Home Cooking: Potstickers

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(photo credit: Epicurious)

Several years ago I won a space in a Chinese potsticker (dumpling) class at an auction we attended. I was excited about learning how to make these tasty dumplings because our girls loved them (still do), and would eat them for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and all points in between!

Potstickers (jiaotzu in Mandarin, gyoza in Japanese) are traditionally served at the Lunar New Year in China, where families often get together and make huge amounts of them. They are ubiquitous at Chinese restaurants in Japan, are reasonably priced and traditionally served in a group of five. Potstickers are always available for dimsum, and in most Asian markets you can find a huge variety of these dumplings, with several different types of fillings, in the frozen section. When I didn’t make them myself, I used to buy the big bags of LingLing chicken and vegetable potstickers at Costco. A bag would last us two to three months. We always took them on camping trips as they were easy to prepare from frozen, and in the winter I used them in soup (my potsticker soup recipe was “borrowed” by a woman who entered it in a local contest and won first prize!).

Making potstickers is somewhat labor intensive because of the stuffing, but it’s a great activity to do with older children or with friends. You can save time by buying pre-made wrappers and also using pre-minced ginger and garlic. The wrappers can be made from scratch, but it takes a long time and the teacher at the class I took felt they didn’t always turn out as well as the ready-made ones (which can be purchased at Asian markets and are usually found in the freezer). Potsticker wrappers are round, about 3 inches in diameter, and can either be thick or thin. Thin ones are better if you are going to boil the potstickers, and thick is better for pan-frying (which is how I usually cook them). Chinese and Japanese potstickers usually have a pork filling, but the fillings for potstickers can be made with tofu as well for vegetarians or with ground chicken or shrimp. The teacher suggested that being “assertive” with the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil will give potstickers a better flavor.

While the cost for all the ingredients might seem high, the recipe below makes a lot of dumplings – be prepared! I usually get between 75 and 100 dumplings when using this recipe, enough to last for many, many meals.

There’s a great scene in the movie Crazy Rich Asian where the family has gathered to make dumplings, and they describe wrapping and pleating the dumplings along the lines of putting a baby in a blanket and tucking it in (pleating). The video above gives a quick demonstration on how to pleat – five of them across the top is traditional. If you only want to do three pleats, that’s okay as well (the number four is considered unlucky though).

POTSTICKERS

  • 3 pounds ground pork or well-crumbled tofu, or even a mixture of ground pork and tofu
  • 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1-2 TBSP minced ginger
  • 1-2 TBSP minced garlic
  • 3-4 TBSP soy sauce
  • 3-4 TBSP dark sesame oil
  • 3-4 TBSP rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 egg
  • 3-5 cups finely chopped nappa cabbage
  • 50-100 potsticker wrappers

Mix all ingredients (except wrappers) together using your fingers until well blended, but do not overwork. Take a wrapper, and wet around the outside edge with water using your finger. Place a generous teaspoonful of filling the middle, fold over to make a half circle and pinch well to seal. Make five pleats at the top of the half circle (see video above for how the pleats should look). The finished dumpling should have a pleated side and a smooth side, and curve gently on the ends.

Freeze potstickers individually on a cookie sheet lined with parchment before putting into other bags or containers for further storage.

To pan fry (from frozen), put vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet and heat. Place potstickers on the oil, smooth side down, to cover the bottom of the skillet and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the potstickers begin to brown. Add water to around 1/4 of the height of the potstickers, cover the pan, lower the heat and steam for around 5 minutes or until water is gone. Test one to see if done; if not steam a little longer. Using a large spatula, life the potstickers from the pan and invert onto a plate, so the browned side shows. The wrapper might look wrinkled; this is normal, especially if you use the thin wrappers.

To make boiled potstickers, heat a large pan of water to boiling, then carefully place the potstickers in the water. They will initially drop to the bottom, but then rise to the top; boil for around 6-8 minutes. Be sure your potstickers are well-sealed (pinched and pleated) if you’re going to boil them – we once had a batch that completely opened in the water and made a huge mess.

DIPPING SAUCE

  • 1 TBSP minced garlic
  • 1 TBSP minced ginger
  • 3 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 3TBSP soy sauce
  • 3 TBSP rice vinegar
  • chili sesame oil (optional)
  • finely chopped green onion (optional)
  • finely chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat oil over medium heat in a small skillet until a piece of green onion  will dance across the top of the oil. Add garlic and ginger and fry until they just start to turn brown. Turn off the heat and quickly add the vinegar and soy sauce to stop further cooking. Cool to room temperature and add chili oil, cilantro or chopped green onion if desired.

The Provisioning Plan

(photo credit: Lucrezia Carnelos/unsplash)

Neither Brett nor I are into spending right now. We prefer saving.

However, there are things we need to buy before we set out on our next adventure, and we’ve been dreading having to face some of the big expenses we experienced before our last adventure.

However, because we currently have time on our side, we came up with a plan to keeps purchases to what can fit into our monthly budget, but that will still allow us to have everything we need before we leave next year.

Our plan? I get to buy something I need or want in the odd months; Brett gets the even months. We should try to keep purchases to one thing or type of thing each month, but if a special sale or discount occurs more can be purchased.

This month I bought four pairs of cotton leggings from H&M. I bought a pair in December of 2019 to take along to Japan and absolutely loved them, and when I checked last week they were still available at the price I paid in 2019. I bought two pairs of black, two of dark gray, and a package of ankle socks for YaYu to qualify for free shipping (the socks cost less than what shipping would have). I now have four comfy pairs of leggings to see me through for a while (plus, leggings also take up less room in my suitcase).

