Taking Another Look At PLan B

With a new Covid variant, named Omicron, making its name known while concurrently remaining mysterious, Brett and I figured this might be a good time to take another look at our Plan B, or at least come up with a couple more Plan Bs, just in case.

Much remains unknown about the Omicron variant, but scientists are working hard at figuring it out, looking for patterns, how infectious it is, and for other factors. The variant’s numerous mutations are the major cause for concern, and it’s unknown whether these make the Omicron variant more transmissible. It’s unknown whether this new variant will be as deadly as previous variants, such as Delta, and resistant to the antibodies produced by previous vaccines and boosters as well. And, because it is spreading around the world, it’s unknown at this time how the variant might affect cross-border travel long term. The current travel bans in place offer only short-term solutions, but may slow things up enough to give scientists and doctors time to get a better handle on what this variant brings to the ongoing COVID pandemic and what needs to be done to fight it.

We’ve always had a Plan B whenever we make travel plans. Plan B for our upcoming travels was to buy a car and drive around the U.S. for a while staying in Airbnbs at each destination. However, this option no longer seems as fun or exciting as it once did, especially as we have been looking forward to being outside of the U.S. for a while. The plan could be adjusted in a myriad of ways; for example, we could rent a car for a few months versus buying, and then travel internationally when it’s viable again, but mostly it just doesn’t interest us much any more and would also require a lot of work to pin down the logistics.

A new Plan B is taking shape though. This one has us moving to our settle-down location, renting an apartment, and changing future travel plans from full-time to occasional. We learned a lot of valuable lessons on relocation during our abrupt move to Kaua’i in 2020, and there were (expensive) mistakes made then that we know how to avoid this time. We’re not particularly crazy about this idea either, but it would be the most practical.

Our feeling right now is that we’re going be able to travel as planned next May. We’ve been vaccinated and boostered, and even if the Omicron variant requires a new vaccine, pharmaceutical companies (Pfizer, Moderna, etc.) have said they can move into rapid development and roll out new ones in a short amount of time as much of the research needed in creating a new vaccine is already done. Most are already working on new vaccines/boosters for this variant. A bigger fear for us is getting started on our travels and then a destination we’re booked into will shut down or the border will be closed (we can deal with quarantines and mask mandates). We’ve always been very flexible and able to roll with the punches, but something like this happening would affect us financially, and not in a good way.

We’ve decided that now is not a time to be fearful, but to think positively, and have faith in science and in our plans for the future. No matter what happens, we will still be leaving Kaua’i in May of next year. There are many unknowns right now, and we’re preparing ourselves for the possibility that changes may be required but keeping positive thoughts for the future.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (11/21 – 11/27)

Except for the ziti casserole, all of last week’s meals included some kind of meat substitute. The reason for that was mostly to use up what was on hand in the freezer in order to make room for upcoming food purchases for our daughters’ visit. We bought a ham on our last shopping trip which will be used in three different meals (the girls LOVE ham), but I still need to get ground pork, a pot roast, ground beef, and maybe some chicken. We will be purchasing meat from Big Save this time as we don’t need or wants the amounts that would come from Costco.

We have enjoyed all the meat substitutes we’ve tried these past few months. They taste good, they’re easy to prepare, and it can be hard at times to tell we’re not eating meat. I don’t miss what we used to pay for meat, and I definitely haven’t missed handling meat. However, if I’m honest I do miss the flavor of meat sometimes, and Brett and I are looking forward to enjoying a few favorite meat-based dishes again while our daughters are here. We feel healthier and better overall for not eating meat these past few months, our food bills have been lower, but we remain undecided about adding meat back into our diet.

Whenever I look at the photos of our meals my first thought is always that seems like an awful lot of food! However, the biggest plates we own are salad plates and a serving fills those plates. The ziti casserole was comfort food at its best and our Thanksgiving casserole was also delicious and filling. Besides tasty dinners, both casseroles also provided us with plenty of leftovers (some of the ziti casserole even went into the freezer).

Sunday: Plant-based meatball subs; 3-bean salad

Monday: Baked ziti casserole; roasted zucchini

Tuesday: Crispy mandarin orange chick’n; steamed rice; sweet & sour coleslaw

Wednesday: Plant-based chicken nuggets; onion rings; roasted cauliflower; roasted cherry tomatoes

Thursday: Chick’n & butternut squash casserole; roasted vegetables (zucchini, cauliflower, & tomatoes)

Friday: Baked ziti casserole; leftover roasted vegetables; apple slices

Saturday: Vegetarian cheeseburger mini pizzas

We enjoyed a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake for dessert the first four evenings of the week, then began another Costco pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving. We’ll be eating it all through next week.

Next week’s goal is to continue emptying out the freezer and refrigerator before stocking up in preparation for the girls’ arrival. None of next week’s meals will be anything new or exciting but they will help free up space for other things, including all that meat we’ll be buying for the first time in months.

