Sunday Afternoon 7/31/2016

So happy we have a lanai these days - it's a great place to cool off.
So thankful we have a lanai these days – it’s a great place to cool off.

Darby never showed up last Sunday, at least not on Kaua’i . . . thank goodness. The storm moved off to the north after bringing a lot of rain to Oahu, but all we ended up getting were some cooler temperatures for the day, which were much appreciated. However, Darby’s movement to the north of Kaua’i then blocked the tradewinds, giving us three miserably hot days, and last week’s efforts around here were mostly spent trying to stay comfortable. It’s still warm, but the trades are back and things are more like they should be, weather-wise.

YaYu heads back to school tomorrow to begin her junior year. I almost can’t believe I am writing those words, because it seems like it was just a couple of months ago we were in China to meet our feisty little girl and bring her home. She’s got a lot on her plate this year, with one college math course, three AP courses, two language classes (Spanish and Japanese) and a required Hawaiian history class. She’ll also be participating in cross country, swimming and track & field throughout the year as well as serving as President of her school’s Key Club chapter, and volunteering each week with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the National Honor Society. She’ll continue taking Mandarin classes on the weekends in order to prepare for the AP exam in the spring. I get exhausted just thinking about it all, but am confident she’s going to knock it out of the park. I remained stunned though by how crushing high school has become these days.

No changes are coming up for me with the advent of a new month. I added Parmesan cheese back on my ‘allowed foods’ list, had small amounts a couple of times last month without any problems, so it will stay. Exercise is sort of doomed right now as we move into around two months of peak heat and humidity, but as always, Brett and I will try to fit in walks whenever we catch a break.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: Well, last week I opened Karin Fossum’s The Murder of Harriet Krohn, but then didn’t pick it up again until last night. No reason other than the heat at the beginning of the week seemed to suck even the energy to hold a book out of me.
  • Listening to: It’s been a quiet morning here other than having to listen to a few loud chickens once in a while. Otherwise I’m listening to the breeze rustle through the palm trees. In a little while though that will be drowned out by the sound of the washer and dryer going through their usual Sunday routine.
  • Watching: Tonight I’m watching another episode of Lewis on PBS – I love this show! I’m eagerly awaiting the new episodes that are coming this fall, although it will be the final season. All of us watched The Great British Baking Show on Friday evening and don’t want it to end, and last night we binge watched Pioneer Quest and finished all of it. WenYu and I are in the middle of Season 5 of Downton Abbey.
  • Cooking/baking: WenYu is filling in for someone at work today, so we didn’t fix anything special for breakfast – everyone fended for themselves. I’ve got pulled pork going in the slow cooker for dinner tonight, and there’ll be enough of that left over for sandwiches tomorrow, especially for YaYu’s first school lunch of the year. No baking today – I got up early and made a peach cobbler the other day and there’s still some left.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I didn’t melt and I managed to get dinner on the table every evening.
  • Looking forward to next week: With YaYu back in school all day, and WenYu at work, Brett’s and my schedule will open up a bit so we’re planning to get down to the beach at least once, weather permitting, but hopefully more than that. We’ll also be sending WenYu’s linens off to Massachusetts, the first of many steps in getting her ready to go in just a few more weeks.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: WenYu and her roommate connected this past week and they’ve been chatting back and forth. Her roommate is from Santa Ana, California, and like WenYu, loves to eat, so I think they’ll be a good match. They were assigned an awesome room in their dorm, one of the larger ones, and it has a nice view. Peaches are still available at Costco and still delicious. We spent less than $20 at the farmers’ market, and put $3.50 into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Thankful for: One of the things I love about the house we’re renting now, and am so thankful for, is the large lanai at the front of the house. With no outdoor space at our previous home, we felt especially hot and trapped whenever temperatures soared. These days we have a lovely outdoor space, and can enjoy cool breezes and nice views when we want to escape the heat inside the house. There’s also room out on the lanai for our grill, and it’s under cover so that we can use it rain or shine. We’ve got our eyes open for a small table and chairs so we can eventually eat outside as well, but so far haven’t found anything we’re crazy about.
  • Bonus question: What does your most recent text message say? ‘YEAH!’ Meiling is teaching herself to cook, and on Friday she and I were texting back and forth about a recipe she was planning to make for her boyfriend for dinner, a pork and apple stir-fry that she loved growing up. A big issue turned out to be what to substitute for the 1/3 cup of wine that’s called for in the recipe, so we discussed that and she decided to go with apple cider. I got a message from her late Friday night that her dinner had turned out perfectly, so ‘YEAH!’ was my answer.

That’s a wrap from Chez Aloha for this Sunday! What’s going on with you this afternoon/evening? What good things happened for you?

