Sunday Morning 8/30/2020: Just the Two of Us Again

Rain during the night, clouds in the morning, and clear skies at night has meant no sunsets most of this week. The sun usually went down without a show.

The best effort was Friday evening, but otherwise it’s been a rather dull for the most part. 

We did get to see a lovely sunrise on Wednesday morning though, as we were up very early to take YaYu to the airport.

Good morning!

After just one shift all I can say is Bryn Mawr students have no clue how much work has gone into completely redesigning all of Dining Services to keep you safe and well-fed like the amount of unseen work done on this is absolutely insane and I just want everyone to know that. This was the tweet YaYu forwarded us from one of her friends shortly after her arrival, who wrote after completing her first shift working for food service. YaYu wanted us to know she is safe, and how much work the college has done and is doing to keep students safe. After a long travel day, she arrived safely in Philadelphia early Thursday morning. It turned out that another Bryn Mawr family from Seattle was traveling on their flight with their first-year student to help her move in, and they took YaYu and friend along with them out to the campus, saving them the trouble and expense of having to use Uber. She went to the campus first to see her room and get started on setting it up, then moved over to the hotel. She will take her first Covid test tomorrow, and then will be tested again in another two weeks. Anyway, our girl is happy to be back and is ready to get the term started. She’s not sure when she will begin work – she also has a job with food service, and one at the library – but should find out this week. We sure miss her though – it’s been a different few days for us as we adjust to her not being here. Ally the Cat still comes by every morning to look for YaYu and leaves disappointed after a few minutes.

“Where is the girl?”

In the meantime, Brett and I are enjoying being able to spread out a bit more in the apartment, and not having to tiptoe around in the morning while YaYu is still asleep on the sofa. The apartment upstairs went back on the market this past week, and has been shown a few times. We are very, very happy with our apartment, but the one upstairs is positively gorgeous. It’s twice the size of ours (bigger than our old house in Kapaa), with a newly remodeled kitchen and luxury bathroom, two large bedrooms, a balcony with beautiful views, and an enclosed lanai in the back. As we thought though, the rent is also nearly double what we’re paying. Our neighbors on the other side of the building are hanging on, but are still out of work. We’ve noticed the husband has been doing a lot more fishing recently, but they otherwise are doing OK. After a burst of visitors to the island during the past couple of months, the numbers have tapered off again, most likely because summer is pretty much over. Most of the people arriving these days seem to be returnees, maybe coming back because they have lost work in another location and are coming home to stay with family until things improve. I read the other day that experts believe it will take at least two to three years for Hawaii’s economy to recover from the pandemic.

We bought a scale this past week. I really didn’t want one, but Brett did because he likes to track his weight. I got a lovely surprise though when I stepped on it: I have lost 14 pounds! I knew I was changing shape, but seeing the same weight week after week on MyFitnessPal and last summer’s experience of losing only a few pounds had me believing things once again hadn’t changed much. I still am not interested in tracking my weight, so Brett has put the scale away – he can get it out whenever he wants, but I don’t care to see it until the end of September or even longer than that. Besides the scale, I also got a set of hand weights to start carrying when we walk, for strength training.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m almost finished with both Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and They Were Her Property, and will start Breasts and Eggs as soon as I’m finished with one of them as it just came off of hold again this morning.
  • Listening to: The winds were blowing pretty strongly (and loudly) when we went to bed last night, but have softened up a bit this morning. There are a few roosters out there doing their thing once in a while, but otherwise it’s very quiet inside and out – a lovely morning. There are quite a few clouds, especially to the north, but blue sky showing through everywhere else so it should be a pretty nice day!
  • Watching: We are still watching Mindhunter and looking forward to the second season coming up. I think we watched it last summer, but it’s been like watching a new series. We also are rewatching Hinterland (also on Netflix). We watched the available episodes a while ago (and don’t remember them either) and are finding it more dark (in a good way) than we remembered.
  • Cooking/baking: I miss YaYu’s help in the kitchen, but meals for just Brett and I going forward have been and will be more simple. Tonight we’re going to have Cuban-style black beans over brown rice along with sautéed green beans on the side. We’re doing another food shop again on Tuesday to pick up a few more things, and this week we’ll be having grilled ahi tacos with mango-peach salsa; basil and pepper chicken sausages along with grilled vegetables; and enchilada casserole for our evening meals with leftovers filling in the empty spots. Next week I’m going to bake a lemon cake that we’ll top with blueberry pie filling. The chocolate cake with cherry pie filling has been wonderful and we wanted to try another version. That little piece of cake at the end of the day has turned into the perfect treat, and has been enough that we don’t want or crave other sweets throughout the day.
    If I had added the sugar at the time the recipe called for it, I think we would have ended up with something way too sweet. My mistake made it just the right amount!
  • Happy we accomplished last week: We made guava jam! Using fruit from the guava tree in our yard, we ended up with seven half pints of low sugar (but still very sweet) jam. Since neither Brett nor I eat a lot of jam, it should last for a while. We walked all seven days again, and got in four three-mile days.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re planning to head to the north shore this week for a long but socially-distanced visit with a friend up in Princeville who is recovering from recent surgery. We also decided to go to Hanapepe one day for a stroll through Old Town and a visit to the Talk Story Bookstore (and maybe share a pastry at the Midnight Bear bakery). We might even go to the beach if the weather cooperates and we can get our act together. I want to attempt making my own nonfat vanilla yogurt in the Instant Pot and see how that goes. I’m not sure I’m looking forward to the task, but next week’s theme is going to be “window cleaning.” I wanted to do each room on three separate days; Brett wants to do them all in one day as we really don’t have many windows (five, a set of French doors, and one patio window). At least I can look forward to the results!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) YaYu cooked for us the last two evenings before she left – on Monday evening she made fresh fettuccini again and a pan of rosemary-garlic focaccia bread. On Tuesday she did a big pan of fried rice, making enough that Brett and I could enjoy the leftovers for a couple of days afterwards. She always does a good job of cleaning up after herself in the kitchen as well. 2) Because I added sugar to the jam-making process too early we ended up with a nice supply of guava juice, created during the jam-making process. It’s also a good thing we made jam as we’re now in serious competition from the birds in neighborhood over the fruit still left on the tree. 3) All of YaYu’s flights back to Pennsylvania departed and arrived on time, and she is happy with her hotel room although apparently the food leaves much to be desired in her opinion. After sleeping on our sofa since mid April, she definitely deserves the room’s big, luxurious king-size bed! Classes start in two weeks, after everyone has been tested and retested. 4) Brett ordered new glasses on Friday – he wanted me to go along to help him pick them out. The new ones are very different, but very attractive! 5) We had a long video chat with our son yesterday and of course got to talk with the grandkids. They both officially begin school this week although our granddaughter did two days of orientation at her preschool this past week. K’s English is amazing – our son said it’s pretty much her dominant language now. C begins tomorrow and will be attending his school on a rotating hybrid model with some instruction online at home and some in the classroom. It’s almost hard for us to believe he’s a fourth grader. Both kids wear/will wear masks full-time at their respective schools as well as take other precautions.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We put $6.65 into the change/$1 bill jar this week and we’ll probably go to the bank this coming week to make another deposit. I earned 1310 Swagbucks this past week, another very good total. All  leftovers were eaten and no food was thrown away. Other than the farmers’ market, our shopping trip on Thursday, and Brett glasses, it was a no-spend week for us.
  • Grateful for: I’m thankful this week that YaYu made it safely back to Pennsylvania and is being very cautious. She is already worried about whether she caught the virus on the plane, but said she wiped down everything and wore two masks the entire trip and did not eat or drink because she didn’t want to take off the masks. I’m also once again thankful for our new vision insurance as Brett’s new glasses were very affordable, half of what he paid for his last pair at Costco.
    One of Brett’s household chores is making cocktails three evenings each week. He makes a very tasty G&T and great mojitos!
  • Bonus question: How are household tasks divided in your home? Back when Brett was in the navy, and working afterward he retired, because of deployments and long hours I was pretty much responsible for everything. When he was home he took care of yard work and taking out the trash, but when he was deployed I did all that too. Since he left the navy, and especially after his retirement in 2013, we have worked out what we both believe is an equitable sharing of household chores these days. I primarily take care of the kitchen, including coming up with weekly menus, making the shopping list(s), and cooking the evening meal (we each fix our own breakfast and lunch). Brett does mix the cocktails though. I wash the dishes throughout the day; Brett washes them in the evening and puts things away in the morning before I get up (we both like to wake up to a clean kitchen). I take care of all other cleaning in the kitchen. In the rest of the house, I make the bed every day (and change the linens), do all of the laundry and folding, take care of the dusting (my least favorite chore of all, but thankfully this house doesn’t get anywhere as dusty as our previous places in Kapaa), and am generally in charge of keeping things picked up and put away so the house stays tidy. Brett does all of the vacuuming and keeps the floors otherwise picked up and cleaned, takes care of the recycling, and still does everything outdoors, although we have a yard service here so those chore are fairly minimal. We share bathroom cleaning, with Brett handling the scrubbing of the huge, tiled shower and the tub while I do the sink and counter, shelves, and toilet. When the girls were growing up, they each were assigned a major task to complete each week, and we rotated those so each got the experience. Those tasks were laundry, bathroom cleaning, and thorough sweeping/vacuuming of the entire house. Some of them did better than others – WenYu was always the most conscientious of the three – but they all know how to do these things well now. They also helped with cooking, setting the table, and cleaning up afterwards. Our son helped clean bathrooms and did the family laundry when he was young (he refused to learn how to cook although he’s a pretty decent cook these days). Anyway, for now the division of labor works for both of us, and there are no hard feelings about one or the other carrying too much of the load.

