I Gotta Be Me

It’s truly been a life-long journey, but when it comes to money, frugality, simple living, and self image here are a few of the things I’ve discovered about myself over the years:

  1. I like saving money more than spending money. I had a reputation in my family of being something of a shopaholic, but I’ve actually always been a person who shops with a purpose. However, I’ve found that I enjoy saving money more. I like setting goals, and setting aside money for emergencies, for future needs and for travel. I’ve discovered I pretty much don’t care much for shopping these days other than for groceries and something that’s necessary. These days I don’t “go shopping,” and I don’t buy anything without knowing the price I am willing to pay. 
  2. I don’t need to know where every cent of our money is going or has gone. Yes, we keep track of our money, keep our checking account balanced, keep up with our savings, but I just cannot get too into the detail of it all because it will drive me crazy. All those tasks are Brett’s now and he enjoys doing it because he has the time for it now. I generally keep track of what money is where, what is owed, and so forth and am usually always within a few cents of how I think things are and I can live with that. I greatly admire people who are much more organized than I am when it comes to their finances, but I just can’t do it.
  3. I have fun figuring out how to do more with what we have versus owning more. “Do we really need this?” is my background melody these days. Less really has become more for me.
  4. I will always choose simple, and good quality. Simple doesn’t always mean cheap, but I know that in the long run good quality is usually the most frugal choice, even if it costs more upfront.
  5. I am not a fan of personal finance, self-help, or simple or frugal living books. I’ve tried to read these kinds of books, but with a couple of exceptions they put me to sleep. I’m sure there’s lots of good advice in them, but they’re just not a good fit with my learning style. I learn better from reading about the everyday experiences of others on their blogs, by exercising common sense, and by taking the time to stop and reflect on what I want to accomplish and how I can get there. 
  6. I like modern things. Back when we got serious about paying off our debt and I started reading other frugal or simple living blogs, I felt like I had been doing things wrong because I just wasn’t into vintage and wasn’t and hadn’t been scoring all sorts of good deals at thrift stores and yard sales. But, with the exception of Japanese and Chinese antiques, I’m just not crazy about old stuff. What I love are modern houses and the look of clean, uncluttered modern rooms and furnishings even if I don’t quite achieve that in our small space. I have no problem with vintage items or antiques in other people’s houses and like the look of them there, but it just doesn’t work for me. 
  7. I am a forward looking person. I have had some great (and some not-so-great) experiences in my life, but there are no “good old days” for me. I don’t wish for things to be like they were in the past. I look forward to what’s to come, even though I know there could be sadness, struggle and hardship because every experience is a means of growing and learning.
  8. Maintaining a healthy weight is always going to be an effort for me. I am always going to have to be aware of what and how much I eat. There is no autopilot switch on this for me. Thankfully I enjoy walking because it’s something I need to do every day for as long as I am able.
  9. I like who I am and I love my life. This was a long time coming, but I have arrived and it’s every bit as wonderful as I imagined it would be.

Sunday Morning 10/25/2020: They’re Back!

This was as close as we thought we’d get to a sunset this past week. Meh.
Yesterday evening came through for us somewhat though. Sunsets seem to arrive so early these days.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Visitors began returning to the islands in significant numbers beginning last weekend, after the state removed the quarantine requirement for anyone who had a negative COVID-19 test from an approved vendor within three days before arrival. Their return has come with mixed emotions. Some people have been able to go back to work, while others still wait for things to gear up a bit more. For example, the wife of the couple in our building has gone back to work; her husband, the chef, hasn’t. There are signs placed all over our area reminding visitors that Kaua’i/Hawaii is a “mask-wearing community” and to please remember to wear theirs at all times. Other signs ask visitors to “do their kokua” and wear a mask (kokua means to cooperate and pitch in to help others without any expectation of personal gain). Still, there have been problems with visitors refusing to mask up, and some businesses have opted not to serve visitors without masks with both sides feeling upset and disgruntled. Also, there have been reports and rumors that many of the current visitors came because of current cheap airfares and hotel deals, and are not tipping or otherwise supporting the local community. We noticed this past week that for the first time since we arrived last March traffic had increased, and Walmart and Safeway had several empty shelves, something we used to see regularly when we lived here before and tourists abounded. So far there has been just one new case of the virus on Kaua’i, apparently a local who returned to the island, but the tiny island of Lanai had six new cases reported last Thursday, and an additional 16 on Friday! It’s going to be a bumpy ride for a while as we settle back into the “new normal” here, but we’ll get through it.

We had a emotional call from YaYu yesterday morning about her return next month and having to quarantine in our small apartment. She is unable to go through the new pre-testing regime to avoid quarantine (she would have to be tested in Seattle during her flight back, and has no way nor time to get to the only approved testing site there, located in downtown Seattle and costing $135). That means she won’t qualify for the free resident testing upon arrival (she has to have taken an approved test before leaving the mainland). She is terrified of bringing COVID-19 to us and has already worked herself into a state about it. We are prepared for her to quarantine here and will take every precaution, but there’s really nothing we can do about it otherwise and she doesn’t want to accept that. Hopefully Meiling and WenYu can calm her down so she can get through her last month at school. She will be tested five days before departing Bryn Mawr, and if for some reason she tests positive she won’t be allowed into Hawaii anyway and we will have to make other plans for her. We know she will take every precaution at the airports and on her flights. Neither Brett nor I are sure what the difference is between when she came back in March and now, and have tried to reassure her, but so far we haven’t been successful.

Friday morning showed lots of promise (not).

It’s been another roller coaster week as far as the weather. We’ve had high humidity, rain storms, thunderstorms, everything. Brett and I did our food shopping last Tuesday morning while it poured outside, and yet by the afternoon the rain was over and we were able to get out and walk. It was very humid though, like being wrapped in a damp blanket, and we noticed that any breeze we felt (which wasn’t much) was coming from opposite the usual direction of the trade winds. We woke up to pouring rain again on Friday morning, but it was over by the afternoon, enough that once again we could get out and walk. It was of course terribly humid again, enough that we skipped the last lap on our walk. One blessing this week has been cooler temperatures, to the point we had to turn off the ceiling fans in the evenings because it got so chilly, and the sun has been covered by clouds most of the time during our walks, which helped some. Anyway, we’re hoping this coming week things will calm down and return to normal, and the trade winds will return. Fingers are crossed!

By Friday afternoon the rain had stopped, but heavy clouds, no breeze, and high humidity remained.

