#Kauai: Ahukini Landing

After living on Kauai for over two years, curiosity yet again stirred me into taking the other fork in the road. One day, rather than choosing a destination to which I had become accustomed, I headed for Ahukini Landing, the first commercial seaport on Kaua‘i.

Ahukini Pier
Ahukini Pier

In addition to swimming, fishing, and boating prohibitions in the area between the head of the pier and the end of the breakwater, I found these ‘welcome’ signs at the head of the breakwater.

High Surf, Sudden Dropoff, Waves Break on Ledge, Slippery Rocks
Warning Signs – “If in doubt, don’t go out”

There are actually two sudden drop offs here, one between the breakwater and the line of rocks in the surf, and the second just a little beyond those rocks. As for the water breaking over the edge, check this out: High Surf at Ahukini Landing, 23/06/16.

High Surf
Beyond the Warning Signs

Although swimming is absolutely prohibited, Kaua’i County has constructed a fishing pier along the face of the former working pier creating the Ahukini Recreation Area, a hidden gem for anglers as well as surf watchers.

Hanama'ulu Bay
Ahukini Pier at Hanama’ulu Bay.

I walked along the fishing pier pondering what was once here, and what happened to it? My first inclination was Hurricane Iniki, but there was no definitive answer available at Ahukini Landing.

Deck House
Deck House?
Fixed Boom?
Fixed Boom?

Then I saw the foundation of a building across the pier. There were steps, torn away at the bottom, and a pair of sprockets on a spindle aligned with the structures on the pier.


When I got home, I found this photograph from (?) 1927, which is from the California Historical Society, USC Digital Library. So, it appears that what I thought was a fixed boom was part of the support structure for this huge conveyor, which carried (?) from the building that once stood onshore to visiting ships.


Still, no explanation of what happened here, and then I found an article from The Garden Island newspaper, “The History of Ahukini Landing.” Apparently, progress destroyed Ahukini Landing when Nawiliwili Harbor was competed in the 1930s, and as pointed out in the article, operations ceased in 1950 and the structures were dismantled in 1965.

Nawiliwili Harbor
Nawiliwili Harbor

Nawiliwili of course is a much larger harbor, and today hosts cruise ships, container ships, fuel transfer stations, and U.S. Coast Guard Station, as well as the Nawiliwili Yacht Club.

Meanwhile, simply standing in the wind at Ahukini Landing, watching landings and takeoffs from Lihue Airport is exhilarating.

Windswept Airway at Ahukiini Landing
Windswept Airway at Ahukiini Landing


This Week’s Menu: Hot Stuff!

Summer had definitely arrived on the Garden Island. Temperatures are heating up, and humidity levels are starting to climb as well. We’re grilling more, and this week I’m adding a couple more main dish salads to the menu. Nothing on the menu this week requires the oven to be turned on, at least not in the afternoon.

Some of our la jiao jiang - pretty hot stuff!
Some of our la jiao jiang – pretty hot stuff!

This past weekend the girls and I made a batch of la jiao jiang, a Chinese hot chili condiment which originated in Hunan Province. All three of our girls are Hunan “chili girls” (girls from Hunan are said to have fiery temperaments), and love spicy foods, especially YaYu. So, when a friend posted this recipe a while ago we knew we had to make it. Other than crushing the ginger, the recipe is easy and quick, and makes enough to fill a quart jar. YaYu will probably finish it off in a month – we’ve even caught her eating it right out of the jar.


  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 1 cup minced garlic
  • 1 cup freshly crushed ginger
  • 2 cups crushed red peppers
  • 2 TBSP kosher salt (we used Hawaiian sea salt)
  • Optional: 1/4 cup toasted sesame seeds

Heat oil in a large skillet; add ginger and garlic and sauté until they start to brown. Add the crushed red peppers and cook for another two minutes. Stir in the salt and sesame seeds and allow to cool before placing in a glass jar. La jiao jiang will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. (We bought the minced garlic and crushed red peppers at Costco; the ginger came from the farmers’ market.)

Hiyashi Chuka - this version has added mung bean sprouts beyond the traditional egg, cucumber and ham (red pickled ginger and sliced tomatoes are traditional garnishes)
Hiyashi Chuka – this version has added mung bean sprouts to the usual toppings of egg, cucumber and ham (red pickled ginger and sliced tomatoes are the traditional garnishes for this salad)

Otherwise, here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Thai red curry chicken (tofu for me); steamed rice; sweet and sour coleslaw
  • Wednesday: Hiyashi Chuka (“Chilled Chinese”) salad. Mine will have baked tofu in place of the ham; we use rice vermicelli instead of chukamen noodles
  • Thursday: Spaghetti with fresh marinara; grilled Italian sausages (vegan for me); grilled zucchini; bread
  • Friday: Panzanella with beans and feta cheese (no cheese for YaYu or me) – I double the recipe for our family
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Cuban-style burritos (black beans, saffron rice, grilled sweet potato, sautéed banana & fresh pica de gallo wrapped in a tortilla); sliced mango
  • Monday: Mabo nasu (eggplant) made with crumbled tofu instead of ground pork; steamed rice

This week at the farmers’ market I’ll be looking for cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh basil, zucchini, eggplant, bananas and mangoes.