I have been a bit surprised (in a good way) by the reaction to the recipes I’ve been posting. I started posting them because I don’t have all that much to write about these days, so it’s very gratifying they have been enjoyed. I greatly appreciate the suggestions or adaptations I’ve gotten back as well. It’s almost time to segue into fall cooking, although it definitely is not going to feel like fall here for quite a while. Our friend Alan named September here “Sweatember” as it’s usually one of the hottest and most humid months of the year on the island. We’ve got our fingers crossed though that our breezy, cooler-than-normal temperatures here on the south side will persist. We’ve noticed on our walks that it’s been growing hotter in the afternoons though, with a lot more sun beating down on us while we walk. As long as there’s a breeze up at the park though we do OK, and I always wear a wet tenugui around my neck these days to help keep cool. Along with carrying weights I also now have a sun visor to help keep the sun off of my face – it really helps.

Our last walk together. for a while – we miss our girl!

That’s all for this week. It was a bittersweet one, with lots of good things happening, but also sadness over YaYu’s departure. We miss her presence. I sincerely hope the week was a good one for everyone, and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up!

Home Cooking: Chinese 3-Color Salad (Hiyashi Chuka)

This 3-color salad has beni shoga (red pickled ginger strips) in the middle as well as ham, egg, cucumber, tomatoes, and bean sprouts.

My recipe for this pretty, easy, and delicious cold salad is nearly 40 years ago, and comes from a friend who took a Chinese cooking class when we were stationed together in Japan and then generously shared the recipes with me. The salad, which is called three-color salad in Chinese, is called hiyashi chuka in Japanese, “chilled Chinese.” It is a summer staple in Chinese restaurants in Japan, served during the summer when it is too hot and humid to cook. Neighborhood restaurants there often offer home delivery, and on hot, steamy evenings when we lived off-base, it was a wonderful treat to call the restaurant down the street from us and have them bring this salad to us.

Hiyashi chuka is one of our family’s favorites, and our girls all informed me when they were young that I had to make it frequently for them. The salad can either be made in individual portions with the dressing added individually, or as one large salad which is mixed with the dressing after being brought to the table. The desired effect either way is to present a colorful composition that can be visually enjoyed before eating begins.

