Some Special Things Along the Way

Itsukushima Shrine is located just outside of Hiroshima

Brett and I play to travel frugally during the Big Adventure. We plan to take free walking tours in the cities we visit, take advantage of free concerts, eat many of our meals in our Airbnb lodgings, and refrain from buying souvenirs (mainly due to luggage weight limits). We’re looking forward to shopping in local markets and checking out what the neighborhoods we’re staying in have to offer.

However, we are planning to splurge once in a while and take part in several special activities along the way. Some of these have been planned for a while, but recently we’ve found some others we’ve added to our itinerary:

A Buenos Aires culinary tour!
  • Culinary tour in Buenos Aires:This tour includes a visit to an outdoor market, empanada demonstration and tasting, and a four-course lunch with Argentinian wine pairings.
  • Cheese tasting in Paris: I am mad about cheese, and Airbnb has several tours available that we can book when we make our rental reservation – we just need to choose one!

    Bordeaux wine tasting
  • Wine tour (or two) in Bordeaux: We’ve seen two we like. One is a visit to wine shops in the city of Bordeaux, another takes us out to some chateaus in the region (there’s also one that’s done on electric bikes through the vineyards, which is also intriguing).
  • Wine tour in the Alsace region: We’re still researching this. Apparently it’s easy to rent a car for the day and do your own wine tour through the area, so that’s one option.
  • Overnight visit to Baden-Baden and the Black Forest: Located just a short distance from Strasbourg, this will allow us a quick glimpse of Germany.

  • Two day visit to Gimmelwald, Switzerland: Interlaken, Switzerland is a short train ride away from Strasbourg, and from there we can easily get up into the Alps for a couple of days.
  • Make-your-own pizza class in Florence: This is another affordable, fun Airbnb offering. We’ll each make an individual pizza and enjoy it with a glass of wine.

  • Personal guided tour in Siena: This is one place where we want some “depth” and feel that a personal guided tour will be the way to get it. There’s just too much to see and appreciate in Siena to do in a group in one day.
  • A Tuscany wine tour or two: We’re still researching this. Whether we do one or two will depend on the cost.
  • Three day, two-night visit to the Cinque Terre: Visiting the Cinque Terre has been on my bucket list for like, forever. We’re planning to take the train up to the furthest of the five villages, Monterosso, and then hike down to Vernazza for the first night’s stay in a B&B. From there we’ll hike to Manarola for our second night’s stay, with a stop along the way in Corniglia. On the third morning we’ll hike down to Riomaggiore and catch the train back to Florence.

    High tea in the Peninsula Hotel lobby
  • High tea at the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong: Previous trips to Hong Kong have always been about shopping, but our visit this time is all about the food. Our hotel is located right next door to the Peninsula, and their fabulous high tea is on our bucket list. We’re also hoping to go to the Peninsula for their equally fabulous brunch one morning.
  • Visit Hong Kong Disneyland: Because we’re seniors, the cost for us to visit the park for a day is just $13 each. We figured at that price we have to go check it out.
  • Sydney seafood market tour and barbecue: Another fun activity from Airbnb, this outing includes a tour of Sydney’s giant seafood market where we’ll choose our own seafood, then walk it over to a nearby park where our guide will barbecue it for us, and serve with sides and Australian wine.

    Sydney Harbor from the water
  • Take a boat tour of Sydney Harbor: We’re still researching this, but it’s something we’d like to do.
  • Eight-day visit to Hiroshima and Kyoto: Brett has never been to Hiroshima, so we’ll head down there first for three days, and then ride the shinkansen (bullet train) back up to Kyoto for another five days before returning to Tokyo. We’re planning to buy two-week Japan Rail passes before we go – the cost for the pass is a considerable savings over a regular round-trip ticket on the shinkansen, plus we can use them around Tokyo until they expire.

    Excited to go here with the grandkids!
  • Two days at Tokyo Disneyland: We were planning to take our grandson here for his birthday, but our son suggested we do an overnight stay so we can visit both parks (Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea). We’re going to do this when Meiling is visiting – she loves Disney!

We may or may not add some more activities, depending on time and cost, but the ones above give us lots to look forward to, and we’ve been having fun researching them as well as other things that might be interesting to do.

Here’s where my readers come in though – any other suggestions of things we should do outside of regular sightseeing? We’re open to just about any experience, short of extreme sports or skydiving. We don’t mind walking (although I have trouble walking down hills or down lots of stairs, which is going to make our Cinque Terre visit interesting).

Sunday Afternoon 2/25/2018

Tuesday’s sunset view from the front of our house

Last Tuesday evening’s sunset was one for the books. Brett, YaYu and I were just sitting down to dinner and noticed there was an unusual orange-y glow outside, so we walked out front and what you see above is what greeted us. Amazing doesn’t begin to describe it, and yes, it was truly awe inspiring. We stood there with our mouths hanging open for a few seconds before we realized we needed to grab our cameras. Pictures taken by others around the island, especially the west and south sides, show equally amazing views of that evening’s sunset. Lucky we live Kaua’i!

