back, and quiet will return tomorrow. Now we just have to wait and see who our new neighbors will be, and keep our fingers crossed they’re not as noisy as this guy was.

Don’t throw away your shot! Plan your vote and then do it! There are only 16 more days until the election (thank goodness!). It’s been emotional for me to see so many vote early, and stand for hours in line for their right to do so. Those voters are heroes in my book.

That’s a wrap for another week! I hope it was as good for you as it was here (in spite of the humidity). Here’s to more good things happening, good food, things accomplished, and another great week coming up!

Home Cooking: Addictive Pumpkin Burritos

photo credit: allrecipes (I think someone went a little nuts with the cilantro)

Several years ago a friend sent me this recipe for burritos and when the girls were young they quickly became a favorite and a nice change from more “traditional” burritos. They’re not only delicious and easy to make and the ingredients don’t cost a lot. They’re also quite nutritious, and surprisingly low fat (and can be vegan with the cheese left out). They can also be wrapped individually and frozen to reheat later for snacks or a quick meal.

The original recipe called for cooked and mashed sweet potato, but I substituted pumpkin and it worked perfectly. With pumpkin, add the water to the bean mixture gradually though as canned pumpkin tends to be a bit “wetter” than  baked sweet potato and the bean mixture doesn’t need to quite so wet (which risks making the burritos soggy). Canned refried beans can be substituted for the kidney beans in the recipe to save on time, although I personally never thought it took all that much time to mash the kidney beans. There’s no reason either why other types of beans, such as black beans or pintos, couldn’t be substituted if you prefer them, and pureed butternut squash or a large can of sweet potatoes (follow the same advice about adding the water) can also be substituted. The spices might seem excessive to some, but I happen to think they’re just enough (and we have also added salsa as well). The friend who sent me the recipe halved the chili powder, cumin, mustard and cayenne pepper and said they still tasted great.

If you do end up with some leftover bean mixture it can be added later to scrambled eggs for a breakfast burrito!

ADDICTIVE PUMPKIN BURRITOS

  • 3 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups canned kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cups water or less, as needed
  • 3 TBSP chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 tsp prepared mustard
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 TBSP soy sauce
  • 4 cups cooked and mashed pumpkin puree, sweet potato, or butternut squash
  • 12 10-inch flour tortillas, warmed
  • 8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or Pepper Jack if you’d like a little more spice)

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a medium skillet, and saute onions and garlic until soft. Add beans and mash well. Gradually stir in water, and heat until thick and warm. Remove from heat and stir in chili powder, cumin, mustard, cayenne pepper (if using) and soy sauce. Divide bean mixture and pumpkin puree evenly between the warm tortillas; place next to the lower edge and top with some cheese. Fold the edge over tightly, then fold up the sides and fold over again to close. Bake for 12 minutes in the oven and serve warm. Chopped green onion and sour cream go well with these burritos.

You can freeze these burritos for later use. Don’t bake them, but wrap each one individually in foil, then place in a bag and freeze. Heat by taking off the foil and microwaving for two and a half minutes, or defrost and bake according to directions.

26 Travel Questions: The Home Edition

I first wrote out these questions/answers in 2017, before we began our Big Adventure. When I came across them again last week I was surprised both by what had changed and what had remained constant after two years of traveling. I did update – those things are in italic.

Here we go!

