67 Weeks

(photo credit: Estee Janssens/Unsplash)

Sixty-seven weeks from this Friday, on December 23, 2022, we plan to board a plane and be on our way to Tokyo. By leaving on the 23rd, we will arrive in Tokyo on December 24, and will be up the following day to spend Christmas with our son and his family. One week later, we’ll celebrate the New Year with them, the biggest holiday of the year in Japan.

Sixty seven weeks might seem like a very long time to some, but I feel like the time is going to move along fairly quickly. Using my own accounting, that’s just two and a half sets of activity cards until the end of this year, eleven sets until we depart. For some reason those activity cards seem to make time fly.

We have just 67 weeks to save as much as we possibly can. Our goal is $30,000.

We have 67 weeks to sell or get rid of all our stuff, get a bag and boxes packed and shipped to Massachusetts with the very few things we plan to keep (and around 65 weeks to decide what we want to keep – the list keeps getting smaller every week). We have less than 67 weeks to make lists and purchase the things we need/want to take along this time.

We have only 28 weeks until it’s time to decide on and reserve an Airbnb rental in Japan, 41 weeks until it’s time to reserve a place in England, and 65 weeks until it’s France’s turn. We’ve already decided that we want to spend a bit more on lodging this time as we’ll be spending less on transportation because we won’t be moving around so frequently).

We have 67 weeks to figure out what clothes and technology we want to take with us this time and provision ourselves as necessary. Much of what we carried last time will go along this time as well, but there are other things we need, and things we lugged around before that can be jettisoned. As for technology, Brett needs a new tablet before we depart, and I need a new phone.

We have only 67 weeks left to get ourselves into the best shape possible, and enjoy our island life on Kaua’i.

Sixty-seven weeks might seem like an eternity to some, but we know that December 23, 2022 is going to be upon us faster than we can imagine.

Staying Healthy: Eating and Exercise (9/5 – 9/11)

This coming week is a Big Shop week, but we’re fairly well stocked up for the time being, so it will be interesting to see what and how much we buy. Our shopping is so different now that we’re not buying meat. We’re still constrained by our small refrigerator/freezer (and can’t stuff the fridge, for example, because then things starts to freeze), but these days we’re on a constant look out for basic vegetarian ingredients we can use to create tasty meals. Hopefully Costco will have their six-packs of organic tofu back in stock, but the truth is we never know what we’ll find there. When we stopped in last Wednesday though we saw lots and lots of fresh produce again, so that will give us some more choices.

We enjoyed our dessert fling with the Costco apple pie and might do that again some day, but we’re otherwise tired of baked oatmeal and looked for some other options last week. I don’t want to go back to baking cakes again as they take up so much room in the refrigerator, and since we’re avoiding dairy as much as possible these days (except for cheese) ice cream is not a dessert option either (and non-dairy ice cream is unfortunately too expensive here). We checked out some different dessert things at Costco last week as they are the most cost effective but they didn’t have anything that worked for us – everything was either too high calorie or too much dairy (or both, like their cheesecakes), and the only pie they had available was pumpkin and it’s too early for that – maybe next month. We got luckier at Times Market and came home with a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake (one of the best cakes ever) and a Japanese matcha Swiss roll cake, another favorite. Costco used to make and sell haupia (coconut cream) cakes – so good – but we haven’t seem them since we arrived last year. Cookies would be a nice option except we know we’d eat too many too quickly. We love having a little bit of something sweet in the evening, but it’s getting a bit more challenging these days.

We ate well last week – the enchiladas and stuffed peppers were delicious as was the kabocha risotto. I love that by measuring and being careful about the amount we eat we can quite literally have our cake and eat it too!

Sunday: California roll salad

Monday: Kabocha pumpkin risotto; roasted zucchini

Tuesday: Stacked chicken & zucchini enchiladas

Wednesday: Mexican quinoa stuffed peppers; pickled cucumbers

Thursday: Mini pizzas with meat sauce

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Vegan orange chick’n & fried rice

We finished up the lemon-blueberry baked oatmeal on Monday and Tuesday, enjoyed a s’more on Tuesday, and Wednesday through Saturday ate a slice of Pepperidge Farm coconut cake for our dessert. It was every bit as delicious as we hoped.

Pepperidge Farm coconut cake is as delicious as ever.

The only things I see us needing to buy for this coming week are peppers, and feta cheese for the salad (and cheese boards). The pork chop I’ll use for the stir fry is the last piece of meat in our freezer! There was also a small bag of meat sauce but we used it up on the pizzas last week. Going forward, other than eating fish occasionally, it will be vegetarian/vegan all the time. We made it.

