Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (1/2 – 1/8)

We polished off all of the meat in the house last week and are happily returning to vegetarian/vegan meals this week. We did a Big Shop on Thursday and stocked up and the freezer is full. Brett and I didn’t mind eating meat again, but we much prefer not eating it so are looking forward to a return to our former ways. YaYu is also thankfully happy to eat vegetarian and helped me come up with some ideas for the new few weeks. We’ll still be eating seafood now and again.

Our goal for next year is to continue to eat healthy, mostly plant-based meals and manage our portions so that we can maintain our current weight. Another task will be to better manage food purchases going forward so we don’t end up with a lot of food that has to be thrown out when we leave. For example, I passed on a big bottle of olive oil at Costco last week because I knew we wouldn’t be able to finish it before May, and it was the same for a couple of other items. We did buy three Costco-sized packages of vegan items (chick’n patties, vegetable egg rolls, and plant-based burgers), but that’s probably it for Costco other than a few things like wine and such. The store has been a lifesaver for our budget, but we just won’t be able to use up any more of those big packages before we go.

We did a great job of cleaning out the refrigerator last week, using up odds and ends of things, eating leftovers, and so forth before we shopped on Thursday. Some of our meals look pretty uninspiring though. We had a last few meals with meat during the last week of the year: a meatloaf from Costco, one of YaYu’s favorites; Snake Alley noodles with ground pork and shrimp; and lumpia, which also is made with ground pork.d

We are selling the lamp that sat on our table up until the last couple of weeks – it provided such great lighting for food photos. The only place to take a photo now is in the kitchen and the light there is awful, so I apologize for the poor quality of the food photos these days.

Sunday: Ham & vegetable fried rice

Monday: Noodle bowls topped with ham, fish cake, kim chee turnip, onion, and bok choy

Tuesday: Tofu in Thai red curry sauce; steamed rice; kim chee coleslaw

Wednesday: Potstickers; steamed rice; roasted vegetables

Thursday: Meatloaf; mashed potatoes; roasted squash

Friday: Snake Alley noodles; namasu

Saturday: Pad thai & pork lumpia; leftover namasu

We had a Pepperidge Farm cake for dessert at the beginning of the week, and then picked up a pecan pie at Costco along with some lactose-free ice cream at Times Market for YaYu (we would have preferred having apple pie but all that was available were pecan or pumpkin). YaYu tried one serving of the pie and that was enough for her and she’s been enjoying a small bowl of ice cream every evening instead. Enough oranges should be ripe on our tree that I can make an olive oil orange cake after we finish the pie next week.

YaYu helped me come up with this week’s menu. She is going to make the noodle dish with shrimp using a recipe from the Padma Lakshmi cookbook she received for Christmas (Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet) and also asked for fish so we’ll have that later in the week in some tacos.

  • Spicy Singapore noodles with shrimp
  • Plant based burgers
  • Pasta with marinara & plant-based meatballs
  • Vegan corn dogs & onion rings
  • Be’f pot pie
  • Mini pizzas
  • Grilled fish tacos

The gloomy weather this past week kept us guessing each day whether we’d be able to get out for a walk or not and it turned out to be mostly not. Monday surprised us and we did our regular 4+-mile walk at the park, but there were storms on Tuesday and Wednesday that kept us at home. It was still stormy on Thursday, but we did our Big Shop at Costco and Walmart so got two and half miles of walking done that day, but were stuck inside again on Friday and New Year’s Day. We took advantage of a break in the storms yesterday afternoon though and got in a full walk.

Kukuiolono Park was a soggy mess, but it was great to get out for a walk again. Golfers were stacked up at every hole!

Brett keeps a spreadsheet of our walking distances, and by the skin of our teeth, we walked over 1100 miles last year. We were walking longer distances at the beginning of the year, but like the distance we do now, around four miles, and are going to stick with that until we leave. I have more aches and pains than I did at the beginning of the year, especially in my hips, but nothing that keeps me from doing anything. We see a lot of walking in our future this year and are excited about the walks coming up in France and the UK (and hopefully Japan by the end of the year).

Sunday Morning 1/2/2022: Hoping 2022 Does It Better

Instead of sunsets this past week there was rain, and lots of it.
New Year’s Day tried very hard to give us a sunset but came up short.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka! Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

Happy New Year! We spent a quiet New Year’s Eve with YaYu, and were ready at midnight with some wine to toast in 2022, but headed to bed shortly after midnight. Fireworks started going off on our street before 7:00 p.m. but rain kept the noise tamped down until midnight when everything seemed to explode again. This is Brett’s and my 44th year of celebrating the arrival of a new year together. It would have been the 45th, but we missed being together in 1991 because he was deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm. My favorite celebrations were the years we lived in Yokohama – New Year’s is the BIG holiday in Japan, and at midnight all the ships in Yokohama harbor would blow their whistles for an hour – it was very exciting. We used to get the girls up to bang on pots and pans when they were little, but otherwise we’ve always kept our celebrations low key, and this year was no different. We kept busy on our first day of the new year packaging up art we’ll be storing during our travels.

One upside to all the rain is that we didn’t have to listen to hours of these being set off. There still was a lot of firework action at midnight though, rain or no rain.

