Staying Healthy: Food & Exercise (1/31 – 2/6)

There was lots of prep work and cooking this past week as I made several of YaYu’s favorite dishes before her departure. I am frankly looking forward to cutting back on my time in the kitchen, or at the least not having to make as much food as I have been. Leftovers always got eaten, but we have had to stay on it. 

I have been finding myself craving sweets more than usual this past week and am not sure what’s up with that. It’s been an effort to not go looking for something to snack on and I hope this is only a temporary thing. For so long that one small dessert at night has been enough, but I wanted more this week for some reason (but didn’t give in, thank goodness).

The onions are my favorite part of this adobo dish.

Sunday: InstantPot chicken adobo with bok choy; steamed rice; butter mochi with white chocolate-raspberry ice cream

The recipe made lots of extra sauce this time for some reason – yeah!

Monday: Chili pork burritos; Mexican slaw; butter mochi with white chocolate-raspberry ice cream

(I forgot to take a picture – photo credit: craftlog.com)

Tuesday: Japanese chicken curry with vegetables; German chocolate cake

This quesadilla was very satisfying and a great way to use up leftover chili pork sauce. I added fresh cilantro and chopped green onions inside as well.

Wednesday: Chili pork quesadillas; German chocolate cake

I used Rao’s marinara sauce – it really is the best.

Thursday: Spaghetti w/marinara and grilled Italian sausages; roasted zucchini; German chocolate cake

I substituted mung bean noodles since we’d just had spaghetti the day before.

Friday: Snake Alley noodles; cucumbers; German chocolate cake

Fresh pineapple, honeydew melon, caracara orange, and blueberries in the fruit bowl; peppers, onion, and sausage on the pizza. I had been busy chopping fruit and over-browned the sausage 😦 but it was still good.

Saturday: Sausage & vegetable mini pizzas; fruit salad; German chocolate cake

This coming week’s menu, in no particular order:

  • Loco moco (we had this last night, for YaYu’s final meal here)
  • Panzanella salad with chickpeas and feta cheese
  • Cuban bowls
  • Pork & pepper stir fry
  • Grilled flank steak; stuffing
  • Steak sandwiches with sautéed onions
  • Roasted red pepper and tomato soup with toasted cheese sandwiches

Vegetable sides will be what’s on hand (which is not much right now) and what I can find this week at the farmers’ market. We’ll run out of German chocolate cake mid-week but I’m planning to fix a pan of gingerbread next which we’ll have with Monkeypod Jam lemon curd. 

Heading up the hill to the clubhouse at Kukuiolono, the highest point in the park. The walk up to the clubhouse and back down is 1.6 miles.

With Brett still in quarantine until Thursday, and YaYu leaving today, I’ll be walking on my own for the next few days, and I’m frankly not looking forward to it – I like having company. Hopefully the weather will hold – we got lucky last week and there was no rain in the afternoons so YaYu and I walked every day (we took last Monday off though, and I’m taking today off as well). We didn’t walk as far as Brett and I typically do (3.5 miles versus 4.6) but we still got in a good workout. I’ll be continuing with the 3.5 mile route until Brett joins me again on Friday and then we’ll kick it up again. As much as we have struggled with the cooler weather at home it has made walking easier and more comfortable up at the park.

Master of all he surveys from the commanding heights.

I was finally ready yesterday to kick up my upper body strength training routine as well. This past week I started counting the YouTube instructor’s reps and discovered he was very inconsistent. He would do six reps with one arm, for example, and then 10 with the other arms. Or, 12 reps with one exercise, and 18 with another, and so forth. I have the routine memorized and started doing on my own yesterday with a more consistent 20 reps for each exercise. Progress!

Sunday Morning 2/7/2021: Just the Two of Us Again

A sunset tried to happen on Thursday evening, but this was as far as it got all week before fading to gray. 

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

YaYu heads back to school tomorrow evening, and we’re saying goodbye with mixed feelings. We’re ready to have our little apartment back to ourselves again and not have YaYu’s stuff all over the place (it’s really too small for three people), but also know we will greatly miss her and that it will many months before we see her again. This long, extended stay with us has not been easy for her and she’s pretty much been bored out of her mind for most of it, but she has also hasn’t seemed as prickly as she’s been in the past. I am looking forward to not having to cook so much so often, and pick up after her so often as well. Anyway, she’ll fly from here to Honolulu tomorrow evening where she has a couple of hours layover, then on to Seattle overnight to meet up with a good friend in the morning before heading back to Pennsylvania together. They’ll share an Uber ride out to the campus, and classes will begin toward the end of the week. YaYu has a heavy schedule, and a lot to decide this term – she’ll be hunting down a research internship and researching graduate programs. She has a few options if she does not nail down the internship, but she definitely won’t be coming back to Hawaii – once again there won’t be anything for her to do here.

Hangin’ out in the yard with Ally Cat.

Brett had to begin quarantining the minute he came back from Honolulu, and that doesn’t end until Thursday evening at 5:00 p.m. YaYu has been freaked out about him possibly having brought the virus back with him so he has been wearing a mask inside and even out in the yard (and she wears a mask inside), she’s been eating separately from him, and he has not been allowed to touch the dishes (washing, putting away, etc.) or anything she uses. He still makes the coffee in the morning, but that been OK with YaYu because she doesn’t drink coffee. Brett has spent most of his time reading, but he has been taking care of various tasks around the apartment so our windows now sparkle, light fixtures are spotless and bug free, everything is dusted, the refrigerator has been scrubbed out from top to bottom, and so forth. His appointment with the doctor in Honolulu went well, and he’ll have one more test done here before surgery, which will thankfully also be done at the hospital here. He’s not sure whether he’ll have to go back to Honolulu for a post-op exam or whether that can be done via tele-med, but if he does have to go we’ve decided I will tag along as well and we’ll give ourselves a little break there. We’ll see.

There were big, loud thunderstorms in the middle of Wednesday night as the cold front rolled in, and then a gloomy and cold Thursday morning. The sun eventually came out although it stayed cold.