  • Coconut & squash dal with brown rice
  • Chick’n patty sandwiches
  • Pork & pepper stir fry
  • Cheese board
  • Mini pizzas
  • Chick’n nuggets with zucchini fries
  • Quinoa salad with feta cheese

Walking was sort of hit or miss for me this week. We did our regular perimeter walks on Monday and Tuesday, but I fell on Tuesday at the end of our walk when we went down a bit into the gully to look for balls. Actually, I slipped on a hillside, the branch I was hanging onto snapped, and I lost my footing which sent me tumbling. A couple of bushes thankfully stopped my fall, because there was another slope down just a few inches below the bushes. I was able to get back up the hill without any problems (and found four more golf balls!), but boy was I sore and more scratched up than I knew when I woke up on Wednesday. I stayed home that day – just didn’t feel good and was still too sore to walk – but Brett headed out and got in a good walk and found lots of balls. Thursday we went to Barking Sands and walked the Waiokapua Trail before spending a few hours out on the beach. Friday was quite rainy but it had mostly cleared in the afternoon so we headed up to the park. It was misting up there but not too wet to walk and we got in a full perimeter walk before the rain really started coming down. Saturday was lovely and I dared myself to go backing into the gully, although with an increased respect for its dangers.

Out on the Waiokaupa Trail. It was hot, but there was a somewhat decent breeze that kept it bearable.

We found a total of 77 lost balls last week. I’m still feeling somewhat sore from my tumble, but have added a regimen of Aleve to my daily meds along with stretching, and that’s been helping (and am picking up a softball this week per Anele’s suggestion). Brett got fairly scratched up on Saturday as well, and we commented on our way back to the car that our kids would be horrified to see what we’re doing these days. They approve the walking, but climbing down into a gully going after golf balls, no so much we think.

Sunday Morning: 9/12/2021: Time for A change

Sunst of the week was Friday evening. The rest of the week was meh.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Back in high school, my senior English teacher predicted I would some day write the Great American Novel, and for years I carried a dream of writing about the life of an ordinary American woman leading a somewhat ordinary life and making her ordinariness interesting. Well, the book never happened but for the past nearly 12 years I’ve been writing what I jokingly call the Great American Blog, about the life of an ordinary American woman’s life and adventures, and I think at least some of it has been interesting.

However, I spent most of this past week debating with myself whether it was time or not to close the blog. I have been posting five times a week since last March, and I had reached a point where I didn’t feel as if I had anything more to say about anything. I was starting to complain (to myself) almost daily about having to write so much. I thought about whether I should or even wanted to change the direction of the blog. I of course have opinions about lots of things that are going on these days, but decided I have no desire to convince anyone of anything, let along alienate anyone (the few mild political comments I have made always seem to bother someone). I still have loads of stories, but some I haven’t told are really no one else’s business. What, I kept asking myself all week, would, could, or should I write about?

Working on the Sunday post

I thought very deeply and honestly about whether I wanted to continue writing, and the answer in the end was yes, although I came very, very close to saying no. I am not ready yet to let it go. I enjoy writing, love interacting with readers, but I figured out I don’t need to write so often or so much. I can do shorter posts. I don’t have to keep to a schedule. I realized that’s the main reason I enjoy writing a blog: I’m the boss, I control the whole darn thing, and I can post what I feel like when I feel like it. Somehow though I had let this blog begin to control me and that needed to change.

We will be traveling again some day. That’s a given, in spite of COVID’s efforts. And, when we do eventually hit the road there will be lots more things to write about again. For the time being though there will be less. The Sunday post will continue as it’s the most fun to write and draws the most readers. To my surprise, what we’re eating and how many golf balls we find on our walks (another fun post to write) is also very popular. But otherwise? I’ve decided to post when I have something to write about or share, whether that’s a recipe, travel tip or memory, or something about life in general. I don’t want to be on any sort of schedule because a schedule eventually turns the blog into work, into an obligation that in my case was becoming more and more difficult to fulfill.