Vermicelli threads or bean thread noodles

In Japan, the salad is made with raw ramen noodles called chukamen (instant ramen does not work for this), but my friend’s recipe called for rice vermicelli or mung bean noodles, sometimes called cellophane noodles. They are easy to prepare and don’t require cooking, only soaking in hot water. They can be found in the Asian section of many markets, at Asian markets, or can be purchased online. Toppings for hiyashi chuka can be varied, but the idea is to have at least three different items in three different colors. Traditional toppings include thin omelet strips, julienned or shredded cucumber, and julienned ham or Chinese barbecued pork. Shredded, chilled chicken breast also is delicious. Mung bean sprouts and julienned carrot can also be added, and in Japan, sliced tomatoes are usually included as well. Two types of dressings are traditionally served with this salad, either soy sauce or sesame flavor; the recipe below includes the soy sauce dressing. 

I bought this julienne peeler when we were in Switzerland – it makes short work of the English cucumber for this salad!

3-COLOR SALAD

The ingredients here make enough for two or three individual salads. The salad dressing should be enough even if the salad ingredients are doubled for a larger salad.

Salad:

  • 2 1/2 oz. rice vermicelli, rice sticks, or bean threads
  • 1 cup thinly julienned ham or Chinese barbecue pork slices
  • 1 English or Japanese cucumber, seeded and thinly julienned or shredded
  • 1 egg
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil

Dressing:

  • 3 TBSP rice vinegar
  • 2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 TBSP soy sauce
  • 1TBSP granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

Blend the dressing ingredients together and chill. In a large bowl, pour boiling water over the vermicelli and let soak for at least 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water, and then squeeze out extra moisture. Using a pair of kitchen shears, cut  the softened noodles into 2″ pieces. Beat the egg with the salt; heat the vegetable oil in a small skillet and make a thin omelet with the beaten egg – do not fold the egg. Remove the circular omelet from the pan onto a plate or cutting board and let it cool, then slice into very thin strips. To assemble the salad, put the vermicelli onto a plate or shallow bowl and top with alternating wedge-shaped sections of egg, ham, pork or chicken, and cucumber (add in wedges of other ingredients if using). Keep the salad chilled until ready to serve. At the table pour the chilled dressing over the salad and toss just before serving, after diners have had a chance to admire the colorful composition.

Note: You can cut the dry vermicelli before soaking, but it’s a very messy operation, with noodle pieces flying all over the place. YaYu prefers to have her noodles left uncut, but they’re too long for Brett or I to handle.

Been There, Done That, and Ready To Do It Again

Waimea Canyon is just a short drive away these days.

What do you do when you love to travel but can’t, and live on a remote tropical island where the distance from end to end is just 54 miles? How do you arrange a staycation when hotels are closed and road trips are not an option?

For the most part, Brett and I are quite content for now with keeping ourselves socially isolated. As an introvert, it’s a dream come true for me in many ways, but I do like to get out here to see and do things beyond shopping for groceries, visiting the farmers’ market or walking in the park. We certainly don’t feel trapped nor are we suffering from “rock fever,” but now that it’s just the two of us again we’ve been talking about things we can do to keep busy and more involved with island life, not only finding new things to do but revisiting places around us and seeing them with new eyes.

We’ve come up with an initial list of mostly nearby things we can do. Most are things we’ve done before, but all would be fun to do again (and again and again).

The Kalalau Viewpoint at the end of the road in Kokee State Park is worth all the twists in the road it takes to get there.
  • Re-visit Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park: We now live just 30 or so minutes away from the road leading up into Waimea Canyon and Kokee, and without a lot of visitors currently on the island this should be a great time to visit this natural wonder.
  • Stroll through Hanapepe Old Town: We also now live very close to one of our favorite places on the island, the small town of Hanapepe on the south side. We enjoy walking through and exploring Old Town, and want to go see what’s opened back up. I did read that the wonderful Midnight Bear bakery is open – it would be fun to stop for coffee and to share a pastry. And the Talk Story Bookstore is also a wonderful place to spend a chunk of time.
    The Talk Story bookstore in Hanapepe is a must visit.
  • Explore Waimea: We always drive right through this little town on the west side on our way to Barking Sands, or turn off and head up to Waimea Canyon, but think it would now be a good time for us to stop and walk around for a while. We’ve seen a few places from the car windows we’d like to check out, but know there’s more to discover and learn about.
  • Go on breakfast date once in a while: The Kalaheo Cafe is just a couple of miles down the road from us, and serves a really good breakfast, even if it’s only take-out. We went a couple of times when we were here before but the drive was a long one, but now we don’t have that excuse any more. And, it’s actually quicker to drive to the Tip Top Cafe from our apartment now than from where we lived before. Both the Kalaheo Cafe and Tip Top serve a more local clientele and practice social distancing.
    Salt Pond beach park
  • Visit some new beaches as well as old favorites: Once we find a beach or two we like, that’s where we tend to go. We’re just not that adventurous when it comes to beaches. While the beach at Barking Sands is our current favorite, there are others nearby that we haven’t visited, such at Salt Pond. There’s no time like the present to get to know them and see how we like them. Although it’s a long drive, this is also a good time to revisit other beaches on the Eastside, like Kealia, and ones up on the north shore as well.
  • Do some longer walks on the Eastside beach path: We really, really don’t care for the long drive up to Kapaa these days, but as Brett and I increase our walking distance, this is as good a time as any for us to go for longer distances on the beach path. It’s not flat, but it is smooth making it a great walking venue for me. And then there are those views!
    Walking the eastside beach path is always a visual delight.
  • Socially distant visit with friends: Choosing to live down on the south side of the island, we knew we wouldn’t see our friends much as they live up on the east side and up north, and for Kaua’i those are long drives away. We’re planning to go visit our friend Joy up in Princeville next week though, and want to set up a visit (and maybe a trip to the beach) with friends Alan and Cheryl. Both times will also give us a chance to stop by other island locations we enjoy on the way up or back (like the Kilauea Bakery, or Java Kai in Kapaa).

A couple of other nearby places and activities we want to revisit are the Kauai Coffee Plantation and the Koloa Rum store. We enjoy doing tastings at both places, but those opportunities are closed off for now. Koloa Rum hopes to reopen after October 1, and hopefully tastings will resume at Kauai Coffee as well, although perhaps in a more controlled manner. We’ll see. But otherwise I think we have a nice list of things to revisit and look forward to during the next few months!

Sunday Morning 8/20/2020: She’s Leaving Home

There were some very pretty sunsets this past week. Thursday’s was a showstopper!

Good morning!