We’ve had another week of crazy weather with rain, wind, thunderstorms, and unusually cold temperatures. We had a few days where temps dropped down into the mid-50s to low-60s in the morning and at night, and stayed in the upper 60s during the day – it was uncomfortable. Friends on the mainland have laughed and reminded me that they haven’t had temperatures in the 60s for weeks now, but we don’t have insulation or heaters here, so if it’s in the 50s or 60s outside it’s also 50 or 60 degrees inside as well and all we can do is bundle up and hope it eventually warms up (we would have turned on the heat back on the mainland if it was this cold inside). It’s sort of like a reverse heat wave for us when it gets this cold here, the opposite of a few days of weather at 107° or so with no air conditioning, no ceiling fans, no breeze, and insulation made to keep the cold out. Anyway, things finally appear to be moving back to normal – the temperature is noticeably warmer this morning.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m just about done with The Perfect Spy, and then will go back to The Woman In White again this week. Hopefully I can get that done before the next book comes off of hold at the library. I had hoped to finish four books in January, but because of library scheduling and book length and density, that didn’t happen.
    Not a cloud in the sky – it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
  • Listening to: The sun is out and the sky is blue, blue, blue. There is a normal amount of breeze, and it’s 10 degrees warmer than it’s been all week – I don’t have to put on a sweater for the first time in a few days. There are a few chickens/roosters out screaming in the distance, but otherwise it’s very quiet both inside and out. YaYu is outside with the cat, and Brett is reading so it’s very quiet inside. I’ve got a nice hot cup of coffee sitting in front of me – the morning couldn’t be more perfect!
  • Watching: We’re still watching Call My Agent and The Umbrella Academy – both are great. I can understand a few more words in French these days but most of it is way too fast for me in Call My Agent.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: Since he’s stuck at home, Brett has been taking care of loads of chores around the house: the windows have all been washed, inside and out, he cleaned the refrigerator, and several other things have been taken care of. I finally made a dental appointment for an exam and cleaning, but only because a small piece chipped off of one of my back teeth. I have sort of been avoiding the dentist because of the pandemic but can’t put it off any more. YaYu mailed two packages to herself, things that weren’t going to fit into her suitcase or backpack going back (including the yoga mat we gave her for Christmas and some of the snacks she got for herself). She was appalled by the cost of postage. She’ll get her packing done later today.
  • Looking forward to next week: Tomorrow will be my weekly day off from walking, and then I’ll be up at the park by myself for three days, so I am greatly looking forward to walking with Brett again beginning on Friday, once he’s out of quarantine. I’m also looking forward to preparing simpler meals once again next week, and not having to spend so much time in the kitchen. I’m looking forward to washing fewer dishes as well as Brett will be helping out again (he does the afternoon/evening dishes).
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and YaYu hiked up Sleeping Giant last Sunday; it was one thing YaYu greatly wanted to do before she left, and the weather cooperated. I received a lovely email this past week from our host in Florence checking up on us and letting us know they were selling the apartment we stayed in there. It was one of our favorite homes during all of our travels – so charming and in such a great location. We were so cold on Friday morning that Brett started a small fire in outdoor firepit to help warm us up (it was too early in the day for s’mores though).
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Other than Brett’s trip to Honolulu, the farmers’ market (where I only spent $8), and a quick trip to Big Save ($20.15), it was a no-spend week. We put $7.93 into the change/$1 bill jar this past week, leftover from Brett’s trip to Honolulu and the farmers’ market. Our total change/$1 bill amount saved in January was $28.94. I earned 2,430 Swagbucks, which includes a 632 SB bonus earned in January. As always, no food was thrown away and all the leftovers were consumed.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are very grateful for the time we’ve gotten to spend with YaYu and the chance we’ve had to spoil her a bit. We’re also grateful for the efforts her sisters have made to stay in contact with her while she’s been here as well. They have a strong relationship with each other, and it’s been a joy to see them support each other even though they can’t get together. 
  • Bonus question: How many places have you had a driver’s license? I counted these up the other day and was surprised to discover that I’ve been licensed at one time or another in eight different states: California, Arizona, Colorado, Tennessee, Maryland, Florida, Oregon, and Hawaii. I learned to drive in California, but attended college in Arizona and needed a license there, then later lived in Colorado for a while before I joined the navy, and had licenses from Tennessee, Maryland, and Florida during Brett’s time in the navy. Oregon and Hawaii licenses came after, for obvious reasons. Other than my initial test in California, I’ve never had to take another driving test, only written exams for a new license. I also had a special driving license each time we were stationed in Japan, issued jointly from the navy and the Japanese government (again only a written test). That license was equivalent to one for a “professional driver,” such as a taxi driver, truck driver, chauffeur, etc. and if I’d ever had an accident there would have been assessed differently (i.e. stronger penalties) than a regular driver. By the way, in Japan we drove on the left side of the road, like in the UK, Australia or New Zealand. It was easy once I remembered to always keep the steering wheel to the center of the road. We lived in Japan long enough too that when I would watch American films or TV shows they were driving on the wrong side of the road!

Hawaii’s current visitor quarantine requirements are due to expire on February 20, but we heard rumors this past week that they may continue until more people/visitors have been vaccinated, especially with the relief bill coming with continued unemployment insurance, etc. Cases of the virus here have been dropping rapidly, but Hawaii is currently not getting enough of the vaccine, and what’s coming now is being used for the second dose of those who have been vaccinated instead of getting new people taken care of. Hopefully that will change soon. Everyone we talk to here admits to loving quiet and calm we’re enjoying now, the lack of traffic on the roads, etc. and is not looking forward to having hoards of visitors descend on the island once again once things improve. Hopefully some lessons have been learned, and tourism won’t reach the levels it was at back when we left in 2018 – it was overwhelming back then, and unsustainable. I am sorry though for all the businesses that weren’t able to make it without tourist dollars and won’t be coming back – peace and quiet has come with a price.

Even with the cold, there’s been lots going on in the yard this past week.

It’s been another quiet, low key (and cold) week but a good one and I’m looking forward to the week coming up and hope everyone is as well. Hopefully there will be more and better picture-taking opportunities. In the meantime, here’s to good food, good books, safe travels, frugal living, and good things happening for all!

Home Cooking: Guadalajara Swiss chard Quesadillas

Guadalajara quesadillas

These tasty, easy, and tasty quesadillas have become new favorite at Chez Aloha and make a complete vegetarian meal all on their own. I first made them when the girls were young, and although they all like greens their reaction back then was ho-hum. I came across the recipe again a few months ago and decided to give them another try because Swiss chard is almost always plentiful at the farmers’ markets here year round and I’m always looking for ways to use it. This time the reaction from both Brett and YaYu was two thumbs up! 

A quesadilla is basically cheese melted inside either a corn or flour tortilla, with flour the most common choice. The great thing about a quesadilla is that almost anything can be included in one, from vegetables to meat to simply cheese and salsa. The first quesadilla I ever had contained cheese and diced tomatoes between corn tortillas that had been fried. They were very tasty, but very, very oily. Eventually I was introduced to quesadillas using flour tortillas, which had instead been toasted in a hot skillet or on a griddle, and were a popular breakfast entree for our girls, and always on our camping menus. Quesadillas can also be melted in a microwave, but they’re frankly not as good as ones that have been toasted. The original recipe for the Guadalajara quesadillas called for corn tortillas, but I use 12-inch flour tortillas folded over and they work and taste great.

The last time I made these I substituted spinach for the Swiss chard as we found baby spinach for an affordable price at Costco. While we like Swiss chard, spinach provided a milder, but still delicious, taste for the filling. The greens are seasoned with spices and tequila and are definitely not bland!

