Moving Into the Fast Lane

Packing again is going to happen sooner than originally planned!

BIG changes have been made and things are happening! We now have only 31 weeks and four days until we depart Kaua’i!

We had planned to leave in December of next year and fly to Japan, but will now leave our island home in early May when we fly to YaYu’s graduation. We’ll be in Pennsylvania for six days helping YaYu move and watching her graduate, but instead of returning to Kaua’i at the end of our visit we’ll instead be departing for a nearly three month stay in Strasbourg, France. After that we’ll head to the UK, staying eight weeks in Oxford followed by another eight weeks in Bath before flying to Tokyo for a 90-day stay and spending Christmas with family there.

Almost two weeks ago Brett and I sat down and crunched the numbers and realized it made little sense for us to return to Kaua’i, financially and otherwise, and that our savings at that point would be more than adequate for us to begin traveling again in May. By departing for Europe from the east coast we will save the cost of returning to Kaua’i and be able to put those savings toward our flight to France. And, instead of paying rent here as we watched our possessions continue to slowly dwindle we could instead be living in France and England. We spent some more time working up a budget and then pulled the trigger.

We have reserved and paid for a charming Airbnb rental in the Petit France neighborhood of Strasbourg. Careful thought was given to whether we should rent again from our former host, but we decided for the length of time there we wanted something a bit larger this visit. The apartment is in a wonderful location, perfect for walking the city and catching the tram, and has everything we look for in a rental except a washing machine. However, we used a laundromat when we were in Strasbourg before without a problem, and know we can do it again. The host gave a nearly 50% discount because of the length of our stay making the rental very affordable.

We are still working out our departure timeline, but for now plans are to move out of our apartment at the end of April, and stay at one of the beach cottages at Barking Sands for our final week on Kaua’i. We’ll hold a garage sale mid-April, and list the furniture and car then as well (we’ll rent a car as soon as it sells). A couple of boxes will be mailed to WenYu for storage but hopefully everything else will be gone before we depart.

Our downsizing efforts will speed up again after the first of the year, but for now we’re focusing on the girls’ visit at Christmas and pulling things together for that. We feel a real sense of excitement though that plans have been speeded up and that we’ve made our first commitment. We have dreamed of returning to Strasbourg ever since we left in 2018, and nearly three and a half years later that dream is finally going to come true, and sooner than we imagined.

Memories of Strasbourg, France

The city of Strasbourg is a delight for walkers.

Strasbourg started as an add-on stop when we created our itinerary for our last Big Adventure. We had been more interested in checking out Bordeaux, but when Strasbourg popped up on our radar we thought it would be a worthwhile destination and we ended up booking a longer stay there than Bordeaux! It remains our favorite city of all we visited, a ranking that’s never diminished.

What did we love so much about Strasbourg?

Strasbourg is not a big city, but we found it had everything we needed, and there was plenty to see and do. It was a very easy city to get around in as well. The area is flat, so it was very walkable. There were loads of cobblestones though, so I had to be careful about those, and loads of bike riders as well that we had to remain aware of, but otherwise it was a very pleasant place to walk. The central city especially was compact enough to get around easily on foot. There was also an amazing, affordable tram system that was easy to use, and buses as well for trips further out from the center. Trains from Strasbourg station went to points all over Europe.

For a smaller city, Strasbourg is very cosmopolitan. It’s home to the European Union Parliament, and has a top-notch university and hospital, so the city is full of and very welcoming to people from all over. It’s also a uniquely beautiful city with a long history. Located next to the Rhine River, the central city is filled with canals, and because of its location on the German border, it melds French and German culture in many ways, from architecture to cuisine. There is a large, wonderful park inside the city, L’Orangerie, complete with Alsatian storks, a small zoo, sculptures, and a forest of trees, worthy of several visits. The park is known as the “lungs of Strasbourg.” Strasbourg also contains several interesting museums – our favorites were the Alsatian Museum, which covers the regions’s culture and traditions, and the Musee l’Oeuvre-Notre Dame, which focuses on the history of the city. Both are located near to the spectacular Strasbourg Cathedral.

We fell in love with Alsatian cuisine, from tarte flambée (a sort of pizza, also know as flammekueche) to charcroute (pork and sauerkraut). The area is known for its wines (mostly white) and it’s also one of the areas in France famous for its fois gras (goose liver pate), made in the Alsace since the 18th century. Other favorites of ours were bretzels, giant pretzels that came in a variety of flavors, amazing gingerbread that also came in lots of flavors and shapes, and creamy nut-filled nougats that were cut off of giant blocks. Our apartment was close to several great markets including an organic one and another one specializing in local products. We ate well while we were there.

Tarte flambée!

Strasbourg is also conveniently located to destinations in Germany – we could actually catch the tram nearest to our apartment and be across the border in just a few minutes. Western Switzerland was only a short distance away as well and a getaway to Lucerne took only 1 1/2 hours by car. Ramstein Air Base is located less than an hour away, which would have been an easy trip for medical needs, if necessary.