The leggings were going to be only purchase this month but my preferred brand of bras (online) were on sale this month, and on top of the sale price there was an additional discount for every two purchased, and another 20% off everything if I supplied my email address (fine by me because it goes directly to my spam folder). Shipping was also free. My favorite underwear brand was also on sale at Costco, and two packs of those were also ordered. The new stuff will be put away until it’s time to pack; what I’m wearing now is in good enough condition to get me through next year. This month’s provisioning for me is over though.

Next month Brett plans to purchase either some new jeans or a pair of boots, and in November I’m going to replace my phone. That’ll be a big expense, but my old phone will be traded in, and we’ll use the interest-free monthly payment plan for a while from our carrier, and pay off the balance before we depart. I want to have the phone before the girls arrive in December as they can (and will) teach and help me with all sorts of things so I can use the phone more optimally. Brett says he’s going to wait and see what he gets for Christmas before deciding on a (late) December purchase. On both our lists for next year are boots, and Brett needs a cold-weather coat and new iPad. I want one pair of Perfect Fit pants from L.L. Bean since the ones I had were too big. Other items will fall into place as we figure them out.

While some items can be easily fit into our regular shopping here, our monthly plan is designed to not only to keep us motivated, but keep us on track budget-wise for the things we’ll need on the road. The schedule gives each something to look forward to each month, and by the time we depart we’ll have everything we need.

Works for us!

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (9/12 – 9/18)

Our freezer is stuffed once again, but other than a package of Italian sausages we’re saving for when the girls are here in December, all the meat we started out with a few months ago is gone. We used the last of the meat sauce on our mini pizzas and then cut up a remaining small pork chop for a pork and pepper stir fry. I’m pretty sure Brett and I will eat meat again while the girls are here, but for now we are meat free! So what’s in our freezer? We have a few vegan entrees that we’ve found at Costco and Walmart, including mini corn dogs (we loved them!), hot dogs, chick’n patties, Better Than Burgers, chick’n nuggets, meatballs, and ground meat substitute. There’s a bag of extra-large shrimp for next week’s menu as well as bags of frozen broccoli, bags of frozen blueberries, yakisoba noodles, some bread and rolls, a few frozen burritos and a bag of burrito filling that will get used this coming week. In other words, lots and lots of healthy things to put together tasty meals. Our freezer may be small but it is mighty!

Every inch is in use in our little freezer.

We now walk later in the afternoons than we did before, and when we get home these days the last thing I feel like doing is standing and cooking. In the past we would have purchased and used lots of processed foods, and although I’m finding myself reaching for some easier- or quick-to-prepare options included some processed vegan items, the foods we’re eating now overall are much healthier – less protein (but still enough), less gluten, less dairy – and we feel much better for it. We’re sticking to smaller portions as well – I still measure and/or weigh everything. I’ve also figured out that by fixing some dishes earlier in the day all I have to do is heat them when we get home. My biggest issue seems to be remembering to fix rice (if we’re having it) before we leave for our walk so that we don’t have to wait for it to finish later.

We didn’t try any new recipes this week except for the zucchini fries, which were so-so (I’m going to look for a different recipe next time). Everything tasted good, there were some leftovers for lunches, but best of all the meat is gone!

Sunday: Coconut squash dal with jasmine rice; cucumber spears

Monday: Chick’n nuggets; baked zucchini fries

Tuesday: Mini pizzas with meat sauce

Wednesday: Pork & pepper stir fry; steamed rice

Thursday: Quinoa salad with feta cheese

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Chick’n patty sandwiches; coleslaw

We’ve been enjoying a treat for dessert the past few days: Bubbie’s mochi ice cream balls, which are made in Hawaii. They have the best flavors (we’ve had green tea, passionfruit, chocolate peanut butter, strawberry with dark chocolate chips, and pistachio this week) and each one contains less than two tablespoons of ice cream, so there’s been no dairy overload. Calories are also fairly low: 180 for two. We finished them last night, so this week’s dessert will include thin slices of leftover pie (we’re picking up a couple of pies from our local shop tomorrow to have when Bob and Betty Lowry come over for dessert) and we also bought another coconut cake and another matcha cake to enjoy as well.

Strawberry with dark chocolate chips and chocolate peanut butter Bubbies. The ice cream flavors are always delicious, but Bubbies’ mochi has unfortunately often been hard and somewhat crumbly, not soft and chewy like mochi should be.

Cheese will feature in a few meals next week because we need to use it up: toasted cheese sandwiches, sprinkled on the chili dogs, on the mini pizzas, and of course on the cheese board. We’re looking forward to the chili dogs and found our favorite chili, Amy’s vegetarian, at Big Save. I’m trying one new recipe this week: vegan peanut stew with sweet potato. Everything except the peanut stew can be fixed in a short time after we get home from our walk but I’ll manage. Tomorrow evening we’ll be enjoying happy hour appetizers with Bob and Betty Lowry which will be enough to count as dinner (I hope).

  • Happy Hour appetizers
  • Vegan chili dogs
  • Tomato & roasted red pepper soup; toasted cheese sandwiches
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Spicy black bean burritos
  • Vegan peanut stew

I must have fallen harder than I realized week before last because it feels like I have either bruised or cracked a rib or deeply pulled a muscle. The pain in my upper right chest has not let up, and while using my right arm can be painful depending on what I’m doing (and hard to avoid because I’m right handed), actions like coughing or sneezing are excruciating. I have been forbidden by Brett to enter the gully again so I’m now consigned to checking the edge. My shoes are too slippery for the slopes inside the gully, and because I have beginning osteoporosis, Brett is worried about my falling again and possible breaking my leg or hip (I am too frankly) but whatever I did to my chest is proving to be motivation enough to stay away.

