Following My Own Advice

Looks like someone else has a change/$1 bill jar to help save for travel!

Although both domestic and international travel is currently out of picture, this down time is the perfect time to save for future travel. Although we have come up with a travel plan for 2022, we have no way of knowing how much the total cost for that might be, with air fares the wild card. So, we are on a mission to save as much as we can between now and then, and have set some annual goals for saving.

Back in 2017 I posted this list of ways to save for travel. They’re all still good advice, and a reminder that if you want to travel, make saving for travel a priority. Here’s how we’re doing now (in blue):

  1. Set up a dedicated travel savings account, and start a monthly allotment to that account. How much you can deposit into your travel account each month will depend on your regular operating budget, but even a small monthly amount can add up quickly. Currently the amount we add to the account every month is very small, but we still automatically put away a set amount every month for future travel. The amount we can add to the account will be adjusted as income that is currently going for other things (for example, YaYu’s tuition) is freed up.
  2. See if you can save on regular budget categories, and then put the difference into your travel savings. For example, if your monthly food budget is $700, see if you can find ways to save and get it down to $650, or $600. At the end of the month, put the difference into  your savings. This has been difficult to do so far because of YaYu being with us, and because of increases in the cost of food. Our food budget should drop off though at the end of this month, and although we’re keeping the amount the same, we should have some extra every month to go into savings.
  3. Do a “no-spend” week, or month, and deposit all usual discretionary spending amounts into your savings. If you stop and pick up a coffee every morning, don’t for one week. Same for going out for lunch while you’re at work, or eating out or picking up dinner. Plan ahead, keep track of what you would have spent on those things, and then at the end of the week, or month, deposit that amount into your savings. This isn’t to make yourself miserable while you save, but rather to see how much you can add to your savings. Good advice, but we have next to no discretionary spending right now.
  4. Save your change and $1 bills. Brett and I put away around $700 – $800 per year doing this, although one year we saved over $1000. We try to use cash as much as possible, and when we get coins back we immediately put them aside. Same for $1 bills. When we use our debit card, we always round up to the nearest $5 if possible (i.e. if the amount owed is $11.17, we round up to $15, and $3.83 goes into savings). This might require some effort at first to remember to do it, but after a while it becomes a habit. Once we have $25 in $1 bills, or are able to roll our change, off it goes to the travel savings account. We also used to occasionally set aside $5 bills – it’s not as easy to do as with $1 bills, but once in a while we feel we can. Twenty of those though and we’ve got another $100 saved. We are currently only saving $1 bills and change right now, but we are not shopping much these days so are putting away less than we used to. We have been using our debit card when we food shop versus cash, but starting this month we’ll go back to cash as that is where the dollar bills and change come from. We take it for deposit when we have at least $50 saved. I also just read an idea of once a month or so, tuck away $10 or $20 right when you get your cash, and pretend as if you never had it. We might give that try.
  5. Recognize needs versus wants. This also takes some training and effort, but start asking yourself if you really need that new t-shirt, or burrito from Chipotle, or whatever from IKEA, or whether you’d rather enjoy coffee and a croissant in Paris or a week on the beach in Hawai’i. Same for your food shopping – go with a list and stick to it. There’s nothing wrong with looking, but visualizing your saving goals while you look can help keep you more focused on what you need versus what you merely want. This practice might not immediately put money into your savings account, except that you’ll probably have more money left at the end of the month that can be saved for travel. We’ve got this down.
  6. Dedicate all refunds, rebates and gifts to your travel savings. We get a nice rebate every year from Costco and from our insurance company – both of those go right into our travel savings. Same for our annual tax refund. Unfortunately, no one sends us money for our birthdays any more :-(. We don’t get many of these rebates now, but they still all go into the travel savings account. We had reverted to regular membership at Costco before we started traveling in 2018, but went back to the Executive level a couple of months ago for the rebate as we buy all our gas at Costco and shop there at least three times a month.
  7. Get a travel rewards credit card. If you’re good about paying off your credit card every month, this is a great way to earn either miles that will help reduce the cost of air travel, or cash back that can go into your travel account. Brett and I use our credit card to pay recurring monthly expenses like our cable bill and phone bill, and then pay it off every month. Our card rewards can be used to either book travel or receive a check – we always take the check. We don’t use the card to pay for groceries because we’ve found that using cash and setting aside the change and $1 bills we get back is more than would be generated in rewards from the card. Warning: use reward cards carefully. Be sure pay off your credit card balance every month. You don’t want to end up with a huge credit card bill that you have to pay versus putting away money for your travel dreams. No changes here. 
  8. Sell things you don’t need or use any more. Take an inventory of your stuff every once in and while, and use Craigslist, eBay, Facebook or other sites to sell unused and unneeded items around your home, with the money you earn going straight to your travel savings. You can also become a savvy shopper at thrift stores or yard sales and find items that can be refurbished and resold online. Someone I know carefully bought high-end clothing brands at thrift and consignment stores and resold them for a profit on eBay, earning enough in a year to finance a trip to Europe. Someone else I know resold books that she picked up for a song at yard sales. Katy over at The Non-Consumer Advocate is in a master class when it comes to the resale game. We have nothing left to sell right now except for a rug that was in our shipment that doesn’t really fit anywhere in the apartment.
  9. Get a part-time job. I’m retired now, and have absolutely no interest in doing any part-time work, nor does Brett, but we’ve done this in the past. For example, the extra I made working as a substitute went into our savings that got us here to Hawai’i. Depending on how much time you have, or how motivated you are, a second gig can be anything from a couple of hours a week to a regular part-time position. Dedicate those earnings to your travel savings. There are no jobs on Kauai right now even if we did want to work.
  10. Be creative. Pick up change off the ground. Return bottles and cans for the deposit, if you can in your state. Clip coupons and put the money saved into your travel account. Use Swagbucks and earn $$ through PayPal. There are all sorts of small ways out there to add to your travel savings. It might not seem like a lot, but it all adds up. I am earning Swagbucks again to earn airlines gift cards for future travel, although I’m no where near as fanatic about it now as I was in the past. Otherwise, we still pick up change, and recycle bottles and cans (no more Diet Coke cans to go back though; these days it’s sparkling water cans).

Just as small amounts here and there can quickly drain your checking account, small amounts can also beef up your savings in a hurry. Our goal is to reach at least $13,000 in travel savings by September 2022, but as always, we aim to do better than that if we can. We have mapped out where the savings will be be coming from and when, but hopefully this will be enough, along with the airline gift cards I’m earning, to get us to and from YaYu’s graduation in the spring, and to Japan and on to England and back in the fall. Game on!