We have much to look forward to this year, but our greatest wish is that our country and the world is somehow able get a better handle on the COVID situation. I believe that those who refuse to be vaccinated at this point are dug in and sadly nothing, not evening getting sick from the virus, is going to change their minds, but I have hope that more areas of the world will have access to the vaccine which will lesson its transmission around the globe. We chatted with a neighbor this past week, a nurse at our local hospital, and the stories she told us were frightening, horrifying, and extremely sad. Nurses and doctors are burned out, and some have left or are leaving the profession creating more work for the ones remaining and affecting care for all patients. She told us of patients near death but their families either still refusing to be vaccinated, or of patients begging the doctors to give them the vaccine then. And, apparently more than one person dropped off an elderly parent at the hospital and then left Hawaii to spend Christmas on the mainland (and if something like that happened here, it happened on the mainland as well). That was beyond anything I could imagine anyone doing, but it sadly it occurred more than once.

Our view from the front door this week was almost always clouds and rain.

If I had to pick one word to describe this past week it would be gloomy. There’s been rain every day, all day, beginning last Tuesday, or gray skies filled with low clouds and cooler than usual temperatures. Thunder and lightening rolled over us last night, waking everyone. We’ve gotten out to run errands, but have mostly been stuck inside (thankfully we’ve had plenty to do). The worst part of it was learning nothing is supposed to change for maybe another week, although Brett and YaYu are hopeful they can get out for a hike by the end of the week. I’ve always felt sorry for those who’ve spent a ton of money to come here for a vacation and arrive to bad weather, but I feel exceptionally sorry for those who came this week. It’s been miserable.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I got very little reading done this week – I’ve been busy during the day, and when my head hit the pillow at night I was asleep before I knew it. I thought a book or two would have come off hold from the library by now, but I’m still in the same position on hold I was three weeks ago. eBooks are apparently not being returned on time!
  • Listening to: It’s still cold and gloomy outside, and I’d think I can see some tiny bits of blue sky peeping out, but it may be just another layer of clouds. There are birds singing though and for some reason chickens are screaming really loudly outside – they seem to be across the street. Inside is quiet though – YaYu is waking up, and Brett’s reading and catching up on the state of the world. Things will get noisy here later; but for right now my coffee is hot and delicious so I’m in my happy place (although I wish those chickens would quiet down).
  • Watching: We’ve been watching a new series, You, on Netflix, about an obsessive stalker/serial killer. Sounds awful but the show’s done very well and we’re into Season Two of three seasons. We’ve also kept up with new episodes of Dexter, Shetland, and the new season of Cobra Kai. We’re also rewatching Only Murders In the Building with YaYu, a new show for her.
A corner of our living room has been turned into a staging area for packages to be sent and things to go to the thrift store.
  • Happy we accomplished last week: 1) We mailed five packages off last Monday to Meiling, WenYu, and our son. On Tuesday we mailed off another package to our granddaughter, a woodblock print of The Princess and the Pea. 2) I packed all our Christmas items for shipment and storage, and also began packing some of the pottery we’ll be keeping this past week. Those boxes will get mailed in a few weeks. We’re using flat-rate boxes whenever possible, but will picked up some bigger, heavier boxes this week for some of the larger, heavier pottery pieces. 3) YaYu renewed her Hawaii driver’s license and is covered through 2026. 4) We cleaned out the refrigerator and then did a Big Shop on Thursday and filled it up again! We’re good to go for another two weeks. 5) Brett bought himself a new computer on Wednesday, a small, lightweight PC. He loved his iPad, but needed/wanted some features that come with a PC. YaYu will be taking Brett’s old iPad back to school with her which she’ll update with a new keyboard and case. Her current computer is on its last legs as well.
  • Looking forward to next week: YaYu and I plan to visit the very close by Lawai International Center next Sunday, a Buddhist retreat and temple that’s located almost right around the corner from us. Tours are given a couple of days each month so we signed up. Afterwards we want to have lunch at Kiawe Roots, a new restaurant serving Hawaiian-style dishes using local ingredients, located in the old Monkeypod Jam store. After all the miserable weather this past week, we’ve all got our fingers crossed for a beach day or a hike but know that’s probably not going to happen.
Allie the cat snuggling with YaYu out on the deck
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) WenYu and Meiling made it safely back to the mainland with all their things and no extra charges for all their heavy luggage. 2) I had four Etsy sales, always a good thing, and would have had one more but had to cancel it when the customer ordered two of the same item (all the hashioki are one of a kind) and wasn’t willing to make a substitution. 3) YaYu and Allie the Cat are having a wonderful reunion. Whenever the rain lets up a bit, Allie heads over here and the two of them spend time together. 4) And, we made it through 2021! YEAH!!!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) I cancelled our Amazon Prime account. That’s a savings of $13.60 per month (we paid annually though), and we’re getting a one-month refund now (auto-renew was January 28). 2) Brett bought a pair of jeans from Lands’ End, and I bought two pair of Perfect Fit pants from L.L. Bean. We searched for promotional codes before we paid and Brett got 50% off his order and I got 10% off mine. We have all the clothes we need and want for our travels and are done! 3) Brett had thought about buying a computer before last week, but because he waited the price dropped an additional $50 and he got a newer edition! 4) We spent slightly less than $10 over our budget when we did our Big Shop on Thursday, but got everything we wanted. We’re currently feeding three so thought we would go over by much more than we had planned. 5) We put $2.20 into the change/$1 bill bag. The total saved in the bag the past six months was $134.97, so we’re estimating we saved somewhere around $300 in 2021 in our little bag. 6) YaYu has been very creative using things up and all leftovers have been eaten promptly.
  • Adding up what we sold last week: I had four completed Etsy orders last week. Ten hashioki left the apartment and $71.57 will be deposited into our travel account tomorrow.
  • Grateful for: Last year was difficult for everyone, and we often felt as if we were standing in the middle of a horrible storm, just trying to stay safe. In spite of all that, Brett and I managed to come up with a goal for our future, make a plan, organize, and save, and for that we are grateful. In spite of being a long, trying year, 2021 still offered opportunities, and in spite of what swirled around us, we came out ahead and in better shape than where we started at the beginning of the year.