  1. Which do you prefer: tours or independent travel? I have nothing against tours, or organized travel, but I still prefer doing it on my own. There are travels/places though where I would definitely book a tour (like a photo safari in Africa). We had a wonderful time on our tour in India, and saw and did things we would have never been able to otherwise, and enjoyed our train journey across Australia. I would consider taking a tour again, depending on the location, services provided, and the cost.
  2. What’s the first thing you check out when you reach your destination? I scout out where I can get a good cup of coffee, hopefully without having to go to Starbucks.
  3. What’s something sort of ordinary you like to do at your destination? I love to check out local supermarkets, mini marts, etc. It’s interesting to see what food costs, what stores carry, how they’re the same or different from our local stores or American stores in general if we’re overseas. It’s also an interesting way to get a glimpse of the local culture. I also love to visit bakeries.
  4. Street food: Yea or nay? I mostly say yes to street food, although I check it out pretty carefully before eating. I’ve eaten some amazing things from food stands and carts (and had a few losers too).
  5. What’s your ideal travel breakfast? Ideally it would be yogurt, fresh fruit and a little granola, but I’ll eat anything as long as it’s not too heavy. However, if I see Eggs Benedict on the menu I’m going to order it.
  6. What’s your favorite road food? I prefer to eat at local restaurants versus chains if at all possible. Thankfully there are lots of different ways to find those local places these days. Favorite food? It used to be a good hamburger or sandwich for lunch, or something like chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner. These days I eat lighter, or share with Brett, and we like to try local specialties. I prefer to fix my own meals most of the time as well. It doesn’t help that I can’t eat salad.
  7. What’s the most important thing you pack in your suitcase? Along with a desire for adventure and a sense of wonder, it’s a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
  8. Do you roll or fold your clothes when you pack? I do a little of both. I prefer rolling, but have a couple of items that just don’t want to roll.
  9. What do you pack in your carry-on? I used to only travel with a carry-on, so everything I needed for the trip went in. When we were checking our bags during the Big Adventure my carry-on had a change of clothes (and a couple of changes of underwear), basic toiletries, electronics, important paperwork and snacks.
  10. Which do you prefer: tote bag or backpack? I definitely prefer carrying a tote bag if at all possible when we travel. Brett prefers a back pack though, so we’re able to switch things around between us so that we can carry everything where it makes sense. I tried carrying a backpack on our Big Adventure, but eventually went back to a tote bag as it was more comfortable.
  11. What’s most important when you’re planning travel, transportation, lodging, food, or sightseeing? They all play such different roles, but lodging is probably the most important in my opinion. Even if we don’t spend a lot of time there, without a clean, safe place to sleep and bathe the rest of the trip can fall flat.
  12. In your opinion, what are the three most important phrases to know in a foreign language? 1) Thank you; 2) Excuse meI’m sorry; 3) please. After that you can add I don’t understandwhere’s the bathroom?how much? and so forth. The “magic words” in English are just as important elsewhere else as they are here.
  13. What have you noticed most about Americans when you travel overseas? We can be very loud, we’re sadly often overweight (me included), and we can be annoyingly condescending at times. We can also be very friendly and helpful. I found all of these to still be true during the Big Adventure.
  14. What are your least favorite ways to travel? Neither Brett nor I have ever had any desire to pull a trailer or drive an RV – it’s just not our thing. I have nothing against cruises either, but there are other things I’d rather do than float around on a ship (and for the record, I have been on a cruise – once was enough for me). Brett once said he’d like to see what it’s like to take a cruise and not have to work 20 hours a day, but these days a cruise is not appealing in the least.
  15. If you have a choice, which would you prefer, a road trip or a flight? It really depends on how much time we have. We’ve taken some great road trips, and enjoyed them, but if time is limited, or I want more time at my destination, I’m going to book a flight.
  16. Which do you prefer: aisle, middle or window seat? If it’s a long flight, I prefer a window seat – it’s easier to find a good sleeping position. Depending on who else is in my row, I’m also OK with a middle seat. With an aisle seat I find I get bumped by people walking down the aisle, and someone has to step over me to get to the bathroom.
  17. What are your favorite in-flight activities? I like watching movies, doing sudoku puzzles, and sleeping (which I’m getting better at). I’ve tried to read, but have always ended up feeling sick.
  18. Which is your favorite airport? I love our little airport here in Lihue. When I go through it  I’m either going on a trip, or I’m home. My least favorite airports are now Madrid and Bordeaux.
  19. Do you ever purchase travel insurance? We have purchased insurance a couple of times, on trips where we’ve spent a lot of money, but we’ve thankfully never really needed it. These days our main travel credit card covers many travel-related items like delayed flights, lost luggage, etc. Our health insurance covers us anywhere in the world, so we only need to get insurance to cover the things we’ve paid for, like flights and lodging.
  20. What’s your favorite travel-day outfit? It depends on which time of year I’m traveling, or where we’re going, but usually a pair of L.L. Bean’s Perfect Fit Pants, a light sweatshirt-type of top (to keep me warm on the plane), and shoes I can easily slip off for security and during the flight. If I’m going somewhere hot I’ll wear linen pants and a light shirt, flip-flops, and carry a light sweater for the plane. Wrinkled linen is OK.
  21. What are your favorite travel day snacks? They used to be granola bars, Chex Mix, good chocolate, and water. These days I take along nuts, beef jerky, good chocolate, and water. I usually don’t drink alcohol when I fly, and besides water I like Diet Coke or Bloody Mary mixer.
  22. How many states have your visited in the U.S.? I have visited 48 states – I haven’t been to Montana or Alaska.
  23. How many national parks have you visited? I’ve visited twenty, from Acadia to Zion, and I’ve stayed at both rims of the Grand Canyon. There are still a lot more parks I want to see though.
  24. What are your favorite national parks? Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Zion are my top three. Bryce Canyon and Crater Lake are right up there as well.
  25. How many foreign countries have you visited? Before our Big Adventure, just six: Canada, Mexico, China, Hong Kong (when it was a British colony), Taiwan and of course, Japan. We visited or stayed in 12 additional countries on our travels: Argentina, Uruguay, France, Italy, the Vatican, Portugal, Spain, England, Scotland, India, Australia, and New Zealand (we counted any country where we left the airport, stayed overnight, and had to exchange money).
  26. Who is your favorite travel companion? All of our children have always been fun travel companions, and I’ve taken some great trips with friends, but of course Brett is my favorite. He’s my best friend, we always have lots to talk about and almost always want to do and see the same things when we go somewhere. We did a good job on the Big Adventure of dividing travel responsibilities – Brett was the logistics and budget manager, and served as Head Sherpa, while I was in charge of planning, lodging, and anything food-related.

Can you think of any more questions? And, I’d love to hear your answers to all or just some of the questions!

Sunday Morning 10/11/2020: Life In the Slow Lane

Our last sunset with the palm trees . . .
. . . the first without.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

We woke up Wednesday morning to the sound of saws and came out to the living room only to see that the two palm trees in the yard behind us were being cut down. What a sad thing that was! We have wondered for a while if the trees were diseased or not because although they were loaded with coconuts not one coconut ever dropped and they all looked dead as well. The rest of the trees looked healthy though, so who knows? But down they came, and they are missed. I loved how they helped frame the sunsets and how they always let us know that we were once again living in Hawaii.

The palm trees are greatly missed.

When someone is in quarantine here on Kaua’i, a member of the Hawaii National Guard comes by daily at random times to check whether the person is at home and staying inside. Our upstairs neighbor is currently under quarantine, and one day last week a police officer showed up at his door instead of the national guard. Due to the setup here any visitors for the upstairs apartment stand right outside our living room window to knock at our neighbor’s door (entrance is through a large foyer on our level and then up stairs to the apartment). The officer actually asked us through the window before he knocked if our neighbor was home (yes because he’d been stomping around all morning) and if we had ever seen him leave (no, because we hadn’t). Someone else in the neighborhood though had apparently reported Upstairs Neighbor for breaking quarantine, currently a criminal offense with an up to $5000 fine and it turned out the police officer was there to question him about it. The officer told Upstairs Neighbor why he was there, and began to read him his rights, but the neighbor didn’t want to answer the questions, at least not without a LOT of hesitation. The police officer was polite but firm, and kept going through the questions, and apparently at one point the neighbor started to cry for some reason. It was hard for us to ignore what was going on, and both Brett and I kept wondering why he wouldn’t answer the Miranda questions, especially if he hadn’t broken quarantine. The officer eventually told him that if he was denying breaking quarantine he wouldn’t charge him because apparently the witness/reporter couldn’t positively identify him. The officer left, and the neighbor stomped back upstairs, stomped around the apartment and yelled at things for a while, and we’ve only heard him go out the door once since then. We think there’s a good chance he did break his quarantine this past week, and was spotted leaving by one of the people living across the street as he sure seemed to have behaved toward the police officer like someone who knew he had been caught. It’s been a pain having him upstairs from us again as he’s so noisy, but he leaves for good next week.