Every day we spent in Strasbourg in 2018 was an adventure, and while we went out almost daily we did not see or do everything in the area. We’re eager to revisit and explore the cathedral and the Petit France area again, to stroll through L’Orangerie, to visit the markets and museums. There’s more wine to be enjoyed, and many new variations of tarte flambée to be savored as well as charcroute and other Alsatian specialties. Fresh bread and pastries, cheeses, and pates also are calling us back.

The highlight of our Strasbourg visit was a traditional French meal with our host and family at their home. Sunset was falling over the French countryside just outside of Strasbourg when we arrived at their house.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (9/19 – 9/25)

I hit a wall this week when it came to cooking. I had a vegan peanut stew on the menu this week but I just could not get myself motivated to make it. When we get home from walking in the late afternoon I just don’t feel like standing in the kitchen. The stew was instead switched over to yesterday when I felt relaxed and ready to slice, chop, measure and stir, and going forward new recipes will be reserved for our day off on Sunday. Otherwise we’re sticking to sandwiches and other easy but healthy dishes that don’t require a lot of effort. I’m feeling very grateful right now for the vegan entrees that we’ve picked up and stashed in the freezer.

I’ve also found myself “over-snacking” this past week. Everything has been healthy: nuts, whole grain fig bars, low salt/low fat chips, but when I’m eating too much of anything or having all three in a day then it’s not healthy any more. I had the most trouble with the chips – although they’re low calorie they are also just salty and crispy enough that I would finish a serving and be craving more and often ended up having two servings. No, no, no. Anyway, I am working on being more conscious of when and how much I snack now. I won’t buy the chips again – too tempting, and will instead stick with a small dish of nuts or a fig bar in the afternoon.

The chili dogs we ate last week were delicious and a fun treat, and we enjoyed our afternoon appetizer and wine along with some good conversation with Bob and Betty on Tuesday. Everything else was easy and satisfying as well, so I’m going to stick with easy-to-fix dishes during the week, and then do my “cooking” on Sundays.

Sunday: Vegan chili dogs; coleslaw

Monday: Roasted red pepper & tomato soup; toasted cheese sandwiches; cucumber pickles

Tuesday: Potstickers, California roll sushi, and a glass of pinot grigio (me) or beer (Brett)

Wednesday: Spicy black bean quesadillas; steamed broccoli

Thursday: Pesto, onion, and feta cheese mini pizzas

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Spaghetti with meatless meatballs; leftover vegetable odds & ends

We’ve enjoyed a matcha Swiss roll and small slices of two delicious pies (blueberry Pina colada and likikoi cheesecake this past week. The pies came from a nearby local pie shop and were very good, but also high-priced so it’s unlikely we’ll get any more from them.

I’m not making anything new next week as we want to use what we have in our freezer before we Big Shop again in October. Everything on next week’s menu is something easy to fix when we get home from our walk as well (as long as I remember to start the rice for the tofu & broccoli stir fry).

  • Grilled vegan burgers (Better than Burgers)
  • Vegan peanut stew
  • Chili shrimp
  • Cheese board
  • Mini pizzas
  • Broccoli & tofu in spicy peanut sauce
  • Zaru soba and chilled tofu (hiyayakko)

The weather was again against us for much of the week, but we did get in six walks. We usually take Sunday off, but walked last Sunday afternoon because we knew we wouldn’t be able to go on Tuesday. It rained most of the day though and whether the walk would happen was touch and go for most of the day, but it thankfully stopped in the late afternoon and off we went. We figured there would be no golf ball finds that day, but they were everywhere! People had apparently been playing before the rain and then abandoned balls out on the fairways when it started getting wet. The rain also caused several balls to roll out of hiding places. We ended our Sunday walk with 13 balls, most in very good condition. It was the same for most of the rest of the week: sketchy weather in the morning but clear enough in the afternoon that we could walk, although Saturday’s walk was cut shortened when it the rain started coming down in buckets about halfway through. Our ball total for the week was 97, tying our previous best week for lost ball finds.

There are more feral pigs on Kaua’i than there are people, and they can be pests. They live in the forests by the golf course but rarely come out in the open.

We did have a scary moment on Thursday: as we came around the edge of the forest on the perimeter of the course I heard the distinctive snort of a feral pig, and not a small one either, from just inside the trees. Brett wasn’t as close as I was and he heard it too. The pig continued to follow us along the edge, and although we couldn’t see it we could hear it and see the trees and brush moving as it traveled. This was just too close for comfort for us so after a few seconds we made a quick right turn and cut across the fairway to the other side of the course and watched the pig trample through the trees on the other side. We know better than get anywhere near a feral pig here!

Sunday Morning 9/26/2021: Settling Into Fall

The best sunset last week happened Sunday evening at the close of a stormy day

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Bringing the outside in: my view out our front door

The other day I looked around and thought our apartment almost looks like an Airbnb rental because there are so few decorative things around now, things that used to somewhat define us and our homes. The place is just starting to feel empty, but Brett and I agree that’s a good thing. Everything is going to stay pretty much as it is now, for the time being at least, but more things will leave with the girls when they return to their homes/school, and we’ll have an even emptier space! The one great thing about our apartment is that we have such a wonderful view out the front that creates a close connection to the outside and makes our small space seem larger than it is. I’m pretty sure in a different place I might not feel as good about the results of our downsizing as I do now.

