Five Frugal Things 9/29/2017

  1. YaYu participated in a car wash fundraiser last weekend and brought home a huge bag of empty water bottles for us to recycle.
  2. Other than our trip to the farmers’ market, we had a no-spend week.
  3. While I had my eye appointment yesterday, Brett headed over to nearby Costco and made an appointment for a free hearing exam. They will also help him figure out what cost savings he can receive as a veteran.
  4. It turns out I also need new glasses. I found some frames I liked at the eye doctor’s office, but came home and found them online for $30 less, including free shipping. I’ll order them in November, and have the glasses made at Costco.
  5. We put $18.20 in the change/$1 bill jar this week: $3.86 from recycling, $8.84 change from the gas bill, and $5.50 left from the farmers’ market.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

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#Kauai: The Powerline Trail

In my previous post, I touched on the state of the Powerline Trail without revealing all that makes it worthwhile. That is, while it may not be possible to hike through, what you can see is breathtaking. Powerline Trail has all the elements of a worthy hike: hills, vistas, minor obstacles, flora & fauna, and even a waterfall (nearby but not directly accessible from the trail). Additionally, some volunteers have established and continue to maintain BMX/Mountain Bike trails parallel to the main route at the north end of the route.

Of course there is the actual powerline to consider—without which there would be no trail.

Every trail has hills, some knee-crawling, and although the straight and level is rare on this trail its hills gently rise and fall. In the first two miles the most significant grade is a 19-minute incline that weaves back and forth slightly, just a wiggly course around the side of a mountain rather than switchbacks. Most run up a little, then down a little through cuts,, while most of the level ground is atop fills.

As mentioned in the previous paragraph, much of this hike is through cuts, so the sights to see come up suddenly and change throughout the day. Pictured below, clockwise from upper left: Hanalei Valley; Kekōiki 2,814 feet (858 meters); Wai‘ale‘al 5,148 feet (1,569 meters); and Kawakini, highest point on Kauai at 5,243 feet (1,598 meters).

All of the obstacles on the northern end are water hazards; that is, there is no overgrown brush, no fallen boulders or trees, and no thickets of interlacing hau trees.

Although I did see one Bufo toad (Bufo marinis), and a half-dozen or so birds moving too swiftly to be digitized, the surprise here was tree frogs—two species, hopping about near the waterholes and like the birds, mimicking Monte Python’s “How Not to Be Seen.”

By contrast, flowers and forest were most cooperative as well as lovely to see. These flowers are common to most trails on Kauai, although this is the first time I’ve seen Foxglove outside of someone’s garden. Clockwise, from upper left: Philippine Ground Orchid (Spathoglottis plicata), Shampoo Ginger (Zingiber zerumbe), White Ginger (Hedychium coronarium), and Foxglove (Digitalis grandiflora)—absolutely, positively introduced here.

Similarly, the trees are all varieties one might encounter anywhere on the island. Nevertheless, they are welcome for their beauty and shade. Clockwise, from upper left: Ohia, Guava, someone’s notion of a Christmas tree, assorted jungle, Hala (Pandanus tectorius), and a variety of plants—mosses, ferns, and a young Casuarina—nursing on a Eucalyptus bough.

Many of the same sights glimpsed along the main trail are enhanced, and new perspectives emerge from the cycling trails. These trails are meticulously well maintained on either side of the main trail although they do not extend continuously due to challenging terrain. That is, the cycling trails run along both sides in some places, on one side or the other at times, and simply share the main trail in between the rough spots. One word of caution, keep your ears open and your head on a swivel because cyclists appear quite suddenly in both directions.

As soon as my shins heal, I hope to attempt an assault on this northern end to see how far I can go and what wonders lay ahead.

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This Week’s Menu: Cooking For a Fussy Eater

Slow cooker barbecue pulled pork sandwiches – both Brett and YaYu add coleslaw to their sandwich.

There is no way to get around it: YaYu is a fussy eater. She’s a good eater, but she has become very outspoken in her preferences lately and it’s frankly beginning to drive me a little nuts. It seems that unless I am fixing spicy Asian food, there’s always something wrong with whatever I fix.

