Sunday Morning 5/24/2020:

We got three beautiful sunsets before bad weather rolled in. 

The beaches may have opened last week but the weather conspired in every way possible to make getting there nearly impossible – we had high winds, cool temperatures, and rain, rain, and more rain down on our part of the island. On Thursday the wind was so strong it blew the rain sideways all day. We’re planning to go today but this past week was sadly a bust.

Some stores have opened back up, albeit with shorter hours. I think about half are opened in the Kukui’ula Marketplace now, outside of restaurants, although more of those are offering takeout. We went up to Kapaa yesterday to pick up a couple of things we needed and saw that more stores were open up there as well. There are still no tourists though so there was no traffic – that still feels a bit odd, although it was nice zipping through town for a change. Kapaa was also much warmer than it is where we are now and there was less of a breeze. Word is that hair salons are supposed to be opening soon – I sure hope so because my hair is driving me a little more crazy every day!

It’s been another frustrating week though as far as our Aeromexico refund and getting our storage items here. It’s been three weeks since I last spoke with the moving company in San Diego who was going to “get right on it” and neither I nor Joan have heard anything from anyone since. So, I will go back on the phone this week, although I’m not quite sure who to call this time – should I start with Royal Hawaiian here again, since the move is being done under their auspices, or should I call the company back on the mainland who is supposed to coordinate getting our stuff there? I have no idea anymore. Aeromexico continues to dig in their heels as well when it comes to our refund. This past week I received an email from them in response to the DOT telling them I was owed a refund. Aeromexico claims that because I also filed a dispute with our credit card they do not have to follow DOT’s ruling; the issue is now strictly between me and my bank (although of course, a dispute means the bank has to deal with them and I’m pretty sure Aeromexico is making that as difficult as possible). I spoke with the bank and they are “working on it,” but they did ask for more documentation which I happily provided. DOT also (supposedly) got a copy of the same email I was sent and I have a feeling they’re not going to be happy about it, but what do I know at this point? We are owed less than $500 but I have read complaints this past week where Aeromexico customers are out thousands and have been refused refunds for their canceled flights.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Yellow House, and started American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins. I’ve had in on my Kindle for a while but had lots of other books came in from the library so it sort of got set aside. But, I’m ready now. I’m also still reading The Dutch House and should finish it this week.
  • Listening to: After all the howling wind we listened to these past few days, this morning is a blissful change. There’s a breeze, but it’s barely rustling the trees – I can actually hear birds singing. YaYu is still sleeping, and Brett is reading so it’s very, very quiet inside as well – my kind of morning!
  • Watching: YaYu and I started watching Tiger King this past week. O.M.G. Neither of us is ready to say whether we like the show or not, but it’s compelling, just like a train wreck is compelling, and we have had some interesting discussions. We also started watching Best British Home Cook on Hulu, which is OK. It’s definitely no Great British Baking Show, although Mary Berry is one of the judges. A new British crime series has arrived on BritBox (with four seasons!), so Brett and I are going to give that a try when YaYu and I finish Tiger King.
  • Cooking: I did a little bit of baking this past week: banana bread with chocolate chips (YaYu’s request). My loaf pan in storage so I instead, necessity is the mother of invention and all that, baked it in a 9″ square pan which worked pretty well. I broke down and ordered a new rice cooker because making rice in the Instant Pot has not gone as well as I had hoped. The results from the beginning have been very inconsistent, and we usually end up with mushy, overly sticky rice and lots of it stuck to the bottom of the cooking insert. It may work better with less sticky rice, but we prefer Japanese-style rice, and we eat it frequently enough not to want to deal with the mess anymore. Anyway, tonight we’re going to have spicy steak pizzaiola with grilled flank steak with some vegetable and garlic bread. Also on the dinner menu this week will be bacon-blue cheeseburgers; breakfast for dinner (eggs benedict); tuna melts; chili shrimp and fried rice; and a chicken, rice, and broccoli casserole.
    We have only seen the nene flying overhead on our walks – they are noisy! A mom and her babies though are best avoided – get too near and mom will take. you. out.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: Next Sunday would have been WenYu’s graduation from Wellesley, but since that’s not happening Brett and I put together a box of WenYu’s favorite Hawaiian goodies (butter mochi mix, Kaua’i Kookies, macadamia nuts, mango jam, Maui beef jerky, and a few other things she loves from here) – it will be on its way tomorrow morning. My daily checklists have kept me busy all week – I got everything filled in, walked four days out of the last seven (thanks to the weather), and earned 479 Swagbucks (my goal each week is 350).
  • Looking forward to next week: Hopefully, the weather stays nice so we can get to the beach! We are heading up to Kapaa tomorrow afternoon to go the newly reopened farmer’s market and see our favorite farmers again, and get together with friends Alan and Cheryl for a little while.
    The craft gins we enjoyed in the UK spoiled us. We have a cocktail just three evenings a week, so our supply should be good for a long while now.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I discovered a few bottles of a limited edition Tanqueray gin, Rangpur, at our local Big Save, flavored with dark rangpur limes. Since G&Ts are one of our favorite things, we bought ourselves a bottle, and it is delicious! We’re good to go with gin now for the next few months. We stopped at Wailua Shave Ice when we were up in Kapaa to get a couple of things for WenYu’s graduation box and enjoyed our favorite flavors – tables were all spread apart so we could take off our masks and not worry about being to close to anyone else. In an effort to use up leftovers in the kitchen one evening last week, we created a “quesadilla bar” and each created our own masterpiece. The results were amazing and we now want to make it a regular thing – it’s a great way to use up leftovers. The back yard got “manicured” again this past week (they worked in the rain) and looks wonderful.
    There is nothing more refreshing than icy shave ice on a hot day!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This was not a particularly frugal week because we went food shopping and bought the rice cooker (and also the specialty gin, although it was marked down and we were given an additional discount on it for some reason). We still seem to be in pantry item acquisition mode, and having to buy those things (vinegar, sugar, oats, etc.) always seems to add a little extra to our bill, but we know once they’re purchased they will last for a while and will only be needed occasionally, and not always at the same time. With our small refrigerator and freezer, and without our storage containers for things like sugar, flour, etc. we currently have to buy smaller items versus larger sizes which is more expensive because we have no way to store bigger items. It will all sort itself out . . . eventually. On the plus side we ate all our leftovers this past week, didn’t throw away any food, and put $7 away into the change/$1 bill jar. Meiling also paid us for her annual phone service and that went right into our travel account.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are feeling very thankful for our new mattress, a memory-foam hybrid. We are sleeping so well these days, and waking up feeling more rested than we have for a long time. We slept on comfortable mattresses in most of the Airbnbs we stayed at, but the mattress we had during our last Japan stay ((extremely hard) followed by the one in the north shore condo here on Kaua’i (extremely soft) about did us in – they were the worst we experienced, and my back hurt every day we slept on those, so we are grateful for and appreciative of the comfortable sleep we are getting now.
    Pizza is my favorite food, and these Alsation-style pizzas, tarte flambée, knocked it out of the park for me. I had a three-cheese version with roquefort and brie, and Brett’s had tomato and herbs – both were amazing. Yes, we each ate the whole thing (with a knife and fork, as you do).
  • Bonus question: What were your favorite foods/dishes you enjoyed when you traveled? We did not eat out very often while we traveled – most of our meals were very simple and eaten in “at home” in order to keep our spending in check. Our favorite meals, especially in France and Italy, were simple cheese, pâté or salami, and fruit platters along with a glass of wine (mirabelle plums are at the top of our list for fruit). Still, we did go out now and again to experience and enjoy the local cuisine. Although we ate a LOT of good food in a lot of different places, I think both Brett and I would agree that the traditional Alsatian meals we enjoyed in Strasbourg were our favorites. I absolutely loved tarte flambée (flammekueche), and we both loved our meal of charcroute garnie (pork and sausages with sauerkraut). The baba au rhum I finally got to enjoy in Bordeaux was pretty amazing too, and we enjoyed stopping at the local boulangerie almost every day for a baguette while we were in France. The cacio e pepe along with fried artichokes I ate in Rome are also at the top of my list, as are the pizza and daily gelato we ate in Florence. And don’t get me started on Japanese food – it’s still my favorite cuisine of all. I would also love to sit and enjoy tea and fresh-baked scones served with clotted cream and jam again, or with a slice of coffee-walnut cake. Brett said I can’t forget Cornish pasties either – they were amazing, especially eaten freshly made from a shop. Oh, the memories!

Brett and I seem to have settled into our new Hawaii lifestyle. Unlike when we lived here before, there is no running around every day or adjusting our day or desires to fit the girls’ lives and schedules, and we get up, eat, and go whenever we’re ready. Along with not having visitors crowding the island, it’s really lovely. I know we’ll be out more as things open up, but for now this lifestyle is exactly what I imagined retirement to be. YaYu seems to be managing okay as well – there have been no complaints other than she misses college and her friends there, but she stays busy communicating with said friends, watching shows in Mandarin to keep her skills up, reading, and exercising. Besides watching TV together every evening, she and I continue to study Japanese together, and we each bring our own strengths to the process. We gave up on FluentU, and are back to using Memrise. It’s not perfect, but we feel what we are learning is more useful.

As promised, here are a few more of the gorgeous hibiscus we discovered over at Kukui’ula the other day. Finding new varieties has become sort of a treasure hunt for me these days.

That’s it for this week. Here’s hoping you all had a good week as well (and better weather), had lots of good things happen, and are looking forward to the week coming up!

Sunday Morning 5/17/2020: Opening Up

Sunsets were all over the place this week, from mild to spicy.

Ever since I set up those cards last week I haven’t had a moment to feel bored! So far things are going well and I’m getting everything checked off, but I’m seriously having trouble finding time to do things that aren’t on the cards! YaYu and I have had mixed feelings about the Japanese program but we are going to work with it for a while and see how it goes. Neither of us is exactly a beginner, but we’re not quite at an intermediate level either so we find some of their examples easy and other things very difficult. YaYu is also using the program to review Chinese every day (advanced) so that she stays up to speed for when classes open in the fall, whether that’s on-campus or remotely.

Kaua’i beaches opened up on Friday for island residents! The local government wants to see how it goes for a couple of weeks, so there are rules to be followed, but this coming week we will finally be able to pitch our umbrella and chairs, and sit outside, read, and enjoy the sunshine and views! The visitors’ quarantine is still in full effect (until the end of June. The quarantine is taken seriously here, and because of previous infractions things have really tightened up for visitors: some hotels are not giving visitors keys anymore; they are let into the room and then given the key after their 14 days are up. Visitors are also not allowed to rent cars and have to use Uber or a taxi to get to their lodging. In spite of all these restrictions and monitoring, some visitors are still being cited and fined, and some have even been required to leave the state. Figuring out how to get the tourism industry restarted and back on its feet is going to take a long while after restrictions are lifted, with visitors expected to be only 40% – 50% at what they were before the virus arrived. In spite of the financial hardships the quarantines and shutdowns have caused, it seems that most island residents are still fine with the visitor restrictions, at least for time being – no one want the virus to get a hold here.