Last week ended up being very busy with lots of errands and a great get-together with Bob and Betty Lowry. It was another slow sales week though with just two small orders from Etsy going out. I got two different offers for the set of Starbucks coffee mugs I had listed on Buy & Sell, set up meet-ups for both, and both times the so-called buyers never showed and I never heard from them again! I’ve decided that no more will go on Buy & Sell except for golf balls until it’s time next year to sell our furniture. It’s just not worth it, and things from now on will be set aside for an eventual garage sale. I’d list the mugs on eBay except there is already a glut of them there, and with what postage costs from here I can’t price them low enough to compete.

A tiny slice of delicious, but expensive lilikoi cheesecake

This past week we bought two 8-inch pies at a local pie shop, to serve for dessert when Bob and Betty came over. I was a bit taken aback by the cost, but their pies are always good and we try to support local businesses. Once we had decided on the two pies we wanted, the woman took our choices out of the display case, put some plastic wrap over the top, and rang up the bill. We were not offered a box for the pies. The transaction was handled on an iPad, and I was very surprised when a tip was suggested (there and by the woman helping us) – the choices were 15%, 20%, or 25% – and for maybe the first time in my life I said no. I don’t know if I was being frugal or cheap, but suggesting at least 15% on top of the cost of the pies just for putting plastic wrap over them was a bridge too far for me. If pie had been cut and served, coffee poured, wrapped and boxed up, etc. I would have had no problem tipping. The pies were still delicious, but I sadly doubt we’ll be going back.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finally finished Six Four on Monday, and just as I did another book came off hold. I decided to finish one book at a time so I’m current reading Sixteen Horses. It’s very, very creepy. Box 21, by Anders Roslund, also came off of hold, but I’m not going to start it until I’ve finished Sixteen Horses.
  • Listening to: Stormy weather is our background noise this morning, mostly wind blowing through the trees but the rain that was coming down a little while ago has stopped and birds are beginning to sing again. It actually feel like fall this morning, although that still doesn’t transfer into “sweater weather” here. Anyway, I’m enjoying the cooler temperature this morning and am eagerly awaiting a cup of coffee. Brett is currently banging around in the kitchen, making the coffee and putting away last night’s dishes, but he’s almost done and then our usual Sunday morning peace and quiet will settle in.
  • Watching: Well, the HBO Max come-on turned out to be a lot of hype and all we got to watch was one episode of The Flight Attendant but then had to subscribe to see more (and Mare of Easttown wasn’t even included in the promotion as it turned out). No thanks. So, we started Billions this week and are enjoying it so far. I did not know Paul Giamatti starred in it as well – I love watching him act as much as Damien Lewis. I also did not know until this past week that Paul Giamatti’s father was the 7th commissioner of baseball! The name has always sounded familiar for some reason, and now I know why. Our Tuesday evening viewing of Only Murders In the Building continues – it’s a great show, and I was happy to learn they have been renewed for a second season.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Although we had a busy week with lots of errands, it was not a week for big accomplishments except for one very big thing which will be revealed next week. I had only two small sales on Etsy, and other than rearranging a few things in the apartment nothing much else got done except for the regular stuff. Brett got the car serviced yesterday, so that’s done for the year.
  • Looking forward to next week: Once again there’s nothing special on the calendar, so our hopes are for good walking weather, a couple of Etsy sales, and maybe another day at the beach. I’m not sure we’re going to make our goal of 26 beach visits this year – the weather just hasn’t been cooperating.
We should have known better than to have the sun behind us! We absolutely loved getting to meet and spend time with Bob and Betty.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) We had another great time with Bob and Betty Lowry last Tuesday. We picked them up at the airport after they had dropped off their rental car, and headed to Poipu where we enjoyed drinks, snacks, and lots of good conversation. We finished up with pie and coffee at our apartment before taking them back to the airport to catch their plane home to Phoenix. I can’t say how much we enjoyed meeting them! 2) Yesterday was our son’s annual fundraising walk, the “Komazawa Challenge.” Every year, rain or shine, he walks the length of a marathon in the Komazawa Olympic Park, joined throughout the day for a few laps by family and co-workers. His effort supports an organization in Japan that serves children who are terminally ill or have incurable diseases. Donations received this year totaled $7,450! 3) I received a lovely personal message from the woman in France who bought the jubako from me on Etsy, letting me know it arrived safely, thanking me for packing it so well, and that she loves the piece. I had been holding my breath hoping it would arrive safely.
M with some co-workers mid walk. They brought him refreshments throughout the day and kept him company (and donated a lot as well).
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We bought two pies, got gas for the car, and had the annual car servicing done, all planned expenses. I ran out of the Neutrogena moisturizer I use (contains SPF 50) but Walmart didn’t have any, so I checked online at Amazon and Walmart.com and found it for less online at Walmart.com than it costs in the store and with free shipping included (I ordered three tubes)! It will be here by Wednesday. We put nothing in the change/$1 bill bag this week, ate all our leftovers, and we didn’t throw away any food.
  • Adding up the things we sold this week: Just one hashioki and a Japanese clay bell left the house this week. Side hustle income for the week was $12.88, but there should be more next week when Etsy releases the rest of my reserve funds.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling especially thankful this week for Brett’s constant support and encouragement. He and I are very different people, with different temperaments, interests, and so forth. Picking a TV show that we can both enjoy is a major challenge! No one can drive me crazy faster than he can (and vice versa), but we always agree, as we say, on the big stuff: money, child rearing, politics, and so forth. I’m thankful he not only reins me in when needed, but encourages me to think big as well and then go for it.
  • Bonus question: What film(s) have frightened you the most? Jaws was the last film I remember that really scared me, and Wait Until Dark almost turned me to jelly (especially the ending, even though I knew it was coming). That scene was absolutely terrifying. On the other hand, The Exorcist wasn’t at all scary nor was The Shining, although both books scared the living daylights out of me. The first time I watch The Ring I felt scared at times, but I watched it a couple of years later and couldn’t figure out what the big deal was. I had a very vivid imagination when I was young though, and the most frightening films for me remain the ones we were shown in elementary and middle school each year for Fire Prevention week. All of them gave me nightmares and kept me awake at night for weeks on end. The most horrifying film was in fifth grade, where little Bobby was goofing around when the school fire alarm went off and didn’t leave the building with the other students. When the teacher realized he was missing she went back into the building to find him, and both died from smoke inhalation (the actors playing Bobby and the teacher were shown slumped dead in a stairwell at the end of the film, an awful scene that had many students in tears). I couldn’t fall asleep for weeks after those films unless my dad was still awake downstairs (and then still had nightmares after I fell asleep). Ironically, my Dad’s smoking was probably the most likely cause of a fire in our house.