  • Vegetarian lasagna
  • Vegetable fried rice
  • Pasta with vegetarian “meat” sauce
  • Chick’n patty sandwiches
  • Coconut squash dal
  • Mini pizzas
  • Butternut squash ravioli with pesto

With nearly perfect weather all last week we got in lots of good walks. Most of our walking was done up at the park, but on Thanksgiving Day we hiked part of the Maha’ulepu Trail, which runs along the southeastern coast from Poipu eastward. Brett has hiked it several times, but this was my first time out there, and all I kept thinking was why had I put this off for so long? It was stunningly beautiful the entire way. Some of the trail was over ancient lava flows, where we spotted several “bowls,” created when lava bubbles burst, and there were other fascinating lava formations along the way. Some of the trail was as sandy as a beach and our legs got quite a workout, but views along the entire way were spectactular. We turned around a little after a mile, at the site of a huge ancient heiau (sacred native Hawaiian temple). Some of the boulders that had been used to create part of the wall were massive, a true architectural feat. It was weird though to realize that behind the heaiu walls now sits the giant Grand Hyatt resort golf course. I can’t wait to get out there and walk the trail again, hopefully to the end, maybe with the girls when they are here.

Views along the Maha’ulepu Trail

The trail was difficult for me in spots because of its uneven nature and even though I walked with the aid of a hiking stick, my bursitis still kicked in. With more frequent walking on pavement these days as well, I am experiencing more aches and pains in my hips again overall. I try to remember to take pain relief before we walk, which is the most effective for me (Aleve is my medication of choice because I need to take less for more relief).

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (11/14 – 11/20)

With the approach of Thanksgiving and the holiday season, we are entering what I call “the time of dangerous eating.” Brett and I did okay last year with just the two of us and YaYu at home, but this year, with all three of our daughters here, is going to be difficult. The girls love to eat, and pretty much can and will eat anything, including candy, cookies, cakes, as well as savory things like chips and such. It’s easy to avoid eating those things when they’re not in the house, but they will be expected when the girls are here.

I’m frankly not sure what to have on hand for them. I’ve thought about making pecan pie bars (one of Meiling’s favorite things) but realized Brett and I would have no trouble whittling away at them as well. I’ve also thought about making a batch of peanut brittle, one of WenYu’s holiday favorites, but peanut brittle is one of those things that if I take one bite I’m probably going to finish all of it. We plan to binge-watch the new Dexter series, so I’m thinking of putting out chips and salsa while we do that, but otherwise I’m stumped about what else to have on hand, for now anyway. Candy is out of the question as are cookies – Brett and I can’t leave them along – but maybe we could avoid eating cake these days. There will be lilikoi chiffon pie following our Christmas dinner, but otherwise I’m trying hard not to think of all those other oh-so-troublesome-but-so-delicious things that are part of the holidays.

Last week’s menu got several things out of the freezer, which was the plan going in. I’m going to go shopping for meat in a couple of weeks and there needs to be room for it.

Sunday: Curry with tofu & vegetables; steamed rice

Monday: Vegetable yakisoba

Tuesday: Vegan mini corn dogs; 3-bean salad; onion rings; pickle slices

Wednesday: Vegetarian lasagna; roasted peppers

Thursday: Chick’n tikka masala mini pizzas

Friday: Split pea soup; toasted cheese sandwiches

Saturday: Vegan mabo tofu; steamed rice

One-sixteenth of a key lime pie – a wonderful ending to our meals

We enjoyed a small slice of key lime pie most of last week for dessert (we had mini cream puffs again on Tuesday), and when the pie was finished on Saturday we started in on a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake which we’ll finish just before Thanksgiving. We bought a big Costco pumpkin pie to enjoy for that day and beyond. Pies seem to be our thing these days.

I haven’t made ziti casserole in several years but I found two packages of ziti at the back of the pantry this past week, and other than ricotta cheese we had everything else on hand to make it (and we picked up the ricotta at Safeway). The casserole will provide our main dish on two evenings. On Thanksgiving Day we’re having the Chicken & Butternut Squash casserole which contains a couple of things we’d be enjoying with a traditional turkey dinner. We’ve got pumpkin pie for dessert. Between the two casseroles we’re set for lunches for the week as well.

  • Baked ziti (2 meals)
  • Mandarin chick’n
  • Vegetarian chick’n & butternut squash casserole (Thanksgiving)
  • Chick’n nuggets
  • Mini pizzas
  • Plant-based meatball subs

We got in some good walks again this week, including a hike on the Waioukapua Trail and through Costco and Safeway during our Big Shop (slow, but we cover over two miles). Otherwise we walked up at the park. Brett walked alone on Friday because I was under the weather from the shingles vaccine. Packaging up Etsy orders on Saturday kept us home although rain threatened outside as well, but we made up for the two missed days by walking yesterday, our usual day off. We miss walking out the golf course and reverse walked it on Wednesday but only found two golf balls (although we weren’t really looking for any this time). There have been a lot of golfer the past couple of weeks, so it was sort of obvious that other hunters had been going through our usual spots.