These quesadillas should be enjoyed hot from the pan, and hot sauce or salsa can either be added to the inside, or on top if desired.

GUADALAJARA QUESADILLAS

  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, minced (if you like it less hot, discard the seeds and veins before cutting)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • 12 ounces Swiss chard or spinach
  • 8 corn tortillas or 8-inch flour tortillas or 4 12-inch flour tortillas
  • 8 ounces grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • hot sauce or salsa (optional)

If using Swiss chard, cut off of stems; wash and cut into 2-inch ribbons.

Heat oil in a large skillet; add onions and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, jalapeño, cumin, and oregano and sauté an additional 2 minutes. Pour in tequila and cook until liquid has evaporated.

Add chard or spinach, reduce heat, and cover and steam until wilted, about 5 minutes or so. Remove cover and continue to cook with onion mixture until all liquid has evaporated. Set aside.

Heat a large skillet (non-stick works best) over medium heat. Spread 2-ounces of grated cheese on a tortilla (or half of a 12-inch tortilla), top with 1/4 of spinach mixture, add hot sauce or salsa if desired, top with a second tortilla (or fold over 12-inch one) and place in the hot skillet. Watch carefully and flip the quesadilla as the cheese melts, toasting the tortilla to a nice brown color on each side. Place on a plate and cut into four slices (I use kitchen shears for this task). Serve immediately.

How We Did It

(This is an updated version of a previous post.) 

Some friends once asked us for a blueprint of how we set up our nomadic life, and how we sustained it. The first point we made was that we weren’t the first to do this nor would we be the last, and how we did it was definitely not the only way. We met other nomadic couples during our travels, and every one of them was doing long-term travel differently from us and funding it differently as well. Our inspiration came from Michael and Debbie Campbell, the original Senior Nomads, but everyone who has committed to a big travel adventure is doing what works for their energy level, bucket list, and budget.

Our full-time travel lifestyle started from a casual comment Brett made one day when we were trying to prioritize a list of travel destinations. We were still living on Kaua’i at the time, enjoying our life there (well, except for the humidity), but YaYu, our youngest, would heading off to college in a few months and Brett and I were eager to hit the road on our own and go somewhere we hadn’t been before. As we were discussing different locations, Brett said, “I wish we could see them all.” We both stopped immediately, looked at each other, and at the same time asked, “Could we do that?” We spent the next few weeks talking about the possibility of traveling full time and crunching numbers, and eventually figured out that by saving every extra penny we could, getting rid of almost everything we owned, and giving up our life in Hawai’i we could make a big travel dream happen.

Many people have assumed that because we traveled full time we must have a large retirement income but that wasn’t and isn’t true. We’re definitely not made of money (our income would probably surprise most people), but we’ve found it was possible to travel full time on our income as well as cover our expenses with careful planning, no debt other than my student loan, and an ability to stick to a budget. Our situation was somewhat unique in that we didn’t own a home when we began traveling and our daughters earned enough from work to supplement the scholarships and financial aid they were awarded and paid their own college expenses. Although the Senior Nomads were homeowners when they set out, they still initially sold all their stuff and rented their house while they traveled, and we could have done the same if we had still been homeowners. Because our income came/comes primarily from government pensions – Social Security and Brett’s military retirement (and a small pension from Brett’s last employment) – it was/is consistent from month to month which makes budgeting easier. All we had to do was figure out how to live off of that income while we traveled beyond covering travel expenses, a couple of fixed payments, and getting our college-aged children to and from places. We had/have no other extra income, no big investments to manage, no secret slush fund, and we didn’t take money from anything but our travel savings. Instead of paying for rent, utilities, gasoline, insurance, car repairs or home maintenance we used our income to cover airfare, Airbnb rentals and daily living expenses.

Our travel lifestyle worked from two different directions: 1) we carefully planned ahead and 2) we had a budget and stuck to it. For almost a year and a half before we set off on our Big Adventure, we saved as much as we could to cover as many up-front travel expenses as possible, like our train journey across Australia and our tour in India, and as many flights, Airbnb reservations and other expenses as we could. That got us started and we were able to sustain the rest of our lifestyle on what we received each month as we went along.

Planning ahead for where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do gave us plenty of time to find affordable flights and/or other transportation, and affordable Airbnb lodgings as well. Nothing was left to chance and there was very little to no spontaneity involved when it came to those big decisions. Once we committed, we were committed – there was no backing out or changing our minds, mainly because we would have lost quite a bit of money if we had. We also continued to put money away into our travel fund every month to cover transportation and lodging expenses ahead of time.

The only fixed bills we had each month were my student loan payment and our phone plan, deducted from our pay automatically each month. So, the amount we had in disposable income each month didn’t vary. That income covered lodging and long-distance transportation costs, groceries and (very) occasional dining out, local transportation, admissions, souvenirs, etc. Brett maintained a diary of all our spending every day to keep track of how we were doing and to let us know when we might need to cut back or tweak things a bit (he still does this every day). We had to adjust that amount and lower our daily spending average when we started putting money away to help YaYu graduate from college without any debt or at least with as little debt as possible. We were also fortunate that we have military healthcare which covers us worldwide. In fact, we learned that because we have military insurance we didn’t qualify for regular travel insurance! Our credit card benefits covered most of the other travel insurance items, such as canceled flights, lost luggage, etc.

We initially thought a year or so of full-time travel would be enough, and afterwards we’d be ready to settle down somewhere, but we found the longer we traveled, the more we wanted to continue. We had a much better time than we imagined, and learned things along the way to make the experience go more smoothly. For example, we discovered we preferred longer stays of at least a month in a location versus moving every few days or even every couple of weeks – we tried that and it was exhausting – and that longer stays usually provided a sometimes substantial discount for housing. We worked it out where we got together with each of our daughters a couple of times each year as well as spent time in Japan with our son and his family. We made the lifestyle work for us and not the other way around. While we are happy to be back on Kaua’i these days, in hindsight we realize we maybe should have fulfilled our stay in Japan, and then traveled on to Mexico and stayed put there as getting resettled on Kaua’i ended up costing us much more than expected. However, it’s been an extremely safe place to ride out the pandemic; the same probably could not have been said of Mexico.

There is no one-size-fits-all way to do long-term travel. How one accomplishes it or adapts to it is completely customizable according to one’s own circumstances, financial and otherwise. We flew from place to place, but have met others that were doing long-term road trips around the U.S. and Canada, staying in Airbnb rentals in the locations they visit. Some were pulling a trailer or driving an RV and camping. Other people we met were housesitting and others had kept their homes but did house swaps. The one thing everyone seemed to have in common was living within their means and living with minimal possessions, and prioritizing experiences rather than having things to show.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. 