I rarely watch YouTube videos, but one of my favorite channels is First Time Hearing, where two young black men (twins) listen to a song they wouldn’t normally ever play and evaluate it. They’ve listened to songs as diverse as Dolly Parton’s Jolene to Phil Collins In the Air Tonight to Pavaratti singing Nessum Dorma and their reactions are priceless. When they listened to Heard It Through the Grapevine Marvin Gaye was labeled “the master” but they were puzzled by the lyrics because “no one uses those words in songs any more.” This past week I watched one twin (the other was not there for some reason) listen to Bobby Hatfield of the Righteous Brothers sing Unchained Melody. He was struck speechless by his voice and how effortless he made singing seem, especially the falsetto, and said Hatfield looked like “he could do this lying in bed” (true). I watched a few other reaction videos for the Righteous Brothers and had fun seeing young people from all backgrounds blown away by them (some of the reactions were actually laugh-out-loud funny). The Righteous Brothers still sound just as fresh and relevant today as they did back in the early 60s – absolutely amazing vocals.

My all-time favorite Righteous Brothers song – it still gives me chills.

That’s all for another week that went by very quickly. September has just flown by, and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around the fact that next Sunday will be in October! I hope everyone had a great and productive week with lots of good things happening, and is looking forward to the week that’s coming up.

Home Cooking: Potstickers

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(photo credit: Epicurious)

Several years ago I won a space in a Chinese potsticker (dumpling) class at an auction we attended. I was excited about learning how to make these tasty dumplings because our girls loved them (still do), and would eat them for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner and all points in between!

Potstickers (jiaotzu in Mandarin, gyoza in Japanese) are traditionally served at the Lunar New Year in China, where families often get together and make huge amounts of them. They are ubiquitous at Chinese restaurants in Japan, are reasonably priced and traditionally served in a group of five. Potstickers are always available for dimsum, and in most Asian markets you can find a huge variety of these dumplings, with several different types of fillings, in the frozen section. When I didn’t make them myself, I used to buy the big bags of LingLing chicken and vegetable potstickers at Costco. A bag would last us two to three months. We always took them on camping trips as they were easy to prepare from frozen, and in the winter I used them in soup (my potsticker soup recipe was “borrowed” by a woman who entered it in a local contest and won first prize!).

Making potstickers is somewhat labor intensive because of the stuffing, but it’s a great activity to do with older children or with friends. You can save time by buying pre-made wrappers and also using pre-minced ginger and garlic. The wrappers can be made from scratch, but it takes a long time and the teacher at the class I took felt they didn’t always turn out as well as the ready-made ones (which can be purchased at Asian markets and are usually found in the freezer). Potsticker wrappers are round, about 3 inches in diameter, and can either be thick or thin. Thin ones are better if you are going to boil the potstickers, and thick is better for pan-frying (which is how I usually cook them). Chinese and Japanese potstickers usually have a pork filling, but the fillings for potstickers can be made with tofu as well for vegetarians or with ground chicken or shrimp. The teacher suggested that being “assertive” with the soy sauce, vinegar and sesame oil will give potstickers a better flavor.

While the cost for all the ingredients might seem high, the recipe below makes a lot of dumplings – be prepared! I usually get between 75 and 100 dumplings when using this recipe, enough to last for many, many meals.