Here’s hoping this week’s menu plan goes as well as last week’s did!

My Second Choice

My first day in Japan, my host family put me on the train (the orange one, the Chuo Line) and sent me into Tokyo on my own for orientation and first day of class. It was quite the experience, but I didn't get lost and made it home at the end of the day!
One of my favorite images of Tokyo – Ochanomizu Station.

Looking back, sometimes in our lives there’s that one choice we make that seemingly changes everything, and affects everything that comes after it. We may or may not recognize its importance at the time. Call it fate or whatever, what appears to be an insignificant choice at the time can end up having a profound influence on almost everything that happens after, in both small and large ways.

I graduated from high school in 1970. I had applied to several colleges, but Lewis & Clark College in Portland was at the top of my list, and I was accepted in early spring. Lewis & Clark is known for their overseas study programs, and after my acceptance I was sent an application for the upcoming overseas programs that were being offered during my freshman year. The only one I was even remotely interested in was England. On the application we were asked to choose a back-up program just in case we weren’t selected for our first choice, so I marked Japan, the only other program where language proficiency wasn’t a requirement. I didn’t know the first thing about Japan, and didn’t give it another thought – I was going to England.

On graduation day in June I received a letter from Lewis & Clark informing me that I had been selected for the 1971 Overseas Study trip to Japan, and in early January 1971 I and 18 fellow Lewis & Clark students boarded the S.S. President Cleveland in San Francisco, and sailed off to the east. Two weeks later we disembarked in Yokohama. Right behind me in the immigration line were John Lennon and Yoko Ono, who had been on the same cruise as our little group*. At one point, John leaned over and asked me if I had had a nice trip. “Yes, I did. How about you?” I have no idea what he answered because I think at that point I had melted into a puddle on the floor.

Our group spent five months in Japan, doing homestays in Tokyo and Hiroshima, and living in a hotel in Takarazuka (located in the middle of Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka, and famous for the all-female Takarazuka Review). The final two weeks of our trip we traveled by train along the western coast up to the north, staying in youth hostels each night, all the way up to Sapporo for another short homestay. During our time in Japan we took language and culture classes, visited famous and interesting locations, learned to eat (and love) sushi, wasabi and other Japanese food, did research for a major paper, and improved our Japanese.

I didn’t see it coming, but in those five months I fell totally and completely head-over-heels in love with Japan.

Looking back, that one trip, taken when I was just 18, has played a highly influential role in my life ever since. It’s influence has stretched far beyond a young college student’s visit to a foreign country (which of course is one of the reasons Lewis & Clark holds overseas study trips every year).

Here’s some of what’s resulted because instead of going to England, I instead went to my second choice country:

  • Because of my desire to go back, Brett did two tours with the navy in Japan, when our son was young. Our first tour was for three-years (1980-1983), the second for three and a half (1989-1992). The second tour included nearly two years of living out in town like a local. That was hard at the time, but I now feel so thankful for the experience. We traveled all over Japan both times we lived there, made wonderful friends, and brought home some beautiful treasures.
  • I taught English conversation during our tours in Japan, which inspired me to get my Master’s degree in TESOL when we returned to the U.S. I had a wonderful career teaching English to amazing and inspiring students from all over the world, and am so much richer for it, as well as getting a pretty nice retirement package.
  • When we returned to the U.S. after our second tour, our son decided to teach himself Japanese because he wanted to read the manga (Japanese comics) he had brought back from Japan. He ended up more proficient than the Japanese teacher at his high school, and went on to major in Japanese Studies in college. He did his junior year abroad in Japan, and met a Waseda University student at a party; she would eventually become his wife. Following his graduation from college, he went to Japan and taught English for a couple of years, then worked at the U.S. Embassy for several years before returning to the States to attend law school. He has been working as an attorney in Japan since graduation.
  • When I went back to college, I took an anthropology class on East Asia to learn more about Japanese culture. My professor had just adopted a little girl from China and told me about the process. Two years later Brett and I travelled to China to adopt Meiling, and we went back twice more to adopt WenYu and YaYu.
  • Because our son and his family live in Japan, one of the things we were looking for in a retirement location, besides good weather, was proximity to Japan. It’s one of the reasons we ended up in Hawai’i, where there are plenty of direct flights to Tokyo, and a prominent Japanese influence in the local culture. I’ve been to Japan twice since we moved, and we’ll be going again next year to meet our new granddaughter. Brett and I are looking forward to spending several months in Japan each year once YaYu has headed off to college.