Although the lifestyle is not for everybody, if you’ve ever dreamt of trying out the nomadic life for a while, I firmly believe a way can be found to make it happen in a way that works for each person or couple or even family. All that’s needed is imagination and the courage to take the first step. Oh . . . and, no pandemics.

Staying Healthy: Food & Exercise (1/24 – 1/30)

Back before we left on our Big Adventure, before YaYu headed off to school, I told Brett that once she had left the nest I no longer wanted to cook, or at least not cook very much. It wasn’t that I didn’t like cooking or enjoy it, but I was tired and wanted a break. I told him we would be having more sandwich meals, or prepared casseroles, things that wouldn’t require me to spend a lot of time in the kitchen while still allowing us to have healthy meals.

And how has that plan turned out? Well, as you can see from the meals we’ve had below, not very well, at least not while YaYu is home. The girl likes to eat, and, as it has turned out, wants a home-cooked meal at night. I had hoped she would help out more in the kitchen, and she does occasionally, occasionally being the operative word though. For the most part she wants Mom’s home cooking. I’ve indulged her this visit, especially as she doesn’t intend to come for the summer (nothing for her to do here) and we won’t see her again until next winter. It’s meant a higher food bill, and more work for me, but she’ll be heading back to school in another week, and then it will be back to simpler meals, and less time in the kitchen for me.

Breakfast for dinner

Sunday: Breakfast for dinner (scrambled eggs, breakfast sausages, tangerines, and toasted artisan roll); tapioca pudding with gingersnaps for dessert

Guadalajara quesadillas

Monday: Guadalajara quesadillas; tapioca pudding with gingersnaps

Ham, egg, and cucumber provide the salad’s three colors.

Tuesday: Chinese 3-Color salad; tapioca pudding with gingersnaps

We had grilled opah (sunfish) in our tacos.

Wednesday: Grilled fish tacos with cabbage and mango-peach salsa; tapioca pudding with gingersnaps

This is one meal YaYu always cooks for us; she makes it differently every time but it’s always delicious.
Butter mochi and ice cream: a perfect combination

Thursday: Ham fried rice; butter mochi & white chocolate-raspberry ice cream

YaYu’s favorite casserole, but it hasn’t been available at Costco for ages, so she was thrilled to have one before she goes back to school.

Friday: Costco pasta and Italian sausage casserole; sautéed green beans; butter mochi & white chocolate-raspberry ice cream

Classic pepperoni always satisfies.

Saturday: Pepperoni & vegetable mini pizza; butter mochi with white chocolate-raspberry ice cream

Menu plan for next week will include many of YaYu’s favorites:

  • Chili pork burritos
  • Spicy chicken quesadillas
  • Spaghetti with marinara and grilled Italian sausages
  • Chicken adobo with bok choy
  • Noodles with pork sauce
  • Japanese curry with chicken and vegetables
  • Sausage mini pizzas

We eat meat almost every day, but with a few exceptions meat is never the “star” of the meal, and I try to treat it more like a condiment. If a recipe calls for a pound of meat, for example, I will only use a half pound. We eat a lot of vegetables and fruit or incorporate them into our meals, and although we’re eating less carbs overall, our desserts, small but indulgent, provide a daily treat that helps keep Brett and I from turning to other high-carb sweets or snacks. They also give us something to look forward to toward the end of the day. 

Last Wednesday I was cleaning out my photo file and discovered a picture I had taken of myself exactly two months earlier (November 27). As I was coincidentally wearing the same outfit, I took another picture to see if I could see any difference as I weighed seven pounds less than I did in the November photo (on the left). I don’t see any change, but Brett and YaYu both say they definitely do so I’ll go with the majority. Hopefully in another two months or so I will finally be able to see a difference. I definitely look different from how I did when we arrived here last year though – even I can see that (and my baggy, loose pants confirm it). At the end of the day though, my focus is not on how I look – I am never going to be model thin with shapely legs. These days I am walking for endurance, to increase my bone strength, and for the other health benefits, and to get my weight back to where my body feels comfortable. I am average height (65″) but have a small frame, and it’s difficult and painful to carry around too much weight. I have no one but myself to blame for that happening though, but I am able to change things.

All the above being said, this past week was not a great one for walking . . . the weather was very sketchy for most of the week. We took a regular day off on Sunday, and then got rained out on Monday. We walked in fierce winds on Tuesday and Wednesday – there were times we thought we might get blown off the path! Thursday the weather was better, but we had never seen the park so crowded so we didn’t walk as long as usual. Friday would have been perfect except for the strong winds (“it was trying to be hot but the wind wouldn’t let it”), but the sun was out on the Saturday, and the wind had died down to a breeze – it was lovely. We walked through rain showers on a few days, but those thankfully didn’t last long and we barely got wet. Never a dull moment! I will have the totals mileage up for January next week, but I know we walked over 100 miles last month. 

Sunday Morning 1/31/2021: An Ordinary Week

There were no sunsets this week, just gray clouds and overcast skies, so I give you instead the most incredible sunset we’ve ever seen here, taken back in 2017. It looked like a literal pillar of fire.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Other than the weather being kind of wild this past week, with the wind sounding like a freight train moving through the yard most of the time, we’ve had a very simple, ordinary week. We did our food shopping, walked almost every day, took care of chores and such around the house, and did nothing out of the ordinary. I have worried all week about what I would write about today, but in hindsight it was great to have a week without a lot of stress or running around.

We will be glad to see the backside of January – it has been a very expensive month for us. Three birthdays, flights for both Brett and YaYu, over budget on food and supplies, and a few other expenses have rung us dry. The girls’ birthdays were an expected expense, as was YaYu’s flight, but Brett’s trip over to Honolulu and back sort of came up suddenly when there was a cancellation with the specialist there. Besides his ticket we also have to cover his ground transportation, meals, and such while he’s there. We honestly didn’t figure on running out of so many things at once either, especially items that we typically buy in bulk. Anyway, February is so far looking better – with YaYu’s return to school food costs will drop, we’re well-stocked with supplies, and there should be fewer surprises, or at least we hope so.

Spending some quality time with Ally on a cold, dreary day.