As we move through our current “quiet period,” waiting to find out where YaYu will be going to college, Brett and I have been talking about where we might want to settle when the Big Adventure comes to a close. We have been thinking about what we want going forward, and then attaching those things to some places on a (sort-of) spreadsheet. It’s very basic now, but an outline for a post-adventure plan is starting to take shape. Obviously there’s not a thing we can do about it now, but it’s something we can think about more and tighten up as time goes on.

YaYu received a “possible” evaluation from Wellesley this past week, which means she is still in the running with them. According to what I could find out, about 20% of those receiving a possible evaluation are ultimately accepted and the rest are put on the waitlist, so fingers will remain crossed. She is feeling very impatient these days and wants to get a solid acceptance (beyond the University of Hawaii), but those notices won’t start arriving until the end of next month. This past week she heard from two schools that she was missing some of her financial aid paperwork, so she had to scramble to get that sent off (especially frustrating since it was all information they already had). We have no idea whether these schools asking for this information now should be taken as any sort of indication that they’ve made a decision about her or not, but I’m thinking not.

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I had to order a copy of Hamilton for my Kindle as the library came and took their copy back this past week (for some reason that no one can figure out – my three weeks weren’t up). I’m enjoying the book immensely, but my heaven’s there a whole lot of (interesting) information packed in there – it’s taking me much longer to read than I imagined it would.
  • Listening to: We’ve been listening to rain, rain, rain this morning and into this afternoon. It’s stopped for now, but I can still hear it dripping off the roof and down the drains. The roosters are out in force right now though, as well as some other birds, so maybe they know it’s over. The laundry is going inside, but otherwise it’s quiet around here.
  • Watching: YaYu has gotten me hooked on Bunheads – what a fun show! The other day she also accidently discovered a Japanese ghost/horror series on Netflix that looks promising. Japanese ghost stories are quite scary (which I love) so I may look into it after we’re though with Bunheads.

    The top of the rum cake is filled with chopped pecans and raisins, and the whole cake is soaked in a rum & butter glaze. Can I just say YUM?
  • Cooking/baking: YaYu is making fried rice this evening for our dinner. It’s not really an egg-centric dish, although it does contain eggs, but we’ve got all the odds and ends to put it together, and she loves the leftovers in her lunches. Plus, I can fix my own low-carb serving with the rice cauliflower. Last week’s menu plan got blown up when YaYu started stadium practices for track, and I forgot about her swim banquet yesterday evening. This week won’t be much better because besides the stadium practice her first meet is coming up on Thursday and those don’t finish until after 9:00 p.m. Last week we ended up having yakisoba one night, and beef tacos on another evening instead of what was planned, so chicken and vegetable curry, mabo dofu, and grilled Italian sausage and sautéed pepper sandwiches were moved to this week. Besides those I’m putting chili pork sauce over rice (versus burritos) and maybe barbecued chicken on the menu and we’ll see how it goes. I baked a rum raisin bundt cake on Friday, so no baking for a while. Brett loves it, YaYu doesn’t, but has other things she can eat when she wants something sweet.

    We walked a new path this past week, up near the girls’ high school. I’ve never seen such red dirt anywhere else on this island – it positively glowed.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I had a mammogram and a bone density scan this past week, and got good reports from both. Brett and I made eight breakfast burritos for YaYu and froze them – they contain hash browns, scrambled eggs with chopped onion, breakfast sausage and a little pepper jack cheese. Brett got WenYu’s organic macadamia nuts so we finally got her box of stuff packed up and sent off. I cleaned out the media cabinet in the living room – we’re keeping the Cassette Feu butane cooker we had stored in there but everything else either went on the moving sale shelves or was thrown out. Brett and I walked every day except Wednesday (track practice), I drank lots and lots of water, and I studied French on four days. I’m back to working with Memrise, and am at Level 6 now. By the way, Brett and I measured one of our walks the other day: it was approximately 2.4 miles and I took somewhere around 7,000 steps for me (fewer steps for Brett, but his legs are  longer). We expect to be walking a lot on our trip, so this was good news.
    We almost didn’t walk last Thursday because of a big storm rolling in, but took our chances (and brought our umbrellas along) and we beat the rain! The wind was ferocious though.

