Sunsets these past two weeks ran the gamut from stunning to meh to non-existent. Many evenings started out promising but then quickly turned to gray, but then there was that one . . . a big surprise, and stunning.
Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!
I’ve had a very restful and productive time off from blogging, and I thank everyone for indulging me as I really needed some time away to think about a lot of things and what I want to do going forward. When the new. year started I realized pretty quickly that I had overloaded myself with activities and goals. I decided almost immediately that I wanted to continue blogging, and have set aside the book writing idea for the time being because I realized I could either blog or write a book, but not both as they are very different enterprises and require different mindsets. Book writing is a very solitary endeavor, but I prefer the give and take of blogging, receiving comments and interacting with readers. I have gotten to know many of you who comment, even if only in a virtual way, and I don’t want to give that up. Also, I can write as much or as little as I want for the blog, on almost any topic, while book writing is more focused by nature, and I am just not ready to narrow my thoughts at this time. I prefer the more open aspect of blogging. Finally, book writing requires quiet, and I quickly discovered our apartment environment is not quiet! I would have never thought of where we live as noisy, but I found that whenever I tried to sit and gather my thoughts for a book there was always something going on to distract me, simple things like YaYu cooking or Brett coughing or even the wind blowing outside. I’m going to change a few things up a bit for the blog, and will evaluate over the next few months how that goes. All the other activities I’ve set up I’ve been able to easily fit into my day.
We celebrated YaYu’s 21st birthday this past Sunday – all our children are now officially adults! I made one of her favorite meals, Mississippi pot roast, and also a Baked Alaska for her birthday cake. Getting that done was a bit difficult because I didn’t have the right pans and had to improvise, and it was also humid enough that day that the meringue didn’t want to set or hold its peaks for very long. Part of it slid off in the oven when the meringue was browning and I got it out just in time. It was still delicious, and YaYu had a nice day which included l-o-n-g Zoom gatherings with her friends and sisters. She finally has her return date to head back to Pennsylvania – February 9 – so she will depart Kaua’i on the 8th, and head over to Honolulu where she’ll catch a redeye flight to Seattle to meet up with a good friend there, and the two of them will continue on to Philadelphia. She has accumulated enough stuff while she’s been here that she’ll have to mail a package or two back to herself before she leaves. This week we are going to pick up some of her favorite snacks for her to take back, things like macaroni and cheese and cup noodles and hopefully some of those will be able to fit into her carry-on with the rest being mailed.
This past week has been pretty wild weather wise. We woke up Monday to LOUD gale-force winds and cold (for here) temperatures. Sixty-eight degrees might not seem very cold back on the mainland, but it’s break-out-the-parkas weather here and it lasted all day – brrrrrrrr. Since Tuesday there’s been rain off and on (including flash flood warnings most of Tuesday), and lots of wind, although nothing as crazy as Monday. Sometimes though it’s sounded like freight trains have been moving through our yard. Evenings have stayed cool, and we’ve often had to put on sweaters or sweatshirts to stay comfortable, and I had to break out my Italian wool slippers to stay warm a couple of times. I enjoy the cooler temperatures to a degree – they make walking so nice. Rain is predicted again this coming week, but we have no idea how that will play out. It’s sometimes hard to see the seasons change in Hawaii, but we definitely know right now that it’s winter.
This morning I am:
- Reading: I finished Everything I Never Told You (by Celeste Ng) this past week and was excited to finally be able to focus all my energies on finishing The Woman In White. However, it was not to be because two books came off of hold from the library at the same time this week. My new daytime book is John LeCarré’s The Perfect Spy, and my nighttime book is A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee. I’m going to try to read all of LeCarré’s Smiley novels this year. Also, The Woman In White was probably not the best book to have picked to start off the year as it’s taking much longer than I imagined to get through (all this time and I’m only at 60%!). I will pick it up again though when I finish at least one of the library books – I am determined to finish.
- Listening to: It’s not as quiet as it usually is here in the the morning: the wind is still blowing strongly through the yard, although thankfully not as loudly has it has been. Some chickens are having a session nearby as well, and a couple are screaming over something. Inside, Brett is reading, and YaYu is still under her blankets and listening to a podcast so it’s pretty quiet. The sky is sort of gray and cloudy though – I’m glad we have today off from walking and won’t have to worry about the weather (rain is forecast for most of the day).
- Watching: Brett and I are still watching Dark, although we’re almost done. It’s mostly Brett watching now because the show has gotten a little too science-fiction/dystopian for me. We also watched the latest season of Last Dance in Halifax this past week, a show we love but thought had ended. We’re currently watching Ratched, a “prequel” to the character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – and we give it two thumbs up. It’s very strange, but compelling as well. I especially love the styling and the strong way color is used throughout the show. YaYu watched a show called Alice in Borderland on Netflix this past week and I sort of watched it out of the corner of my eye with her. It’s set in Tokyo, and while I didn’t really follow the story I did like listening to see what I could understand (not much), and also enjoyed the Tokyo scenes (even though they were rather dystopian). There’s an amazing scene where three characters walk out of Shibuya station, one of the most crowded places in the world, and it’s deserted. How they got permission and emptied that area for those scenes is nothing short of amazing. YaYu and I also finished watching Top Chef: Kentucky, and our favorite chef won!
- Cooking/baking: I’m going to make this section its own post every week, called Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise – the first post up will be tomorrow. It will cover not only what’s we’ve been cooking and eating and some thoughts about that, but also how we’re meeting our exercise goals. Brett turns 71 this year and I turn 69, and I want to focus on how we’re staying healthy without denying ourselves so we can do and enjoy all the things we’re only able to dream about now.