Our four stays in 2022: Strasbourg, Oxford, Edinburgh, and Tokyo. (photo credits: Unsplash)

  • Bonus question: What are you looking forward to this year? Most of all, I am hopeful that the coronavirus will finally be tamed this year. In 1920, at the end of the Spanish flu pandemic, there was one last round before it petered out. It turned out to be the most virulent one but the least deadly, and as it waned the pandemic petered out. I have my fingers crossed and am hoping this is what’s happening with the Omicron variant – time will tell. We’re of course looking forward to traveling once again, and we remain optimistic that we will be able to go to France in May. Current rules allow us to enter France because we are vaccinated and boosted, and willing to take a COVID test within 48 hours of our departure. The UK is still iffy right now, but we aren’t scheduled to go there until next August and we’re hopeful things will have improved by then. We are also greatly looking forward to attending YaYu’s graduation in May, our fourth child to finish college (although she plans to continue on to graduate studies). Both WenYu and Meiling are going to come as well so we’ll get another small reunion before we head overseas. Otherwise, we are looking forward to divesting ourselves of more stuff before we leave, and hoping that our clothing and supplies fit into our suitcases without being overweight!

Before and since Christmas we started receiving notices that Amazon was unable to deliver packages to us. We asked at the post office what was going on and were told they were all “on hold.” What??? We certainly hadn’t put a hold on anything. It turned out that when our upstairs neighbor went on vacation he had (inadvertently) put a hold on all mail coming to our building, no matter who it was for! He thought he could ask them to sort out his mail and didn’t read that a hold is for the entire address, not one person. Brett has messaged the neighbor twice to ask if he would please remove the hold so the rest of us can get our mail, and told him we would gather and hold his mail for him until he returns like we did the last time he went on vacation. Upstairs neighbor has been very negative though, and said he had signed a card at the post office letting them know the hold was only for his mail. He blames the post office for what’s going on and won’t stop the hold because he believes someone at the post office should be personally separating out his mail from the rest of us! A couple of our packages being held are Christmas gifts to us from the girls but others are things we ordered because we need them. Brett’s going to the post office tomorrow to see if we can get the situation straightened out – as residents of the building we feel we have as much right to terminate the hold as he did to establish one that affected everyone, especially since he’s just a renter like the rest of us.

Anyway, as we begin 2022, I want to wish all a happy, healthy, and prosperous year. We’re definitely not out of the woods yet, but maybe we’re finally getting ourselves on the right path and can start to feel hopeful for an end to the pandemic. Only time will tell, but my wish is for a more positive, productive year, with more good things happening for all. Happy New Year!

2021 Goals Recap and Some Goals for 2022

It’s that time of the year again when we assess how we did with the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of this past year, and make some new goals for the coming year.

2021 joint goals for Brett and me:

  1. Continue to stay healthy! Brett and I continued to lose weight this past year and we walked 1056 miles in spite of October’s and November’s weather. We gave up eating meat, eggs, most dairy and limited gluten and feel much, much better for it. We were vaccinated for COVID and got our boosters, Brett got both doses of the shingles vaccine, and I will get my second dose early next year. I got the flu vaccine as well, but Brett didn’t as he risks a possible reaction. We’re in very good shape for our ages, did not add any medications, and we feel great!
  2. Save enough to cover YaYu’s 2021-2022 college expenses. Mission accomplished! We have transferred our last bit of college savings to her account and she will pay her final bill after the first of the year.
  3. Save $8000 for future travels, including an additional $1000 in Delta gift cards from Swagbucks. We saved over $11,000 for travel, enough to cover the first month of three Airbnb rentals (Strasbourg, Oxford, and Edinburgh), our flight from Baltimore to Paris following YaYu’s graduation, a deposit on an eight-day condo rental on the island before we depart, and a few travel-related clothing purchases. I earned $750 in Delta gift cards before I gave up doing Swagbucks, and along with one I purchased from Hawaii Planner covered our flights to Pennsylvania in May for YaYu’s graduation.
  4. Save $600 for Christmas 2021. Done!
  5. Send at least one stored item to each of the girls. The girls took back with them a huge amount of their items; we cleaned out over eight boxes and containers filled with their things. We still have YaYu’s items with us but will begin mailing some to her early next year and carry some along with us when we go to her graduation. We also got a box ready to send to our son, and I sent off some paperwork to my older brother in Australia.
  6. Go to the beach at least 26 times. I’m not sure how many days we made it to the beach, but it sure wasn’t 26! The weather has not been conducive to beach visits this year.

2021 Personal Goals:

  1. Read 52 books. I read 63 books this year!
  2. Add 20 minutes of upper body strength training with weights to my daily exercise. I did strength training until November, when it just sort of petered out. I never really got into it at all, and came to resent having to do these.
  3. Continue to study Japanese, and add French as well. I finally gave up on Japanese, and Memrise French didn’t long, but Brett and I started learning French together in November with Duolingo and are continuing with that. We’re enjoying it enough that even if we don’t get to go to France, we’ll stick with the lessons – they’re good for us.
  4. Start writing a book. This is never going to happen. 