Saturday morning was beautiful, but by noon heavy clouds and humidity had returned. The clouds eventually disappeared, but the humidity remained. We fear the same for today.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m halfway through A Song for the Dark Times, and it’s very good. Detective John Rebus is elderly now, and doesn’t consult with the Scottish police any more, so I wondered how Ian Rankin would fit him into a police procedural, but it’s a great story so far. Next up later this week will be Climb, by Susan Spann.
  • Listening to: Nothing really – a few birds are singing outside, but that’s it. I wish I could hear the trades blowing through the trees, but it’s dead calm out there. Brett is reading and for now it’s delightfully quiet inside – my kind of morning!
  • Watching: Same old, same old again this week, with multiple episodes of Homeland and The Great British Baking Show on Friday. We extended our Showtime subscription for three months. 
  • Cooking/baking: I am making pumpkin apple pancakes for Brett and my breakfast this morning, right after I get this posted. Brett will have two of them, but just one for me (I make big pancakes) and leftovers will be enjoyed during the rest of the week. I had so much trouble finding pumpkin this past week – a couple of places were sold out, but I finally found some at Big Save, at the back of the shelf. I bought five cans even though it was expensive. I’m going to order via Amazon next time if I can. Dinner tonight will be curried chickpeas with jasmine rice, and other meals this week will be chipotle chicken tacos; grilled smoked chicken sausages with sauerkraut; chicken tortilla soup; and a new pumpkin recipe. I hope to be able to post the recipe on Friday! I’m planning to bake that dark chocolate cake topped with coffee buttercream for our next dessert on Wednesday.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I bought a giant, 150-piece bag of Halloween candy at Costco this past week, divided it up (without eating any!), and sent a package off to each of the girls. Snickers bars abounded and there was a pretty good selection of other varieties, but only three Almond Joys in the entire bag! We got started on our Christmas shopping for the girls, the part we can do here, and picked up flat-rate boxes at the post office to pack things in so we can get them off to the girls before the end of November. We also got the grandkids’ gift sent off to Japan – the postage for that was just over one-third of the amount of yen we sent! In spite of the crazy weather and the insufferable humidity on some days, we walked every day this week. We sure are ready for some cooler weather though. We did a big food shop on Tuesday, and along with having a hard time finding some things we went over our budget. Thankfully we will only need a very few things this coming week so we will be back in balance. I almost can’t believe that I got through this last week’s Japanese lessons as they were all about politics, political parties, the military, etc. The kanji was excruciating, and I’m dreading the tests at the end of the level. The grammar is getting tricky as well.
  • Looking forward to next week: We will be ordering the online portion of our Christmas gifts this week which should be fun. Recent gift ideas/requests from the girls have helped us narrow down what we’ll be getting for them. We’re also hoping for some beach weather so we can get back down to Barking Sands and/or Salt Pond, and want to get up to Kilauea toward the end of the week to walk the Stone Dam trail.
    The Women’s Clinic gives each woman a long-stemmed rose after her mammogram is completed.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: My mammogram results were normal, so I can exhale for another year. I lost another three pounds this month, and now have only five pounds to go to reach the doctor’s weight loss goal for me. I am going to keep going with what I’ve been doing though and see if I can lose an additional 10 pounds beyond that. Our avocado tree has sprouted! It will stay in the jar for another five to six weeks, and then be transplanted into a pot. We learned that avocado trees grown this way, and kept indoors, will not bear fruit, but will make a lovely houseplant.
    The trunk has sprouted!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This was not a frugal week, with postage costs and overspending on food, but we should have things rebalanced by next week. Brett also desperately needed new walking shoes (the soles are worn through and coming off the ones he’s been using since 2017) and he found an affordable pair on Zappos, and discovered when he ordered them that he still had a balance on his gift card which saved an additional $5. I went to cancel our Showtime subscription and they offered me three months at 50% off so we took advantage of that deal and will cancel when it ends. I earned 2,300 Swagbucks this week, and we put $10.81 into the change/$1 bill jar. Leftover were finished up and no food was thrown away.
  • Grateful for: I am thankful for, and amazed and exited by the numbers of early voters this year – it’s really been something to see all the enthusiasm for a change. I am grateful too that voting in Hawaii was so easy – we’re a mail-only state when it comes to voting, same as it was for us back in Oregon. No standing in lines or going to a polling place. Either put your ballot in the mail, or drop it off. I wish it were this easy for everyone, everywhere.

  • Bonus question: What’s something from your childhood that kids today just wouldn’t get? Oh my, this list could go on forever. I may have asked and answered this question before, but the other day I realized that the girls may have never known or don’t remember that we all used to share the same phone number – they’ve always had their own. I can’t remember how long it’s been since we gave up a home phone and went to cell phones only. They also never have experienced having to get up and walk over to the TV to change the channel, or having only three channels to choose from, no color, and of course nothing like streaming. Movies, if they were on TV at all, were only shown on certain days of the week (“Tuesday Night At the Movies”), or like The Wizard of Oz, only shown once a year. I was thinking the other day that there are in things in my children’s lives that they take for granted that their children will someday find strange and outdated as well – time and technology march on! These days, when it comes to the changes that have occurred in my lifetime, I identify more with my grandmother who was born in 1890, and in her lifetime saw the advent of automobiles, airplanes, and television; lived through two world wars and other conflicts; and saw a man walk on the moon. I don’t know what she thought of things like the women’s movement, the anti-war protests of the 70s, and other social movements, but she always stayed positive about it all, and I try and follow her example. Progress may be difficult, but it’s overall a very good thing.

There have been lots of new flowers appearing in the yard recently, including orchids that seem to pop out of nowhere. We wonder if our landlord or whoever lived here before would buy orchids for inside, and then toss them out in the yard once the blossoms dropped off. Some of them rooted and we’re now the beneficiaries now as they bloom again in various places around the yard. I sadly don’t know the name of most of these plants, and I keep telling myself to use the iNaturalist app but then I get busy and forget to do it. 

Just nine more days to go until the election! We have been lucky here to have not been bombarded with ads, signs and other election paraphernalia, but I know that others around the country are sick to death of it all. Brett and I went online this past week and learned both our ballots have been logged in and tabulated! YaYu finally got her Pennsylvania ballot this past week, and both the WenYu and Meiling have voted as well, or at least are ready to go. If you haven’t voted yet, I hope you have a plan and are ready to go on November 3. If you are mailing in your ballot, get it in now!

That’s it for this week. In spite of the weather it was a great week, and lots of things were accomplished and good things happened too. I hope it was the same for you, and that the week coming up will be a great one for all of us!

 

Home Cooking: Pumpkin Bread Pudding

photo credit: livewelbakeoften.com

Pumpkin is currently in short supply on Kaua’i. I don’t know if that’s because people here love pumpkin, or because tourists have been coming from the mainland and buying it all, but the shelves where it should find it in stores have been emptied out. Seriously – we went to three stores this past week and finally found a few (overpriced) cans of pumpkin puree on the back of a bottom shelf at Big Save Market. Safeway and Walmart were completely sold out.

Anyway, this is another great pumpkin recipe to add to this month’s theme. I love bread puddings and stratas, especially because they’re so versatile and, depending on the ingredients, can be used for breakfast, as a main dish, or as a dessert, and this one with pumpkin was a great addition to my collection of favorites. I’ll never forget that Meiling’s reaction when she took her first bite of this was, “It tastes like Christmas!” I remember as well that the whole house smelled like the holidays when the pudding was baking.

One fun thing about making a dessert bread pudding is that you don’t have to stick entirely with the bread called for, or even entirely with bread for that matter. Leftover muffins, pound cake, croissants, and other baked items can be added to the regular white or French bread or whatever that’s typically called for to punch things up a bit. I like to use challah, a sweet egg bread, for dessert bread puddings, but brioche is delicious as well.

This recipe came from C&H sugar along with a coupon I received. The ingredients listed below are the original from C&H, but I usually lightened things up a bit and used egg substitute for the whole eggs and yolks and nonfat milk instead of heavy cream. I also used actual rum for the flavoring when I made this, but rum extract would probably work just as well, as would vanilla. I also skipped adding the butter on top. Raisins or chopped pecans are walnuts were also a nice addition to the recipe, layered in among the toasted bread.

Leftovers were delicious for breakfast, so besides being a great dessert this also worked well for a breakfast/brunch dish. I usually served it with a spoonful of vanilla yogurt in the morning, but whipped cream or ice cream were added otherwise.

PUMPKIN BREAD PUDDING

  • 4 cups white bread, cut into small cubes
  • 4 whole eggs
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 TBSP rum or brandy
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 TBSP cold butter, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 350°. Place the bread cubes on a large baking pan and toast in the oven for around 10 minutes.