We often pass by this old fountain during our walks. It must have been gorgeous in its day.

The weather this past week was mostly okay for walking with nice breezes and cooler temperatures once again. I remember having to cut our walks short this time last year because the humidity was so fierce and clouds of gnats were everywhere, but we really haven’t experienced those things at all this year. We walked the perimeter on Monday and Tuesday, got in a lot of steps on Wednesday during our Big Shop, but had to stay home on Thursday because of rain. We were almost rained out again on Friday, but the big clouds hanging over the park eventually changed direction, the rain stopped, and we got in a full perimeter walk (our feet got very wet though). Saturday’s weather was lovely and we once again got in another full walk. We found 50 lost balls this week, most in very good condition, and an overall decent number considering the weather, the reduced number of golfers, and only four days for us at the park. Our ball collecting also finally paid off this past week: we sold three packages of used golf balls in one day!

Sunday Morning 9/19/2021: The Great, The Good, and The weird

Sunset of the Week: Thursday evening’s spectacular production followed a stormy afternoon.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

In what was a surprising twist to last week’s hibachi-selling frustration, the woman who bought the big one last week contacted me on Monday and made an acceptable offer on two smaller hibachis I had listed for sale on both Etsy and eBay. She said she would come by to pick them up later that day so I took the listings off those sites but then she didn’t show up. I wrote her on Wednesday to check if she still wanted them and she apologized (she had been under the weather) and came and picked them up that afternoon! It is such a relief to have the hibachis sold. I knew when I listed the two smaller ones on online it would take a long while to sell them, and although I would have earned a bit more selling them online it would have been very difficult to pack them adequately for shipment (as well as costing a small fortune), so having someone local buy them was a happy and ideal solution.

The mugs are the only things that didn’t sell this past week but I got an offer for them this morning. And additional box of golf balls also were sold.

It was also a very quiet week on both eBay and Etsy with no orders from either site. We listed our first two boxes of golf balls on eBay early in the week but got very few views even though I had priced them well below what eBay suggested and what similar lots were going for. After a few days I decided to cross-list them and two other eBay items on our local Buy & Sell as well and in one day sold the two boxes of golf balls and my old travel daypack and made more than I would have on eBay after paying for postage! Brett took along another box of golf balls I was preparing to list when he delivered the yellow balls and the man bought that box as well! It ended up being a great week for sales, and we have decided to take more of our stuff off of eBay. A couple of coffee mugs (not the ones shown above) and some other Japanese stuff will stay there for the time being but otherwise we will focus on selling our stuff locally. Postage costs from Hawaii are high and I believe that has been a real deterrent to online buyers.