    We weren’t so lucky yesterday and ended up getting soaked, but we were rewarded with the sight of this gorgeous full rainbow.
  • Looking forward to next week: Brett and I were going to hike the Stone Dam trail up in Kilauea this past week, but things just got away from us schedule-wise, so we’re planning to go this coming week. I am so excited about seeing this place because every picture I’ve seen so far makes it seem like you’ve entered Paradise. I’ve also been looking forward to stopping at Banana Joe’s for a frosty after we’re done, but Brett noticed the other day that the store is closed until the end of May! I guess we’ll have to stop at the Moloa Fruit Stand on the way home – they make frosties too, although I don’t think they’re as good as the ones from Banana Joe’s.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: For the most part we did our regular frugal activities around here, but there were no standout frugal wins. We did have one big frugal fail this past week though. After I was finished with my screenings at the hospital, Brett suggested we stop at the gift shop and treat ourselves to something from See’s Candy (the gift shop is the only place to buy it on the island). Their See’s supply was very low post-Valentine’s Day and I mentioned they were out of my favorite, Nuts & Chews. “Oh, we have those in the back,” the sweet little old lady running the cash register said. So, we said we’d take one box (to take home to share with YaYu). However, the sweet little old lady accidentally charged us for three boxes (!) and then couldn’t get the charge reversed off our debit card! That procedure apparently required a password that she didn’t have, and the people who did have it were not available. She kept getting more and more flustered trying to resolve things for us and after more than 20 minutes we finally agreed to take the three boxes of candy and call it done. See’s is not inexpensive, but WenYu and Meiling are now both getting a surprise box of Nuts & Chews. We also have $60 less in our checking account – sigh. We only put $2.10 into the change/$1 bill jar this week, $1 leftover from the farmers’ market, and $1.10 change back from the post office.
  • Reporting gains and losses: It’s the last Sunday of the month, so time to look at the bottom line again. I didn’t lose any weight again this month, but also didn’t gain, and that’s OK. I’m continuing to slim up though – I can tell by how my clothes fit. We put $1261.11 into our travel savings this month, for a total savings amount now of $16,579.07.

    See’s candy is simply the BEST.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We’re all feeling very happy that YaYu received good news from Wellesley. It’s not her first choice school, but apparently they see her worthy of further consideration. Although we cancelled our cable, it’s stayed with us long enough to watch and enjoy the Olympics. Also, the See’s candy was a very special treat, and it was delicious (as it always is).
  • Grateful for: I am so thankful both WenYu and YaYu were able to go to high school here. No, their school hasn’t won any awards, nor is it what many would consider to be a “good” high school, but in the era of hyper-competitive college admissions, both girls have gotten a good, solid education, taken challenging courses and done well on the testing. Plus, they’ve enjoyed going to a school that’s far less competitive than the one they attended/would have attended in Portland. The kids here are less materialistic, and the girls have been able to participate in more sports at a higher level than they would have back on the mainland. Both of our girls have thrived at their school here, and been able to shine, and for that we are grateful.

    Besides, who wouldn’t want to go to a school that has this view?
  • Bonus question: What’s more difficult, getting rid of debt, downsizing, or losing weight? The short answer? All three. They’re all difficult to accomplish and require more dedication and fortitude than you think you have, especially if you’re older and/or have children. I’ve accomplished all three, and although the books or diet plans or whatever all made it seem like it would be a straight path from beginning to end, it was anything but a straight line, and instead the roads were chock full of dips, blocks, and setbacks. I had to get very familiar with the terms need, want, rationalizations and excuses. I’ve found it’s been somewhat easier staying out of debt and keeping all our stuff to a minimum than it ever has been maintaining a weight loss. I have no advice to give other than what worked for me was to visualize my goal at the end (and set a reasonable deadline, if possible), and give myself rewards along the way. If I strayed off the path one day, I got right back on it the next.

That’s a wrap for this week! It’s almost hard to believe we’ll be heading into March next week. How did your week go? What good things happened for you? Did you have some frugal wins? What have you been cooking?

And, if you’re interested,  this coming Wednesday our story of getting out of debt and the difference that’s made will be a post in Bob Lowry’s blog, A Satisfying Retirement. Today’s post features Barbara’s story (from Living Richly in Retirement). It’s an excellent and worthwhile read.

The Games We’ll Play

Because we know that not every minute of the Big Adventure will be spent sightseeing or traveling from place to place, Brett and I are taking along three of our favorite diversions, Scrabble, Yahtzee and cards, for when we have some “down time. They’ve all made countless moves with us over the years, and we thought they deserved to be part of this journey as well.

We’ve had our Scrabble set since before we were married, but have ditched the box for this trip. Brett is a skilled player and I rarely can beat him, but am always willing to embarrass myself yet again and try. We’ve had our Yahtzee cup since our son was in elementary school, and repeated coverings of duct tape have kept it functional. Our family came up with our own version of Yahtzee a long time ago, playing across the scorecard versus down each row. The game moves a little faster this way, and requires a bit more strategy, but we can’t imagine playing any other way now.

Our favorite card game is a simple one: eleven card gin. We keep score, and first person to get to 500 loses. We were going to buy a couple of new decks of Bicycle playing cards to take along (versus YaYu’s deck of Studio Ghibli cards pictured above), but after I took the picture she presented us the lovely boxed set from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, something her aunt gave her years ago and that have never been used.

Brett and I also enjoy putting together jigsaw puzzles, the more complicated the better, but for obvious reasons will not be putting one of those into our suitcases. We hope to buy one now and again though when we’re settled in someplace for a while, and will leave it behind for the next guests when we move on.

Kung Hei Fat Choi! Welcome the Year of the Dog!

恭喜发财! Kung Hei Fat Choi! Wishing all my readers a belated Happy New Year (because the Lunar New Year actually began last Friday).

2018 is the Year of the Dog, the 11th of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. Dogs are loyal, friendly, and kind, and people born in dog years are said to share those traits as well as being honest, easygoing, and helpful to others. Rather than seeking money and power they are more likely to try to make the world a better place. However, people born in a dog year can also be critical, stubborn, and cold at times. They can have trouble communicating and possibly become pessimistic. The strength or absence of these personality traits will depend on the lunar month of the year in which someone is born.