There’s a great scene in the movie Crazy Rich Asian where the family has gathered to make dumplings, and they describe wrapping and pleating the dumplings along the lines of putting a baby in a blanket and tucking it in (pleating). The video above gives a quick demonstration on how to pleat – five of them across the top is traditional. If you only want to do three pleats, that’s okay as well (the number four is considered unlucky though).

POTSTICKERS

  • 3 pounds ground pork or well-crumbled tofu, or even a mixture of ground pork and tofu
  • 1 cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 1-2 TBSP minced ginger
  • 1-2 TBSP minced garlic
  • 3-4 TBSP soy sauce
  • 3-4 TBSP dark sesame oil
  • 3-4 TBSP rice wine or dry sherry
  • 1 egg
  • 3-5 cups finely chopped nappa cabbage
  • 50-100 potsticker wrappers

Mix all ingredients (except wrappers) together using your fingers until well blended, but do not overwork. Take a wrapper, and wet around the outside edge with water using your finger. Place a generous teaspoonful of filling the middle, fold over to make a half circle and pinch well to seal. Make five pleats at the top of the half circle (see video above for how the pleats should look). The finished dumpling should have a pleated side and a smooth side, and curve gently on the ends.

Freeze potstickers individually on a cookie sheet lined with parchment before putting into other bags or containers for further storage.

To pan fry (from frozen), put vegetable oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet and heat. Place potstickers on the oil, smooth side down, to cover the bottom of the skillet and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until the potstickers begin to brown. Add water to around 1/4 of the height of the potstickers, cover the pan, lower the heat and steam for around 5 minutes or until water is gone. Test one to see if done; if not steam a little longer. Using a large spatula, life the potstickers from the pan and invert onto a plate, so the browned side shows. The wrapper might look wrinkled; this is normal, especially if you use the thin wrappers.

To make boiled potstickers, heat a large pan of water to boiling, then carefully place the potstickers in the water. They will initially drop to the bottom, but then rise to the top; boil for around 6-8 minutes. Be sure your potstickers are well-sealed (pinched and pleated) if you’re going to boil them – we once had a batch that completely opened in the water and made a huge mess.

DIPPING SAUCE

  • 1 TBSP minced garlic
  • 1 TBSP minced ginger
  • 3 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 3TBSP soy sauce
  • 3 TBSP rice vinegar
  • chili sesame oil (optional)
  • finely chopped green onion (optional)
  • finely chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat oil over medium heat in a small skillet until a piece of green onion  will dance across the top of the oil. Add garlic and ginger and fry until they just start to turn brown. Turn off the heat and quickly add the vinegar and soy sauce to stop further cooking. Cool to room temperature and add chili oil, cilantro or chopped green onion if desired.

The Provisioning Plan

(photo credit: Lucrezia Carnelos/unsplash)

Neither Brett nor I are into spending right now. We prefer saving.

However, there are things we need to buy before we set out on our next adventure, and we’ve been dreading having to face some of the big expenses we experienced before our last adventure.

However, because we currently have time on our side, we came up with a plan to keeps purchases to what can fit into our monthly budget, but that will still allow us to have everything we need before we leave next year.

Our plan? I get to buy something I need or want in the odd months; Brett gets the even months. We should try to keep purchases to one thing or type of thing each month, but if a special sale or discount occurs more can be purchased.

This month I bought four pairs of cotton leggings from H&M. I bought a pair in December of 2019 to take along to Japan and absolutely loved them, and when I checked last week they were still available at the price I paid in 2019. I bought two pairs of black, two of dark gray, and a package of ankle socks for YaYu to qualify for free shipping (the socks cost less than what shipping would have). I now have four comfy pairs of leggings to see me through for a while (plus, leggings also take up less room in my suitcase).

The leggings were going to be only purchase this month but my preferred brand of bras (online) were on sale this month, and on top of the sale price there was an additional discount for every two purchased, and another 20% off everything if I supplied my email address (fine by me because it goes directly to my spam folder). Shipping was also free. My favorite underwear brand was also on sale at Costco, and two packs of those were also ordered. The new stuff will be put away until it’s time to pack; what I’m wearing now is in good enough condition to get me through next year. This month’s provisioning for me is over though.

Next month Brett plans to purchase either some new jeans or a pair of boots, and in November I’m going to replace my phone. That’ll be a big expense, but my old phone will be traded in, and we’ll use the interest-free monthly payment plan for a while from our carrier, and pay off the balance before we depart. I want to have the phone before the girls arrive in December as they can (and will) teach and help me with all sorts of things so I can use the phone more optimally. Brett says he’s going to wait and see what he gets for Christmas before deciding on a (late) December purchase. On both our lists for next year are boots, and Brett needs a cold-weather coat and new iPad. I want one pair of Perfect Fit pants from L.L. Bean since the ones I had were too big. Other items will fall into place as we figure them out.

While some items can be easily fit into our regular shopping here, our monthly plan is designed to not only to keep us motivated, but keep us on track budget-wise for the things we’ll need on the road. The schedule gives each something to look forward to each month, and by the time we depart we’ll have everything we need.

Works for us!