YaYu is lactose intolerant, and I work hard to make sure there’s no dairy in any of the food she is served. We also know that because she didn’t join our family until age five, her taste preferences were already set, unlike the other girls, including her love of very spicy food. She has also chosen food preferences as a means of expressing her Asian identity, which both Brett and I support. Still, this is something new for me because both Meiling and WenYu have always eaten anything you put in front of them, as does Brett. Our son was a somewhat picky eater when he was young, but not to this extent.

I’ve told her that I will try to accommodate some of her food preferences, but that there are other times I am going to cook things her dad and I like, like the slow cooker chicken adobo that’s coming up later this week. I know I’ll also catch some grief over the turkey Waldorf salad and the grilled chicken skewers . I’ve told her I’m not a short-order cook and will not be preparing anything special or different for her – if she doesn’t like what’s for dinner, she is welcome to not have any. So far she hasn’t taken advantage of that offer.

This is a whole new thing for me though, dealing with a fussy, critical eater. It may be just a teenage thing, and will pass once she heads off to college. I’d love any suggestions you have for how to deal with this!

Here’s what for dinner this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Stir-fried broccoli and tofu in spicy peanut sauce; steamed rice (skipping the rice)
  • Wednesday: Turkey Waldorf salad; country bread (no bread for me)
  • Thursday: Grilled chicken and vegetable skewers; pilaf (no pilaf for me)
  • Friday: Leftovers for Brett and me (spaghetti dinner for YaYu)
  • Saturday: Slow cooker barbecued pulled pork sandwiches; cole slow (just pork for me, no bread)
  • Sunday: Omelets; bacon; blueberry muffins; fruit (no muffin for me)
  • Monday: Slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy; steamed rice (skipping the rice)

We didn’t go to the farmers’ market last week, but this week we’ll be getting bok choy, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, a papaya and anything else that looks good and fits into the budget.

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Conveniently Eating In Japan

A fun, but often overlooked place to find tasty and affordable meals in Japan is at neighborhood convenience stores (7-Eleven, Lawsons and FamilyMart are the top three). Called konbini in Japan, these small markets are seemingly located just about everywhere and are easy to find. Besides the typical convenience store offerings of drinks, snacks, medicines and other items, convenience stores also have a large selection of freshly prepared foods at very reasonable prices. If you’re traveling in Japan on a budget, a meal from a convenience store can be had for $10 or less.

The biggest difference between the  foods found in Japanese convenience stores and those found in the U.S. is the quality and the variety. In Japan, prepared foods are for the most part stocked fresh every day because they have to be – go into a convenience store in the late afternoon or evening and your selection will be very limited as most everything in the that section will have already been purchased. The quality of the food is also much higher than what you’ll find in a U.S. convenience store.

Here are some of the best and tastiest items or meals (IMO) you can find at Japanese convenience stores:

Oden is a hearty and filling stew filled with various items such as potatoes, boiled eggs, fishcakes, and other items that are served in light dashi broth. It’s usually only available in cold weather. You’ll be charged by the number of items you select.

Karaage is fried chicken Japanese-style, with bite-sized pieces of tender thigh meat twice fried in a lightly-seasoned batter. You can buy it on its own or as part of a bento. Karaage and potato salad is my all-time favorite convenience store meal.

Potato salad all on its own can be a pretty tasty meal as well. Potato salad in Japan traditionally includes very thinly-sliced cucumber and carrot, and the potatoes are nearly fully mashed. It’s amazingly delicious.

Nikuman are Chinese-style steamed buns filled with savory pork and vegetables. They’re big enough on their own for a meal. Pizza- or curry-flavored buns are also popular. Nikuman are kept warm in a steamy case located next to the cash register.

Maybe the most popular food item in any store, onigiri are triangular Japanese rice balls wrapped with seaweed, but inside are different fillings, such as pickled plums, salmon, tuna salad, etc. They’re very popular and very convenient, and more filling than you might think. The plastic wrapper folds back to use as a holder.