It was very hot out on the Waioukapua Trail last Tuesday, but even though I drank more water than I usually do, ate a small snack at the halfway point, wore my hat, and remembered my wet neckerchief to help keep cool, I still ended up feeling shaky, dizzy, and slightly nauseous by the time we got set up on the beach. After some more water and with the shade from the umbrella and a cool breeze I felt better quickly though. I also got overheated out on the golf course when we did our reverse walk of the perimeter on Wednesday. We took that on after we had walked two Pavilion loops and then up to the club house and it really was too much, especially since it was hot and quite humid. I drank a lot of water along the way and just kept going, but I won’t push myself to do it again. When did I become so heat sensitive? Hopefully this will not be an issue next summer when we’re in Strasbourg and Oxford.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (11/7 – 11/13)

I came across a great article this past week written by the daughter of a woman raised in France but now working and living in England. She gave five lifestyle choices employed by the French as the reason so many French remain slim in spite of eating lots of high fat and high calorie foods, and it turns out two of them are ones we (unknowingly) started using last year: we’ve cut back on snacking and we practice mindful drinking and eating. Those were two things we paid absolutely no attention to last time we traveled. We wanted to try everything, from fresh croissants in France to small-batch gin in England to Italian cookies, and we tried them all . . . every day, and with abandon. Although we walked a lot, it was not enough to overcome the huge number of calories we were taking in. As someone once wrote, “if you are eating two croissants a day, it doesn’t matter how much you walk . . . you will gain weight.” We were consuming the calorie equivalent of far, far more than two croissants each day.

That does not mean we will not be enjoying fresh croissants, cheese, and wine in France, or having biscuits (cookies), scones with cream and jam, or gin in England. We most definitely will be having those things! Plenty of them, in fact. But, they will be enjoyed in smaller doses, (mostly) planned before eating, and definitely not consumed every day. We’ve hopefully learned our lesson this time. These days snacks are limited to once or maybe twice a day, portions for everything we eat are measured, and calories are recorded.

We missed our Friday evening cheese board this past week, but since both of our stomachs felt better for not eating so much cheese at one sitting we’re only going to only have them occasionally going forward. There’s no way we’re giving up cheese, but we have come to realize maybe we can no longer eat and enjoy cheese with the abandon we once did.

Sunday: Grilled vegetarian cheeseburgers (with brie for Brett, Irish cheddar for me); onion rings

Monday: Vegetable spring rolls; vegetable fried rice

Tuesday: Tofu patties; leftover fried rice; namasu

Wednesday: Pasta with marinara; roasted peppers

Thursday: Mini pizzas with roasted peppers

Friday: Chili shrimp; steamed rice; namasu

Saturday: Butternut squash ravioli with pesto; roasted cauliflower

We had cream puffs on Tuesday, finished our big apple pie on Wednesday, enjoyed campfire s’mores on Friday, and are now having a very small but satisfying slice of key lime pie each evening. We’re Big Shopping tomorrow but have no idea yet what we’ll find or want to buy for our next round of desserts.

There’s nothing new on the menu this week; we’re mostly eating what we already have in the freezer as we need to make room for all the meat we’ll be buying before the end of the month.

  • Vegetarian lasagna
  • Vegan mabo tofu
  • Soup with toasted cheese sandwich
  • Vegan corn dogs
  • Chick’n tikka masala mini pizzas
  • Vegetable yakisoba
  • Curry with tofu & vegetables

Last week was a great one for walking. We were at the park every day from Monday through Saturday, covering over four miles most days and over five miles out of a couple of those. Walking on the paths again is frankly not as enjoyable as walking out on the golf course, but we are moving at a quicker pace and getting in more hill climbs so know it’s better exercise. We got in over 10,000 steps on the two 5+ mile days, and were close (over 9,500) the other four. We even found a few golf balls last week, five of them on two different days. All of them were just sitting there beside the paths, and four of the five were in mint condition. They’ll be added to the boxes we’re currently selling.

Palm trees, sunshine, and blue skies: my favorite view when we walk out to the pavilion

Brett just had his annual cholesterol check and his levels are his best ever, thanks we think to our vegetarian/vegan diet and exercise. I can only hope mine will be as good when they’re tested next year. My weight is still right where I want it to be, although maybe with our once again increased amount of exercise I can drop a couple more pounds. As I wrote above, our greatest fear as we travel is that we will get lazy and start gaining weight again. We’re already talking about steps we need to take, signs we need to look out for, and things we need to stay away from so that we maintain the current shape we’re in.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (10/31 – 11/6)

I am already dreaming about the foods we will get to eat again when we begin traveling again next year: tarte flambée, charcroute, and paté in Strasbourg; scones or cake with tea, sticky toffee pudding, and custard tarts in England; and meat pies with flaky crusts and shortbread in Scotland among other delicious items. We ate with abandon the last time we traveled and we gained a lot of weight, a whole lot of weight. We are bound and determined not to let this happen again and are already plotting strategies to keep us from overindulging and overeating as well as sticking to healthier food choices.