Sunday Morning 8/9/2020: Walk, Walk, Walk

It was usually raining at sunset, but we still caught a couple of good ones this past week.

Good morning!

It’s been another wacky weather week on the south shore of Kaua’i – every morning we’ve awoken up to clouds, and it’s rained off and on most of the week making it a crapshoot every day whether we would get to walk or not (we did). Even if things looked good, as we headed to the park we knew there was often a strong chance of getting rained out once we were there. This morning is more of the same. This is so not the summer I imagined, but on the plus side the temperatures have stayed lower than usual and the humidity hasn’t been bad at all. Our apartment stays nice and cool from the breezes that blow through all day, and sleeping weather at night has been ideal. I’m just to a point that I’d rather it would just rain if it’s going to rain rather than this off-and-on, will-it-won’t-it? we’ve been experiencing. I’d also love to get back to the beach one of these days as well.

The Kukui’ula farmers’ market moved back into the marketplace from the parking lot. Everyone local wears a mask, but we’ve spotted tourists without even though mask-wearing is mandated in Hawaii.

We continue to self-isolate as much as possible, but there have been triple-digit increases in the number of cases the past few weeks over on Oahu, and the governor has hinted that he may order another state-wide shutdown to get things under control again. Oahu parks and beaches will close again this coming week, and the inter-island 14-day quarantine will also be reinstated. We have sadly seen up close this past week the effects of the shutdowns and the quarantine as our upstairs neighbors have gone back to the mainland in order to find work, and the couple that lives on the other side of the building is hurting as well. They ran a big garage sale this past weekend, and when I asked them how they did the answer was “pretty good, but not enough to buy groceries.” I’m not sure what’s going to happen with them, but they have lived on Kaua’i for many years and have many friends and connections so know they will stay on the island. The husband also frequently goes fishing so that will help as well. Even our landlord has said he’s worried about losing his position, although he continues to generates income for the resort and hopes that keeps him safe.

The moving company still hasn’t located our missing box, and we pretty much think at this point they won’t. We’re going to give it another two to three weeks and will file a claim after that if the box doesn’t show up. It won’t come close to replacing what was lost, but it’s all we can do. 

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I am almost finished with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; it’s been another fun book to reread, and I have only two more to go in the series to complete my goal. I gave up on The Vapors – it got less and less interesting as I went along and I began to dread picking it up which is when it’s time to let a book go in my opinion. I postponed getting They Were Her Property from the library, so I’m going to read Kevin Kwan’s Sex and Vanity next.
  • Listening to: The weather is nice enough this morning that we can open the French doors, and I can listen to the breeze and the birds while I write and drink my coffee. Last night though the wind was howling as a big storm blew through – we have a big tree near our bedroom and it got noisy as the wind blew through the yard. It’s all quiet inside this morning though – YaYu is still sleeping, and Brett is reading
  • Watching: Brett and I are still watching and enjoying Silent Witness – each episode has two parts – but we finished up A Confession, which was excellent, with an outstanding cast. We’ve now started watching a British comedy call Mum, about a widow and her ditzy family. It’s very gentle though (like the mum) and enjoyable. The newest season of Endeavour starts tonight on PBS, but since we don’t have cable we’ll have to wait and watch it online tomorrow.
  • Cooking/baking: We’ll be putting more meals together from the freezer and pantry this week – the only shopping will be our weekly trip to the farmers’ market. We still have leftovers to deal with as well this week. Tonight I’m going to fix a zucchini frittata to go with grilled Italian sausages, and other meals this week will be Mississippi Pot Roast along with roasted vegetables; French dip sandwiches using leftover roast; mabo nasu; Japanese-style chicken and vegetable curry; and leftovers on a couple of nights. This week’s cake (to be baked on Wednesday probably) will be a plain yellow cake with vanilla buttercream – simple and delicious.

An eastside beach path walk never disappoints. Heavy clouds to the south and the west created lots of humidity, but thankfully it didn’t rain while we walked. There was a strong breeze from the northeast for most of the walk.

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I walked all seven days this past week, over 17 miles, although we got rained out at two-thirds of the way on Tuesday. We saw rainbows almost every day when we were at the park too thanks to the rain and clouds. We developed a long-term walking plan for the next two years, to increase our distance and endurance, and started that this week. I finally got my hair trimmed up yesterday  – two weeks ago it was still too short and I had the appointment postponed to this past weekend. Otherwise nothing major was accomplished, just the usual daily chores.
  • Looking forward to next week: Once again, better weather? The missing box? Possibly a beach day or two?
    Litchis have a very short season so we’re always happy when they show up at the market.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Litchis finally showed up at the farmers’ market! Yesterday we were up in Kapaa for my haircut so we walked the beach path again for a change of pace. Kapaa was very hot and humid compared to our area, but as long as we could catch the breeze we did OK. I love that my hair is short-short again – so comfortable and easy to take care of. My daughter-in-law sent a boatload of photos from their recent vacation in Nagano, which is located in the mountains on the west side, and was home to the 1998 Winter Olympics.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: The only spending we did this past week was at the farmers’ market. We put $2 into the change/$1 bill jar. I earned 977 Swagbucks this past week as I’ve added an additional 30 minutes of searching or doing a survey in the mornings. I discovered I can earn Delta Airlines gift cards as well as Southwest ones at Swagbucks, so after I finish with my Southwest cards goal I’ll move over to earning Delta cards. We did a pretty good job of eating leftovers this past week, but there were an awful lot of them and we still have plenty to get through. Thankfully we didn’t have to throw out any food. I always remind myself that the most expensive food we buy is the food we throw away, and that keeps me motivated to find ways to finish things up.
  • Grateful for: We’re feeling especially thankful now that we have a steady, dependable retirement income. It isn’t a huge amount, and our budget is pushed to the limit right now because of YaYu’s college expenses, but at least we know we will get paid and when, and that it won’t be reduced.
  • Bonus question: Are you having issues with slow mail delivery? Oh my goodness, yes. And, it’s getting worse. I used to get my prescription-by-mail orders in five days; they now take nearly three weeks to arrive (all of our prescriptions are by mail only too). Thank goodness both Brett and I have enough back-up that we can get through another couple of months – hopefully we’ll get our refills before then. My primary ballot has never arrived, and we’re all waiting on a bunch of other stuff as well. Our address is at a small local post office, but this has been going on all over the country, it’s getting worse by the week, and most upsetting of all is that this is being done deliberately, to mess with the election and mail-in and absentee ballots. Rural residents are especially having a rough time of it, as are veterans waiting on their by-mail-only prescriptions, but I heard today from someone who lives in a big city, and she hasn’t received any mail for a week, so the problems are everywhere.

