Is There a Plan B?

(photo credit: Egor Myznik/Unsplash)

I will begin by saying Brett and I always have a Plan B. Always. Until the pandemic hit we’ve never had to activate one though because of all the research and planning that has gone into our original plans.

The pandemic upended everything. Plan B during our travels was always to return to the U.S. if the flag went up, but we had never thought about returning to Kaua’i until our daughters suggested we eventually move back when we were together for Christmas 2019. After a short visit to the island in January of 2020 before we set off for Japan, when U.S. citizens were told to return we headed for Kaua’i. Our unexpected and early return to the island was expensive, but in hindsight we are very grateful we did come here – it’s been a very safe place to live during the pandemic, and we’ve been very happy here.

The U.S. State Department recently announced that 80% of the world’s countries are currently unsafe to visit, and we know there is a possibility that even by 2023 it may not be safe to travel to some of the locations on our itinerary, although hopefully that possibility will be very small by then. We may have to make changes to the itinerary before we go, but overall we think that waiting longer to start traveling again, staying vaccinated (with boosters if necessary), and being careful overall will mean we’ll be able to become full-time nomads again.

So what’s our Plan B if the Big Adventure Part II isn’t possible? If full-time international travel isn’t possible? We’ve come up with a very simple plan if that’s the case: We’ll still become nomads, but will travel to the west coast on the mainland, buy a car (most likely used), and then travel around the U.S. for a while. We’ll do month-long stays in cities throughout the country with a goal of staying in smaller places versus big metropolitan areas, getting to know both the cities and what’s in the area around them. We’ll make an effort to visit national parks along the way, and other places of interest as well. We would still plan a yearly visit to Japan, storing the car during that time, but then picking up our travels again upon return to the U.S.

We’ve also come up with a Plan C if things get really bad: we’ll settle down somewhere. We’ve made a decision about where we want to park ourselves whenever we decide to stop traveling full time. It’s not perfect (no place is), but the location offers most of what we’re looking for in a permanent location. Hopefully that won’t have to happen though for a few more years.

Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C : we don’t leave home without them!

Home Cooking: Individual Mini Pizzas

Once a week our dinner is mini pizzas, one each. They’re easy to make, taste delicious, never top 300 calories, and best of all, often use up leftovers and other odds and ends out of the fridge. We love traditional pizza (it’s my all-time favorite food), but enjoying a mini-pizza once a week allows us to indulge without overeating or overspending.

What goes on our pizzas each week is only limited by our imaginations and what we have on hand. I often start at the beginning of the week thinking, “well, maybe we’ll just have cheese pizzas this week,” but by the end of the week I’ve almost always figured out other things that can be added to create something tasty.

Every pizza starts with a Stonefire mini naan bread (Indian flatbread) for the crust. They work well as because they can safely hold the toppings and the edges and bottoms crisp up nicely but still have= a nicely chewy middle. The size is perfect for one person. We buy the mini naan breads at Costco, but I’ve seen them in stores everywhere.

In my opinion, there are no limits when it comes to creating a pizza – all it take is imagination. We love a pepperoni pizza as much as the next person, but we also love to experiment and cheeseburger ingredients, pesto & feta, barbecue chicken, or seafood are equally as good as any of the traditional standards. I like that with mini pizzas they can be custom made for each diner.

Below are some of the sauces and toppings we’ve used over the years:

Sauces:

  • Traditional pizza sauce or tomato sauce
  • Pesto
  • Alfredo sauce
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Salsa
  • Enchilada sauce
  • Spicy peanut sauce
  • Hoisin sauce
  • Steak sauce

Toppings:

  • Leftover meat, including grilled or roasted chicken; steak; pork chops; ground beef, pork, or lamb; or grilled fish or shrimp.
  • Any kind of sausage, from chicken to breakfast to Italian
  • Pepperoni (of course!) or salami
  • Bacon or ham
  • Roasted vegetables of any kind
  • Fresh vegetables of any kind, diced or very thinly sliced
  • Dill pickles
  • Chopped herbs

Cheeses:

  • Mozzarella, either shredded or fresh
  • Marinated mozzarella balls
  • Shredded cheddar or smoked gouda
  • Feta crumbles
  • Brie
  • Blue cheese

To create a pizzas, we let our imagination soar! Each pizza starts with a thin layer of sauce on the naan bread, layer on the toppings, and finish with some cheese in combinations that works for us. I’m careful about not going overboard on the sauce which only results in soggy pizza, cutting the toppings into small pieces or slicing them thinly. Finally, the pizzas are topped with cheese, placed on a baking pan, and baked in a preheated 425 degree oven. I know they’re done when the cheese is melted nicely and the edge of the naan bread is browned and crisp. The pizzas are cooled for at least two minutes before we eat them so we don’t burn our mouths.

Putting together some Thai chicken pizzas: 1) spread about 1 TBSP spicy peanut sauce on each naan bread; 2) top with some shredded carrot, diced onion, and diced cooked chicken; 3) then add some chopped peanuts and coarsely chopped cilantro; 4) and finally sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of grated mozzarella cheese. Bake at 425 degrees until the cheese is melted and the outer rim of the naan bread is browned and crisp.

Below are a couple of other favorites – I love when I have everything on hand to make them:

  • Barbecue chicken: Barbecue sauce; shredded barbecue chicken; diced red onion; chopped cilantro; shredded smoked gouda cheese
  • Cheeseburger: Traditional pizza sauce; cooked, crumbled ground beef; diced tomatoes; diced dill pickle; diced red onion; shredded sharp cheddar cheese.