I did an in-depth look at monthly rental prices in both Blockley and Strasbourg this past week and a return to Blockley may be impossible. Monthly rentals are limited as it is, and rental prices are off the charts right now – the little cottage we rented in 2019 is now going for over $1,000 more per month than it was when we were there! I can understand why though – after everyone was cooped up for so long the Cotswolds must be an extremely popular getaway location right now. As it is, Brett and I are thinking again about whether we really want to do another three month stay there. Our time in 2019 was magical but we know it might feel less so on a second visit as we saw and did so much in the area the first time. We reminded ourselves it was also a location where we had to take a bus to get to an ATM let alone buy groceries, etc. and maybe there are other places in the UK we could visit, enjoy, and get to know that wouldn’t requires as much effort. Strasbourg, on the other hand, seems to have plenty of wonderful rentals in our price range, so hopefully we will have no problems finding something there when it’s time to make our reservations. Our former Strasbourg rental is currently not available, and as much as we loved staying there we know it’s probably too small for a three-month stay. I worry too that we might not find Strasbourg as special as we did the first visit but there are still loads of things in the area we didn’t get to see and do before and we are still feeling eager to visit again.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: Six Four, the Japanese detective story I inadvertently downloaded from the library when I couldn’t find anything else, has turned out to be a page-turner! Loaded with detail, it goes slowly but gives a deep understanding of the Japanese police hierarchy and relationships, as well as loads of other deep Japanese cultural insights (fascinating to me). The mystery itself is also a slow burn and good reading. I have been grateful for my background in Japanese though because I think I would otherwise go crazy trying to keep everyone’s names straight. Another book, Sixteen Horses, became available this week, but I’m going to stick with Six Four alone for the next week and hopefully finish before starting the second book.
  • Listening to: We woke up to a stormy morning with overcast skies and rain but not too much wind. It’s supposed to blow out by noon, but we’ll see. Several chickens in the area are sounding off though so it’s not all that quiet. Brett’s putting away last night’s dishes and making coffee, so there’s a little bit of noise inside the kitchen right now but the coffee will be finished soon, things will quiet down, and the rest of the morning should be peaceful and quiet.
  • Watching: We binged the final three episodes of Whitechapel on Thursday and watched the new episode of Only Murders In the Building on Tuesday. On Friday we watched two parts of the four-part documentary about LuLaRoe called LuLaRich, and finished it last night. I remember LuLaRoe being hot, hot, hot here before we left in 2018 but now there is nothing and now I know why. Sad that so many did so much and then lost so much. HBO Max is currently offering some of their shows for free, and since we’re not sure how long that’s going to last tonight we’re going to start watching Mare of Easttown.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: Besides getting our Big Shop done, our other big accomplishment was putting together the first boxes of golf balls for sale. The sorting and grading was a bit more difficult than we thought and we’re now trying to figure out how to sell the ones in less than great condition that have been accumulated. Brett and I talked a lot about our upcoming travel plan and came up with some possible ideas for a final itinerary, but other than heading to Japan first there still are no firm decisions yet about where we should go next (France or UK). I got another six-week set of activity cards ready, and all the regular stuff got accomplished once again.
  • Looking forward to next week: We getting together again with Bob and Betty Lowry on Tuesday for happy hour and puupuus (heavy appetizers) at a nearby restaurant, and then will have coffee/tea and dessert at our place before taking them to the airport for their flight back to the mainland. We’re looking forward to hearing about their Kaua’i adventures from this past week. The weather has behaved for them most of this past week, thank goodness.
Everyone’s happy after breakfast and conversation at the Tip Top!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The highlight of our week was breakfast with Bob and Betty at the Tip Top Cafe on Tuesday. We could have easily stayed at our table for a couple more hours to continue talking – it was like we had known each other for years. So thrilled to have finally met them – they’re just as down to earth as you would image from his writing on Satisfying Retirement (and, he’s got a new blog starting early October!). Also, what could have been a very disappointing week for our side hustles turned into something very good thanks to our local Buy & Sell.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We stayed under budget with our shopping on Wednesday but it was close: all we had leftover for the change/$1 bill bag was $1.58! Bargain of the month at Costco was a twin-pack of giant 20.35 oz. boxes of Cheerios for $3.96, or $1.73 per box. We also picked up a few things in preparation for the girls’ December visit and would have spent less if not for those (like a case of Izze sparkling juice, on sale this month at Costco). Hopefully by picking things up starting now we will be able to avoid being slammed with a huge food bill in December. We ate all our leftovers this past week and I’d love to say I didn’t throw any food away but I discovered several small bags of produce odds and ends way past their time that had gotten buried and forgotten and that had to be tossed. I gave myself a stern talking to about making sure things this doesn’t happen again.
  • Adding up what we sold last week: Although there were no Etsy orders nor eBay sales this past week, two hibachis, a daypack, and three boxes of golf balls left the apartment. Residual funds were released from Etsy and along with the other sales, $489.02 is going into our travel account tomorrow (more if the mugs sell)! I am mentally prepared however for a very quiet week coming up.
  • Grateful for: I have always enjoyed meeting readers, and finally getting to meet Bob and Betty last week was no exception. When I’ve meet readers it’s been like connecting with old friends again. I’m so very thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given to get to know so many wonderful people because of this blog, for the friends we’ve made, and I hope it continues long into the future. I am also beyond grateful to Hawaii Planner for finding and sending some very valuable information that was lost this past week (see below).
I also like having an uncluttered desktop.
  • Bonus question: Is your email inbox full or empty? I don’t get a whole lot of email these days with so many other efficient ways to communicate, but mine is always empty or near empty because I organize my email daily. However, yesterday my Gmail account appeared to go crazy and not in a good way. I’m still trying to figure out what happened but it was very weird. Old email I had saved because it contained important information, including one of our $500 Delta gift cards, disappeared and couldn’t be located anywhere. The email with information on my leggings order of 9/14 from H&M also vanished. I found a few of the older saved emails on my phone, but neither the missing Delta card nor the H&M email were among them. I had a special Delta subfolder in saved email where I kept screenshots of the Delta card information as a safety measure, but yesterday only one gift card could be found there, and the Delta file on my phone was completely empty! To keep things even more interesting, during my search for the lost emails I checked my inbox at one point and found it filled with hundreds of old messages, all of which had been deleted months ago! Also weird was the appearance in my saved file of 10 chat messages from our son from 2009! My very tech-savvy daughters did everything they could to help me straighten things out and find the missing emails, but nothing we tried worked nor did any of Google’s tips, and there was no way to contact Google for help as they only have online help and none of it covered this situation. However, Hawaii Planner came to the rescue! I had bought one of the Delta cards from her last year, so in desperation I wrote and asked if she still possibly had any information about the card and she did! YEAH!!! I now have both the missing card number and the PIN, and that information has been saved in three different places so it hopefully doesn’t get lost again (she suggested I find out if I can put the gift cards in my online wallet so I’m going to check on that). I am absolutely sick though about all of this because for now there doesn’t appear to be any way to retrieve the other lost emails, and some were special ones from Brett that I wanted to save and remember, and others contained photos from friends and family that are now gone. Thanks, Google. My inbox however is clutter free again, so there’s that.
My reaction 10 years ago if you had told me we would someday move to Hawaii (also my all-time favorite Gary Larson cartoon).

The other morning, when I woke up and opened the French doors in the living room, I looked out at our yard, the blue sky and clouds, the breeze blowing through the palm trees, and realized how much I am going to miss living here. I thought about how very blessed and fortunate we have been to live on Kaua’i. Ten years ago I would have thought you were crazy if you had predicted we would move to Hawaii, and yet somehow we made it happen, not once but twice, and we’ve enjoyed/are enjoying a wonderful life here. I will be forever grateful that we were given this opportunity, and we will always carry a piece of Kaua’i in our hearts. I am resolved to make the most of all the time we have remaining.

That’s a wrap for another great and good week, and glad for the happy ending to the weird! We’re looking forward to the week coming up, and hope everyone is as well.