We are still in the process of getting things set up and taken care of here. Brett has an appointment to get the car’s biannual inspection done next week, and YaYu and I were finally able to get an appointment with the eye doctor. After two years without an exam, my glasses are not strong enough anymore, and YaYu has just one more set of contacts left and needs a new prescription. Hopefully, the Costco optometry section will be open by then, but if not, I’ll order my glasses online (with help from YaYu). All three of us also still need to find a new physician down on the south side. We loved our former doctor but he’s up on the north shore, over an hour’s drive away (when there’s no traffic) so we think it’s best to find someone located a bit closer now.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Last Chinese Chef mid-week but am still reading The Yellow House. The Last Chinese Chef was a fairly quick read with a romantic storyline but contained a lot of fascinating information about Chinese cooking and the philosophy behind it. For example, food in China is all about people eating together, with dishes never plated individually but always served for the group. I have picked up The Dutch House again, starting from the beginning again as I couldn’t remember much of anything of what I’d read earlier.
  • Listening to: The wind is howling again outside. We had some calmer days last week but then yesterday it got crazy again. The temperature and humidity are increasing, although nothing too bad yet, but the continual breeze has kept things nice. Brett and YaYu are rustling around in the kitchen fixing their respective breakfasts, and there is a rooster going crazy off in the distance. 
  • Watching: YaYu and I are almost done with Top Chef Season 14, and are thinking about watching Tiger King next because Meiling and WenYu keep asking us to watch so we can all chat about it. We’ll see. Brett and I are finishing up Season 2 of Trapped – maybe he’ll watch Tiger King next too.
  • Cooking: We’re having grilled Polish sausages, macaroni and cheese, and coleslaw for dinner tonight. I’m hoping to pick up a chuck roast this week to do a Mississippi Pot Roast – we made it when we were in Japan and have been dreaming of having it again and then using the leftovers for French dip sandwiches. Other things I plan to fix this week will be grilled ahi and vegetable kabobs and California BLTs (avocado added) with chips. We’ll figure out the other nights’ dinners later.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: So far I have been able to finish all the tasks on my card every day, so I’m pretty happy with that. Sunday is a notoriously difficult day to earn Swagbucks, so probably won’t make my goal of 50 today, but I have already earned 279 “bucks” this week so I should make my weekly goal of 350 by Wednesday.
    We’re down to the bottom of the bowl. These were all that were left on Thursday evening.
  • Looking forward to next week: Going to the beach! We’re going to get a beach chair and an umbrella at Costco and a couple of straw mats at Walmart this week so we’re ready to hang out and relax. Something we are not looking forward to next week will be the end of all the KitKats we brought back with us from Japan. We’ve had a lot of fun trying all the different flavors, some of which I have to admit were a little strange this time. Rum raisin has been bumped from the top spot on my favorites list though and replaced by yuzu green tea. That flavor was amazing – so delicate.
    My yummy birthday cake – Yayu topped it with a perfect ganache!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: I had an absolutely lovely birthday this year. The last couple of years it has been a travel day so I have been too exhausted, jet-lagged, etc. to enjoy anything about it but this year I got to relax while Brett and YaYu spoiled me a bit. YaYu made me an amazing cake – a Boston Cream poke cake. So good! Our new felt coasters finally arrived this week and I am thrilled. They’re such a simple thing, but cold drinks always sweat here, usually heavily, and these coasters are nearly impervious to water – it neither pools up on the coaster nor soaks all the way through, big issues and problems with previous coasters. They felt ones are pretty too – I chose a set in “ocean colors.” Our Penzey’s spice order arrived as well – their quality is outstanding, and cost much less than we would pay here in any supermarket. Brett and I went to the Kukui’ula farmers’ market this past week and really enjoyed ourselves. There was lots of social distancing going on, and everyone was wearing a mask, but there was also lots of amazing produce available at great prices, and live music too. We only spent $15 but tried to spread that around to different farmers.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I noticed last week that what we were being charged for the big laundry rack I had ordered seemed much higher than what I initially paid and discovered that Amazon or the vendor had dropped its Prime status and free delivery between when I ordered and when it was being sent and we were being charged (a lot) extra for delivery. I was able to successfully cancel the order and get a refund. We will manage for the time being with the smaller rack we already have. Our only spending this week was a stop for Mother’s Day ice cream last Sunday evening (my scoop was free!), the trip to the farmers’ market on Wednesday, and the Puka Dogs for my birthday dinner, coming to less than $55 total. We finished up all our leftovers, didn’t throw away any food, and put $4 into the change/$1 jar this week.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are so thankful for the Hawaiian spirit of aloha working its magic once again. This past week we went to check out some hibiscus at the luxurious Kukui’ula development (cottages start at $3.5 million!), located near to where we live – a parking lot near the country club had been recommended as a place where I could find some unusual and beautiful varieties. As we were walking back to our car, the security manager arrived to let us know we were in a private area. We explained why we had come and how we heard about it, and ended up having a lovely 20 or so minute chat with her about the area and more (all of us wearing masks). We learned some of the hibiscuses had been used at the big Merrie Monarch hula festival in the past, about her grandfather’s farm stand located just down the road from where we live, and she also recommended several other places in the area we should get to know. It ended up being a purely Hawaiian, purely Kaua’i experience, and we were invited to come back any time. Lucky (and thankful) to live Kaua’i!
  • Bonus question: What are your favorite tropical fruits? Of all the things I missed about Kaua’i after we left, the abundance of fresh, year-round tropical fruit was near the top of my list. I tried so many new and different things here, and while there are definitely some I don’t care for (egg fruit and sapodilla come to mind) the ones I do like make up for those. If I had to name a favorite it would be lilikoi (passionfruit) – it’s both sweet and tart, and while I enjoy lilikoi products, from pie to mustard, I especially love having it fresh, spooned over vanilla ice cream or vanilla yogurt. Right below lilikoi would be papaya, which I didn’t initially like but now love, especially for breakfast or in a smoothie. I have also come to love dragonfruit, breadfruit, litchi, and rambutan and am looking forward to their arrival this year! I will eat mango but am not a huge fan which sort of surprises me as I thought it would be something I love. Bananas are ubiquitous here but the varieties are so tasty that I can no longer eat “store-bought” bananas anymore. I miss peaches, plums, berries, and melons (we can get them at Costco but they’re expensive) but the tropical fruits we can get here are a wonderful substitute.

I am wearing my hair in a ponytail these days . . . yikes! I had forgotten how fast my hair grows here. I don’t think the ponytail is a good look for me, but I am very tired of my hair exploding into a giant puffball whenever we go out and then whipping around my face or getting in my eyes (and by the end of the evening, ponytail or not, it’s still a puffball). Hopefully, it won’t be too long before hair salons are able to open again and I can get rid of this mess.

Above are a few more new hibiscus I found this week. We discovered a lot of very beautiful ones at Kukui’ula – I’ll post more next week.

That’s it for now! I hope this past week was a good one for you too, that lots of good things happened and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up!

OK, maybe this is the reason why there seems to be a whole lot fewer chickens than there were before.

Sunday Morning 5/10/2020: Happy Mother’s Day!

Sunsets were subdued this week when compared to previous weeks.

Happy Mother’s Day! Today is my traditional Day of Doing Nothing, where Brett and YaYu will take care of everything, from cooking to cleaning to laundry and so on. The family has done this for the past several years, and I prefer having nothing at all on my plate for a day and not feeling guilty about it more than any thing they could give me. Right now I’m sipping a cup of fresh-brewed coffee (TheRoyale™!) and noshing on a toasted onion bagel slathered with chive cream cheese. In a short while, YaYu will make me a banana & tropical fruit smoothie. I’ve had messages from all the kids (calls will come later) so my day is starting off nicely.

This past week felt sort of meh, but overall it wasn’t a bad one. We got together with our neighbors one evening, walked almost every day, including walks on the beach, but there were no drop-dead, gorgeous sunsets because there were usually few to no clouds in the evening – basically, on most days the sun just sort of disappeared and then it got dark. The strong winds continued as for most of the week as well which helped to keep things cool but at the same time kept things sort of noisy. In other words, the new normal continued.

I contacted the moving company again early last week about our shipment, and this time got a name and direct line for contact, but as before, after I got done speaking with the agent and getting assurances they were going to work on it . . . nothing. I think the problem may be with the moving company in Portland (the office that coordinates the mainland side of things is in San Diego). Either the Portland office is closed under the current stay-at-home orders, or working with a very small staff and our small shipment is not a priority. On the plus side, I heard from the US Department of Transportation that my complaint against Aeromexico has merit and they are pursuing it, and also from our bank that the disputed charge for the tickets is still ongoing as well. Hopefully, that refund will be resolved in the next few weeks.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I continue to have two books going, but once I get myself caught up where I’m on track to accomplish my goal of 52 books this year, I will cut back to one. My two current books are The Yellow House by Sarah M. Broom (daytime) and The Last Chinese Chef (evening/night), by Nicole Mones, a novel about “friendship, love, and cuisine.” The Yellow House is an award-winning memoir about a large family and their home in New Orleans, before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. I finished Death Is Now My Neighbor mid-week, and have just one more of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse books to finish. I know he dies in the last book, and I’m already feeling sad about that so I’m going to have to steel myself to read it. I am so glad the woman I met in the Oxford Information Office recommended that I go back and read all the Morse books. I’ve not only been able to place myself in different locations and settings and follow Morse and Lewis through the city, but have a deeper understanding of the university culture too.
  • Listening to: There’s a nice, gentle breeze outside this morning instead of the howling winds we’ve had for over a week so it’s nice and quiet. Brett and YaYu are rustling around doing something, but otherwise it’s a lovely, quiet morning.
  • Watching: We finished all the available episodes of Shetland, and YaYu and I are now watching Season 14 of Top Chef. After we finish an episode of Top Chef, Brett and I then watch an episode of Trapped, a detective series from Iceland. I’ve seen the Top Chef season before, but I don’t remember who won.
  • Cooking: I’m not sure what YaYu is planning for this evening, but afterward we’re going to the Kukui’ula Marketplace to celebrate with some Lappert’s ice cream. Other things planned for dinner this week are omelets; mabo nasu (if we can get eggplant); fried rice; and Thai chicken pizza. We’re going to get take-out on Thursday but where it comes from will be a surprise. We never got the Instant Pot cheesecake made this week, so we will try again this week, and I’m going to have another go at making focaccia.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: 1) YaYu finished her second year of college – all classes over, all tests taken, all papers submitted. WenYu also finished her classes at Wellesley this past week and is now officially a graduate! 2) Using yeast and flour gifted us by our neighbors, YaYu and I attempted rosemary-garlic focaccia bread this past week as it was a dough we could tackle without our big mixer and we also have a big supply of fresh rosemary in the back yard. It was the first time we’d ever tried making it, and the result tasted good and was the right consistency, but it didn’t brown enough (possibly the temperature is off in the oven). 3) I successfully pressure cooked a slow cooker recipe in the Instant Pot – I was nervous about doing this but it turned out great and I will probably never slow cook it again. 4) We walked five out of seven days this past week.
  • Looking forward to next week: We have nothing special on the calendar, but my 68th birthday is on Thursday – I’ve asked for take-out for dinner and another “day off” that day, the perfect gift because I don’t want or need anything else!
    The new sofa table – we’re really pleased with it!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a long, lovely video chat with our son and family on Wednesday. K is speaking so much English now! All of them are well and managing the Tokyo lockdown. Our sofa table arrived last Wednesday and we love it! I had found four different ones on Amazon that would have worked, but selected this one for its simple, organic appearance and attractive price. Last Sunday evening we were invited to our downstairs neighbor’s apartment for a wine tasting. Our neighbor is a chef at the Grand Hyatt, and his wife is also a chef, so there were some tasty nibbles as well as good wine. We had thought the upstairs neighbor was the restaurant manager but it turned out he is the resort’s sommelier! He provided a lovely selection of wines for tasting, and we had a fun time getting to know our neighbors better. The next day, our downstairs neighbor brought up flour and yeast for us so we could bake (we had talked a lot about bread the night before).
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I had apparently left $100 in a savings account here (I thought I had closed it), so I used that as the base for our local travel savings account. I put in $14 this past week, earned from recycling and saving $1 bills. Our total travel savings is now $164, so we’re off to a good, if simple, start. We ate all our leftovers this past week and didn’t throw anything away, and other than a stop at the farmstand, and a quick trip by Brett to Costco on Friday for toilet paper (that they didn’t have) and Diet Coke, we didn’t spend anything.
    Apple bananas and fresh mangoes from the farmstand
  • Grateful for: We’re feeling thankful that the Kukui’ula Farmer’s market opened up again this week – combined with the farmstand we now have two nearby sources for fresh, affordable, local produce. We’re also thankful that a few nearby restaurants that have been shut down are re-opening for take-out, including two of our favorites: Puka Dog (Hawaiian-style hot dogs) and Da Crack, (Mexican – their burritos are amazing). A couple of shops have also re-opened in the Kukui’ula Marketplace. The reopening will be slow here, but it’s getting started.
  • Bonus question: How do you feel about having to stay home all the time? For me, an introvert, it’s mostly a satisfying situation. I have several projects going on and manage to stay busy every day. In fact, this past week I purchased a small spiral notebook to get started on my travel planning project, and then was not able to find a block of time to get started! That’s one of my goals for this week though. I enjoy getting up when I’m ready and not having to follow any sort of defined schedule throughout the day, but I’m always surprised at the end by how much I’ve gotten done, whether that’s reading, baking, cooking, cleaning, exercise, etc. Anyway, staying at home works for me, at least most of the time. I am looking forward to getting out more though, like down to the beach for more than a walk, getting together with friends, and getting my hair cut, but that’s most likely another month or so off from now.