Sandwiches range from ones Westerners can easily recognize to some many would find quite weird (like a hot dog roll filled with yakisoba noodles). Dessert sandwiches are now a thing, and are made with whipped cream and fresh fruit. YaYu had one on our last trip and proclaimed it extremely delicious.

Korokke (croquettes) are tasty and satisfying fried mashed potato cakes with other ingredients added which can include cheese, vegetables, seafood and so forth.

Gyoza are Chinese potstickers, typically sold in groups of five. They’re wildly popular in Japan, are found in any market, and can be eaten hot or cold (hot is better).

Convenience markets carry a huge array of bentos, too many to name here. They usually run around $7 or $8 dollars, but can cost more or less depending on the size of the bento and what’s included. Most come with rice, but some have noodles for the starch.

There are lots of higher end places to eat sushi in Japan, but the packages found in convenience stores are perfectly good if you are wanting it.

Yakisoba is fried noodles which are tossed with a Worchester-like sauce. They are usually fried with cabbage and onion, and sometimes have a small amount of protein like shrimp or chicken, but the noodles also available plain, like in the above photo. They’re always served with slivers of red pickled ginger called beni shoga. A small serving of yakisoba noodles is also sometimes included as a side dish in a bento.And of course, convenience stores are where you can pick up all sorts of snack items, Japanese candy (including KitKats!), and all sorts of amazing cold and hot drinks!

Convenience stores also always carry a big selection of ice cream treats, and what’s available will vary from store to store. They are affordable and always worth checking out!

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Sunday Afternoon 9/24/2017

Brett caught some beautiful mountain views from the parking lot before the start of this week’s cross country meet. Kawakini is to the far left, and Wai’ale’ale is in the middle.

It’s been another quiet, but busy, week here at Casa Aloha. We’ve settled into our regular fall schedules and routines, but this was the week for our monthly Big Shop and some other appointments so we kept busy. Brett and I had hoped to get to the beach a couple of times this past week, but it rained on Tuesday and YaYu had a special cross country practice on Thursday that messed with our day. The weather has been lovely though for the most part, and it’s definitely cooling off. I actually felt cold for a while on Friday morning, and was glad for my nice, warm cup of coffee. Even though the change is barely noticeable here, fall is coming!

After a couple of days off we’ll be watching more of the Vietnam documentary again tonight. The show is excellent, and very thought provoking. On the second night last week I heard a familiar name: Lt. Ken Good, who served as an army advisor in Vietnam and was killed in January, 1963. He was from my hometown of San Marino, and I clearly remember our pastor announcing his death in church one Sunday. I had never heard of Vietnam before – I was only 10 – but apparently it made an impression on me because I’ve never forgotten the announcement or his name.

YaYu’s Questbridge scholarship application will finally go off this coming week (deadline is Wednesday). All of us will be so glad when it’s finally submitted. The application is quite long, with several essays, and requires all sorts of other information and references, and YaYu has been working on it since early July. Her teachers have been great about doing their part and getting things in on time, but her counselor, who is required to not only provide a reference but other key information (like transcripts) has dragged her heels. She has known about the application for nearly two months, and YaYu stops by her office every week to check on the status of things, yet the counselor still has done nothing (although she reassures YaYu the information will be there on time). We’re biting our nails at this point that no problems arise. YaYu has also been the most difficult of all our children to work with on her essays. I taught writing for many years, and coached all three of our others kids on their essays, providing suggestions and editing, but it’s been a very different situation with YaYu. She has asked me for help/critique several times but then rejected almost every suggestion I’ve made, to the point that I finally asked her not to ask me but her teachers instead.  Her final biographical essay is good though, and after Wednesday we will have our fingers crossed that she makes it to the Finalist round for the scholarship (decisions will be announced November 1).