Place the toasted bread cubes in a well-greased 9″ x 13″ pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, cream, eggs, yolks, pumpkin puree, sugar, salt, rum or brandy and spices; stir until well-blended and sugar is dissolved. Pour mixture over bread cubes.

Let everything sit for around 10 minutes, or until all the bread is fully soaked. Place pieces of butter around the top of pudding, then bake for 40-50 minutes, or until center is set but not dry.

Pudding can be eaten warm or chilled.

Staying Healthy: My 1200 Calorie Life

Brett and my chief goal right now is staying healthy. We’re both in good health for the most part, and mainly are dealing with the aches and pains of growing older, although they are currently minor for both of us. Back in June my doctor recommended I lose 25 pounds. Sigh, the story of my life. I gained weight during our travels because although we walked a lot, I also ate a lot. Croissants and pastries for breakfast every morning in France, pasta in Italy, bakery visits in Japan, and hot cocoa and cookies every afternoon in England all came with a price.

In June I signed up once again for MyFitnessPal to track my eating, the calories and macros, and Brett and I got serious about walking every day, especially so once we decided to do a 11-day walking tour in 2022. MyFitnessPal has the biggest food & calorie list available online, and includes many, many brands. I have to do some research now and again to figure out which listing is the most accurate before I include it in my daily food plan, but for the most part I can find almost everything I eat on their lists, including things like Costco casseroles and desserts. Nothing is off the table for me as far as food is concerned these days, but I if I can’t fit it in my daily food plan or a serving means I have to go without a meal than it doesn’t get eaten.

Based on my age and fitness level at the time at the time I signed up, MyFitnessPal recommended I limit my calories to 1200 per day. Yikes! I initially wasn’t sure how this was going to work as I was sure 1200 calories would probably leave me feeling hungry all the time and I wouldn’t therefore be able to stick with it. Thankfully, after nearly five months that hasn’t turned out to be true at all, and I’m actually eating quite well these days, losing weight, and feeling great. Everything I eat these days gets measured except for vegetables – no eyeballing is allowed! Vegetables I allow myself to eat as many or as much of as I want.

Last week I took pictures one day of what a day’s eating looks like these days for me:

Breakfast: One cup blueberries, 1/2 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt, and two tablespoons of my much-loved Anahola granola. Total calories: 235. I typically have this five mornings a week (because I love it), sometimes substituting fresh papaya for the blueberries. On other mornings I’ll have a slice of unbuttered toast (Dave’s 21-grain), a fried or poached egg, and one slice of bacon, or one pancake with a tablespoon of jam. I usually eat at about 10:45 in the morning because I’ve found if I eat earlier I get hungry sooner and end up feeling hungry all day. I have just one cup of half-caff coffee in the morning. I miss coffee, but I’m doing fine with one cup, and it is savored.

Lunch: Three-fourths cup leftover pork fried rice. Total calories: 251. I usually eat leftovers in some form for lunch, and try to keep my calories at less than 300.

Afternoon/evening snacks:  I have one packet of Shelley Senbei rice crackers every afternoon. Total calories: 81. I always have these around 3:00 in the afternoon, and they keep me satisfied until dinner. My evening snack is always one tablespoon of peanut butter: Total calories: 90. I eat this fairly late at night – it keeps me from waking up feeling hungry or from being tempted to go out and eat whatever’s handy. If I get to feeling very hungry between meals, which thankfully doesn’t happen often, I’ll often have something like a slice of frozen dragonfruit which is low calorie (20) as well as fun to eat, like a popsicle.

Dinner: This day’s dinner was one Sabatino’s smoked chicken sausage with basil and cracked pepper, and a big serving of roasted vegetables. I do not count calories from vegetables, but I do count the oil used for roasting. Brett and I also always allow ourselves a small dessert each evening. At the time these pictures were taken we were still enjoying a Costco pumpkin pie (divided into 20 slices), but our typical dessert is a small two-inch piece of cake or occasionally some ice cream. Total calories for dinner: 456

Total calories for the day: 1113. I never thought I’d be able to do this, but well, here I am and it’s going well. I know these days and at my age what and how much I eat is important, especially for what we want to achieve in the future. That’s been my main motivation for sticking with it. I also know it will be easier to walk long distances when I’m not carrying around a bunch of extra weight.

I drink at least six 14-ounce glasses of water every day to stay hydrated. Brett and I have a cocktail three evenings a week: Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. We both enjoy gin & tonics, at 110 calories each, but I always fit it in to that day’s calorie allotment. I used to enjoy having a glass of wine, but wine can bother my stomach these days, and I tended to drink it too quickly while I linger over a G&T.

I take four daily supplements: two prebiotic capsules/day, two probiotic capsules/day, one multivitamin, and one additional vitamin D capsule. Although we get lots of sunshine here, the additional vitamin D helps facilitate bone health. The probiotic and prebiotic are for stomach health, and they have made a real difference these past few months. All are taken on the recommendation of my doctor. I also eat at two Tums each day, to make sure I get the recommended daily amount of calcium. 

Our walks provide me with an additional calorie allowance of 250-350 depending on how long, and how fast we walk (Brett burns more because he weighs more). Currently we’re walking 3.5 miles at 4.5 mph, a pretty fast clip. My meal plan and daily calories, however, are figured out the evening before, without the extra exercise calories added in because there’s always a possibility we won’t be able to walk for some reason (like today, for example). For now we’re walking for exercise, but once we get our distance up to five miles our daily walks will segue into walking for further distances and for endurance.

A year ago I could not have imagined doing this and enjoying it, but here I am. I’ve still got a few pounds to go to make my doctor happy, but after that I’m just going to keep going and see where it takes me.

Sunday Morning 10/18/2020: Oh, the Humidity!

We thought we’d get only one sunset this past week, but . . .

. . . then this happened yesterday evening!

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

While temperatures thankfully dropped some this past week, the humidity remained high and uncomfortable all week. We usually had a breeze through the apartment most of the time and the ceiling fans kept the air moving otherwise, but being outside was awful, and we came home after walking each day drenched in sweat. We heard thunder on Friday night, and rain finally arrived early yesterday morning. It lasted all day, and broke the humidity, but made for a gloomy day and kept us inside. Today is much nicer, thank goodness.

Hawaii has extended the quarantine until the end of November as they just can’t seem to get a handle on COVID-19; last week, for example, there were 60+ new cases in one day and four deaths. However, the new testing regime went into effect this past week – no quarantine if you test negative three days before arrival – and the number of visitors increased dramatically. YaYu will have to quarantine when she arrives before Thanksgiving because Bryn Mawr will test her four days before she departs, so she’ll be out of the range. Although Brett and I are not required to do so, we plan to quarantine with her for the most part, and will only go out to walk in the park (which is very, very socially distanced) and we’ll also probably do a quick in and out at the outdoor farmers’ market each week for fresh produce. But otherwise we’ll be at home, and plan to have enough groceries on hand that we don’t have to go to Costco, Walmart, or another supermarket for the duration of her quarantine. YaYu is terrified of bringing the virus home to us and already is making plans to protect herself as much as possible on her journey back. Speaking of which, one of her flights home has of course already gotten messed up. Hawaiian cancelled the flight we booked and put her on an earlier flight, which departs from Honolulu less than half an hour after her flight from Seattle arrives. That’s not enough time for her to get to the flight, and it’s also the last flight of the day which would leave her in the Honolulu airport overnight if she misses it. Southwest has a flight that leaves a couple of hours later, but I want to talk with Hawaiian first to find out if the flight she’s booked on happens to be a connecting flight for her flight from Seattle because if so they will hold the flight. If not, my plan is to take a credit for the Hawaiian flight (and use it to get her back to school at the end of January) and then book her on Southwest. I’m currently nervous about committing to anything though as Southwest could change their schedule as well.