It feels good to be done acquiring things for this apartment – all we need now is to get our stored stuff over here and we will finally feel settled. We continue to pinch ourselves that we found this place with its beautiful yard, great breezes, nice neighbors, great location, and all for less than we assumed we would be paying. In just a little over a month here, we’ve come to realize how truly miserable our last house here was, on top of the awful landlord. The house had high-end finishes and looked good on the surface, but it was small and a pain to maintain, and there was absolutely no airflow through the house – any air that moved inside was only because of the ceiling fans that operated constantly (the house sat in a small valley, and windows were not placed to facilitate air movement through the house – even if the wind was blowing outside no air came through the windows). I understand now why the humidity seemed so awful and caused me so much such misery – it was miserable! I’m still waiting to see how summer goes here, but I feel like the heat and humidity may be a whole lot easier to manage than they were before. We’ll see though.

I spotted a few new hibiscus varieties this past week while we were out walking, and also discovered Indian ginger, pink Hawaiian ginger, and some miniature anthurium. 

That’s all for this week! Again, a very happy Mother’s Day to all who celebrate. If the day is a challenging one for you though, I hope, as Connie Schultz says, that it lands gently for you. Here’s to good things happening, good books, getting things accomplished, and looking forward to the week that’s coming up!

Sunday Morning 5/3/2020: May Already

A few of this past week’s sunsets – the sky was on fire!

With the arrival of our coffee table this past week, we are now feeling a bit more settled here, minus our stored items, of course. There’s still been very little to no movement on getting that going either. I was able to get hold of someone from Royal Hawaiian early last week who then contacted the moving company on the mainland who would handle things there. They, in turn, called me back right away. They asked for contact information for our friend Joan to set things up with her, said they would be calling her within the hour, but four days later she had not heard from them nor had I. Sigh. I will be back on the phone again with them tomorrow.

Hawaii’s stay-at-home order will be continuing at least until the end of this month, although a few things will begin opening this month, including golf courses and car dealerships. Beaches will open for exercise but not for sunbathing. There is still no consensus for when things will open for visitors, although according to our neighbors, the Grand Hyatt here on the south shore is tentatively planning for a June 1 opening. Although people would like to get back to work, no one seems very eager about having visitors possibly bring the virus along with them again. There have been less than five cases per day appearing in the islands now with visitor quarantines still in place and stay-at-home orders and mask-wearing (socially) enforced. Kaua’i hasn’t had a case of the virus in over two weeks, and no one here is in isolation any longer. Until we hear otherwise, we will continue to spend most of our time here at the apartment, wear masks when we go out, wash and sanitize our hands, and follow social distancing rules.

YaYu finishes this term’s classes this week, so she has been thinking of what she can do to fill her time. We have given her free use of our Amazon account to order books because libraries will remain closed for the time being (and she doesn’t have a Kindle). She also wants to do some more cooking and baking. Brett plans to get a sketchpad and pencils and get back into drawing. Along with reading, I have a couple of ideas up my sleeve of things to keep me busy. Weather permitting, we all plan to get out and walk/run down at the beach at least five evenings per week.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Splendid and the Vile this past week, but I am still working my way through Midnight in Chernobyl during the day. It’s an amazing book. The penultimate Inspector Morse book, Death Is Now My Neighbor, is my current reading at night. 
  • Listening to: The wind is howling again outside. This wind speed has ranged anywhere from 22 to 35 mph this week, and there’s been rain too on a few days. It’s been hard to believe sometimes that we’re in Hawaii . . . in April and May . . . except that many of the trees being blown about are coconut palms and in spite of the wind it’s been warm during the day (although very cool at night).
  • Watching: We’re still working our way through Shetland. Thank you for the many suggestions for shows we can watch after we finish the series – we haven’t decided on anything yet though.
    Instant Pot rice pudding with whipped cream – served in one of our glasses because we don’t have any other dishes. The pudding was very creamy and delicious.
  • Cooking: Tonight we’re having patty melts, one of YaYu’s and my favorite sandwiches, along with chips and coleslaw. Also on the menu this week will be grilled flank steak with roasted potatoes and Caprese salad; CookDo sweet and sour pork; Vietnamese-style salad rolls; slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy; and one-pan pasta. Side dishes will be determined by what we find at the farmstand. YaYu and I baked a cake this past week and made rice pudding in the Instant Pot yesterday, and this week we’re thinking about trying a cheesecake in the Instant Pot.
    We sometimes walk through the deserted Kukuiula Marketplace. Music is still playing, but the only two places open are Uncle’s Shave Ice and Lappert’s Ice Cream.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: I finally found a sofa table on Amazon at an affordable price, and got that ordered. Yeah – no more furniture! Brett, YaYu, and I got in four walks last week (YaYu usually runs while we walk). We’re especially pleased with the amount of exercise we got this past week because the weather has been mostly awful. There hasn’t been a whole lot more to accomplish around here though – it’s been boring at times, to tell the truth.
  • Looking forward to next week: A couple of books are scheduled to arrive for YaYu, and I have a small crossover bag arriving (I don’t need my big tote bag here on the island), but otherwise, packages have slowed down to a trickle. We’re also ready to go down to the beach for some of our walks.
    The new coffee table has a “beachy” vibe to it – we love it!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We love our new coffee table! It’s an inexpensive piece that I found on Amazon, but it’s solid wood, it fits perfectly in our living room, and we love the look of it. YaYu’s blender arrived early last Friday, so she’s having fun with that. And, Brett and I finally have actual linens on our bed! They arrived from Amazon yesterday – just four days after I ordered them! I did not realize I had ordered a gray duvet cover, but we both like how it looks so it all worked out. The vent arrived for the dryer so Brett is working on getting that installed. We still plan to line dry most things though, but it will be nice to use the dryer when we need one. I am actually starting to get a bit of a tan, the beginnings of looking more like I live here rather than a piece of shark bait that just got off the plane.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We made two trips to the farm stand and one trip to Big Save in Koloa for a few odds and ends, but that’s all the spending we did this past week. I saved $200 by ordering bed linens from Amazon versus reordering from the first company after our original order was (finally) determined to be lost. We had been thinking about buying a sofa table from a store in Lihue but saved $800 by choosing the one from Amazon (and it’s solid wood too).
  • Grateful for: For many reasons, we are so thankful to be back on Kaua’i and so grateful our daughters told us last Christmas that this is where they wanted us to live again. Even with the crappy weather this week, Brett said he never wants to “do winter” ever again and was never so happy to be anywhere as he was when we landed here back in March. It’s not always the easiest place to live (expensive and difficult to find things, and difficult to get together with family), but we made it work for us before and we know we can do it again.  
  • Bonus question: Although outings are limited, what interesting things are you finding these days? One of my favorite things to do while we’re out and about, walking or otherwise, is to be on the lookout for new (to me) colors of hibiscus. I have always been amazed by how many different variations there are. I go through periods when all it seems I see are standard red or yellow ones (the big yellow ones with a red center are the state flower and they are everywhere), but then all of a sudden out will pop one in a new color or with a different petal. I’ve decided there are more varieties than I’ll ever be able to see, and that’s OK with me!

I had my first moment of panic over things this past week. It didn’t last long but it still gave me a scare. I am very good at adjusting to circumstances, quickly if need be, but for a little while the other evening, I felt good and scared, like maybe we are in the middle of circumstances that will not be resolved and that will resist adjustment. I have to wonder how things are going to go with all the demand for reopenings currently going on, but as someone said, we’ll know in June if May was too early. Hopefully, this will be a better week coming up, from the weather to things happening that need to happen, and my general sense of optimism can take over once again.

That’s a wrap for this week! I’m hoping it was a good one for you, that you got things accomplished, had good books to read, that lots of good things happened for you and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up.

Sunday Morning 4/26/2020: The New Normal

A few front-door sunsets from last week.

It’s been a so-so week, a continuation of our new normal. We’ve gotten out for a couple of walks (although that can be difficult to do with the restrictions), and to get food and supplies. Our washing machine was delivered and works great, but the dryer can’t be hooked up yet (no vent) so clothes will need to be hung up or go to the laundromat to be dried for the time being. Finding a drying rack on the island though was like searching for a needle in a haystack, although a small one was eventually found. A few more packages arrived from Amazon this past week with items to make our lives easier, but we are still waiting on several other things, especially our bed linens, which seem to be either lost or trapped in limbo somewhere. The weather has been mostly delightful, but we’ve also had rain and it’s been cloudy and quite windy some days. The sunsets have been amazing though. It feels for the most part like we’re neither going forward nor moving backward. Kaua’i hasn’t had a new case of the virus in over a week, and only two people on the island still remain in isolation. Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island had only a handful of cases last week which has been wonderful news as well. Openings are already being planned for next month, but as for visitors, how many will dare get on a plane to fly here? What will open? And, testing someone for the virus after they arrive is too late for the islands, but who is going to test everyone before they come? And what happens if a visitor brings the virus again – what will happen then? 

Last Wednesday, following the advice of a reader and reading up on our rights for a refund, I contacted Aeromexico. Because the flight would have arrived in the U.S., and because they, not us, canceled the flight, US Department of Transportation regulations clearly state we are entitled to a full refund. Period. Aeromexico wouldn’t budge though – all they would offer was a voucher good for 365 days or a reservation on another flight, neither of which works for us. So, we are now disputing the charge through our bank and have reported Aeromexico to the DOT, who has already issued strong warnings to all airlines about the rules for issuing refunds, international carriers included. It may take a while, but hopefully, we will get those tickets refunded (not sure of what happens though if Aeromexico declares bankruptcy).