When I sat down to start this post this past Thursday (I lay out the outline on Thursday, make some notes, and then gradually fill it in by Sunday morning) my first thought was What am I ever going to write about this week? We are living such a simple, low-key life these days, with outings constrained by both virus precautions in place and our budget. We spend most of our time at home, which I have to admit as an introvert I love, with our only outings once a week trips to Costco, Walmart, Big Save, and the farmers’ market and our daily walks up at the park. It’s definitely not exciting or different from out people’s lives these days, and I continue to wonder how much of interest it is to many any more. We hope that things will begin to change by the end of the year, but that remains to be seen, especially as cases of the virus are exploding in Honolulu. Brett and I have been talking about places here we want to visit again and things we can do after the first of October and have come up with a few ideas, but we’ll most likely continue to spend most of our time at home, especially if the virus gains a foothold here.

YaYu heads back to school this week. She will leave early Wednesday morning, and will eventually arrive in Philadelphia nearly 16 hours later. While she is excited to see her friends again, she is also concerned and worried about catching the virus, and knows she will have to stay vigilant with mask wearing, hand washing, and cleaning. She just learned this past Friday that she will be doing her initial quarantine in a hotel off campus as the floor she’s on in her dorm is the only one without A/C and is apparently beyond stifling in late August and early September. She’s especially excited that while she’s there the college will pay for room service so the she can remain inside her room, and that she will have a private bathroom. It will be strange for us at first for her not to be here as she moved into the apartment with us last April and has been a constant presence – we are going to miss her. For the most part we’ve gotten along well, but we have had our issues from time to time. YaYu has never complained, and we realize it’s been a difficult and mostly boring time for her, but she has also been mostly oblivious about the work it takes to keep even a small home running and the costs involved. In other words, she has enjoyed being taken care of. YaYu mentioned a couple of weeks ago that she was seriously thinking about not going back to school after the winter break, and staying here until fall 2021 while doing online classes and working, but we have told her that unless the college officially closes and/or she is sick we cannot afford to have her stay with us and continue to put away enough to help pay for her senior year. There will be no jobs here for her next year either, and our landlord, while tolerant of her being with us for the summer, will definitely charge us more rent if she moves back in for a 10-month stretch (especially since utilities are covered in our rent). The apartment is really too small for three people as well, and we don’t plan to move – we love this place, and also can’t take on the expense of relocating again. 

Following our hike last Monday, the rest of the week was one of research and reflection on how I can better manage my chronic bursitis. I’ve done a lot of research and reading to understand better what’s going on, how I developed the condition (most likely a hip injury all the way back in 1994) and have learned that exercises and stretches that were recommended in the past are no longer thought to be effective, that isometric exercises are the way to go these days. I should also be taking a regular anti-inflammatory, such as Aleve or Advil; however, those mess with my stomach so that will be a last-ditch response. Rough surfaces such as cobblestones and the trail we were on last Monday are definitely aggravators and should be avoided if at all possible. As reader JMac commented, walking sticks are a game changer as they help with hip balance, and while I was going to ask for a set for Christmas I am instead looking at finding some sooner than that. I plant to check at Costco this coming week, although our store is more likely to have boogie boards and beach towels than hiking gear. I have decided that I will most likely hat to get steroid therapy before setting off on a long walk/hike, such as our planned Cotswold Way walk, but in the meantime I have some good information to get this annoying but not life-threatening health issue under better control.

This morning I am: 