#Kauai: Nukoli’i Beach

(Note: This post was written by Brett!)

Not the foulest beach I ever saw! No sooner did this thought run through my brain than a local woman passing by told me, “It’s always been like this.”

flotsam: fishing debris; driftwood
Fishing Debris and Driftwood

In all fairness, I’ve seen bigger messes on the mainland, as well as in other countries. Here, the debris is mostly fishing equipment from large and small boats: lines from quarter-inch polypropylene to two-inch hawsers, scraps of net, water bottles, remnants of styrofoam coolers, a lid from a 5-gallon (chum) bucket, and driftwood. Further, this beach is like a catcher’s mitt, capturing all the flotsam from the north and east shores.

Wailua, Sleeping Giant, Kapa'a, King Kong
Looking North to Wailua, and Kapa’a

Although it’s not remotely a place for Volleyball, Tanning, or Swimming, it is a beautiful beach for long walks and stunning vistas.

Pristine Section of Nukoli'i Beach
Pristine Section of Nukoli’i Beach

Back there in the distance, the beach evaporates into a rocky shoal that wraps around to Hanama’ulu Bay. Between here and there are innumerable photo opportunities, like this one I didn’t capture completely (blame it on the high winds and heavy surf).

Screen of Trees

…or THIS,

pockmarked lava
Weathered Pumice

…or THIS.

Bat-like fracture in sandstone
Bat Fossil? No, Geologic Process.

And that last, the cleaving of the rock, hints at the greater threat to this beach, climatic transition rather than the litter shown in the first photo. Beyond this berm is a swamp, the confluence of old diversion trenches from plantation days.

Eroding Shoreline
Eroding Shoreline

 Oh, I should not forget to mention the abundant wildlife available for watching such as shearwaters, the many varieties of Hawaiian butterflies (which I am seldom quick enough to photograph), and the infamous side-stepping beach creatures—a few different crab species. Of course, if you watch the tide timetables carefully, you just might catch dinner!

Farewell from Kaua'i Beach Resorts End of the Beach
Farewell from Kaua’i Beach Resorts End of the Beach

Finally, getting to Nukoli’i Beach is easy as pie. From Kuhio Highway, turn down the driveway to Kaua’i Beach Resorts, and then right at the four-way intersection at the bottom of the hill (before you actually get to the resort). Follow that road to the end where you’ll see a small lavatory shelter and parking for about six cars, it’s rarely crowded, and heed the no trespassing signs. The land on both sides of the road is private property, but you can walk the extent of the beach without incident as long as you don’t turn your back on the ocean.

Postcard From: Arashiyama

The Togetsukyou Bridge crosses the K River, with Arashiyama in the back.
Togetsukyou Bridge crossing the Hozu/Katsura River (the river changes its name as it passes under the bridge).  There is a hint of the cherry blossoms to come on Arashiyama’s slope in the background.

Located on the western outskirts of Kyoto, the Arashiyama (‘Storm Mountain’) district is both a Japanese National Historic Site and designated Place of Scenic Beauty. Arashiyama is famous for both the explosion of cherry blossoms that cover its slopes in the spring, and the amazing displays of color in the fall when the leaves change. The district is also home to the breathtaking Sagano bamboo forest. I had wanted to see the bamboo forest again on our visit to Kyoto in 2015, so my daughter-in-law arranged a wonderful day’s visit to the district for our family.

The Karatsu River from the train
The Hozu River from the train. The river’s aqua color is gorgeous.

We began our visit to Arashiyama with a ride on the Sagano Scenic Railroad (also known as the Sagano Romantic Train), a private line that runs along the Hozu River as it heads east into the district (reserved seats only). The charming, old-fashioned trains run from Torokko Kameoka station to Arashiyama station, and offer superb views of the river and foliage along the way. We were about a week too early to see the cherry blossoms in full bloom, but it was obvious they would be spectacular. The train ride is especially popular in the fall when the leaves turn, and the views are said to be even more amazing than they are in the spring or summer. Visitors can also take boat trips down the river in the summer and fall, and we saw a few traditional inns and restaurants on the river banks where visitors stop and/or stay to enjoy the scenery.

At Saga-Arashiyama station, our grandson enjoys a traditional Japanese treat, mochi dango. The balls made from pounded sweet rice
At Arashiyama station, our grandson enjoys a traditional Japanese treat, mochi dango. The colored balls are made from pounded sweet rice and served on a stick.

The Sagano bamboo forest walk begins just across the street from where the train ride ends. It’s almost like entering another world as you step on the path, and pictures really can’t do it justice. Even the light seems different. Gigantic bamboo stalks surround the path and whisper overhead as you walk toward town. The forest path ends at the main road through Arashiyama, and takes around 20-30 minutes or so to walk from end to end and absorb the scenery. Visitors are not allowed to leave the path without special permission.