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (9/12 – 9/18)

Our freezer is stuffed once again, but other than a package of Italian sausages we’re saving for when the girls are here in December, all the meat we started out with a few months ago is gone. We used the last of the meat sauce on our mini pizzas and then cut up a remaining small pork chop for a pork and pepper stir fry. I’m pretty sure Brett and I will eat meat again while the girls are here, but for now we are meat free! So what’s in our freezer? We have a few vegan entrees that we’ve found at Costco and Walmart, including mini corn dogs (we loved them!), hot dogs, chick’n patties, Better Than Burgers, chick’n nuggets, meatballs, and ground meat substitute. There’s a bag of extra-large shrimp for next week’s menu as well as bags of frozen broccoli, bags of frozen blueberries, yakisoba noodles, some bread and rolls, a few frozen burritos and a bag of burrito filling that will get used this coming week. In other words, lots and lots of healthy things to put together tasty meals. Our freezer may be small but it is mighty!

Every inch is in use in our little freezer.

We now walk later in the afternoons than we did before, and when we get home these days the last thing I feel like doing is standing and cooking. In the past we would have purchased and used lots of processed foods, and although I’m finding myself reaching for some easier- or quick-to-prepare options included some processed vegan items, the foods we’re eating now overall are much healthier – less protein (but still enough), less gluten, less dairy – and we feel much better for it. We’re sticking to smaller portions as well – I still measure and/or weigh everything. I’ve also figured out that by fixing some dishes earlier in the day all I have to do is heat them when we get home. My biggest issue seems to be remembering to fix rice (if we’re having it) before we leave for our walk so that we don’t have to wait for it to finish later.

We didn’t try any new recipes this week except for the zucchini fries, which were so-so (I’m going to look for a different recipe next time). Everything tasted good, there were some leftovers for lunches, but best of all the meat is gone!

Sunday: Coconut squash dal with jasmine rice; cucumber spears

Monday: Chick’n nuggets; baked zucchini fries

Tuesday: Mini pizzas with meat sauce

Wednesday: Pork & pepper stir fry; steamed rice

Thursday: Quinoa salad with feta cheese

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Chick’n patty sandwiches; coleslaw

We’ve been enjoying a treat for dessert the past few days: Bubbie’s mochi ice cream balls, which are made in Hawaii. They have the best flavors (we’ve had green tea, passionfruit, chocolate peanut butter, strawberry with dark chocolate chips, and pistachio this week) and each one contains less than two tablespoons of ice cream, so there’s been no dairy overload. Calories are also fairly low: 180 for two. We finished them last night, so this week’s dessert will include thin slices of leftover pie (we’re picking up a couple of pies from our local shop tomorrow to have when Bob and Betty Lowry come over for dessert) and we also bought another coconut cake and another matcha cake to enjoy as well.

Strawberry with dark chocolate chips and chocolate peanut butter Bubbies. The ice cream flavors are always delicious, but Bubbies’ mochi has unfortunately often been hard and somewhat crumbly, not soft and chewy like mochi should be.

Cheese will feature in a few meals next week because we need to use it up: toasted cheese sandwiches, sprinkled on the chili dogs, on the mini pizzas, and of course on the cheese board. We’re looking forward to the chili dogs and found our favorite chili, Amy’s vegetarian, at Big Save. I’m trying one new recipe this week: vegan peanut stew with sweet potato. Everything except the peanut stew can be fixed in a short time after we get home from our walk but I’ll manage. Tomorrow evening we’ll be enjoying happy hour appetizers with Bob and Betty Lowry which will be enough to count as dinner (I hope).

  • Happy Hour appetizers
  • Vegan chili dogs
  • Tomato & roasted red pepper soup; toasted cheese sandwiches
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Spicy black bean burritos
  • Vegan peanut stew

I must have fallen harder than I realized week before last because it feels like I have either bruised or cracked a rib or deeply pulled a muscle. The pain in my upper right chest has not let up, and while using my right arm can be painful depending on what I’m doing (and hard to avoid because I’m right handed), actions like coughing or sneezing are excruciating. I have been forbidden by Brett to enter the gully again so I’m now consigned to checking the edge. My shoes are too slippery for the slopes inside the gully, and because I have beginning osteoporosis, Brett is worried about my falling again and possible breaking my leg or hip (I am too frankly) but whatever I did to my chest is proving to be motivation enough to stay away.

We often pass by this old fountain during our walks. It must have been gorgeous in its day.

The weather this past week was mostly okay for walking with nice breezes and cooler temperatures once again. I remember having to cut our walks short this time last year because the humidity was so fierce and clouds of gnats were everywhere, but we really haven’t experienced those things at all this year. We walked the perimeter on Monday and Tuesday, got in a lot of steps on Wednesday during our Big Shop, but had to stay home on Thursday because of rain. We were almost rained out again on Friday, but the big clouds hanging over the park eventually changed direction, the rain stopped, and we got in a full perimeter walk (our feet got very wet though). Saturday’s weather was lovely and we once again got in another full walk. We found 50 lost balls this week, most in very good condition, and an overall decent number considering the weather, the reduced number of golfers, and only four days for us at the park. Our ball collecting also finally paid off this past week: we sold three packages of used golf balls in one day!