Assembed now and ready to go except for some firewood.

This past week Brett and I headed to Home Depot for a couple of things, and while we were there we saw they had outdoor fire pits back in stock (they sell quickly here). We had been talking about getting one for a while, to enjoy out in the yard, and decided to buy the simplest and most affordable one, just under $50 with our discount. Now we have to find fire wood, not the easiest thing to do on the island. There is a local tree service that sells firewood, so we’re going to check out their prices, but our other idea is to take along a bag or two whenever we go to the beach and collect some driftwood. We’re excited about being able to sit outside in the evening under the stars (the fire should keep bugs at a distance), and to toast marshmallows and make s’mores with YaYu when she’s home.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m almost to the end of Sex and Vanity – it’s been so much fun to read and connect it to A Room With a View as I go along. Kevin Kwan even gave the characters the same first names (which took me a few pages to catch on): there’s Lucie, Charlotte, George, a Mr. Beebe, Cecil, Freddy, and so forth, and he also snuck in Merchant and Ivory! There’s even an elderly pair of sisters, although this time they’re from the Philippines. Kevin Kwan of course puts his own fun spin on the culture, spending habits, and decadence of the rich to add to the mix. Our copy of the new Ian Rankin book, A Song for the Dark Times, arrived mid-week and I’ve got that started as well – it’s my day book, with Sex and Vanity saved for at night.
  • Listening to: We woke up to a much nicer morning today than yesterday, when it was pouring rain. There are clouds today but blue skies as well, and yesterday’s storms broke the humidity. The birds are going nuts outside this morning – lots of chickens making lots of noise for a change, but also lots of happy birds singing. Brett made coffee and is reading, and it’s really just a lovely, perfect morning!
  • Watching: We’re still barreling through Homeland at three episodes each evening, with a break for The Great British Baking Show on Friday. The most exciting TV news this week was that Season 4 of The Crown will be out on Netflix in mid November and will cover the Princess Diana years.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re going food shopping on Tuesday! We’ve done very well these past three weeks if I do say so myself, and haven’t run out of ideas of what to fix, but supplies are getting low now. Tonight we’re having rice and beans (Cuban black beans), and during the rest of the week dinners will be grilled chicken and roasted cauliflower, egg roll in a bowl, hamburgers, and chicken coconut curry over jasmine rice, with leftovers filling in the blank spaces. I finally made the Bacardi rum cake last Friday – our neighbor gave us the last of his rum – and it turned out great in spite of not being baked in a Bundt pan (which was in our lost box). It will last through this coming week and into the next but I’ve already got a plan for the next cake: dark chocolate with coffee frosting.
    Yummy Bacardi rum cake – finally!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I filled out our ballots and turned them in to the election office in Lihue last Wednesday – now we wait. We got in only six days of walking this week as it rained all day yesterday. The humidity made walking difficult earlier in the week, especially on Thursday and Friday, but we persevered. It felt at times as if we were enveloped in a wet blanket. We’re now doing 3.5 miles in about 50 minutes which is a great workout. Otherwise all we accomplished was our errand to Home Depot and the regular stuff around here.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am having my annual mammogram done tomorrow, the last of my physical stuff for the year. It’s the one test I’m always most nervous about as there has been cancer on both sides of my family, so I always hold my breath until the results come back. I’m happy and grateful to get it done though. Thankfully the whole test experience is easy and less painful these days, and the clinic is somewhat luxurious and spa-like. We are also looking forward to trying out the fire pit, hopefully this coming week if the weather stays nice. We plan to go down to Barking Sands and start our driftwood hunt there as the beach usually has a good supply, but that trip will also depend on the weather.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a nice conversation with our son and grandkids yesterday, and got caught up. The empty Japanese hibachi that sits next to the kitchen finally got to me this past week and I decided it was time to find something to put in it, so we headed to Home Depot where I bought a big monstera plant which fits perfectly. I also bought another plant and ceramic pot to put in our giant bathroom. Our baby avocado tree continues to grow, and this past week we moved the seed into a larger jar as the tap root it’s sending down had reached the bottom of the small jar we started it in. The seed has split enough that we can see a tiny green sprout inside and the seed it sprouting more roots, but we think it’s still going to be a while before the actual plant emerges so we’ve still got our fingers and toes crossed that our little tree keeps moving in a positive direction!
    A little green tree is emerging in the center
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: The fire pit was a splurge, but otherwise it was a very low-spend/no-spend week. Our trip to Home Depot and a quick trip to the farmers’ market were our only spending this week, and there was no change from either place so we didn’t have to put anything into the change/$1 bill jar. We used our military discount at Home Depot though – 10% off of everything. No food was thrown out this week, and all leftovers were finished. I earned 2,279 Swagbucks.
    Farmers’ market haul this week: bananas, big head of cauliflower, three BIG cucumbers, an avocado, green beans, and zucchini all for $15.
  • Grateful for: I’ve been feeling very thankful this week for our little apartment, for the fresh air that flows through it, the lovely yard out back, the sunset views, and the cozy, comfortable space it provides. It’s just the right size for Brett and I these days, and exactly what we hoped for when we came back to Kaua’i.
    I love how our living room came together – it’s a great place to relax.
  • Bonus question: What, in your opinion, is the most under-rated candy bar? This question popped up on Twitter the other day, and the replies were a lot of fun to read – people really do have their favorites! In my opinion, the two most underrated candy bars were/are the Milkshake Bar and the Zero bar, both of which are absolutely delicious when frozen. Zero bars are still around (I see them at Walmart) but Milkshake bars are sadly no longer being made, although they apparently still have a cult following. Many people also recommended freezing a Charleston Chew, something I’ve never tried. Another underrated candy bar in my opinion is the Heath Bar (or Skör Bar). Toffee covered with chocolate is just about perfection in my book. One last underrated candy is the Chunky chocolate bar, small but mighty, and filled with nuts and raisins – so rich and yummy! The most underrated candy combination in my book is a frozen Reese’s peanut butter cup enjoyed with a cold, frosty root beer. They make an unbelievably good pairing.

The upstairs neighbor departs tomorrow – no more stomping, yelling, etc. Some people came over to see him on Thursday when his quarantine ended – two big guys – and we never heard a thing while they were there, not even footsteps. Nothing, which made us more confused than ever as to why the neighbor causes so much noise. We briefly chatted with him on Thursday and were genuinely happy to hear that he has landed on his feet back on the mainland with a good job. He and our other neighbors held a garage sale yesterday to get rid of the last of his stuff, his car is on it’s way back, and quiet will return tomorrow. Now we just have to wait and see who our new neighbors will be, and keep our fingers crossed they’re not as noisy as this guy was.

Don’t throw away your shot! Plan your vote and then do it! There are only 16 more days until the election (thank goodness!). It’s been emotional for me to see so many vote early, and stand for hours in line for their right to do so. Those voters are heroes in my book.

That’s a wrap for another week! I hope it was as good for you as it was here (in spite of the humidity). Here’s to more good things happening, good food, things accomplished, and another great week coming up!

Home Cooking: Addictive Pumpkin Burritos

photo credit: allrecipes (I think someone went a little nuts with the cilantro)

Several years ago a friend sent me this recipe for burritos and when the girls were young they quickly became a favorite and a nice change from more “traditional” burritos. They’re not only delicious and easy to make and the ingredients don’t cost a lot. They’re also quite nutritious, and surprisingly low fat (and can be vegan with the cheese left out). They can also be wrapped individually and frozen to reheat later for snacks or a quick meal.