Simple Living or Frugal Living?

(photo credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash)

A couple of days ago I was remembering an old friend in Portland, someone I considered to be quite frugal. One of her many skills was finding and buying bulk food deals for her family (four children) and I recalled her telling someone that she kept three freezers full of all her frugal finds.

Three freezers? I remember thinking at the time that there was no way I would want to manage or keep track of three freezers full of food, which was w-a-y more complication than I needed or wanted to take on in our similarly-sized family’s quest to live more frugally.

That got me thinking again about frugal living versus simple living. What am I trying to accomplish now? Which is more important to me these days?

Although frugality and simplicity make a good match, living frugally does not always equal living simply. For example, even if I only shopped at Goodwill, other thrift stores, or yard sales, if I bought a lot of stuff and brought it home, that wouldn’t be living simply although it saved me some money over buying new. I’d still end up with more stuff that I have to track and maintain. If I drove all over town to get the best deal with coupons, that would use both time and gasoline in the pursuit of saving a few dollars. In my life, maintaining a closet full of clothes, keeping track of a lot of food, or taking the time to drive all over town are complicated undertakings, and there are plenty of other things I’d rather be doing.

My definition of simple living is doing more with less. This does not mean not looking for the best prices, having reserves or buying extra when something is on sale, or enjoying the hunt at a thrift store or yard sale. It means setting limits that work for us. Being frugal for frugality’s sake isn’t an end in itself. Frugality means that Brett and I continue to learn how to do things better with less.

We remain a work in progress. One freezer full of food along with a well-stocked pantry would be more than enough for us, too much actually, these days. I like knowing what we have without having to resort to spreadsheets or calendars in order to use what’s on hand in a timely manner. We have enough clothes. We have much less furniture than we did three years ago, and it’s more than plenty for the two of us. Less means it’s simpler these day to keep our house clean, open, and light.

More than anything else we’ve done, being able to cut back on not just possessions but on the time we spend acquiring possessions (including food) has allowed us to focus more on saving and as well as doing a better job of saving. It’s frankly been liberating, and helped both Brett and I get to the core of what we need to feel secure, content and even happy.

Just becoming more frugal wasn’t the answer for us because frugal living didn’t necessarily equal simple living, and that has turned out to be our ultimate goal: A simple life.

What simple living means to me or our family might either be too complicated or too bare-bones for someone else. Everyone has their own “sweet spot.” For my friend, that meant having three freezers full of food. For me, it has meant not only spending within our means, but having more time to do the things we enjoy, and not feel burdened by the need to always be in search of the best deal or “have it all.”

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (4/18-4/24)

Do you consider yourself a creative cook or someone who cooks “by the book;” that is, follows recipes to the letter? I think I’m probably more of the latter, although I do like to change things now and again to suit our tastes. I am always searching out new recipes, and love coming across ones that fit the way we like to eat, with lots of flavor, low or healthy fats, and not too difficult to prepare. I don’t mind spending time in the kitchen, but I don’t want to be in there for hours. I will try a new recipe once, and if we like the result we’ll stick with it. If not, it’s either set aside or I get creative and figure out a way to make a recipe fit our preferences.

A big issue for me these days is whether a recipe requires special, and often expensive, ingredients. This past week I came across a yummy recipe from Padma Lakshmi for a carrot, chili, and cilantro salad that I knew we would love, but the dressing contains two ingredients that would have to be special ordered: orange oil and za’atar, a middle-eastern spice. According to Padma, the orange oil could be eliminated (as there’s only 1/4 teaspoon in the recipe), but it “really made the dish” and a small bottle of the oil “would last us for five years.” The za’atar, however, was non-negotiable. This is my dilemma: should I buy the semi-expensive ingredients and hope we like the salad enough to use them more than once, or do I let the recipe go. In the past I wouldn’t have hesitated to buy the oil and the za’atar, but when we left Kaua’i in 2108 I remember being troubled by all the spices and ingredients in our cupboards that I had bought and used only once or twice. I’m really torn though as this salad sounds amazing.

Our dinners this past week don’t look all that imaginative to me, but they did use what we had on hand and what we bought on our shopping trip this past week, and all of them fit our brief for a healthy meal. Coming up with the ideas for the coming week was difficult though as we’re not shopping until Friday. I had a lot of ideas for meals, but then realized nothing I needed was on hand. Anyway, below is what we ate for dinner last week:

Sunday: Ham; roasted butternut squash; green beans

Monday: Grilled teriyaki chicken; zoru soba; coleslaw with wasabi dressing

Tuesday: Pepperjack cheeseburgers; three bean salad

Wednesday: Meatloaf; mashed potatoes; green beans

Thursday: Stir-fried vegetables with coconut curry sauce; grilled chicken; steamed rice

Friday: Thai chicken mini pizzas

Saturday: Meatloaf & mashed potatoes redux; roasted zucchini

Here’s what’s planned for dinner next week:

  • Grilled ham & cheese sandwiches with roasted red pepper & tomato soup (bumped from last week)
  • Chicken & apple sausages with green beans
  • Pork & rice burritos
  • Noodles with Thai peanut sauce
  • Chicken tikka masala
  • Mini pizzas
  • Breakfast for dinner (sausage & eggs)

Last week we had two chances for taking our walks in other locations besides the park. Monday’s weather was glorious, so we packed a picnic and drove over to Barking Sands (PMRF) base to not only spend some time at the beach, but also walk the Waiokapua Trail. The trail is one mile each way out and back, and we planned to walk it twice (four miles total) before eating our lunch and then heading onto the beach.