She always comes and sits patiently by the front door now, without judgment.

Ally, the neighborhood cat, continues to visit us almost daily. We keep fresh water out for her, and after having a drink she often goes back to the deck to sleep in the shade under our lounge chair. Brett goes out now and again to give her back a scratch and let her know that it won’t be long before YaYu is back.

This morning I am: 

  • Reading: I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this past week, and thereby accomplished two of my reading goals this year: finishing the entire Inspector Morse series by Colin Dexter, and re-reading all the Harry Potter books. I’m finally reading Sex & Vanity by Kevin Kwan and enjoying every word of it as it seems to be an updated version of E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View, a favorite book which also happens to also be my all-time favorite film!
  • Listening to: I’ve been enjoying a very quiet morning – I woke up first and have enjoyed doing some reading in the peace and quiet. No dogs barking, no chickens screaming, no lawn mowers, just the breeze through the trees and the birds singing. It’s a lovely morning temperature-wise as well, cool with a constant gentle breeze. Brett’s up now though, putting away last night’s dishes and making coffee for both of us.
  • Watching: We’re still power-binging Homeland on Showtime, three episodes a night. Even with that I don’t think we’ll get through everything before our free trial period ends on October 29. We squeezed in Bread Week on the Great British Baking Show on Friday, but thought it was pretty lackluster. The show seems to be having a lot of trouble coming up with original ideas for the bakers, especially for the technicals. This week it was rainbow bagels(?). I miss the days when they had to make something difficult but still recognizable.
  • Cooking/baking: Tonight I’m going to make burritos for our dinner using A Dozen Cousins Mexican beans along with leftover grilled chicken, shredded cabbage, and salsa and will use the two remaining flour tortillas we have on hand to wrap everything up. Other dinners on the menu this week are grilled smoked chicken sausages with roasted mixed vegetables; Instant Pot chicken adobo with bok choy; and grilled ribeye steaks with vegetable kabobs. We still have pumpkin pie, but I’ll finally be making the Bacardi rum cake at the end of the week.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: It was another good week for walking, even with the weather being all over the place. Even on the hottest and most humid days we got in at least two miles, but we had good days as well and got in nearly four miles one day. I’ve mostly enjoyed staying isolated at home though and have gotten a lot of small chores taken care of as well as a lot of reading. We got our Christmas shopping lists made so we’re ready to go at the end of this month, and also got signed up on our family’s annual Secret Santa exchange and know who we’re shopping for.
  • Looking forward to next week: We have absolutely nothing on the calendar except for our weekly trip to the farmers’ market on Wednesday. Hopefully we’ll be able to get to the beach too.

We had a great day on Monday in spite of the heat and humidity.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a fun and fruitful day last Monday. I got my hair cut, always a good thing, and then Brett and I stopped at Java Kai in Kapaa and shared a Kaua’i Cubano sandwich (ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, homemade pickles, and tangy mustard on a toasted ciabatta) and some purple potato salad (just a bite for me). Then we headed down to Kealia for a long walk on the beach path. It was very hot and humid, but we started out in the direction of the Pineapple Dump with plans to walk back past our car and onward for a longer distance. That didn’t pan out though – by the time we got back to our car we were whipped from the heat/humidity and decided against going further. We drove back into Kappa and had a small shave ice, and then went over to Alan and Cheryl’s for some good conversation and dinner. Otherwise it’s been a pretty uneventful week, although Brett got in a hike on Thursday on the Kuilau trail back in Kapaa. It was also a very hot and humid experience for him.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We put $5 into the change/$1 bill jar this week, leftover from the farmers’ market. Our only other spending this past week was for our sandwich and shave ice on Monday. Our travel savings balance is now up to $985.27. I set a goal of reaching $1000 by the end of this year, but it looks like we’ll be able to surpass that. I earned 2,984 Swagbucks this past week, which includes a 686 SB bonus that I earned from reaching my daily goal every day in September. I’m now over halfway to earning my first $500 Delta Airlines gift card. We had another good week of finishing up leftovers, and the only food thrown out was a head of iceberg lettuce that started rotting from the inside out (yuk).
    I named this eucalyptus tree The Old Man of the Woods. We’ve still got a ways to go at this point, but when we pass we know the rest of the path is downhill.
  • Grateful for: We’re thankful this week for getting to spend some time with friends, for having a great venue for daily walks, for the new friends we’ve made at the park during our walks, and for the return of the trade winds!
  • Bonus question: What is the most useless thing you ever had to memorize? Well, the list is very long and it’s hard to pick one thing. We were always having to memorize things, and frankly every bit of it other than some of the math stuff (multiplication tables, some basic algebra, even long division) has turned out to be pretty useless now. I memorized more phone numbers than I can count – no contacts lists back then – and have forgotten them all because no one needs or uses them anymore. In middle school we had to memorize long poems as well as the Gettysburg address, which I can still recite. I also learned The Night Before Christmas at some point and can still get through that too although there’s no one to hear it these days. I can only remember the openings of the several long poems we had to memorize (“Aye, tear her tattered ensigns down, long have they waved on high, and many an eye has danced to see that banner in the sky” from Old Ironsides by Oliver Wendell Holmes and “The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees. The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas . . .” from The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. Brett had to memorize The Highwayman too, and we still will say to each other, “the moon was a ghostly galleon” whenever we see a full moon among the clouds – it’s like a code for the torture we both went through having to memorize that poem. Anyway, pretty much everything I had to memorize is now useless. Do kids still have to memorize things in school, or has that gone the way of cursive penmanship? I don’t remember our kids memorizing anything other than the multiplication tables.
It doesn’t look like much but I’ve never gotten this far growing a tree from an avocado seed. There should be a seedling appearing soon.