The original recipe called for cooked and mashed sweet potato, but I substituted pumpkin and it worked perfectly. With pumpkin, add the water to the bean mixture gradually though as canned pumpkin tends to be a bit “wetter” than  baked sweet potato and the bean mixture doesn’t need to quite so wet (which risks making the burritos soggy). Canned refried beans can be substituted for the kidney beans in the recipe to save on time, although I personally never thought it took all that much time to mash the kidney beans. There’s no reason either why other types of beans, such as black beans or pintos, couldn’t be substituted if you prefer them, and pureed butternut squash or a large can of sweet potatoes (follow the same advice about adding the water) can also be substituted. The spices might seem excessive to some, but I happen to think they’re just enough (and we have also added salsa as well). The friend who sent me the recipe halved the chili powder, cumin, mustard and cayenne pepper and said they still tasted great.

If you do end up with some leftover bean mixture it can be added later to scrambled eggs for a breakfast burrito!

ADDICTIVE PUMPKIN BURRITOS

  • 3 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups canned kidney beans, drained
  • 2 cups water or less, as needed
  • 3 TBSP chili powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 4 tsp prepared mustard
  • pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 3 TBSP soy sauce
  • 4 cups cooked and mashed pumpkin puree, sweet potato, or butternut squash
  • 12 10-inch flour tortillas, warmed
  • 8 oz. shredded Monterey Jack cheese (or Pepper Jack if you’d like a little more spice)

Preheat oven to 350°. Heat oil in a medium skillet, and saute onions and garlic until soft. Add beans and mash well. Gradually stir in water, and heat until thick and warm. Remove from heat and stir in chili powder, cumin, mustard, cayenne pepper (if using) and soy sauce. Divide bean mixture and pumpkin puree evenly between the warm tortillas; place next to the lower edge and top with some cheese. Fold the edge over tightly, then fold up the sides and fold over again to close. Bake for 12 minutes in the oven and serve warm. Chopped green onion and sour cream go well with these burritos.

You can freeze these burritos for later use. Don’t bake them, but wrap each one individually in foil, then place in a bag and freeze. Heat by taking off the foil and microwaving for two and a half minutes, or defrost and bake according to directions.

26 Travel Questions: The Home Edition

I first wrote out these questions/answers in 2017, before we began our Big Adventure. When I came across them again last week I was surprised both by what had changed and what had remained constant after two years of traveling. I did update – those things are in italic.

Here we go!

  1. Which do you prefer: tours or independent travel? I have nothing against tours, or organized travel, but I still prefer doing it on my own. There are travels/places though where I would definitely book a tour (like a photo safari in Africa). We had a wonderful time on our tour in India, and saw and did things we would have never been able to otherwise, and enjoyed our train journey across Australia. I would consider taking a tour again, depending on the location, services provided, and the cost.
  2. What’s the first thing you check out when you reach your destination? I scout out where I can get a good cup of coffee, hopefully without having to go to Starbucks.
  3. What’s something sort of ordinary you like to do at your destination? I love to check out local supermarkets, mini marts, etc. It’s interesting to see what food costs, what stores carry, how they’re the same or different from our local stores or American stores in general if we’re overseas. It’s also an interesting way to get a glimpse of the local culture. I also love to visit bakeries.
  4. Street food: Yea or nay? I mostly say yes to street food, although I check it out pretty carefully before eating. I’ve eaten some amazing things from food stands and carts (and had a few losers too).
  5. What’s your ideal travel breakfast? Ideally it would be yogurt, fresh fruit and a little granola, but I’ll eat anything as long as it’s not too heavy. However, if I see Eggs Benedict on the menu I’m going to order it.
  6. What’s your favorite road food? I prefer to eat at local restaurants versus chains if at all possible. Thankfully there are lots of different ways to find those local places these days. Favorite food? It used to be a good hamburger or sandwich for lunch, or something like chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy for dinner. These days I eat lighter, or share with Brett, and we like to try local specialties. I prefer to fix my own meals most of the time as well. It doesn’t help that I can’t eat salad.
  7. What’s the most important thing you pack in your suitcase? Along with a desire for adventure and a sense of wonder, it’s a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
  8. Do you roll or fold your clothes when you pack? I do a little of both. I prefer rolling, but have a couple of items that just don’t want to roll.
  9. What do you pack in your carry-on? I used to only travel with a carry-on, so everything I needed for the trip went in. When we were checking our bags during the Big Adventure my carry-on had a change of clothes (and a couple of changes of underwear), basic toiletries, electronics, important paperwork and snacks.
  10. Which do you prefer: tote bag or backpack? I definitely prefer carrying a tote bag if at all possible when we travel. Brett prefers a back pack though, so we’re able to switch things around between us so that we can carry everything where it makes sense. I tried carrying a backpack on our Big Adventure, but eventually went back to a tote bag as it was more comfortable.
  11. What’s most important when you’re planning travel, transportation, lodging, food, or sightseeing? They all play such different roles, but lodging is probably the most important in my opinion. Even if we don’t spend a lot of time there, without a clean, safe place to sleep and bathe the rest of the trip can fall flat.
  12. In your opinion, what are the three most important phrases to know in a foreign language? 1) Thank you; 2) Excuse meI’m sorry; 3) please. After that you can add I don’t understandwhere’s the bathroom?how much? and so forth. The “magic words” in English are just as important elsewhere else as they are here.
  13. What have you noticed most about Americans when you travel overseas? We can be very loud, we’re sadly often overweight (me included), and we can be annoyingly condescending at times. We can also be very friendly and helpful. I found all of these to still be true during the Big Adventure.
  14. What are your least favorite ways to travel? Neither Brett nor I have ever had any desire to pull a trailer or drive an RV – it’s just not our thing. I have nothing against cruises either, but there are other things I’d rather do than float around on a ship (and for the record, I have been on a cruise – once was enough for me). Brett once said he’d like to see what it’s like to take a cruise and not have to work 20 hours a day, but these days a cruise is not appealing in the least.
  15. If you have a choice, which would you prefer, a road trip or a flight? It really depends on how much time we have. We’ve taken some great road trips, and enjoyed them, but if time is limited, or I want more time at my destination, I’m going to book a flight.
  16. Which do you prefer: aisle, middle or window seat? If it’s a long flight, I prefer a window seat – it’s easier to find a good sleeping position. Depending on who else is in my row, I’m also OK with a middle seat. With an aisle seat I find I get bumped by people walking down the aisle, and someone has to step over me to get to the bathroom.
  17. What are your favorite in-flight activities? I like watching movies, doing sudoku puzzles, and sleeping (which I’m getting better at). I’ve tried to read, but have always ended up feeling sick.
  18. Which is your favorite airport? I love our little airport here in Lihue. When I go through it  I’m either going on a trip, or I’m home. My least favorite airports are now Madrid and Bordeaux.
  19. Do you ever purchase travel insurance? We have purchased insurance a couple of times, on trips where we’ve spent a lot of money, but we’ve thankfully never really needed it. These days our main travel credit card covers many travel-related items like delayed flights, lost luggage, etc. Our health insurance covers us anywhere in the world, so we only need to get insurance to cover the things we’ve paid for, like flights and lodging.
  20. What’s your favorite travel-day outfit? It depends on which time of year I’m traveling, or where we’re going, but usually a pair of L.L. Bean’s Perfect Fit Pants, a light sweatshirt-type of top (to keep me warm on the plane), and shoes I can easily slip off for security and during the flight. If I’m going somewhere hot I’ll wear linen pants and a light shirt, flip-flops, and carry a light sweater for the plane. Wrinkled linen is OK.
  21. What are your favorite travel day snacks? They used to be granola bars, Chex Mix, good chocolate, and water. These days I take along nuts, beef jerky, good chocolate, and water. I usually don’t drink alcohol when I fly, and besides water I like Diet Coke or Bloody Mary mixer.
  22. How many states have your visited in the U.S.? I have visited 48 states – I haven’t been to Montana or Alaska.
  23. How many national parks have you visited? I’ve visited twenty, from Acadia to Zion, and I’ve stayed at both rims of the Grand Canyon. There are still a lot more parks I want to see though.
  24. What are your favorite national parks? Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Zion are my top three. Bryce Canyon and Crater Lake are right up there as well.
  25. How many foreign countries have you visited? Before our Big Adventure, just six: Canada, Mexico, China, Hong Kong (when it was a British colony), Taiwan and of course, Japan. We visited or stayed in 12 additional countries on our travels: Argentina, Uruguay, France, Italy, the Vatican, Portugal, Spain, England, Scotland, India, Australia, and New Zealand (we counted any country where we left the airport, stayed overnight, and had to exchange money).
  26. Who is your favorite travel companion? All of our children have always been fun travel companions, and I’ve taken some great trips with friends, but of course Brett is my favorite. He’s my best friend, we always have lots to talk about and almost always want to do and see the same things when we go somewhere. We did a good job on the Big Adventure of dividing travel responsibilities – Brett was the logistics and budget manager, and served as Head Sherpa, while I was in charge of planning, lodging, and anything food-related.