The views were lovely out on the trail, but Brett and I were not as well prepared as we should have been for the intensity of the sun once we got out there (there’s very little shade on the trail). I became overheated on the way back, and even though I was drinking water the whole time I started to get dehydrated, and was dizzy and weak by the time we returned to the starting point. Both Brett and I were also sunburned although we had applied sunscreen before starting out, so we made a command decision to skip the second round, and instead sat in one of the shaded huts to eat our lunch and recover, and then headed down to the beach to sit under our umbrella and enjoy the cooler breezes there. We still got in a good two mile hike, and relearned some lessons about walking in direct sunshine on a hot day, and how much water that requires.

I had a hair appointment up in Kapaa on Wednesday afternoon, so following Brett’s birthday breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe in Lihue we drove up to Kapaa to get in a couple of miles on the beach path before heading to the salon. The weather as we headed out was lovely, with blue skies and a cool breeze. However, by the time we reached our turnaround point, clouds had rolled in bringing some oppressive humidity along with them (rain had been forecast). We were able to climb down to the water at the turnaround to check out the driftwood and look at some weird lava formations, one which looked like a giant animal’s footprint. The walk back to our car was miserable, hot and humid, and I arrived at my appointment a dripping, sweaty mess. Yuck.

Other than Tuesday, we spent the rest of the week walking up at the park, averaging over four miles each day. It rained all day Tuesday but we got in over two miles pushing carts through Costco and Walmart.

I may have shown up at the salon looking like a hot mess last Wednesday, but my stylist made my day when she told me, “I honestly did not recognize you when you walked in because you look so different now, even from when you were here seven weeks ago.” According to the scale I haven’t lost any weight for ages – I’ve stayed within the same half-pound range – but things are continuing to change as I build muscle and lose fat. I think the best side effect I’ve experienced from my weight lost and walking is that I sleep so soundly these days. Brett used to always wake up before me, but I’m now getting up before him a few days every week, feeling rested and ready to go. I can’t remember the last time I’ve woken up in the middle of the night, or had a round of insomnia. Sleeping well is so important, and this is a welcome side effect from our walks.

Sunday Morning 4/25/2021: Another Week of Good Things

We had beautiful sunset following Tuesday’s storms . . .

… and last night we thought we were in for a real treat. However, three minutes after this shot it started breaking up, and a couple of minutes after the picture below was taken the winds picked up, dark clouds filled the sky, and it started raining!

Good Morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

We went to the beach! We drove over to Barking Sands last Monday and enjoyed perhaps the most perfect beach day we’ve had in I don’t know how long. We stopped at the commissary on our way in and picked up some cold drinks, then hiked the Waiokapua Trail and back (and got overheated) before sitting down and enjoying the picnic we had brought along. Afterwards, Brett put up our umbrella and we sat out on the beach to read and enjoy the the view for another couple of hours. To make things even better we also had the entire beach to ourselves the whole time we were there! We’re hoping for another beach day again this week, although this time we’ll probably go to Salt Pond, which is closer. With visitors arriving in large numbers every day, Poipu beaches are no longer an option for us.

Our stimulus payment arrived on Wednesday, but not before I had trouble falling asleep on Tuesday wondering if it had been lost and what we would have to go through if it had. And, we got a bit of a surprise because it came in the form of a debit card versus a check, something we definitely were not expecting. We first felt a little stunned – “a debit card?” – but after some reading figured out we could download the entire amount directly into our bank account – easy peasy. Two-thirds of the amount will go into our savings account, and one-third will go into YaYu’s account to help cover college expenses in the fall. After nearly four weeks of waiting, debit card or not, it is a relief to have that money in our account.

It was very noticeable that tourists have come back when we went up to Kapaa last week – traffic was heavy once again and we crawled through Kapaa to get to the beach path and the hair salon. It’s only going to get worse too as we get nearer to summer. I felt glad for a couple of things though as we sat in traffic that day: 1) that we no longer live in Kapaa and have to deal with traffic any more when going to and from shopping, medical appointments, etc. and 2) that we had this past year to experience life here without crowds of tourists everywhere. Visitors to Kaua’i are what support our local and state economy, and they are very welcome, but everything seems to be moving at a quicker pace once again, the traffic grows worse every week, and shelves in stores seem to be empty more often.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: Choosing to read mysteries, etc. this year is turning out to be a very good (and fun) decision. I have enjoyed everything I’ve read so far, am finding all sorts of new books and authors, and am super pleased with my progress as well as I’m nearly at the half-way point of my goal of reading 52 books this year, and it’s only April! I finished another book this past week, Dead Scared, by Sharon Bolton (second book in the Lacey Flint series), a real page turner, and am nearly two-thirds of the way though with another book, Sun Storm by Asa Larsson. When that’s done I will begin reading both Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and The Trauma Cleaner, by Sarah Krasnostein. The Trauma Cleaner is non-fiction, about a person in Australia whose business is cleaning up after violent crimes, suicides, and so forth.
  • Listening to: Right now I’m listening to it pouring rain outside along with a strong wind, which is practically blowing the rain sideways. At least it’s warm enough that the French doors can be open – the air is nice and cool. Brett’s in the kitchen making his breakfast – I can hear him chopping up an apple – and he’s finishing the coffee. Another nice quiet morning inside, another drippy morning outside! I’ve got my fingers crossed that the rain blows through and some nicer weather blows in.
  • Watching: Brett and I are still watching DCI Bates, with four more seasons to go. The stories are getting better, but they still seem to do a lot of yelling. The actress that played Doc Martin’s wife has joined the cast – she’s fun to watch. The finals are now underway for the latest season on the Great British Menu, and my favorite chef has made it second time in a row, and I am hopeful he will be chosen to cook for the banquet again. There have been too few standouts this season otherwise (in my opinion) and I’m ready to see what the next season brings. The show remains a lot of fun to watch nonetheless.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Once again, there were no big accomplishments last week, but everything that needed to be done got done and that’s good enough for me!
  • Looking forward to next week: And, we have nothing on the calendar once again, so all we’re looking forward to is hopefully another beach day.