Anyway, I hope you all will stick around and see what happens.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished both Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and A Rule Against Murder last week, and reached my reading goal of 52 books finished this year. For now, I’m going to keep going with my mystery theme and see how many books I can finish by the end of year. I’ve already decided on my theme for next year but that’s for later. It took me a very long while to find something that didn’t have a long waiting list (mysteries are very popular), but I eventually found a highly rated Japanese mystery/thriller, Six-Four, and am already into it. It is SO Japanese, and very different from anything else I’ve read this year.
  • Listening to: There’s a fairly stiff breeze this morning, and lots of clouds, but nothing threatening for now, surprising because it rained hard last night. It’s quiet inside and out – Brett is putting away last night’s dishes and making his breakfast, but other than a few birds cheeping outside there’s nothing happening there to cause any noise. In other words, another perfect morning!
  • Watching: We have been enjoying the Whitechapel series so far – its premise is an updated twist on historical British murders and crime, and so far it’s covered Jack the Ripper and the Kray Twins, but the latest seems based on an American crime (Devil in the White City). Tuesday evenings we watched a new episode Only Murders In This Building, and Wednesday we the latest episode of Vera, but we’ll finish up Whitechapel early the coming week so are already looking for something new. Has anyone watched Billions (on Amazon Prime) and can recommend? I love watching Damian Lewis (he does American accents so well that it’s strange to hear him speak with his natural British accent), and wondered if this might be a good series for us.
Getting started on our first ball sort and grading
  • Happy I accomplished last week: We’ve almost got our first golf ball order put together for eBay: 100 balls in 4A or 5A condition, and a box of 50 mixed condition yellow balls. Brett and I sat down last Friday and went through everything to pick the balls in the best condition, and we’re still trying to figure out how much our opening bid should be. I also photographed and listed a mid-size Japanese hibachi on our local Buy & Sell and Craigslist as it’s too heavy to ship, but it was discouraging for a few day and then it sold yesterday. Otherwise we had another week with no big or special accomplishments, just making sure all the regular stuff got done.
  • Looking forward to next week: A long-time blogging friend, Bob Lowry (Satisfying Retirement In a Changing World), and his wife, Betty, will be visiting Kaua’i this week! We’re meeting for breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe on Tuesday morning, and then plan to meet up again for happy hour and dessert before their departure a week later, and hopefully a beach day at Barking Sands together as well if the weather cooperates. I can’t begin to say how much I’m looking forward to meeting them – we’ve talked about getting together several times and it’s finally going to happen. Also, this week we’ll be doing our “big” Big Shop for the month. We already have a good amount of food on hand so I’m not sure how big it’s actually going to be though. We had nice weather this past week on a couple of days, and fingers crossed for more this week so we can go back to Barking Sands.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) We had an absolutely perfect beach day on Thursday at Barking Sands. I think we stayed out there for over three hours because it was so nice, and once again we had the entire beach to ourselves, which is what makes going there so great: all that space! 2) Our avocado tree has a new home! Our landlord asked us this past week if he could have it as he and his wife have been wanting to plant one in their yard, and after he stopped by last week to take care of a maintenance issue it left with him. 3) One of our fellow walkers at the park gave us a bag of three big avocados from her yard this past week besides enjoying the delicious fruit we’re starting another tree from one of those seeds 4) I had three Etsy sales, with one order coming all the way from France! I offer free shipping for U.S. orders but anything from overseas has to pay postage, and it was surprisingly less than I thought, thanks to Etsy. The packaging of the item required a bit more effort than usual though.
Our avocado tree has a new home . . .
. . . but a new one is getting started.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I stopped doing Swagbucks this past week except for a some easy tasks that only take a few minutes each day, and will provide enough SB for a $50 Amazon card sometime next year. I had earned enough SB for another $250 Delta card, and decided that was good enough for now because otherwise it was making me nuts. It’s wonderful being free of Swagbucks, and we still have $1750 total in Delta gift cards to put toward our flights to Pennsylvania next year. Our only spending this week was a trip to Costco on Wednesday to buy wine and sunscreen, and check for peanut butter, followed by a stop at Times Market to pick up two desserts (a matcha Swiss roll cake and a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake) and a jar of natural peanut butter – Costco has not had any natural/organic peanut butter for well over a month now. Brett saw the dentist on Friday afternoon for a new crown ($$$), but that expense was covered out of savings. We didn’t put anything into the change/$1 bill bag this past week because we used our debit cards at Costco and Times for a change. There was no food waste this week, and all the leftovers were eaten.
  • Adding up what we sold: Two hashioki, a Year of the Tiger clay bell, and a small jubako were sold on Etsy this past week (the jubako shipped to France!). The three sales were a nice surprise as I didn’t think I’d have any after having a week-long sale. I also sold one of our porcelain hibachis after several annoying requests from other interested parties. There were lots of views, good reviews, watchers, etc. on both eBay and Etsy, but no sales this week on eBay. The deposit to our travel account this week will be $190.87.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling grateful this week for all of my readers, for your support and conversation, your advice and ideas, for having my back, but most of all for coming back again and again to read what this very ordinary woman has to say.
  • Bonus question: Is there anything you won’t eat? I can’t eat most lettuces because of a food intolerance – they upset my stomach and cause other problems, so I avoid salads. I also greatly dislike olives in spite of repeated tries – the briny, salty flavor just doesn’t work for me (Brett loves them however). I hate fruit-flavored things, especially lime and cherry – I’d rather be sick than take a cherry-flavored medication – the only one I can tolerate is orange. I have no desire to ever try any bugs, grubs, or reptiles, things like rattlesnake or alligator – it makes my stomach turn just to think about eating any of them. The weirdest foods I have ever eaten were jellyfish and baby birds (not at the same time), and there is no way I’d eat either of those again. But otherwise, nothing is off limits.

The hibachi that was finally sold yesterday.

This past week we decided to contact an auction house next year when it’s time to sell our big hibachi table and a few other more valuable things. After this past week’s experience on Buy & Sell/Craigslist trying to sell the antique hibachi above, we realized neither of those is the right venue for some of the stuff we’re letting go. I got several messages: Is this still available?, I would responded yes, and then either hear nothing back or receive a request for a 25% discount (no), with offers of less than the cost of a similar-sized clay pot at Home Depot or Walmart. We had already priced it low because we knew it would be somewhat difficult to sell on the island. The woman who finally bought it yesterday also initially asked for a discount, but when she came over and looked at it she paid our full asking price without any hesitation. We’re happy it went to someone who will love it like we have over the years. Anyway, the auction house serves a whole different audience, and is seen statewide, so hopefully we’ll have better luck selling through them. We auctioned several Japanese woodblock prints before we left Portland and did very well, so we’re hoping for a similar experience here.

That’s a wrap for this week! It’s been a great one overall, with mostly nice weather, a wonderful day at the beach, books finished and a new one started, good food, staying connected with friends and family, and feeling pretty good for the most part. I’m looking forward to what the coming week brings, and hope everyone is as well.

Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 7)

Hawaii’s kupuna are loved and respected (photo credit: Hawaii Magazine)

I have gray hair and I look my age. Unfortunately, as it happens with all too many older people, I have sometimes been judged by the color of my hair and the wrinkles on my face and quickly dismissed, deemed to be an out-of-it old geezer who knows nothing about technology, or about the world or what’s going on. It’s not always true, of course, but it has happened to me enough to have been noticeable.

Although we work hard to stay healthy and active, and living in Hawai’i helps keep us this way, we know a time will come when we will need more care and assistance, especially for possible medical conditions. I’ve covered some of the issues involved with growing old in the islands, especially as it pertains to housing, and present below some more advantages and disadvantages, and how things operate here:

  • PRO: The strong influence of both native and Asian cultures translates into greater respect for the elderly in Hawai’i overall. The islands have a long history of caring for its elderly, or kupuna. Kupuna literally means ancestor but also infers someone who is both wise and beloved. Seniors outside of family are traditionally referred to as “aunty” and “uncle,” and the terms are used by children and younger people of all ages. Both Brett and I have yet to be treated with anything less than full respect here from everyone we have encountered, no matter their age, a somewhat different experience than we encountered on the mainland at times. The trend in Hawai’i is to keep seniors living on their own for as long as possible, and many services exist to help the elderly remain independent, including van service to doctor appointments, senior centers, Meals on Wheels or community meals, and low-cost or free housekeeping assistance. Traditionally families care for their kupuna but with demographics and the state’s economy changing, family care is changing as well and more and more elderly are turning to services provided by the state.
  • CON: While the number of assisted living and retirement centers has been growing in Hawai’i, the costs for them are growing as well. Even with more homes and senior residences available in every price range, with the growth in the elderly population there is a waiting list for vacancies. If round-the-clock health care is needed, nursing home costs in Hawai’i are approximately 44% higher than the national average. However, even having enough money to cover your costs does not mean there will be an open spot when needed. On some of the islands, private homes offer boarding where elderly can live and receive care. However, these are sometimes operated according to the ethnic background of the owner with different cultural norms, customs and even diet a part of the experience. Boarding in a private home can mean a loving, pleasant experience or it could be a nightmare of abuse and neglect. However, Hawai’i conducts unannounced inspections of licensed private boarding homes, and inspections have shown there to be thankfully few problems with these homes.

Brett and I moved to Hawai’i with the intention of remaining there until the end of our lives, but life has had other plans for us. With our son in Japan, and our daughters living back on the east coast, it makes more sense to eventually relocate somewhere other than Hawaii in spite of our love for the climate and lifestyle here.

All of the points made in the past few weeks about Hawaii retirement can of course be extrapolated to any other place. Some of the pros and cons are unique to Hawaii, but all still give ideas for consideration when deciding whether to stay in a location or move elsewhere in retirement.

Home Cooking: Ina Garten’s Summer Garden Pasta

It takes only two words to describe this pasta dish: easy and delicious.

This seriously had to be easiest dish I’ve fixed in ages, with the fewest amounts of ingredients. If we had a summer garden here that was producing cherry tomatoes and basil, this would be on the menu every week.

The actual dish takes less than 15 minutes to put together. The the only thing that needs to be done ahead of time is marinating the tomatoes for four hours, with the most most labor intensive part of the preparation cutting the tomatoes in half. I used only two pints of tomatoes and wished we had more. And, don’t leave out the red pepper flakes! They add a lovely zing to the dish without adding too much heat.

Marinating tomatoes

Seriously though, only three steps are required in this recipe to create a wonderful pasta meal:

  1. Cut & marinate tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and basil

2. Cook & add pasta

3. Add lots of cheese and serve

That’s it!

INA GARTEN’S SUMMER GARDEN PASTA

  • 4 pints cherry tomatoes (around 75 to 100 cherry tomatoes!)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic
  • 18 large basil leaves, julienned
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 – 1 tsp salt
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)

Cut the tomatoes in half and place in a large serving bowl. Add the olive oil, garlic (yes, really two tablespoons!), julienned basil leaves, red pepper flakes, pepper, and salt to your preference. Mix well, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit out at room temperature for four hours.

To assemble the dish, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain well and add to the tomatoes and combine. Add the parmesan cheese and blend.

Serve with extra Parmesan cheese and more julienned basil.

Without Complaint

My grandfather’s USC yearbook picture in 1909.

Do I get ever get bored these days? YES. Do I ever get frustrated and angry that we haven’t been anywhere off of Kaua’i in nearly 18 months? YES, YES, YES! Do I feel at times like I’m in a rut, doing the same tasks over and over and over with no end in sight? YES! Do I wish that things would happen faster than they are? YES (for some but no for others).