  • Reading: I finished The Chain quickly – I couldn’t put it down – and I’m now reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince during the day and They Were Her Property at night. I thought the latter would a dry-ish historical read, but it’s very well researched and quite interesting. Another book came off of hold too, Breasts and Eggs by Mieko Kawakami, a novel examining modern womanhood in Japan. I was able to delay having to check it out by a few days, but really need to get through these other books as it won’t be too long before I have to accept it.
  • Listening to: Ally the cat is outside talking to (yelling at?) YaYu – it’s almost like she has a big story to tell her. Otherwise, the wind is gusting through the trees and making a lot of noise, but it’s also keeping things cool. There are lots of clouds out there this morning but we can see some blue sky as well so hopefully it won’t rain.
  • Watching: Brett and I finished all the available episodes of Silent Witness, and are just about done with Mum, which we will be sad to finish. It’s been a very sweet, gentle, but funny show and we have enjoyed it immensely (it’s a BritBox exclusive). We just got started with Mindhunter on Netflix. We’ve already seen the first season but are re-watching it to reacquaint ourselves before moving on to the second season.
    My best cake idea yet, I think.
  • Cooking/baking: With YaYu leaving, Brett and my meals are going to become much more simple, with less cooking for me, something I’m looking forward to. Tonight though we’re having the hamburgers that were on last week’s menu as we ended up making pad Thai last week instead – we got mung bean sprouts which needed to be eaten immediately after purchase. YaYu is making pasta again tomorrow which we’ll have with pesto along with grilled Italian sausages and roasted zucchini (we’ve eaten the sausages all summer as YaYu loves them, but I’m ready to give them a rest for a while). Tuesday evening we’ll have pork and vegetable fried rice. Brett and I plan to have beans and rice later in the week as well as stuffed peppers, and a pork and pepper stirfry. Peppers don’t agree with YaYu so we’ve kept them off the menu as much as possible this summer, but Brett and I love them, and are looking forward to eating them again. While not giving it up we’re also hoping to cut back on the amount of meat we consume – YaYu is definitely the carnivore in the family and it’s been reflected in our menus this summer. I baked a chocolate cake yesterday which we’re having topped with a little cherry pie filling – so yummy! Without YaYu’ helping us to eat them, each cake from now on will now last Brett and me for nearly two weeks. Bring it on, I say!
    We pretty much had the beach to ourselves again out at Barking Sands.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We made it to the beach yesterday! Finally! This past week saw another seven days of walking, and including our hike last Monday on the Moalepe Trail we got in four days of walking at least three miles. We’ll continue our current route at the park for another couple of weeks and then will kick it up again, up to four miles per day. Even though I always go out slathered in 50SPF sunscreen, I noticed this week that I have accomplished something of a tan, at least on my face, neck, and arms, and almost look like I live here or something. I give up on my legs though – they just don’t tan at all. I finished up five weeks of daily task cards yesterday and got a new set made so I’m ready for the next five weeks. When I get to the last card in the set I’m always a bit surprised that the five weeks have gone so quickly.
    A new set of tracking cards ready to be filled in: Every day I have a goal of drinking eight glasses of water, going for a walk, reading at least 45 minutes, studying Japanese for 20 minutes, trying to earn some Swagbucks, and filling out the next day’s food diary on MyFitnessPal.
  • Looking forward to next week: While we’re not happy about YaYu’s departure, at the same time Brett and I will admit to looking forward to “being on our own” again. Not sure what we’re going to do next week other than walking as it will depend on the weather. Right now I know we’ll be doing another small bit of grocery shopping, probably on Wednesday after YaYu has left. We should have enough ripe guava from our tree this coming week to make jam – we are planning to pick up some canning jars and pectin mid week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our Taco Tuesday night from Paco’s Tacos was fantastic – Brett and I shared an order of al pastor-style tacos and YaYu had carne asada fries. It was all very affordable and I appreciated not having to cook that evening. The movers finally called and arranged to pick up the empty packing boxes tomorrow morning – we’ll be glad to have all of that out of the way. Although they still haven’t located the missing box, they are continuing to search for it. They went ahead anyway though and sent the forms for filing a claim. Although I wasn’t able to complete our planned hike on Monday, I did learn some valuable things that I’ll be able to change and/or improve for the next time. My favorite afternoon snack these days is a pack of big, light senbei (Japanese-style rice cracker) basted with soy sauce and a little bit of nori (seaweed), and I to discover Big Save market has them in stock all the time (I had been getting them at Walmart but they kept running out). Less than 100 calories for two crackers, they’re just enough to keep my stomach happy for the time between lunch and dinner.
    Shelley Senbei crackers come in three different flavors. My favorite is “snow roasted with seaweed” and Brett and YaYu like “snow moon’ with a tiny bit of sweetness. The third flavor is spicy teriyaki.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had to have the front brake pads and rotors in our car replaced mid-week – ouch! That was a several hundred dollars repair. Otherwise, we came in under-budget with our food shopping, and put $5.24 into the change/$1 bill jar. I earned 1,182 Swagbucks this week and now hope to earn another $100 Southwest gift card by the end of October. We did a great job again with leftovers and had no food waste.
  • Grateful for: I continue to be so very thankful for the cooler weather we’ve experienced this summer, especially when I remember how miserable I was previously, when we lived in Kapaa. We’ve rarely experienced high humidity here, and if it does arrive it doesn’t seem to hang around. We have a constant breeze (sometimes it feels like we live inside of a vortex), and temperatures have not gone above 83°. I came to wonder in the past if Kaua’i really was paradise, but it sure feels like it where we are now.
  • Bonus question: What’s something you do on Kaua’i that you would never do elsewhere? The first thing that comes to mind is shopping at Walmart. I think I went to Walmart once back on the mainland and hated the experience, but it’s very different here. And, other than Costco there are no other mass-merchandise stores on the island. We actually do some of our food shopping there now as Walmart’s prices are definitely lower that island supermarkets, and they have a fantastic Asian foods section – we always go there before heading over to Costco. Walmart has started to get in some produce lately, some of it grown in Hawaii, so we always check that as well. I bought their cherry pie filling the other day as it does not contain high fructose corn syrup, but otherwise we usually stick to name brands (their chocolate chips and a few other Great Value products were mediocre). Walmart is also a great place here to get things like toilet paper, paper towels, etc. Costco has been out of stock of those items for ages, and we don’t have room to store such big packages anyway, and the larger size packages at Walmart are not overwhelming. Anyway, I never thought I would ever be a regular Walmart shopper, but it’s what you do on Kaua’i.

We finally made it back to the beach yesterday. YaYu very much wanted to go one more time before she left, and the stars aligned yesterday with the weather so we headed down to Barking Sands. We stopped at the Navy Exchange/Commissary on our way to the beach and picked up some sandwiches and cold drinks to take with us, and then spent three and a half glorious hours basking in the sun, reading, and taking long walks along the beach before packing up and heading for home. Every time I go back to the beach after a long time away I remember how much I love it. We all decided that we’d like to rent one of the beach cottages at Barking Sands when YaYu is home again for the winter break, and spend a couple of days right on the beach for a little local holoholo (getaway).

We’re going to miss our girl!

It was a quiet but good week for us, and I hope it was a good one overall for everyone else. We’re going to miss our girl, but we knew she couldn’t stay forever. Here’s to good things happening, good books, good food, and more in the coming week!

Home Cooking: Coleslaw Three Ways

Coleslaw, in any form, has been one of our family’s all-time favorite salads for as long as I can remember, even when our children were little. Because of my lettuce intolerance, it’s always been a great way for me to enjoy a salad as well. Back when we lived on the mainland I always has a bag or two of pre-shredded cabbage on my shopping list because it was healthy, convenient and inexpensive (99 cents or less for regular coleslaw, $1.20 or less for angel hair slaw, which was less than buying a whole head of cabbage). All I had to do was open the bag and rinse off the cabbage, whip up a dressing, add a few additional ingredients, most of which were pantry staples, and we had a cool, crunchy addition to our meal.

The following recipes for traditional, “Asian” and sweet and sour are still our three favorite ways to eat coleslaw, and all three are based on using a 14-oz bag of pre-shredded cabbage. These days I shred my own cabbage as a bag of the pre-shredded stuff is at least $5.99/bag (or more). Locally grown cabbage often shows up at the farmers’ market, and we can occasionally get heads of Hawaii-grown organic cabbage at Costco, but if not I can usually find something affordable at Safeway or Big Save.

Because we enjoy coleslaw so much, I hope that some of you will share your favorite recipes with me as we’re always ready to try something new!

TRADITIONAL COLESLAW

An incredibly easy and delicious recipe.

1 14-oz bag shredded cabbage for coleslaw

grated carrot (optional)

1/2 cup mayonnaise (2 TBSP more if you like a “wetter” coleslaw)

1 TBSP sugar

1 TBSP cider vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

Place shredded cabbage in a large bowl. Blend in mayonnaise until mixed well with cabbage. Sprinkle sugar over the coleslaw, then vinegar, and mix into the salad. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let coleslaw sit for about 15 minutes before serving for flavors to mingle.