Lucky numbers for those born in a dog year are 3, 4, and 9, and unlucky numbers are 1, 6, and 7. Lucky colors are red, green, and purple, while blue, white, and gold are considered unlucky. Dogs are traditionally compatible with people born in a rabbit year, but not with those born in dragon, goat, or rooster years.

Unfortunately, this year is predicted to be an unlucky one for people born in a dog year because contrary to what you might think, the years that share your birth sign are thought to bring bad luck! If you were born in a dog year it’s recommended that you do everything you can to try to stay calm as well as relaxed as possible throughout the year. One superstition says you can hold off bad luck by wearing red underpants every day!

Industrial projects and developments in energy are predicted to be successful in 2018, while projects or undertakings based on greed will be rejected or fail. Family relationships will be especially important during the year. It’s also a good year to make lifestyle changes but you may also experience short periods of loneliness or sadness. This year has the potential to be one of hope, with differing cultures working to achieve solidarity and rejecting indifference.

Some famous people born during a dog year include Madonna, Steven Spielberg, Bill Clinton, Mother Teresa, Michael Jackson, and Donald Trump.

Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations go on for over two weeks. I was in China for the end of the Lunar New Year in 1999, in Changsha, Hunan Province. I was staying in a big, fancy high-rise hotel with a friend, and had just met and adopted WenYu the day before (Brett had stayed home with Meiling). When the fireworks started, to signal the end of the New Year’s celebrations, we thought war had been declared and the hotel was being shelled. The noise was deafening, literally earth-shaking, and one of the most frightening experiences of my life!

Sunday Afternoon 2/18/2018

This past week there was another horrible school shooting, with 17 beautiful lives ended this time by yet another person who should never have been allowed to own a gun, let alone a military-style automatic rifle. When it comes to the issue of guns, our country is like an alcoholic who refuses to admit they have a problem and get help, all the while continuing to hurt everyone around them. The NRA, founded to teach gun safety, isn’t about that anymore; its mission now is to sell more guns. And, no matter where you stand on the regulation of firearms, not one of us anywhere in this country is safe anymore.  NO ONE – no matter where or how they live, if they own guns or not, or how well-trained they are – is immune from the possibility of gun violence. People – CHILDREN! – are gunned down in schools, theaters, parking lots, concerts, shopping malls, offices – churches aren’t even a safe place any more, for heaven’s sake. The reality is that gun violence can happen to any one of us, anywhere, at any time, made all the easier by the proliferation and ease of obtaining guns in this country, especially ones that were designed specifically for killing as many people as possible in the shortest amount of time. When are we as a nation finally going to say “enough” and mean it?

OK, rant over. I’ve been angry before, but I’m staying angry this time, and going forward I am going to do everything I can as a citizen of this country to change the status quo. Enough of this. I’ve been thrilled to read that high school students all over the country are stepping up and speaking out about this issue now – it’s not going away this time. The America I know and love can change and do better.

The view while we ate lunch at Brenneke’s

On a happier note, Brett and I enjoyed a lovely Valentine’s Day holoholo (Hawaiian for “getaway to someplace different”) down in Poipu. We started with lunch at Brenneke’s Beach Broiler, where the food was good, but the view was fabulous! When we arrived the place was packed with LOTS of tourists, and we were told the wait for a table would be around 40 minutes. But, 15 minutes later the hostess called our name and took us to the best seat in the house, right up at one of the front windows overlooking Poipu Beach Park! After lunch we headed over to the Kukuiula Marketplace, and had time to have a kid-size scoop of ice cream from Lappert’s and pick up a big Valentine’s cookie for YaYu before the culinary market opened. We were unable to get organic macadamia nuts for WenYu because the vendor wasn’t at the market – it turned out he was out of the country on vacation last week (but will be back the coming week), but we did buy some nice produce including a locally-grown pineapple. Since the market primarily caters to tourists we were afraid the farmers’ prices might be higher than we are used to at the Kapaa market they weren’t. We finished and headed for home in time to pick up YaYu from track practice.

YaYu’s BIG cookie

The scholarship madness continues. YaYu interviewed yesterday morning for a Rotary scholarship, but had to go out on Friday after school and buy a pair of “professional-looking shoes.” Yup, there was an actual dress code for the interview! She ended up finding an inexpensive but acceptable pair of shoes at Ross. She has one more interview to go, for a local scholarship, and then she’s all done except for the waiting.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m working my way through Hamilton and greatly enjoying it. Like Grant’s Memoirs it’s very interesting but a dense read with a lot of detail, so it’s not going very quickly, and I’m probably going to have to purchase a copy for my Kindle in order to finish it.
  • Listening to: It’s quiet inside right now although we’re starting the laundry in a few minutes. Outside it’s overcast, and has been raining off and on, but in between downpours the birds come out and sing for a while (and the roosters scream) before running for cover again. I can’t get over how many different birds we hear here – just when I think I recognize a song, up pops a new one I haven’t heard before and I wonder what kind of bird makes that beautiful song. I realized the other day that there are no crows here (or seagulls) – we used to hear them all the time in Portland and it’s been blissful here not having to listen to their racket.
  • Watching: We’ve watched bits and pieces of the Olympics, but that’s all for me this week.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re almost out of eggs, but have just enough to make scrambled eggs for the three of us tonight so we’re having those with bacon, toast and fruit. I made another pan of brownies yesterday so no baking today. On the menu for this week is pizza; grilled teriyaki pork kabobs with pineapple and green peppers; Italian sausage sandwiches with sautéed peppers and onions; mabo dofu with rice; chicken and vegetable curry; and of course leftovers.