  • Reading: I’m still reading both of the books I currently have checked out: Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper, and Stephen King’s It. I read one in the daytime, and one at night. It must be a big book – I read page after page after page, for a long while, but when I check the percentage finished it turns out my reading progress has barely moved. Both are still good reads.
  • Listening to: We’ve enjoyed a lovely, cool, mostly quiet morning. There have been a few roosters out there making some noise, and I can hear a weed trimmer in the distance but otherwise there’s only the sound of the breeze through the trees. Brett is out for a run, and YaYu is sleeping in so it’s nice and quiet inside.
  • Watching: Besides watching Vietnam, we finished the final season of Ripper Street – all the main characters either died, were killed, or moved away in the last episode. It’s time to find something else, but we’re not sure what at this point. I’m still watching The Mindy Project at night while I do Swagbucks, and still loving it.
  • Cooking/baking: I baked a yellow cake this morning, and will ice with vanilla buttercream in a little while – simple but tasty (and none for me, thank you). Tonight we’re having breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and fruit.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I got the Big Shop done for the month, although it was a challenge. We noticed especially this past week how much more food is costing now than it did when we arrived here three years ago. I did a five mile ride on my bike six of the last seven days, drank more than 64 ounces of water every day, and did my language study every day. I know I accomplished other things, but can’t remember any of them.
  • Looking forward to next week: Besides YaYu getting her scholarship application submitted, we’re looking forward to a relaxing week with a couple of trips to the beach. I see the eye doctor again on Wednesday to check whether my (beginning) cataracts are getting worse or holding steady – fingers are crossed for holding steady.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: One of my younger brother’s sons was married yesterday to his longtime girlfriend in a lovely, small ceremony. He’s had some rough times, especially following my brother’s death, so it’s especially gratifying to see things finally going well for him, and to see him so happy. We had a plumbing issue in the house last week (which will affect our water bill) but we texted our landlord, he contacted the plumber and in less than two days the problem was resolved and we didn’t have to pay anything – it would have been an expensive fix otherwise! We also learned that our landlord’s health is improving, and that his cancer is now moving toward remission rather than getting worse!
  • Reporting losses and gains: It’s the last Sunday of September, so I weighed myself this morning and was very surprised to discover I lost three more pounds this past month, for a total loss of 28 pounds so far since February. I’m just going to keep doing and eating how I have been, and if I lose some more, great! If not, that’s OK too. We put a whopping $1490.33 into our travel savings this past month! Our savings total for the year is now $6801.55, so we’re less than $200 away from our original goal of $7000. We’ve decided to raise the goal to $8500 in our travel account by the end of the year.
  • Grateful for: I’m grateful to live in a country that guarantees the right to protest. Both Brett and I served in the military to protect that right for everyone, whether we agree with them or not. We did not serve to make sure people honored a flag or stood for a song, but to defend our constitution and the rights enshrined within.

    Having Royal Hawaiian pack us for our move here was worth every penny – not one thing was damaged, and they removed all the packing material when we finished unpacking.

  • Bonus question: Which is worse, packing up a house to move or unpacking it all when you arrive? To be honest, both are equally hellish. When Brett was on active duty the unpacking was actually worse because  the movers hired by the navy packed up everything for the move – we didn’t have to do anything other than provide cold drinks and snacks for the movers (which meant they usually treated our stuff very nicely). When we arrived at our new destination however, we had to unpack everything on our own which took forever. Now that the navy is not paying for our moves, we do almost all of the pack-up on our own and it’s been a lot of work (and very motivating when it came to downsizing the amount of our possessions). On our move over to Kaua’i Royal Hawaiian did a superb job of packing every thing on the mainland end and unpacking everything here as well as taking away all packing materials (we still had to put all our stuff away though) – they were worth every penny we paid them. The easiest move we ever did was moving to the house we’re in now from our other house – we overlapped in both houses for about three weeks, so we’d bring just a carload or two over here every day and put things away. Brett brought a couple of van-loads of furniture over one day, and we paid a mover for about five heavy pieces but when that arrived we were fully moved in and ready to go! (And no, we’re not moving anywhere, at least as far as I know right now.)

That’s the wrap-up from here for the week. How was your week? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you? Have you been watching Vietnam?

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Five Frugal Things 9/22/2017

There is no substitute for fresh ginger in a recipe.