The walking plan Brett and I have developed to increase our distance and endurance over the next two years is very simple. Since we have almost two years to get ready, we want to take it slowly and build ourselves up gradually (and avoid aggravating my bursitis). Basically, we will add 10-15 minutes to our daily walk (currently around 45-50 minutes, averaging around 2.5 miles) starting with one day a week. The following week we will walk two days with the additional time, the third week three days, and so forth until we are walking the new time and distance every day. We’ll do that for two or three weeks or so and then start the process over again, adding 10-15 minutes to our new route. We think we can work up to around five miles per day walking at the park, but after that we’ll have to branch out to other trails around the island. Anyway, we’re hoping that by taking it slowly and patiently we can get ourselves conditioned for long distances by the time we head over to England without adding any trauma to our bodies. I’ve also been investigating long walks we can do when we’re in Tokyo when we’re there next. We generally walk about four miles per day when we’re there, but want to increase that and do at least one long walk per week while we’re there to stay in shape.

A house located next to the beach path in Kapaa had some beautiful hibiscus.

YaYu’s laptop died on Friday afternoon. Because she just finished paying her tuition bill she has very little left in her account for anything new, but she’s hoping it’s only a dead battery. We have nothing left for her either as we had just given her what we had to help with the tuition and for her flights. The little we do have left will go toward her flight back to Pennsylvania in January and spring tuition. She is currently communicating with her dean to see if she can borrow a laptop from the school until she can (hopefully) replace the battery in hers. She hates to spend her money on anything though so this is like a major trauma for her. 2020: It’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Anyway, that’s a wrap for this week! Some ups, some downs, but overall it was another good one and we’re looking forward to the week coming up. It’s almost hard to believe but YaYu only has two and a half weeks left here before heading back to college – really, where has the time gone? I hope it was a good week for everyone, and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up.

Do I Look Fat in This?

My sister sent me the above photo last week. My brother has been transferring my mom’s photos to digital files and sent this one to my sister for some reason.

A little backstory on the photo: I am 14 and in my first year of high school. I am waiting for a boy named Jim to pick me up for the semi-formal Homecoming Coronation Ball, wearing an older woman’s orange cocktail dress that my mother made me buy because she did not want to pay for a semi-formal dress. I hated the orange dress and didn’t want to go to the dance wearing it. I actually ended up getting my wish because Jim never showed up. It hurt at the time, but looking back it was a blessing in disguise. I would have been miserable, and I didn’t like Jim all that much anyway.

The first thing I noticed about the picture though was how small I was, a mere slip of a girl really. I was almost as tall as I am now, but I was so slim. You couldn’t have convinced me of that back then though because I was already convinced I was fat. I was always on a diet because the message I kept getting over and over at home was that I was overweight. It started when I was in middle school, when my older brother came up with a nickname for me, “Super Oink,” to let me know he thought I looked fat. He eventually shortened it to “Super,” but the name still hurt me deeply. My parents laughed every time I brought it up and thought it was funny and told me to “get over it;” my brother was never asked nor told to let it go (my brother still calls me Super today, like it’s some endearing connection, but I refuse now to use or respond to it). The hurt was so deep at the time that I moved over to my grandmother’s home for a few months, walking to school every day and hitching rides with friends for choir practice and church on Sunday (my grandmother didn’t drive). My father got in on the weight shaming as well from time to time. For example, during the summer after my freshman year I practically starved myself and exercised daily to lose weight because I had been selected for the school’s drill team and thought I should be thinner for that. When I went to tell my parents one morning that I had reached my goal weight, my Dad’s only comment was, “Well, your legs still look heavy,” and there was no comment or rebuttal from my mother. I remember feeling crushed. By my junior year I was attending Weight Watchers meetings even though I had trouble convincing them I needed to lose weight.

When I look at that picture of my 14-year-old self now I feel angry, sad, and disappointed, just like that young girl in the picture felt that evening. I was not overweight, even by a little, but I had already been conditioned to think I was, already seeing the “fat girl” every time I looked at my reflection and constantly comparing myself to other girls I thought were thinner. I know now they weren’t.

Why did I think I was overweight? Why was I made to feel so ashamed of how I looked? That’s what makes me angry now, not just for myself but for so many women. Who did/does that serve? What did it/does it matter? What was/is the point? Back then I was a good student, read constantly, had nice friends, and earned my own money babysitting in the neighborhood. I was healthy and active. No one outside of my family seemed to care what my weight was or how I looked, so why did my family keep it up? Because of their judgements and remarks, and also because super-skinny models like Twiggy came to be seen as desirable and attractive at about the same time, I have spent most of my life obsessing about my weight and food, always asking myself if I “look fat” in something, always thinking things would be better if I was “thin,” and constantly following one diet or another and berating myself when my weight creeped up. For what?

That early conditioning has been more potent and ingrained than I ever imagined, and has stayed with me, impossible to get rid of. It has only been in the last two decades that I began to recognize and remember what had been going on and begin to change my attitude and how I see myself. I worked hard to raise my daughters differently so that they exercise and eat well for no other reason than it is healthy. I’m losing weight now for my health as well, so my joints don’t ache. I am no longer obsessed with food and I refuse to buy a scale. I accept that I will never be model thin, but again, so what? Sadly, I still stop at a mirror whenever I pass one and check to see whether I “look fat,” and I still see a fat girl most of the time, not what Brett, my children, or others see. I’m still healing, but I’m not there yet and sometimes wonder if I will ever get there. The scars of the past are deep.

We Have A Goal

Ever since we arrived back on Kaua’i, Brett and I have been tossing travel ideas back and forth, for a future when we’re able to travel again. We have come up with a list of places we want to visit but with twice-yearly trips to Japan at the top of that list, as well as a yearly visit to one of the other islands, it’s been hard to prioritize those places.

The other day when I was noodling around online I came across something that stopped me. I did a little more investigation and then showed it to Brett. His eyes lit up, we looked at each other, and both knew right then this is what we want to do first.

Brett and I absolutely loved our time in England last fall, even the soggy final month that forced us to stay indoors most of the time. We especially enjoyed the walks we took through the Cotswolds countryside, so last week when I came across walking tours in England, I did did some more investigation, as I was curious about ones that walk the entire 102 miles of the Cotswold Way, from Chipping Campden to Bath.

One end of the Cotswold Way in Chipping Campden . . .
. . . and the other end in Bath. Engraved on the stones are the names of all the villages the footpath passes though.

I was quite surprised by how reasonably priced the tours were, considering they include lodging each night, breakfast every morning, luggage transport from village to village each day, as well as support and other amenities. Mostly walkers are on their own though, and walk their own pace each day. After checking out a few companies, I found one that offered an 13-night/12-day itinerary that I thought would work for us, with daily distances around 10 miles or less per day. When I shared the information with Brett for his opinion, it was one of those let’s do this moments for us, when an idea goes from a possibility to a goal. The 13-night Cotswold walking tour had everything we wanted, from being affordable to allowing us to return to a place we loved, and it was also a different sort of experience from anything we’ve done before.