Our Goals for 2022:

  • Attend YaYu’s graduation and get to Europe!
  • Re-establish residency on the mainland (mailing address; voting).
  • Mail our stored possessions to WenYu; sell everything else
  • Continue to follow up with Plan B, just in case
  • Continue with pre-Christmas eating plan and walking regime
  • Continue to save as much as possible before departing Kaua’i
  • Read as many books as possible

All of our goals other than the last one should be completed by the middle of the year. After that we plan to rest and enjoy ourselves wherever we may be!

The 2021 Highlight Reel

The past year was not the most exciting year we’ve ever spent for a variety of reasons. Brett and I practically turned into full-time hermits and stuck close to home, only heading out of our apartment for walks at the park or a few other hikes, a few trips to the beach, or shopping trips and a very occasional meal out. Our daughters’ visit was the first and only time we had others in our apartment all year, and we didn’t visit anyone else either.

I really didn’t realized how tightened down we’d become and how little we did until I went through this past year’s blog posts. I am so grateful we moved up our travel plans because I don’t think we could have survived another year of pretty much standing still.

Lots of important things did get accomplished however:

  • Health: Brett and continued to lose weight; segued to a vegetarian/vegan diet; and walked/hiked over 1,000 miles. We got our COVID vaccines and boosters; Brett finally got his wonky parathyroid gland removed, and I had an endoscopy and confirmation of a small hiatal hernia. Regular skin checks were done and we are up to date with our dental visits.
  • Travel: Plans for future travel went through several permutations, starting with walking tours in the UK and then Japan followed by short visits to some other places if possible. We then got caught up in the idea of permanent moves to first Portugal and then France, and finally ended up with a decision return to full-time travel. An itinerary was made, our Kaua’i departure date moved forward from 2023 to 2022, and Airbnb reservations were made in Strasbourg, Oxford, and Edinburgh. We have tickets to get us over to Paris in May of next year following YaYu’s graduation from college and are getting ready now to hit the road again.
  • Downsizing: We decided to once again sell almost everything before departing Hawaii, and started the downsizing process with the sale of my KitchenAid mixer in June. We sold something (or more than one thing) at least once a month, and the Etsy shop I opened to sell my hashioki collection and a few other Japanese vintage goods proved to be more successful than I imagined. All of our son’s and daughters’ things we’d been keeping were sorted and sent back to the mainland or Japan, either with them or through the mail, and Brett and I began the process of packing up the few things we will be keeping to be mailed to our daughter WenYu’s home for storage.
  • Savings: We made our last deposit into YaYu’s college savings this month. Through regular deposits, downsizing sales, the Etsy shop, the change/$1 bill bag, and other savings hustles we put away over $11,000 into our travel savings, more than enough to make our initial reservations and purchase our flight to Paris.
  • Family & friends: We had a lovely reunion with our niece and her family when they visited Kaua’i in June, and also were able to get together with another friend visiting the island the same month. While we greatly missed being able to see our grandkids, son, and daughter-in-law this past year, they sent loads of photos and we kept up through messaging and calls. The highlight of the year was having our three daughters together with us for 10 days for the Christmas holiday, and we made the most of our time together. I remain grateful for all the friends I’ve met and made through the blog, and your comments and interaction.

Although we stuck close to home this past year we still accomplished quite a bit and moved a great deal closer to reaching our goals for next year. As busy as we’ve been recently, things will be picking up after the new year, and we know our remaining time on the island will be moving along at a quicker-than-expected pace.

So, it’s goodbye to 2021 with fondness and gratitude, and it’s on to the new year with hope for all it promises to bring.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (12/19 – 12/25)

Validation! Now that the girls prepare their own meals for themselves every day, or like YaYu (and occasionally Meiling), for their partners as well, they told me last week they finally understand and appreciate all the effort I put into creating healthy meals for the family for so many years. I enjoyed cooking for them again but also was feeling glad to only have to do it for a few days and not full time again. YaYu took over the kitchen on Wednesday to give me a break, and I got loads of help with the dishes and clean up, but last week made me grateful that I am “retired” from cooking other than for Brett and myself.

I worried that some of my bad eating habits might return with the girls here (too big portion sizes, snacking, sweets, etc.) but that thankfully didn’t happen. I kept up with my daily food diary and kept my portions small, avoided meat when I could, didn’t snack other than maybe a bite or two. I surprised myself because this was exactly a situation in the past where all my good efforts would fall apart but didn’t.

It was difficult taking pictures of our meals last week, and many of these pictures are of leftovers enjoyed the next day. I managed somehow to stick to my eating plan, and keep my portions right sized, but I did indulge a bit on Christmas Day because the girls gave Brett and I a big box of chocolates and WenYu and YaYu gave me a BIG container of caramel corn, a dangerous food where I’m concerned. Arggggghhh! Although we enjoyed all our meals while the girls were all here, both Brett and I are looking forward to returning to meatless eating.

Sunday: Spicy black bean bake nachos

Monday: Chili shrimp; pork lumpia; Korean beef potstickers; namasu; steamed rice

Tuesday: Tom Colicchio’s one pan pasta with ham & broccoli

Wednesday: Mabo tofu; steamed rice

Thursday: Grilled Italian sausages; risotto with peas

Friday: Christmas Dinner: Mississippi pot roast; mashed potatoes; green beans

Saturday: “Mexican” mini pizzas (salsa, onion, and pepper jack cheese)

Brett and I thought the girls would decimate the Costco chocolate cake we bought in record time, but like us, a small piece was plenty and we finally finished it last Tuesday. After that I had dorayaki (a traditional Japanese sweet) one evening while Brett and the girls had s’mores, and we all shared apples with toffee dip on another evening before enjoying a lilikoi chiffon pie for our Christmas treat.