YaYu heads back to school a week from tomorrow. She is excited, but we will miss our girl. It has been a very boring stay for her as there hasn’t been anything for her to do here, and her remaining friend on the island headed back to school a few weeks ago and they were only able to get together once during her stay. Ally Cat is going to drive us crazy after YaYu is gone as well – she shows up two or more times a day to spend time with YaYu – the two of them love being together. Brett and I are honestly looking forward to having more space once again as our apartment really is too small for three, at least for a long-term stay, but we’re very much going to miss YaYu’s company and cooking. This year she won’t be coming back for the summer either – the next time we see her will be next winter, whether that’s here or elsewhere.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I was dividing my time between A Perfect Spy (daytime) and A Necessary Evil at night this past week, but finished A Necessary Evil last night as it moved along a more quickly. I will concentrate on A Perfect Spy for now (reading both day and night) and then get back to The Woman In White.
  • Listening to: This is the first morning all week where the wind isn’t howling out in the yard as it blows past. The sky is blue and the breeze is a normal level, although it’s still nicely cool. There’s a rooster screaming now again but otherwise it’s quite peaceful for a change. It’s quiet inside too – Brett is reading and YaYu is still sleeping – and I’ve got a nice fresh, hot cup of coffee in front of me so things are just about perfect as far as I’m concerned.
  • Watching: Brett and I finished watching both Dark and Ratched this past week, and have started Call My Agent and The Umbrella Academy. Call My Agent is French, and has subtitles, so I have to pay careful attention to catch what’s going on. I can understand about every 50th word but hopefully I will do better as it progresses – there are four seasons. Umbrella Academy is strange but promising. Last night we watched The Dig on Netflix, a lovely story and lovely movie. YaYu is watching a show called The Magicians, and I catch some of it from time to time – it’s a strange but interesting show as well. I have been thinking about how Brett and I rarely watched TV before we set out on our Big Adventure, but got into the habit when we were in Portland in the summer of 2019 and then in England, and now we look forward to watching together every evening after dinner.
  • Happy I accomplished: I got my activity card filled in this week, but don’t think we accomplished anything special this week although we did get our food shopping done including lots of snacks for YaYu to take back to school with her. Otherwise it was just our usual cleaning, laundry, walking, meal prep and clean up, etc.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am frankly not looking forward to next week as Brett will be quarantining for 10 days following his return from Honolulu tomorrow. That means I will be walking by myself each day, he will not be dining at the table with us, he will not be able to go to the airport to see YaYu off, and other precautions will be taken. He is going over to Honolulu with a KN95 mask and wearing a cloth mask over that, and bringing along loads of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, so hopefully all will go well but it’s still worrisome. I have my fingers crossed for continued better weather this week, with more sunshine, and that the temperatures will creep up a bit. It has been very chilly at night all week although the humidity has stayed low.
    A surprise gift from our neighbor, from her backyard! It lights up the entire room.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) We were coming down the road to our house from our walk last Wednesday and passed a neighbor, who was on her way up to the park, and she stopped and gave us a gorgeous bouquet from her garden (she thought see would see us in the park)! It was such an unexpected and lovely gesture. We only met her a few weeks ago up at the park – Brett recognized her dog and car – and we ended up talking for a long time. Her husband is also retired navy, so after YaYu has gone back to school we’re having them over for cocktails and conversation. 2) We were able to get lilikoi at the farmers’ market this past week – such a treat! It’s hard to find these days.
    Quite a haul from the farmers’ market this past week for just $20: a bag of lilikoi, bananas, 2 limes, big carrots, a cucumber, green onions, a huge bunch of cilantro, a big bag of green beans, and bok choy.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We had slightly under $11 left over when we did our food shopping last Thursday, even after buying extra fruit and snacks for YaYu, and spending a full $20 at the farmers’ market. Some of that went into the change/$1 bill jar ($6.21) and the other $5 was put away for a future farmers’ market trip. 2) We finally received a $20 Costco card we earned when we signed up for automatic renewal last year, and used it at Costco this week but put $20 out of our regular shopping money into our travel account. 3) We also put $24.10 in credit card rewards into the travel account. 4) I earned 1,564 Swagbucks and will receive bonus SB later this week as I reached my goal every day in January. 5) I made a big pot of vegetable rice soup last Tuesday using up odds and ends from the vegetable drawer, some open containers of chicken stock, and a half-cup of rice, and enjoyed that for lunch for four days. 6) All other leftovers were used up and we didn’t throw away and food.
    My leftover vegetable soup contained green beans, spinach, cabbage, carrots, onions, celery, and broccoli.
  • Grateful for: I feel sometimes like I’ve hit a wall with this pandemic – I’m tired of not being able to go out other than to food shop, tired of wearing a mask when we do go out (but grateful that everyone here wears one without argument), tired that other than food shopping our only outing is a trip up to the park each day to walk or up to the Stone Dam trail. But then I remember that I am healthy and that my family is healthy, that I live in a very safe place, that I do not have to worry about losing my job or not being able to afford to eat or pay my rent, etc. and I am very grateful for all those things. Far too many others have not been as fortunate. I know we will get through this, although I am beginning to realize and accept that the world will not be the same, that there is no going back to what was “normal” before. Still, I can dream and I do, and I remain grateful for that as well.
  • Bonus question: What’s something you’re very good at but hate doing? This turned out to be another question I really had to think about for a while, and had a hard time coming up with a satisfactory answer. One of the joys of being retired is that I don’t have to do anything I hate these days whether I’m very good at it (or think I’m good at it) or not. Actually, I don’t think I’m very good at much of anything now. I was a very good academic writer back in the day but that’s something I would hate doing these days. I also used to be very good at embroidery, but while I don’t hate it I’m also not eager to pick it up again. Everything else I do very well these days I don’t hate doing. 
The prayer plant on the left is really surging but there are loads of new sprouts coming out on the right plant. Fingers crossed!

For someone who has prided themselves on have a green thumb with indoor plants, I have nearly killed three of them since we’ve lived here (four others are doing great though). I think the mostly likely problem was overwatering – because of the humidity the plants didn’t dry out as much as they should have between waterings and I nearly drowned them. Oops! We set all three outside and all are now sending up new leaves and shoots. For the time being we plan to leave them outside on the porch – they’ll get plenty of sun and water – and then will plant them in the yard later.

That’s a wrap for this week. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great – it was just very ordinary. I plan to savor this last week with YaYu, and help her get ready to head back to the mainland and will deal with Brett’s quarantine. I hope this past week was a good one for everyone, with good books, good food, lots of good things happening, and that everyone is looking forward to the week coming up!

Home Cooking: Tom Collecchio’s One-Pan Pasta

I am a HUGE Tom Colleccio fan. I’ve read his books, I follow him on Twitter, I watch Top Chef whenever I get the chance, and when we were going to visit New York City last year we had plans to have dinner at one of his restaurants, Craft, and also stop at ‘wichcraft, his sandwich shop, for lunch. Chef Colleccio doesn’t just make great food; he is also a strong advocate for the restaurant industry and restaurant workers (he has fought tirelessly for them throughout the pandemic) and is deeply involved with hunger issues, both in New York and nationally.

Chef Colleccio mentioned this recipe on Twitter the other day, so I went to check it out and was excited to see we had everything on hand to make it. Aside from some chopping (the ham and the broccoli), everything was done and ready for the table in less than 20 minutes. We all raved about the results (YaYu had two helpings), and it immediately reached “favorite recipe” status and will be in frequent rotation here.