Lately I’ve been thinking about my grandfather, who walked on crutches almost his entire life. He was born in a sod house on the prairie in Nebraska in 1887, the middle of three boys, but moved with his family to California after a bout with polio in 1898 left his legs twisted and useless. Instead of becoming a lifelong invalid and hiding himself away he instead decided to challenge the status quo head-on and live the best life he possibly could. He worked as a teenager at the Green Hotel in Pasadena pulling apart wooden crates that the restaurant produce came in. He saved enough to put himself through USC and earned a degree in 1909, when the disabled were expected to stay at home and not be seen. He bought and taught himself to drive a conventional car, and then drove and camped across the whole country and back before the Roaring 20s arrived, repairing the car himself when needed. He married, created his own successful insurance business which supported his extended family during the Depression, and raised three children and put them through college. Although he couldn’t enlist during the two world wars, he served as his neighborhood’s blackout warden during WWII and fulfilled other necessary tasks as he could. He was an active and respected member of and leader in his church and several civic organizations right up until his death in 1959.

My grandfather didn’t ask for help and he didn’t complain – he just got up every day and did what needed to get done. He died when I was seven years old, and for the longest time I just missed the man who read to me, and gave me 3 Musketeer Bars and Black Jack gum (he loved them). As I grew older and learned more about him, I came to see and appreciate what an accomplishment his whole life had been, and he is now one of my strongest role models. Accept what you are given, do what needs to be done, and face what needs to be faced . . . without complaint.

So, I think I can manage to get through another 16 months of living comfortably in Hawaii without complaining. I’ve decided to make the effort to appreciate everything we have here, and how blessed we have been for being able to live on Kaua’i. I will practice patience as time continues to move on, and I know we will eventually reach our goal. Everything doesn’t need to be sold, the bank accounts don’t need to be full, and reservations don’t need to be made right now. I’m looking forward to the future, but want to go forward feeling more grateful and positive about having the time to get to that goal in the best possible shape. And, I want to appreciate where we are now as well as all that we have, which is everything we need.

Staying Healthy: Exercise & Eating (8/29 – 9/4)

Brett tallied up the total miles walked in August last Tuesday: 87 miles walked in August. That made our total miles walked for the year 758, and if we keep up our current pace we will walk over 1000 miles by the end of the year! From the first of September last year to this year we walked a little over 1,263 miles. I honestly never, ever saw us walking this much when we arrived here, but here we are and we are so much better for it. Our little side gig of golf ball hunting has added to the enjoyment, and I have yet to get tired of the views out from Kukuiolono. Driving up to the park to check it out last year was one of the best things that ever happened to us.

Scenes from around the golf course on Thursday including wind through the palms, dramatic clouds and long views, a rainbow seen from the massive green at Hole 3, and the remains of a wall built by early Hawaiians.

I’m glad now we decided against doing a long distance walking tour, and I almost shudder to think of the distances we would have to be walking now to get in shape for one of those. We know we could do it, but our nearly four daily miles is enough, and when I finish our four miles now I am ready to stop. I am no where near needing a hip replacement, but my hips definitely let me know these days they are there – they’re sore after a walk. Same for my right foot – I have pains there now that weren’t there when we started all this walking. Brett has more aches in his ankles as well. None of it is enough to cause us to slow down, or keep us from walking or doing other things, but they are signs we are getting older, and we know if we weren’t getting as much exercise as we do we would be feeling a whole lot worse and be in much poorer shape.

We enjoyed another full six days of walking last week with five days at the golf course and one shopping day. Monday’s weather was sketchy, but we headed up to the golf course anyway. It wasn’t raining when we started out, but a light mist began about a third of the way though our walk and we were stuck out on the course. We didn’t get very wet except for our shoes, which got soaked in the wet grass and became very uncomfortable. In spite of the weather we still found eight lost balls. Tuesday afternoon we headed into Puhi/Lihue to shop at Costco and Walmart, and along with other errands got in all of our steps. Wednesday was breezy, cool, and overcast – perfect walking weather – and Thursday was still cool but quite humid as well and I felt like I was melting for much of the walk. I stumbled into another lost ball graveyard on Thursday, and walked away with 15 more balls in my pockets. Brett also found a bunch and we ended up bringing home 30 balls. We arrived at the course on Friday just after a storm has passed over and had another great walk, and found an astounding 37 lost balls that day! Saturday’s weather was supposed to be miserable but it cleared up in the afternoon so we got to walk again. We broke all previous lost ball records last week, finding another 97 lost balls to add to our stash!

I had to change up our meat dish this week and fix the basil beef stir fry instead of chicken enchiladas when Brett picked up not one but two bundles of basil at the farm stand for some reason. Basil doesn’t keep well but between Wednesday’s pasta and the stir fry I used all of it. The summer pasta recipe was super easy and delicious and as long as we can get fresh basil we’ll be making it fall, winter, and spring in spite of its name!

Sunday: Broccoli & tofu stir fry with spicy peanut sauce; steamed jasmine rice

Monday: Grilled vegetable ravioli w/ pesto; roasted green peppers

Tuesday: Mini vegetarian cheeseburger pizzas with ground be’f, onion, tomato, dill pickle, and cheddar

Wednesday: Ina Garten’s summer garden pasta

Thursday: Basil beef stir fry

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Vegetable yakisoba

Looking at the above photos, our pottery bowls sure got a lot of use this past week!

I’m trying our two new recipes next week: kabocha squash risotto in the InstantPot, and some Mexican-spiced quinoa stuffed peppers.