- Happy we accomplished these past two weeks: We got lots done these past two weeks including getting to the beach for the first time in a while. We were surprised when we arrived because there was almost no beach that wasn’t being overrun with waves – we had to search to find a bit of sand to park our chairs in, and even that part was nearly under siege a couple times from big waves rolling in. It was very windy as well, but the sun was out and we ended up staying for a few hours. We also picked up a full bag of driftwood for our backyard fire pit whenever the weather decided to cooperate. Brett got his passport renewed for another 10 years (mine goes in next month). I got flights arranged for both Brett and YaYu – Brett is going to Honolulu for a day to see a medical specialist – he’ll leave early in the morning and return in the early evening – and YaYu will be returning to college on February 8. Walking achievements/accomplishments will be covered under Staying Healthy going forward.
- Looking forward to next week: We don’t really have anything on our calendar next week other than a quick runs to Costco and the farmers’ market, and a haircut for Brett down in Hanapepe, so I’m looking forward to a relaxing week. Hopefully we’ll be able to get our walks in, but rain/showers are predicted for the entire week so that’s sort of up in the air.
- Thinking of good things that happened: Everything that happened these last two weeks was a good thing! I feel relaxed, happy, and ready to blog again. My mood these days matches this song, one of my all-time favorites. John Legend more than did it justice at the inauguration!
- Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) I used the credit I got for YaYu’s unused Hawaiian flight back in November to get her over to Honolulu for her flight back to the mainland. 2) We put $7.33 into the change/$1 bill jar these past two weeks. 3) Not very frugal, but we tried: although we stuck to our list, our food shopping this past week was $80 over budget – we had run out of so many things all at the same time – razor blades, laundry detergent, vanilla extract, toothpaste, and so many, many other things – and replacing/stocking up was not inexpensive although we are now well set for the next 6 – 12 months. Our food spending has been high overall while YaYu has been with us, but will drop again after she leaves next month. 4) Another case of toilet paper from Amazon arrived last week. It approximately $7 more than it did the last time we bought a case, but the price per roll was still under 60¢ which is way better than we can do anywhere on the island, including Costco. 5) There were lots of leftovers this week but they were all eaten and we didn’t throw away any food. 6) We had two no-drive days over the past two weeks, and 11 no-spend days. 7) I earned 1,541 Swagbucks this past week, 1,523 the week before. Earning SB has been very difficult this month, and frustrating, and instead of pushing myself to earn 275 every day I’ve decided to instead focus on making my daily goal, and the second one if possible, and otherwise not stressing over how much I earn each day. I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on SB, or have it taking over my day as there are other more fulfilling and rewarding things I’d rather be doing. I still think I can earn two $500 gift cards this year though, or at least get very, very close, and that’s okay.
- Grateful for: During our walks this past week I’ve thought a lot about the on-call surgeon who repaired my knee back in 1999 and how grateful I am for what he accomplished. WenYu had just joined our family just a couple of months earlier, and one morning in May my toe caught on the top of the baby gate at the bottom of our stairs, and I went down and shattered my left kneecap into five pieces. Before the surgery the doctor talked with me and Brett and told me there was a good chance he could not repair it, and what that meant for my future. But, he did repair it, beautifully. Post-surgery warnings from him were that I could/would develop arthritis in that knee and/or I would eventually need a knee replacement. In the past 22 years neither of those has happened, and thanks to the skill of Dr. T I am able to comfortably walk long distances without any side effects, and no knee replacement has ever been needed.
- Bonus question: Is there a band/singer you love that had a big hit with a song you didn’t like? A fun question, but at first it stumped me. After some thought I remembered that while I love Elton John, I’ve never liked the song Daniel, and I disliked Crocodile Rock even more – ugh. Both of those songs were big hits though. Angie by The Rolling Stones is another song I absolutely cannot stand (Brett neither), although I like everything else by the Stones. Finally, the Beach Boys’ hit Kokomo drives me crazy every time I hear it, but I otherwise like The Beach Boys. I was working at the Casa Marina resort in Key West when that song was a hit, and the hotel got the brainy idea to change the name of their outdoor bar to Kokomo. Thankfully that didn’t last long. I could not come up with one Beatles song I dislike (OK, I am not a huge fan of Octopus’s Garden but I don’t hate it), and same for every other band or group I could think of.
I was so happy that President Biden’s inauguration went well. I was actually up when he and VP Harris were sworn in, and watched it live on Twitter; I actually choked up watching Kamala Harris as I honestly did not think I’d ever see a woman reach that far in my lifetime. As one of his first acts, the President froze federal student loans until the end of September, and took the interest rate to 0%, which was very good news. My student loans, however, were once again not covered by the freeze. Although my loans are federally guaranteed, they (and those of around 8-12 million others) are owned by a private company and those companies do not have to honor the current freeze. The owner of my loan, Navient, has been collecting payments and interest all during this last freeze (and interest continues to accrue – after 20 years nearly half of my payment still goes to interest) and unless FFLE loans are ever specifically included in any DOE directive, Navient will continue to do to extract payment and interest. It’s maddening because all loans back when I got mine were owned by banks and private companies – the US government only guaranteed them. I refinanced mine in 2005 for a lower interest rate, but the refinancing program no longer exists either; all federal loans since 2010 are now direct loans from the government and those are the ones benefiting from the freeze. I am very happy that so many will receive relief now, and remain hopeful that there will be some relief for borrowers like me. Legislation has been proposed that these loans, as they are federally guaranteed, should also be included in the freeze, so we shall see.
Things have been growing and blooming in the yard in spite of the weather. We can’t get over how big our avocado tree is.
And . . . that’s a wrap for these past two weeks! Thank you again for letting me have some time off. It was needed, and was well used. Here’s looking forward to the week coming up, and that it’s filled with good food, many accomplishments, and good things happening for all of us.