We are also having difficulty setting up anything with Royal Hawaiian. We have called and emailed, and have been told they will get right back with us, but we’ve heard nothing. We are trying to be patient – it can’t be easy for them under current conditions, but we also don’t want to have to buy more things to tide us over until our shipment arrives. We learned this past week though that one saucepan and one frying pan were not enough to work with so we added a big covered saute pan to our collection of cookware as well as a ladle and serving spoon. These are all things we already own but that are currently in storage, but will be put away for YaYu once our stuff does arrive.

I was able to snap a few pictures at Glass Beach before we had to leave.

We’d like to get outside every day, but sometimes all we manage is a trip out to the deck to sit and read. On Monday we drove down to Poipu to walk and see the sunset – it was lovely and the sunset was gorgeous. We also got back for a walk yesterday afternoon. On Wednesday we went in the other direction to walk on Glass Beach, but the police arrived about 10 minutes after we did and ordered all nine of us that were there to leave. Thank goodness for our Hawaii driver’s licenses because we would have received a ticket and fine otherwise. We had hoped to put off shopping until next week, but we ran out of food on Wednesday, so on Thursday Brett and I went to Costco and then to Big Save in Koloa, the nearest store to our house, and stocked up again. Other than a weekly trip to the farm stand, we now have enough to get us through at least another three weeks. There are no bargains to be had on Kaua’i though – our food bill was through the roof again, especially since we’re feeding three right now.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished Secondhand, and am a little over halfway through The Splendid and the Vile – it’s a much longer book than I realized, although very interesting. Midnight at Chernobyl came off of hold at the library this past week so that’s my current daytime book. It’s very readable, especially for such a complicated topic – I actually can now understand nuclear fission, radioactivity, and how a nuclear reactor operates because of the author’s clear explanations. Secondhand was a very thought-provoking book about what happens to our stuff after we’re done with it, and after finishing the book I felt pleased with how well we did before leaving Kaua’i in 2018 in getting our things recycled and reused. We threw away very little. 
  • Listening to: Sundays have been very quiet in our neighborhood, but someone was mowing their lawn earlier. Otherwise, all I’m hearing is the sound of a fairly strong breeze blowing through the trees outside. YaYu is still sleeping, and Brett’s quietly making himself breakfast in the kitchen.
  • Watching: All three of us have been watching the British detective series Shetland, one episode an evening in order to stretch it out. We have three more seasons left to go, each with six episodes, so we’ve got another couple of weeks until we have to find something else. YaYu watches a couple of other shows, but I have no idea what they are.
    We got all this from the farmstand down the road for $20: two zucchini, three papayas, a mango, three tomatoes, a cucumber, a big bunch of apple bananas, and cilantro. They had so much beautiful produce that it was hard to decide what to get – can’t wait to go back!
  • Cooking: Our small refrigerator and freezer are full once again, as is our pantry. Tonight we’re having grilled Polish sausages with potato salad, and we’ll also finish up the last of some four-bean salad. Also on the menu this week will be mabo dofu with steamed rice; grilled fish tacos with fresh mango salsa; and fried rice. We’ll be trying out the Instant Pot as well, although we’re not sure what we want to make just yet.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: It was a pain to take care of, but I’m glad I got the ball rolling to get our refund from Aeromexico. YaYu also organized the refrigerator and pantry which was a big help. I am also glad we got our food shopping done as it’s currently a difficult and somewhat unpleasant chore these days.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am especially looking forward to getting our coffee table this week – I never realized how much we use one until we didn’t have one. The table we ordered is nothing fancy or expensive, but it’s solid wood, has a design we love, and it got good reviews on Amazon, so Brett and I have our fingers crossed. This coming week will also be YaYu’s last for this term’s classes – she is ready to be done with those and move on to her junior year!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our Instant Pot arriving yesterday was a huge surprise as it wasn’t scheduled to come until Wednesday of this week. YaYu and I have been deep reading the instruction booklet and we have decided to start slow and work our way up to more complicated recipes. In spite of not being able to use the dryer right now, having a washing machine again is wonderful. A brand new stacking unit was delivered on Thursday and by that evening we were caught up with all our dirty laundry, at least the washing. Don’t know what the solution will be for venting the dryer though – possibly under the house? We actually prefer line drying for many things so we had ordered a big drying rack from Amazon, and Brett (eventually) found another small one hidden away at a local hardware store – between the two we should be able to get everything dried on laundry day and will save the dryer only for a few items. We can also drive down to the laundromat in Eleele if we need to, to use the big dryers there – the washer’s spin cycle does such an amazing job of extracting water that it didn’t take long and cost very little to dry the three loads of wet clothes we brought to the laundromat on Thursday evening. Brett also found what may have been the last set of ice cube trays on the island, also hidden away at a store, and we were set by Saturday evening for gin & tonics once again. They were made with Hendrick’s Gin, from Scotland (found at Costco in blockade runner-sized bottles) so we also had some lovely memories of our time in the UK while we sipped our drinks.
    They were as tasty and refreshing as we imagined!
  • Thinking of frugal things that happened: We had five no-spend days this past week, but then spent a lot when we did our food shopping which ran our daily spending average right back up to the limit. We are well stocked with food for the next few weeks though. I also found a quarter that had been left behind in the change machine at the laundromat, but every little bit counts, and it was put away for the future.
    Brett apparently got the good genes – he just does not look like he’s 70 years old.
  • Grateful for: I am both fortunate and grateful, as always, for Brett’s steadfast companionship and love, and for his willingness to assemble all these many items that keep arriving from Amazon but also for his help with unglamorous household tasks like laundry, dishwashing, recycling, and all sorts of other things that need to be done each day. YaYu has also been a huge help, especially with cooking. It’s been fun to prep everything for her knowing she will turn it into something delicious. Under what are difficult conditions for her, including being separated from her friends and boyfriend, and being cooped up in a small apartment with her mom and dad trying to finish her classes remotely, she has stayed positive and helpful and is fun to have around.
  • Bonus question: What’s the first thing you want to do when the stay-at-home restrictions are lifted and things start opening back up? I NEED A HAIRCUT! (yes, I’m shouting). While I have enjoyed having longer hair these past few months, and the cut I got last December in Portland has grown out well, Kauai’s humid/windy weather and my very curly hair are not a good match. As long as I stay inside I’m OK, but if I step outside for a moment all I’m left with is a big frizzy mess. I am also growing tired of how long it takes for my hair to dry now that it’s longer (and I can’t use a dryer – that also makes for very frizzy hair). So, as soon as it’s possible, I am getting my hair cut short again. I am also looking forward to getting back to the beach and sitting in a beach chair under an umbrella with my Kindle and a Diet Coke or an iced tea. Right now if I tried it I’d get a ticket (as it’s a non-essential activity).
The view from my chair on the deck. The hose runs from a rain barrel next to the house over to the koi pond on the left.

My wish for the next week is that outside of a visit to the local farmstand, we don’t discover something else we need so we don’t have to buy anything. I am sick of spending money! I am greatly tired of “moving in” too, and outside of the few things yet to arrive from Amazon I would like to feel a bit more settled than I have for the past few weeks. I am hoping to have a week where we can get out a few times for walks, but also really enjoy the space we’re in. The deck is all set up now, with a big umbrella, comfortable chairs and side tables for drinks, and I’m looking forward to being out there more (weather permitting) and enjoying my coffee or some iced tea while I look out and savor our beautiful back yard (which was “groomed” this past week so it’s looking especially nice!).

I try to stay positive, but it’s been a whiny, not so happy sort of week, and I have to believe this one coming up will be better. This has just been such a crazy, sad, frustrating, mixed-up time for everyone, and then having to get through this move on top of everything got the best of me the past few days. It will all work out though – things always do. 

That’s all for this week – I continue to hope that good things happen for you and yours, that you have good books to read and good food to eat, and that you’re all staying safe and well.

Sunday Morning 4/19/2020: Social Isolation

Friday’s sunset from the front door

This past Thursday was the first day since we arrived on Kaua’i that we did not have to go anywhere or do anything associated with relocation nor did we have to interact with anyone else. After all the energy and effort this move has required, it’s been nicer than we imagined to have some time to ourselves – we’ve slept in, and relaxed and read during the day (YaYu is already bored though). There are still things that need to be taken care of, but the big stuff is done and we can finally step back and just fully enjoy being home.

For a few days last week though we began to wonder if we had made a mistake renting this place as our neighbors to the front and upstairs were being very noisy. It started with heavy footsteps upstairs all day and well into the night, but on Sunday and Tuesday nights they partied until the wee hours of the morning, playing loud music, talking loudly, clumping around, and so forth. On Wednesday afternoon though Brett got a chance to talk with them and mentioned the noise. They all apologized profusely and said they would be more careful, and they have been. It turns out they all work together at the Grand Hyatt and are all currently laid off – our landlord, their employer, has provided housing for them here. One of our neighbors is the executive chef at one of the restaurants while another is the general manager for the hotel’s restaurants, and the third guy is in charge of all entertainment at the hotel! They told Brett they hoped all of us could get together one of these days and have a barbecue and get to know each other better – we’re up for that! The two guys who live in front of us also asked us to please use their new, fancy washer and dryer from now on to do our laundry until ours arrive, rather than pay to use a laundromat.