  • Kabocha squash risotto
  • California roll salad
  • Stacked chicken enchiladas
  • Orange chick’n & fried rice
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Spicy quinoa stuffed peppers

Desserts this week have been microwave s’mores on a couple of evenings, but otherwise we’ve been enjoying lemon-blueberry baked oatmeal. The apple pie is greatly missed.

Sunday Morning 9/5/2021: Labor Day Weekend

The sunset of the week was on Wednesday.

Good Morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

We have been saying all along that we were going depart Hawaii by April 1 of 2023, but this past week we decided to push things forward and leave at the end of 2022 to spend Christmas back east with the girls and then head to England to spend the first three months of 2023 in Blockley. However, that meant giving up our fall trip to Japan, so we decided to change things up and will begin our travels by heading Japan instead to spend Christmas with our son and family. A winter stay in Japan will be very chilly, but so would England or France, and if we have to quarantine anywhere we’d rather it be in Japan where there’s family near by. We will have to use a mail and a baggage shipping service to send the very few things we were going to drop off with our daughters but otherwise we will depart Hawaii with just what can be packed into our suitcases. With a departure date at the end of next year the whole thing seems more real and provides a major boost of motivation. 2023 was so far out there and I know we would have gotten very discouraged along the way.

I had a decent Etsy week with everything on sale, filling five orders the first two days, then none until Saturday when I woke up to three more sales, one of them a large one of 18 hashioki. eBay has been a whole different ballgame for us though. The cancelled bot sale is still in some sort of limbo – it can’t be deleted from the sold section, and their messages make it sound like the whole thing was my fault because I didn’t require the buyer to pay immediately. Their shipping options are outrageously expensive as well. Although I’m able to select USPS Parcel Select Ground service when creating a listing, when it’s time to ship it’s no longer an available option, and I’ve been left with using either Priority Mail or UPS, both of which are super expensive from Hawaii (it seems to be a bug with eBay). eBay’s fees are also quite high, especially when compared to Etsy’s, but it’s the best online venue for some of the items we’re selling, so we’ll stick with it for a while longer and see how it goes.

There were no beach days this week, just another seven days of wacky weather including rain, big winds, clouds, cool temperatures, etc. There’s been some humidity as well, but for the most part we’ve stayed cool and comfortable in our apartment (actually cold at times). I am remembering summer and early fall weather here during our first four years though and how we thought we would melt from the heat and humidity, and the weather and cooler temperatures are far preferable along with being great walking weather. However, I am beginning to think we might not make our goal of 26 beach visits this year. Today is actually pretty nice, but it’s a scheduled no-drive day, so no beach trips. Maybe tomorrow.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished An Advancement of Learning last Monday, and of course as soon as I did another book came off of hold at the library, A Rule Against Murder, the next book in the Louise Penney Inspector Gamache series. So, I am once again having to read two books at the same time: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy during the day and Louise Penney at night. When I finish these two books though I will have met my reading goal for the year: 52 books!
  • Listening to: There’s a fairly stiff breeze blowing through the trees (and the apartment), a nice change from the freight train that’s been blowing through the yard the past couple of days. A chicken was screaming her head off a short time ago, but she’s thankfully quiet now. Skies are blue with a few clouds and it’s nice a cool with very low humidity – a perfect morning. It’s nice and quiet too, both inside and out although I’m going to have to get up in a few minutes and make breakfast for the two of us (pancakes with fruit).
  • Watching: We finished McDonald & Dodds, loved it and hope there will be more episodes in the future. Tuesday evening we started watching Only Murders In the Building, starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez on Hulu, a spoof of true crime podcasts. We caught up on all the available episodes, but going forward there’ll be only one new episode released each week. A new episode of Vera was also released, but on the same schedule of one new episode per week released so in the meantime we’re watching another Britbox show, Whitechapel (the area where Jack the Ripper operated in London). Father Brown marches on with season after season left to go. I was surprised to learn this past week that Father Brown was/is a daytime serial in the UK – who knew?
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Tuesday was “errand day.” We headed up to Puhi and Lihue and stopped at four stores looking for styrofoam peanuts (none available), but found the smoke detector battery we needed at Ace Hardware, got our shopping done at Walmart and Costco, and got the eBay package sent from the UPS store. I also got eight Etsy orders packaged and five shipped this past week (three more will go to the post office on Tuesday morning) and listed a couple more items on both Etsy and eBay. Otherwise all we accomplished were the usual tasks we do around here, which now includes washing and sorting all the golf balls we find.
  • Looking forward to next week: There’s nothing on our calendar for the coming week, but I am enjoying these unhurried, quiet days more and more, with time to get everything done around the apartment as well as time to read, take care of sales on Etsy and/or eBay, go for walks, and talk with our kids. We have enough to do each day that the time passes fairly quickly.
Delicious Bartlett pears – one of my favorites!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Costco had flats of beautiful Bartlett pears this past week – a perfectly ripe pear is one of my all-time favorite fruits and I’ve been enjoying one every day. We heard from all three of the girls this week, and our son (love, love, love their new house!) and Meiling has set up our family Christmas exchange list in preparation for our gathering in December. My Etsy Labor Day sale did kick up sales a bit at the beginning of the week, but then they dropped off again although there were lots of views and favoriting, and some big sales did come through on Saturday.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We stayed under budget on our fill-in shopping trips to Costco and Walmart. We had more than $20 leftover which went into savings ($11.15 went into the change/$1 bill bag). I earned 2,333 Swagbucks, which includes a 602 SB bonus for the month of August. I just hope I can drag myself over the finish line for that Delta Card before the end of the year. Otherwise, regular frugality reigned with leftovers eaten, no food thrown away, and no spending other than on shipping supplies for Etsy/eBay.
The set of Chinese pots that sold this last week. They’re all reproductions, and not as old as they look.
  • Adding up what was sold: Thirty-six hashioki left the house this past week as well as the three-piece set of vintage Chinese pots (sold on eBay). Our upstairs neighbor also paid us for three months of Internet sharing bringing our total side hustle income this past week to $266.38.
  • Grateful for: Every day I stop to give thanks for everything we have. Not just our material things, but also for those things that are easy to take for granted: fresh, clean water (hot and cold) on demand, electricity, a reliable car, a good food supply, and so forth Even as we downsize and part with our things, I realize how fortunate we are and that we always have enough, more than so many. I am also grateful for those whose labor provide these things for us: the farmworkers, utility workers, mechanics, and so many more.
  • Bonus question: What’s been the best part of growing old? What’s been the worst? Watching our children grow and create and build their own lives has been, hands down, the best part of growing older for me. I worried in the past about so many things, especially the ramifications of having our children in two groups so far apart, but the timing actually turned out to be to our advantage, with our son established in Japan with two children, and our daughters just beginning their careers and life on their own. It’s allowed Brett and I to make our nomadic fantasies a reality. Growing older has also given me a gift of perspective, the chance to look back and see what I did right as well as acknowledge that other things I worried about really weren’t all that important in the long run. Everything has turned out better than I imagined and I actually created a very happy life for myself. The worst part? The small aches and pains of an aging body – I am in good physical shape and healthy, but every day my body lets me know that I am growing older.