The only question we had was, “can we do this?” Besides currently being in the middle of a raging pandemic, in two years Brett will be 72, and I will be 70 – definitely not spring chickens. However, I found several reviews and articles from successful walkers in their 70s and even 80s, and Brett and I spent some time and came up with a list of what we need and want to accomplish in the next two years to complete this goal:

  • Continue to stay healthy, continue to lose weight, and remain mobile. Avoiding Covid-19 is at the top of our list. If that means our only outings here for the next two years are walks in the park or hikes elsewhere, and weekly trips for food, so be it.
  • Gradually increase our walking distances to where we can easily include one or more 10-mile hikes per week. We’re walking 2+ miles per day now and getting ready to start pushing that distance up this week, but we have some work to do in the next two years to get ourselves in tip-top shape. I am going to have to practice walking up and down steeper hills, difficult for me now because of my knee injury.
  • Save, save, save. We want to tack on this trip to the end of our Fall 2022 Tokyo stay as flying to London from Tokyo is far, far less than the cost of flying there from Honolulu (and takes less time as well). Once I can figure out some costs we’ll set a savings goal and start working toward that.
  • Resist the temptation to add on additional travel while in England. This is currently the most difficult thing for me, but Brett has already put his foot down: a few days back in Blockley before we set off, the walking tour, and a few days in Bath at the end – that’s all!

Two years is a long time away, but with the current pandemic we think that’s a reasonable amount of time to wait, plus it allows us to get YaYu through school and attend her graduation. It feels so good though to finally have a solid travel goal to work toward, and time to hone the edges and make it happen.

Sunday Morning 8/2/2020: Is It Summer Yet?

In spite of some not-so-good weather, we still got a few pretty sunsets this past week.

Good morning!

August has arrived, but we’re still wondering if summer will ever get here. Temperatures are still cooler than expected, it’s still plenty windy, humidity is low (yeah!), and on and on. We thought it might be warmer down here on the south side, but it’s actually been cooler and breezier than it ever was when we lived up in Kapaa. It’s to the point that visitors comment on how windy/breezy it is at our place – it’s that noticeable. To be honest though, I’m mostly enjoying the weather (so far) and know it could be a LOT worse. August, September, and October are typically the hottest and most humid months of year, especially as the trade winds die down or disappear, but I’m kind of hoping things will continue as they are (with a few beach days thrown in). It’s just been . . . different.

We woke up every morning this past week to cloudy skies, wind, and cool temperatures. Most afternoons and evening there was rain, sometimes lots and lots of rain. It seemed to thankfully always clear enough in the late afternoon that we could go for a walk.

Speaking of August, I realized this past week that we’ve passed the four month anniversary of our return to Hawaii. It sure has seemed like we’ve been here much longer, but I think that’s because of all that we’ve accomplished in the past few months, from finding a place to live, getting it furnished, and getting ourselves resettled. Things on the island have loosened up some since we arrived and are very slowly returning to some semblance of normal, but masks are still de rigeur everywhere, many businesses and restaurants remain closed or have gone out of business, and visitors are still few and far between due to the quarantine. Things are still on edge though as cases rise, especially on Oahu (Kaua’i currently has just two active cases). We read this past week that Japan may open back up to visitors from Hawaii only, and vice versa, but cases in Tokyo are rising again as well so probably not.

YaYu received her updated financial aid information this past week, and it turned out to be much better than all of us expected. All of her aid comes from the college this year – the only federal aid she was offered were loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized, but she turned them down. Her fall term has now been paid for, and a round-trip plane ticket to and from Philadelphia has been purchased. She will leave here and fly to Honolulu, then on to Seattle where she will meet her friend and roommate from last year to fly together on to Philadelphia. She’s nervous about the flight, but otherwise excited to be going back. Only a few seats have been sold on each of the flights though, and Alaska Airlines is keeping the middle row empty on all their flights, so maintaining a good distance from others should not be a problem. We picked up extra disinfecting wipes for her to take back, and she has masks as well so hopefully will be OK on her trip back and in her room at the college. We also got her extra hand sanitizer as well, but discovered it’s not allowed on planes because of the alcohol content (it’s very flammable), so that’s the one thing she’ll have to find back there and that they hopefully will offer on the planes. YaYu is excited and happy about going back to school, even with all the restrictions put in place. She and her friends got their room assignments this week, and they will all be in the same dorm on the same floor (in single rooms). She’s very happy about that, but we’re not sure that’s such a good thing. YaYu has also been hired for two on-campus jobs this year, but thinks one may be eliminated. Her other job will be at the campus library.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m back to reading two books, one during the day and one at night, because another book I’ve been waiting for just came off of hold (They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South, by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers). So, The Vapors is my evening book, and I just started Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix during the day. I didn’t think the first three books in the Harry Potter series were as good as remembered, but the Goblet of Fire was excellent and The Order of the Phoenix is as well so far.
  • Listening to: There’s some blue sky showing through the clouds this morning, but still a fairly stiff breeze can be heard blowing through the trees outside, and it’s comfortable cool. Brett’s rustling around in the kitchen making his breakfast, and YaYu is still trying to sleep out here in the living room. Otherwise it’s quiet, although that will change I a short while as our downstairs neighbors are holding a garage sale today, beginning in around an hour.
  • Watching: We finished watching Father Brown and Taste the Nation last Thursday, and are now watching A Confession (starring Martin Freeman) on Britbox. YaYu sadly does not share Brett’s and my love of British crime drama and/or mysteries.
    The carrot cake I made last week has been delicious but has way too many calories, 350 for a 2-inch square. I have had to be VERY disciplined to fit it into my daily calorie allotment. The cake I’m baking this week will have less than half the calories, and still provide a sweet treat every day.
     