“ASIAN” COLESLAW

There are probably a hundred variations of this cabbage salad, none of them truly Asian, but this is the best one I’ve tasted. I sometimes add shredded leftover chicken and serve it as a main dish.

1 14-oz bag shredded cabbage for coleslaw (angel hair coleslaw preferred)

1 bunch green onions including green tops, thinly sliced

1 pkg. oriental- or chicken-flavored ramen, flavor packet set aside

2 TBSP sesame seeds

1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds

1/3 cup light olive or canola oil

3 TBSP rice vinegar

1 TBSP dark sesame oil (optional)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Combine the cabbage, onions, sesame seeds and almonds in a large bowl. Break apart the uncooked ramen noodles into small pieces and toss with the cabbage. Just before serving mix together the oil(s), rice vinegar, salt, pepper and flavor packet from the ramen and blend well. Pour over the cabbage and toss to mix well. Serve immediately so the ramen stays crunchy.

SWEET AND SOUR SLAW

This yummy recipe comes from Jane Brody’s Good Food Gourmet. It goes well with grilled meat, and curry or Thai-flavored dishes. The recipe makes quite a bit, which is great for potlucks, but I usually cut the recipe in half for my family.

1/3 cup rice or cider vinegar

1/4 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy is OK)

3 TBSP brown sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1 TBSP soy sauce

1 tsp dark sesame oil

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes or 1/2 garlic chili sauce (optional)

2 14-oz bags shredded cabbage for coleslaw

1/2 cup dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Blend together the vinegar, peanut butter, brown sugar, salt, soy sauce and sesame oil; set aside. (If you would like to add a little kick to your salad, add red pepper flakes or the garlic chili sauce.) About an hour before serving, place the peanut butter mixture in a large bowl, and add the cabbage, about 2 cups at a time, tossing the ingredients after each addition. Cover and chill the salad for an hour, tossing it every 20 or so minutes. Just before serving, add the chopped peanuts and toss once more. (This is quite a “wet” slaw; serve with a slotted spoon).

A Short Hike on the Moalepe Trail

The Moalepe trailhead. The gate can be opened so vehicles can use the road if necessary..

Located in the hills to the west of Kapaa, off Olohena Road, the Moalepe Trail winds up through protected pastureland and into the forest until it connects with the Kuilau Trail. From the trailhead to the junction with the Kuilau the total distance is 2.5 miles.

Starting up the trail. Those are rocks in the dirt.
Gates along the way allow vehicles to access the pastureland.
Most of the pastureland is separated from the trail by barbed wire.

On Monday we pretty much had the trail to ourselves. We hiked up approximately 1.5 miles, then turned around and hiked back down for a total of three miles. Brett and YaYu could have easily gone to the end, but I had to call it quits because my legs grew wobbly and I became quite dizzy. I still had a good time and got a good workout, but upon reflection I’ve realized that several factors were working against me to keep me from reaching the end, some of them my own fault.

YaYu walked in front most of the way, and showed us where to step to stay out of the mud.
We had a gorgeous view of Makaleha on the way up.
At around a mile and a quarter, the forest begins to appear.

Below are some of the things I figured out for the next time we hike.

  • Although the trail is not steep, it is a steady incline all the way up to the end – we gained 370 feet during our 1.5 miles. I am a quick walker, and pushed myself too quickly up the trail which in turn quickly got me tired. I need to learn to slow down when I’m climbing.
  • I did not eat anywhere near enough for lunch before we hiked, just a half of a sausage and a small papaya. I had brought along two Japanese rice crackers though, and ate those on the way down, and felt fine by the time we got back to the trailhead. That was the biggest tip off that my empty stomach was a strong reason for my lightheadedness and the weakness in my legs.
  • It was also quite hot and humid once we got to the trail. We had been expecting a nice breeze, but instead not a leaf was stirring along the way and for most of the hike the sun was beating down on us. I wore a wet tenugui (Japanese cotton hand towel) wrapped around my neck, and that helped immensely, but I still felt overheated. For any other hike in similar weather I am going to need something wet on my head as well to help keep me cool(er). I also didn’t hydrate enough on the way up, which probably also contributed to how awful I felt at the 1.5 mile point.
  • Although the trail may look smooth in the pictures, it was anything but, and we spent the entire hike, both up and down, moving from side to side to avoid rocks and branches, mud, deep ruts, and other hazards which required extra effort. The trail functions as a utility road for part of the way (tire tracks were visible), and is also used for horseback riding, and to say it is not well maintained would be an understatement. I reminded myself on the way back down that walking paths in England are, for the most part, maintained footpaths and usually much easier to walk on.
  • I had no trouble from my bursitis on the ascent, but it flared up on the way down, painful to the point I had to stop a couple of times and stretch in order to keep going. The unevenness of the trail caused the bursitis to flare up, just as it used to when I walked on cobblestones, as my hips never bother me these days on our usual daily walks which are on flat, even terrain. I’m going to have to do more frequent stretching to keep the bursitis in check as otherwise the only alternative will be cortisone shots. Interestingly, my knee did not hurt at all, but again, it was a fairly gently slope down.
Our stopping point at a mile and a half was just out of sight in this picture. Although the forest was cooling things down, I couldn’t go any further.

Although we did not make it to the top of the trail because of the issues I experienced, I was happy with our effort. I gained a lot from the experience, especially figuring out things I can do better. We still got in a three-mile hike and enjoyed some of Kauai’s beautiful countryside. Brett and I plan to try the hike again in another three weeks or so.

Back at the trailhead at the end of our hike, I was happy but still feeling a bit shaky. My shirt is drenched from the wet tenugui I wore around my neck to help me stay cool.

Sunday Morning 8/16/2020: Sunny Weather Returns (sort of)

Sunsets are all about the clouds. Most of the week there were no clouds in the evening, so . . . no beautiful sunsets.

Good Morning!

We could see where to find the pot of gold, right down in those trees!