Some of the strategies we’ve come up so far are:

  • Continue to measure food portions and weights when possible.
  • Limit local treats to one day per week
  • Avoid bringing sweets and other high carb foods into our homes (we had a big problem with this last time)
  • Limit our dining out
  • If possible, share dishes when we dine out versus each getting our own
  • Make sure we get in a good walk every day, weather permitting

We enjoyed ourselves immensely when it came to food the last time around, but it’s taken a lot of work to lose the pounds we packed on and get ourselves back into shape. We’ve practiced more mindful eating here in Hawaii and developed new habits, and we’re hopeful these new habits will overcome the lure of so many delicious options at all the places we live and visit.

We enjoyed the chick’n and squash casserole this past week and will have it again. It was easy to make and very sastisfying – we couldn’t remember the last time we’d had a casserole. The split pea soup we had (Amay’s organic) was also very good – I don’t think I could have made it better. The meatball pizzas looked weird but were tasty.

Sunday: Chick’n and butternut squash casserole; steamed broccoli

Monday: Vegan chili dogs; coleslaw

Tuesday: Split pea soup; toasted cheese sandwiches

Wednesday: Risotto with peas; roasted butternut squash

Thursday: Plant-based meatball mini pizzas

Friday: Cheese board: Irish cheddar, Brie, Manchego, Boursin with garlic & herbs; crackers, apple, sweet pickles, marinated artichoke hearts; dried apricots

Saturday: Spanakopita; falafel; pickled cucumber & tomato salad

Dessert this past week has again been a small but satisfying slice of apple pie each evening except for last Tuesday when we ate cream puffs. Just one night of those thankfully did not cause any stomach issues.

For the first time in ages a cheese board won’t be appearing on our menu because . . . we don’t have any cheese, or at least enough for a meal, and we don’t want to go to the store (next week it’s time for a Big Shop again). We begin work in earnest this week on getting the freezer cleared out so we’ll have room for things we’ll need when the girls are here for Christmas :

  • Butternut squash ravioli with pesto
  • Vegetable spring rolls; fried rice
  • Chili shrimp
  • Tofu patties
  • Mini pizzas
  • Pasta with marinara
  • Grilled vegetarian cheeseburgers

We went back to our old walking routine last week, but it felt weird (and difficult) at first, because besides walking on pavement almost the entire time we also didn’t return to the car with our pockets full of balls. We took our last perimeter walk last Sunday but took Monday off from walking when the humidity was at 88% and it was miserable. We walked 4.2 miles on Tuesday in slightly less humidity, but it was still starting to rain by the time we got back to the car. Wednesday was lovely and we walked 4.8 miles, but it rained all day Thursday so once again no walk. We did 4.8 miles again on Friday, but only got in 2.6 on Saturday before rain showed up again. We’re off to a good start though, and this should stay our routine until we leave – the goal is to depart Kaua’i in the best shape possible!

We enjoyed walking through the woods again.

Besides feeling a bit more sore, the biggest difference this week has been the increase in calories burned. Because we’re not slowing down to look for golf balls, we’re walking at a faster sustained rate once again and using more energy. We know as we get back into it we’ll be able to do these longer distances without feeling so worn out and with less soreness. We’re also glad to be finishing our walks earlier in the day.

It’s been a long time since there have been any unique/beautiful chickens up at the park, but we’re starting to see some standouts again. We’ve named this guy “Rusty.” He’s huge, beautiful, and he knows it.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (10/24 – 10/30)

I have always been someone who could pretty much eat anything I wanted. There are a few things I don’t care for, but otherwise I have never suffered from eating anything other than lettuce. I have no food allergies, no other intolerances.

That all seem to have changed this past week. Both Brett and I suffered from wonky tummies, and had other digestive issues. We’re weren’t sick, but we definitely didn’t feel good, and by the end of last week we were concerned about what could be causing the problems. We gave it a lot of thought and discussion, and decided the only thing that had changed was that we had been eating cream puffs and tiramisu for dessert, both new additions and filled with dairy. We each only had been having five of the mini puffs for dessert, less than the recommended serving, but along with the tiramisu they appeared to have stirred things up. We knew Brett was already slightly lactose intolerant, but after going months without any dairy other than cheese (which doesn’t bother us), it looks like I may have possibly developed a bit of lactose intolerance as well. As soon as we dropped the cream puffs for dessert, everything settled back down.