  • Cooking/baking: We are beginning a two-and-a-half week break between food shopping trips which required me to make a list of all the dinners we could have based on what was already in the pantry and freezer and what we could pick up at the farmers’ market each week. It took some effort, but I think we now have everything needed to get through until the middle of the month. Tonight we’re having Chinese stir-fried tomatoes with eggs over rice, a long-time favorite. The rest of the week’s menus include subuta (Japanese-style sweet and sour pork); InstantPot carnitas for burritos and tacos; grilled fish tacos with fresh peach salsa; InstantPot chicken risotto; and hamburgers from the grill. I was planning to buy pre-made burgers patties at Costco last week until I saw both the price and the calories – yikes! – and ended up buying ground beef instead to make them myself. This week’s baking will be a fresh orange cake with orange buttercream frosting.
    Looking out from Hole 6 at Kukuiolono on a rare sunny afternoon.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We got in some good walks again this week once Douglas had passed, although each day we wondered if we would be able to go because the weather was that dicey. We’re getting ready to add a bit more to our walks this week. Finding flights to get YaYu back to Pennsylvania was not an easy task, but we were finally able to find a schedule that works for her and allows her to fly the Seattle to Philadelphia leg of the trip with her good friend.
  • Looking forward to next week: Better weather? Royal Hawaiian locating our missing box? I can dream.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Besides YaYu’s financial aid award arriving it’s been a rather low key week with not a lot happening, but almost everything was good. We were excited to discover a lilikoi (passionfruit) vine in our back yard, hidden among some other plants on the wall. One fruit has already set and other blossoms are starting to open, so hopefully we’ll be getting a few more. The guava tree on the side of the yard is loaded with fruit. Guava is not a favorite, but Brett and I do like guava jam so we’re already planning to make some of that once things start ripening. And, the orange tree is also already loaded with little green, golf ball-size fruits – there’ll be lots of sweet oranges probably around December and into early next year.
    The best granola in the world (IMO)!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: The Living Foods Market in the Kukui’ula Marketplace sadly permanently closed this past week. We never really shopped there as their prices were always kind of outrageous – they seemed to primarily cater to rich tourists staying in Poipu – but on Wednesday, their last day, everything in the store was 50% off and we picked up three bags of our favorite Anahola Granola (best granola ever). It typically sells for $8-$9 for a 12-ounce bag, so at half off it was a steal at $4.68/bag (tax included), and will last us for over three months as we only have a tablespoon or two at a time. The Alaska Airlines credits we took back in March covered almost the entire cost of YaYu’s round-trip flight to school and back. We had a very frugal week at the farmers’ market, and spent only $17 for a lot of produce, and put $3 into the change/$1 bill jar (our budget every week is $20). We did a good job eating up the leftovers, but had to toss half of a head of cauliflower as it froze and turned to mush when it defrosted. Our travel savings is now up to $809.11, so we’re making good progress! I earned 543 Swagbucks last week.
    This week’s farmer’s market haul: two huge bunches of bananas, a papaya, two dragonfruit, six Meyer lemons, two limes, three cucumbers, a 1# bag of cherry tomatoes, and a bunch of green onions for only $17!
  • Grateful for: We’re all feeling very, very grateful this week for the generosity of YaYu’s college as we had been very worried about whether or not we had saved enough to help her get through another year. We’re already a bit worried about next year as our experience with senior year levels of aid is that they drop, as colleges know they have a “captive audience” and less is awarded. However, the amount she received this year will give all of us a breather and allow Brett and I to hopefully add enough to our savings to get YaYu through her final year.
  • Bonus question: Do you buy/eat mostly organic food? While we are not fanatics about it, we do try to buy organic as much as possible, but it’s probably only about a quarter or less of what we eat. Costco offers many organic options, and given the choice between organic and non-organic, we’ll always choose the former even if it does cost slightly more. I don’t think there’s any taste or nutritional difference between organic and non-organic, but believe that organic provides an extra layer of protection so to speak, even though organic farming does rely on chemicals and such (made from things like beetles and other natural sources however). Current organic items in our home are eggs, ground beef, milk, butter, peanut butter, pasta, summer squash, frozen strawberries and blueberries, oats, pizza crusts and sauce, spices, and olive oil. None of the farmers at the weekly market sell organic produce, but none of them spray their crops either. We only buy fresh, wild caught local fish and try to buy other locally-produced or raised food as much as possible if we can’t get organic.

I’m going to call Royal Hawaiian tomorrow morning for an update on our missing box. Every day it seems I recall or need something that was in that box: the cake stand the girls found at Goodwill and gave me for my birthday one year and the glass cover I found for it, my citrus juicer, the cake pans and pie plates, the salad spinner, the bathroom scale, and Brett’s blood pressure monitor all have been missed and mourned this past week. I thought I’d only feel badly about the wall hanging and cookbooks, but it turns out we both miss all that other stuff too – there was a reason it was kept. We know if the box went into someone else’s crate we’ll never see any of it again, but we continue to hope it was left somewhere in the storage facility and can be found. That hope diminishes day by day though. The only upside, if there is one to be found, is that right now we have no idea where we would put all that stuff as storage is already pretty full-up.

And that’s the week that was! It wasn’t the best week ever, but not the worst either by a long shot. Overall I’d say it was pretty good. I hope it was a good week for you all as well, and that you had lots of good things happen for you, good food to eat, good books to read, and that you’re staying healthy and busy during all the current madness. Here’s to the week coming up!

Home Cooking: Patty’s Killer Noodle Salad

One of the many things I love about warmer weather is putting main dish salads back on the menu. Of all the salads I make, Patty McNalley’s Killer Noodle Salad is our family’s hands-down favorite. The recipe for this Thai-influenced salad came from The Oregonian back in 1997; it won first prize in some contest they held and after tasting it I know why. Wow! 

The first ingredient listed is chuka soba. These are dried chow mein noodles produced in Japan, usually sold in 6-ounce packages. If you cannot find chuka soba, spaghetti can be substituted, but I personally think the flavor of the chuka soba is better. None of the other ingredients are difficult to find, and many are things I keep on hand in the pantry. This salad is a great way to use up cilantro, or those last couple of carrots in the produce drawer. The spiciness of the dressing can be adjusted by either leaving out the crushed red pepper or chili sauce, or by adding more (we personally like it kind of spicy).

The original recipe does not contain any meat, but if I have leftover chicken on hand I’ll add it to pump up the protein.  Shrimp is a delicious addition as well, and firm tofu works well too (just be sure to let it marinate in the dressing for a while so it soaks up some of the flavor). Leftover steak or roast, thinly sliced, would also work nicely.

Killer Noodle Salad was also my favorite dish to take to potlucks for two reasons:  There were never any leftovers, and I always got asked for the recipe!

By the way, back in the day in Portland I complained that while all our local supermarkets carried chuka soba in their Asian food sections, they charged anywhere from $2.50 to $2.75 per package, which I felt was too expensive. Savvy frugal shopper that I was I instead bought them at local Asian markets or at Cost Plus World Imports, where I could find the same product for less than $1.00 per package! But here I am in Hawai’i now, and these days I’d be thrilled if I found the noodles for $2.75 a package in our local stores. I did find some for slightly more than $2/package on Amazon, but those and most other brands (including my favorite) won’t ship to Hawaii for some unknown reason.