  1. We mailed a small package to Japan this past week – Amazon would not ship a teething ring that our D-I-L wanted to Japan, so we agreed to buy it and ship as part of our granddaughter’s first birthday present. The teething ring was $15.95, and we were going to use a Priority flat rate mailer, figuring that would cost the least. However, when we checked the cost was $23.95! So, Brett bought a small padded envelope for $1.98, we crossed our fingers, and the postage was only $13.75! It was still expensive, but $15.73 to Japan was a whole lot better than $23.95! Our son offered to reimburse us, but we turned him down because we know he’ll do something to spoil us next time we’re in Japan. BTW, we took most of our granddaughter’s birthday present with us to Japan last March because we knew the postage would be outrageous (and unaffordable) from here.
  2. We usually buy fresh ginger at the farmers’ market – a small piece runs around $1. We forgot to get it last week, and I needed some to fix dinner on Monday so Brett stopped by the local Foodland store and got twice the amount we typically get at the market for just 71¢! Guess where we will be buying our ginger from now on!
  3. It was quite a challenge but we managed to stay within budget on our monthly Big Shop this past week. Prices have gone up at all stores, so getting what we need for the month and not overspending meant not buying some things on our list, and finding less expensive substitutes for others.
  4. Brett and I made and froze a dozen breakfast burritos for YaYu, filled with scrambled eggs, homemade breakfast sausage, hash browns and a little pepper jack cheese. Each burrito cost 81c, which is pretty good for Hawai’i.
  5. We put $11.05 into the change/$1 bill jar this week, left over from the Big Shop. We didn’t go to the farmers’ market – we decided we actually didn’t need anything this week, so will roll those $$ over for future trips.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

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#Kauai: Changes

“You cannot step into the same river twice,” [Heraclitus according to Plato]. That’s obviously because the flowing waters mix and mingle, and even a second after you step out it has become a different river. After revisiting some of my favorite sights, I found that some have fared better than others, with a few places ravaged by changing weather patterns while others seemed totally immutable.

Just north of Donkey Beach is an unnamed stream that has slowly dried up since the turn of this century. However, it was still making its way to sea when we arrived in 2014, dropping quietly into the ocean at a small inlet, a tidal pool, a little beyond the completed portion of The Path that Goes by the Coast.

Although the photo at left was taken in early May 2017, it is representative of the state of the stream these past three years. The photo at right, taken last week, reveals a completely desiccated sandstone embankment where the little cascade once glimmered. Notice that another Casuarina tree has taken root to the right of the channel, and the shadow of the older seedlings from the earlier photo extends up the left edge of the latter.

Meanwhile, I revisited Ho’opi’i Falls on Kapa’a Stream recently, and found them gloriously rushing on in spite of slightly diminished flow—the little stream-side trail above the upper falls is now fully accessible.

The seldom-used stream-side trail between upper and lower falls was a little more hazardous than I recalled from previous hikes, as well as densely overgrown immediately below the upper falls.

Since I hadn’t visited over the summer, I also headed up Kawaihau Road toward Makaleha Falls. Everything looked familiar from the trailhead, but then I was unable to locate the first stream crossing. Initially it appeared that there might be a new crossing downstream. However, when that didn’t pan out, I returned to the trail and ventured too far upstream to a dead end. Retracing my steps, I found a place that surely must have been it, but I could not find any remnants of the old dam and the long pool that had once been key landmarks.

Looking across the stream I finally recognized the path up into the bamboo forest (but don’t all paths into bamboo forests look the same?). Eventually  some other hikers came along, and I followed them across the stream. Almost immediately after crossing, I was able to return their favor by guiding them to a shortcut along the stream which was even easier than ever because spring flooding had shifted the mainstream channel away from the near bank leaving behind a nice, dry, rock-strewn pathway.

On this hike, I only went about an hour upstream rather than all the way to the falls. Returning to the trailhead I encountered one of my favorite landmarks, this massive boulder, seemingly unchanged by time and floods, though an earthquake might be another story. I cannot imagine being on this island when this boulder moves.

Watchful boulder on Makaleha Stream

Next stop was the Powerline Trail at the end of Kuamo’o Road. When I reached the end of the road, I saw that the county had erected a one-lane bridge across the stream, so I proceeded across and parked in the nice new parking lot. The trailhead is about a twelve-minute trek up the Forest Service Road and the trail rises steeply from there.