Brett and I both enjoyed Tip Top Cafe’s banana pancakes at his birthday breakfast, and they were as wonderful as ever, the fluffiest pancakes we’ve ever eaten. The restaurant maintains social distancing which meant the line was still long late into the morning.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: We again had lots of good things happen this past week, including a fantastic beach day and a hike at Barking Sand on Monday; finally going back to the Tip Top Cafe for Brett’s birthday breakfast on Wednesday – their pancakes are, if anything, better than ever; getting my hair cut and taking a nice walk on the beach path that day, and finding some more driftwood. We have been collecting pieces for a while (we use it in our fire pit), and since I seem unable to keep much of anything alive inside the apartment, I’ve been trying to create an arrangement with some of the driftwood. I was thrilled this past week to see that Mavis has done something similar at her home in Maine and it looks beautiful (ours is currently a work in progress though). The gardenia blossoms are opening and because the bush is located just outside our bedroom window we are getting the full, aromatic benefit of them as we fall asleep. We also had a long video conversation with our grandkids the other day and got all caught up. It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since we’ve seen them and my be over a year before we see them again. They’ve both grown up so much, and so quickly.
Our driftwood arrangement is a work in progress. It’s lacking one more tall(er) piece, and then some pieces to fill in around the bottom.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This was a pretty typical frugal week for us on top of getting our stimulus, which went right into our savings account. We did a small food shopping on Tuesday (Costco, Walmart, and Times Market) and with some effort stayed under what we had budgeted. We’ll be doing a bigger shop next week and I’m already working on the list for that. We put $11.70 into our change/$1 bill bag last week, leftover from food shopping and a quick stop at the farm stand. I earned 2,138 Swagbucks last week and it looks like I will be able to end the month 5,000 SB ahead of the goal I gave myself for the month. Leftovers have been eaten, and nothing was thrown out this past week.
  • Grateful for: We are very, very thankful for this latest stimulus payment, especially that there were funds this time for YaYu to help with her college expenses next year, her final year at BMC. We have been contributing as much as we can, but it’s taken a real effort to make sure all her costs are covered and the stimulus will give us all a big boost. We’re thankful to be able to save our part of the stimulus payment this time, providing a real boost to our savings as we work to build it up again.
  • Bonus question: You’re handed a round trip plane ticket to anywhere in the world for a weekend and $1000 cash. The catch? You have to go alone, right then & there with only whatever you have on hand. Do you go? Where would you go? Would I go? Does an accordion player wear a pinky ring? Of course! Where would I go? Japan would be one destination, to see our son, DIL and grandkids again even if it’s just for a weekend and the flight is long – it’s been too long. The jet lag wouldn’t have time to catch up with me until I got home! I could stretch $1000 pretty far there for things I need (a few extra pieces of clothing and other supplies from the navy exchange, for example), especially if I stay with M & M. I’d be equally happy with heading back to Boston to see Meiling and WenYu. They could help me find extra clothing and supplies with lots left over to make sure we had a great time together. I honestly wish this was a real challenge, although I know I would miss having Brett along and would feel a bit guilty for traveling without him (although I know he would not be up for such a short trip and turnaround).

This week’s blooms: Hibiscus along the eastside beach path, and gardenias in bloom in our yard.

When we moved here in 2014, I told my mom that I wished we could bring her along. She would have loved it here, especially the variety of beautiful and interesting plants and flowers on the island, and how many of her favorites can be found all over and grow all year versus seasonally. Mom was a botany major in college, and to the end of her life stayed interested in plants, and had a real skill in making things grow and reviving plants that you didn’t think would or could make it. I would have loved taking her on walks and drives to see all that grows here, and I’m pretty sure she would have gotten a kick out of the farmers’ markets as well and the variety of produce that’s available year-round. I think of Mom every time I stop to snap a picture of plants and flowers here.

That’s all for this week – it was another good one. I hope the week was great for everyone, and that all are looking forward to the one coming up as much as we are.

First Draft: An Itinerary For the Next Big Adventure

It’s taken a few weeks, but we’ve put together what we think is a good plan for two years of travel! We started off thinking we would figure out a year’s worth but somehow we just got going and couldn’t stop at a year.

I’m sort of happy we did this because it gives me lots of think about when it comes to planning and how much we should save in advance. There’s a big splurge in the second year which will require extra advance saving, but now that we know we’re better prepared to work on a monthly budget for that.

Before we started putting together an itinerary, we set three simple ground rules:

  • A minimum of 30 days in each location
  • Include at least one “long weekend” or getaway to a nearby location (around four or five days)
  • Ninety days in Japan each year
  • Special attention given to the weather and time of year; i.e., other than going to New England in December to spend Christmas with our daughters, no northern visits in the winter, no southern visits in the summer, and so forth.

Locations we have not visited yet were the priority, but there are some return visits. We also wanted the order we traveled to make some kind of geographical sense with not too many long flights in between.