PATTY’S KILLER NOODLE SALAD

12 ounces chuka soba noodles

1 1/2 tsp dark sesame oil

1/3 cup rice or white vinegar

Juice and grated peel of one fresh lime

1/2 cup soy sauce

2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or 2 tsp garlic chili sauce

2 TBSP sugar

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup peeled, grated carrot

3/4 cup coarsely chopped dry-roasted peanuts

1/2 chopped fresh cilantro

In a large pot, bring 3 quarts water to a boil and cook noodles according to directions (chuka soba cooks quickly, about 2-3 minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water and let cool in collander.

In a large bowl, combine sesame oil, vinegar, lime juice and grated peel, soy sauce, red pepper flakes or chili sauce, sugar and garlic. Mix until sugar is dissolved. Toss carrots, peanuts and cilantro into dressing (chicken or tofu should be tossed in now; if using shrimp it should be added just before serving).

Cut through the noodles to make them manageable lengths, then toss the noodles in the large bowl with the other ingredients. Chill the salad for at least one hour to let flavors mingle and toss again just before serving. If it seems a little dry, you can add a tiny bit more soy sauce and vinegar. The salad can be served cold or at room temperature.

When I took this salad to a potluck, I would thinly slice a lime or two and make a ring of the slices around the edge of the bowl or platter – very pretty!

Douglas, We Hardly Knew ‘Ye

Douglas brushed the north side of Kaua’i on Sunday night.

If I had to choose one word to describe our experience with Hurricane Douglas it would be anticlimactic. At least that’s how it was here on the south side of Kaua’i.

And, having gone through the force of three hurricanes and typhoons, that was a good thing.

The whole experience though was very, very weird for us. Douglas came right along the north side of the islands, as predicted and on schedule, and brushed along the north shores of Oahu and Kaua’i. At times here though it was very difficult to believe that we were so close to a major storm as for most of the day all we experienced were blue skies, fluffy clouds, light breezes, and minimal humidity. We had a beautiful sunset, even though less than a hour later the eye of the hurricane was less than 65 miles away as it roared past the north shore.

The view out our front door at around 5:45 p.m. We kicked ourselves that we hadn’t gone for a walk as winds were minimal.
Hurricane sunset

We wondered all day what was happening and why we weren’t feeling the storm when it was so close, but finally discovered a live radar feed of the wind patterns and could see that the winds from Douglas had been bearing down from the north all day and splitting into two bands as they hit the top of Kaua’i and flowing down the east and west sides. The mountains in the center of the island blocked the rest of the wind and rain which left the south side of the island sitting in a wedge of calm weather.

It was still a tense day. Based on our former storm experience, where we started feeling strong winds a day or two before a storm’s arrival, Sunday’s calm weather was somewhat unnerving, to say the least. Every time a gust blew through we stiffened and wondered if the storm had finally arrived. It was the same for every cloud we saw off in the distance. In hindsight we could have gone out for our regular afternoon walk, but at the time we were afraid to tempt fate. With a hurricane things can change very rapidly.

We woke up Monday to a very wet and blustery day. The rain eventually stopped, but the winds hung around all day. It’s still VERY windy today.

Douglas’s rain and wind finally arrived a little after 1:00 a.m. Monday morning. Things were quite wet and blustery when we woke up, and stayed that way for most of the morning and into the afternoon as we caught the effects of Douglas’s tail as it moved on. By the late afternoon it was clear enough that we could head to the park for our afternoon walk, although it was very windy and still is today.

Many Kaua’i residents are still around who remember the surprise arrival of Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and the massive destruction it caused all over the island. No one was taking chances with Douglas, and the island prepared for the worst once again this time. Douglas thankfully didn’t come to visit or hang around, but it was a close call.

Sunday Morning 7/26/2020: Waiting for Douglas

Just one glowing sunset this past week, and it was gorgeous!

Good morning!

Douglas is now a Category 1 hurricane and is still on a direct path to Hawaii. From the way things look outside this morning though you’d never guess there was a hurricane coming. However, as of 11:00 p.m. HST last night we’ve been under a hurricane warning. Kaua’i is not expected to get hit until late this evening but for now it’s sunny, cool, and breezy. This morning’s sunshine was quite a surprise as yesterday was miserable with lots of wind and rain all day, and last week we endured more clouds, rain, and wind, with temperatures moving between cool and very hot and very humid. We were able to get out and walk most days, although we barely made it out of the park last Wednesday without getting soaked. Anyway, we’re prepared for Douglas’s arrival: we have lots of bottled water, extra toilet paper, fuel for our butane camping stove, and a full gas tank in the car. All batteries on our phones and computers are fully charged, and our portable chargers are full as well. If we need to, we’ll fill our giant bathtub with water later today.

Friday, with Douglas two days away, was breezy, with intermittent squalls. It was also extremely humid moisture was pushed forward ahead of the storm’s arrival. We were thankful to be able to get out for a walk.
The “phony hurricane” arrived yesterday morning with heavy clouds and lots of rain. Winds started picking up at around 9:00 in the morning and continued throughout the day, although they were more gusty than sustained.
You’d never know from this morning’s weather that a hurricane is bearing down on Hawaii.
Douglas’s location this morning as of 8:00 a.m. HST. The full force of the storm should be over Kauai tonight and early tomorrow morning.

This past week started off with quite a few unknowns and a feeling of dread. I woke up in the middle of the night on Sunday feeling a bit scared because so many things seemed to be off and I didn’t know if they could or would be resolved. A box had indeed gone missing out of our shipment, one that contained among other things my recipe books, our two Japanese breadboards, all the bakeware, and an antique hand-painted Japanese banner that we used as a wall hanging (it was when the banner never appeared out of all the other boxes that we knew one hadn’t made it because we had definitely included the it in our shipment). Apple had had plenty of time to receive my old computer, but there had been no word from them, and no way to track whether they had received it or not. The chair pads I ordered back at the beginning of June were still missing and the last tracking update had been July 8. And on and on it went. However, I woke up on Monday determined to turn things around so I called the moving company first thing – they started the process to find the box (somewhere back on the mainland). On Tuesday I got an email from Apple saying that they had finished inspecting my old computer and I would be receiving the full credit I had been quoted, a miracle considering its condition. Although USPS tracking had said the chair cushions were still lost on Tuesday evening, they arrived out of the blue on Wednesday morning, right as I was getting ready to write the shop owner! Brett had all our pictures hung on by the end of the week. The only unknown now is the update on YaYu’s financial aid; hopefully that will show up this week (especially since the mistake was theirs, not ours).