I grew up in Southern California, in the land of avocado trees. My grandmother had a HUGE tree in her backyard, and one of the houses in I lived in had one in front of the house (the avocados the dropped could unfortunately draw skunks). I have absolutely loved all things avocado for as long as I can remember, but I have never been able to grow a plant from a seed . . . and I have tried so many times. I prepared the seed above from an avocado we bought at the farmers’ market a couple of weeks ago but also prepared myself for nothing to happen once again. However . . . the seed is sprouting roots from the bottom and the top has split in preparation for the plant to emerge!! To say I am excited (and nervous) would be a gross understatement. I’ve got my fingers crossed on both hands, and toes on both feet that I may finally end up with an actual avocado tree.

Have you voted yet? Do you have a plan? Only 23 more days until the election! Our ballots arrived yesterday (Hawaii is a mail-only state) – we’re filling ours out this week and will drop them off at the election office in Lihue.

Life here is slow these days, but never boring. I honestly miss our traveling days, but at the same time am still so very happy we landed back on Kaua’i. I hope everyone had a good, productive week, and that good things happened for all. Here’s to the week coming up, may it be another good one!

Home Cooking: Pumpkin Apple Pancakes

photo credit: Sunset Magazine

Back in the days when I was making breakfast for the girls, I used to think that pancakes were only for weekends because no way was there time to make them on a school morning. And, there was definitely no way I was going to find time to make pancakes that involved me grating or chopping an apple.

These pancakes changed my mind.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I always seem to have a bit of pumpkin puree left over whenever I make pumpkin bread, or some other pumpkin recipe. I won’t throw it away, but it’s still  never enough where I can easily figure out how to use it. But, when I found this recipe in Sunset magazine, I knew I had found a perfect and delicious way to use up that last bit of pumpkin.

The secret to making pancakes on a busy morning, I’ve discovered, without having to get up earlier than usual or making anyone late, is to have everything ready to go the night before (slap to the forehead). Prep the dry ingredients and set them in a covered bowl on the counter, and blend together the wet ingredients and set them in the refrigerator. Also set out the griddle or skillet you’ll be using so that everything is ready to go. In the morning, all that needs to be done is blend the wet ingredients into the dry, and for this recipe, peel and grate an apple in the five minutes it takes for a griddle or skillet to heat up. Voilà! Yummy, fresh, hot pancakes with no one late for school or an appointment, and no one grumpy because they had to get up too early.

Two of our three girls were not big pancake fans, but they both liked these and would eat three big pancakes with butter and maple syrup, so this recipe was made fairly frequently. I liked knowing the girls got a hot and healthy breakfast, on a school morning no less, and that I was able to use what I had on hand to make them – no special ingredients needed. I also liked that the recipe made nine pancakes, just enough for the girls’ breakfasts, although it would be a snap to double for a family meal. Brett and I enjoy pancakes for breakfast now and again these day, and canned pumpkin and an apple are already on our shopping list so we can enjoy these again! 

PUMPKIN APPLE PANCAKES

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp each salt, nutmeg and cinnamon
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped or grated
  • Butter and maple syrup

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, milk, vegetable oil and pumpkin puree, then blend together with flour mixture. Heat a griddle or non-stick frying pan; as it heats peel, core and chop or grate apple and add to the batter. Spoon approximately 1/3 cup of batter onto hot griddle or pan to make each pancake, and cook, turning when edges are cooked and bubbles appear. Serve with butter and maple syrup, or the topping of your choice.

What Were You Doing a Year Ago?

Sometimes these days, in the last few minutes of the morning before I open my eyes to face the day, I lay in bed and try to remember what we were doing a year ago, in the Before-Covid times.

Although I know we were in England at this time last year, I could only guess what we were doing. We had spoken with YaYu yesterday, and she had mentioned that she should be on her fall break this week, but instead was taking midterms. Last year she came to spend the week with us in England, so that’s what I assumed was happening a year ago. But when I checked it turned out that time was yet to come, and on this day one year ago we had just returned from our three-day getaway to Edinburgh!

October 6, 2019 was a Sunday, so the post below was a Sunday Morning one. What happy memories we made!  It was fun and nostalgic to read through the Sunday post and think about all we experienced back then, from our travel to what we were eating, courtesy of the Aldi store in Moreton-in-Marsh. I’m someone who almost always looks forward, and rarely dwells on the past, but these days I find looking back to be comforting. I am happy and grateful to be where we are now, and know this crazy year will eventually pass, but I also don’t believe things will ever return to what they were, and it’s helpful to remember better times and all that we did and were able to do as we find our new way. We’ve had a blessed life.

My Sunday post from 10/6/2019: Week 5 in the UK

Looking out over the Old Town to Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags (in Holyrood Park) from Edinburgh Castle.

While we had a great time in Edinburgh this past week, we are also glad to be home again in our little village and in our cozy cottage. We stayed busy the entire time we were away, but the rides up and back, while beautiful, were long and tiring. The trip up to Scotland went according to schedule, but although we left Edinburgh on time Friday morning and arrived at our first stop in London on time, after that things fell apart. It turned out our ride from Gatwick out to Moreton was scheduled for 20 minutes before our train even left St. Pancras for Gatwick Station (I blame myself for not checking the timing better)! Then, to add to the turmoil, trains from St. Pancras station to Gatwick were not running on schedule anyway, with five trains already canceled. We were able to get on a train at 3:05 with hopes of getting to Gatwick in time to catch a 4:00 train to Reading (where we transferred to get to Moreton) but the train from St. Pancras quite literally poked along and we got into Gatwick at 4:25. We finally caught the 5:00 which got us into Moreton at 8:00 p.m., where a lovely young couple at the Moreton station offered to share their cab with us as Blockley was on their way. We were back in the cottage by 8:30 although feeling completely wiped out at that point. We spent yesterday doing laundry, reading, and resting and will continue the reading and resting today as we’re both still feeling a little tired.