Sunday Morning 9/19/2021: The Great, The Good, and The weird

Sunset of the Week: Thursday evening’s spectacular production followed a stormy afternoon.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

In what was a surprising twist to last week’s hibachi-selling frustration, the woman who bought the big one last week contacted me on Monday and made an acceptable offer on two smaller hibachis I had listed for sale on both Etsy and eBay. She said she would come by to pick them up later that day so I took the listings off those sites but then she didn’t show up. I wrote her on Wednesday to check if she still wanted them and she apologized (she had been under the weather) and came and picked them up that afternoon! It is such a relief to have the hibachis sold. I knew when I listed the two smaller ones on online it would take a long while to sell them, and although I would have earned a bit more selling them online it would have been very difficult to pack them adequately for shipment (as well as costing a small fortune), so having someone local buy them was a happy and ideal solution.

The mugs are the only things that didn’t sell this past week but I got an offer for them this morning. And additional box of golf balls also were sold.

It was also a very quiet week on both eBay and Etsy with no orders from either site. We listed our first two boxes of golf balls on eBay early in the week but got very few views even though I had priced them well below what eBay suggested and what similar lots were going for. After a few days I decided to cross-list them and two other eBay items on our local Buy & Sell as well and in one day sold the two boxes of golf balls and my old travel daypack and made more than I would have on eBay after paying for postage! Brett took along another box of golf balls I was preparing to list when he delivered the yellow balls and the man bought that box as well! It ended up being a great week for sales, and we have decided to take more of our stuff off of eBay. A couple of coffee mugs (not the ones shown above) and some other Japanese stuff will stay there for the time being but otherwise we will focus on selling our stuff locally. Postage costs from Hawaii are high and I believe that has been a real deterrent to online buyers.