67 Weeks

(photo credit: Estee Janssens/Unsplash)

Sixty-seven weeks from this Friday, on December 23, 2022, we plan to board a plane and be on our way to Tokyo. By leaving on the 23rd, we will arrive in Tokyo on December 24, and will be up the following day to spend Christmas with our son and his family. One week later, we’ll celebrate the New Year with them, the biggest holiday of the year in Japan.

Sixty seven weeks might seem like a very long time to some, but I feel like the time is going to move along fairly quickly. Using my own accounting, that’s just two and a half sets of activity cards until the end of this year, eleven sets until we depart. For some reason those activity cards seem to make time fly.

We have just 67 weeks to save as much as we possibly can. Our goal is $30,000.

We have 67 weeks to sell or get rid of all our stuff, get a bag and boxes packed and shipped to Massachusetts with the very few things we plan to keep (and around 65 weeks to decide what we want to keep – the list keeps getting smaller every week). We have less than 67 weeks to make lists and purchase the things we need/want to take along this time.

We have only 28 weeks until it’s time to decide on and reserve an Airbnb rental in Japan, 41 weeks until it’s time to reserve a place in England, and 65 weeks until it’s France’s turn. We’ve already decided that we want to spend a bit more on lodging this time as we’ll be spending less on transportation because we won’t be moving around so frequently).

We have 67 weeks to figure out what clothes and technology we want to take with us this time and provision ourselves as necessary. Much of what we carried last time will go along this time as well, but there are other things we need, and things we lugged around before that can be jettisoned. As for technology, Brett needs a new tablet before we depart, and I need a new phone.

We have only 67 weeks left to get ourselves into the best shape possible, and enjoy our island life on Kaua’i.

Sixty-seven weeks might seem like an eternity to some, but we know that December 23, 2022 is going to be upon us faster than we can imagine.

Staying Healthy: Eating and Exercise (9/5 – 9/11)

This coming week is a Big Shop week, but we’re fairly well stocked up for the time being, so it will be interesting to see what and how much we buy. Our shopping is so different now that we’re not buying meat. We’re still constrained by our small refrigerator/freezer (and can’t stuff the fridge, for example, because then things starts to freeze), but these days we’re on a constant look out for basic vegetarian ingredients we can use to create tasty meals. Hopefully Costco will have their six-packs of organic tofu back in stock, but the truth is we never know what we’ll find there. When we stopped in last Wednesday though we saw lots and lots of fresh produce again, so that will give us some more choices.

We enjoyed our dessert fling with the Costco apple pie and might do that again some day, but we’re otherwise tired of baked oatmeal and looked for some other options last week. I don’t want to go back to baking cakes again as they take up so much room in the refrigerator, and since we’re avoiding dairy as much as possible these days (except for cheese) ice cream is not a dessert option either (and non-dairy ice cream is unfortunately too expensive here). We checked out some different dessert things at Costco last week as they are the most cost effective but they didn’t have anything that worked for us – everything was either too high calorie or too much dairy (or both, like their cheesecakes), and the only pie they had available was pumpkin and it’s too early for that – maybe next month. We got luckier at Times Market and came home with a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake (one of the best cakes ever) and a Japanese matcha Swiss roll cake, another favorite. Costco used to make and sell haupia (coconut cream) cakes – so good – but we haven’t seem them since we arrived last year. Cookies would be a nice option except we know we’d eat too many too quickly. We love having a little bit of something sweet in the evening, but it’s getting a bit more challenging these days.

We ate well last week – the enchiladas and stuffed peppers were delicious as was the kabocha risotto. I love that by measuring and being careful about the amount we eat we can quite literally have our cake and eat it too!

Sunday: California roll salad

Monday: Kabocha pumpkin risotto; roasted zucchini

Tuesday: Stacked chicken & zucchini enchiladas

Wednesday: Mexican quinoa stuffed peppers; pickled cucumbers

Thursday: Mini pizzas with meat sauce

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Vegan orange chick’n & fried rice

We finished up the lemon-blueberry baked oatmeal on Monday and Tuesday, enjoyed a s’more on Tuesday, and Wednesday through Saturday ate a slice of Pepperidge Farm coconut cake for our dessert. It was every bit as delicious as we hoped.

Pepperidge Farm coconut cake is as delicious as ever.

The only things I see us needing to buy for this coming week are peppers, and feta cheese for the salad (and cheese boards). The pork chop I’ll use for the stir fry is the last piece of meat in our freezer! There was also a small bag of meat sauce but we used it up on the pizzas last week. Going forward, other than eating fish occasionally, it will be vegetarian/vegan all the time. We made it.

  • Coconut & squash dal with brown rice
  • Chick’n patty sandwiches
  • Pork & pepper stir fry
  • Cheese board
  • Mini pizzas
  • Chick’n nuggets with zucchini fries
  • Quinoa salad with feta cheese

Walking was sort of hit or miss for me this week. We did our regular perimeter walks on Monday and Tuesday, but I fell on Tuesday at the end of our walk when we went down a bit into the gully to look for balls. Actually, I slipped on a hillside, the branch I was hanging onto snapped, and I lost my footing which sent me tumbling. A couple of bushes thankfully stopped my fall, because there was another slope down just a few inches below the bushes. I was able to get back up the hill without any problems (and found four more golf balls!), but boy was I sore and more scratched up than I knew when I woke up on Wednesday. I stayed home that day – just didn’t feel good and was still too sore to walk – but Brett headed out and got in a good walk and found lots of balls. Thursday we went to Barking Sands and walked the Waiokapua Trail before spending a few hours out on the beach. Friday was quite rainy but it had mostly cleared in the afternoon so we headed up to the park. It was misting up there but not too wet to walk and we got in a full perimeter walk before the rain really started coming down. Saturday was lovely and I dared myself to go backing into the gully, although with an increased respect for its dangers.