While the type of pasta was not indicated in the recipe, I used spaghetti because that’s what I had on hand, but I think almost any shape would work. The recipe does note that other vegetables can be substituted for the broccoli, such as frozen peas, asparagus or cauliflower. The half-cup of olive oil called for was too much for me; I used 1/4 cup and it was enough.

TOM COLLECCIO’S ONE POT PASTA

  • 1 pound dry pasta
  • 1 large head broccoli, cut crosswise to make small, irregular pieces
  • 3/4 pound smoked pork loin, smoked ham, or smoked turkey, cut into 1/3″ cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup virgin olive oil (more or less to taste)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Fill a large pot 2/3 full of water; generously add salt to the water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions. About 3 – 4 minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broccoli to the pot and continue to simmer.

Set aside some of the hot pasta water and drain the pasta and broccoli; set it aside for a minute. Return the pot to the stove, add half of the olive oil, and saute the garlic until it begins to brown, then add the meat and heat through.

Add the pasta and broccoli back to the pot and combine with the ham and garlic. Then add the Parmesan cheese and remaining olive oil and toss, then the pasta water, a little at a time, stirring until there is a creamy sauce coating everything.

Season generously with fresh cracked pepper and with more cheese on the side, if desired.

Staying Healthy: Food & Exercise

Because staying healthy is our #1 goal this year, rather than just listing our weekly menu and how much we walked in the Sunday post, I want to combine the two along with other healthy things we’re doing into a weekly post. This is not to thrill, amaze, or impress anyone with what we’re eating or how much we’re walking, but to help me keep track of our progress, and better see ways we could be improving. I will still be making a weekly menu plan, and including that in this post, and the Friday recipe post will continue as well (as long as I have recipes to share).

Without further ado, here’s what we ate this past week. My goal when meal planning is to come up with flavorful, healthy meals that use what we have on hand and contain less than 500 calories, including dessert. I apologize for the shadowy photos – the light is not very good when it’s time for us to eat, but I do my best.

Mississippi pot roast dinner . . .
. . . and Baked Alaska birthday cake

Sunday: We celebrated YaYu’s 21st birthday with one of her favorite meals: Mississippi pot roast, mashed potatoes, and sautéed green beans. For her special dessert I made a Baked Alaska (with a brownie base and chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream). It was a bit of a challenge because I did not have any of the traditional pans needed (all were in the lost box) and high humidity made it difficult for the meringue to hold its shape, but it came out okay in the end and was delicious.

One Pot Pasta with ham and broccoli

Monday: I tried a new recipe and it’s a keeper: Chef Tom Collecchio’s One Pot Pasta. So good and so easy! We had leftover Baked Alaska for dessert.

Who needs CookDo?

Tuesday: Japanese-style sweet and sour pork (subuta) over steamed rice; finished up the Baked Alaska.

Costco’s artisan rolls are perfect for French Dip.

Wednesday: French dip sandwiches made with leftover pot roast; roasted zucchini; chocolate cake with coffee buttercream for dessert.

I love these wraps because they’re made with cabbage – no lettuce (which I can’t eat). I counted out nine chips for my serving.

Thursday: I wanted a day off from cooking, so we had Costco Asian chicken wraps; salt & pepper baked potato chips; and chocolate cake again.

Pizza in our home is traditionally served on the blue fish plates for who knows what reason. Mini naan breads make a pretty good crust and help keep the calories down.

Friday: Mini chicken tikka masala pizzas; chocolate cake again

Chicken with rice and five vegetables: carrots, onions, celery, green beans, and zucchini.

Saturday: Chicken, vegetables, and rice soup, and chocolate cake one last time. The cake has been delicious, but has kept me awake into the early hours as there was so much caffeine in it.

I had small portions of everything (all measured and/or weighed). I have no dietary restrictions, but continue try to limit my carbs and eat more vegetables than not, and not exceed 1200 calories per day (usually get a few more though based on how much we walk). 

Here’s the menu plan for this coming week (in no particular order):

  • breakfast for dinner (sausages, eggs, and toast)
  • Guadalajara Swiss chard quesadillas (made with spinach this time)
  • grilled fish tacos with mango peach salsa
  • Chinese 3-color salad
  • ham fried rice
  • Costco Italian sausage and pasta casserole
  • mini pepperoni & vegetable pizzas

Tapioca pudding and gingersnaps will our dessert for the first four days of the week, then we’ll have butter mochi with ice cream next. Not sure what vegetables we’ll be having with some meals either – that will depend on what we find at the farmers’ market. I currently drink 72 ounces of water every day, and will be sticking with that.

Wind and clouds were constant companions as we walked this past week. We feel lucky to have gotten in as many walks as we did because the weather was so crazy.

We walked six and a half hours last week and 89 miles in January (so far). It rained several days during the week, but we were lucky and got in a walk every day even though we got a bit wet a couple of times. We will be continuing with our current walking distance through the end of the month, taking Sundays off going forward as we need and want a day of rest (it’s also the most crowded day up at the park and we like walking when there are fewer people there). Daily strength training has been going well – I have no trouble fitting it into the day, and look forward to it. Week before last the three of us did a six-mile hike on the Stone Dam trail, and were the only people out there that day! Finally, I lost another three pounds this past month, 31 pounds total since June of last year, and two toward my goal of 10 more pounds off this year. Other than a couple of pairs of leggings, none of the pants I arrived here with fit any more – they all fall off me now. My tops are super baggy as well. I am making do though, and with the shorts I purchased toward the end of last year I have plenty to wear, and no intention of buying anything else other than new walking shoes in March.

Brett is set to meet with the endocrinologist in Honolulu on February 1. He was scheduled to have surgery done last December, in Portland, and hopefully he can get it done this year, at Tripler Army Hospital if possible. The issue isn’t a serious one, but it does need correction. We are both eligible for the COVID vaccination but not until the end of March.

What I Did On My Winter Vacation

Travel planning has begun . . .

I had a very good time during my break doing some travel planning . . . for fun. I focused on a return to England, to the Cotswolds again, and sort of put together an itinerary, then looked for lodging, tours, and other things Brett and I would like to include on our next visit. I absolutely love travel planning, so this was a very enjoyable and relaxing way to spend (waste?) my time for several days.

We hope to do another three month stay in 2023, this time from August through October. Our last visit was September through November, and while September was lovely, by November we were pretty much confined to our cottage and unable to get out much for walks and such because of the weather. We think moving things forward by a month we’ll be able to enjoy better weather while still getting to enjoy the best of summer and fall.

YaYu and I spent an enjoyable amount of time last week pouring over the Character Cottages website, looking for an ideal cottage for our stay. Character Cottages is a booking agent for a large group of cottages in the Cotswolds (not property managers though); even if you find a cottage on another site, its rental is often still handled through Character Cottages. They have properties in many villages, and rentals in all sizes and price ranges. The cottages each have at least one of what the firm calls a “character feature,” which could be anything from the architecture to a stone fireplace or inglenook in the living room. 