In the short time we’ve been in the apartment, Brett, YaYu, and I have each been able to carve out our own space, and we try to be respectful of each others’ schedules. All of us are enjoying the deck and being able to be outside to read and relax or work on our tans so we’re not so pasty – the chairs and umbrella were very worthwhile purchases. I’m sleeping better than I have in a long time, and YaYu says the sofa is very comfortable for sleeping too. We’ve got the kitchen figured out and even the little bar sink no longer bothers us. I’m looking forward now to getting our storage shipment over here and really settling in, although that effort is just getting started.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I had another book come off of hold from the library, so I’m now reading Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter during the day, and continuing with The Splendid and the Vile at night.
  • Listening to: It’s a pretty quiet morning all around. YaYu is still sleeping and Brett is reading so it’s quiet inside. Our upstairs neighbor just ran his vacuum cleaner but that didn’t last long thankfully. It’s pretty quiet outside as well – just a quiet breeze this morning, some birds singing, and no chickens or roosters. Considering that our current location is far more rural than where we lived before, we’re sort amazed how much quieter it is. We thought we’d be overrun by poultry here, but that isn’t the case at all. There are fewer dogs barking too.
  • Watching: YaYu and I finished up Season 13 of Top Chef – our favorite chef came in second but the chef that won deserved it. Brett and I are now watching Shetland via our BritBox subscription.
  • Cooking/baking: We are making real progress in opening up space in the refrigerator and will continue to work on using up more of the food we still have on hand this week. YaYu is making oyakodon tonight for our dinner which we’ll have with rice and cucumbers. We won’t be getting a CSA bag this week and will stop at a nearby farm stand instead and see what they have for sale – we decided we’d rather pick our own produce than have it chosen for us. Also on the menu this week will be pork and vegetable stir fry; tofu curry with steamed rice; breakfast for dinner (pancakes); and BLT sandwiches and chips. We may try and make a Thai chicken pizza as well but that will depend on whether we can find some smaller sheet pans – the standard one we bought is too big for our small apartment-size oven (and is now holding overflow items under the bathroom sink).
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: For the first time in forty years, I made rice in a saucepan. Seriously, I’ve never used anything but a rice cooker since we first went to Japan in 1980, so I count making perfect Japanese sticky rice on the stovetop (the first electric stove I’ve cooked on in nearly 30 years) a genuine accomplishment. We contacted Royal Hawaiian to get the ball rolling on getting our stuff back over here but that’s going slowly – we’re still waiting on a callback from them. Our bed frame arrived on Tuesday (two days earlier than expected) and Brett got that assembled. While it’s wonderful to be off the floor, the bed is now higher than I’m used to although I’m getting used to it. Brett has continued to break down cardboard and recycle it as packages trickle in from Amazon, and the UPS store in Lihue took all of the styrofoam we’ve accumulated as well so that isn’t building up around the apartment.
    Assembling things is one of Brett’s happy places – he’s exceptionally good at it.
    Can you see how high the bed is? The frame is 18 inches high versus the standard 14 inches.
  • Looking forward to next week: Our new washer and dryer are scheduled to be delivered and set up on Thursday – YEAH! Our landlord said we might get just a 15-minute warning that it’s coming, but we’re not going anywhere so that’s OK. Tuesday will be Brett’s 70th birthday and we’ll have a small celebration for him that evening which will include coconut cake, one of his favorites (store-bought from Pepperidge Farm though as our cake pans are still in storage). We’re hoping to get down to Poipu again for some exercise and to view the sunset at least a couple of times next week as well.
    I have needed this little shelf on my counter my whole life and didn’t know it.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The things that came in from Amazon this past week, including the bed frame, have made things a lot more comfortable around here. We now have nice, cushy cotton bathroom rugs, our bottles of cooking oils and spices are organized on the counter; and plenty of Mrs. Meyer’s liquid hand soap on hand (we’ve been unable to find liquid soap at any store on the island). It’s been fun having a package arrive almost daily.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We received full credit for the Alaska Airlines tickets we purchased back in February (they were sadly not eligible for a refund). The credit is good for any future ticket and will cover the cost of getting YaYu back to Pennsylvania in the fall, with some leftover to help with getting her back here for Christmas as well. I got an email yesterday evening from Aeromexico that our flight had been canceled and that we now had an open ticket that can be used on any Aeromexico flight in the future through March of 2021. Brett and I won’t be able to use it so I am going to call and see if I can get a refund although that wasn’t offered. We spent very little this week – I ordered some summer pajamas (all I have now are the winter-weight ones I traveled with and they are getting to be too warm) and a couple of other small things for the house (cleats for window shade cords and a tray for the refrigerator to corral the bottles of sauces and condiments). YaYu got a further refund from Bryn Mawr and put it into her savings account for next year. Our stimulus money arrived the first day it was available, and is sitting in the bank – it will go toward covering the cost of getting our shipment over here. We’re using up what we have already bought and didn’t buy any additional food this week. Sadly though we had to throw out a few things from the fridge – some produce and a package of tofu froze because there was too much stuff in there. Another non-frugal thing that happened was a trip to the laundromat down in Eleele – it cost $12.75 to do three loads of laundry so we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of our own washer and dryer, and are grateful for the offer to use the neighbors’ appliances in the meantime.
  • Grateful for: As we hear more and more about possible disruptions to the food supply chain, we are grateful to be on Kaua’i. The island abounds with small farms and ranches, and with restaurants closed there is plenty of affordable produce available – farm stands are all over the place. Fresh fish is also easy to find, and because beef and other proteins (pork and lamb) are also raised on the island these are currently more available as well to the public for purchase. We continue to pick up toilet paper and other scarce items when we see them so have a good supply on hand. If things get dicey, we will be OK here for the long haul.
    A simple gyotaku print (not the one I did). Creating one of these isn’t as easy as it may look, but I had fun doing it and was happy with the result.
  • Bonus question: What are you looking forward to the most to having back out of storage? I’m especially looking forward to having our art back with us again – they are the things that will truly make this place feel like home again. We used to carry a LOT of pictures around with us during our time in the navy and in Portland, and our walls were covered with them, mostly Japanese and Chinese prints that we accumulated during our tours in Japan, but we gave away several pieces to friends and sent other pieces to auction when we left Portland in 2014 (and did rather well with that). We kept only the pieces that were deeply meaningful to us. Those include an antique hand-carved six-foot ranma (wooden transom) and an old hand-painted fabric Children’s Day banner; four prints from old Japanese books I acquired in Kyoto when I was 18; an early 19th century Japanese woodblock print by Kunisada; a woodblock print by contemporary artist Katsuyuki Nishijma of a street we walked down several times during our years in Japan; a gyotaku print I made (using a tilapia as the printing plate); the map of Tokyo’s subway and train system I carried everywhere with me from 1989 to 1992, complete with worn creases, and had framed; and a wonderful chart given to Brett by renowned information designer Eduard Tufte, of Napolean’s march to and retreat from Russia. We also kept four pictures/photos of special memories from previous travels and a woodblock print of The Princess and the Pea that hung in my mother’s home. Again, it sounds like a lot, but when spread around the apartment it will be just enough – I can already see where everything will go. I’ve missed all of it and can’t wait to see everything again.
We have barely made a dent in the KitKats. They’ve all been very good.

In the Before Time, we would have been departing Japan and on our way to Mexico today. Even after nearly a month since we left, it’s still difficult for me to look at pictures from our time in Japan. We really didn’t want to leave, and even in hindsight I sometimes wonder what might have happened if we had stayed. I know now that leaving certainly would have been far more difficult if we had delayed our departure by even a week and life there would be difficult if we had gotten caught up in the current lockdown. But, we didn’t delay, we came back to beautiful Kaua’i and now it’s time to reset our lives and get on with it. I’m thankful for all those KitKats we brought back – they make each day here a little sweeter and help bring back happy memories of our time in Japan.

Once again, I hope that you and yours are staying safe and healthy, and finding things to do and ways to stay connected with others. We are all definitely living in “interesting” times!

Sunday Morning 4/12/2020: Settling In

First, wishes for a very happy and meaningful Easter to those who celebrate! Today’s a bittersweet day for us because we were looking forward to celebrating with our grandkids. We had reservations for Sunday Brunch at the New Sanno Hotel with our son and family, and this would have been our last full Sunday in Japan. Restaurants are now closed at the New Sanno (and pretty much everywhere), and Tokyo is on lockdown, so even if we were still in Japan we wouldn’t have been able to go or do much of anything.

Lawai valley, as seen from our living room window

I’m sorry for not posting this past week, but we were busy! We officially moved into our new permanent residence this past Friday, the day YaYu could finally leave quarantine. Getting the place ready was exhausting though – Brett and I are almost getting too old for this. He and I traveled down to the south side every day, driving 43 miles and an hour and ten minutes each way, and often with stops at Costco or Home Depot on the way for supplies. Although it was already very clean, we did another deep clean, moved furniture, unpacked and put things away, and took care of everything else we could to make the place habitable. We’d drive back to the condo every evening and collapse, only to get up the next day and go for another round.

Monday was the toughest day. We started out by picking up a cargo van early in the morning, then headed over to Costco to pick up a new gas grill as well as a market umbrella and stand for the deck. A very nice Costco employee helped Brett get everything loaded into the van. The umbrella stand was apparently made from a combination of pure lead and depleted uranium, and the grill wasn’t much lighter (a customer inside the store helped Brett get them on our cart because I was worthless when it came to lifting – the two of them looked like a pair of masked bandits!). The next stop was Home Depot where we picked up a few cleaning supplies, two resin Adirondack chairs, and a chaise lounge, also for the deck. Then it was down to the house to drop off the chairs, chaise, and umbrella before Brett headed back up to Kapaa to meet up with our friend, Alan, who helped Brett get our sofa and mattress from the furniture store. While they were gone I deep cleaned the kitchen and started unpacking and putting away some of the things we had bought. Brett and Alan arrived late afternoon with the (heavy) furniture, new grill, and umbrella stand and through a sheer force of will those two old men got everything up and into the apartment. We didn’t make it home that night until nearly 8:00 p.m. where YaYu had dinner waiting for us.

The rest of the week was a little bit easier but the days were still long. I got the kitchen pulled together (the bar sink is challenging but not impossible), Brett put the grill together, set up the deck, and got the TV hooked up; I got all our travel clothing and items sorted and put away (and cried a little while I did) and the linens too. On Thursday the TV/storage cabinet and dining table and chairs we purchased were delivered. We got everything arranged the way we wanted and were finally ready to move in on Friday morning!

The apartment is currently very minimally furnished, but everything we bought is comfortable and fits perfectly in the space. We have beautiful views from every window. I know the place will eventually look much more like home once we get our storage shipment and have our personal items again. This place has made us realize how very, very little scenery we had outside our former house in Kapaa, just a hillside out the back and the side of the neighbor’s house, but no flowers or interesting or beautiful plants. Here we look out at either rolling hills or a beautiful tropical garden in the back yard – it’s so refreshing and pleasant. The apartment stays cool too – for all the work we’ve done we’ve never had to turn on the ceiling fans where our old house never ever caught a breeze – the windows all faced the wrong direction. We’ve got our fingers crossed the breezes last through the summer and into the early fall.

I don’t think I can ever get tired of this view out our front door.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I got out my Kindle again yesterday and started reading The Splendid and the Vile again and was able to concentrate for more than a few pages – it felt good to be reading again. I will get back to The Dutch House after that.
  • Listening to: The sky is bright blue, and the only sounds are a soft breeze blowing through the palms out back and the birds singing. We have the front door open and the breeze is sweeping through the living room as well. Kaua’i, I have missed you!
  • Watching: Meiling and WenYu have been asking us to watch Tiger King so we can discuss it together, but I’m still resisting. YaYu and I watched Train to Busan on Friday (an enjoyable film if you’re into zombies) and then started watching old Top Chef seasons yesterday (she loves cooking shows and I love Top Chef).

    We made pesto from the basil we got in last week’s CSA box and served it with tortellini, green beans from the box, and garlic toast.
  • Cooking: We got this week’s CSA box this past Friday instead of having to wait until tomorrow (containing salad mix, broccoli, bok choy, microgreens, green onions, and cherry tomatoes) and between it and all the stuff we brought down from the condo our very small refrigerator is stuffed. We definitely bought too much food when we arrived, not knowing we would eventually have such a small refrigerator and freezer here. Trying to use up as much as we can of what we have on hand, YaYu and I came up with a menu for the week that will create more space in the fridge. Tonight we’re having breakfast for dinner (scrambled eggs, sausages, roasted cherry tomatoes, and croissants). The menu for the rest of the week includes spaghetti carbonara with green salads and artichokes; tofu and vegetable stirfry over rice; chicken yakisoba; croissant tuna sandwiches with microgreens and chips; potstickers, rice, and garlic broccoli; and meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and four-bean salad. She and I will do our shopping tomorrow but we have very little to buy this week. YaYu will use the bok choy when she makes noodles.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: Besides getting moved in and settled, Brett has broken down I-don’t-know-how-many cardboard boxes and gotten all of them out of the apartment and recycled. We put away almost everything and got things organized surprisingly quickly, one of the benefits, I guess, of not having a lot of stuff and being in a place with lots of closets and cabinets.
  • Looking forward to next week: Some of the things we ordered from Amazon that we weren’t expecting until the end of the week have either already arrived or are now going to arrive this coming week, like our bed frame! Yeah! Also expected to show up this week will be our new bedding (duvet, cover, and shams), placemats, and hopefully the coffee table.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The BEST thing that happened this week was that our daughter-in-law’s department decided to allow their team to work remotely, so she no longer has to ride a crowded train to work and back every day during the shutdown. We have been so worried about her, especially as the number of COVID-19 cases has been rising again in Tokyo. All four of them are at home now, but they’re making it work. Thankfully their house allows for our son and DIL to have their own offices, but also easily get out to help the kids. Our new hybrid memory foam mattress is very comfortable – one more night on that mattress in the condo and I would have lost it as it was by far the worst mattress we slept on in nearly two years. The new bedside tables we ordered from Amazon arrived two days early – they were waiting for us when we arrived at the apartment on Friday morning. We’re very happy with them – although they didn’t cost much they’re all wood (no particleboard), very stylish, and were easy to put together. I can’t wait to get the bed frame and get the mattress up off the floor.