In the meantime, our apartment is finally put together, and with the pictures hung and everything put away it feels like home. After living in a somewhat empty space for so long it almost seems like there’s a bit too much stuff again, but it’s also wonderful to have our things as we kept just the items that were truly important to us when we left Kaua’i two years ago. The only things we have left to do is to hang some sheer linen curtains in the living room and patiently wait to see if our lost box comes back to us – the antique Japanese banner is definitely missed, and will go on the wall behind the television if and when it shows up.

 

I have once again given up commenting on Blogger, for the time being anyway. I’ve tried again and again and everything I write disappears into the Internet ether, including choosing Anonymous and signing my name. I am not willing to install Chrome on this computer as it caused several problems on my old computer, and I don’t use my Google account as it links to all my personal email, etc. I’m going to keep trying to see if I can find a workaround, but it’s been very frustrating not being able to comment.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Blossom and the Firefly last Wednesday. It turned out to be a work of young adult fiction, so was a quick read, but very enjoyable as it had been very well researched. The story was about young “special-attack” (kamikaze) pilots toward the end of WWII; the young girls that supported them by doing their cooking, cleaning, and waving them off on an attack day; and the relationship that formed between two of them. I am now reading The Vapors: A Southern Family, the New York Mob, and the Rise and Fall of Hot Springs, America’s Forgotten Capital of Vice, by David Hill. So far, so good – it’s very interesting, and all about a place I’ve heard of but never thought about much. I had no idea there was so much sin and iniquity going on there for so long.
  • Listening to: A couple of roosters are out this morning and doing their thing, but otherwise the only sound is the breeze blowing through the palm trees. Brett is puttering around in the kitchen fixing his breakfast, and YaYu is trying to sleep. As I said, it’s hard to know there’s a big storm bearing down.
  • Watching: Well, Ozark finished with a bang (literally), and we can’t wait for next season! Brett and I are now watching the most recent season of Father Brown and YaYu and I are watching Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi. That show is every bit as wonderful as we heard it would be. In the very first episode of Father Brown, in the very first few minutes, we spotted a clear shot of our Blockley cottage which of course flooded us with lots of happy memories, and we’ve seen it a time or two since. The filming for this season had taken place just a month before we arrived.
  • Cooking/baking: There will be lots of grilling going on this week once the storm passes. Tonight though we’re having fried rice, as it can be cooked on our butane stove if we lose power. Later this week we’ll have California roll salad; grilled lemon chicken and vegetable kabobs; barbecued ribs with three-bean salad; pasta with pesto, grilled Italian sausages, and roasted squash; and beef Polish sausages with coleslaw and macaroni and cheese for the sides. I’m making the carrot cake later this morning.
    The crazy weather this past week produced several beautiful rainbows!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: For a week that seemed to start off on the wrong foot, we got a lot done. Besides calling the moving company and beginning the hunt for our missing box, I also contacted my doctor and got a referral for a mammogram and got that appointment scheduled, as well as an appointment with the dermatologist for a skin check. The earliest available dates for both of those appointments was in October! We found a place everything, got the last of the boxes and paper out of the apartment, and Brett got all the pictures hung. We walked five days this week in spite of some not-so-good weather, and got our food shopping done for the week.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m hoping for a somewhat relaxing week after Douglas finally passes, especially since we have no special chores this week, and the apartment finally pulled together. All I want to do is get out in the afternoon and walk, go to the farmers’ market on Wednesday, hit the beach if possible, and read, read, read.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The chair pads finally arriving was a highlight this week as their arrival was w-a-y overdue. According to the post office website, on Tuesday evening they were still lost somewhere, and I was planning to write the Etsy shop owner on Wednesday to let her know they had never arrived, but lo and behold, they showed up Wednesday morning! They are just what I hoped for and they look great. The much-desired blue dress that had been sold out last week was shortly back in stock in a couple of sizes, one of them mine, so that got ordered and is on its way. Our landlord came and installed a new screen door in front – the old one was on its last legs and sometimes refused to open or shut (plus it had a lot of holes). 
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: The credit from Apple for my old computer along with the refund from Aeromexico meant that I ended up paying less than half of the retail price for my new computer, a very nice bit of savings. I put $60 into our travel savings account from change and $1 bills I had been putting away, and we started a new bundle by putting $11.17 into the jar. All leftovers were eaten this past week, and no food was thrown away either. The only two days we spent anything were Tuesday and Wednesday (food shopping, the blue dress at 30% off, and the farmers’ market). I earned 484 Swagbucks this past week – I hope to have enough for my first $100 Southwest Airlines gift card by the end of August, or early September at the latest.
  • Grateful for: I’m thankful for all the things that showed up or were taken care of this week, even if some of them were late. I know the post office has currently been dealing with issues like having their hours cut back (no overtime allowed any more for example), but they get eventually get the job done and I’m grateful for all they do, under some pretty miserable conditions sometimes. We depend on them so much for so many things, and try and do our part to keep them from going under.
  • Bonus question: Have you ever experienced a hurricane before? We went through two BIG typhoons (Category 3 & 4) during our two tours in Japan, and one Category 1 hurricane (Floyd) when we were stationed in Key West. The two in Japan were very powerful, and very scary as they hit the Tokyo area directly. The second one was in early autumn, and stripped the leaves off of the trees, which caused the cherry trees to blossom a second time that year! Floyd was scary as well – we were especially worried about flooding – but we never lost power and the sound of the howling wind for so many hours about drove me mad, especially from the back side after the eye had passed over. We’ve also been through a few tropical storms as well, that while not as bad as a hurricane are still nothing to sneeze at. We’re glad Douglas’s strength had diminished by the time it got to Kaua’i, and hopefully it will quickly move on without too much damage.

While I’m enjoying being finally settled in the apartment, I am mourning the loss of that one box. We’ll give the moving company a month and if nothing turns up we’ll file a claim. While nothing in the box is especially valuable, some of the things that are missing are not replaceable and carry considerable memories of place and time. With all of our moves, we have only once had a mover lose something once before: when Brett retired from the navy in 1992 our express shipment (small shipment with basic items to get started with before the main shipment arrives) showed up but instead of our boxes there was a small (ugly) cast iron pot-belly stove on the truck! It was very weird, and we never learned what happened to our things. I read once that every couple of moves was the equivalent of a small house fire in terms of damage and loss, but for as many moves as we made then and since, we’ve done pretty well. We’ll probably move once more here, but that will be the last one for us.

YaYu baked white chocolate chip-cranberry cookies to welcome Hurricane Douglas.

I sincerely hope your week started off better than ours did, and that it continued upward and ended on a high note (versus the arrival of a hurricane/tropical storm!). Here’s to more good things happening this week, good books to read, good health to celebrate, and a great week overall coming up!