Choosing a location took some time, but after some discussion Brett and I decided we’d like to return to Blockley or very nearby, for a variety of reasons, most especially location and familiarity. YaYu and I did most of our searching among those properties. Must-haves included two bedrooms (all three of the girls have said if we go back to England they are coming to visit); a full kitchen with a dishwasher; a washer/dryer; and convenient parking as we plan to rent a car on our next visit. I also wanted a gas fireplace (easy to turn on and off, and they do a better job of warming a room). In the end we came up with three potential cottages that had everything we wanted this time, at prices we felt we could afford. I’m not going to order them, because we like all three, but one is our top choice. I would love to know how you would rank these (you can click on the link under the picture for more information)!

 

Primrose Cottage

Brook Cottage

Green Cottage

Although we did used public transportation during our last visit and managed well with that, we decided we’d rather have a car this next time, so I also investigated long-term car rentals. At first we thought we’d get ourselves to Oxford from either Heathrow or Gatwick (preferred) to save some money, but eventually figured out that logistically and cost-wise, it made more sense to pick up a car at either one of those airports and drive the little over two and a half hours to our destination. This is what we did in New Zealand, and it worked out well. We can reserve a rental through Costco at either airport.

Bourton-on-the-Water is one of the stops on the tours. We missed getting to visit here back in 2019.

Finally, Brett and I still want to do a long hike while we are there, and initially thought we would fit in a Cotswold Way walking tour into our stay. One evening when I was canoodling around though, I discovered this Cotswold Cooking & Culinary tour, and after doing a bit more investigation and sharing with Brett, we decided we’d rather do this! So, somewhere in the middle of our stay, we want to hit the trail (footpath) and eat our way through the region for eight days (hopefully walking off the calories).

Since this trip is currently over two and half years away, all I did this time was take notes, and get a general idea of how much we’ll have to save (including airfare) to make this dream a reality. None of it may come to fruition in the end (cottages not available, hosts might not want to do a long-term rental, etc.) But, the planning was a whole lot of fun, I learned a lot, and we more definite than ever about returning to England in 2023!

Sunday Morning 1/24/2021: Feelin’ Good

Sunsets these past two weeks ran the gamut from stunning to meh to non-existent. Many evenings started out promising but then quickly turned to gray, but then there was that one . . . a big surprise, and stunning.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

I’ve had a very restful and productive time off from blogging, and I thank everyone for indulging me as I really needed some time away to think about a lot of things and what I want to do going forward. When the new. year started I realized pretty quickly that I had overloaded myself with activities and goals. I decided almost immediately that I wanted to continue blogging, and have set aside the book writing idea for the time being because I realized I could either blog or write a book, but not both as they are very different enterprises and require different mindsets. Book writing is a very solitary endeavor, but I prefer the give and take of blogging, receiving comments and interacting with readers. I have gotten to know many of you who comment, even if only in a virtual way, and I don’t want to give that up. Also, I can write as much or as little as I want for the blog, on almost any topic, while book writing is more focused by nature, and I am just not ready to narrow my thoughts at this time. I prefer the more open aspect of blogging. Finally, book writing requires quiet, and I quickly discovered our apartment environment is not quiet! I would have never thought of where we live as noisy, but I found that whenever I tried to sit and gather my thoughts for a book there was always something going on to distract me, simple things like YaYu cooking or Brett coughing or even the wind blowing outside. I’m going to change a few things up a bit for the blog, and will evaluate over the next few months how that goes. All the other activities I’ve set up I’ve been able to easily fit into my day.

We celebrated YaYu’s 21st birthday this past Sunday – all our children are now officially adults! I made one of her favorite meals, Mississippi pot roast, and also a Baked Alaska for her birthday cake. Getting that done was a bit difficult because I didn’t have the right pans and had to improvise, and it was also humid enough that day that the meringue didn’t want to set or hold its peaks for very long. Part of it slid off in the oven when the meringue was browning and I got it out just in time. It was still delicious, and YaYu had a nice day which included l-o-n-g Zoom gatherings with her friends and sisters. She finally has her return date to head back to Pennsylvania – February 9 – so she will depart Kaua’i on the 8th, and head over to Honolulu where she’ll catch a redeye flight to Seattle to meet up with a good friend there, and the two of them will continue on to Philadelphia. She has accumulated enough stuff while she’s been here that she’ll have to mail a package or two back to herself before she leaves. This week we are going to pick up some of her favorite snacks for her to take back, things like macaroni and cheese and cup noodles and hopefully some of those will be able to fit into her carry-on with the rest being mailed.

I wasn’t sure if I when I was going to get to wear these again, but it was cold enough last week!