Hamura’s lilikoi chiffon pie is amazing.

I’ve planned meals for next week that continue to use what we have on hand although we’ll be shopping again before the end of the week and I don’t know what YaYu wants to get then or wants for future meals. She’s open to vegetarian eating though so I think we’ll be moving in that direction. This week’s dishes contain lots of Asian-influenced dishes and flavors that YaYu prefers. Brett and I are going to try our hardest to only have meat two or three evenings per week while YaYu’s here, or at least try to have dishes where she can add her own meat and we can skip it.

  • Snake Alley noodles
  • Fried rice with ham
  • Mini pizzas
  • Noodle bowls
  • Potstickers & rice
  • Pad Thai & lumpia
  • Tofu in Thai red curry sauce

The few times the weather was nice enough to walk last week, it seemed the girls were out with the car. If the car was available, it was raining, we didn’t get much walking done. There was a break on Wednesday and Brett and I hiked the Old Hapa Road Trail from Poipu to the old St. Raphael church in Koloa and back, about 3.5 miles or so (WenYu and YaYu ran it), and we got a short break on Thursday as well and walked at the park. We did a perimeter walk with YaYu late Christmas Day (lots of walkers but the golf course was deserted. We still found six golf balls). If we weren’t walking there was still plenty of packing, organizing, etc. to take care of and Brett and I ended up on our feet a lot. We’re are looking forward to getting back to our regular walking schedule this week though, weather permitting.

Along the Old Hapa Road Trail

Brett and I have walked over 1,000 miles this year (we’ll have a final total next week). We have been blessed with the great walking venue at Kukuiolono, had a lot of fun hunting for golf balls for a few months, and we’ve done some other great hikes on the island as well. Plans for our last four months on Kaua’i are to continue what we’ve been doing so that we’re in our best possible shape when we begin Big Adventure II in May.

Sunday Morning 12/26/2021: The Day After

There were no sunset views this past week, but the weather brought us lots of rainbows.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

New travel bags for the Occasional Nomads!

Meiling and WenYu departed yesterday morning with heavy bags filled with things we had been storing for them and Christmas goodies. We had a wonderful Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve, opening presents in the early afternoon followed by a Zoom call with our son and family. There were lots of gifts exchanged this year but all are useful and wanted. Brett got his beloved t-shirt, ball cap, and socks, but also some other clothing for travel and a back-up voltage adapter. I received a new Kindle and case from Meiling (a happy surprise!), and three pairs of silver earrings and some other travel goodies – both of us are now fully provisioned and ready to go. The girls also gave Brett and me two large personalized Occasional Nomads canvas bags from L.L. Bean, perfect for food shopping and as an under-seat bag on flights. YaYu will be getting her (early) graduation and birthday gifts from us next week, and along with the cash and gift cards she received for Christmas will have enough to purchase the new phone of her dreams (her old one is barely hanging on) so she is a happy girl, and Meiling and WenYu got several items off their lists and went home happily supplied as well. We gave each girl a big box of Hawaii/Kaua’i treats and will mail WenYu and Meiling’s to them this week, and YaYu’s right before she heads back to school.

The clutter grew as the week went along – the table looks surprisingly empty to me in this picture!

The apartment feels empty now with Meiling and YaYu gone. We were very crowded in our small space, and there were bags, boxes, and constant clutter everywhere, but it felt so good to be together again. We fell back into our old rhythms easily and got along well the entire time. Somehow everyone got to use the bathroom when necessary, got a shower every day, had a place to sit and eat, and everything went smoothly. YaYu is back on the sofa now and has put away her stuff so things once again feel a bit more normal, but I miss our crowd (probably another week of those conditions though and we all would have snapped).

Although we never got to the beach because of the weather and cool temperatures, the girls said they got to see and do everything else they wanted on the island, and eat all the local specialities they had craved including Spam musubi, Pono market fried chicken, Puka dogs, poke bowls, and breakfast at the Tip Top. They also enjoyed mom’s cooking every evening and eating some favorite meals again, and appreciated having mom and dad do their laundry, and taking care of other tasks for them, if only for a few days. We were happy to do it all for the time they were here but admit to being grateful we don’t have to do it full time any more.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and thought that would be the end of my year of mystery and suspense, but I still have a few on hold that will be showing up very soon, so last year’s theme will be continuing for a few weeks more. In the meantime, I am getting started on Thoreau’s Walden to be followed by Civil Disobedience.
  • Listening to: I’m enjoying a very quiet morning after all the hustle and bustle of the past week. YaYu is still asleep on the sofa so Brett and I have been tiptoeing around – I’ve never heard him put away the dishes so quietly! It’s quiet outside as well with only a soft breeze blowing, but still quite cool with (more) rain expected later today.
  • Watching: We watched lots of random stuff with the girls last week including the new-ish Disney movie, Luca (loved it!); almost all of the new Dexter series (the final two episodes will be released in the next two weeks); a game show that involves sword making (weird but interesting); Love Hard, a cute Christmas movie on Netflix; Love, Actually with WenYu – last year was the first time we both missed it because we always watch together; and Home Alone and Elf. I watched White Christmas last night to finish off the season, and also started watching a new (creepy) series on Netflix with YaYu, You.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: 1) The girls’ sorting continued and several bags were taken to the thrift store. 2) We all somehow managed to live together in our tiny apartment for more than a week without any arguments or hard feelings, with all of us chilling about the stuff that normally makes us nuts (in my case, clutter). 3) Brett and I firmed up a schedule for what will be sold and/or shipped to WenYu for storage next year. Up first, toward the end of January, will be the market umbrella, the sake jug lamp (it turned out to be too heavy to ship), my All-Clad cookware, and our teak table and chairs (Brett and I have been eating at the coffee table and that’s worked out fine for us). The first things being sent to WenYu for storage will be our Christmas things, the art work we’re keeping, and three boxes of pottery. 4) I had one small Etsy sale, a pleasant surprise. 5) Allie the cat was reunited with her favorite girl!
Reunited!
  • Looking forward to next week: Hopefully there will be better weather so we can get back to walking regularly. I’m looking forward to having less stuff/clutter all over the place, and letting YaYu do more of the cooking.

Breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe

  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) We had an absolutely marvelous Christmas week with the girls. Every minute of their stay was perfect and WenYu and Meiling are already missed more than I thought possible. 2) We had an amazing breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe last Thursday; the girls ordered their favorites of oxtail soup, fried rice, and a big bento plate, and Brett and I had yummy banana pancakes. 3) The Zoom call with our son and family on Christmas Eve (Christmas Day in Japan) was also wonderful. We couldn’t get over how grown up and big our grandkids are now! They spent their grandparent gift money on Legos and a Paw Patrol set and were excited to show them off to us later that day.

Together for Christmas this year, one way or another.

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We bought what we thought was a heavy, full-size suitcase for WenYu at the thrift store for $12 and discovered a matching carry-on bag inside (which she didn’t need). We’ll use it to take some of YaYu’s things to her when we go to Pennsylvania in May. 2) With the full-size suitcase from the thrift store Brett was able to get all of WenYu’s things, including her mini-Strat guitar and amplifier, into two suitcases for her flight home. Meiling and WenYu upgraded their seats on their return flight for $40 (each) so WenYu only had to pay $40 to check her second bag. The total for getting all her stuff back to Massachusetts, including the cost of the suitcase, ended up at $92 versus the hundreds it would have been to mail them or ship via UPS. Meiling was able to get all the things she kept into her one big suitcase and carry-on. 3) We bought three tomatoes (that we had forgotten to buy the week before), one can of tomato paste (which thought we had it but didn’t), a box of oranges at Costco, a tank of gas; breakfast at the Tip Top, a lilikoi pie, and WenYu’s suitcase and that was all! 4) We put $2.43 into the change/$1 bill bag. 5) There were very few leftovers this past week and those were always eaten the next day, with no food wasted or thrown away.
  • Adding up the things we sold: I sold one hashioki on Christmas Eve. The total going into my travel account next week will be $3.32.
  • Grateful for: Brett and I are beyond thankful for the 10 days we got to spend with WenYu and Meiling, and eight days with all three of the girls together – we have missed them so much and it was fun to see them interacting with each other again. We’re grateful that all three girls are healthy, vaccinated (and either boosted or getting it done next week), have good jobs or in YaYu’s case, working toward educational goals, and that Meiling and WenYu are in happy, supportive, long-term relationships. We couldn’t ask for more and feel very blessed.
One of our favorite scenes from Love, Actually: “I hate Uncle Jamie!”
  • Bonus question: What’s your favorite holiday movie? I have three favorites: White Christmas, Love Actually, and Home Alone which still makes me laugh out loud. Love, Actually is at the top of my list although I know many think it’s an absolutely awful movie. WenYu and I have always loved it and the ensemble cast, but Meiling and YaYu left the room when we put it on. I finally got around to watching Elf for the first time last year and it’s another must watch for me now. Die Hard is NOT a Christmas movie in my opinion, and I’ve only watched It’s A Wonderful Life twice in my life (good but twice was enough) and I’ve never seen A Christmas Story.

The girls and I had a conversation last week about marriage when Meiling asked why their dad and I had gotten married so young (I was 25 and Brett was 27!). WenYu and Meiling are in that age range now, and are in long-term, serious relationships, but see no need to get married and feel that they’re too young (YaYu says she doesn’t want to get married). I explained that for their dad and me, besides being in love, it was also about getting me/us qualified for military benefits, including health insurance, commissary privileges, housing, etc. We didn’t think of ourselves as “too young,” and both of us had been previously married and knew what we were getting into. To them though it still seemed like I was marrying “to get benefits,” which was a poor reason in their minds. However, when I mentioned I knew women that had gotten married and had children in their teens and that felt too young to me I was told I was being judgmental! The whole thing was a great adult conversation, and although the generational gap between us is large, and yes, times have changed, it was interesting and important to hear their thoughts on the topic (for the record, I am in absolutely no hurry to see any of our daughters get married).

That’s a wrap for what was a wonderful week at Chez Aloha. I hope everyone (who celebrates Christmas) had a wonderful week and holiday celebration as well. We turn now to the end of the year and the month coming up as well as spending time with YaYu, who will be with us until near the end of January. Wishing all a great post-holiday week!