We still have about six evenings worth of cream puffs left to eat though, but will space them out between other non-dairy desserts going forward and see if we can avoid the issues we had last week. If not, we’ll have to start at zero again and try to figure out what’s going on. Growing older and stay healthy is indeed an adventure, and I honestly did not have another possible food intolerance on my scorecard.

Below is what we ate for dinner last week. Everything was easy to fix and delicious (as were the leftovers).

Sunday: Chick’n patty sandwiches; three-bean salad

Monday: Tikka masala with tofu & peas; steamed rice

Tuesday: Chick’n nuggets; onion rings; 3-bean salad

Wednesday: Vegetarian lasagna; roasted peppers

Thursday: Mini pizzas with roasted peppers and onion

Friday: Cheese board: Manchego, Brie, Irish Cheddar, and Boursin; crackers; apple slices; dried apricots; marinated artichoke hearts; sweet pickles

Saturday: CookDo tofu & pepper stir fry; steamed rice

We enjoyed both the mini cream puffs and the tiramisu cups last week (up until we figured out they were probably the cause of our stomach issues). We’d have a couple nights with the cream puffs, then a tiramisu, then back to cream puffs, but that won’t be happening again. We picked up a (vegan) apple pie at Costco on our shopping trip last week. They had a whole two of them out and we grabbed one, so this coming week’s dessert will be pie, pie, and more pie with one evening of cream puffs in there somewhere. We had honestly come to believe though that we’d never see those apple pies again.

In spite of the beautiful weather we’ve been enjoying, temperatures have cooled off a bit so we’re enjoying what goes for fall dishes this next week: soup and toasted cheese sandwiches, chili dogs, and risotto. A new thing we’re going to try this week is a chicken and butternut squash casserole, vegetarian style. Mavis posted the recipe on the 100 Dollars a Month blog week before last and I decided I would try it IF I could keep it vegetarian. Costco finally got butternut squash in, and we found grilled chick’n strips at Walmart. The Great Value chicken flavored stuffing mix has chicken flavor listed as its absolute last ingredient so we figured we were pretty safe with that as well so the casserole was on! We’ve still got a lot of spanakopita and falafel on hand that we’re going to enjoy that again as well.

  • Vegan chili dogs
  • Vegetarian chick’n & butternut squash casserole
  • Cheese board
  • Mini pizzas
  • Spanakopita & falafel
  • Risotto with peas
  • Split pea soup & toasted cheese sandwiches

Last week was our swan song for perimeter walks and golf ball hunting. We need/want to get rid of the golf balls we have, and want to get back to walking for exercise as our main focus versus hunting for golf balls, which sort of got in the way at times. One benefit of getting away from the perimeter walks is that we’ll once again be able to go to the park a bit earlier in the day, at 3:30 in the afternoon versus 4:30, and be home in time that I don’t have to segue right into fixing dinner. I can’t say we’ll never walk the perimeter again but we have other goals we need to focus on now. I know it’s going to feel strange not heading out onto the course but we’ll get back into our old routine in no time. Our walking total for October (66 miles) was our lowest for the year so far, but there were so many bad weather days where we either didn’t walk at all or had to shorten our walks.

The clouds were white when we started our walk, pink when we finished last Wednesday. We’ll once again be walking earlier in the day beginning this week.

We had a great final week for lost ball hunting though. We picked up 52 balls between Monday and Tuesday, then another 29 of them on Wednesday! We thought we’d picked the course clean when we started out on Thursday but found yet another 13 that day. The weather was too sketchy for us to walk on Friday and Saturday, but we went out again yesterday for one last round and found 42 (!!!) to give us our top weekly total ever: 136. We have quite a bit of sorting to do, but we hope to have everything listed by the second week of November and out of the house by the end of the month with some additional funds in our travel account!

The above is the most mysterious and creepy place we passed on our perimeter walks. These huge branches are near the top of a giant tree! Just past the small green plants at the bottom, the cliff suddenly drops off steeply into darkness and there’s no telling how far it goes down. Any balls that fall there can stay there, thank you.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (10/17 – 10/23)

Some of our Big Shop last week: there’s a case of oat milk under the cart, and more produce up in the seat. We’ll do a much smaller shop in another week to get us through until next month.

Is it costing us more to eat vegetarian or vegan? That’s a question we asked ourselves last week as the amount we spend on groceries really hasn’t gone done much since we stopped buying and eating meat.