Unfortunately, this trail is not maintained and I found that the jungle and downed trees closed it off a little more than half a mile from the trailhead. Still, it was worth a look since I had only read about it.

…But nearly 11 miles farther north, one can start from the other end! So I did, and witnessed the striking contrast between the spartan south trailhead markings—little more than a poke in the eye with a burnt stick—and the north trailhead station, more or less fully appointed, including all that graffiti.

While the news was discouraging at both ends, I was able to trek in a little over two miles, including a 20-minute ascent up a steep grade and over two water hazards. However, my adventure was finally thwarted by the third pond in the trail because it continued to widen any way I went. Being ill-equipped to trudge through with nothing more than lightweight running shoes (one of which had a hole in the toe).

Mean stretch of road

Although it doesn’t look so bad from here, consider that it’s more than twice as wide when it reaches that big tree on the right, and the ground gets softer and softer as it goes. I stuck my hiking pole in to gauge the depth and I hit bottom at about 10 inches depth; then leaned on the stick and it sunk another seven or so inches—that is a lot of mud, and not to be broached with open wounds (from earlier hikes/runs) on the shins and ankles.

So many streams have run dry or radically changed course over time while isolated pools deter hikers in the mountains, and the jungle overtakes disused trails with the passage of time. One truly cannot step in the same river twice simply because it’s no longer there.

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This Week’s Menu: If I Only Knew

The thrill is gone (actually, my stomach would hate me if I had some of this).

I’m not sure if this has anything to do with menu planning, but here goes . . .

I have struggled with my weight for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, keeping my weight down was all about appearance, but in the last couple of decades weight control has been less about being thin and more about feeling good. When I’m carrying around too much extra weight I don’t feel good. When I’m overweight my joints ache, the bursitis in my hip flares up something fierce, and I just generally feel sluggish and out of sorts.

Over the years I have counted calories and counted points in an effort to shed pounds. I’ve followed the Atkins plan, eaten a lot of grapefruit, and tried the Scarsdale plan and Jenny Craig meals without any noticeable results. Nothing lasted for very long, and any weight I lost quickly reappeared when I went “off plan.” I was obsessed with food and eating, always trying to find the “right” formula,.

And yet here I am now losing weight at a rate of around two pounds a month, and I’m not even trying. After all these years, why now? I gave up carbs/starches early in the year because of a stomach issue (GERD) and a rapid weight gain (three to five pounds per month no matter what or how little I ate). I expected to lose a few pounds at first, but the continued steady weight loss has been an unexpected but welcome side effect. I have no idea how long it will last.

Losing weight, or wanting to lose weight, is a curious thing. It’s also a very personal thing, unique to each individual, and what works for one person doesn’t for the next. My weight has been a frustrating struggle for most of my life. but in this past year it seems I have finally made peace with my body, both inside and out.

OK, back to menu planning . . .

This week for dinner we’re having:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled chicken thighs; broccoli-raisin salad; bread (the salad has been requested again. Also, no bread for me)
  • Wednesday: Turkey divan casserole (turkey, cheese and broccoli for me)
  • Thursday: Hot turkey sandwiches; stuffing; steamed broccoli (I won’t be having bread, but I will have 1/4 cup of stuffing because I have to)
  • Friday: Leftovers for Brett and me (team spaghetti dinner for YaYu)
  • Saturday: Slow cooker honey-sriracha chicken wings; steamed rice; Japanese cucumber salad (I’m skipping the rice, and hoping the wings aren’t too spicy)
  • Sunday: Breakfast for dinner: scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, fruit (no toast for me)
  • Monday: Slow-cooker beef & broccoli; steamed rice (no rice for me)

We’ll be needing cucumbers, bok choy, papayas and bananas at the farmers’ market. We’ve gotten broccoli at the market the past couple of weeks, but we can’t count on it so are going to buy a big bag of the florets at Costco tomorrow.

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Travelin’ Shoes

Cute shoes which turned out to be very uncomfortable for extended walking.