Out on the Waiokaupa Trail. It was hot, but there was a somewhat decent breeze that kept it bearable.

We found a total of 77 lost balls last week. I’m still feeling somewhat sore from my tumble, but have added a regimen of Aleve to my daily meds along with stretching, and that’s been helping (and am picking up a softball this week per Anele’s suggestion). Brett got fairly scratched up on Saturday as well, and we commented on our way back to the car that our kids would be horrified to see what we’re doing these days. They approve the walking, but climbing down into a gully going after golf balls, no so much we think.

Sunday Morning: 9/12/2021: Time for A change

Sunst of the week was Friday evening. The rest of the week was meh.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Back in high school, my senior English teacher predicted I would some day write the Great American Novel, and for years I carried a dream of writing about the life of an ordinary American woman leading a somewhat ordinary life and making her ordinariness interesting. Well, the book never happened but for the past nearly 12 years I’ve been writing what I jokingly call the Great American Blog, about the life of an ordinary American woman’s life and adventures, and I think at least some of it has been interesting.

However, I spent most of this past week debating with myself whether it was time or not to close the blog. I have been posting five times a week since last March, and I had reached a point where I didn’t feel as if I had anything more to say about anything. I was starting to complain (to myself) almost daily about having to write so much. I thought about whether I should or even wanted to change the direction of the blog. I of course have opinions about lots of things that are going on these days, but decided I have no desire to convince anyone of anything, let along alienate anyone (the few mild political comments I have made always seem to bother someone). I still have loads of stories, but some I haven’t told are really no one else’s business. What, I kept asking myself all week, would, could, or should I write about?

Working on the Sunday post

I thought very deeply and honestly about whether I wanted to continue writing, and the answer in the end was yes, although I came very, very close to saying no. I am not ready yet to let it go. I enjoy writing, love interacting with readers, but I figured out I don’t need to write so often or so much. I can do shorter posts. I don’t have to keep to a schedule. I realized that’s the main reason I enjoy writing a blog: I’m the boss, I control the whole darn thing, and I can post what I feel like when I feel like it. Somehow though I had let this blog begin to control me and that needed to change.

We will be traveling again some day. That’s a given, in spite of COVID’s efforts. And, when we do eventually hit the road there will be lots more things to write about again. For the time being though there will be less. The Sunday post will continue as it’s the most fun to write and draws the most readers. To my surprise, what we’re eating and how many golf balls we find on our walks (another fun post to write) is also very popular. But otherwise? I’ve decided to post when I have something to write about or share, whether that’s a recipe, travel tip or memory, or something about life in general. I don’t want to be on any sort of schedule because a schedule eventually turns the blog into work, into an obligation that in my case was becoming more and more difficult to fulfill.