    C shares his foreign currency collection with his class, while K takes a break with some Lego.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Once again, this has not been a particularly frugal week in many ways – moving and setting up a home always comes with many hidden and unknown spending surprises. However, when we picked up the grill we had chosen at Costco the price had dropped by $40, as had the prices of the umbrella and stand – $120 saved! We also ended up choosing a smaller TV (43″ vs. 55″) that cost $200 less than what we had thought we would pay, and by purchasing the chaise lounge at Home Depot versus Costco we saved another $40! We have been using and enjoying everything from our CSA box and only threw out one tiny bit of lettuce when we moved our food down from the condo.
  • Grateful for: We’re thankful to have this move over with, and feel that we are in a great location now to hunker down for the next month or longer. There’s still more to be done, but the bulk of the work is over (well, until our shipment arrives).
  • Bonus question: What was your worst moving experience? We have moved many times, but the worst one was after we sold our house (a 1924 Craftsman bungalow) in 2005 to the Buyers From Hell. We dealt with one annoying request after another from them and their agent the minute their offer was accepted, but the last straw was when they announced less than a week before closing that they wanted to take possession of the house 24 hours after closing instead of the 96 hours stipulated in the contract. They made their usual empty threats but this time we said OK because we were beyond ready to be done with them. However, this meant the new deadline was 4:00 p.m. on the Fourth of July. We somehow found some movers to help us that day (they were great and fun to work with) but even with their help, we scrambled all day to get everything out on time on such short notice. To make things even worse, the buyers and their agent arrived an hour before the deadline and stood out in front of the house to watch us, with their agent calling our agent and screaming at him that we were going to be in breach of the agreement, that we were going to leave the house dirty, etc. The whole episode was absolutely bizarre, unprofessional, and beyond stressful, but we somehow made it out with minutes to spare and with the house spotlessly clean. Karma always operates on its own schedule though. The buyers had paid more than our asking price in what was a hot market and planned to renovate/upgrade and flip the house to make a killing, but the housing bubble burst not long after the sale and they ended up losing money and having to stay in the house longer than planned.

These past two weeks in quarantine have been difficult ones for YaYu, starting with leaving her boyfriend and friends and making the long trip over here only to have to stay indoors for a full two weeks – she couldn’t even get out for a walk! She has friends here too, but couldn’t/can’t socialize with them. But, she has taken it all in stride and has never complained once about her situation and has been a big help with the cooking and other chores. Even when we had no Internet service for our last two days in the condo she found a way to do what she needed to do in order to get her coursework done. We’re thankful she is healthy and with us (and she has said repeatedly she is happy to be here too).

YaYu has also always been our biggest critic, but she likes our new place and says it’s perfect for us. We think it’s pretty perfect too. We’re in a quiet, private area, have nice neighbors, wonderful breezes, and are in a good location to take care of our shopping and exercise needs. The only complaint we can make for now is that our upstairs neighbors can walk rather heavily at times across the floor, but thankfully that doesn’t happen much. Did I mention this place also has a HUGE bathroom? It’s actually bigger than our bedroom and has a large walk-in shower with three nozzles and a giant Jacuzzi/soaking tub. The jets in the tub are currently not working, but that’s something we hope to take care of in the future. Anyway, we’re happy to be here and are looking forward to getting our items out of storage to make it more personal.

One half of the giant bathroom. That corner behind the tub is crying out for some candles.

There’s even a chandelier!

I continue to hope all my readers are well and managing sufficiently during this difficult time. What are you all doing these days to stay sane? The move has kept us busy but now we are going to have to find other things to keep us occupied. I’d love to hear from you about how you’re coping. Most of all though, please take care to stay healthy and safe!

Sunday Morning 4/5/2020: Staying Home While Moving In

Afternoons on the lanai . . .

What another strange week this has been, trying to balance social isolation with getting ourselves ready to move into a new place in less than two weeks. We’re off to a good start, but there is still much to do, all while trying to have as little interaction with others as possible.

Social distancing at Costco . . .

We signed our lease this past Tuesday. It was great to get another look around at the layout and start figuring out where things could go. After taking care of that, we headed back up to Kapaa to Otsuka’s furniture store, where the manager opened the store just for us so that we could shop for a sofa and mattress. We purchased a beautiful, pale gray leather sectional sofa (on sale) and a hybrid memory foam mattress. With a friend’s help, we will pick up both on our own tomorrow and get them down to the apartment as the store is not allowed to do deliveries under the current state shutdown rules. On Wednesday we went back down to the south side to open a post office box and set up a weekly CSA pickup at the Monkeypod Jam store, then went to Costco to get started on getting things we need for the new place. We had hoped to stop at Walmart as well that day, but by the time we finished at Costco we were too tired so headed straight for the condo. We took Thursday off from shopping and took care of things like address changes, internet service, voter registration, and census forms. Brett got a next-day appointment for the internet set up so was down at the apartment again early Friday morning, but while the network is operational the internet doesn’t work! The technician wouldn’t come into the apartment either because according to him we had not been quarantined long enough. Brett has been on the phone with the internet company and they think the problems can be fixed tomorrow over the phone. Brett also did our Walmart shopping on Friday and got some more things we needed. Yesterday we visited another furniture store in Lihue, Two Frogs Hugging, that also graciously made special accommodations for us to come in and shop, and we found an affordable teak table and chairs, and a storage cabinet that will also function as a TV stand. Brett will be up early on Monday to rent a truck or van from Home Depot, the only place such things are available right now. We will run over to Costco first and pick up a gas grill and TV, then go back up to Otsuka’s to pick up the sofa and mattress so all the big and/or heavy things can go down to our place at the same time (our friend Alan will be helping move the heavy pieces). Anyway, things are moving along and we will be ready to move out of the condo this Friday morning to begin life in our new apartment!

. . . and at Walmart.

Although we’re getting things done, moving and starting over from scratch in the middle of all the shutdowns going on all over is still proving to be a challenge at times and we’re constantly having to change and adapt. Stores here don’t have the things we need (can’t find a white bathmat, for example). We had planned to place an order with IKEA and include flat packs in our shipment from Portland that Brett would assemble here. However, the earliest possible delivery date available from the Portland IKEA was May 15! At that point, our shipment probably wouldn’t leave Portland until the end of the month at the earliest and not arrive here until late-June/early-July at the earliest. So, we decided to scrap the IKEA idea and use local sources and Amazon to find other pieces of furniture and things we need. It may end up costing us a bit more, but on the plus side we should end up with better quality goods than what we would have gotten from IKEA and our shipment over here won’t cost as much. We’re going to get started next week on getting our stored items back over here and have our fingers crossed there are no problems with that.

Airbnb stepped up this past week and refunded the full amount of our Mexico stay, overriding the host’s decision to only refund 75%. We’re still out of luck with our Aeromexico tickets, but are going to hold off on contacting Alaska Airlines as things may change yet again next month. We also received a credit from Bryn Mawr for part of YaYu’s flight home! That was a nice surprise and reduced the cost of that ticket. Both WenYu and YaYu are receiving refunds for some of their room and board costs, as well as a small final lump-sum payment for lost income through work-study. YaYu will be banking both amounts to use toward next year’s costs. Finally, I qualified for a break on my student loan – no payments due until September 30 – something I wasn’t sure would happen as it’s an old loan contracted under different rules than now. I’m on autopay though so payments will continue, but all of it will go directly to knock down some more of the principal.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I have tried to read a couple of times, but my mind still wanders too much and I can’t focus. I think once this move is over and we start getting settled I’ll be more relaxed and ready to read again.
  • Listening to: It’s a beautiful, quiet morning. The sun is shining, there’s a gentle breeze blowing, Brett is puttering around in the kitchen, YaYu is still asleep, and other than birds singing outside it’s perfectly quiet. It makes me think how noisy this condo complex must have been when it was full of tourists! The whole island has been quiet ever since we arrived, and we’ve heard several locals comment that it’s almost been a return to how it was in the past.
  • Watching: I watched this week was the movie Parasite on Amazon Prime, but that was all. I thought it was superb and completely worthy of the academy award. Meiling sort of jokingly asked if we had been watching Tiger King, but I don’t think there is anything that could make me watch that. I’ve been compiling a list of movies to watch on Amazon once we get settled and get our streaming services up and running.
  • Cooking: I haven’t really come up with a menu for the week, and am not even sure what we’re having tonight. YaYu is the cook these days (I’m the prep cook), and I’m going to let her look at what we have and decide what she’d like to make. Costco had chicken in when we were there on Wednesday so I grabbed a package of thigh fillets, and we still have ground pork, tofu, pork chops, and eggs on hand for protein as well as plenty of vegetables and bread. I’m pretty sure we’ll be having mabo dofu this week and the pan of stuffed peppers from Costco, but other than that I haven’t a clue what she’ll come up with! We’re going to order a pre-made meal from Monkeypod to have on Friday evening as we’ll be busy unpacking and settling in that day. The following week YaYu and I will work together to make a menu for the week on Monday after we receive our CSA bag and see what we have, then we’ll do the grocery shopping for the rest of what we need on Tuesday.
    This is around 1/3 of what we bought at Costco (and some recycling). The rest of the stuff stayed in the trunk of our car and Brett took it down on Friday.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: We have bought everything we need that we could find here on the island; everything else for the apartment will be coming from the mainland. I have ordered some things from Amazon that we couldn’t find here, including a bed frame and nightstands, but much of the order isn’t due to arrive until the end of the month, and some of it not until the end of May!
  • Looking forward to next week: Although there’s a lot to do to get ready, I am looking forward to moving into our place and getting adjusted to our “new normal” on the south shore of the island. We are also looking forward to getting the paperwork completed for the car transfer and also getting our driver’s licenses updated.
    Homemade banana splits for a sweet anniversary treat!
     