This was the view from behind our apartment building – Edinburgh Castle was only a 10-minute walk away. All those clouds were almost blown away by the wind by the time we got up to the castle entrance. We were fascinated by all the chimneys everywhere – apparently back in the day every apartment (tenement) had its own fireplace (or two).

We enjoyed absolutely beautiful weather for our first two days in Edinburgh but woke up to a steep drop in the temperature, strong winds and cloudy skies on our third day (but thankfully no rain). Rain arrived on Friday morning but for some reason let up just when it was time for us to walk over to the station to catch our train, thank goodness. It’s colder here in Blockley now as well – we’ve got the heat on and the gas fireplace going in the cottage to keep us warm. Fall has definitely arrived.

We’ll be heading back up to London (Heathrow) on Friday afternoon – we’re spending the night there so we can meet YaYu’s plane early Saturday morning (before 7:00 a.m.). We plan to drop off our bags at our Airbnb in the morning and then head into the city for the day, or at least for as long as YaYu can handle being up. We’re doing a walking tour of Notting Hill early Saturday afternoon and a morning tour at Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard on Monday, but otherwise our time will be our own to fill and we’ll go along with what YaYu wants to see and do. On Tuesday we’ll come back to Blockley for a couple of days, and then go back to Oxford on Friday and spend the night there, putting YaYu on the bus to Heathrow for her flight back to the U.S. late Saturday morning. We’re thinking of going down to Bourton-on-the-Water for the day when we’re back here in the Cotswolds, but will have to see how we feel – we may just want to rest again and only do some walks around Blockley. Whatever happens, it’s going to be another busy week.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finally finished Middle England, but after we got back because I was too exhausted to read while we were away. I’ve just started Resurrection Men because I wanted to read something about Edinburgh and nobody does it better than Ian Rankin. He makes the city as much of a character as any of the people in his books.
  • Listening to: It is peacefully quiet here this morning both inside and out. Yesterday morning the church bells rang for over three hours! It was fun listening knowing how it was done and who was doing the ringing. It also rained quite a bit and the washer and dryer ran all day.
  • Watching: We didn’t watch any TV while we were in Edinburgh, but we did watch The Descendents on our last night there (the DVD was available in the apartment). We traditionally watch it on Thanksgiving, but missed it last year and will again this year, so we thought we should catch it while we could. It sure made us homesick for Kaua’i – can’t wait to be there again in January. I watched an episode of Endeavour on TV here last night but that’s it.
  • Cooking: We’ll be having leftover meatloaf tonight along with vegetable soup made from several odds and odds of vegetables that I want to use up before we go shopping tomorrow. This week we’ll be having chicken and vegetable stir-fry; chicken vegetable soup; meatballs with marinara; lamb burgers with roasted vegetables; tuna melts; and breakfast for dinner with eggs, sausages, and sauteed apples. YaYu doesn’t eat meat anymore so we’re also going to look for some vegetarian things to have on hand when she’s here at the cottage.
    After three busy days in Edinburgh, we were already tired when we started the long journey back to Blockley. But we were happy – we’d had a great visit!

     

    The scenery along the way going and coming back was beautiful, but it was especially thrilling to pass along the North Sea as we got close to Edinburgh.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: The train journey to and from Edinburgh was an effort and an accomplishment as each way involved four different train changes and getting through three rather large stations (including crossing the street to get from St. Pancras to King’s Cross). We also got stuck in rush hour traffic in London on our way back on Friday which kept things a bit more challenging. We made it to each of our four Edinburgh tours on time, a feat considering we had to figure out how to maneuver through a city we didn’t know very well at the time. We walked a minimum of three miles each day, and one day walked over six miles. Last Sunday evening, before we left I booked an Airbnb in Massachusetts for our stay for YaYu’s graduation, and another in Maine for a visit there afterward. We’re going to spend one night in Vermont or New Hampshire in between but haven’t chosen where yet. Laundry day yesterday was an accomplishment – it took over 10 hours to get everything done and put away (because the washer is very small and it takes nearly two hours for one load to run).
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re very excited about YaYu’s arrival next weekend and getting to visit London and Oxford with her, as well as showing her around our village. It was exciting seeing things like the Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye as our trains passed through London, knowing we’d be there soon. If it doesn’t rain this week we’re hoping to ride the bus over to the village of Broad Campden and then walk back to Blockley (around three miles).
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Everything went better than expected on our getaway. We had absolutely gorgeous weather for the first two days we were there as well, and the rain held off our entire visit and our walk over to the train station on Friday morning when we left (it was raining when we arrived on Monday, but we took a cab to our Airbnb). Even though we missed our original train home to Moreton, we were able to use our tickets for a later train at no extra cost.

     

    Chicken and mushroom pie for lunch at the Mitre pub on Edinburgh’s High Street. It came with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and gravy and kept me full the rest of the day . . . all for $14.75.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We took a bag of food up with us up to Edinburgh, and the apartment was stocked with yogurt (for me) and oatmeal (for Brett) which helped us keep our food costs down. We went out to dinner the night we arrived (which provided leftovers for the next day), and then had lunch out each day at a pub, where the meals were large and reasonably priced, and then ate leftovers or the things we brought at night. Other than taking the taxi from the train station when we arrived, we walked everywhere while we were in Edinburgh. We did buy some souvenirs but discussed those ahead of time so we weren’t tempted to make impulse purchases.