After much deliberation and back and forth, here’s the first draft of an itinerary for the next Big Adventure. We’re pretty sure some things will change as we move closer to 2023, both because of costs and because lots can happen during two years that we have no way of knowing now.

photo credit: Danae Dal Bianco/Unsplash

We’ll start with an month-long stay on the island of Crete in Greece, with a long weekend in Athens and possibly a trip to Santorini.

photo credit: Fatih Yurur/Unsplash

From Greece we’ll head to Istanbul, a place both of us have longed to visit.

photo credit: Julia Solonina/Unsplash

Instead of returning to Rome, we’ve decided we would rather go north and spend a month in Verona, with easy access to Venice, Vincenza, Padua, and Milan.

photo credit: ERROR 420/Unsplash

Next is Western Germany. We wanted to stay in Amsterdam for a month, but lodging is very expensive there so instead we’ll make Amsterdam a long weekend visit. We’re thinking of staying in either Cologne or the area around Frankfurt so we can also go back to Strasbourg for a few days.

photo credit: Candy Good/Unsplash

We’re heading back to the UK after Germany, for just 30 days this time. We can’t decide whether to return to the Cotswolds or instead stay in Derbyshire, but it’s looking like the Cotswolds may be too expensive for a month’s stay (last time Airbnb covered the cost). We plan to rent a car this time, so a trip back to Blockley for a long weekend would be doable from Derbyshire and probably more affordable. We also want to add on a week in London at the end of our stay to see the things we missed before. After nearly missing our flight out of London in 2019, we want to make sure as well this next time we’re already in London before our flight!

England will be followed by a 90-day stay in Tokyo. We hope to find lodging this time nearer to our son’s new home but there currently don’t appear to be any affordable rentals in the area. Sangenjaya, the neighborhood where we stayed before and love, would not be as convenient as before but still doable. There are nonstop flights from London to Tokyo, and this will be where our air miles will come in handy, to upgrade to comfortable seats for the long flight(s).

photo credit: Clifford/Unsplash

If all goes as plans we will leave Japan in mid-December, and head back to New England for a month to spend the Christmas and the New Year’s holiday with our daughters, and re-provision before setting out again. Japan to the east coast of the U.S. will be another long journey, but we are already thinking that unless we find a fantastic fare to Boston we will break up the trip with a short stay in Portland so we can get together again with friends.

At the beginning of 2024 we want to return to Buenos Aires, not only because of a strong desire to experience more of the city, but because it will be summer there! We would like to visit Iguazu Falls this time, if possible, so that’s one idea for a long weekend getaway. We missed seeing Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay on our last visit, another great getaway (it’s just across the river, and a World Heritage site), or maybe spending a few days in Tigre, a natural area on the northside of Buenos Aires. Tierra del Fuego would make a wonderful long weekend visit as well.

photo credit: Miranda Garside/Unsplash

Following Argentine our destination will be Mexico for 60 days, spending the first month exploring Mexico City, and the second in San Miguel de Allende, which would have been our destination following Japan in 2020.

photo credit: Scott Walsh/Unsplash

Leaving Mexico, we will head north again, this time to Canada! Our idea is to spend 30 days somewhere in the Maritimes, 30 days in Montreal, and finish with 30 days in Vancouver. We would rent a car during our stay in the Maritimes but otherwise rely on public transportation in the other two cities.

photo credit: Ondrej Machart/Unsplash

Another l-o-n-g journey awaits us when we leave Canada because we want to head back to Australia for 60 days! We will break our 30-day rule here as there’s several things we’d like to do, and this is probably the last time we’ll go to Australia. We’ll start with a week in Sydney, then travel to Adelaide in South Australia for a 30 day stay. The train made a stop in Adelaide on the way to Sydney during our last visit and we were enchanted by what we saw. At the end of our stay we’ll board The Ghan for hopefully 10 days of travel through the center of the country, with stops in Alice Springs and overnight visits to Uluru and other sites in the outback, and finishing the journey with a short stay in Darwin. Afterwards we’d like to visit my brother and other family in Queensland. A train journey tour package would be our only big “splurge” this time around.

Then it’s back to Tokyo for another 90 day fall stay. While we love seeing the cherry blossoms, the changing leaves, autumn foods, and the chance to celebrate our son’s and granddaughter’s birthday make the fall a great time for us to be there.

We’ll end 2024 with another stay in New England for the holidays.

After coming up with that itinerary, we decided it was time to stop although we have some ideas of where to go after that. There are so many places we want to visit but those can wait until later!

Home Cooking: Hot Milk Cake

I love, love, love recipes that don’t require me to buy special or extra ingredients, ones that allow me to use only pantry stapes in order to create something delicious.

Although the recipe was created earlier, the modest hot milk cake became a popular recipe during the depression, where people stretched what they had to create meals and treats for special occasions. The recipe contains just eight basic ingredients, all of them things most people kept (and still keep) regularly in their pantries; used up the last of milk that might go bad or milk that was beginning to sour so that nothing was wasted.

There are also loads of ways to vary the cake as well. The recipe is great for baking over pineapple slices or canned apricot halves for an upside down cake. A quarter cup of cocoa power can be added to the scalded milk for a chocolate cake. Almond, orange, or lemon extracts can be substituted for the vanilla to change the flavor, with toasted almonds sprinkled on top with almond extract, and orange or lemon zest added to the batter for additional flavor.

The traditional (and frugal) topping for a hot milk cake is powdered sugar, but it can also be frosted or glazed. The amount of sugar added to the cake can be reduced as much as half if you plan to add frosting so the cake isn’t overly sweet. The batter can be baked in a Bundt, loaf, 9″ x 13″ pan depending on your mood or what you have.