The bamboo path through the Sagano forest. The fence is made from dried bamboo branches.
The path through the Sagano bamboo forest. The fence is made from fallen dried bamboo branches.
The bamboo towers overhead, swaying in the wind.
The bamboo towers over the path, swaying in the wind.
The torii at the entrance to Nonomiya Shrine, located about halfway down the bamboo forest path. The twisted rope on the torii is a shimenawa and is hung with shide (folded paper). The shimenawa indicates that a place has been purified, and is also thought to ward off evil spirits.
You don't see trash on the ground in Japan. Trash receptacles are everywhere, and trash is sorted for recycling.
You don’t see trash on the ground in Japan. Trash receptacles are everywhere (the ones in Sagano are appropriately made of bamboo), and trash typically is sorted for recycling.

Arashiyama is a popular area with visitors, and there are many restaurants and shops lining the main road featuring Japanese specialities and locally produced goods. Before heading down the main road through town, our group stopped at a traditional restaurant and enjoyed a tasty grilled beef and tofu lunch, but other restaurants along the road offered tempura, soba and other dishes. After our lunch we wandered down the street, stopping along the way to admire the goods for sale. I did some shopping at one store that sold items made from local bamboo, and purchased some hand-crafted bamboo spatulas to bring home. There were also several snack shops along the road, some selling traditional treats such as mochi dango, others offering ice cream and other treats. Even though it was very cold the day we were there, I tried a sakura (cherry blossom) ice cream cone – delicious!). The main street also had numerous souvenir shops where we found some of the more exotic flavors of KitKat bars, including roasted tea and wasabi (both were very tasty).

Grilled beef and tofu lunch in Arashiyama
Grilled beef and tofu lunch in Arashiyama
Japanese restaurants often present their menu outside using realistic plastic models of the items. If you don't speak Japanese, you can take your waiter outside and point to what you want.
Japanese restaurants often present their menu outside using realistic plastic models of the items. If you don’t speak Japanese, you can bring your waiter outside and point to what you want.
Young Japanese women visiting Kyoto often rent kimono for the day, to create a more "Japanese" feeling while they visit the sites.
Young Japanese women visiting Kyoto and the surrounding areas often rent kimono for the day to have a more ‘Japanese experience’ while visiting the area.

We strolled the main road until we eventually reached the wooden Togetsukyou (‘Moon Crossing’) Bridge that crosses the Hozu River. Actually, depending on which side of the bridge you’re standing on, you may be looking at the Katsura River – the river changes names as it passes under the bridge from east to west. The Togetsukyou Bridge was first built over 400 years ago, and has been used many times as a location in historical dramas. The bridge is famous as an outstanding spot to view the cherry blossoms (or autumn foliage) that cover the slope of Arashiyama.

Togetsukyou Bridge
The Togetsukyou Bridge carries both foot and light motor traffic.

The weather changed abruptly while we were viewing Togetsukyou, with the already cold weather suddenly turning stormy. We quickly hurried back to Arashiyama station and caught a train back into Kyoto, stopping for one more short visit in the Gion district before heading back to our machiya rental to warm up before dinner.

It was still cold when we got to Gion, but the rain had stopped.
It was still cold when we got to Gion, but the rain had stopped.

This Week’s Menu: Splurges


IMG_3928What do you splurge on?

Every month I make sure to fit a few splurges into our food budget. These are not spur of the moment choices, but treats we don’t buy regularly but like to enjoy once in a while, and that are carefully thought through before we shop. This month’s splurges included a big apple pie from Costco, a case of bottled green tea, and several boxes of fresh peaches.

We love pie, but it’s frankly too hot here to bake one – I can work up a heavy sweat just from rolling out a crust (or even thinking of rolling one out). Costco’s apple pies are not only tasty, but they’re vegan as well (not so with their other pies, sad to say) so that’s the flavor we buy, but just once in a while. A Costco pie is big enough that it lasts us for several days, and one will satisfy our pie cravings for several months.

I also love green tea. I still brew my own black iced tea, but like to take a bottle of green tea with me when we go to the beach or are otherwise out and about. The bottled tea is not cheap, but the tea is good, refreshing and worth splurging on once in a while. The plastic bottles can either be recycled or refilled.

I don’t think I need to explain the peaches. They’re not a bargain here, but we’ll buy them as long as they’re available and then dream of them for another year.