Of course, all these things might still have occurred if I had gone to England in 1971; there’s no way to know. However, I know for sure these things did happen because I went on that first trip to Japan.

I’ve always seen my life as a sort of giant flow chart. Each choice I make along the way, big or small, determines both future choices and the continuing direction of not only my own life but my family’s as well. These days I think carefully about how a choice or decision I’m making will determine or influence what happens in the future. But at eighteen I didn’t consider the future so closely, if at all, and couldn’t imagine that a casual selection of Japan as an alternative for overseas study would end up having such a profound influence on the path my and my family’s lives have taken, and for so long.

*I cannot find it, darn it, but somewhere I have the most wonderful photo, taken by the ship’s photographer, of John and Yoko stretched out on deck chairs, bundled up against the cold and wearing their puffy life jackets during the weekly drill.

Sunday Afternoon 6/26/2016

A coworker drops by to deliver drinks to our son, including a Coke, at the end of Lap 9!

First thing to do today is give a big shout-out to our son, who participated in the first annual “Imperial Challenge” on Saturday in Japan. The goal was to do as many laps around the Imperial Palace as possible, a distance of 3.3 miles, and our son walked 12 laps in 12 hours (!), raising ¥270,000 (around $2700). His contributions will go to Nanbyo Network, an organization dedicated to providing support to children suffering from severe and often incurable illnesses and the families of those children. He posted on Facebook every time he finished a lap, and it was inspiring to see so many friends and coworkers come out to support him, bring him food and drinks, and walk a few laps with him. M created this event and was the only participant this year, but he’s hoping more will join him next year!

It’s almost hard to believe that it’s the last weekend in June, and how fast once again another month has flown by. Overall it’s been a very good one, with our wonderful getaway to Oahu and lots of other things started and accomplished. We’re settling in now for the summer, and getting ourselves ready both physically and mentally for the next three or so months’ worth of heat and humidity. Our current house can get warm, but nothing like our old house did, thanks to having more and better ceiling fans. We’re also closer to the ocean here, meaning there’s a bit more breeze as well.

WenYu has been looking for a job here to help add to her savings, something she can do for the next couple of months. Fingers are crossed. The other current “big” issue right now is figuring out how to get her comforter back to Massachusetts in August. It wouldn’t be an issue if we were on the mainland, but from here . . . . I think we can downsize it in a Space Bag and fit it into her large suitcase, but we’re also debating whether it would make more sense just to mail it back east or whether that would cost too much. She’s being very careful and frugal with her “preparing-for-college” budget so know she will think long and hard about what to do before she makes a decision. We’ll get that unwieldy thing back there somehow.

Anyway, on this very ordinary Sunday afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I just started the new Ian Rankin book, Even Dogs In the Wild. I’ve read all of his Inspector Rebus books, so was excited to discover a new one had been published this year. They’ve never disappointed.
  • Listening to: I’ve been playing one of my all-time favorite Beach Boys song, Sail On, Sailor, this morning. I grew up listening to the Beach Boys, still know and love all the surfer songs (I am a California Girl, after all), and many of their songs instantly call up a particular time and place, but this song still grabs my heart every time I hear it. They’re singing about my life.
  • Watching: WenYu and I finished up all of Twin Peaks last week, and we’ve decided to watch the entire Downton Abbey series from the beginning – WenYu said she wanted to see it all in one piece before she heads off to school. Poor Brett – DA is just not his thing.
  • Cooking/baking: Brett made BLT croissants for the girls’ and his breakfasts this morning; I had a bowl of raisin bran. He’s going to make a batch of banana-nut waffles for the (kitchen) freezer this afternoon to use up some of the bananas we overbought at the farmers’ market last week. Tonight’s Thai-style pork stew is cooking away in the slow cooker now.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: There was nothing much that needed accomplishing this past week other than the usual chores around the house. I did convince the girls to get their very messy room cleaned up . . . or else. We got a bunch more food cleared out of the freezer, but still have another week or so to go until it can be defrosted.
  • Looking forward to next week: We don’t have anything on the calendar next week other than Brett and the girls are going for a hike on part of the Kalalau Trail. I would love to go along, but my damaged knee cannot handle the downhill part of the hike. Because of that we won’t be making our usual farmers’ market trip, but we’re looking forward to checking out a couple of others that we haven’t been to in a while. And, YaYu has accumulated all her practice driving hours and may be able to take her driving test this week if she can get all the paperwork notarized and signed.
  • Thinking of good things that happened this past week: Other than the going to the farmers’ market and Brett getting two new front tires put on the car to be ready for the annual inspection next week, we didn’t spend any money. He also had a good visit with the dentist, and doesn’t need the (expensive) crown he was expecting. WenYu finished all of her upfront paperwork and requirements for Wellesley, and YaYu volunteered yesterday morning at the annual “Mayor-a-thon” walk/bike/run event and won a 40-oz. Hydroflask water bottle (retail value $42.95) – sweet! I haven’t been on Pinterest in a while, but discovered I am now just 98 short of 36,000 followers – I’m not sure how that happened. Brett turned in all the recyclable cans and bottles that were hanging out in the garage, and we put $8.08 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Grateful for: We’re feeling very thankful for our military health insurance right now. Because Wellesley is in Massachusetts, students are required to carry a certain level of health insurance, which is billed at the beginning of the year. Our insurance coverage exceeds theirs so WenYu is exempted, saving us $2100.
  • Bonus Question: Which languages have you studied? I have absolutely no natural aptitude for learning languages, but have tried to learn German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese. I did a year of German in high school before switching to Spanish, and knew and understood enough by the time I graduated to get myself around and converse at a basic level. I’ve studied Japanese for over seven years, and am still at less than a low-beginning level – it’s very frustrating. I took Italian classes for a couple of years when we lived in Portland and enjoyed them, but gave them up when we decided to retire in Hawai’i. At a minimum I can at least say “Hello,” “How are you?” and “I don’t understand” in all four languages. Brett and I are thinking of taking a Japanese class together at the community college this fall though – we need to get better if we’re ever going to stay there for longer than a week or so.