Anyway, I hope you all will stick around and see what happens.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished both Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and A Rule Against Murder last week, and reached my reading goal of 52 books finished this year. For now, I’m going to keep going with my mystery theme and see how many books I can finish by the end of year. I’ve already decided on my theme for next year but that’s for later. It took me a very long while to find something that didn’t have a long waiting list (mysteries are very popular), but I eventually found a highly rated Japanese mystery/thriller, Six-Four, and am already into it. It is SO Japanese, and very different from anything else I’ve read this year.
  • Listening to: There’s a fairly stiff breeze this morning, and lots of clouds, but nothing threatening for now, surprising because it rained hard last night. It’s quiet inside and out – Brett is putting away last night’s dishes and making his breakfast, but other than a few birds cheeping outside there’s nothing happening there to cause any noise. In other words, another perfect morning!
  • Watching: We have been enjoying the Whitechapel series so far – its premise is an updated twist on historical British murders and crime, and so far it’s covered Jack the Ripper and the Kray Twins, but the latest seems based on an American crime (Devil in the White City). Tuesday evenings we watched a new episode Only Murders In This Building, and Wednesday we the latest episode of Vera, but we’ll finish up Whitechapel early the coming week so are already looking for something new. Has anyone watched Billions (on Amazon Prime) and can recommend? I love watching Damian Lewis (he does American accents so well that it’s strange to hear him speak with his natural British accent), and wondered if this might be a good series for us.
Getting started on our first ball sort and grading
  • Happy I accomplished last week: We’ve almost got our first golf ball order put together for eBay: 100 balls in 4A or 5A condition, and a box of 50 mixed condition yellow balls. Brett and I sat down last Friday and went through everything to pick the balls in the best condition, and we’re still trying to figure out how much our opening bid should be. I also photographed and listed a mid-size Japanese hibachi on our local Buy & Sell and Craigslist as it’s too heavy to ship, but it was discouraging for a few day and then it sold yesterday. Otherwise we had another week with no big or special accomplishments, just making sure all the regular stuff got done.
  • Looking forward to next week: A long-time blogging friend, Bob Lowry (Satisfying Retirement In a Changing World), and his wife, Betty, will be visiting Kaua’i this week! We’re meeting for breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe on Tuesday morning, and then plan to meet up again for happy hour and dessert before their departure a week later, and hopefully a beach day at Barking Sands together as well if the weather cooperates. I can’t begin to say how much I’m looking forward to meeting them – we’ve talked about getting together several times and it’s finally going to happen. Also, this week we’ll be doing our “big” Big Shop for the month. We already have a good amount of food on hand so I’m not sure how big it’s actually going to be though. We had nice weather this past week on a couple of days, and fingers crossed for more this week so we can go back to Barking Sands.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) We had an absolutely perfect beach day on Thursday at Barking Sands. I think we stayed out there for over three hours because it was so nice, and once again we had the entire beach to ourselves, which is what makes going there so great: all that space! 2) Our avocado tree has a new home! Our landlord asked us this past week if he could have it as he and his wife have been wanting to plant one in their yard, and after he stopped by last week to take care of a maintenance issue it left with him. 3) One of our fellow walkers at the park gave us a bag of three big avocados from her yard this past week besides enjoying the delicious fruit we’re starting another tree from one of those seeds 4) I had three Etsy sales, with one order coming all the way from France! I offer free shipping for U.S. orders but anything from overseas has to pay postage, and it was surprisingly less than I thought, thanks to Etsy. The packaging of the item required a bit more effort than usual though.
Our avocado tree has a new home . . .
. . . but a new one is getting started.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I stopped doing Swagbucks this past week except for a some easy tasks that only take a few minutes each day, and will provide enough SB for a $50 Amazon card sometime next year. I had earned enough SB for another $250 Delta card, and decided that was good enough for now because otherwise it was making me nuts. It’s wonderful being free of Swagbucks, and we still have $1750 total in Delta gift cards to put toward our flights to Pennsylvania next year. Our only spending this week was a trip to Costco on Wednesday to buy wine and sunscreen, and check for peanut butter, followed by a stop at Times Market to pick up two desserts (a matcha Swiss roll cake and a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake) and a jar of natural peanut butter – Costco has not had any natural/organic peanut butter for well over a month now. Brett saw the dentist on Friday afternoon for a new crown ($$$), but that expense was covered out of savings. We didn’t put anything into the change/$1 bill bag this past week because we used our debit cards at Costco and Times for a change. There was no food waste this week, and all the leftovers were eaten.
  • Adding up what we sold: Two hashioki, a Year of the Tiger clay bell, and a small jubako were sold on Etsy this past week (the jubako shipped to France!). The three sales were a nice surprise as I didn’t think I’d have any after having a week-long sale. I also sold one of our porcelain hibachis after several annoying requests from other interested parties. There were lots of views, good reviews, watchers, etc. on both eBay and Etsy, but no sales this week on eBay. The deposit to our travel account this week will be $190.87.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling grateful this week for all of my readers, for your support and conversation, your advice and ideas, for having my back, but most of all for coming back again and again to read what this very ordinary woman has to say.
  • Bonus question: Is there anything you won’t eat? I can’t eat most lettuces because of a food intolerance – they upset my stomach and cause other problems, so I avoid salads. I also greatly dislike olives in spite of repeated tries – the briny, salty flavor just doesn’t work for me (Brett loves them however). I hate fruit-flavored things, especially lime and cherry – I’d rather be sick than take a cherry-flavored medication – the only one I can tolerate is orange. I have no desire to ever try any bugs, grubs, or reptiles, things like rattlesnake or alligator – it makes my stomach turn just to think about eating any of them. The weirdest foods I have ever eaten were jellyfish and baby birds (not at the same time), and there is no way I’d eat either of those again. But otherwise, nothing is off limits.

The hibachi that was finally sold yesterday.

This past week we decided to contact an auction house next year when it’s time to sell our big hibachi table and a few other more valuable things. After this past week’s experience on Buy & Sell/Craigslist trying to sell the antique hibachi above, we realized neither of those is the right venue for some of the stuff we’re letting go. I got several messages: Is this still available?, I would responded yes, and then either hear nothing back or receive a request for a 25% discount (no), with offers of less than the cost of a similar-sized clay pot at Home Depot or Walmart. We had already priced it low because we knew it would be somewhat difficult to sell on the island. The woman who finally bought it yesterday also initially asked for a discount, but when she came over and looked at it she paid our full asking price without any hesitation. We’re happy it went to someone who will love it like we have over the years. Anyway, the auction house serves a whole different audience, and is seen statewide, so hopefully we’ll have better luck selling through them. We auctioned several Japanese woodblock prints before we left Portland and did very well, so we’re hoping for a similar experience here.

That’s a wrap for this week! It’s been a great one overall, with mostly nice weather, a wonderful day at the beach, books finished and a new one started, good food, staying connected with friends and family, and feeling pretty good for the most part. I’m looking forward to what the coming week brings, and hope everyone is as well.

Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 7)

Hawaii’s kupuna are loved and respected (photo credit: Hawaii Magazine)

I have gray hair and I look my age. Unfortunately, as it happens with all too many older people, I have sometimes been judged by the color of my hair and the wrinkles on my face and quickly dismissed, deemed to be an out-of-it old geezer who knows nothing about technology, or about the world or what’s going on. It’s not always true, of course, but it has happened to me enough to have been noticeable.