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (12/12 – 12/18)

The meat-a-thon has begun! It hasn’t been as bad as I thought it might be, and Brett and I have watched our portions carefully, but after only a few days of including meat we’ve decided we like our meat-free ways better and will be returning once the girls have returned to their homes/school. We continue to be careful about portion sizes, etc. but everything just feels heavier (to us). Eggs have also been added back into the mix, but with two of our three daughters lactose intolerant, dairy other than small amounts of cheese hasn’t been making much of an appearance. The big exception was macaroni and cheese, which we all love, but precautions are taken before it’s eaten, and our portions were small.

We’ve been bingeing TV shows with the girls, and I’ve been making snacks to enjoy while we watch. So far we’ve had chips & salsa, chips & guacamole, charcuterie, and apples with cream cheese dip (8 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 bag of Heath toffee chips. Blend and let sit for 1/2 hour before serving with chilled apple slices – delicious!). I have indulged a little, but most of it is stuff I can pass on – a bite or two and I’m done. The girls could still eat us out of house and home though – oh to be young again, eat what I want, and not gain weight!

Brett and I finished cleaning out the freezer and refrigerator at the beginning of last week and then I went back on serious kitchen duty cooking favorites for the girls. It wasn’t always easy in our tiny kitchen with our tiny stove, but I went in each time with a plan and everything turned out okay.

Sunday: Lentil soup; toasted cheese sandwiches

Monday: Spaghetti with plant-based ‘meat’ sauce; roasted peppers

Tuesday: Mini pizzas with roasted vegetables

Wednesday: Broccoli & tofu stir fry with spicy peanut sauce

Thursday: Italian sausage & pasta in garlic wine sauce

Friday: Ham; macaroni & cheese; sautéed green beans

Saturday: Chinese 3-color salad

Other than s’mores made over a fire in our fire pit last Thursday, we’ve each been enjoying a thin slice of Costco’s chocolate mousse-filled cake for dessert every evening.

We’re enjoying more family favorites next week, and will finish up next Friday evening with Mississippi pot roast, mashed potatoes, and green beans for our Christmas Eve dinner. We will continue to finish off any leftovers each day (if there are any), and use up what we have on hand.

  • Mississippi pot roast
  • Cheesy black bean bake nachos
  • Chili shrimp, lumpia, and potstickers
  • Mabo tofu
  • Italian sausages; risotto
  • One pot pasta with ham & broccoli
  • Ham fried rice

We got off to a good start this week with our exercise. Monday’s weather was perfect for walking – clear skies and a stiff, cool breeze – and we did four and half miles at the park. Tuesday was our Big Shop and between Costco, Walmart, and Times Market we walked two and a half miles (and it was as exhausting as ever). We got a surprise on Wednesday though when we woke up to a message from Meiling that their flight from Phoenix to Lihue was arriving three hours earlier than expected (schedule changed at the last minute in their favor), right when we had planned to be walking! We figured we could skip a day of walking to pick up our daughters. Late Thursday Brett and I did a perimeter walk with WenYu and found 56 golf balls! WenYu found a lot of them, but she was mostly impressed with the scenery up at the park. We were all feeling very tired on Friday after lots of sorting, etc. at home and decided to skip our walk, and then on Saturday the girls got back later than expected from a hike and along with rain threatening we decided once again to stay home. So, only three day of walking this week – we need to pick it up next week!

Sunset walk at Kukuiolono Park on Thursday and our golf ball finds (they looked much better after being washed)

The girls Keep telling me I am tiny. I don’t feel tiny but Meiling says that’s because I suffer from dysmorphia and a poor body image (true). It’s a bittersweet assessment for me though. I’m happy that my diet and exercise efforts are noticeable, but at the same time I remember that each time I saw my mom as she aged she grew smaller and tinier in my eyes. However, when I think about my mom at my age she was still alert, active, and traveling the world, so I’m going with that image instead of her shrinking.

Sunday Morning 12/19/2021: Having a Simply Wonderful Time

We caught a beautiful sunset up at Kukuiolono Park on Thursday evening.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Current chaos in the living room (we had it somewhat organized a couple of hours later).

Brett and I are two happy parents right now, with all three of our girls here. We’ve been having a great time together whether it’s watching TV, going on walks, or sorting through their things. The house is in a crazy state right now, with stuff all over the place, but I refuse to freak out because I know it’s only for a short time and not worth worrying about. We rearranged some of the furniture in the living room before they arrived which helped give us a bit more space, and there have been no complaints from Meiling and WenYu about sleeping on the sofa (YaYu won the draw and got the inflatable queen-size mattress for her bed). YaYu is still decompressing after a stressful finals week and then the long flight home, but she’s glad to be home and spending time with her sisters again.