Next month’s splurges? I’m not sure yet, but there will be some. And, whatever they are, they’ll be on the shopping list and in the budget.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week at Chez Aloha. Other than the paella, nothing should heat up the kitchen too much either:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Paella with tomatoes; salami; green salad
  • Wednesday: Spaghetti with marinara; grilled Italian sausage (vegan meatballs for me); grilled zucchini
  • Thursday: Tofu lettuce wraps; chicken potstickers; steamed rice
  • Friday: Beef, pepper & onion stir fry; steamed rice (teriyaki noodles for me)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Grilled hot dogs (vegan for me); macaroni salad; cucumber pickles
  • Monday: Slow cooker pulled pork sandwiches on torta rolls; coleslaw (some other kind of sandwich for me – not sure yet)

The last few weeks I’ve done very well sticking to the menu, and want to keep that going. It’s made a big difference in getting food used up on time, and decreasing the amount of food waste.

What are you fixing this week?

No Way, Maybe, Gone

de-clutter_mind_map-copy1If I learned nothing else over the last few years, it’s that downsizing and decluttering takes time. No matter what you want or need to get rid of, whether it’s things or debt or activities, downsizing doesn’t happen quickly, because it’s both a process and an attitude adjustment. Three or six months or longer after you’ve sworn you couldn’t live without something, or think you have to have it or do it, you may realize that you actually no longer need that thing any more. So, out it goes, or you at least get yourself on a path toward getting rid of it, or changing things.

Our wakeup call came in 2005 when we moved from the house we had lived in for 10 years to a new house across town, one that was closer to the girls’ elementary school (and had more than one bathroom). As we begin to pack our stuff up for the move we were appalled at how much we had accumulated over those 10 years. It was the longest we’d ever lived in one house, and even after holding a few yard sales and making several donations we apparently still owned an awful lot of stuff. The move was a near disaster when, at the last minute, the buyers changed their minds and wanted us out of the house in 24 hours after closing versus the seven days they had initially agreed to, giving us no time to finish getting all our stuff packed up and out. We were somehow able to find a moving crew at the last minute to help, and just barely got everything out of the old house on time, but it wasn’t pretty.

Never wanting to go through that experience ever again, our downsizing journey began from that day forward. First it was just stuff we started getting rid of, but at the end of 2009, after a financially disastrous year following a reduction in Brett’s salary (it was that or being laid off), we decided we’d had enough of debt and began a three year journey to rid ourselves of that as well. Combining debt reduction with downsizing put us on the path to retirement and relocation to Hawai’i.

Along the way we used things up, we went without, we mended, we saved, we purged and completely revamped how we lived. We shredded, we donated, we recycled and we threw things away. We learned that we could easily live without lots of things we thought we couldn’t, that we didn’t need those things to have a satisfying life. We also figured out that although we didn’t have to give some things up, we could live without them if necessary. And, we realized what things we absolutely would not give up or go without.

Coming up with a personal list of “No Way, Maybe, Gone (for good)” took me a few days. I’d think of something, put it on a list and then change my mind or move it to another part of the list (“I could actually go without that if I had to”). The list surprises me in some ways, most especially because other than coffee, it’s definitely not the same list I would have come up with 10 years ago, or even five years ago.

Here are seven things I cannot imagine doing without:

  • Good coffee
  • My MacBook & iPhone along with high speed wireless internet when I’m at home
  • Travel
  • Sharp, quality knives for cooking
  • A slow cooker & rice cooker
  • Organic whole-grain bread
  • My library card

Seven things I could do without if I had to:

  • A gas stove – I hope I never have to go back to electric
  • A washer and dryer (this one is this close to being on the ‘no way’ list)
  • Wine, or gin & tonics
  • Shoes. I could happily wear flip flops or sandals for the rest of my life.
  • Eating out
  • Occasionally buying books for my Kindle
  • Other than the slow cooker & rice cooker, most of my other small kitchen appliances, including my KitchenAid stand mixer.

Seven things I (we) have given up that aren’t coming back:

  • A second car
  • Magazine subscriptions. Brett gets one as a gift, but that’s it.
  • Dieting
  • Cable TV
  • Land line telephone
  • Trader Joe’s (SOB!)
  • A full size suitcase. Carry-on only for me these days

Finally, there’s one thing I currently don’t have any more but wish I did at times: A dishwasher! Most of the time I don’t mind washing dishes, but there are those days when I would give just about anything to have a dishwasher again.

What about you? What things do you have to have? What things could you do without? And what things are gone and never coming back?

Sunday Afternoon 7/24/2016

We're still under a tropical storm warning - Kaua'i is the first 's' above this morning's actual storm location
We’re still under a tropical storm warning – Kaua’i is the first ‘s’ above this morning’s actual storm location

Tropical Storm Darby is making itself known here on the Garden Island, albeit very slowly. Right now all we’re experiencing here is some light rain, which started early this morning. The Big Island took the brunt of things yesterday, although there doesn’t appear to have been too much damage, but Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea did a good job of breaking up the storm a bit as it moved over the island and on its way to Maui. Darby is still moving along though and while we’re getting some light rain now the winds are supposed be picking up this evening.