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a lovely anniversary dinner last Monday, and we discovered we had everything on hand to make banana splits so dessert turned out to be a bit fancier than originally planned! Also, we’ve seen some Royal Hawaiian trucks out on the road delivering and picking up shipments this past week, so that gives us hope that it won’t take too long to get our stuff. We’ll see. The sofa we bought was a great value and something of a dream come true for us, and we’re happy with the other furniture we found as well. 
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: There is nothing frugal about setting up housekeeping from scratch, especially when there are only two places open to buy necessary items, but we are doing the best we can. It’s felt though as if our money has just flowed through our fingers this week, but it’s also been sort of amazing all that we’ve needed to get, even to set up a simple lifestyle. However, with the discount we were given at Otsuka’s we ended up paying less for a better sofa than the leather one available at Costco! Getting our refund from Airbnb was a huge relief because of the host’s pressure for us to cancel without guarantee of a refund. There’s been no food waste since we’ve been at the condo, I’m happy to report, something of a surprise considering the amount of food we moved in with.
  • Grateful for: We were both touched and thankful that the managers of Otsuka’s and Two Frogs Hugging offered to open their stores for us so that we could shop safely on our own. There are very few furniture stores on the island (and they’re currently all closed), and Costco has an extremely limited supply of furniture, with just two sofa choices that didn’t appeal to us at all. Two Frogs Hugging had a great selection of interesting pieces at affordable prices (as well as many things way outside our spending limit), and we were allowed to shop in their warehouse for some great bargains. We’re also very thankful for the Monkeypod Jam store setting up and serving as a CSA pick-up location. It’s very close to our new place, and we’re looking forward to getting some great Kaua’i produce as well as helping out local farmers. We’ll be getting a bag of mixed items for the same as what we used to pay when we lived in Kapaa (only this time the farmers will choose what we get).
  • Bonus question: How are you filling your days under a stay-at-home order? When we are not busy in some capacity working on getting moved, I’m mostly on my laptop, reading blogs and news, (I think I’ve solved the WordPress/Blogger commenting issue!), checking into Twitter to see what’s going on, writing or at least trying to come up with topics for the blog, and looking for sources for things we need. I’ve also been playing a fun game on my phone from time to time, Animal Restaurant, recommended to me by Meiling. Although I thought it started off slowly, I’m now completely hooked. Nothing I’m doing requires a lot of concentration though – I’m still unable to read more than a couple of pages before my brain is off thinking of all the other things I’m juggling in my head. It’s the same with watching TV. Of course, there are always meals to fix or at least prep for, cleaning to be done, beds to make, laundry to do, and endless things to pick up around the condo and those take time too. It’s kind of a sad, lazy life right now and somewhat depressing even with all we have going on.
There’s no social distancing right now at the Minato Ward Tokyo Regional Immigration Services Bureau (photo credit: The Japan Times)

From what we’ve heard from our son, and what I’ve been reading, it seems we got out of Japan, or at least Tokyo, at the right time, although Japan recently extended stays for visitors, including short-term tourists like we were. We still could have been stuck there for several more months though. Foreign visitors are currently stranded though as almost all international flights have been suspended. Many of these visitors were having to crowd into immigration offices along with the usual spring rush of students and other workers to try and get their visas extended, but the wait time for that deadline was recently extended by 90 days. It’s scary to think where we’d be at this point if we had stayed, and especially where YaYu would be. Japan is bracing for COVID-19 cases to explode again and what’s going to happen in the next few weeks is unknown. By the time we left many, many people in Tokyo were ignoring the social distancing orders – restaurants and shopping malls were full, and people were gathering for outings cherry blossom viewing parties in parks. High schools in Tokyo have been ordered to remain closed until May, and whether other schools will follow next week is currently unknown. I am especially worried for our daughter-in-law because she works for the national government, and it’s extremely unlikely that she will be ordered or even allowed to work from home – she is considered “essential.” She has to ride the train to and from her work as well as parking near where she works is completely unaffordable.

I hope you are all continuing to stay safe and healthy, as are your family and friends, and that you’re keeping your distance. To those of you with relatives or friends who have contacted the virus, I’m sending you and them all my good thoughts and prayers, for a speedy recovery. What a trying, scary time this is!

Sunday Morning 3/29/2020: Quarantine Life

Flooding at the junction of the Kapaa bypass and the Kuhio highway just south of Kapaa yesterday morning; it rained hard again last night too.

What an insane week this has been! It’s hard for me to believe that a week ago this time we were still in Japan, although we were getting ready to leave. Since then we’ve gone through our trip back to Kaua’i, the efforts to get YaYu here, and now we’re starting the process of resettling on the island in the middle of a pandemic and quarantine. It’s been hard to take it all in at times.

Quarantine Life: Where we’re spending most of our time for the next two weeks.

YaYu arrived home on Friday evening, but not without a bit of work. After two cancellations and two schedule changes to her original itinerary, we were nearing our wits’ ends, and when Delta changed her flight once again to Saturday we said enough! I called Delta and in five minutes had her on a new flight that departed early Friday morning. Her boyfriend’s mom and I set up a plan about what to do if she got stuck anywhere, so those bases were covered before she departed, but thankfully each of the three flights involved in her itinerary took off on time and even got her here to Kaua’i a little early. I had a fairly sleepless Thursday night/early Friday morning though as we had asked her to message us each time she arrived at her layovers, and then each time she boarded the next plane – we needed to know she wasn’t getting stuck somewhere. She’s now settling into her quarantine, and Brett and I are feeling a lot more relaxed than we were.

The Wailua Bridge remains closed until the log dam behind it, created by Friday night’s torrential rains, can be removed.

The rain since we arrived has been nearly non-stop and quite heavy at times. Friday night was the worst, with massive amounts of rain falling all night along with a fierce thunderstorm. Lightning was all around and struck the golf course next to us a couple of times which was VERY loud and shook the entire condo. As you can see from the pictures at the top, roads and bridges around the island had to be closed because of flooding. People also had to be evacuated from their homes in the middle of the night, but thankfully no lives were lost nor was anyone hurt.

We got our car the day after we arrived, and on Wednesday found a place to live following YaYu’s quarantine. Brett and I went out that day and looked at two places on the south side (Koloa/Lawai/Kalaheo) that we had spotted on Craigslist. The first place was nice, with two bedrooms and gorgeous views of the countryside, but the trip up to its location and then back down to the highway was quite treacherous, and the rent was also at the top of our budget. In fact, by the time we made it back to the highway (alive) we had decided we didn’t want to live there even if we were accepted (we weren’t). The second place we looked at was a smaller, older apartment. It was a nice size and in a much better location; the rent was much less and included utilities; and, it came with a new refrigerator and a new washer and dryer (we would have had to share the washer and dryer at the other place). There was also a nice yard where Brett could putter around. After checking it out we said we would take it and were accepted on the spot (we still had to pass a credit and criminal check, which we did easily) and we will officially be in possession of the apartment on Tuesday. However, we have to stay at our condo on the north side until April 11 as YaYu is under full quarantine and has to stay inside here, but that will give Brett and I a few days to go down and try to get the place set up as much as possible before our official move-in. I’m not sure how much of that we can accomplish as almost all stores on the island are closed and movement is limited, but at the least, we should be able to get a bed, sofa, and a TV in to get us started, and we can eat Costco casseroles and sandwiches, and use paper plates until our things arrive from the mainland. We have no idea how long that will take though – Amazon shipments are currently taking a month or more at a minimum to get over here so getting our stuff across the ocean may take much longer. In other words, getting re-settled is going to take a good, long while, but we now have the basics in place and are moving forward. It’s been great having our old car back too – it runs great and makes us feel like we never left. All that’s left to do is transfer the title but county offices are currently closed so whenever they reopen we will take care of that piece of business.

Our soon-to-be new home

Although schools in Japan are supposed to be reopening next week, according to our son, Tokyo appears to be moving toward stronger quarantine measures at the same time so whether the kids will go back is still unknown. A resurgence of the virus is expected, and the government is ordering/recommending stricter measures short of a full lockdown in hopes of keeping the virus tamped down. By the way, it snowed in Tokyo yesterday – unreal for this time of year!

Snow day on the balcony.

I have tried not to think about how much money we may have lost over all the changes we had to make to our travel plans in the past couple of weeks. We are outside the no-fee change dates for the flight we booked on Aeromexico to go from Mexico City to New York in May as well as our flight from Boston back to Portland on Alaska in early June. We can pay a cancellation fee with Alaska and at least get back about 68% of what we paid, but the Aeromexico flight is a complete loss. Delta fully refunded our Dallas to Mexico City flight (Delta has been amazing during all of this and we will remember that when it comes to future travel). We also lost the entire amount we paid for our one-night stay in Vermont following WenYu’s graduation as any cancellation included the first night’s stay and we were only there for one night. Our Airbnb host in Mexico has also refused to refund all of what we paid because if she cancels she loses her Superhost status, but she has agreed to return 75% of what we paid and give us the rest in a coupon toward a future stay. She hasn’t been able to accomplish anything from her end though, and we have asked Airbnb repeatedly to look into it, but who knows how long that will take or if it will ever be resolved. If we cancel we will lose everything. I realize these are all first-world problems, and others are hurting far worse than we are, but it’s still extremely frustrating. We are grateful for all the people who did refund our money and I hope we will get some further relief from Airbnb, but I’m not really counting on it at this point.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’ve given up on reading for the time being as I’ve been unable to sit and focus, even with a good book, for any period of time.
    Blue skies returned for a while on Saturday afternoon, but the rain eventually returned.
  • Listening to: Brett is rustling around in the kitchen making blueberry pancakes this morning. YaYu is up, but she’s as quiet as a mouse (for now). There are blue skies outside again and a gentle breeze blowing, thank goodness – I hope it lasts. The condo complex is very quiet overall, but that’s because there really isn’t anyone here but us and a few other full-time residents.
  • Watching: I watched Knives Out last night on my computer, but otherwise we again didn’t watch anything this past week. We have full cable here, but got out of the habit of watching TV when we were in Japan. I’m sure YaYu will get us involved again fairly soon, although she is pretty busy now with her online classes.
  • Cooking: Brett and I enjoyed a Costco meatloaf and mashed potatoes for most of our meals last week – we had it for dinner on three nights along with some four-bean salad and then used the last of it up in sandwiches on Friday. It was very good and we would buy it again. Things will get eaten more quickly though with YaYu here. This week we’ll be having enchiladas (also from Costco), pork yakisoba, CookDo pork and pepper stir fry, and breakfast for dinner one evening. I will be doing prep in the kitchen, but YaYu will be the chief cook. We couldn’t find any fresh chicken at Costco, and customers were limited to one package there anyway. Shelves in Costco and Big Save market were stripped bare of some items (i.e. especially ramen and rice, and of course toilet paper), but the Princeville Foodland market has had everything we couldn’t find earlier, although at a higher price, and we were able to get toilet paper there. We’re still trying to find out if we can set up a weekly CSA delivery from one of the local farmers – I am craving Kaua’i produce!
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I am sort of amazed by all we accomplished this past week: flights home to Kaua’i; getting food and getting settled into the condo; getting our travel wardrobes washed and put away; finding a place to live; and most of all, getting YaYu home. It was a day later than we initially hoped for and took a bit of work, but she is here now and that’s what counts. And, we seem to have conquered our jet lag in less than a week – a new record! One big (and happy) chore YaYu and I took care of yesterday was sorting out all the KitKats we brought back. We made bags of them that we’ll send to Meiling and her boyfriend, WenYu and her boyfriend, and to YaYu’s boyfriend and his family. The rest went into a big bowl and the three of us will have one every evening after dinner and hopefully can make them last for a while. I had one of the tangerine ones last night and it was delicious!
  • Looking forward to next week: Tomorrow is Brett’s and my 41st anniversary. Our celebration will be very low key: we’re having enchiladas for dinner and ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream for dessert. I’m going to get started ordering some things for the apartment this week as we will have a few items from IKEA (flat packs) included in our shipment that Brett can assemble once they get here. Ordering furniture is always fun (for me, anyway), and that needs to be done before we can set up our shipment.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Arriving back on Kaua’i and finding a place to live so quickly was a very good thing, especially in our preferred location. Having our car back again has been a good thing too. And of course, best of all is having YaYu here with us. The other girls are doing well, although we worry about Meiling and her boyfriend in NYC. They have not gone out of their apartment except for one quick trip to the grocery store. There are apparently no chickens/roosters in or around this condo complex either as we haven’t seen nor heard even one of them. It will probably be the complete opposite though at our new place – we are mentally preparing ourselves.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Choosing the less expensive rental was the most frugal thing we did this past week, and with utilities being included in the rent our island budget will be in very good shape and help us put more away for YaYu’s college expenses (important since she most likely will not find employment this summer) and also give us more discretionary income. Our grocery expenses upon arrival were quite high as prices for everything but gasoline have gone way up but we have enough food to last the three of us for over two weeks.
  • Grateful for: Brett and I are feeling beyond blessed to have such good friends, and such a wonderful son and daughter-in-law. They have been and were an immense help this past week and offered unwavering support over the past two weeks when we needed it most.
  • Bonus question: Is there anything you regret not getting to do on this last visit to Japan? In spite of all the restrictions that came about (for good reason), the one thing Brett and I most regret is that we weren’t able to visit Kamakura as we had planned. It’s one of the most interesting cities to visit in Japan, and one of our favorites, but it was just too risky at this time especially considering it would have involved over an hour-long train ride each way with transfers in two busy stations (Shibuya and Yokohama). We feel sad that we did not get to go to the brunch at the New Sanno Hotel, especially since this was one of the first things C asked if we could do, and also that we couldn’t be in Japan for his birthday. We had reservations at the New Sanno for Easter brunch, but all brunches at the hotel have been canceled for now. Otherwise, we have no regrets over how things turned out and appreciate the opportunity we were given to spend increased time with our family and explore and discover the area surrounding our apartment in Sangenjaya.
Beautiful packaging . . . for fish!