One thing that both Brett and I learned on our trip to Japan this past spring is that the shoes you travel with can truly make or break the experience.

Both of us took along shoes we thought would be comfortable but in fact were not, and we and our feet were miserable the entire time.

Shoe purchases for our Big Mystery Adventure™ have become a  priority here at Casa Aloha, and the focus will be 1) comfort and 2) durability.

Both Brett and I have “difficult” feet. Brett’s feet are flat and wide. Mine are wide (although not as wide as before bunion surgery in 2013) and I have very high arches. I also have very little to no padding on the balls of my feet, so without a soft, cushioned footbed my feet can start to hurt quite quickly. I also prefer a shoe I can easily slip in and out of, especially when we’re visiting Japan.

My very comfortable Finn Comfort clogs

I purchased my first pair of travel shoes last week, a spendy pair of Finn Comfort clogs. They get very high ratings for comfort, especially  when you’re on your feet for a long time. They’re not the prettiest shoes out there, but after wearing them around the house for three days I can honestly report that they are super comfortable and have great arch support. I think they will prove worth the expense.

Clark’s desert boots

Brett gets his first new pair(s) of shoes next month beginning with a new pair of running shoes. We’re getting them now because they will probably need to be replaced before we go – running is not only hard on shoes but they also stand a very good chance of being permanently stained by Kauai’s red dirt. He also plans to get a pair of Clark’s desert boots and/or a pair of Merrell slip-ons next month (hasn’t made a decision yet).

Both of us want a pair of Allbirds wool shoes, loungers for Brett and the women’s charcoal gray runners for me. This brand also gets rave reviews, and we think they will be both comfortable, lightweight and accommodate our wide feet.

Allbirds charcoal gray women’s runners

Allbirds mens lounger (Brett doesn’t want this color though)

Finally, we both will be needing walking sandals. Brett is looking at Keens, but I’ve got my heart set on a pair of Kenkoh massage sandals from Japan. I’m currently wearing a cheap knockoff pair, but my feet love them and I’d love some real Kenkohs even more. I’m also seriously wanting another pair of Mephisto’s Helen sandals. I wore out a previous pair I owned, but they are wonderfully comfortable and have great arch support.

Mephisto’s Helen sandal

Kenkoh massage sandals

All these shoes are going to cost us $$$. We’ve fiddled the budget to add some each month for travel shoes, and will start adding them pair by pair when we can. A concern, besides cost, is that all of them put together hopefully won’t weigh too much, but we think we’ve erred on the side of light versus heavy when it comes to our choices.

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Sunday Afternoon 9/17/2017

 

Both Brett and I are looking forward to the start of the new Ken Burns’ documentary tonight on Vietnam. We think it will be excellent, and present both the good and bad of that time as a cohesive whole. Brett did not serve in Vietnam, although he was in the navy and knew many who did serve. He started working for Black & Decker as a draftsman right out of high school in 1968, and joined the Army National Guard (like Dan Quayle) to avoid being drafted. However, he became very ill during his service (almost died) and was medically discharged from the Guard. But lo and behold, someone on his local draft board thought he should still be eligible, and one Monday in early 1970 he received his draft notice ordering him to report the following Monday. He had been a helicopter door gunner in the reserves, and when they told him he could possibly serve overseas he knew they didn’t mean Germany (and door gunners in Vietnam had a very poor rate of survival). So, on Tuesday he called the local navy recruiter and on Thursday he was at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center reporting for boot camp. He was only going to stay in the navy for one enlistment, but ended up liking his job and decided to make it a career. He spent the Vietnam years on an aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean. For my part, I remember the demonstrations, the craziness of 1968, and all the arguments with my parents about the war. It was a sad, bitter but defining time in our nation’s history, and in my opinion, everyone lost.

I think summer may be trying to turn into fall here. Although the days are still very warm, the mornings have been cool, and I’ve found myself snuggling into the comforter on a few days to keep warm. Most evenings are cooler as well. Wednesdays have become known as Hell Day around here though – for the last several weeks they’ve all been the most unbearably hot day of all, with zero air moving and horrible humidity that lasts well into the night.