It's kind of gloomy out there this morning, but winds and rain will be picking up as the day goes along.
It’s sort of gloomy and wet out there this morning, but winds and rain will be picking up as the day goes along.

The past couple of weeks I’ve been waking up with knots in my stomach, but they’ve been gone for the past few mornings. I’ve also been sleeping better, and my insomnia finally appears to be on the wane. Outwardly I’ve felt quite calm for the most part, or at least things didn’t seem bad enough to be causing so much angst, but obviously some thing(s) were bothering me more than I realized.

I had started to think a bit about how we were going to get all of WenYu’s linens (comforter, mattress pad, sheets) back to Massachusetts next month. She has three pieces of luggage, and the plan had been to Spacebag the linens and put them into her large suitcase. Fitting them in the suitcases wasn’t the problem, but I began to worry that if the suitcases were lost or delayed not only would she not have any of her clothes, but she’d also be without any linens for her bed, which would put her in a very bad spot. Last week though I wrote to the friend I will be staying with while I’m in MA, and asked if we could send the linens ahead to her home. She said yes (thank you, Julie!), so Brett found a large box and got everything packaged up and ready to go, and it will be sent off later this week.

I saw the dentist on Tuesday, and had fingers crossed on both hands that he would say all that was needed to do was put a crown on my broken tooth, but had convinced myself it was more likely he would say the tooth needed to be extracted followed by an implant or bridge. We have good dental insurance, but either one of those options would be expensive, and I really didn’t want to have to go through either experience. However, when the hygenist looked at the tooth she said it already had a crown, and that only a tiny piece of it had chipped off (my tongue made it seem much larger). Plus, the crown included a metal surround, so the tooth itself was totally protected. She didn’t think the dentist would recommend doing anything . . . and she was right! He said the crown was fine, unlikely to chip more, and I didn’t need a new one. Otherwise my teeth and gums were in great shape, so all I had to do at the end of my visit was make an appointment to see them again in six month. Such a relief!

Darby hasn’t caused any worry though, mainly because we’re prepared and other than that there’s not a whole lot we can do. We have lots of bottled water on hand, the bathtub can be filled with non-potable water if we need it, and we’re well stocked with food and other supplies. Our gas stove and oven will operate even if we lose power, and we have a couple of butane stoves we can use as well. Still, our fingers are crossed that the storm passes Kaua’i without too much effect.

Big, beautiful dragonfruit - the thick outer peel slips right off once it's cut
Big, sweet dragonfruit – the thick outer peel slips right off once it’s cut

Finally, our produce from two weeks ago cost us $41, way more than we usually spend. The dragon fruit were $3 each ($12 total), and the mango was $6 (it was huge though, enough for a large bowl of mango salsa all on its own). The rest of vegetables/fruit totaled $23, which was reasonable. We’ll still buy dragonfruit while it’s available, but doubt we’ll buy any more mangoes this year.

Here’s what’s happening this afternoon at Chez Aloha:

  • Reading: I finished Seabiscuit early in the week (staying up one night past 3:00 a.m. because I couldn’t put it down!) and have started another Karin Fossum book, The Murder of Harriet Krohn. Fossum has written a lot of books, so I should have no problem finding reading material for a long while.
  • Listening to: Rain is dripping off the eaves, which is going to be a constant today. I thought I’d get up to the sound of the wind howling as well, but apparently that’s coming later. Otherwise it’s quiet, both outside and in the house. Everyone else is reading.
  • Watching: WenYu and I have almost finished Season 4 of Downton Abbey. She, Brett and I also watched a couple of movies this past week on Netflix (including The Babadook, which was good but quite scary), and also caught two episodes of the Great British Baking Show on Friday. Brett and I started watching Pioneer Quest last night, which had been recommended at One Hundred Dollars a Month. We watched it a few years ago when it was on PBS and enjoyed it enough to want to see it again. We didn’t think the girls would find it all that interesting, but YaYu is hooked.
  • Cooking/baking: Brett fixed some yummy banana french toast for our breakfast this morning. We still have a small amount left of the apple pie we bought at Costco, but I may bake a blueberry-zucchini brunch cake this afternoon because it’s actually cool enough to turn on the oven. I plan to skip the frosting though and will add some lemon zest to the batter so that I can enjoy some too! I’m swapping out tomorrow evening’s dinner, California roll salad, with tonight’s hamburgers so Brett doesn’t have to be outside, even if the grill is covered out on the lanai.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: Brett and I did our big Costco shop last Monday. It was a somewhat more expensive one than usual because we had run out of so many things, but still not as bad as we were expecting. I also got a much-needed hair cut on Monday, and made appointments for both of the girls to get their hair trimmed in time to head back to school/college.
  • Looking forward to next week: It’s another crazy week of work and volunteer assignments for the girls, so I’m already looking forward to next weekend. It’s YaYu’s last week of summer vacation, and all these activities will make the week go by quickly. School starts here on August 1.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Besides getting the linens dilemma resolved, and learning I did not need further dental work, YaYu got her driver’s license on Friday! We are now officially done with that parenting task (props to Brett for doing all of the practice driving with our children, something I am not temperamentally suited to do). My new purse arrived and I love it! It’s a bit bigger than my old one, but a much better size for traveling. I felt very sad though saying good-bye to my old purse, which had served me well for eight years. And, peaches have arrived! Costco here gets them in for around a month every summer, and we try to enjoy them as much as possible while they’re available. We’ve already gone back to Costco for a second box and will probably go a couple more times during the coming month. We put $18.03 into the change/$1 bill jar this week.
  • Thankful for: I’m very grateful for the many storm updates that are available these days so we can keep on top of things. I can only imagine how it was in the past when you knew there was a storm out there, but had no idea how big it was, where it was going or when or if it would arrive.
  • Bonus question: What’s your favorite part of your daily routine? Without hesitation, it’s sitting down with a fresh, hot cup of coffee right after I get up in the morning and going through email, Facebook, the news, etc. No matter who is up, everyone knows this is ‘mom time’ and they leave me alone for a while to enjoy the peace and quiet and my coffee, and to wake myself up. The phrase “I get up in the morning because I know there will be coffee” sums it up pretty well for me.

That’s all from Chez Aloha this afternoon. How did your week go? What good things happened for you? (In the time it took to write this the rain has really picked up – the forecast is between 3″ – 5″ inches today).

#Kauai: Hanama‘ulu Beach Park

Across the harbor from Ahukini Landing is Hanama‘ulu Beach Park, a small park with a quarter-mile beach. Behind the beach is Hanama‘ulu River—or Stream, depending on who’s doing the telling—which at high tide barely reaches the bay because the incoming tide is vigorously flowing upstream.

reverse flow at high tide, Hanamaulu River
Tide flows upstream at Hanama‘ulu River
Incoming Tide at Hanama‘ulu Bay

Although I’d heard of the beach here, and knew that Hanamaulu River empties into the ocean here, I had no idea what it might look like. However, my heart stopped as I came down the hill, long before I was anywhere near the beach, as I came upon a beautiful arched bridge over the road. This wasn’t exactly “Great Railway Journeys” territory, but for someone who grew up watching an old narrow gauge railway fade into history, and played fort along an unfinished grading of bygone big railroad dreams, this was a thrilling discovery.

Hanamaulu River Railroad Bridge
Remnant of the Ahukini Terminal & Railway Co., Ltd.

OK, back to the park. This tiny park has picnic tables scattered about in shady places, restrooms (not like home, but usable) and showers, a small playground and one large shelter. A family was preparing their catch of the day when I arrived as the kids were running off to play in the surf.

Famliy Shelter
Family Shelter

The Breakwater at Ahukini Landing shelters the beach from erosion as well as dangerous surf and rip currents.

Breakwater, Hanama'ulu Bay
Breakwater across Hanama‘ulu Bay

The beach is sandy and fairly free of debris, no driftwood or shells to speak of, and the light surf is slightly muddy because of the abundant sand.

Sandy Beach, Light Surf
Sandy Beach and Light Surf

Whether or not it’s allowed, driving on the beach is evident but not recommended for a rented Chevy Volt.

Tracks on Hanama‘ulu Beach

One of the things I liked about this beach was the mix of open and shady spots. A group of men talked story around a shaded picnic table, while some of the keiki (kids) swam in the surf, and still others fished, both in the surf and up the river.

Because this beach is frequently closed due to sewage overflows during heavy rains, I was surprised at how inviting the stream appeared from behind the picnic shelter.

Hanama'ulu River
Hanama‘ulu River from the Picnic Shelter

A brief stopover at this beach can be quite relaxing, if only for the absence of crowds, and the swaying pines are even more refreshing than wind chimes on a hot afternoon.

Swaying Pines
Swaying Pines

Among other things to see here, new earth is being made above the beach.

New Earth
New Earth

…and some uncommon vegetation is nearby as well.

Uncommon Vegetation
Uncommon Vegetation

Oh, and one last point, the getting there is fairly easy. Turn down Hanama‘ulu Road at the light highway 56 in Hanamaulu Town, continue downhill until just before the road veers left, and turn right onto Hehi Road, which ends at the park.

How Much Did We Spend?