Finally, the answer to the mystery food I posted a couple of weeks ago: the food shown above are fish cakes! Called kamaboko in Japanese, these mild fish cakes have been eaten in Japan since the 14th century. Made from pureed, deboned whitefish, the fish is formed into loaves on a narrow piece of wood and then steamed until they have the consistency of a firm sausage. Besides the standard loaves shown above, kamaboko is also formed into a variety of different shapes for other purposes, such as for oden, Japan’s most famous winter stew. Kamaboko is eaten and enjoyed in a variety of ways, such as fresh and dipped into a sauce, or sauteed and served warm, or sliced and added on top of a bowl of ramen or other noodles. The pink color and the grilled topping are done purely for aesthetics – the three versions above are otherwise the same. Red kamaboko is also available; it is most often used on holidays or for special celebrations. Kamaboko is popular in Hawaii too – it’s made locally and always served with saimin. It is also sometimes used to make a tasty dip!

Thank you for all your support over the past week or so – it’s been quite a roller-coaster ride! We are missing Japan and our family there so much still, and that’s been hard to deal with along with all the worry over getting YaYu back to us. The next couple of weeks are going to be hard as we get ourselves moved into more permanent housing. But things have and will work themselves out, and all your comments have helped. Here’s wishing you are all well and continue to stay that way, and that in spite of all that is currently swirling around us, that you and yours stay safe and healthy, and good things continue to happen.

Sunday Morning 3/15/2020: Week 7 in Japan

My companion and playmate for the next couple of weeks

It’s Sunday morning in Japan . . . .

At the beginning of this past week we got to change up our daily pattern a bit as K went back to her hoikuen, so there was no need for me to be over at our son’s for a full day. Brett went over in the morning for C’s distance learning, and then I was there by 3:00 in the afternoon, giving me time to take care of things around the apartment in the morning. My back had been giving me some trouble, and it was nice to have the morning somewhat free to get it back into shape before the long walk to our son’s. On Wednesday afternoon though they got a note from the hoikuen asking that if there was someone available to watch the children at home it would be appreciated because of the coronavirus risk, so both Brett and I both headed over Thursday morning, Brett to again help C, and me to watch K. We will be on duty for the next two weeks, but then it will be spring break (our son has vacation that week as well), and schools will reopen nationally the following week, with K beginning preschool. As our son remarked on Thursday as we were getting ready to leave, “It’s not turning out to be the visit you imagined, is it?”

The weather has been warmer this week, except for Tuesday, when it poured all day, and yesterday, when it was cold, rainy – it even snowed! Otherwise, we had some nice walks to and from our son’s place. Brett and I were going to go over to Tokyu yesterday afternoon to do our food shopping, so as not to have a repeat of last week’s situation where I was stuck with a bunch of heavy bags (although there will not be a repeat of last week’s extra five jars of peanut butter!) but seeing snow coming down killed that outing. We may go visit the Maneki Neko temple with our son and family – later today. The sky is blue, but it’s very cold again.

For now, the girls are OK, but changes have been coming fast and furiously. Wellesley announced a hard shutdown of the campus for the remainder of the year; everyone has to be out of the dorms by Tuesday. WenYu plans to move out on Monday and will stay with her boyfriend in Massachusetts while she finishes her courses online. Our hearts just ache for her – she was within less than three months of graduation, and now that is gone, and she will not even be able to go out and find work. She and I shared a few tears as we talked about the changes. The campus and Wellesley community is already reaching out to this class though, and I know they will find ways to still make things special for the young women from the class of 2020. Bryn Mawr is still officially open, although all classes will now be online. Dorms and food service were going to stay open, but YaYu learned on Friday afternoon that all student employment had been canceled, and that evening that she had to be out of the dorm no later than Monday. She was also tearful, and a bit frantic, but we worked out a plan: she will be staying with a friend for a few days that lives nearby, and then moving over to stay with her boyfriend’s family for a few days (he attends Haverford, also lives nearby). The college still hasn’t announced a hard closure, but that is expected by April 3, and if and when that happens, YaYu will most likely go stay with Brett’s sister and BIL, or in Massachusetts with WenYu, and then we will bring her to wherever we are as soon as we possibly can, and she will spend the summer with us. Meiling is now working remotely in NYC and she is well and doing OK. Although the theaters are currently closed, if they reopen in time she and her boyfriend will use our tickets and see Hamilton in May; otherwise, she will get us tickets for a later visit. It is a crazy and upsetting time for the girls – none of them have ever dealt especially well with change, and these quick ones have left them completely upended.

Things are currently in flux with our flight out of Japan and our future plans as well. Although our reservation with Delta appears to still exist with no changes, I noticed this past week that the flight is no longer listed as an option on the airline’s website, and when I’ve searched using the flight number, I saw that it’s still departing but three hours later than what our reservation says. I received a message from them this week asking us not to contact them regarding reservations until 72 hours before the departure date as they are currently overwhelmed with changes and everything else that’s going on. We have another 34 days until we leave Japan, so we will hang tight for now, and if we’ve learned nothing else, it’s to be flexible. We won’t be staying here, but where we go after Japan and how we get there may possibly change. I canceled all of our May and June reservations with Airbnb yesterday afternoon and will contact the airlines as we get closer to those dates to find out about rescheduling so we hopefully don’t have to eat the cost of those flights (about $1000).

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I bought and was getting started a new book this week, The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance during the Blitz, by Erik Larson, as I was beginning to think that my not reading was due to a resistance to returning to American Dirt more than anything else. However, I got a notice Friday evening that two books I had on hold at the library were available, The Dutch House: A Novel, by Anna Patchett, and The Wilder Life, by Wendy McClure, so I’ll be reading those first, and then will get back to the other books (which were purchases).
  • Listening to: Nothing – Brett is reading and there’s not a sound outside. After a crazy week it’s positively blissful. The sky is very blue but I can tell it’s cold because of the condensation on the windows.
  • Watching: No TV watching for Brett and me again this week. It’s not that there’s been nothing to watch; we just haven’t felt like it.
  • Cooking: Tonight I’m making the tofu curry that didn’t get made last week. Also appearing on our dinner menu this week will be chicken and vegetable soup with corn dumplings (using a Jiffy mix I found at Hardy Barracks); CookDo pork and pepper stirfry; tacos; takeout sushi; and macaroni and beef along with steamed broccoli. We haven’t decided where we want to eat out yet.
    Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. But, we have lots of the hard-to-get natural peanut butter to last through the end of our stay.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: My biggest accomplishment for the week was getting those groceries home last Monday. My goodness, that was a chore. It didn’t help that on Wednesday we then carried a case of Diet Coke home from our son’s – he and M went to Hardy Barracks to look for the Diet Coke (we got two more cases). We made it over to our son’s on time (just two mornings for me) this past week, and I got their laundry folded for them every day. I’d like to help in the kitchen but I can’t figure out how anything in there works or where anything goes. We have gotten in a lot of walking this week, at least two miles every day. Just getting through each day with the changes that are occurring for the girls and others in the U.S. has been challenging.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’ll be continuing this past week’s pattern of going over to our son’s every day, so no chances for us to get out until Friday, a national holiday so a day off for our son and family. Brett and I have poured over our maps and found a Shinto shrine complex nearby that, weather permitting, we’ll walk over and visit that day. We also found a nearby river walk that we may try and do if the weather is nice on Saturday.
    I never thought I would be thrilled to have alcohol wipes, but here we are . . . .
     
  • Thinking of good things that happened: One of the benefits of being at our son’s during the day is that he cooks us lunch when we’re there, and he’s a really good cook! He also springs for takeout now and again, which is fun as well. We had both grandkids over for dinner on Friday evening and another great sleepover with our grandson. Our DIL’s mother got the last package of alcohol wipes available in her town and set them to M, who shared them with us. We’re saving ours and the masks they gave us for when we fly next month.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had a couple of no-spend days again this past week and even with stocking up (the peanut butter and extra Diet Coke) our daily spending average is still below our March target (currently we’re at $21.46/day).
  • Grateful for: Although I am so sad for the WenYu and YaYu, Brett and I are thankful that even though their colleges will close for the rest of the year because of the pandemic (and WenYu will not have a graduation ceremony) that they will be able to finish their coursework for the year using distance learning. A college or university setting up something this major would have been impossible not that long ago.
    I love Cadbury Creme Eggs, but I’m also glad they’re only around a few months every year.
  • Bonus question: Easter candy is out now – do you have a favorite? YES!! I love, love, love Cadbury creme eggs, and always look forward to their short season every year. I like chocolate, but can live without it (I prefer savory foods); however, there is something about the creme eggs I can’t resist. Back in the U.S. I usually bought a couple of four-packs and would make them last, but the other day Brett brought me a big bag full of them and I’ve been enjoying one a day – a real treat (they were on sale at Hardy Barracks). A few years ago I was able to get the ones filled with orange creme and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven as I adore orange chocolate, but I’ve heard you can only get those now in the UK (I don’t care for the caramel-filled ones – I like my caramel nice and chewy). Anyway, other than the creme eggs, I can easily pass on Easter candy. 

Next week is going to be a hard one for both Brett and I. We love being with the grandkids and are glad we can help our son and DIL, but the days are long for us and tiring. Plus, we’re unable to get out and do much of anything else during the week. I’m not sure how much writing I will be able to do, or even if I’ll have any energy to do any, so there may be no posts until next weekend. 

That’s it for this crazy week. Thank you all for hanging in there with us. We are thinking of all of you back in the U.S. and know it’s been an extremely difficult week for all and that things are probably going to get much worse before they get better. I’m still hoping that good things happen for you, both big and small. And, stay healthy! Wash your hands and don’t touch your face – it’s almost impossible, I know. Social isolation is difficult (although a dream come true for us introverts), but I hope you can find ways to still get out and take care of yourself at the same time.