     

    Brett and I got ourselves a cashmere scarf, and we also bought a bottle of Edinburgh gin – we got a discount on it at their shop because we took a tour of the distillery (and because it’s delicious), and got a discount on the scarves because we bought two.
  • Grateful for: Once again, some very kind strangers stepped up to help us get back to Blockley when we were otherwise stranded. We were thinking we were going to have to walk into Moreton from the station when we arrived (in the cold and dark) and go to a hotel to call a taxi, but a young couple from London who arrived at the same time offered to share their ride with us as Blockley was on the way to their destination. We were extremely tired at that point and their kindness made a huge difference after a long day.
  • Bonus question: Did you eat haggis in Scotland? NO! I had absolutely no desire to give it a try before we went or while we were there and that still holds. We did get to sample a “wee dram” of whiskey on one of our tours and I was reminded once again of why I don’t drink whiskey and prefer gin instead. We did have some lovely pub meals, including incredible meat pies in one place. I’ve never had such a wonderful, flaky crust in my life and the filling (chicken and mushroom) was divine. We tried a can of IrnBru (Scotland’s soft drink) while we were there – it was tasty – and ate some authentic Scottish shortbread. I thought Walkers shortbread was pretty good until we visited a shop and tasted some that just melted in our mouths and were less sweet too – so delicious! I’ve been spoiled for life.

One thing Brett and I both realized on this trip is that although we are healthy, and in pretty good shape, we do tire more easily these days and couldn’t have sustained the pace we kept for much longer than the three days we were there. Our visit reinforced why we enjoy being able to stay in one place for a while and keep a less hectic schedule. Our time with YaYu will most likely be just as busy, but after that we know we can slow down again and not have to work so hard. We’re wondering now if we really want to do a full week’s driving tour down to Cornwall, and think maybe we might go down by train for a couple of nights instead.

Sunday Morning 10/4/2020: Hot Time On the South Side

Wednesday’s sunset was very pretty.

Last night was pretty as well.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka! I forgot to hit the post button this morning – sorry!

We had a very soggy Monday morning. The rain eventually went away but left behind big clouds and oppressive humidity.

I am so glad to have gotten through this past week – it was a tough one weather wise. We started off on Monday morning with biblical amounts of rain that thankfully departed by late afternoon. However, they ushered in higher temperatures and high humidity. A front then parked itself offshore and blocked the trade winds for most of the week which made things close to unbearable. We still went to the park each afternoon to walk, but the heat, humidity, and giant swarms of gnats kept us off our usual path and we instead had to walk on a cooler but more challenging loop through the woods instead. There were thankfully no gnats in the woods, but it was just as humid as everywhere else and we left the park each day soaked in sweat. We almost gave it up yesterday as there were storm clouds threatening rain and the humidity was at its worse, but in the end we felt funny sitting at home and ended up getting in a good walk after all (and again left drenched in sweat). Even the beach gave no relief on Friday, and was just as hot and humid as everywhere else, with little to no breeze. With our ceiling fans going full time on high we stayed comfortable in the apartment. We woke up this morning though to the trade winds blowing once again around the house and through the yard, and the humidity level has dropped back so all is well once again.

We were the only ones at the Barking Sands beach on Friday. It was hot and very humid, and while the ocean looked deceptively calm, the waves that broke at the shore were anything but.

The second of our upstairs neighbors came back this past week to clear his stuff out of the apartment and get it and his car shipped back to the mainland. It didn’t take us long to figure out that he had been the one who used to make all the noise upstairs – he literally pounds across the floor when he walks, drags things around, yells, etc. He’s quarantined for the next two weeks, although we’ve heard him coming and going over to our other neighbor’s apartment (they had a barbecue last night). There have been several showings of the upstairs apartment over the past few weeks, but until this guy moves his stuff out no one else can move in. Fingers are crossed that our eventual new neighbors will be quieter.

Covid-19 cases are increasing again on Oahu, and there continue to be visitors who don’t think the rules apply to them. One couple arrived in Honolulu last week, and immediately broke quarantine and were fined $2000 bail and released. They immediately broke quarantine a second time to go surfing and are now sitting in jail (and have been fined a second $2000). It’s just nuts, and they’re not the only ones thinking the rules don’t apply to them. It’s also maddening that it appears Trump had the coronavirus for a few days before the news of his condition was released, including during debate prep and at the debate, and he possibly infected all sorts of people (and refused testing before the debate and his family refused to wear masks there even though they were required). I have been feeling especially frustrated and angry with those who have been consistently calling the virus a hoax, swearing that masks are not necessary, the “China virus,” and that the 210,000+ deaths were from something other than the virus. We have all deserved better than that.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I am well into the final Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I’ve been reading two to three chapters every evening, but remembering that I read it overnight when it first came out so that I could get it to WenYu right away. She and I went to a release party at a local bookstore (fun!), and bought the book at midnight and I won the draw to read it first. Brett and I had a great time checking out Inspector Rebus settings during our visit to Edinburgh last year so we pre-ordered the newest Ian Rankin book this past week, A Song for the Dark Times, which will arrive in my Kindle on October 13 – I can’t wait!
  • Listening to: The sound of the wind blowing through the trees is heavenly – it was sorely missed this past week. Brett is currently reading something as he waits for breakfast (he’s heading out for a hike afterwards), and there’s a rooster doing his thing outside, but otherwise it’s a lovely, cool, peaceful morning.
  • Watching: We signed up for a free month’s trial of Showtime on Monday so we could watch The Comey Rule. It was outstanding, and added a lot to what we knew about what had been going on before and after the 2016 election. We’re going to binge watch as much as we can on Showtime before our trial runs out at the end of the month, and we started with Homeland, with Bordertown and One Foot In the Grave on hold for the time being. We tried to watch the Presidential debate on Tuesday and gave up in less than seven minutes. We also watched the second episode of the Great British Bake Off on Friday evening and are looking forward to this week’s episode. I’m not sure I like the new host, but maybe he’ll grow on me.