And that’s it for this Sunday! How is your Sunday going? How did your week go?

#Kauai: A Walk To the Pineapple Dump

Lots of people were still at Kealia Beach when we started out
Lots of people were still enjoying themselves at Kealia Beach when we started out on our walk

The walk from Kealia Beach out to the Pineapple Dump is my all-time favorite short hike on Kaua’i. It’s close to our home, just a mile each way on the eastside beach path, and the entire walk is packed full with gorgeous views.

The view as we left the beach area. The tide was in, and the surf was quite rough
The view as we left the beach area. The tide was in, and the surf was quite rough

Brett and I headed out for a walk late in the afternoon on Father’s Day. The sun was still out down at the beach, but there were storm clouds looming over the mountains to the east, and approaching from the south as well. The tide was up, the wind was strong, and the surf was rough – just the way we like it when we take this walk!

One of the BIG houses sprouting up above the beach walk
One of the BIG houses sprouting up above the beach walk

The area on the mauka (mountain) side of the trail used to be covered with sugar cane and pineapple fields, but these days there’s just the new crop of multi-million dollar homes with killer views.

Tidepools run through the rocks on the shore
There are loads of tidepools in the rocks along the shore
Looking north to the Pineapple Dump. The concrete jetty can be seen in the center of the picture.
Looking north to the Pineapple Dump. The concrete jetty can be seen near the center of the picture.

Back in the day, when there were pineapple canneries on Kaua’i, a train would back a car full of pineapple debris out onto the narrow jetty, then tip the car and dump the debris into the ocean. The pineapple was usually quickly swept out to sea and eaten by fish and other sea creatures, but sometimes the tide would be running in the wrong direction and would take the debris south to Kapa’a or Lihue and dump it on the beaches there. The smell of rotting pineapple was said to be ghastly.

The Pineapple Dump jetty
The Pineapple Dump jetty
Looking north from the Pineapple Dump
Looking north from the Pineapple Dump
The surf is alway churning under the jetty . . . beautiful, but deadly
The surf is alway churning under the jetty . . . beautiful, but deadly
The view from the Pineapple Dump - perfect for whale watching in the winter
The view from the Pineapple Dump – ideal for whale watching in the winter

The concrete jetty is all that remains of the dump these days. There is a viewing platform at the top of the jetty, and a small gazebo with a picnic table nearby. The area is an ideal place for whale watching in the winter, when the Hawaiian humpbacks head to the north side of the island after giving birth. You can also sometimes see sea turtles, monk seals and occasionally nene, the Hawaiian goose (an endangered species), along the walk.

Storm clouds heading in on our walk back to the car
Storm clouds heading in on our walk back to the car
Kealia Beach was complete clouded over the we arrived, although there were a few die-hards still there
Kealia Beach was complete clouded over when we arrived back, although there were a few die-hards still there
Nou'nou, The Sleeping Giant. Ancient Hawaiians lit fires behind the mountain to frighten off intruders coming to Kaua'i
Nou’nou, The Sleeping Giant. Legend says that ancient Hawaiians lit fires behind the mountain to frighten off intruders coming to Kaua’i

The walk back to Kealia provides sweeping views of the coast and mountains to the south, including Hau’upa and Nou’nou, the Sleeping Giant. By the time we got back the clouds had rolled in, and the humidity was so thick you could slice it with a knife. The rain arrived shortly after we got home, so we had timed our walk perfectly!