Future Travel: Thinking Outside the Box

A question that pops up in my head over and over whenever I think about future travel has been, “What can we do differently this time?” We had a great travel routine before, but now that we’ve pretty much decided we won’t be traveling full time again, we’ve been trying to think of new (to us) ways to travel that would shake things up a bit.

There are still loads of places in the world we’d like to see, but most of all we want to go back to Japan, to spend time with our family. We’ve pretty much settled on two trips to Japan per year, one in the spring and one in the fall, so that we can be there for each of the grandkids’ birthdays (and our son’s). We also want to travel to one of the other islands here every year, for around 10 days each time. But otherwise, we’d like to do things a bit differently and try some new things.

We come up with a few ideas for future travel:

  • Try a tour versus doing it on our own. We enjoyed our short tour experience in India last year and have been thinking maybe it’s time to try another, and adding on a tour at the end of a one of our Tokyo stays each year. For example, it’s less expensive to fly to Europe from Tokyo than it is from Honolulu (for some obvious reasons), and we could add on Rick Steves tour. Or, we could stay in Asia and take a tour in SE Asia or Korea, flying back through Tokyo to pick up any luggage we might store there before coming home to Hawaii (a tour requires less luggage). We’ve never really been tour people, but think this might be a way to explore a bit more of the world without giving up one of our Japan stays and without overdoing it.
  • Up our lodging or dining budget. That is, we could save a bit more and stay in fancier accommodations than we typically do. Since we won’t be traveling full time, maybe bumping up our daily lodging budget in order to stay in nicer places, whether that’s in Japan or elsewhere, might be something we could do to spice things up a bit. Or, we could budget more for dining out and try some new things and new places.
  • Travel more inside of Japan. Both Brett and I have seen a lot of Japan, and want to visit Kyoto again, but there are loads of other places either one or both of us hasn’t seen, from Kyushu to Hiroshima to Hokkaido. Rather than spend the entire time we’re in Japan only in Tokyo, we could reserve Japan Rail passes before we go and get out of the city for a few days during each visit to explore more of the country.
  • Rent a car and take a driving trip on the mainland. We’ve been lucky to have been able to travel all over the U.S. thanks to Brett’s time in the navy and our many transfers, but it might be fun to see some of it again as a couple, traveling just a couple of weeks at a time and making the trip more focused. New England beckons, as do most of the western National Parks.
  • Take a freighter cruise. We’ve just started investigating this, so don’t know if it’s doable or desirable, but it would definitely be different. There’d be lots of social distancing, for sure.

None of these ideas, on their own, is anything new and/or unique in the world of travel, but they would be something different for us. We’re also sure we can come up with some other ideas during the next couple of years for switching things up, but for now the four items above give us plenty to think about. And, we’ve got lots of time to think about them as well as sadly there’ll be no future travel for us until 2022.

Home Cooking: Grilled Chicken Marinades x3

I know we’re all cooking more at home these days, so I thought maybe it would be nice to share some of our family’s favorite recipes.

We ♥ grilling, and are fortunate to be able to do it year-round here in Hawaii. We used to be exclusively charcoal grillers, and made up for all the lost grilling time during the Portland winters by dragging out our old Weber kettle as much as possible once the weather turned warm. We have a Weber again here, but this time it’s powered with gas. While I miss the flavor we got from charcoal grilling, the convenience of the gas grill wins out these days.

Any one of the three chicken marinades below works for any part of the chicken. Our family likes thighs because they’re tasty and inexpensive – I usually buy boneless, skinless thigh filets. My only issue with them is they can be quite fatty, and it can be a somewhat messy operation to trim off that fat before marinating them.

We love the taste of anything made with ginger and garlic, which are included in each of these marinades. Fresh ginger is especially easy to find at the farmers’ market and is inexpensive. Both garlic and ginger have many health benefits, although there probably isn’t enough of either in these recipe to make a difference. Un-peeled ginger can be stored in the vegetable crisper of the fridge in either a small plastic bag or container; peeled ginger keeps well in a sealed jar covered in vodka!

All three of these marinades help make chicken even more tender. Our son used to call the ginger-peanut chicken “velvet chicken” because it was so melt-in-your-mouth tender. The Japanese-style marinade and ginger-peanut marinated chicken lend themselves to Asian-style menus, and the ginger-yogurt chicken is a mock tandoori style, and goes well with Indian dishes. The Japanese-style marinade recipe comes from the New York Times. It’s a nice and easy change from teriyaki (which we also love) and has less salt. The peanut-ginger marinade comes from allrecipes, and the ginger-yogurt marinade is on an old newspaper clipping from who knows where or when. 

The marinades also work well with pork, and each of these marinades would work for tofu as well if you don’t eat meat. The Japanese-style and peanut-ginger marinades are both vegan.

GRILLED CHICKEN, JAPANESE STYLE

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 TBSP sake or white wine

2 TBSP mirin (or 1 TBSP honey mixed with 1 TBSP water)

2 green onions, coarsely chopped

1 TBSP minced garlic

1 TBSP finely minced ginger

3 pounds chicken pieces (skin removed if preferred)

Mix together the soy sauce, sake or wine, mirin, chopped onions, garlic and ginger in large, covered container or large zip-top bag. Add the chicken and toss to coat completely. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours up to overnight. Grill over medium hot heat for around 20 minutes or until fully cooked, turning frequently so the chicken does not burn.

CHICKEN IN GINGER-YOGURT MARINADE

3 pounds of cut up chicken (skin removed if preferred)

salt

1 cup plain yogurt

3 large cloves of finely minced garlic

1 tsp freshly grated ginger

1/4 tsp each ground cumin, ground coriander, turmeric and chili powder

Wipe chicken parts with a damp cloth and place in a large covered dish or zip-top bag. Lightly salt.  Mix together yogurt, garlic, ginger and spices. Spoon over chicken pieces and turn to coat well. Marinate for at least 8 hours. Oil grill well; grill over medium-hot heat, turning frequently until fully cooked. Chicken can also be baked in 350 degree oven for around one hour or until done.

PEANUT-GINGER MARINADE FOR CHICKEN

1/2 cup hot water

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

chili-garlic sauce to taste (start with 1 tsp and add to desired spiciness)

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 TBSP vegetable oil

2 TBSP rice vinegar

4 cloves minced garlic

2 tsp grated fresh ginger root

3 pounds boneless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces

In a large bowl, gradually stir the hot water into the peanut butter. Stir in garlic-chili sauce, soy sauce, oil, vinegar, garlic and ginger. Place chicken pieces in a large covered container or zip-top bag, cover with marinade and stir to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight, turning occasionally.

Thread chicken pieces onto skewers (discard marinade) and grill for 8-10 minutes per side over medium heat.