Experience has taught us that when it comes to travel plans, we can almost always count on things changing. The girls’ flight on Wednesday arrived three hours ahead of the original schedule, the one we were still working off of. If Meiling had not messaged us that morning with the new flight schedule we would not have been at the airport to meet them! YaYu’s flight also arrived over a half hour early. On Thursday morning I woke up to a message from Air Canada telling us that instead of leaving for Paris in the late afternoon as planned, our flight has been re-scheduled and will be departing at 10:00 am, meaning we have to change our plans and spend the night before somewhere near the Baltimore airport. The new schedule also has us arriving in Paris the day before our Airbnb reservation, so that’s something else we’re going to have to figure out, whether to stay overnight in Paris, or go out to Strasbourg and spend one night in a hotel there. We’re not doing anything now because we know things will probably change again before we go, but we’re definitely going to have to stay on our toes.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I am still slowly reading The Death of Mrs. Westaway and am about two-thirds of the way through. I’m pretty busy these days with other things and don’t get to read until late at night before falling asleep, so sometimes all I get through is one chapter. I wasn’t sure at first whether I was going to like this book or not but it’s grown on me the further into it I get, and more addicting.
  • Listening to: Brett’s making chocolate chip mini waffles in the kitchen, the girls are listening to a podcast and chatting, and the wind is blowing strongly outside (and it’s cold!). I’ve got a hot cup of coffee though and am in my happy place.
  • Watching: Brett and I were watching Home Before Dark, and another series, Chestnut Man, (I read the book earlier this year) before the girls arrived but those are now on hold. Last Sunday we watched The Elephant Queen, a beautifully filmed documentary about a group of female African elephants and their leader. If you have Apple+ streaming, I highly recommend it! We’re now watching random stuff with the girls but we started bingeing the new Dexter series last night (on Showtime).
Post-shopping, our little refrigerator is stuffed! Getting things in and out is like doing a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Happy we accomplished last week: We had two big things that needed to get done last week: a BIG shop, and picking up the girls – mission accomplished for both! The shopping trip was positively exhausting this time though. The piles of the girls’ things we had kept for them are growing smaller because of their efforts but there’s still quite a bit to get through. Meiling and WenYu have each already filled one giant suitcase with their stuff. We visited Old Town Koloa this past week, and Meiling brought foot masks for the two of us to do together. Those were weird.
  • Looking forward to next week: 1) We’re hoping for some good weather so we can get out to hike, and hopefully go to the beach at least once with the girls. 2) We also plan to go to the Tip Top Cafe one morning this week for breakfast (probably Tuesday). Otherwise, we’re all happy spending time together at home and always can find plenty to do to stay busy. 3) We’ll be doing a Zoom call with our son and family on Friday afternoon, before our Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas celebration.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) I had seven sales on Etsy (small ones), every one a complete surprise as I didn’t expect to have any sales last week. 2) None of the stores during our Big Shop were overcrowded, nor was Old Koloa Town or the Kukui’ula Market last Thursday, which was also surprising – we expected to have to deal with hoards of people. Kukui’ula felt like a ghost town it was so empty. Everything will probably get crazy this week though. 3) The wind was mild enough on Thursday evening that Meiling, WenYu, Brett, and I could enjoy a fire outside and make s’mores. 4) Our orange tree is loaded this year, maybe with three times as many oranges as there were last year. The tree produces super sweet oranges, and they should be ready to start picking by the end of January.
So many oranges this year!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) Our Big Shop was a BIG one this week but we somehow managed to keep it under control and actually finished under what we budgeted. We stuck to our list like glue, and found everything except a box of graham crackers and some carrots, and I forgot to get a box of pasta and 3-4 apples which I picked up later at Big Save. Every inch of our little refrigerator and freezer has been filled to overflowing with food. 2) I used three of my Delta gift cards to purchase tickets for our flights (exit row Comfort+ seating) to Baltimore next May. The price for the tickets was low enough that I still have enough Swagbucks left over to purchase a $500 PayPal deposit into our travel account. 3) We put $6.06 into the change/$1 bill bag, leftover from the Big Shop and lunch out on Thursday. 4) We ate all of our leftovers and didn’t throw out any food.
  • Adding up what we sold last week: I sold 15 hashioki from the Etsy shop and $75.99 will be going into our travel account, $75.99 more than I expected this past week. My profit margin is somewhat low right now though as everything is on sale, but I’m glad to get more hashioki out of the apartment and on to new owners. WenYu said she will take over the shop if I want to keep it going but we’re trying to decide if that’s possible or worthwhile.
  • Grateful for: One of the greatest gifts I have ever received has been the opportunity to parent our three girls. For reasons we will never know, their birth parents were unable to keep these girls with them, but instead chose to place them where they would be given a chance at a new life. And through what we consider nothing less than a miracle, we were matched with these girls, each of them a perfect fit. Raising them hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve never felt anything less than profound gratitude that three times some unknown bureaucrat in China chose these threel to be placed with us. We cannot imagine our lives without them.
  • Bonus question: Do you have a favorite coffee drink? I’m pretty much a “black coffee is perfect” gal, but occasionally I enjoy a nonfat latte. I love, love, love Starbuck’s peppermint mochas this time of year but haven’t had one for the past two years. I also love their nonfat green tea lattes as long as they’re unsweetened. I do not like pumpkin spice lattes or any other flavored drinks, and prefer to keep things simple.

We have made a huge amount of progress getting the girls’ items organized. Their suitcases are already stuffed, boxes are being packed for mailing, and other items sorted for the thrift store, trash, or recycling. I’m not quite sure where or how they’re going to squeeze in their Christmas gifts. They have had fun looking at the things they kept or we kept for them, remembering when they got an item or made something or when a picture was taken. Many things have puzzled them though: Why did I want to keep this? Meiling and WenYu plan to take almost all their stuff back with them on the plane, including WenYu’s electric guitar and amplifier. We going to buy a big suitcase at the thrift store this week for the guitar and amp, and she’ll check it as additional luggage, much cheaper than mailing or shipping UPS. We’ll do the same with YaYu’s stuff and take it along when we head to Pennsylvania next May.

I hope everyone had a great week and are looking forward to the one coming up. Less than a week to go until Christmas! I’ll have my regular Monday food and exercise post up tomorrow, and then will be back next Sunday, post-holiday. Wishing all a wonderful week of good food, family and friends, good books, things accomplished, and lots of good things happening!