Postcard From: Meiji Shrine

The huge torii gate at the entrance to the Meiji Shrine. Torii mark the entrance to sacred spaces.
The huge torii gate at the entrance to the Meiji Shrine. Torii mark the entrance to sacred spaces. The gold chrysanthemums are the emblem of the Japanese royal family.

One of my favorite places to visit in Tokyo on my first visit to Japan as a college student was the Meiji Shrine (Meiji-jingu). Located in the heart of noisy, bustling and busy Tokyo, Meiji-jingu was an oasis of quiet and calm. It seemed almost incredulous to me at the time that such a beautiful, peaceful place could exist inside of Tokyo.

There’s an almost instantaneous hush when you enter the shrine grounds. After passing under the giant torii gate at the entrance, you follow a long, wide, shaded path to reach the main shrine complex, passing a large display of sake casks. Sake is closely associated with the Shinto religion and used in rituals and festivals, and the (empty) casks on display indicate the breweries from around Japan who have made donations of sake to the Meiji Shrine.

Sake breweries from around Japan send a cask to Meiji Shrine each year for blessings and good luck in the coming year.
Casks from the breweries who donated sake for the shrine’s rituals and festivals. The casks are made of aromatic wood with hand-painted rice straw covers showing the breweries’ logos.
Purification fountain. Water is poured into your left hand; the water is sipped and swished around in the mouth and then spit out. Then both hands are splashed with water.
Most visitors stop at Meiji-jingu’s purification fountain before entering the shrine complex. Water is poured from the dipper over your left hand, then your right; some water is then poured into your left hand and sipped, swished around in the mouth and then spit out on the ground. Any remaining water in the dipper is poured on the ground.
Entrance to the main shrine complex
A second, smaller torii marks the entrance to the main shrine complex.
Inside the main shrine complex
The main shrine contains several buildings
One of the inner shrine buildings contains a museum with artifacts from Emperor Meiji and the Empress.
One of the inner shrine buildings contains a museum with artifacts from Emperor Meiji and the Empress.

The shrine is located on 170 acres in the Shibuya District of Tokyo, just a short walk from Harajuku Station on the Yamanote Line. The location for the shrine was a site of an iris garden that Emperor Meiji (1867-1912) and his wife often visited. Emperor Meiji died in 1912, and building of the shrine began in 1915 as a national project, with completion and dedication in 1920 (the Emperor’s and Empress’s graves are not at the shrine; they are buried south of Kyoto). The shrine was completely destroyed during the fire bombings of World War II, but was rebuilt in 1958, again using Japanese cypress and copper.

Meiji-jingu is a popular site for traditional Japanese wedding ceremonies. The day the girls and I visited Meiji-jingu last year just happened to be a national holiday, and we were able to observe six ceremonies in different stages, from the bride being dressed to the wedding procession to the formal photographs at the end.

Finishing touches are applied to a bride's formal kimono for her wedding ceremony. We visited on a Saturday and several weddings were being held at the Shrine.
Finishing touches are applied to a bride’s formal kimono (uchikake) for her wedding ceremony. The white hood (wataboshi) is worn to represent humility and modesty, and hide the “horns of jealousy.”
A wedding procession through the shrine
A Shinto priest and two shrine maidens (mika) lead a wedding procession through the shrine. The bride’s left hand is held by her mother in the procession; her father follows behind the groom. The groom is wearing a formal wedding hakama.
Family and guests follow behind the bride and groom.
Family and guests, many in formal attire,  follow behind the bride and groom. A second priest carries the large red umbrella (wagasa) over the bride and groom.

After visiting Meiji-jingu, we headed back to Harajuku Station and crossed over to Takeshita Dori, the main shopping street in Harajuku. Harajuku has been called the “most fashion conscious place on the planet.” The area around Harajuku station is the place to be on Sunday afternoons if you want to check out the latest looks and fantastic cosplay outfits. Takeshita Dori is also the place to try crepes – there are several shops along the street, and they offer a huge variety of flavors and fillings. The girls and I saw a few fashion plates while we were there, but since it was a holiday the crowd was mostly families and teens out for a day of shopping.