IMG_3899I haven’t done one of these in a while, but after the slim pickings at the Kalaheo farmers’ market a few weeks ago it’s been rewarding to see all that’s available at our weekly neighborhood market.

The above is what we bought two weeks ago:

  • 1 bunch carrots
  • 1 large bunch parsley
  • 1 large bunch mint
  • 1 large bunch cilantro
  • 2 bags tomatoes (16 total)
  • 1 large mango
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 3 limes
  • 4 dragonfruit
  • 1 bunch bananas (8)
  • 1 large bundle of green onions
  • 3 sweet onions

The tomatoes, cilantro, onions and limes were used to make some pico de gallo; the mint and parsley went into the quinoa and tabouli salads (tomatoes, too); the carrots were used in curry and the Killer Noodle Salad (which also used up the rest of the cilantro). The remainder of the mint made an appearance in some mojitos! I am very happy to see dragonfruit back in the market again – it has become my favorite local fruit (I was afraid of it the first summer we were here). There are only a couple of vendors with lychee this year, but they are very expensive so we will probably skip buying them until next year. Pineapples have started to appear, and last week we found a nice one at a good price.

So, how much did we spend on all that’s in the picture? Hint: the dragonfruit were the most expensive items, and the mango was a bit spendy too, but their season is short.

(The total for all this beautiful locally-grown goodness will appear in Sunday’s post!)

This Week’s Menu: The Larders Are Full

Lots of local Hawaiian products are available at Costco - it's a great place to buy souvenirs!
Lots of local Hawaiian products are available at Costco. It’s a great place for souvenirs, but we usually avoid this area.

Yesterday Brett and I did our monthly Costco shop-athon. As always, I both loved and hated the experience: Loved it because I honestly always enjoy food shopping, but hated it because it involved pushing a huge, unwieldy cart around while we dodged tourists (were we that obvious before we moved here?), followed by getting everything loaded in the car, home and put away before it melted.

Fish is not cheap here, but it is fresh and caught locally.
Fish is not cheap here, but it is fresh and caught locally. Costco carries a fantastic selection!

We avoid most processed food at Costco, and stock up on basics that can be used to create meals throughout the month. We always shop with a list, and with a very, very few exceptions do not buy something that’s not on the list. No matter how much we like a sample, or see something else that catches our eye, it goes on the list for the next shopping trip. What would be an exception? If we spot a limited supply of an item we would otherwise buy from Amazon and the price is the same or better, we’ll buy it then even though it’s not on the list. Why? Because we know it won’t be there next time. This week Costco had organic Triscuit crackers, so we picked up a box of those because we know we won’t see them next month when we’ll need crackers.

BIG pineapples from Maui are just $3.99 (these are a bit green, but they ripen quickly here)
HUGE pineapples from Maui are just $2.99 (these ones are a bit green, but they ripen quickly here). We got a beauty yesterday.

Costco has become a fantastic source for organic and vegan food items, and our Costco here also carries many Hawaiian products, such as Kauai-made granola, manapua (steamed BBQ pork buns), organic honey from the Big Island, guava danish, pineapples from Maui, ahi poke, fresh locally-caught fish, and other favorites. The Spam selection is very impressive ;-). They also stock several locally grown produce items.

Combined with our weekly trips to the farmers’ market, and the few items we buy at other local groceries, our once-a-month shopping trip at Costco goes a long way toward keeping our food budget manageable. Costco also supplies the cheapest gasoline on the island. It’s more than it costs on the mainland (yesterday it was $2.37/gallon), but less than what we’d pay in town.

Here’s what’s coming up on this week’s menu:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Bacon, lettuce, tomato & avocado sandwiches; potato salad (no bacon on my sandwich)
  • Wednesday: Grilled fish tacos with fresh mango salsa; corn on the cob
  • Thursday: Spaghetti with greens, toasted pine nuts & parmesan cheese; garlic toast
  • Friday: Grilled mahimahi skewers with pineapple-mandarin sauce; cilantro rice
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Hamburgers; sweet potato fries (veggie burger for me)
  • Monday: California Roll Salad

A few days of outdoor cooking, sandwiches, and a main dish salad will hopefully keep things cool in the kitchen this week. I’ll let the girls fix the spaghetti with greens ;-). Only one thing got changed on last week’s menu – I served chicken flautas with guacamole and pico de gallo instead of potstickers and lo mein yesterday evening.

Finding Our Place In the Sun

FullSizeRenderWay back in 2011, Brett and I both independently came to a realization that we didn’t want to stay in Portland after he retired. We had lived in Portland for nearly 20 years at that point, and while we had put down deep roots and there was much we loved about the city and the Pacific Northwest, he and I had both grown very tired of the dreary winters and wanted to live someplace where we could enjoy the sun a bit more consistently. While we loved all the green that came with Portland, we were both weary of hibernating all winter, of having to go to work and school in the rain, and of everything else that came along with all the cold and damp.