Can you think of any more questions? And, I’d love to hear your answers to all or just some of the questions!

Sunday Morning 10/11/2020: Life In the Slow Lane

Our last sunset with the palm trees . . .
. . . the first without.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

We woke up Wednesday morning to the sound of saws and came out to the living room only to see that the two palm trees in the yard behind us were being cut down. What a sad thing that was! We have wondered for a while if the trees were diseased or not because although they were loaded with coconuts not one coconut ever dropped and they all looked dead as well. The rest of the trees looked healthy though, so who knows? But down they came, and they are missed. I loved how they helped frame the sunsets and how they always let us know that we were once again living in Hawaii.

The palm trees are greatly missed.

When someone is in quarantine here on Kaua’i, a member of the Hawaii National Guard comes by daily at random times to check whether the person is at home and staying inside. Our upstairs neighbor is currently under quarantine, and one day last week a police officer showed up at his door instead of the national guard. Due to the setup here any visitors for the upstairs apartment stand right outside our living room window to knock at our neighbor’s door (entrance is through a large foyer on our level and then up stairs to the apartment). The officer actually asked us through the window before he knocked if our neighbor was home (yes because he’d been stomping around all morning) and if we had ever seen him leave (no, because we hadn’t). Someone else in the neighborhood though had apparently reported Upstairs Neighbor for breaking quarantine, currently a criminal offense with an up to $5000 fine and it turned out the police officer was there to question him about it. The officer told Upstairs Neighbor why he was there, and began to read him his rights, but the neighbor didn’t want to answer the questions, at least not without a LOT of hesitation. The police officer was polite but firm, and kept going through the questions, and apparently at one point the neighbor started to cry for some reason. It was hard for us to ignore what was going on, and both Brett and I kept wondering why he wouldn’t answer the Miranda questions, especially if he hadn’t broken quarantine. The officer eventually told him that if he was denying breaking quarantine he wouldn’t charge him because apparently the witness/reporter couldn’t positively identify him. The officer left, and the neighbor stomped back upstairs, stomped around the apartment and yelled at things for a while, and we’ve only heard him go out the door once since then. We think there’s a good chance he did break his quarantine this past week, and was spotted leaving by one of the people living across the street as he sure seemed to have behaved toward the police officer like someone who knew he had been caught. It’s been a pain having him upstairs from us again as he’s so noisy, but he leaves for good next week.

She always comes and sits patiently by the front door now, without judgment.

Ally, the neighborhood cat, continues to visit us almost daily. We keep fresh water out for her, and after having a drink she often goes back to the deck to sleep in the shade under our lounge chair. Brett goes out now and again to give her back a scratch and let her know that it won’t be long before YaYu is back.

This morning I am: 

  • Reading: I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows this past week, and thereby accomplished two of my reading goals this year: finishing the entire Inspector Morse series by Colin Dexter, and re-reading all the Harry Potter books. I’m finally reading Sex & Vanity by Kevin Kwan and enjoying every word of it as it seems to be an updated version of E. M. Forster’s A Room With a View, a favorite book which also happens to also be my all-time favorite film!
  • Listening to: I’ve been enjoying a very quiet morning – I woke up first and have enjoyed doing some reading in the peace and quiet. No dogs barking, no chickens screaming, no lawn mowers, just the breeze through the trees and the birds singing. It’s a lovely morning temperature-wise as well, cool with a constant gentle breeze. Brett’s up now though, putting away last night’s dishes and making coffee for both of us.
  • Watching: We’re still power-binging Homeland on Showtime, three episodes a night. Even with that I don’t think we’ll get through everything before our free trial period ends on October 29. We squeezed in Bread Week on the Great British Baking Show on Friday, but thought it was pretty lackluster. The show seems to be having a lot of trouble coming up with original ideas for the bakers, especially for the technicals. This week it was rainbow bagels(?). I miss the days when they had to make something difficult but still recognizable.
  • Cooking/baking: Tonight I’m going to make burritos for our dinner using A Dozen Cousins Mexican beans along with leftover grilled chicken, shredded cabbage, and salsa and will use the two remaining flour tortillas we have on hand to wrap everything up. Other dinners on the menu this week are grilled smoked chicken sausages with roasted mixed vegetables; Instant Pot chicken adobo with bok choy; and grilled ribeye steaks with vegetable kabobs. We still have pumpkin pie, but I’ll finally be making the Bacardi rum cake at the end of the week.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: It was another good week for walking, even with the weather being all over the place. Even on the hottest and most humid days we got in at least two miles, but we had good days as well and got in nearly four miles one day. I’ve mostly enjoyed staying isolated at home though and have gotten a lot of small chores taken care of as well as a lot of reading. We got our Christmas shopping lists made so we’re ready to go at the end of this month, and also got signed up on our family’s annual Secret Santa exchange and know who we’re shopping for.
  • Looking forward to next week: We have absolutely nothing on the calendar except for our weekly trip to the farmers’ market on Wednesday. Hopefully we’ll be able to get to the beach too.