Harajuku Station, with its distinctive cupola and European style
Looking down on Harajuku Station from the Meiji Shrine overpass. A N’EX express train from Narita Airport speeds through the station on its way to its next stop. Harajuku Station is known for its distinctive cupola and European style.
Takeshita Street is always crowded, but it's safe and loads of fun to visit.
Takeshita Street is always busy (the day of this picture it was more crowded than usual because it was a holiday), but it’s safe and loads of fun to visit. At McDonalds you can try a Teriyaki McBurger and a yogurt shake, both unique to Japan (and tasty).
Daiso is Japan's Dollar Store - everything there is just 100 yen, or about 90 cents when we visited. It is "kawaii" (cute) central in Japan.
Daiso is Japan’s ‘dollar store’ – everything there costs just 100 yen. That meant everything was 90 cents the day we visited due to the exchange rate.
Harajuku is famous for its crepes. Pancakes are also very popular, and there is a cat cafe, where you can pet and look at cats while you drink your coffee.
Harajuku is famous for its filled crepes – the photo shows just a few of the choices Angel Heart Crepes offers, from sweet to savory. Pancakes are also very popular, and there is also a cat cafe, where you can enjoy the company of cats while you drink your coffee.

Meiji-jingu still remains the quiet, unhurried place it was when I first visited 45 years ago. It provides a beautiful, peaceful contrast to Tokyo’s (and Harajuku’s) busy pace, and is definitely worth a visit if you’re in Tokyo.

This Week’s Menu: Where Did All This Food Come From?

Cooking Light magazine's Thai-style pork stew - it's been a favorite recipe since it appeared in 1999!
Cooking Light magazine’s Thai-style pork stew – it’s been a favorite recipe since it appeared in 1999!

We are still trying to use up what we have on hand so that we can get our small freezer defrosted, but my goodness, it’s like someone or something is feeding the freezer from the bottom. There’s still a LOT of food in there, and other than a box of ice cream bars for the girls we didn’t buy one thing that went into the freezer when we shopped at Costco last week. I think it will be another two to three weeks before we can even think of defrosting :-(. As I said on Sunday, I’m not complaining, but I am surprised. And grateful.

Last week’s menu plan went off without a hitch other than swapping around a couple of days. We bought fresh mung bean sprouts for the pad thai at the farmers’ market and then realized that they would not last until Sunday, so the pad thai was moved to Thursday. Friday night’s kalua pork dinner was swapped with Saturday’s leftovers because the girls  were invited to go to one of the local obon festivals on Saturday night. Still, we made progress toward getting things used up and the freezer cleaned out (although obviously not enough).

The girls cooked dinner two evening last week, and will be taking care of another couple of meals this week. They have been doing a great job!

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Beef & broccoli stir fry; steamed rice (tofu and broccoli for me)
  • Wednesday: Grilled chicken ravioli with pesto; grilled zucchini; garlic bread (pasta with marinara for me)
  • Thursday: Homemade fish cake sandwiches; corn on the cob
  • Friday: Pasta with ham, spinach and red peppers (not sure yet what I’ll have)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Slow cooker Thai-style pork stew; steamed rice; cucumber salad (sesame peanut noodles for me)
  • Monday: Grilled hot dogs (vegan for me); potato salad

We’ll need to get cucumbers, zucchini, and corn at the farmers’ market this week as well as LOTS of ginger because YaYu and I are going to be making a traditional Chinese hot pepper condiment for her to enjoy. That girl loves the heat!

We Bought A Chair

The pattern sort of has an op-art feel to it
The pattern sort of has an op-art feel to it

When we moved into our current house nearly eight months ago, the wicker armchairs that had been in our living room in our old house went out to the lanai so we could finally enjoy sitting outside. However, all that left us for the living room was our sofa. It’s comfortable, and seats three, but we felt like the space needed a new armchair. Finding a chair was easier said than done though.

Why did it take us so long to finally find a chair? Two things:

  1. Furniture stores and selection on Kaua’i are limited, and
  2. We didn’t want to spend a lot of money.

Plus, a great deal of what you can find here is “island casual,” meaning it’s rattan or bamboo, with tropical fabric. We like rattan, bamboo and tropical, but our furniture is mainly contemporary/modern and an island casual piece just wouldn’t fit. Prices are also a bit higher in furniture stores here as everything is imported. There’s a Pier 1 Import store on the island, but they didn’t have anything that fit our style either, and their prices were more than we wanted to spend (plus you have to pay an additional fee for furniture items to be shipped over from Honolulu). We also checked for accent chairs at Walmart and Ross, the other two stores on the island where we might find something, but they had nothing appropriate, and nothing we liked ever appeared on Craigslist either. Special ordering something was out of the question, as that would have had us paying up to several hundred dollars extra in shipping fees.

We were a bit afraid that blue & white wouldn't look good next to our cream-colored sofa, but it does!
I’m glad we decided to take a chance with an armless design, because almost anything with arms would have taken up too much space.