I did an in-depth look at monthly rental prices in both Blockley and Strasbourg this past week and a return to Blockley may be impossible. Monthly rentals are limited as it is, and rental prices are off the charts right now – the little cottage we rented in 2019 is now going for over $1,000 more per month than it was when we were there! I can understand why though – after everyone was cooped up for so long the Cotswolds must be an extremely popular getaway location right now. As it is, Brett and I are thinking again about whether we really want to do another three month stay there. Our time in 2019 was magical but we know it might feel less so on a second visit as we saw and did so much in the area the first time. We reminded ourselves it was also a location where we had to take a bus to get to an ATM let alone buy groceries, etc. and maybe there are other places in the UK we could visit, enjoy, and get to know that wouldn’t requires as much effort. Strasbourg, on the other hand, seems to have plenty of wonderful rentals in our price range, so hopefully we will have no problems finding something there when it’s time to make our reservations. Our former Strasbourg rental is currently not available, and as much as we loved staying there we know it’s probably too small for a three-month stay. I worry too that we might not find Strasbourg as special as we did the first visit but there are still loads of things in the area we didn’t get to see and do before and we are still feeling eager to visit again.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: Six Four, the Japanese detective story I inadvertently downloaded from the library when I couldn’t find anything else, has turned out to be a page-turner! Loaded with detail, it goes slowly but gives a deep understanding of the Japanese police hierarchy and relationships, as well as loads of other deep Japanese cultural insights (fascinating to me). The mystery itself is also a slow burn and good reading. I have been grateful for my background in Japanese though because I think I would otherwise go crazy trying to keep everyone’s names straight. Another book, Sixteen Horses, became available this week, but I’m going to stick with Six Four alone for the next week and hopefully finish before starting the second book.
  • Listening to: We woke up to a stormy morning with overcast skies and rain but not too much wind. It’s supposed to blow out by noon, but we’ll see. Several chickens in the area are sounding off though so it’s not all that quiet. Brett’s putting away last night’s dishes and making coffee, so there’s a little bit of noise inside the kitchen right now but the coffee will be finished soon, things will quiet down, and the rest of the morning should be peaceful and quiet.
  • Watching: We binged the final three episodes of Whitechapel on Thursday and watched the new episode of Only Murders In the Building on Tuesday. On Friday we watched two parts of the four-part documentary about LuLaRoe called LuLaRich, and finished it last night. I remember LuLaRoe being hot, hot, hot here before we left in 2018 but now there is nothing and now I know why. Sad that so many did so much and then lost so much. HBO Max is currently offering some of their shows for free, and since we’re not sure how long that’s going to last tonight we’re going to start watching Mare of Easttown.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: Besides getting our Big Shop done, our other big accomplishment was putting together the first boxes of golf balls for sale. The sorting and grading was a bit more difficult than we thought and we’re now trying to figure out how to sell the ones in less than great condition that have been accumulated. Brett and I talked a lot about our upcoming travel plan and came up with some possible ideas for a final itinerary, but other than heading to Japan first there still are no firm decisions yet about where we should go next (France or UK). I got another six-week set of activity cards ready, and all the regular stuff got accomplished once again.
  • Looking forward to next week: We getting together again with Bob and Betty Lowry on Tuesday for happy hour and puupuus (heavy appetizers) at a nearby restaurant, and then will have coffee/tea and dessert at our place before taking them to the airport for their flight back to the mainland. We’re looking forward to hearing about their Kaua’i adventures from this past week. The weather has behaved for them most of this past week, thank goodness.
Everyone’s happy after breakfast and conversation at the Tip Top!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The highlight of our week was breakfast with Bob and Betty at the Tip Top Cafe on Tuesday. We could have easily stayed at our table for a couple more hours to continue talking – it was like we had known each other for years. So thrilled to have finally met them – they’re just as down to earth as you would image from his writing on Satisfying Retirement (and, he’s got a new blog starting early October!). Also, what could have been a very disappointing week for our side hustles turned into something very good thanks to our local Buy & Sell.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We stayed under budget with our shopping on Wednesday but it was close: all we had leftover for the change/$1 bill bag was $1.58! Bargain of the month at Costco was a twin-pack of giant 20.35 oz. boxes of Cheerios for $3.96, or $1.73 per box. We also picked up a few things in preparation for the girls’ December visit and would have spent less if not for those (like a case of Izze sparkling juice, on sale this month at Costco). Hopefully by picking things up starting now we will be able to avoid being slammed with a huge food bill in December. We ate all our leftovers this past week and I’d love to say I didn’t throw any food away but I discovered several small bags of produce odds and ends way past their time that had gotten buried and forgotten and that had to be tossed. I gave myself a stern talking to about making sure things this doesn’t happen again.
  • Adding up what we sold last week: Although there were no Etsy orders nor eBay sales this past week, two hibachis, a daypack, and three boxes of golf balls left the apartment. Residual funds were released from Etsy and along with the other sales, $489.02 is going into our travel account tomorrow (more if the mugs sell)! I am mentally prepared however for a very quiet week coming up.
  • Grateful for: I have always enjoyed meeting readers, and finally getting to meet Bob and Betty last week was no exception. When I’ve meet readers it’s been like connecting with old friends again. I’m so very thankful for all the opportunities I’ve been given to get to know so many wonderful people because of this blog, for the friends we’ve made, and I hope it continues long into the future. I am also beyond grateful to Hawaii Planner for finding and sending some very valuable information that was lost this past week (see below).
I also like having an uncluttered desktop.
  • Bonus question: Is your email inbox full or empty? I don’t get a whole lot of email these days with so many other efficient ways to communicate, but mine is always empty or near empty because I organize my email daily. However, yesterday my Gmail account appeared to go crazy and not in a good way. I’m still trying to figure out what happened but it was very weird. Old email I had saved because it contained important information, including one of our $500 Delta gift cards, disappeared and couldn’t be located anywhere. The email with information on my leggings order of 9/14 from H&M also vanished. I found a few of the older saved emails on my phone, but neither the missing Delta card nor the H&M email were among them. I had a special Delta subfolder in saved email where I kept screenshots of the Delta card information as a safety measure, but yesterday only one gift card could be found there, and the Delta file on my phone was completely empty! To keep things even more interesting, during my search for the lost emails I checked my inbox at one point and found it filled with hundreds of old messages, all of which had been deleted months ago! Also weird was the appearance in my saved file of 10 chat messages from our son from 2009! My very tech-savvy daughters did everything they could to help me straighten things out and find the missing emails, but nothing we tried worked nor did any of Google’s tips, and there was no way to contact Google for help as they only have online help and none of it covered this situation. However, Hawaii Planner came to the rescue! I had bought one of the Delta cards from her last year, so in desperation I wrote and asked if she still possibly had any information about the card and she did! YEAH!!! I now have both the missing card number and the PIN, and that information has been saved in three different places so it hopefully doesn’t get lost again (she suggested I find out if I can put the gift cards in my online wallet so I’m going to check on that). I am absolutely sick though about all of this because for now there doesn’t appear to be any way to retrieve the other lost emails, and some were special ones from Brett that I wanted to save and remember, and others contained photos from friends and family that are now gone. Thanks, Google. My inbox however is clutter free again, so there’s that.
My reaction 10 years ago if you had told me we would someday move to Hawaii (also my all-time favorite Gary Larson cartoon).

The other morning, when I woke up and opened the French doors in the living room, I looked out at our yard, the blue sky and clouds, the breeze blowing through the palm trees, and realized how much I am going to miss living here. I thought about how very blessed and fortunate we have been to live on Kaua’i. Ten years ago I would have thought you were crazy if you had predicted we would move to Hawaii, and yet somehow we made it happen, not once but twice, and we’ve enjoyed/are enjoying a wonderful life here. I will be forever grateful that we were given this opportunity, and we will always carry a piece of Kaua’i in our hearts. I am resolved to make the most of all the time we have remaining.

That’s a wrap for another great and good week, and glad for the happy ending to the weird! We’re looking forward to the week coming up, and hope everyone is as well.

67 Weeks

(photo credit: Estee Janssens/Unsplash)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday: California roll salad

Monday: Kabocha pumpkin risotto; roasted zucchini

Tuesday: Stacked chicken & zucchini enchiladas

Wednesday: Mexican quinoa stuffed peppers; pickled cucumbers

Thursday: Mini pizzas with meat sauce

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Vegan orange chick’n & fried rice

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

Pepperidge Farm coconut cake is as delicious as ever.

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

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

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

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

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