We had a great day on Monday in spite of the heat and humidity.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a fun and fruitful day last Monday. I got my hair cut, always a good thing, and then Brett and I stopped at Java Kai in Kapaa and shared a Kaua’i Cubano sandwich (ham, pulled pork, Swiss cheese, homemade pickles, and tangy mustard on a toasted ciabatta) and some purple potato salad (just a bite for me). Then we headed down to Kealia for a long walk on the beach path. It was very hot and humid, but we started out in the direction of the Pineapple Dump with plans to walk back past our car and onward for a longer distance. That didn’t pan out though – by the time we got back to our car we were whipped from the heat/humidity and decided against going further. We drove back into Kappa and had a small shave ice, and then went over to Alan and Cheryl’s for some good conversation and dinner. Otherwise it’s been a pretty uneventful week, although Brett got in a hike on Thursday on the Kuilau trail back in Kapaa. It was also a very hot and humid experience for him.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We put $5 into the change/$1 bill jar this week, leftover from the farmers’ market. Our only other spending this past week was for our sandwich and shave ice on Monday. Our travel savings balance is now up to $985.27. I set a goal of reaching $1000 by the end of this year, but it looks like we’ll be able to surpass that. I earned 2,984 Swagbucks this past week, which includes a 686 SB bonus that I earned from reaching my daily goal every day in September. I’m now over halfway to earning my first $500 Delta Airlines gift card. We had another good week of finishing up leftovers, and the only food thrown out was a head of iceberg lettuce that started rotting from the inside out (yuk).
    I named this eucalyptus tree The Old Man of the Woods. We’ve still got a ways to go at this point, but when we pass we know the rest of the path is downhill.
  • Grateful for: We’re thankful this week for getting to spend some time with friends, for having a great venue for daily walks, for the new friends we’ve made at the park during our walks, and for the return of the trade winds!
  • Bonus question: What is the most useless thing you ever had to memorize? Well, the list is very long and it’s hard to pick one thing. We were always having to memorize things, and frankly every bit of it other than some of the math stuff (multiplication tables, some basic algebra, even long division) has turned out to be pretty useless now. I memorized more phone numbers than I can count – no contacts lists back then – and have forgotten them all because no one needs or uses them anymore. In middle school we had to memorize long poems as well as the Gettysburg address, which I can still recite. I also learned The Night Before Christmas at some point and can still get through that too although there’s no one to hear it these days. I can only remember the openings of the several long poems we had to memorize (“Aye, tear her tattered ensigns down, long have they waved on high, and many an eye has danced to see that banner in the sky” from Old Ironsides by Oliver Wendell Holmes and “The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees. The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas . . .” from The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. Brett had to memorize The Highwayman too, and we still will say to each other, “the moon was a ghostly galleon” whenever we see a full moon among the clouds – it’s like a code for the torture we both went through having to memorize that poem. Anyway, pretty much everything I had to memorize is now useless. Do kids still have to memorize things in school, or has that gone the way of cursive penmanship? I don’t remember our kids memorizing anything other than the multiplication tables.
It doesn’t look like much but I’ve never gotten this far growing a tree from an avocado seed. There should be a seedling appearing soon.

I grew up in Southern California, in the land of avocado trees. My grandmother had a HUGE tree in her backyard, and one of the houses in I lived in had one in front of the house (the avocados the dropped could unfortunately draw skunks). I have absolutely loved all things avocado for as long as I can remember, but I have never been able to grow a plant from a seed . . . and I have tried so many times. I prepared the seed above from an avocado we bought at the farmers’ market a couple of weeks ago but also prepared myself for nothing to happen once again. However . . . the seed is sprouting roots from the bottom and the top has split in preparation for the plant to emerge!! To say I am excited (and nervous) would be a gross understatement. I’ve got my fingers crossed on both hands, and toes on both feet that I may finally end up with an actual avocado tree.

Have you voted yet? Do you have a plan? Only 23 more days until the election! Our ballots arrived yesterday (Hawaii is a mail-only state) – we’re filling ours out this week and will drop them off at the election office in Lihue.

Life here is slow these days, but never boring. I honestly miss our traveling days, but at the same time am still so very happy we landed back on Kaua’i. I hope everyone had a good, productive week, and that good things happened for all. Here’s to the week coming up, may it be another good one!

Home Cooking: Pumpkin Apple Pancakes

photo credit: Sunset Magazine

Back in the days when I was making breakfast for the girls, I used to think that pancakes were only for weekends because no way was there time to make them on a school morning. And, there was definitely no way I was going to find time to make pancakes that involved me grating or chopping an apple.

These pancakes changed my mind.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I always seem to have a bit of pumpkin puree left over whenever I make pumpkin bread, or some other pumpkin recipe. I won’t throw it away, but it’s still  never enough where I can easily figure out how to use it. But, when I found this recipe in Sunset magazine, I knew I had found a perfect and delicious way to use up that last bit of pumpkin.

The secret to making pancakes on a busy morning, I’ve discovered, without having to get up earlier than usual or making anyone late, is to have everything ready to go the night before (slap to the forehead). Prep the dry ingredients and set them in a covered bowl on the counter, and blend together the wet ingredients and set them in the refrigerator. Also set out the griddle or skillet you’ll be using so that everything is ready to go. In the morning, all that needs to be done is blend the wet ingredients into the dry, and for this recipe, peel and grate an apple in the five minutes it takes for a griddle or skillet to heat up. Voilà! Yummy, fresh, hot pancakes with no one late for school or an appointment, and no one grumpy because they had to get up too early.

Two of our three girls were not big pancake fans, but they both liked these and would eat three big pancakes with butter and maple syrup, so this recipe was made fairly frequently. I liked knowing the girls got a hot and healthy breakfast, on a school morning no less, and that I was able to use what I had on hand to make them – no special ingredients needed. I also liked that the recipe made nine pancakes, just enough for the girls’ breakfasts, although it would be a snap to double for a family meal. Brett and I enjoy pancakes for breakfast now and again these day, and canned pumpkin and an apple are already on our shopping list so we can enjoy these again! 

PUMPKIN APPLE PANCAKES

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp each salt, nutmeg and cinnamon
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped or grated
  • Butter and maple syrup

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, whisk together egg, milk, vegetable oil and pumpkin puree, then blend together with flour mixture. Heat a griddle or non-stick frying pan; as it heats peel, core and chop or grate apple and add to the batter. Spoon approximately 1/3 cup of batter onto hot griddle or pan to make each pancake, and cook, turning when edges are cooked and bubbles appear. Serve with butter and maple syrup, or the topping of your choice.

What Were You Doing a Year Ago?

Sometimes these days, in the last few minutes of the morning before I open my eyes to face the day, I lay in bed and try to remember what we were doing a year ago, in the Before-Covid times.

Although I know we were in England at this time last year, I could only guess what we were doing. We had spoken with YaYu yesterday, and she had mentioned that she should be on her fall break this week, but instead was taking midterms. Last year she came to spend the week with us in England, so that’s what I assumed was happening a year ago. But when I checked it turned out that time was yet to come, and on this day one year ago we had just returned from our three-day getaway to Edinburgh!

October 6, 2019 was a Sunday, so the post below was a Sunday Morning one. What happy memories we made!  It was fun and nostalgic to read through the Sunday post and think about all we experienced back then, from our travel to what we were eating, courtesy of the Aldi store in Moreton-in-Marsh. I’m someone who almost always looks forward, and rarely dwells on the past, but these days I find looking back to be comforting. I am happy and grateful to be where we are now, and know this crazy year will eventually pass, but I also don’t believe things will ever return to what they were, and it’s helpful to remember better times and all that we did and were able to do as we find our new way. We’ve had a blessed life.

My Sunday post from 10/6/2019: Week 5 in the UK

Looking out over the Old Town to Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags (in Holyrood Park) from Edinburgh Castle.

While we had a great time in Edinburgh this past week, we are also glad to be home again in our little village and in our cozy cottage. We stayed busy the entire time we were away, but the rides up and back, while beautiful, were long and tiring. The trip up to Scotland went according to schedule, but although we left Edinburgh on time Friday morning and arrived at our first stop in London on time, after that things fell apart. It turned out our ride from Gatwick out to Moreton was scheduled for 20 minutes before our train even left St. Pancras for Gatwick Station (I blame myself for not checking the timing better)! Then, to add to the turmoil, trains from St. Pancras station to Gatwick were not running on schedule anyway, with five trains already canceled. We were able to get on a train at 3:05 with hopes of getting to Gatwick in time to catch a 4:00 train to Reading (where we transferred to get to Moreton) but the train from St. Pancras quite literally poked along and we got into Gatwick at 4:25. We finally caught the 5:00 which got us into Moreton at 8:00 p.m., where a lovely young couple at the Moreton station offered to share their cab with us as Blockley was on their way. We were back in the cottage by 8:30 although feeling completely wiped out at that point. We spent yesterday doing laundry, reading, and resting and will continue the reading and resting today as we’re both still feeling a little tired.