So, for nearly eight months we had a spare dining room chair sitting over by the sofa, which no one enjoyed sitting on.

Then a couple of weeks ago I thought, “why not check Amazon?” We had ordered a nightstand and desk for the girls’ room through them, as well as a memory-foam mattress, and received free shipping through Amazon Prime. An upholstered accent chair seemed a bit far-fetched though, but I started looking anyway and discovered they had several contemporary chairs at affordable prices. Some were even Amazon Prime eligible . . . that is, until I tried to order them and discovered the company wouldn’t ship to Hawai’i, or at least not for free.

It arrived in a chair-shaped box!
It arrived in a chair-shaped box!

I finally found this blue and white slipper chair. We all liked the color and design enough to take a chance on it, and the price was right, including free shipping. I placed the order, expecting to get the now-familiar message that it couldn’t be shipped to Hawai’i or that there would be an additional shipping fee, but the order went right through, and less than a week later we had our chair! All we had to do was unwrap it, and attach the legs. We’re more than impressed with the quality of the chair construction and the fabric, and it’s comfortable and the design fits perfectly in our living room.

If nothing else, living on Kaua’i these past two years has taught us to be creative when it comes to shopping or cooking and now buying furniture. With apologies to the Rolling Stones, we can’t always get what we want here, but we eventually find what we need, and at an affordable price too.

Sunday Afternoon 6/19/2016

Happy Father’s Day to those who are celebrating today! Brett got his present when we were in Honolulu (new badger hair shave brush from The Art of Shaving), and the girls are baking him a strawberry-white chocolate bundt cake because he said he’d like some cake. We’re also taking over his duties today other than making the coffee, but that’s just because he gets up so much earlier than the rest of us and doesn’t want to wait for his coffee.

13445490_10208222613500273_3618143521543520426_nThe secretary at the girls’ elementary school, a Facebook friend, sent me the above photo this past week. She took it right after the school year began in 2005 – Meiling was nine, in the fourth grade; WenYu was seven, in the second grade; and YaYu was five and just starting kindergarten. She had been home with us for just six months, and still barely spoke English. One thing that caught my eye in this photo was the girls’ clothes – all had either been handed down or came from resale! YaYu was the third girl to wear the red shirt and blue pants (nicknamed “the comfy pants” by the girls). 2005 was before Brett’s work hours were cut and we got in over our heads in debt, but we were already practicing our frugal skills!

Here’s what’s going on this afternoon:

  • Reading: I’m still reading World Gone By. I didn’t get into it much this week as I’ve been doing lots of other outside reading (news, etc.). Brett is still on his Steinbeck kick. He finished East of Eden, and went to the library and got two more: Tortilla Flat and Cannery Row.
  • Listening to: Except for an unusually loud bunch of roosters yelling at each other, it’s nice and quiet here today. Everyone here is reading.
  • Watching: Instead of watching what I thought we would last week, we instead downloaded and watched the six-part documentary The Jinx, about Robert Durst. The whole thing was compelling, but the ending blew us away – totally not what we were expecting. Then WenYu and I decided to watch Twin Peaks again, so we’ve been watching about three episodes a night of that. It still holds up (and makes me want pie and coffee) after all these years, although the fashions and hairstyles from the early 90s are dated (did we really wear that stuff?). Brett and I have slipped in another couple of episodes of Land Girls, but tonight I am looking forward to the return of Endeavor on PBS!
  • Cooking/baking: I made Brett a kalua pork omelet for his Father’s Day breakfast this morning. The girls are baking the cake later today, and dinner tonight will be Greek-style lamb burgers with feta cheese and a cucumber-dill salad.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I got our monthly Costco shop done, and spent $200 less than usual. Other than a box of ice cream bars for the girls we did not buy anything that had to go into the freezer out in the garage – it really needs to be defrosted. Otherwise it was a pretty quiet week.
  • Looking forward to next week: Nothing special is coming up this week – hopefully we’ll be able to get to the beach once or twice.
  • Thinking of good things that happened this week: Our new living room chair arrived! YaYu’s tutoring sessions have started off OK. She likes her teacher, and the teacher is impressed with YaYu’s proficiency. She’s going to work on getting YaYu ready to pass the AP Chinese exam in the spring. And, we put $8.21 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Grateful for: One day last week I was digging in the freezer looking for something, and complaining to myself about the disorganization when I realized I should instead be grateful that we have so much food, so much that it can get disorganized. That was an eye-opener, and another wakeup to be more mindful and grateful for how much we have. We are wealthy when compared to most of the world.
  • Bonus question: Are you afraid of spiders? Not really, although the giant cane spiders here sure make my heart beat a whole lot faster when I see one (which is rare). Thankfully they would like to interact with humans about as much as we would with them, which is very little. I have been bitten by a poisonous spider a couple of times though, and it wasn’t fun. Anyway, I’m not afraid of most spiders, bugs, or geckos (so I get called by the girls to either kill them or get them outside), but I am terrified of snakes, lizards, and toads. There are thankfully no snakes in Hawai’i – they are not allowed into the state, and planes coming from areas with snakes are checked carefully to make sure none has hitched a ride.