    Good company and conversation, lovely breezes, and views like this are why Brett and I look forward to our daily walks.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: It’s always a big chore, but we got the freezer defrosted this past week. We’re trying to downsize enough that we can start keeping all our frozen items in the house, but we’re not quite there yet. Our landlord wants to buy the freezer from us so as soon as we can stop using it he will take it. We walked four days last week, I drank lots and lots of water, and studied French only four days. I’m working on phrases associated with eating and food right now, but nothing is sticking in my head. I need to be in a classroom (or in France)!
  • Looking forward to this week: We’re doing our Big Shop tomorrow – it’s the only day we could fit it in this week because of other appointments. We’ll drop in at Walmart, Foodland and Big Save on Tuesday. I’m hoping for good weather every day so we can walk every day and maybe get to the beach.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I went to the beach! The stars finally aligned on Friday and we were able to spend around an hour there, and it was wonderful! Other than not being able to get the macadamia nuts last Wednesday, our Valentine’s Day outing was lovely – everything went right, from finding a parking spot to getting the table with the best view. My daughter-in-law sent us a big bunch of photos and videos again, and we had a lovely, long chat with WenYu on Monday for her birthday. We’re down to just one teenager now.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We got our Costco rebate check: $213.55. It went right into our travel savings account. 2) I bought a $25 Amazon gift card for just 2200 Swagbucks (regular price is 2500 SB). We’re going to use our Amazon credit to buy books for our Kindles before we go. 3) We saved both money and calories on Valentine’s Day by sharing a sandwich and skipping cocktails, and then each having a small ice cream later at Lappert’s versus ordering dessert at the restaurant. 4) Our waiter gave us a 10% kamaaina discount when he learned we were local. 5) We put $9.00 into the change/$1 bill jar, leftover from the farmers’ market.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling thankful right now that Hawai’i enforces some the strictest gun control laws in the United States: “In Hawaii, no person shall acquire the ownership of a firearm, either by purchase, gift, inheritance, bequest, or in any other manner, whether procured in Hawaii or imported, until he has first procured from the chief of police of the county of his place of business, residence, or sojourn a permit to acquire.” It takes a minimum of 14-20 days to get a permit, the permit is only good in the county where it was issued, and there is no open carry. Concealed carry permits from other states are not recognized in Hawai’i. The laws in place here make a difference but no place is truly safe these days. There are all sorts of guns on Kaua’i, primarily owned and used for hunting, but there are also a couple of dealers on the island selling automatic rifles and accessories. For the most part though they are NOT welcome, and are shunned by locals.

    Mmmmm – green tea roll cake with adzuki bean filling, one of my favorite Japanese desserts.
  • Bonus question: What do you like to have for dessert? I don’t dislike sweets, but I’m not all that crazy about them either, at least not these days. If I’m going to order dessert, I prefer something like a fruit crisp or small slice of fruit pie. I also like cheesecake, but again, not a huge slice, and I enjoy anything made with green tea because those desserts are usually not as sweet as something made with chocolate and such. Mostly these days though I’m content with a cup of coffee after lunch or dinner because most restaurant desserts are huge, and too big and too sweet for me. At home I usually have a cup of coffee after dinner along with a few dark chocolate chips, and that’s enough. Brett, by the way, loves all sweets and is always game for whatever is decadent on the menu.

Hope no one got whiplash from reading this post, going from a rant to Valentine’s Day or from gun laws to desserts. It’s been that kind of week though. How was your week? What did you accomplish? What frugal wins did you have? What good things happened for you?

In a Downsizing State of Mind

Downsizing has already provided some surprises, like six travel-size containers of hand & body lotion from previous travels (I found one more after I took the picture).

We didn’t bring much with us when we moved to Kaua’i in 2014. Our things barely filled half of a 20-foot shipping container, and that’s with everything wrapped and packed within an inch of its life. In the almost four years we’ve been here we’ve only bought the following items: a washer and dryer, a microwave oven, a small two-shelf bookcase, a nightstand for the girls’ room, a chair for the living room, and a stainless steel worktable for the kitchen. Other than new clothes and replacement electronics, that’s it.

But there is still So. Much. Stuff. Or at least it seems that way.

We’ve got around six months to get rid of all of but a very few things, which will be going into storage in July. We plan to hold a moving sale in early July to get rid of as much of what remains as possible. We started our downsizing last month by cleaning off one set of stainless shelves in the garage and getting them ready to hold items that will be sold at the moving sale. This month I’m cleaning out the hallway closets (which we use for pantry storage), and next month I want to declutter the tansu in the living room, clean out my bedside table, and get started in the kitchen.