This was the view from behind our apartment building – Edinburgh Castle was only a 10-minute walk away. All those clouds were almost blown away by the wind by the time we got up to the castle entrance. We were fascinated by all the chimneys everywhere – apparently back in the day every apartment (tenement) had its own fireplace (or two).

We enjoyed absolutely beautiful weather for our first two days in Edinburgh but woke up to a steep drop in the temperature, strong winds and cloudy skies on our third day (but thankfully no rain). Rain arrived on Friday morning but for some reason let up just when it was time for us to walk over to the station to catch our train, thank goodness. It’s colder here in Blockley now as well – we’ve got the heat on and the gas fireplace going in the cottage to keep us warm. Fall has definitely arrived.

We’ll be heading back up to London (Heathrow) on Friday afternoon – we’re spending the night there so we can meet YaYu’s plane early Saturday morning (before 7:00 a.m.). We plan to drop off our bags at our Airbnb in the morning and then head into the city for the day, or at least for as long as YaYu can handle being up. We’re doing a walking tour of Notting Hill early Saturday afternoon and a morning tour at Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guard on Monday, but otherwise our time will be our own to fill and we’ll go along with what YaYu wants to see and do. On Tuesday we’ll come back to Blockley for a couple of days, and then go back to Oxford on Friday and spend the night there, putting YaYu on the bus to Heathrow for her flight back to the U.S. late Saturday morning. We’re thinking of going down to Bourton-on-the-Water for the day when we’re back here in the Cotswolds, but will have to see how we feel – we may just want to rest again and only do some walks around Blockley. Whatever happens, it’s going to be another busy week.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finally finished Middle England, but after we got back because I was too exhausted to read while we were away. I’ve just started Resurrection Men because I wanted to read something about Edinburgh and nobody does it better than Ian Rankin. He makes the city as much of a character as any of the people in his books.
  • Listening to: It is peacefully quiet here this morning both inside and out. Yesterday morning the church bells rang for over three hours! It was fun listening knowing how it was done and who was doing the ringing. It also rained quite a bit and the washer and dryer ran all day.
  • Watching: We didn’t watch any TV while we were in Edinburgh, but we did watch The Descendents on our last night there (the DVD was available in the apartment). We traditionally watch it on Thanksgiving, but missed it last year and will again this year, so we thought we should catch it while we could. It sure made us homesick for Kaua’i – can’t wait to be there again in January. I watched an episode of Endeavour on TV here last night but that’s it.
  • Cooking: We’ll be having leftover meatloaf tonight along with vegetable soup made from several odds and odds of vegetables that I want to use up before we go shopping tomorrow. This week we’ll be having chicken and vegetable stir-fry; chicken vegetable soup; meatballs with marinara; lamb burgers with roasted vegetables; tuna melts; and breakfast for dinner with eggs, sausages, and sauteed apples. YaYu doesn’t eat meat anymore so we’re also going to look for some vegetarian things to have on hand when she’s here at the cottage.
    After three busy days in Edinburgh, we were already tired when we started the long journey back to Blockley. But we were happy – we’d had a great visit!

     

    The scenery along the way going and coming back was beautiful, but it was especially thrilling to pass along the North Sea as we got close to Edinburgh.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: The train journey to and from Edinburgh was an effort and an accomplishment as each way involved four different train changes and getting through three rather large stations (including crossing the street to get from St. Pancras to King’s Cross). We also got stuck in rush hour traffic in London on our way back on Friday which kept things a bit more challenging. We made it to each of our four Edinburgh tours on time, a feat considering we had to figure out how to maneuver through a city we didn’t know very well at the time. We walked a minimum of three miles each day, and one day walked over six miles. Last Sunday evening, before we left I booked an Airbnb in Massachusetts for our stay for YaYu’s graduation, and another in Maine for a visit there afterward. We’re going to spend one night in Vermont or New Hampshire in between but haven’t chosen where yet. Laundry day yesterday was an accomplishment – it took over 10 hours to get everything done and put away (because the washer is very small and it takes nearly two hours for one load to run).
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re very excited about YaYu’s arrival next weekend and getting to visit London and Oxford with her, as well as showing her around our village. It was exciting seeing things like the Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral and the London Eye as our trains passed through London, knowing we’d be there soon. If it doesn’t rain this week we’re hoping to ride the bus over to the village of Broad Campden and then walk back to Blockley (around three miles).
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Everything went better than expected on our getaway. We had absolutely gorgeous weather for the first two days we were there as well, and the rain held off our entire visit and our walk over to the train station on Friday morning when we left (it was raining when we arrived on Monday, but we took a cab to our Airbnb). Even though we missed our original train home to Moreton, we were able to use our tickets for a later train at no extra cost.

     

    Chicken and mushroom pie for lunch at the Mitre pub on Edinburgh’s High Street. It came with vegetables, mashed potatoes, and gravy and kept me full the rest of the day . . . all for $14.75.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We took a bag of food up with us up to Edinburgh, and the apartment was stocked with yogurt (for me) and oatmeal (for Brett) which helped us keep our food costs down. We went out to dinner the night we arrived (which provided leftovers for the next day), and then had lunch out each day at a pub, where the meals were large and reasonably priced, and then ate leftovers or the things we brought at night. Other than taking the taxi from the train station when we arrived, we walked everywhere while we were in Edinburgh. We did buy some souvenirs but discussed those ahead of time so we weren’t tempted to make impulse purchases.

     

    Brett and I got ourselves a cashmere scarf, and we also bought a bottle of Edinburgh gin – we got a discount on it at their shop because we took a tour of the distillery (and because it’s delicious), and got a discount on the scarves because we bought two.
  • Grateful for: Once again, some very kind strangers stepped up to help us get back to Blockley when we were otherwise stranded. We were thinking we were going to have to walk into Moreton from the station when we arrived (in the cold and dark) and go to a hotel to call a taxi, but a young couple from London who arrived at the same time offered to share their ride with us as Blockley was on the way to their destination. We were extremely tired at that point and their kindness made a huge difference after a long day.
  • Bonus question: Did you eat haggis in Scotland? NO! I had absolutely no desire to give it a try before we went or while we were there and that still holds. We did get to sample a “wee dram” of whiskey on one of our tours and I was reminded once again of why I don’t drink whiskey and prefer gin instead. We did have some lovely pub meals, including incredible meat pies in one place. I’ve never had such a wonderful, flaky crust in my life and the filling (chicken and mushroom) was divine. We tried a can of IrnBru (Scotland’s soft drink) while we were there – it was tasty – and ate some authentic Scottish shortbread. I thought Walkers shortbread was pretty good until we visited a shop and tasted some that just melted in our mouths and were less sweet too – so delicious! I’ve been spoiled for life.

One thing Brett and I both realized on this trip is that although we are healthy, and in pretty good shape, we do tire more easily these days and couldn’t have sustained the pace we kept for much longer than the three days we were there. Our visit reinforced why we enjoy being able to stay in one place for a while and keep a less hectic schedule. Our time with YaYu will most likely be just as busy, but after that we know we can slow down again and not have to work so hard. We’re wondering now if we really want to do a full week’s driving tour down to Cornwall, and think maybe we might go down by train for a couple of nights instead.