This whole online selling thing is something of a challenge for me, and I have a lot of respect for those who do it a whole lot more than I do. More than anything it’s making me a more patient person. I of course want everything to sell now, but every day I have to accept that it will take time, especially since most of the things I’m selling are niche items – not everyone loves Japanese antiques or vintage like we do or has the disposable income to buy them (even though my prices are very low for said items). I sold some things on eBay back in 2013, before we moved to Hawaii, and often have to remind myself that it took weeks for some of the items to sell back then. One book took almost a year to sell! Also, there is more to it all than just the listing and selling – there are taxes to pay, supplies to buy, and so forth. I learned some valuable lessons this past week when I shipped those three Chinese pots this week, that I need to plan better and price accordingly so that selling doesn’t turn into an expensive and frustrating chore. Whenever I get frustrated about it I tell myself that least the pots were sold, and I made more than I would have selling them at a yard sale. I want to retake the pictures above at the end of the year and hopefully see a lot fewer things than there are now.

That’s all for this week. Life continues to be good, and what needs to be done is getting done, albeit slowly at times. Things got accomplished and we have things to look forward to, along with good books to read, good food to eat, good things happening, and much to be grateful for. Time seems to be moving a bit more slowly these days, but in some ways it feels better than it moving too quickly. Here’s to another great week coming up! Welcome September and this last (official) summer weekend!

Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 6)

Container ship loaded with cars (Photo credit: iStock)

Whether or not to bring your car along or buy here is a big question when considering a move to Hawaii. Maybe you dream of living without a car and using public transportation, or living with just one car in retirement. There are both pros and cons to bringing shipping a car over, and while public transportation is an issue that may not affect many, as with everything else in Hawai’i there are both pros and cons, especially depending on the island you live on.

PRO: The cost for shipping a car to Hawaii from the west coast of the U.S. isn’t as expensive as one might imagine. We paid just $1000 for the service in 2014 but these days the price runs between $1500 – $2100. However, if you own a paid for, used car in good condition or are still making payments on a newer car it can make sense to pay to ship your car over because replacing your car here can cost a whole lot more.

Car registration fees in Hawaii can be inexpensive compared to other states on the mainland. There is an annual base state registration fee of $45 each year, and each county then assesses their own registration fees. On Kaua’i the rate for cars and passenger trucks is $1.25 per pound. We own a Honda Civic, a fairly light car, and our registration fees and inspection came to $178 this past year.

The availability of affordable public transportation means that seniors have the means to stay mobile and active longer, even if they can no longer afford to maintain a car or just want to reduce the amount of driving they do. People aged 65 and older can ride TheBus all over the island of O’ahu at a discounted cost. Those over 60 receive a discounted fare to ride the Kauai Bus, and 55 and older can get a discounted monthly pass on the Mau’i Bus. Bus transportation is free for seniors aged 55 and older on the Big Island’s Hele-On public transportation system (you must provide ID each time showing proof of age).