Friends Cheryl and Alan bought several pieces of furniture from us when they visited last December. They will be moving here in early summer and our things will get them started on furnishing their Kaua’i home. Our landlord also wants to help up sell some things, and he has loads of contacts around the island. Combined with a big moving sale in early July, we’ve got our fingers crossed that almost all items will be taken care of and gone, and our travel savings total a little larger.

However, before July arrives, there’s an awful lot of stuff around here that we don’t intend to sell but that’s still usable and needs to go. We’ve given ourselves a goal of taking at least one bag to a local thrift store every month. So far we’re on target this month to take at least four bags. The other day I went through and cleaned out the girls’ closet, a veritable gold mine of junk, and filled three of those bags with clothing that’s no longer worn, purses, tote bags, etc. Every day though I try to put at least one thing into the thrift store bags. We’re using up odds and ends of travel-size items we’ve accumulated over the past four years. It took us over two years to downsize for the move over here, but that provided an invaluable experience and a solid roadmap for getting it done now. The most important lesson we learned was we had to work at it every day, even if it was only one thing that got tossed or put on the “for sale” pile.

We’re also trying to downsize food supplies as we go. Although buying in bulk is the way to save here, we’re trying not to buy as much at Costco as we have been in the past. We’re trying to use up supplies on hand, and buy more items individually as they’re needed. We don’t know yet how much it will affect the budget or even if it will.

Both Brett and I are in a downsizing state of mind, and determined not to be stuck with an overwhelming amount of stuff, and lots left to do, when the end of June arrives. For now we’re keeping at it day by day, item by item. Brett is the more ruthless of the two of us, which is a bit surprising because he held the title King of the Packrats for more years than I can remember. I’ll remark that maybe we should keep something and he’ll reply, “let it go.”

And so it goes, or hopefully at least most of it.


An Invitation . . .

The inner courtyard of the Meiji Shrine

Just around a year from now Brett and I will be beginning our three-month stay in Tokyo (mid-February to mid-May 2019). We’ll be spending lots of time with family and learning about a new part of Tokyo as well as visiting familiar sights. We’re also going to be in Japan for cherry blossom season, which we’ve just missed by a few days on our last two spring trips.

Brett and I have had an idea for a while now that if any of our readers has ever thought about visiting Japan, we would enjoy helping you arrange some of your trip and also showing you around Tokyo while you’re there!

We would be willing to:

  • Make suggestions for lodging options
  • Suggest transportation options from either Narita or Haneda Airports into Tokyo
  • Serve as tour guides around Tokyo, including showing how to shop and eat for less.
  • Assist with planning transportation around Tokyo (trains or taxis)
  • Set up day trips in the greater Tokyo area. For example, we could arrange or even go along on a walking tour of Kamakura or up to Nikko for the day.
  • Make suggestions for transportation to and lodging, etc. in other areas of Japan, such as Kyoto or up to Hokkaido, for example.

    The Kamakura Diabutsu

This is a very soft outline, and of course can be adjusted and/or adapted as needed. We’ve had the great pleasure of meeting and getting to know several readers while we’ve been here on Kaua’i, and would love to continue that tradition and share our love of Japan with others.

Shibuya’s famous zebra crossing

We know a trip to Japan is a big undertaking so we don’t need to hear anything now, but wanted to get this out as food for thought. If now or in the coming months you think you might want to come to Japan while we’re there,and connect with us, just drop a note in the comments and I’ll email you back and we can go from there. We won’t be available the entire three months we’re in Tokyo, but we are willing to set aside some time, and would be happy to arrange a meet up or more.

The Toshogu Shrine in Nikko

Sunday Afternoon 2/11/2018

Here’s one way to use some of the driftwood blown up on the beach by a storm: build a lean-to!

We’ve had another week of crazy weather here on Kaua’i. There was lots and lots of rain, thunder and lightning and wind earlier in the week, but although the sunshine is back it’s still cooler than usual. Nights have been downright chilly (well, for here). But, the humidity is low and it’s been great for walking – the skies miraculously cleared every afternoon so Brett and I have been able to get out every day except for last Sunday afternoon.

Every time I think YaYu is done with this whole college thing, she announces she’s applying for yet another scholarship, and we’ve had to run to Walmart for envelopes and mailing supplies, or to the post office for stamps. This week she brought home a form asking us to shop at Foodland because apparently they donate money to each high school based on the number of families that shop there and mention their school, and that money is divided up among students for scholarships. Foodland is not our favorite local grocery, but we’ll shop there this month to contribute. YaYu will hear back later this month from one of the colleges she applied to – she requested “early evaluation” and will receive a notice of likely, possible, or unlikely. A likely pretty much means she’s in, a possible gives her around a 20% chance of acceptance, and an unlikely means “no chance.” The school is not her top choice, but it will be nice to know one way or another what her chances are there and give her an indication of how she will fare elsewhere.