The picture above is $252.27 worth of food from last week’s Big Shop at Costco. Everything in the cart is edible except for a Harry’s razor and blades set that we bought for Brett’s travel stash (it was on sale this month). We also purchased one item for the girls’ Christmas presents, but otherwise everything is for us and should last a while. The box of spanakopita in the lower right corner contains enough for eight meals; the box of organic falafel patties has enough for five meals. There are six meals in the box of frozen lasagna seen on the left side, and eight in a box of vegetable egg rolls we bought. A box of organic tofu buried somewhere in there contains four packs that will provide protein for four meals for less than $10. The big box of petite cream puffs will give us 12 desserts. The produce we bought – mixed colored peppers, green peppers, tomatoes; cucumbers, avocados, apples, bananas, and bag of frozen blueberries – will last for a couple of weeks and will be used in several dishes. There’s a pack of mini naan breads for our weekly pizzas, and two loaves of Dave’s 21-grain bread for sandwiches. We picked up snacks and treats as well for the next few weeks: trail mix, whole-grain fig bars, and a once a year splurge of Cretor’s Chicago Mix popcorn (cheddar cheese and caramel corn – so good!). $250 got us a lot of good, healthy food that’s going to last us for a while. We spent an additional $50 at Walmart, which included items like tissues, antacid, bubble wrap, and other non-food items.

We had planned to buy a piece of fish so we could have grilled fish tacos this week, but prices were through the roof so we said no thanks to that. Remembering what Costco-sized packages of meat used to cost, if we had bought the amount of meat needed to prepare as many meals as we otherwise bought we figured we would have added at least an additional 25% to our total if not more. So, what we buy costs less overall but by spending the same we’re getting more. I sometimes wish we weren’t so dependent on Costco, but it remains the best bang for our bucks when buying food on Kaua’i.

The only change we made to last week’s planned dinners was to substitute spanakopita and falafel for the fish tacos we originally had planned. We added Brie to our cheese board last week, but cut back on the amount of other cheeses so we didn’t overindulge (too much). It was all very, very good and we ate well while still keeping our calories under control.

Sunday: Risotto with peas and rosemary

Monday: Mini pizzas with red pepper and onion

Tuesday: Vegan sloppy joes; grape tomatoes

Wednesday: Pasta with marinara and meatless meatballs; roasted peppers

Thursday: Spanakopita; falafel patties; cucumber and tomato salad

Friday: Cheese board (Manchego, Irish cheddar; Brie) with guacamole, pickled beets, gherkins, apple, dried apricots, and crackers.

Saturday: Vegetable egg rolls; vegetable fried rice

We were hoping to find another apple pie at Costco to enjoy again for dessert, but once again none were available. We looked at the big custard pies that were in the cooler, but weren’t able to check the calories, etc. so instead bought a six-pack of tiramisu cups and the big box of mini cream puffs, both of which had calorie levels per serving that fit our calorie restrictions and will be a nice change for a while.

We have some new dishes to try next week: Amy’s vegetable lasagna and tikka masala made with tofu. Otherwise everything is something we’ve enjoyed before and that we’ve been looking forward to having again:

  • Vegetarian lasagna
  • Chick’n patty sandwiches
  • Tofu tikka masala
  • Tofu & pepper stir fry
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Chick’n nuggets and onion rings

With last week’s (mostly) good weather we took lots of good walks including three perimeter walks at the golf course (we took a day off on Friday), a two-mile hike on the Waiokapua trail at Barking Sands, and our Big Shop walkathon. We didn’t push ourselves to hunt for golf balls this past week either, but still managed to find 87 of them! We have competition these days from other ball hunters, and with fewer golfers we had thought things would slow down, especially since we’re not actively hunting like we did earlier, but there were just lots of lost balls all over the course. We’re going to go back to our old walking route through the woods beginning in November though, and stay off of the golf course completely which will quickly bring finding golf balls to a halt.

Scenes along the Waiokapua Trail (clockwise from upper left): the beginning of the trail; ocean views; 2-inch thorns on a dead kiawe bush (pronounced key-ah-vay); 3-inch thorns forming on a young kiawe (yikes!); and parasitic orange dodder/hellweed covering (and killing) a plant on the side of the trail. We saw several plants covered with it, sad because once it gains a foothold it’s almost impossible to remove.

There was a nice breeze when we hiked the Waiokapua on Tuesday, so in spite of the sun I felt fairly comfortable the entire time we walked. I wore a hat to keep my face shaded, and kept myself well-hydrated but I somehow still ended up with symptoms of heat exhaustion (dizziness, nausea, weakness) by the time we finished and set up our chairs on the beach. I realized later I had forgotten to bring and wear a damp tenugui (Japanese hand towel) around my neck. I don’t know if overheating and the excessive perspiration I experience when I sometimes walk are symptoms of aging or if something else is going on, but that damp towel helps keep my body temperature regulated for some reason. I always wear one when we walk at the park, and always carry another dry one to wipe the perspiration off my face, but I forgot to do it when we were packing up for the beach. It was a good lesson though and how quickly I can became overheated, and something I need to remember when we’re out walking overseas, especially when it’s hot. After a short while in my beach chair under the umbrella and with a cool drink I was back to normal in short order, but it was a bit scary that I became overheated on a flat 2.25-mile hike even with sufficient hydration.