    We are hooked on A Dozen Cousin ready-to-eat beans!
  • Cooking/baking: No cooking today other than heating some A Dozen Cousins curried chickpeas and having those over jasmine rice along with some tasty Kaua’i cucumber. I was so happy this week to discover that the A Dozen Cousins six-pack of seasoned beans were back in stock on Amazon, and I signed up for Subscribe ‘n’ Save and will be getting a case every six weeks – we love them! Also, I tried The Hawaii Plan’s recipe for Egg Roll in a Bowl this past week and we loved that too. It will be put into the rotation here, and I can’t wait for YaYu to put her spin on it when she’s home for the holidays. Anyway, on the menu this week will be grilled teriyaki chicken sandwiches; beef polish sausages with sauerkraut; CookDo pork & pepper stir fry, and leftovers. We’re well-stocked for the coming weeks and with a weekly stop at the farmers’ market for produce we should easily make it through until the 21st. I also scored some dark rum – our neighbor bought some and offered me whatever I need for the rum cake (they also gave me some tequila last week for the Guadalara quesadillas, which were awesome by the way)! We bought a big pumpkin pie at Costco and are having a small slice of that after dinner for now, but when it’s done the rum cake will finally get made.

The path through the woods

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: In spite of the awful heat and humidity, we managed to walk every day again, although it was too hot to do our increased distance as planned. We’ve decided to wait on that until things cool down a bit again. We went to Barking Sands on Friday, and did a long beach walk when we were there (I burned my toes). We drove over and checked out the old Koloa sugar mill yesterday, something we’ve been wanting to do for a while. We’ve often see the mill off in the distance and wanted to take a close up look, or as least as close as we could get. I finally filed our claim with the moving company, but we are not expecting much back from them. The replacement cost of the antique banner that was lost is now $1200 to $1500 (I definitely paid a LOT less than that), but the most we could claim was $500. I frankly think we’ll be lucky to get $50 back for our lost items.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re heading up to Kapaa tomorrow: I am getting a much-needed haircut, and we’re having dinner with Alan and Cheryl. In between we plan to take a long walk on the beach path for a change of pace. There’s nothing planned for the rest of the week though.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) While I had to have four very small to tiny pre-cancerous lesions frozen off at the dermatologist’s (a result of all the sun exposure and bad sunburns I got as a child), my skin is otherwise in very good condition, “especially for your age.” 2) Our yard got another trim, including the hedges, and is looking especially nice. On a sad note though, our lilikoi vine was mistakenly trimmed (destroyed) along with all its ripening fruit. 3) The guava harvest has finally ended. 4) We stopped one day to chat with one of the other regular walkers, Jim, a realtor, and discussed home buying vs. renting here for a few minutes. When we told him what we were paying for rent (with utilities and yard service included) he told us he wouldn’t consider buying – what we have for the price is amazing. It was nice to hear as Brett and I have been feeling these days like it will take a crowbar to get us out of this place – we love it here. 5) Jim also told us that on very clear days we should be able to see Oahu off in the distance from the end of the path we walk, something we did not think was possible.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We put $15.55 into the change/$1 bill jar this past week. Two of those dollars were a gift from our bank – we stopped by a new branch that opened this past week and is located less than 10 minutes away from us, and they had just had a traditional Hawaiian blessing that morning and were giving everyone who came in a crisp, new $2 bill along with some other goodies (face masks and disinfecting wipes) as part of the blessing! Such a lovely surprise, and we’re thrilled to finally have a branch that’s closer to us. 2) We somehow managed to stay under budget with our food shopping this week and got everything we needed, although it took effort and restraint. 3) We needed to order paper filters for our Chemex coffee maker this past week, but I discovered that for less than the cost of two boxes (which would only last for six months) we could get a stainless steel filter that will last for years and save us a bundle. The metal filters are a new thing, for us anyway – we’ve had our Chemex for years and this is the first time I’ve ever seen them. 4) No food was thrown away, and we enjoyed all the leftovers we created. 5) I earned 2155 Swagbucks this past week from taking several high-paying surveys.
  • Grateful for: This past week we felt beyond grateful for the wooded path option in the park, as it was cool(er) and gnat-free, and allowed us to still get in our daily walks. Unfortunately it was still very humid, but having two out of three made walking a whole lot easier. By doing two loops on the path we were able to get in our regular 3+ miles, and also get in some hill climbing.

    My favorite sandwich: the reuben. Brett and I shared this one when we ate at Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill in Hong Kong.
  • Bonus question: What’s your favorite sandwich? Mmmmmm – sandwiches. I’m hard pressed to think of a sandwich I don’t like (other than the chopped olive ones my mom made once for our school lunches – YUK!) but I do have three favorites, all hot sandwiches. Number one is a reuben, next is a French dip, and in third place is the patty melt. I have a personal rule that if any one of these appears on a menu I have to order it, even if there are other dishes I might prefer. If two or more appear on the same menu, the reuben will almost always take precedence, but sometimes I’ll do rock/paper/scissors with Brett or someone else to eliminate one of them. Other favorite sandwiches are barbecue pulled pork with coleslaw, a tuna melt, roasted or grilled vegetables and cheese panini, and a good hamburger. A big thick pastrami on rye bread is also well-liked. My favorite fast food hamburger would be one from Five Guys, with (iceberg) lettuce, tomato, onion, dill pickles, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup, but Street Burger‘s bacon & barbecue burger is my hands down favorite burger here on the island (and I love their house made ketchup too).

Brett’s and my drive out past Koloa and Poipu yesterday gave us an opportunity to see what we could of the old sugar mill and what else there outside of town. The remaining old mill buildings were behind a gate and couldn’t be approached (too dangerous anyway). After stopping outside the mill, we drove out as far as we could into the countryside to see what was out there, if anything. Once we passed the gorgeous grounds of the Grand Hyatt resort, the road turned to unpaved and bumpy, and the landscape to mostly scrub (including cactus), but we did come across some beautiful views now and again. It was surprising how hot it was out there too. Hawaii is usually thought of as being purely tropical, but yesterday was a good reminder that there are desert-like areas on the leeward sides of the islands. As we drove around, thunderheads began forming and the humidity began climbing, and we eventually decided it would be best to turn around a come back home before we got stuck in a storm on a dirt path. The sky turned dark with clouds yesterday afternoon, and although temperatures dropped a little bit the rain never arrived and the humidity didn’t decrease either. It was still a nice outing and we were glad we went.