It’s been another week of wacky weather for us although we have had more sunshine than in the previous two weeks and we’ve been able to get out and walk every day, with frequent rainbows appearing from recently finished to soon-to-arrive rains. Weather-wise, we’ve dealt with everything from vortex force winds spinning through our yard, rain every night and most mornings, high humidity, and everything in between. Thursday morning I went to hang the laundry outside in the bright hot sun and before I was even halfway through getting that done a massive rainstorm passed over – it arrived so quickly I barely got everything up to the deck and under the umbrella in time to avoid getting soaked. There are many different microclimates going on all over Kaua’i and a “one-size fits all” weather report does not cover the differences depending where you live or where you are. We gratefully have a near-constant breeze here in Lawai, and get heavy winds from time to time, while we heard from our friends Alan and Cheryl up in Kapaa that the trade winds have already slowed down to almost nothing there. Whatever the weather though, it’s still paradise (for the most part).

All Saints Church in Turnditch, Derbyshire. (photo credit: Mapcarta)

I have never been into genealogy at all, and although I know some information about my ancestors a great deal of information about my family, both on my mom’s and dad’s side of the family has been lost as their generation has passed on. However, this past week I had the pleasure of learning not only my great-grandmother’s name, Alice Houlgate, but where she was born. I knew on a very superficial level that she had been born in England and immigrated to the U.S. in the 19th century, married a farmer and moved to Nebraska (my grandfather and two brothers were born in the sod house my great-grandparents built in Fairfield, Nebraska), but that was the extent of my knowledge – no one ever told me her name nor the name of my great-grandfather, and I never knew where she was from in England. It turns out Alice, one of nine siblings, was born in a small village in Derbyshire called Turnditch where the Houlgates had lived since the mid-18th century. Alice and her husband, and apparently many of her siblings, eventually moved to Pasadena, California – I know my grandfather was working in Pasadena when he was 14 – and I grew up hearing about the local Houlgates, and was occasionally dragged along to meet my “Houlgate relatives” (although I had no idea who they were or how we were related). Alice died two years before my mother was born and my mom was given the middle name of Alice, and one of our daughters now also has the middle name of Alice. A long-time dream of mine has been to see where my family came from in England, so I’m hoping I will be able to visit the village of Turnditch in the future and see if there are still Houlgates living there. I did find a Derbyshire walking tour that stops for the night in Belper, located less than two miles from Turnditch, so if we survive our Cotswold walking tour, maybe we’ll do that one next!

YaYu’s early morning flight over to Honolulu on Southwest was cancelled this past week and she was switched to a later flight that got her there just 10 minutes before her Alaska Airlines flight to Seattle took off! Nope. I contacted Southwest and got a credit to use later (credit is good through September of 2022), and booked her on an early morning Hawaiian airlines flight that will get her there in time to get her bags and recheck them on Alaska. The cost for the Hawaiian flight was the same as the Southwest one; however, she will now have to pay luggage fees to get her bags over to Honolulu (and also has to pay for her luggage on Alaska). 

Ally, the judgmental cat.

YaYu has befriended the judgmental cat that kept appearing at our door and the cat now appears like clockwork every morning to spend some time with YaYu. She (the cat) is going to be very disappointed though after YaYu leaves and when Brett and I won’t come out to sit with her and pet her. We have promised YaYu that we will keep the water bowl that she set out for the cat filled, but that’s it. SIGH again. The cat’s name is Ally, by the way – she was abandoned by a family in the neighborhood that moved away a couple of years ago, and now makes daily rounds to several houses in the neighborhood for food and affection. We’re not sure who is feeding her but she has refused food and treats from YaYu so someone is taking care of that.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on Thursday evening, just as three books came available at once from the library – yikes! ! am once again reading two books: The Chain, a recommended mystery-thriller, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Waiting on deck is They Were Her Property, about women who owned slaves in the antebellum south. The Chain is a good read, but I should have it finished this evening, and as soon as it’s done I’ll start They Were Her Property.
  • Listening to: Another quiet morning although it was raining not too long ago. It’s still cloudy, but that’s supposed to clear   out later. Brett is puttering around in the kitchen, and YaYu is checking her social media, so it’s quiet indoors and out. A perfect morning in my book!
  • Watching: With YaYu’s help we got our TV set up so we can watch PBS shows from the web there, which is much more enjoyable than watching on my computer screen. We watched the first episode of Endeavour this week and are looking forward to watching the current season’s second episode tomorrow. We’re still watching Silent Witness – I think we’re in the last season though – and Mum, which we’re really glad we found.
  • Cooking/baking: This will be YaYu’s last full week with us, so I will be fixing some of her favorites before she heads back to school. The day after tomorrow though we’re going out to one of her favorite restaurants on the island, Paco’s Tacos to pick up some tacos for a Taco Tuesday celebration. One of their locations is at the club house at Kukuiolono, we’ll just head over there as part of our walk. Tonight we’re having Chinese three-color salad (hiyashi chuka), and other dinners this week will be grilled pork, pineapple, and pepper kabobs;  shrimp tacos with pineapple salsa; chicken and vegetable curry (which didn’t get made this past week); hamburgers; and one leftover night. No baking this week – the yellow cake with vanilla buttercream didn’t get made until Friday, so it will get us through this week.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: It’s difficult to come up with accomplishments these days as we’ve settled in and most of our days are the same, filled with regular daily stuff like cooking, cleaning, reading, etc. – we’re not doing anything special. Even rearranging YaYu’s travel didn’t take much of an effort. I see our daily walks as my real accomplishment – a few weeks ago I felt like I needed a day off after five days, but for nearly three weeks now we’ve walked every day, and now I look forward to getting out. We did seven days again this week, upped our distance to a little over three miles on two of the days, and will add a third day of over three miles this week.
    Guava smell so good – their aroma perfumes the entire apartment. We get a few ripe ones every day.
    Lilikoi blossom number 10! Another fruit should set by next week.
  • Looking forward to next week: The weather improved this past week, and we are hoping for more next week. Brett and I want to do a four-mile hike on the Moalepe Trail if the weather permits and also get down to the beach at Barking Sands once more before YaYu leaves. We are looking forward to doing some food shopping next week as we have pretty much emptied the refrigerator and cupboards. The guava are starting to ripen, and if we get enough next week we’ll try and make jam.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: This past week YaYu got bored, so she got out her pasta machine and made a huge batch of handmade fettuccine for us, enough that we were able to enjoy it for two meals. It was delicious! I earned my first $100 Southwest gift card through Swagbucks, several weeks ahead of when I thought I would.
    Homemade fettuccini!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had another no-spend week except for our visit to the farmers’ market and the airline ticket change. We put $2 into the change/$1 bill jar. The Southwest credit will come in handy later though. It was a very good week on Swagbucks – I did several high-pay surveys and earned 1379 Swagbucks!! We did a fantastic job using up leftovers this week, and got the refrigerator cleaned out. Hopefully we can keep it from becoming so full again as so many things freeze when too much is crammed in there (one of the side effects of having a small, lower-quality refrigerator). This past week I had to throw out a whole package of celery (unused) as it had frozen and was ruined.
  • Grateful for: I am very, very thankful that we were able to find another early morning flight on Hawaiian to get YaYu over to Honolulu, one that gives her plenty of time to pick up and recheck her bags. We would have been in a real pickle otherwise, either having to change all of her flights, or send her over the day before and pay for an overnight at a hotel (and there is nothing affordable close by the airport in Honolulu). We’ll be able to use the Southwest flights in the future, most likely as soon as 2021 (to get her back to Pennsylvania for the spring term).
  • Bonus question: What is a place you loved going to in the past but can’t imagine visiting now? That would be either Walt Disney World or Disneyland. We took the girls to WDW four times, back when round-trip tickets from Portland to Orlando were very inexpensive for some reason – for a while it cost more to fly to Los Angeles from Portland! We usually went for a full seven days, stayed on property, and we always had a wonderful time. We had also been to WDW twice before the girls joined our family – we were there with our son for his 8th birthday. I grew up near Disneyland in California, and went many, many times when I was a child (my first trip was just three months after the park opened). We also went to Tokyo Disneyland and Hong Kong Disneyland during our Big Adventure, interesting experiences but once was enough. The Disney parks always go out of their way to make the park experiences good ones – the parks are clean, workers are friendly, they do a good job of crowd control, and the attention to detail in the parks was amazing. I never went to a Disney park to see anything “authentic” as pretty much everything in a Disney park is ersatz, but that sort of got to me on my last couple of visits. These days I can’t imagine stepping foot in another Disney park as it’s gotten out-of-control expensive and there are other places I’d rather spend my money. The experience now is also very tiring. It was magical to go there with my children when they were young, and with my grandchildren, but been there, done that is how I feel about Disney now.