Healthcare On the Road

photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon/unsplash

When Brett and I begin traveling next May, we will leave the U.S. with no concrete plans to return. It’s not that we won’t return, but there are no calendar dates are set and no visits planned, at least for the first couple of years.

A big consequence of this is that we won’t be in the U.S. for regular doctor visits and prescriptions refills, or to have dental work taken care of. We are doing careful planning to make sure we can get prescriptions refilled as necessary, see a dentist at least once a year, and get our vision checked regularly as well.

As it is illegal to ship prescription medication into most other countries, we will begin our journey with a six-month supply of our medications. Our regular prescriptions are for 90 days, and we can get a one-time 90-day “emergency supply” as well to carry along with us. But what do we do when that runs out?

We have a few arrows in our quivers when it comes to prescription medication. First, as military retirees we can visit any U.S. military hospital in the world and get a prescription filled, so we will carry written prescriptions from our doctor with us that will get us through the first year as well as a letter explaining the reason we take the medication. When those supplies run out we will have to have a doctor’s visit at a military hospital or in the country we’re in to get a new prescription. Our military health insurance follows us world-wide so those costs can be reimbursed, but a visit to a physician overseas is not the wallet-emptying expense it is in the U.S. For example, we will need to visit a GP when we’re in the UK because it is against the law in there for a pharmacy to fill any prescription that’s not written by a British physician. The cost for the visit to see a GP at a same-day clinic is around $55, and we can get a check up as well as our prescription. The cost for a GP visit is even less in other countries such as France or Italy.

photo credit: Yusef Belek/unsplash

Dental care is another area where we’re doing some research so we know our options before departing. We have been reading a lot about “dental tourism,” or places where excellent dental treatment is available for a fraction of what it costs in the U.S. Two noted areas for quality dental work in Europe are Spain and the island nation of Malta. Having a crown procedure in Spain, for example, is around $500, the same cost as it is in the U.S. if you have good insurance. Thankfully, our dental insurance also travels with us throughout the world, but it’s good to know that if we need any sort of major procedure done we can get it done overseas without breaking the bank, and could even get a side visit to Spain or Malta! Cost comparisons for dental procedures overseas can be found online. Japan also offers good dental care at a lower cost than the U.S. although not as low as in Europe.

Vision care is currently the big unknown. For the past few years I’ve needed a new lens prescription almost every year; it’s been every other year for Brett. Since we have no idea of what an exam and new glasses might cost overseas, we plan to set up a separate vision savings account that will be dedicated to these potential costs, and hope that we estimate too high. I will be getting new glasses next month, and Brett will get new glasses next spring right before we depart, so hopefully this is something we won’t need to worry about for a while. I wouldn’t mind getting new glasses in Japan though – they honestly have the most stylish frames I’ve ever seen.

We’re doing our homework on what’s available where, how much it costs, and how we can keep up with our prescription, but know there are still going to be unknowns. We are extremely fortunate to have good health insurance to take along with us, and several options for care no matter where we are in the world, but the goal as always is to be proactive about staying healthy so that we can enjoy our time as much as possible as we travel.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (10/3 – 10/9)

Last week would have been a great one for cold weather dishes because it was unusually cold for this time of year. I have always loved fall, and one of my favorite things about it was always the transition to putting warmer, heartier dishes on the menu, things like soups and stews. We’re experiencing what passes for fall, and we’re seeing pumpkins, gourds, and other autumn motifs out in the stores (along with everything Halloween), but we’re mostly still wearing shorts and slippers, so it’s sort of hard to get excited about making or eating soups or other cool-weather dishes, vegetarian or otherwise.

One of the things I’ve realized recently is how little I use my InstantPot since we gave up meat. I would probably have it out at least a couple of times a week if we weren’t eating meatless, but I may only use it once a month or so these days, maybe to make risotto. It would probably be the same now with a slow cooker. The Instant Pot will get a workout when the girls are here at Christmas, but I’ll probably sell it shortly after as Brett and I return to a meatless diet. Funny to realize that something I wanted for so long doesn’t really work for me any more.

We had some tasty meals (and leftovers) last week. Everything was pretty easy to fix which made me happy too.

Sunday: Cheesy tomato, spinach, and white bean bake with baguette slices

Monday: Roasted vegetable ravioli with pesto; steamed broccoli

Tuesday: Tofu patties; steamed rice; namasu

Wednesday: Panzanella with feta cheese & chickpeas

Thursday: Mini pizzas with tomato, pepper, and onion

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Mini corn dogs; onion rings; apple slices; namasu

One the menu next week:

  • Chicken tenders; onion rings
  • Spicy black bean bake with corn chips
  • Vegetable yakisoba
  • Chick’n pot pie
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Ina Garten’s summer garden pasta
1/20 of a Costco pumpkin pie is still very satisfying.