No matter how you choose to make a hot milk cake, it’s practically foolproof. When I baked my cake I had less than the full amount of flour called for (I was missing about three tablespoons), and my milk boiled over as well because I wasn’t paying close enough attention so that was a little short as well. In spite of these errors, the cake still came out perfectly light and fluffy. Also, I’ve seen recipes calling for just one teaspoon of vanilla, but I highly recommend adding two – you won’t regret it!

HOT MILK CAKE

  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup milk (whole milk is best)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside

In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs on medium speed for at least two minutes, until they are pale yellow and frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla.

Mix the flour mixture into the eggs and beat until smooth.

Place the milk in a small saucepan. Cut the butter into large pieces and add to the milk, then warm over medium heat until the milk just boils (watch the milk carefully so it doesn’t boil over).

Blend the hot milk and melted butter into the egg and flour mixture, then pour the batter into a well-buttered pan (it will be thin). Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 9×13 pan, 40 minutes in a Bundt pan.

Let a 9″ x 13″ cake cool in the pan; with a Bundt pan cool for 15 minutes then invert on to a plate. When the cake is completely cooled, dust with powdered sugar (or frost or glaze).

On Being a Nomad

One of the joys of being retired is that I have the time and luxury of thinking deeply about things. It’s not that I didn’t think about things before, but I have the time now to stop in the middle of the day to relax, empty my mind and focus on something without feeling rushed or pressured.

Lately I’ve been thinking quite a bit about why I feel such joy whenever I think about us becoming nomads again. Why, beyond seeing new places, and having new experiences, did it make us so happy before? It certainly wasn’t a perfect lifestyle, by any stretch of the imagination, and yet it was a very good fit for us.

Brett and I have always been “restless people,” probably stemming from our time in the navy where we moved every two and a half years or so. Although the parameters of Brett’s job basically remained the same, moving to a new location was always an adventure, especially since we knew it wasn’t permanent. We had a limited time to explore the areas we lived in, try new foods, and get to know about the place. There were some locations we enjoyed more than others, but on the whole we always found something to like about every place we lived, whether that was the central valley of California, southern Maryland, Key West, or Japan.

When I think about embracing a nomadic life once again, I realize that the aspects we liked about of our previous semi-nomadic navy life are what continue to appeal to us now.

Our nomadic life cost less. During our navy days we had to live within our means, and live minimally because the navy was only going to do a certain amount for us; there were always limits imposed. Any purchase, from groceries to household items, had to be carefully weighed against a fixed income, and we learned not to accumulate things because of household goods weight limits when it was time to move. Those skills were put to good use when we traveled, especially living within our means and not accumulating more than would fit into our suitcases (as well as keeping them under a set weight limit). The goal was always to get all we could from and make the most of what we had.

Being a nomad meant freedom from things. We were tied only to what we could carry in our suitcases. Returning to a settled life has made us realize we no longer enjoy owning a lot of things. We also liked being free from the chores and maintenance of home ownership or even renting when we were on the road, and from things like utility payments. Yes, we had to pay for our lodgings, but utilities and maintenance were included and we always tried to choose places where the furnishings and decor fit our preferences. We still kept our lodgings clean and tidy wherever we were, fixed or repaired on our own what we could as necessary, but the burdens and responsibilities of ownership belonged to someone else.

A life on the road allowed us to experience the world in all its beauty . . . and ugliness. Meeting new and different people and experiencing a variety of cultures was an obvious benefit, but seeing both the good and the bad, from stunning architectural, historical wonders, and eating mouthwatering foods, to oppressive poverty, urban ugliness, and extremely crowded conditions went a long way toward helping us to reassess and balance our world views. We were always grateful for the chances we were given to see life through a different lens than our own, even if we sometimes felt we were taking and not giving back.

Even as seniors, our nomadic life strengthened character. Things went wrong and weren’t perfect. Our lodging sometimes wasn’t what we expected, or transportation fell apart. We got sick. The pandemic had us making decisions and changes without a lot of time for thought. However, having to leave the safe bubble of American life and our comfort zone gave us loads of opportunities learn what we were capable of. We sometimes had to push ourselves to new extremes to accomplish goals or get where we needed to be under less than idea circumstances, but the hard parts made the good ones so much better.

We off course missed family and friends while we traveled, but technology kept us connected, and we found we worked harder at making sure we did get together once or twice a year, or in the case of our son and family in Japan, for longer stays than we would have otherwise been able to do. Since we’ve settled back on Kaua’i, we’ve come to see that it was actually easier for us to arrange reunions when we were on the road than it is now that we’re located very far away from everyone.

The best part of being a nomad is that travel changes us; we are never again who we were before we set out. That’s what excites us and brings us joy: we still want to continue to grow and learn about the world and travel provides that for us and more. We’re still not ready to settle down and accumulate all the stuff that goes along with living in one place. Instead, we’re looking forward to embracing the nomadic life once again and whatever it brings us, challenges and all.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (4/11-4/17)

While I think we eat a good variety of dishes at lunch at dinner, I feel like I’m in a real rut these days when it comes to breakfast. I pretty much stick to four breakfast meals: yogurt with either blueberries or fresh papaya and a sprinkle of locally-made granola; avocado toast, often with a poached egg; pancakes with jam or lilikoi curd; or a poached egg on toast, maybe with a slice of bacon or a breakfast sausage. Occasionally I’ll eat leftovers (I ate chicken soup for breakfast one day this past week), but those are usually saved for lunch. I like all of my standard breakfasts, they’re all filling, but lately I’ve been craving something different and new.