CON: If you’ve shipped your car to Hawaii, the system for registering your car in Hawaii is convoluted and complicated. The first step requires getting your car inspected, and since it isn’t registered in Hawaii it will automatically fail. The failed inspection inspection report is then taken to the DMV, where you show the title and/or any lien, pay the registration fee, any taxes due, or other costs based on the age of the car, the weight, and so forth. Once that is done you’re given your registration and Hawaii license plates. The car then has to go back to the inspection station to get approved, and inspection stickers are applied to your license plate (you only pay the inspection station when you pass the inspection) and you’re good to go. A new car purchased on the island receives an inspection sticker good for two years; all other cars, including new cars shipped from the mainland, only receive a one-year sticker.

Used cars on Hawaii go for higher prices than they do on the mainland and may not be in as good a shape. Rust, salt and sun damage are endemic. In some cases, it can make more sense to purchase a new car on the mainland and have it shipped over. There are no luxury car dealerships on Kaua’i, for example, and if you want one of those you will have to pay extra to have it barged over from Oahu.

As for public transportation, the system honestly isn’t very good. Other than on O’ahu, public transportation is less than ideal and seniors without a car usually must rely on cabs, ride share, friends, and relatives for transportation. After 10 years and still going, the much anticipated Honolulu light rail system is still under construction and only half complete, and costs for its construction have more than doubled. Bus systems on islands other than O’ahu are also less extensive. For example, on Kaua’i, while the bus travels all the way around the island from Kekaha in the southwest from Hanalei in the north, there are limited bus stops along the route, sometimes with several miles between them. If you don’t live near one of the bus stops then public transportation isn’t very convenient, useful or even worth considering, especially if you need to use it for shopping. It’s the same for the bus systems on Mau’i and the Big Island – they are limited. There is no public transportation on Molokai.

Our entire family were big fans and users of public transportation in Portland, and we were initially interested in using the Kaua’i bus here. We noticed during visits that the system appeared to be used quite a bit, with buses often filled to standing room only. However, the reality turned out to be no bus stops anywhere remotely close to where we lived during our first stay, and the bus schedules didn’t fit the girls’ after-school schedules either.

Staying mobile might not seem much of a hassle in Hawai’i, especially if you plan to bring your car along or buy one here as soon as you arrive (in many cases it costs less to ship your car than buy here). Except for Hawaii, the Big Island, the islands aren’t all that big. Still, gasoline is expensive, there’s wear and tear and premature aging to your car from the elements and you may find yourself sitting in traffic every day if you commute. We considered public transportation, and we currently live nearby to a bus stop, but so far our little car gets the job done and doesn’t cost us much to operate.

Home Cooking: Broccoli & Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce

This Thai-influenced dish was Meiling’s all-time favorite meal when she was young. She would have happily eaten it several times a week, for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner, and she has already requested I make it when she’s here in December. I came across the recipe many years ago in Molly Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and the rest, they say, is history. There was a time I could have probably made the sauce for this in my sleep because I’d fixed it so many times.

It’s actually a very quick recipe to pull together, and is very amenable to variation (substituting chicken or pork for the tofu, for example), but we’ve always preferred tofu. I used to boil the tofu cubes for around 10 minutes before adding them to the stir fry as it “set” the tofu so it wouldn’t crumble, but these days I press the tofu before cooking and it holds it shape just fine.

All the ingredients are low cost, and most, if not many, are items I usually have on hand in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer (frozen broccoli florets can be used, if necessary). Again, chicken or pork can be substituted for the tofu; just stir fry it first and then remove it from the pan while you cook the broccoli and onions. The spiciness of the sauce can also be adjusted by changing the amount of cayenne or chili-garlic paste that’s added (we like it kind of spicy).

Although I usually serve the stir fry over steamed rice, (jasmine rice is especially yummy), I have also tossed the sauce with noodles (spaghetti or rice noodles) for another simple main dish.

BROCCOLI & TOFU IN SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 1 pound broccoli florets
  • 1-2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sliced onion
  • 1 TBSP fresh grated ginger
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp salt (optional)
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped peanuts (optional, especially if using chunky peanut butter)
  • steamed rice

Press the tofu for about an hour before cooking to remove a much of the water as possible (I press between layers of a dish towel to keep the water from going everywhere). Cut into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

Make the spicy peanut sauce and set aside.

(If using chicken or pork instead of tofu, stir fry the meat first, then set aside and wipe out the wok before proceeding.)

Heat a large wok or large skillet. After about a minute, add the vegetable oil and then the onion slices. Cook over high heat until crisp-tender.

Add the broccoli florets, ginger, garlic (and salt, if using). Continue to stir fry over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is bright green and just tender. Add the tofu cubes and the green onions, and stir-fry about 2-3 minutes more, until the tofu is heated through.

Pour in the sauce, and stir until everything is coated. The sauce will thicken as it cooks. Serve immediately over hot rice, topped with the chopped peanuts (if desired).

SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

  • 3/4 cup natural peanut butter (no added sugar)
  • 3/4 cup very hot (but not boiling) water
  • 5 TBSP rice or cider vinegar
  • 3 TBSP soy sauce
  • 3 TBSP molasses or brown sugar
  • cayenne pepper or chili-garlic paste to taste

Mix the peanut butter into the hot water until well blended. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together. If you use molasses, be sure to whisk the sauce again right before using because some of the molasses can settle at the bottom.