Although we work hard to stay healthy and active, and living in Hawai’i helps keep us this way, we know a time will come when we will need more care and assistance, especially for possible medical conditions. I’ve covered some of the issues involved with growing old in the islands, especially as it pertains to housing, and present below some more advantages and disadvantages, and how things operate here:

  • PRO: The strong influence of both native and Asian cultures translates into greater respect for the elderly in Hawai’i overall. The islands have a long history of caring for its elderly, or kupuna. Kupuna literally means ancestor but also infers someone who is both wise and beloved. Seniors outside of family are traditionally referred to as “aunty” and “uncle,” and the terms are used by children and younger people of all ages. Both Brett and I have yet to be treated with anything less than full respect here from everyone we have encountered, no matter their age, a somewhat different experience than we encountered on the mainland at times. The trend in Hawai’i is to keep seniors living on their own for as long as possible, and many services exist to help the elderly remain independent, including van service to doctor appointments, senior centers, Meals on Wheels or community meals, and low-cost or free housekeeping assistance. Traditionally families care for their kupuna but with demographics and the state’s economy changing, family care is changing as well and more and more elderly are turning to services provided by the state.
  • CON: While the number of assisted living and retirement centers has been growing in Hawai’i, the costs for them are growing as well. Even with more homes and senior residences available in every price range, with the growth in the elderly population there is a waiting list for vacancies. If round-the-clock health care is needed, nursing home costs in Hawai’i are approximately 44% higher than the national average. However, even having enough money to cover your costs does not mean there will be an open spot when needed. On some of the islands, private homes offer boarding where elderly can live and receive care. However, these are sometimes operated according to the ethnic background of the owner with different cultural norms, customs and even diet a part of the experience. Boarding in a private home can mean a loving, pleasant experience or it could be a nightmare of abuse and neglect. However, Hawai’i conducts unannounced inspections of licensed private boarding homes, and inspections have shown there to be thankfully few problems with these homes.

Brett and I moved to Hawai’i with the intention of remaining there until the end of our lives, but life has had other plans for us. With our son in Japan, and our daughters living back on the east coast, it makes more sense to eventually relocate somewhere other than Hawaii in spite of our love for the climate and lifestyle here.

All of the points made in the past few weeks about Hawaii retirement can of course be extrapolated to any other place. Some of the pros and cons are unique to Hawaii, but all still give ideas for consideration when deciding whether to stay in a location or move elsewhere in retirement.

Home Cooking: Ina Garten’s Summer Garden Pasta

It takes only two words to describe this pasta dish: easy and delicious.

This seriously had to be easiest dish I’ve fixed in ages, with the fewest amounts of ingredients. If we had a summer garden here that was producing cherry tomatoes and basil, this would be on the menu every week.

The actual dish takes less than 15 minutes to put together. The the only thing that needs to be done ahead of time is marinating the tomatoes for four hours, with the most most labor intensive part of the preparation cutting the tomatoes in half. I used only two pints of tomatoes and wished we had more. And, don’t leave out the red pepper flakes! They add a lovely zing to the dish without adding too much heat.

Marinating tomatoes

Seriously though, only three steps are required in this recipe to create a wonderful pasta meal:

  1. Cut & marinate tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and basil

2. Cook & add pasta

3. Add lots of cheese and serve

That’s it!

INA GARTEN’S SUMMER GARDEN PASTA

  • 4 pints cherry tomatoes (around 75 to 100 cherry tomatoes!)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic
  • 18 large basil leaves, julienned
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 – 1 tsp salt
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)

Cut the tomatoes in half and place in a large serving bowl. Add the olive oil, garlic (yes, really two tablespoons!), julienned basil leaves, red pepper flakes, pepper, and salt to your preference. Mix well, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit out at room temperature for four hours.

To assemble the dish, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain well and add to the tomatoes and combine. Add the parmesan cheese and blend.

Serve with extra Parmesan cheese and more julienned basil.

Without Complaint

My grandfather’s USC yearbook picture in 1909.

Do I get ever get bored these days? YES. Do I ever get frustrated and angry that we haven’t been anywhere off of Kaua’i in nearly 18 months? YES, YES, YES! Do I feel at times like I’m in a rut, doing the same tasks over and over and over with no end in sight? YES! Do I wish that things would happen faster than they are? YES (for some but no for others).

Lately I’ve been thinking about my grandfather, who walked on crutches almost his entire life. He was born in a sod house on the prairie in Nebraska in 1887, the middle of three boys, but moved with his family to California after a bout with polio in 1898 left his legs twisted and useless. Instead of becoming a lifelong invalid and hiding himself away he instead decided to challenge the status quo head-on and live the best life he possibly could. He worked as a teenager at the Green Hotel in Pasadena pulling apart wooden crates that the restaurant produce came in. He saved enough to put himself through USC and earned a degree in 1909, when the disabled were expected to stay at home and not be seen. He bought and taught himself to drive a conventional car, and then drove and camped across the whole country and back before the Roaring 20s arrived, repairing the car himself when needed. He married, created his own successful insurance business which supported his extended family during the Depression, and raised three children and put them through college. Although he couldn’t enlist during the two world wars, he served as his neighborhood’s blackout warden during WWII and fulfilled other necessary tasks as he could. He was an active and respected member of and leader in his church and several civic organizations right up until his death in 1959.

My grandfather didn’t ask for help and he didn’t complain – he just got up every day and did what needed to get done. He died when I was seven years old, and for the longest time I just missed the man who read to me, and gave me 3 Musketeer Bars and Black Jack gum (he loved them). As I grew older and learned more about him, I came to see and appreciate what an accomplishment his whole life had been, and he is now one of my strongest role models. Accept what you are given, do what needs to be done, and face what needs to be faced . . . without complaint.

So, I think I can manage to get through another 16 months of living comfortably in Hawaii without complaining. I’ve decided to make the effort to appreciate everything we have here, and how blessed we have been for being able to live on Kaua’i. I will practice patience as time continues to move on, and I know we will eventually reach our goal. Everything doesn’t need to be sold, the bank accounts don’t need to be full, and reservations don’t need to be made right now. I’m looking forward to the future, but want to go forward feeling more grateful and positive about having the time to get to that goal in the best possible shape. And, I want to appreciate where we are now as well as all that we have, which is everything we need.