This past week has been pretty wild weather wise. We woke up Monday to LOUD gale-force winds and cold (for here) temperatures. Sixty-eight degrees might not seem very cold back on the mainland, but it’s break-out-the-parkas weather here and it lasted all day – brrrrrrrr. Since Tuesday there’s been rain off and on (including flash flood warnings most of Tuesday), and lots of wind, although nothing as crazy as Monday. Sometimes though it’s sounded like freight trains have been moving through our yard. Evenings have stayed cool, and we’ve often had to put on sweaters or sweatshirts to stay comfortable, and I had to break out my Italian wool slippers to stay warm a couple of times. I enjoy the cooler temperatures to a degree – they make walking so nice. Rain is predicted again this coming week, but we have no idea how that will play out. It’s sometimes hard to see the seasons change in Hawaii, but we definitely know right now that it’s winter.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished Everything I Never Told You (by Celeste Ng) this past week and was excited to finally be able to focus all my energies on finishing The Woman In White. However, it was not to be because two books came off of hold from the library at the same time this week. My new daytime book is John LeCarré’s The Perfect Spy, and my nighttime book is A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee. I’m going to try to read all of LeCarré’s Smiley novels this year. Also, The Woman In White was probably not the best book to have picked to start off the year as it’s taking much longer than I imagined to get through (all this time and I’m only at 60%!). I will pick it up again though when I finish at least one of the library books – I am determined to finish. 
  • Listening to: It’s not as quiet as it usually is here in the the morning: the wind is still blowing strongly through the yard, although thankfully not as loudly has it has been. Some chickens are having a session nearby as well, and a couple are screaming over something. Inside, Brett is reading, and YaYu is still under her blankets and listening to a podcast so it’s pretty quiet. The sky is sort of gray and cloudy though – I’m glad we have today off from walking and won’t have to worry about the weather (rain is forecast for most of the day).
  • Watching: Brett and I are still watching Dark, although we’re almost done. It’s mostly Brett watching now because the show has gotten a little too science-fiction/dystopian for me. We also watched the latest season of Last Dance in Halifax this past week, a show we love but thought had ended. We’re currently watching Ratched, a “prequel” to the character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – and we give it two thumbs up. It’s very strange, but compelling as well. I especially love the styling and the strong way color is used throughout the show. YaYu watched a show called Alice in Borderland on Netflix this past week and I sort of watched it out of the corner of my eye with her. It’s set in Tokyo, and while I didn’t really follow the story I did like listening to see what I could understand (not much), and also enjoyed the Tokyo scenes (even though they were rather dystopian). There’s an amazing scene where three characters walk out of Shibuya station, one of the most crowded places in the world, and it’s deserted. How they got permission and emptied that area for those scenes is nothing short of amazing. YaYu and I also finished watching Top Chef: Kentucky, and our favorite chef won!
  • Cooking/baking: I’m going to make this section its own post every week, called Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise – the first post up will be tomorrow. It will cover not only what’s we’ve been cooking and eating and some thoughts about that, but also how we’re meeting our exercise goals. Brett turns 71 this year and I turn 69, and I want to focus on how we’re staying healthy without denying ourselves so we can do and enjoy all the things we’re only able to dream about now.
  • Happy we accomplished these past two weeks: We got lots done these past two weeks including getting to the beach for the first time in a while. We were surprised when we arrived because there was almost no beach that wasn’t being overrun with waves – we had to search to find a bit of sand to park our chairs in, and even that part was nearly under siege a couple times from big waves rolling in. It was very windy as well, but the sun was out and we ended up staying for a few hours. We also picked up a full bag of driftwood for our backyard fire pit whenever the weather decided to cooperate. Brett got his passport renewed for another 10 years (mine goes in next month). I got flights arranged for both Brett and YaYu – Brett is going to Honolulu for a day to see a medical specialist – he’ll leave early in the morning and return in the early evening – and YaYu will be returning to college on February 8. Walking achievements/accomplishments will be covered under Staying Healthy going forward.
    We picked up a bag of driftwood at the beach for our fire pit, but the weather still refuses to cooperate
  • Looking forward to next week: We don’t really have anything on our calendar next week other than a quick runs to Costco and the farmers’ market, and a haircut for Brett down in Hanapepe, so I’m looking forward to a relaxing week. Hopefully we’ll be able to get our walks in, but rain/showers are predicted for the entire week so that’s sort of up in the air.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Everything that happened these last two weeks was a good thing! I feel relaxed, happy, and ready to blog again. My mood these days matches this song, one of my all-time favorites. John Legend more than did it justice at the inauguration!

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) I used the credit I got for YaYu’s unused Hawaiian flight back in November to get her over to Honolulu for her flight back to the mainland. 2) We put $7.33 into the change/$1 bill jar these past two weeks. 3) Not very frugal, but we tried: although we stuck to our list, our food shopping this past week was $80 over budget – we had run out of so many things all at the same time – razor blades, laundry detergent, vanilla extract, toothpaste, and so many, many other things – and replacing/stocking up was not inexpensive although we are now well set for the next 6 – 12 months. Our food spending has been high overall while YaYu has been with us, but will drop again after she leaves next month. 4) Another case of toilet paper from Amazon arrived last week. It approximately $7 more than it did the last time we bought a case, but the price per roll was still under 60¢ which is way better than we can do anywhere on the island, including Costco. 5) There were lots of leftovers this week but they were all eaten and we didn’t throw away any food. 6) We had two no-drive days over the past two weeks, and 11 no-spend days. 7) I earned 1,541 Swagbucks this past week, 1,523 the week before. Earning SB has been very difficult this month, and frustrating, and instead of pushing myself to earn 275 every day I’ve decided to instead focus on making my daily goal, and the second one if possible, and otherwise not stressing over how much I earn each day. I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on SB, or have it taking over my day as there are other more fulfilling and rewarding things I’d rather be doing. I still think I can earn two $500 gift cards this year though, or at least get very, very close, and that’s okay.
  • Grateful for: During our walks this past week I’ve thought a lot about the on-call surgeon who repaired my knee back in 1999 and how grateful I am for what he accomplished. WenYu had just joined our family just a couple of months earlier, and one morning in May my toe caught on the top of the baby gate at the bottom of our stairs, and I went down and shattered my left kneecap into five pieces. Before the surgery the doctor talked with me and Brett and told me there was a good chance he could not repair it, and what that meant for my future. But, he did repair it, beautifully. Post-surgery warnings from him were that I could/would develop arthritis in that knee and/or I would eventually need a knee replacement. In the past 22 years neither of those has happened, and thanks to the skill of Dr. T I am able to comfortably walk long distances without any side effects, and no knee replacement has ever been needed.
  • Bonus question: Is there a band/singer you love that had a big hit with a song you didn’t like? A fun question, but at first it stumped me. After some thought I remembered that while I love Elton John, I’ve never liked the song Daniel, and I disliked Crocodile Rock even more – ugh. Both of those songs were big hits though. Angie by The Rolling Stones is another song I absolutely cannot stand (Brett neither), although I like everything else by the Stones. Finally, the Beach Boys’ hit Kokomo drives me crazy every time I hear it, but I otherwise like The Beach Boys. I was working at the Casa Marina resort in Key West when that song was a hit, and the hotel got the brainy idea to change the name of their outdoor bar to Kokomo. Thankfully that didn’t last long. I could not come up with one Beatles song I dislike (OK, I am not a huge fan of Octopus’s Garden but I don’t hate it), and same for every other band or group I could think of.

I was so happy that President Biden’s inauguration went well. I was actually up when he and VP Harris were sworn in, and watched it live on Twitter; I actually choked up watching Kamala Harris as I honestly did not think I’d ever see a woman reach that far in my lifetime. As one of his first acts, the President froze federal student loans until the end of September, and took the interest rate to 0%, which was very good news. My student loans, however, were once again not covered by the freeze. Although my loans are federally guaranteed, they (and those of around 8-12 million others) are owned by a private company and those companies do not have to honor the current freeze. The owner of my loan, Navient, has been collecting payments and interest all during this last freeze (and interest continues to accrue – after 20 years nearly half of my payment still goes to interest) and unless FFLE loans are ever specifically included in any DOE directive, Navient will continue to do to extract payment and interest. It’s maddening because all loans back when I got mine were owned by banks and private companies – the US government only guaranteed them. I refinanced mine in 2005 for a lower interest rate, but the refinancing program no longer exists either; all federal loans since 2010 are now direct loans from the government and those are the ones benefiting from the freeze. I am very happy that so many will receive relief now, and remain hopeful that there will be some relief for borrowers like me. Legislation has been proposed that these loans, as they are federally guaranteed, should also be included in the freeze, so we shall see. 

Things have been growing and blooming in the yard in spite of the weather. We can’t get over how big our avocado tree is.

And . . . that’s a wrap for these past two weeks! Thank you again for letting me have some time off. It was needed, and was well used. Here’s looking forward to the week coming up, and that it’s filled with good food, many accomplishments, and good things happening for all of us.