So, we decided to create a list of priorities to help us choose where we might relocate, and came up with the following:

  • Weather (lots of sunshine)
  • Cost of living
  • Schools (because two out of three girls would still be in high school)
  • Ocean nearby
  • Mountains close by (less than a day’s drive)
  • Western U.S. (proximity to Japan)
  • Sizable Asian population (our girls are ethnically Chinese)
  • Military facilities nearby

We initially didn’t weight any of these as more important than the others, except for the weather, and other than the weather we didn’t consider any one item to be a deal killer on its own.  I’m an ocean person but Brett loves the mountains and wanted opportunities for hiking. Although we really hadn’t had anything to do with the military since Brett’s retirement from the navy in 1992 other than renewing our ID cards, receiving retirement pay, and using the health insurance, we figured having military facilities nearby was something we might need or want to use as we grew older. Good schools and a sizable Asian population were important for the girls.

After that we came up with a list of sunny places that we would consider:

  • Several cities in Southern California
  • The Southwestern United States (Arizona & New Mexico)
  • Florida
  • Hawai’i

Hawai’i was on the list as a joke, because we knew there was NO WAY we could afford to move there. We also considered a couple of overseas locations, but the language and/or visa requirements were more than we wanted to take on. Texas, the Gulf Coast, and the South did not make the list. Finally, we created a spreadsheet to match the different places we had chosen with our “want list.”

Florida was the first to be removed from our list. We had lived in Florida while Brett was in the navy (Key West), and although it’s plenty sunny we had absolutely no desire to ever spend another summer there. Alligators and snakes were also a black mark. While there are some good schools in Florida, they are mainly in expensive neighborhoods that were out of our price range. Florida’s Asian population is negligible (1.7% of the entire state), and there were other things about Florida we just didn’t care for. Plus, it was a l-o-n-g way away from Japan.

The Southwest was eliminated next. It had many things going for it, except for the ocean thing, and the Asian thing again (3.4% of the population in AZ, 1.7% in NM). Plus, it’s very dry there, too dry for me actually, and it’s HOT. The Southwest wasn’t as far from Japan as Florida, but still not very close.

So that left southern California and Hawai’i on our list.

Can you tell what very important item was left off of that list of priorities? If you guessed taxes, you’ve guessed right! I grew up in southern California and there are many places there I could have happily retired to except . . . our retired income would have been eaten alive by state taxes. California already had a high cost of living strike against it, but the taxes, both income and sales, made it unaffordable.

And that left Hawai’i, our “joke” location.

But guess what? Hawai’i had beautiful weather, an ocean view every day and loads of beaches, mountains for hiking, easy access to Japan, a large Asian population, and close proximity to military facilities. It was also very tax friendly for retirees, especially those receiving government, state or non-contributory pensions (which would be us). Seven out of nine items on our list of priorities gave it a very high score. Hawai’i! Who could have guessed?

Cost of living and schools remained BIG issues though, as did the state’s isolated location, but we figured if Hawai’i had everything else we wanted, then we could figure out how to work around those issues. We began researching the state, decided which island we wanted to live on, and eventually which school we wanted our daughters to attend (we actually wanted them to attend a private school, but after a tour they nixed that in favor of the public school, which turned out to be the right decision). We asked lots of questions, read forums, and tried to learn as much as we could from long-time residents and successful transplants about dealing with cost-of-living and other issues unique to living in Hawai’i, and made sure to add travel expenses as part of our budget.

After a nearly three-week vacation/research trip in 2012, Hawai’i was no longer a joke. We committed ourselves, and less than two years later, after much downsizing and planning, we made our move. We came to Kaua’i with no expectations other than we’d enjoy beautiful weather and see the ocean every day. Everything else we decided to let unfold in its own time to let us know if we’d made the right decision (or not) for our family.

Did we? I’d say yes, over and over and over. Kaua’i has provided everything we hoped it would, and more. Our oldest daughter returned to Oregon after six months on Kaua’i, and that has been the right move for her – she manages living on her own and going to school very well. But, WenYu and YaYu have thrived here, and are now very happy we came; they love our little island and the friends they’ve made here. We’ve pretty much figured out the whole cost-of-living thing, and our simple life these days actually lets us live on much less than we did back in Portland. Kaua’i is very lush and green, with flowers blooming and farmers’ markets open year round which make me very, very happy. I’ve been to Japan twice since we’ve been here, we’re going again next year, and our son and family have come to visit us here. We’ve all made trips back to the mainland, but discovered that there’s nothing as wonderful as coming home to Kaua’i.