Another reminder from me to make a plan and make sure to vote! The election is less than a month away now, and I know for me it’s the most consequential election of my lifetime.

This was one of those weeks where I greatly missed fall and its cooler temperatures. However, I know things will improve here soon and this miserable weather will be but a distant memory. Here’s hoping that everyone had a good week, that lots of good things happened, lots got accomplished, and that the week coming up will be a better one!

Home Cooking: Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

(photo credit: chocolatewithgrace.com)

Fall has arrived (well, everywhere but here) along with pumpkin season. If I remember correctly, Trader Joe’s and lots of other places probably have a pumpkin version of just about everything they sell (pumpkin cream cheese? pumpkin coffee?) on their shelves right now, both sweet and savory, or at least they did a few years ago. My favorite pumpkin item from Trader Joe’s was the pumpkin spice toaster pastries, which were a fun breakfast treat. 

We are still big fans of pumpkin (although we gave the pumpkin cream cheese a pass and I may be the only one who doesn’t like pumpkin spice lattes). I have been known to stock up on organic canned pumpkin in the fall (when prices are low) so that I have it available year round, and back when we had a garden we grew our own pumpkins and then baked them and froze the puree. We love pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin nut bread and roasted pumpkin, but I think our whole family would agree that these pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting are at the top of our list of ways to enjoy this iconic fall squash.

This pumpkin bar recipe comes from a restaurant Brett and I used to regularly dine at, especially for special occasions: Ron Paul’s in NE Portland. The restaurant closed many years ago, long before we left Portland, but while it was open the wonderful Mr. Paul put out a regular newsletter which included this recipe. They’ve been a favorite since the first time I made them.

The bars are rich and moist, and the frosting adds just the right amount of sweetness without being overpowering. Mini chocolate chips can be substituted for the nuts if you want to take it to the next level, but we prefer pecans (or walnuts).

PUMPKIN BARS WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

For the bars:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (or mini chocolate chips)

For the frosting:

  • 3 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, blend together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, then add sugar, vegetable oil, and pumpkin stirring until well mixed. Add pecans (or walnuts or chips). Pour into a well-greased 10″ x 15″ x 1″ (jelly roll) pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden and set. Cool and frost.

To make the frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter together until fluffy; add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on high speed until smooth. Frost when bars are completely cooled. Makes 32 bars.

Still Free: Dreaming and Planning

As much as I am enjoying our current life on Kaua’i, I also honestly miss traveling. I miss the rush of being somewhere different, somewhere new, and both exercising the skills we had along with learning new ones as well. While I enjoyed sightseeing, I also loved learning more about the places and locations where we spent time, from shopping at local markets to turning down an alleyway to see where it went to talking to locals whenever possible. Although travels days involved a lot of effort and were always very tiring, it was always exciting to be going someplace different, knowing we were going to spend time in a place we had only dreamed of before.

So, what’s a travelaholic like me supposed to do when going anywhere is out of the question for at least for another 18 or so months?

In my case, it’s time to turn to the research and planning stage of travel which, right up next to actual travel, is one of my most favorite things to do. And, it’s a great time to dream about travel as well.

Brett and I have decided on a destination for our first trip off the island, a visit to Japan to spend a month in Tokyo near our son and family followed by an 11-day, 10-night walking tour of the ancient Nakasendo Way, from Kyoto to Tokyo. Planning and researching the Tokyo part is fairly easy except that this next time we’d like to stay in a different place than we did for our last two visits, and it’s anyone’s guess what airfares to Japan and back will be like at that point as well. We’re also keeping a running list of other dream trips we’d like to do in the future, including touring SE Asia and going back to New Zealand and Australia.

The Nakasendo walking tour has added a whole new level to planning. We already have plenty of travel clothes, but putting together an 11-day walking wardrobe, along with gear and supplies needed, is going to require some advance planning, and Brett and I have already started to work on that. For example, both of us are going to need new trail shoes before we go. I am currently walking in the ones I bought in 2019, when we were in Portland, but they’re going to wear out before we go so I’ve been reading advice about which sort of new ones might be best for long-distance walking and figuring out how much they might cost. Brett’s walking shoes are already on their last leg, so this is something that will be coming up soon for him. Then there are other items we’ll need to get, like clothes for layering, some of which we have, some of which we don’t. We’re going to need rain gear and rain hats, wool socks, comfortable hiking pants, and more. Then there’s the specialized gear we’ll also need, like walking poles, moleskin patches for blisters, water bottles, and so on. Thankfully we already have daypacks.

So, while we can’t go anywhere right now, we’re making up a list of what we already have and we’ll need to acquire before we go and then will move on to figuring out when and where to purchase those items. Several things will make great holiday, birthday, and anniversary gifts between now and when we go, but other things we’ll have to choose on our own (a question now, for me for example, is do I want to wear hiking pants or leggings – both have advantages and disadvantages). This task of figuring out what we’ll need is both fun and motivating, we’re learning a lot, and it gives us yet another goal to work towards. In the meantime, we’re having fun, gathering important information, getting in some good conversations, and working on getting physically ready to go.

Dreaming and planning for travel are free, all the better for spending time instead of money on going somewhere isn’t possible. We’re using this time to focus on our savings, and figure out what and how much we’ll need to take our next journey up a notch, all without spending a fortune and getting only what we need. The planning stage is what makes things come off without a hitch, or at least gives us a better chance of that happening, so we can enjoy our destination more, and without unnecessary worry.