I’d love to hear what you eat for breakfast and need some new ideas! Carbohydrates are OK, including fruit, but I do require some protein. If not, I seem to get hungry in a couple of hours and then have a long wait until lunch (pancakes are filling though). I have time to cook in the mornings, but don’t want to make a lot because Brett typically wants oatmeal for his breakfast. Calories do count, but nothing is off the table as for what can be eaten for breakfast as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s what we ate for dinner this past week:

Sunday: Chicken & vegetable soup with rice

Monday: Egg roll in a bowl

Tuesday: Barbecue pulled pork mini pizzas with red pepper and onions

Wednesday: Zucchini frittata and chicken & apple sausages

Thursday: Mississippi pot roast, mashed potatoes, and broccoli

Friday: Spaghetti with meat sauce; green beans

Saturday: French dip sandwiches; 3-bean salad

Our dessert all last week was devil’s food cake with orange buttercream frosting, but I’ve made a hot milk cake that we’ll start tonight.

Here’s next week’s menu plan:

  • Ham with roasted butternut squash
  • Meatloaf and mashed potatoes (2 nights)
  • Mini pizzas
  • Grilled teriyaki chicken with zaru soba
  • Cheeseburgers
  • Grilled ham & cheese sandwiches with roasted red pepper & tomato soup
When we walk the golf course perimeter we have to climb down in and then back out of this hole that we call “The Crater.” The walls are quite steep but it fortunately doesn’t take too long.

Brett is back up to full speed and it was great to be walking together once again this past week. The good weather at the beginning of the week made for some great walking, and for two days in a row we were able to walk the golf course perimeter. We tried for a third day, but were stopped because the manager had let an older, slower couple tee off after closing time. We got rained out after a couple of laps on Thursday, and skipped Friday because of sketchy weather, but Saturday was lovely. We’re looking forward to walking on the eastside beach path this week and maybe on the path at Barking Sands as well.

Built in 1924, the Pavilion sits at end of elevated point in the park. We walk out and around the Pavilion at least twice every day (one trip around and back is .8 miles). There’s almost always something going on there on the weekends: weddings, birthday parties, showers, or other celebrations.
The view from the Pavilion.

Although walking this past year has provided mostly benefits, there have been some negatives, although those have diminished since I got my new shoes. Over the past year I’ve built up new calluses, bruised one of my big toes, and developed more than a few blisters. Leukotape has become my very good friend! My feet are in much better shape than they were before the bunion surgeries I had done in 2013 (and I doubt I would be able to walk as much if I hadn’t had the surgeries done), but I’m long overdue for a good pedicure. I haven’t had one in over a year, although I have done the best I could on my own to keep my feet in good shape. One additional benefit I never saw coming from all the walking has been the improved circulation in my legs, and residual swelling left over from a fall in Auckland in February of 2019 has almost completely disappeared.

I can’t remember the last time I lost any weight, but I’m not gaining either so I am just going to hang in there. One of these days I’ll get those last six pounds off!

Sunday Morning 4/18/2021: Good Things Happening All Week

We enjoyed pretty skies most evenings this week.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Lots and lots of good things happened this past week, but the best was YaYu learning that the research project she was hired for at the college has received full funding, and that she will be getting paid enough to support herself back in Pennsylvania for the summer. We are beyond excited for her because a) she will be getting paid enough to support herself, and b) research experience is required for admission into graduate programs in her field, and she will begin applying to those in the fall. She has mapped out what she needs to do in the future to accomplish her goals, and that includes attending graduate school and earning a Ph.D., and plans to continue and go straight through for that following her graduation from Bryn Mawr. We’re so proud of this girl!

On Wednesday morning we visited Ned’s farm stand in Kalaheo for the first time, recommended last week by Jane (who lives nearby). He had a nice selection of produce, although not everything we were looking for, but his prices were good and we will be returning in the future rather than dealing with all the visitors that are back at the weekly Kukui’ula market. Some of our favorite farmers sell at the market, but it was growing more and more unpleasant dealing with increasingly pushy customers and the lack of social distancing. After our visit to the farm stand we headed west to Hanapepe to drop off some clothes and finally check out the big resale store there. Although it’s called the Habitat for Humanity Re-store, the center is about one-third traditional thrift store with the other two-thirds building supplies. We had fun walking around the store – they did have some very nice stuff – and found a pair of Tori Richard shorts for Brett in the color he wanted for $6 (new pairs of Tori Richard shorts go for around $100 and up). I found a cute woman’s sleeveless aloha shirt with vintage coconut shell buttons that fit perfectly, but then discovered several stains down the front that we weren’t sure we could get out. Boo hoo! We also found a great little Chinese cookbook in like-new condition for $1 that we’ll put away for YaYu. On the way back home we stopped at Big Save in Eleele, where we picked up some Hawaii-grown green beans, broccoli, and butternut squash to give us enough vegetables for the week.

It was clear enough last Monday afternoon that we could see the tops of the mountains over on Oahu from Kukuiolono Park. I’d love to see as much as is shown in this picture, but I’m not a morning person.