We finished off the mochi ice cream early in the week, and are now in the middle of a 10-day Costco pumpkin pie marathon. One-twentieth of the pie is less than 200 calories, and very affordable – the entire pie costs just $5.99, so our servings are just 30 cents a slice. I can barely buy a can of pumpkin on Kaua’i for less than $5! By having one pie now, we’ll be ready for another around Thanksgiving!

We always take one day off every week from walking (usually Sunday) to let our bodies rest, but this week we ended up with three days off due to rain and wind. In spite of some cold and unpredictable weather (walkers were wearing windbreakers and other jackets on Wednesday), we walked the perimeter Monday through Thursday. Friday’s weather was horrid but cleared right when it was time for our walk. However, it was still very windy and we decided a walk on the golf course would be a soggy mess and we’d end up wet and miserable. Saturday the rain was gone but wind was even worse (and louder) if that was possible, and we just didn’t feel like spending nearly an hour being out in it so we stayed home again. We still found 53 lost golf balls though in the four days we walked, an average of 13 balls per day.

Another one of those pesky dark clouds being led by a rainbow. This cloud thankfully headed out to sea and skipped the golf course.

The other day I climbed on the scale to weigh a package I was shipping, and was surprised by the weight of everything (me and the package) – it was much lower than I imagined, but very happy when I weighed solo as it was also much, much less than I imagined, especially for the middle of the afternoon and being fully clothed. Things are apparently still changing! I’ve been feeling more sore in new places following our walks recently and am not sure what’s going on with that – maybe more of a workout these days? – but getting two extra days off last week helped things repair and feel better again.

My Daruma

The little red guy above that’s missing his left eye used to sit front and center on my desk back in Portland. He watched over me in our bedroom when we moved to Kaua’i in 2014, and went into storage while we traveled. He’s spent most of our time since we arrived on Kaua’i in our bathroom, but recently was moved out to our dining room table. He’s a daruma, one I bought back in December 2008 from the Mitsukoshi store in the Japanese pavilion at EPCOT. Made of papier-mache with two blank eyes, daruma are a symbol of perseverance and good luck in Japan. They’re weighted at the bottom, and their roly poly shape allows them to get back up if they fall over.

Following tradition, I colored in one of his eyes in January 2009 when I gave myself a goal of losing 30 pounds and maintaining the weight loss for at least a year. The other eye would be filled in when and if I kept the lost weight off for a year. That, as always, was easier said than done. Maintaining a weight loss has always been my biggest challenge, and I’ve failed every time.

I am not a naturally thin person, but I am also not a naturally large person. I have a small bone structure, and I don’t carry extra weight well. My body lets me know when I’ve gained too much, and will fight any attempts to adjust to an increasing size. The extra 30 pounds I brought back from our travels felt like much more. The bursitis in my hips came back. I had trouble getting out of our car. I got winded easily. I had trouble rolling over in bed. It didn’t matter that I bought larger sizes of clothing, or was wearing baggy/loose styles; my clothes kept getting tighter and more uncomfortable. I was flat-out physically miserable every day.  I didn’t hate myself for being overweight but I hated the way my body felt, and knew I couldn’t blame it on getting older. In spite of lots of walking during our travels, I flat out overate . . . all the time, and had no one but myself to blame for the extra weight I carried around.

Following my doctor’s advice to lose 30 pounds, last year I once again buckled down. Brett and I begin walking daily. I also began keeping a diary of what I ate each day and planned my daily meals in advance. I counted calories, and my weight began to decrease. However, for some reason along the way, something completely new occurred: boredom and frustration never showed up. Following the rare times I did overeat, I got right back on the wagon. I’ve been able to stick with my new way of eating, and with the record keeping and exercise. The pounds that I lost last year have stayed off this time, for a year now. And my daruma has finally earned his second eye.

I am never going to be what anyone would call slender or skinny; I’m not built that way and it’s never been my goal. I’m not on some nutritional crusade, or have any great insights in what and how people should eat. I try to do what’s best for Brett and me; that’s all. My daruma looks at me now with his two eyes and reminds me every day that I changed how, why, and what I eat to feel good again. And, I stuck with it, I didn’t quit, and I reached my goal! I feel better than good these days. My bursitis hasn’t bothered me in ages. I have more energy, and no problems getting in and out of the car. I don’t even think about rolling over in bed, I just do it. My cholesterol level is a healthy 165. That I can wear a size small is nothing more than an added benefit; it was never the goal.

For most of this past year my daruma has sat at the top our shower entrance. I’ve looked up at him daily for the past year and asked myself, “Are you going to stick with this and finally give that little guy his other eye?” The answer this time was yes, and permanent changes have been made. And to my daruma I say, “thank you for hanging in there for so long.”