Ready to be sorted and organized

This past week I went through all my cookbooks and recipe files and cleaned out all the things I don’t use or want any more. Back in the day I collected cookbooks, read several food and cooking magazines, and was a big-time recipe saver. I kept my clipped recipes neatly organized in a set of notebooks but the reality was I rarely fixed any of those recipes – I had cut them out because I thought I might try them some day (and then never did). These days though I mainly go online to find new recipes or look up old ones, and was only using the notebooks now and again for a few family favorites. So, I went through everything, took out the few recipes I wanted to keep, tossed the rest, and organized the keepers in one big binder. I also went through my cookbooks and ended up keeping only four: Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything, Better Homes & Gardens Big Book of Slow Cooker Recipes, Japanese Country Cookbook (no longer in print), and Sunset Magazine’s Favorite Recipes, which I’ve been using since I was a teenager. All four have loads of favorite recipes plus plenty I’d still like to try. The rest of the cookbooks will go out at our moving sale or to a local thrift store.  I plan to cut w-a-y back on my cooking duties once it’s just Brett and me, so getting rid of recipes and cookbooks I’m never going to use makes sense and means less we have to put into storage.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished up Grant’s Memoirs, and am now greatly looking forward to reading Ron Chernow’s biography of Grant, which has gotten great reviews. In the meantime, I raced through Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture by Matt Goulding this past week. I’m not a big fan of foodies’ tales of the very important or very cool people they got to meet or the very special restaurant they got to eat at or the very special dish they got to try, but Goulding throws in enough cultural stuff to keep the book down to earth for regular eaters like me. He even has a section on convenience store food! It was an enjoyable and quick read, and I highly recommend it for anyone traveling to Japan. The day before I finished it Ron Chernow’s Hamilton finally became available to download from the library so I’m into that now, and hope I can finish it in three weeks!
  • Listening to: Other than a few roosters doing their thing out in the distance, and a few birds signing, it’s pretty quiet outside. We’ve been seeing and hearing lots of baby chicks these days too, but they’re not around right now. Inside it’s quiet too – we haven’t started the laundry yet, and each of us is doing something quiet (i.e. reading and writing).
  • Watching: We finished up Season 2 of True Detective – it started off slow but ended strong (we still like Season 1 better though – Season 2 was complicated). Even though we cancelled our basic cable, it’s still available to us through Tuesday, so we’ve been able to watch some of the Winter Olympics and then will switch to using YaYu’s Roku stick. We watched Keeping  Up With the Joneses yesterday evening with YaYu – fun movie!
  • Cooking/baking: Brett’s making Scotch eggs for dinner tonight, and I’m going to steam a couple of artichokes to go with the eggs, and make toast for Brett and YaYu. I baked another olive oil orange cake on Thursday and there’s still some of that, so no baking today. On the menu this week is grilled teriyaki chicken and zaru soba; grilled pork chops with pilaf and artichokes; spaghetti with marinara and meatballs; grilled beef Polish sausages with roasted cabbage; and beef and broccoli stir fry with rice.

    The only cookbooks I’m keeping (along with two user’s manuals that will later go with appliances when they’re sold)
  • Happy I accomplished last week: Besides getting all of the cookbooks downsized and organized, I also cleaned out a couple of the junk drawers in our living room tansu. I figure if I just keep plugging away at downsizing by the time things need to be packed for storage, or organized for our moving sale, we’ll be in good shape. Lots of little things got done this past week besides mailing off YaYu’s local scholarship applications. Brett and I walked every afternoon, and tried a new stretch of the beach path yesterday – it was a bit more effort, but lovely. I’ve drunk lots and lots of water, and except for a couple of days I’ve stuck with my French study. I feel like I know lots of words these days, but still can’t say anything.
    The  beach path between Kapaa and Kealia is a little more hill-y than down by Baby Beach, but comes with lots of wide, beautiful views.

    The view south to Lihue
  • Looking forward to next week: Brett and I are heading down to the south shore on Valentine’s Day to have lunch at Brenneke’s Beach Broiler – hopefully the weather will be nice and we can snag a table to enjoy an ocean view while we sip mai tais. After lunch we’re going to the weekly culinary market at the Kukuiula Marketplace instead of our usual farmers’ market. WenYu’s boyfriend’s dad wants some organic macadamia nuts, and after much searching the only place to get them on the island is from a vendor at the market. Even the natural food stores didn’t have them. We’re just hoping the vendor is there on Wednesday. We’ll still be able to pick up our usual produce there – lots of farmers set up at the market.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I rarely do anything spontaneous when it comes to spending, but we had a lovely breakfast at the Art Cafe Hemingway on Wednesday, and can’t believe it’s taken us this long to eat there. We’re both looking forward to going back, and when we told YaYu about the crepe menu she wants to go now as well (we’re thinking for Easter brunch). It’s been a bit of a struggle this week weather-wise, but the sun is mostly back out, the island is drying out and the humidity is staying low.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We finally cancelled our basic cable TV, a savings of $11 per month. We’ve only watched TV via streaming services the past several months and decided we didn’t need the cable. 2) We cooked all meals at home except for our spontaneous breakfast out. 3) We all ate leftovers for our lunches everyday this week, including YaYu. She said her friends envy her leftovers! 4) I ran out of my favorite Mrs. Meyers bathroom cleaner, but instead of buying more made my own cleaner with vinegar and baking soda. 5) We put $21.50 into the change/$1 bill jar: $4.48 back from the cable bill, $3.98 from Walmart (mailing supplies); $10 change from the farmers’ market, and $3.04 from recycling.
  • Grateful for: Even though the weather has been kind of wacky lately, I am thankful for the cooler temps and low humidity. Both make exercising, housework and sleeping way more comfortable and enjoyable than when it’s humid. The humidity will return in a couple of months, but for the time being I’m enjoying the “winter chill.”
  • Bonus question: Have you ever spent the night in a hospital? Too many times, in my opinion! I’ve had six overnight hospital stays beginning with having my tonsils out when I was three and ending with surgery to repair a fractured kneecap when I was 46. Other than the tonsilectomy (one night), I was in the hospital for around a week each time, including when our son was born, but when I had my knee surgery I was discharged in two days. I guess that’s a good thing though the more we’ve found out about the nasty infections you can pick up in a hospital. What I remember most about my hospital stays was how noisy it was, and how I was constantly being awakened for something (vital signs, take a walk, roll me over, etc.) when all I wanted to do was sleep. The only wake-ups I didn’t mind were the ones to nurse our little boy.