That’s what’s going on here. How is your Sunday going? How did your week go?

How to Travel Solo and Fall in Love With It

RIshikesh, India, Parmarth Ashram, www.bartnikowski.com
Rishikesh, India, Parmarth Ashram, http://www.bartnikowski.com

Myth: it costs a lot to travel.

Yes it does if you stay in $400 a night hotels like I used to do.

It was fun.

The truth is I love to travel solo.

I don’t have to wait for a friend to break up with her lover, leave their job, or save enough money to go with me.

When I want to go to Nepal, Colombia, or Sardinia I put on my Van sneakers and go!

I can sit in a fancy pants bar/restaurant like I am now and write. And enjoy a superb glass of red wine and be at ease and comfortable.

You never have to negotiate where to go based on money.

I was backpacking in the Himalayas solo in 2009 in Sikkim, India and realized I was spending less money per month than I received for renting out my apartment in Palo Alto, California.

I was spending less than $300 per month to stay in guesthouses eating home made Tibetan soup and momos, traveling by share jeep in the Himalayas, and having a blast.

I came home from that 10-month trip with money in the bank.


Don’t go over your budget on lodging. Yes you can splash out for a few days. But you can also get budget accommodation and live it up at the upper crust lounge/restaurant like I am now.

Secret: you can often work/write in 5-star surroundings enjoying the incredible views and then go back to your Airbnb room, campsite, or rented home.

You’ll discover that having a set amount to spend on lodging will keep you kosher.

I often times suggest a lower price on a room when the price suggested is too high.

It’s called rich foreigner tax. Many countries, like India, have no set prices on their rooms, the price is whatever they can get.

So haggle wisely, you’re still most likely paying too much.


One of the best things I ever did was travel twice around the world with no itinerary buying one-way plane tickets along the way.

If I felt like staying in Bali another month I could, no discussion.

If I wanted to explore Burma for a month, I went.

First time I went round the world I spent $2900 on plane tickets, the 2nd time I spent $1800. No I didn’t buy a RTW ticket, it doesn’t give you freedom on your journey.

For example I decided to stay in Cambodia for 4 weeks when I couldn’t stomach the thought of leaving.

I was falling in love with Siem Reap, where Angkor Wat is located and so I stayed.

No heated arguments. I found an incredible local guesthouse: Rosie’s guesthouse. And another one, Ou Malay where the Cambodian owners and I had a love fest of laughing and daily camaraderie.

It was $7 a night, no wifi but so what?! We loved each other!

Cambodia, Ou Malay Guesthouse Siem Reap, www.bartnikowski.com
Cambodia, Ou Malay Guesthouse, Siem Reap, http://www.bartnikowski.com

You meet so many people!

When you’re solo, there’s no one to listen or talk to. You can be alone with your own thoughts and then Bam! you meet someone seriously interesting who lights up your world and you wonder how you ever would have met them if you were with someone.

This has happened to me more times than I can count. And I’m still in touch with many friends I met traveling from Spain, Korea, Australia, Nepal, India, Germany, and Argentina.

They shook up my world and invited me into a new portal of love and friendship. I never would have met them if I wasn’t solo.

Being solo you have to reach out. It can be intoxicating.

Traveling solo, I mention my thoughts to whoever is standing by, I don’t take offense if they don’t respond, I’m simply radiating aloha which means, I’m spreading good will and happiness which is what the Dalai Lama advises but I didn’t realize until living in Hawaii that this means Aloha.

Pay attention. You might meet your soulmate, best friend ever, or meditation master around the next corner.

Suddenly you’ll be in a new world that you had no idea even existed.

Burma, Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, www.bartnikowski.com
Burma, Shwe Dagon Pagoda, Yangon, http://www.bartnikowski.com


Yes you can be safe but you have to trust your gut. Don’t negotiate with the red alert warnings your instincts tell you. Pay attention.

Your body knows before your mind. Listen.

And while you are at it: don’t tell people you’re traveling solo. Don’t advertise your solo status by flagrantly drinking and carousing. Really.

Do make friends with families and women. Volunteer with humanitarian foundations that are educating and changing lives. Don’t be afraid to talk to people and smile.

A smile is universal. Yes it works in every country. Try it. It works.

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