The weather this week has been a vast improvement of what we’ve been experiencing since the first of the year. The first few days of the week were absolutely gorgeous, with blue skies, warmer temperatures, and soft breezes from the trade winds. We really should have headed to the beach as things started getting sketchy again on Thursday. Friday was just sort of meh though and couldn’t seem to make up its mind about what kind of day it wanted to be. I can’t get over these days how much my mood and sense of well-being improves when the sun comes out – I’ve had enough of clouds and cool temperatures! We got our first ripe guavas off the tree this week, and Brett added a couple to his morning oatmeal one day – they made the whole apartment smell so good. Our fingers are crossed for another good harvest this year so we can make another batch or two of guava jam for the year.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished both Moonstone Murders and Started Early, Took My Dog (I greatly enjoyed both), and the day before I finished Home Before Dark, by Riley Sager, became available for download from the library! It’s very eerie, and I’m hoping the answer to what’s been going on will have a logical explanation.
  • Listening to: Brett got up ahead of me this morning for a change and is making coffee and putting last night’s dishes away. We haven’t opened the windows or doors yet as there a fairly stiff breeze blowing this morning (loudly at times) and know it will be better to do that a little later. I can’t tell yet what kind of day it’s going to be though – it looks almost overcast but I can also see plenty of blue sky and the sun is shining through now and again. I was awakened this morning by a bird singing right outside the window, but otherwise it’s a perfecty quiet Sunday morning, and quiet mornings are one of the best things about being retired.
  • Watching: There were only three episodes of Endeavour in the 2020 season so we finished that quickly, and then started DCI Banks, It’s OK but not the most gripping series we’ve ever watched. They all seem to yell a lot. It has several seasons though so maybe we’ll get more into it as it goes along. Great British Menu continues, but I’m still not feeling as engaged with or as excited about this season as the previous two although a couple of chefs that I enjoy watching are back again and doing well. I also watched (streamed online) Frontline: American Insurrection, covering militias and other white supremacist groups operating in the U.S., and their part in the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. The show was both enlightening and very scary.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Other than getting our Hawaii taxes filed there weren’t any big accomplishments, just the usual stuff. Federal taxes aren’t due until next month and since we have to pay this year we’ll wait until almost the last moment to send those off.
The Tip Top Cafe’s very yummy banana-macadamia nut pancakes – it’s been a while, but they’re worth waiting for.
  • Looking forward to next week: Brett’s 71st birthday is coming up this week and we’re both looking forward to breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe that morning (banana-macadamia pancakes – yum!). I also have a much-needed hair appointment that day, so after breakfast we’ll drive up to Kapaa to for that and then take a long walk on the eastside beach path before coming home. It’s also time this week for another food shopping trip, but we won’t be buying much because it’s such a short time until we go again, and we don’t need much. We’re hoping to fit in another beach day.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: With YaYu’s news, new places to get our produce, thrift store finds, fruit from our guava tree, seeing Oahu, and good weather, the only other good thing that could have happened this week was getting to the beach, but we should be able to go this week. We’d love to see our stimulus check arrive, but it’s still been somewhat early for that. Next week we can realistically start to anticipate its arrival.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We put $3.67 into the change/$1 bill bag this week, and I earned a whopping’ 2,544 Swagbucks. I’m right where I need to be to earn another $500 Delta card before the end of June. We had been planning to buy a new pair of shorts for Brett at Costco this week, but the shorts we found at the resale store saved us more than half of what we would have paid for new, and besides being in great condition they fit and look great. We ended up spending slightly less than $19 for our farm stand produce and the vegetables we picked up at Big Save, the same or less than we would have paid for similar items at the farmers’ market (and there would have been no butternut squash). We were very happy about that and will continue with those two places for produce going forward. And, after a slow start, the blog is bringing in income! It’s not a lot but a good start nonetheless. Thank you so much for continuing to read.
  • Grateful for: Although we plan to become full-time nomads again, Brett and I are both thankful for the many options we have come up with going forward, that for now we’re not locked into any one thing. We have a preferred path, but there are others we can take if for any reason our first choice doesn’t work out.
  • Bonus question: What’s your favorite ethnic “fast food?” Number one for me would be sushi. Most big supermarkets seem to have a sushi bar these days and it’s so easy to pick up a pack or two (usually inari sushi and/or kappamaki for me) for a quick and healthy lunch or dinner. I also love tacos, especially from food trucks or little stands – they’re inexpensive and always taste so good. My favorite style are tacos al pastor, second would be fish tacos, but I’ll eat just about anything in a taco other than tripe or other offal. I don’t know if it counts as “ethnic fast food” if you’re in the country of origin, but when we’re in Japan we love to eat karaage, Japanese fried chicken, especially bought just-fried from a stand, as well as other quick meals like takoyaki (octopus dumplings), yakisoba (grilled noodles), onigiri (seaweed wrapped rice balls) and the prepared Japanese meals from convenience stores. The quality there is very high, especially compared to the U.S. and Japanese fast food is very affordable compared to U.S. as well. We only eat sushi at restaurants there, never as fast food! Pushing the boundaries of “ethnic,” I wonder if Kauai’s Puka Dogs would count as ethnic fast food – we love the sausages stuffed into the special buns made with a hole along with the locally made relishes and sauces that go along with the sausage. They’re only found here on the island!

Lots of things are blooming in the yard right now, and buds are very close to opening on the gardenia bush. The yard is one of the best things about living in our apartment, and I appreciate it every day, whether that’s looking out the French doors in the living room, or sitting out on the deck. It provides a constant reminder that we live in beautiful Hawaii. The yard crew did their thing this past week so it’s looking especially nice right now, and we’re thankful we’re not responsible for the upkeep. Brett continues to take care of the koi, keeping them fed and the pond clean. The pond is located outside one of our bedroom windows, and sometimes late at night I hear one of them leaping up out of the water!

I hope last week was as good a week for everyone else as it was here. We’re looking forward to the week coming up now, hoping for more good things happening, and hope you are as well!