That’s it for this week? How did your week go? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you? What are you reading?

#Kaua’i: Art Cafe Hemingway

Fresh herbs grow in the boxes that surround the lanai out front of the cafe, and more grow in the back.

After several days of heavy rain and cloudy skies, the sun came out on Tuesday morning, so Brett and I decided to get out of the house for awhile and have breakfast at the Art Cafe Hemingway in historic Kapaa Old Town, just five minutes down the road from us. We drive past the Art Cafe all the time, and have often eaten at their next door neighbor, Kountry Kitchen, but had somehow never tried the Art Cafe for breakfast. On the plus side, after nearly four years here it’s still fun having a “new” place to try.

The interior of the cafe blends Europe and Hawaii.

The restaurant is located at the north edge of Old Town, across the street from the Kapaa library, in an original old Kapaa building from 1927. We asked while we were there, and I later searched online, but were unable to discover the original function or name for the building.

We kept our espresso order simple and each had an Americano.

The cafe serves both breakfast and dinner, with a focus on healthy, organic, local food, much of it grown on site or on the owners’ own farm. Dishes are French-style but with a Hawaiian touch, and many of the menu items are named after Hemingway’s books. The breakfast menu offers a large selection of made-to-order crepes, as well as several croissant variations, and full breakfast entrees come with fresh-baked baguette and other homemade breads. There’s an impressive menu of espresso, tea drinks and other breakfast drinks.

Yummy quiche

Brett and I kept it simple: he ordered a slice of spinach and local venison quiche, and I had Greek yogurt and fruit, and we each enjoyed an Americano. The service was friendly, and the food affordable and delicious.

We had hoped to eat outside on the lanai in front, but it was still a bit too wet from a recent rain.

According to Hawaii Magazine, Art Cafe Hemingway offers “the cutest breakfast in the cutest part of Kapaa,” and a quiet, relaxed atmosphere that “isn’t tropical per se, but definitely beach-y.” We completely agree, and can’t wait to go back again for breakfast and to try out their dinner menu as well some day.

Travel Clothing Part 2: Brett

I’ll just say this: Brett is taking a LOT fewer pieces of clothing than I am.

He’s bringing six cotton shirts – three aloha shirts for warmer weather, and three long-sleeve buttondowns for when it’s cooler, or to go under a sweater. Two of the three aloha shirts are Reyn Spooner – we bought them at Goodwill back in Portland, with tags still attached, for $6.95 each (similar Reyn Spooner shirts retail for $98). The oxford-cloth shirts are all from L.L. Bean – they are easy care, don’t need ironing, and wear like iron.

Knit shirts include the four short-sleeve t-shirts in the top row (dark gray, black, white and navy), two long-sleeved polo shirts (navy and light gray), and two long-sleeved souvenir t-shirts (navy Crater Lake and light gray Kilauea lighthouse).

He’s bringing along seven pairs of pants: three pairs of jeans (two blue, one gray – he was wearing one pair when I took the picture), a pair of khaki chinos, one pair of lightweight travel pants (lower legs can be zipped off), and two pairs of cargo shorts.

For staying warm, he’s packing two cotton-cashmere v-neck sweaters and his orange all-weather jacket that we found a couple of years ago at Costco. He also will be bringing along his trusty navy watch cap that he’s had since boot camp back in 1970.

For now he’s got two pair of shoes: canvas Skechers slip-ons which are great for strolling around, and his navy sneakers for more strenuous walking. He’s planning to get a pair of leather shoes, but hasn’t decided yet what he wants, and he’s also going to get a pair of Keen sandals.

As with my stuff, pretty much all of his clothes were bought on sale, or using gift cards or coupons.

Besides his socks, underwear, and sleepwear, that’s it. What can I say, the man likes to live lean.

I will probably be tired of his clothes before he is.