Also, there is a great giveaway going on over at Don’t Read This; It’s Boring which includes lots of fun things that would make great stocking stuffers, or can be used or eaten now (I’m talking about chocolate!).

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China, by Fuschia Dunlop, came off of hold this week and I’ve been enjoying it immensely. She includes recipes in the book! Stephen King’s It became available two days later, so now I’m reading about Chinese food during the day, and a creepy, scary clown at night.
  • Listening to: There are lots of birds singing outside this morning, and lots of baby chicks peeping too. It’s a lovely, cool, breezy morning and it’s wonderful hearing the palm trees rustling again. Inside it’s quiet . . . for now.
  • Watching: In the hour before Vietnam we’ll be watching another episode of Bletchley Circle – PBS Hawai’i is showing it again, and it’s a terrific show. We finished all the available episodes of Catastrophe and started a new season of Ripper Street. We wish some of our other favorite shows (Broadchurch, Happy Valley, etc.) would also have new seasons up for streaming. For a long time we didn’t watch any TV, but these days Brett and I are enjoying watching in the evenings, and catching up on shows we missed in the past. I’ve been binge watching The Mindy Project at night while I work on Swagbucks – fun show!
  • Cooking/baking: There’s still a little bit left of the chocolate cake I made last week, so it will be a few days more before I bake something else. Brett’s making Scotch eggs for our dinner tonight. He and YaYu will have toast with theirs, and we’ll all share a big bowl of cut watermelon.

    Our overcast day at the beach was still lovely

  • Happy I accomplished this week: Even though it was overcast and looked like it would rain at any moment, Brett and I enjoyed our one afternoon at the beach on Thursday. Usually we read, but we chatted the whole time we were there which was fun. I drank my daily 64 ounces of water (and more) every day, did my language study, and rode my bike five days out of seven. YaYu let me help her with one of her college essays and actually accepted some of my suggestions! Brett and I both signed up for credit check and identity monitoring through USAA this week. We’ve always been careful, but feel a need to take some further precautions to protect our credit/money following the Equifax hack.
  • Looking forward to next week: I almost can’t believe it’s time again for our monthly Big Shop. Our shopping list seems quite short this month compared to others. Fingers are crossed that we make it to the beach another couple of times.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu ran a good race yesterday morning, and her time was a new personal record. The girls’ team from her school came in first. I was happy to get paid for my jury duty, although receiving the check brought back some unpleasant memories. But, I heard from someone on the island this week who knows the case well, and they thanked me for my vote to acquit, so that made me feel better.

    Two youngsters bringing their four-day old baby home from the hospital. Brett was taking advantage of the navy’s rule allowing beards, and I have a very fat post-pregnancy face (and can’t believe how much I look like my dad)!

  • Grateful for: Thirty-nine years ago this coming week, our wonderful son was born. What a joy he has been, and I am so proud and thankful to be the mom of such a kind and generous man, husband, father, brother, son and friend. He is smart, a good provider, very, very funny and witty, and is living his dream. My only regret is that we don’t get to see him or his family more.
  • Bonus question: What do you enjoy most about blogging? What do you like the least? Easily, the best part of blogging is the personal connections I’ve made, both online and in real life. I absolutely love the feedback, and the give-and-take, I get from my readers (I’ve only had one negative commenter, who ended up getting herself banned). I’ve also had the good fortune to meet several readers and their spouses in person, and have formed lasting friendships with them. Another upside to blogging is that I enjoy writing and expressing myself. Our son once told me that people blog because they love the sound of their own voice, which is true, but I’ve always enjoyed writing and this gives me an outlet (sorry though Mr. Burdine, there is no “great American novel” in me). The downside of maintaining a blog is that I have to come up with things to write about! Sometimes the muse is with me and I have lots of ideas and things to say, but other times it’s a real struggle to find a topic that interests me and that I think might interest readers. This year in particular has been a challenge at times because I gave myself a goal at the beginning of the year of posting five times a week. Other downsides? I can’t think of any.

That’s a wrap for this week! Hope everyone reading had a lovely week, and have another good one coming up!

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