The number of virus cases continue to climb on Oahu, and there were two more deaths there this past week. The number of visitors to the islands continues to climb each week as well, and YaYu read the other day that many are registering with a phony address for the quarantine (probably some locals are as well upon return) so they can get out and about. Thanks so much. So far Kaua’i continues to do OK with only a couple of virus cases here, but this past week an average of 30 visitors per flight was arriving on the island. Also, an average of 12 people per week claim they are “relocating” here, although many may be locals returned to Kaua’i from other islands. We have seen tourists out and about, usually without masks – it’s very frustrating. Thankfully the stores we shop at and the farmers’ market – the only places we go to these days – require masks and won’t let anyone in without one. It’s very frustrating to watch other countries around the world making progress while knowing how much longer it’s going to be before our country gets a handle on this pandemic. We chatted with a man the other day at the park, a life-long resident of Kaua’i, and he said we couldn’t have picked a safer place to come to when we returned to the U.S. I sure hope it stays that way because if the virus ever gets a foothold on Kaua’i we are all doomed.

Everyone else has built a wall around us.

And on that happy note I will close. We did have a very nice week, and got lots of things done, books read, etc. and are looking forward the coming week and hope you are as well!

Home Cooking: Grilled Mediterranean-Style Lemon Chicken and Quinoa Salad

Mediterranean lemon chicken thighs right off the grill (I am not a food stylist!)

Grilled lemon chicken and the accompanying salad is one of Brett and my all-time favorite summer meals, and in fact, I almost cannot imagine serving the chicken without the salad or vice-versa (although I did this last week as we had a lot of vegetables to use up and I roasted those instead).

This chicken recipe comes from a childhood neighbor. Babe, as he was called, was famous for his grilled chicken wings, and my sister was able to get his “secret” recipe from his daughter only after Babe passed away. These days I usually substitute boneless, skinless thighs for the chicken wings because wings, while tasty, can be fatty (which we don’t like) and admittedly messy, and because, once again, we prefer the flavor of thigh meat. There is no reason though why an entire cut-up chicken, or just chicken legs or breasts could not be marinated and cooked, if desired. The lemon juice in the marinade sort of “pre-cooks” the meat a little, and the chicken becomes extremely tender when it’s grilled.

The Mediterranean-style quinoa salad recipe also comes from my sister, and we think it complements the lemon chicken perfectly. Quinoa is very easy to prepare (if you have a rice cooker, it’s even easier). I add the raisins and dried cranberries to the quinoa while it’s still slightly warm as it helps to soften them, and then add the rest of the ingredients when everything has cooled to room temperature.

GRILLED LEMON CHICKEN (“BABE’S WINGS”)

2 pounds chicken wings (drumettes preferred) or boneless, skinless chicken thighs

juice from 6-8 lemons

1 1/2 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP dry basil

2 tsp crushed garlic

salt & pepper to taste

Mix together lemon juice, olive oil, basil, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over the chicken and refridgerate for at least 8 hours, turning the meat frequently (I usually use a big Ziploc bag). Prepare barbecue grill (medium coals) and grill chicken until done, about 5 minutes total on each side, longer if you’re using larger cuts. It can be served hot or cold, and is delicious either way.

(photo credit: Elle Republic) I don’t add orange segments or carrot to the salad but you could!

QUINOA SALAD

4 cups cooked quinoa, room temperature

3/4 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1/2 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

2 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP cider vinegar

salt & pepper to taste

Add raisins, cranberries, red onion, chopped parsley and chopped mint to quinoa and mix to combine. Toss with olive oil and vinegar; add salt & pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before serving to let flavors blend. If possible, add the raisins and cranberries when the quinoa is still warm to “plump” them.

Following My Own Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good morning!

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

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

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

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

This morning I am:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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