Sunday Morning 1/24/2021: Feelin’ Good

Sunsets these past two weeks ran the gamut from stunning to meh to non-existent. Many evenings started out promising but then quickly turned to gray, but then there was that one . . . a big surprise, and stunning.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

I’ve had a very restful and productive time off from blogging, and I thank everyone for indulging me as I really needed some time away to think about a lot of things and what I want to do going forward. When the new. year started I realized pretty quickly that I had overloaded myself with activities and goals. I decided almost immediately that I wanted to continue blogging, and have set aside the book writing idea for the time being because I realized I could either blog or write a book, but not both as they are very different enterprises and require different mindsets. Book writing is a very solitary endeavor, but I prefer the give and take of blogging, receiving comments and interacting with readers. I have gotten to know many of you who comment, even if only in a virtual way, and I don’t want to give that up. Also, I can write as much or as little as I want for the blog, on almost any topic, while book writing is more focused by nature, and I am just not ready to narrow my thoughts at this time. I prefer the more open aspect of blogging. Finally, book writing requires quiet, and I quickly discovered our apartment environment is not quiet! I would have never thought of where we live as noisy, but I found that whenever I tried to sit and gather my thoughts for a book there was always something going on to distract me, simple things like YaYu cooking or Brett coughing or even the wind blowing outside. I’m going to change a few things up a bit for the blog, and will evaluate over the next few months how that goes. All the other activities I’ve set up I’ve been able to easily fit into my day.

We celebrated YaYu’s 21st birthday this past Sunday – all our children are now officially adults! I made one of her favorite meals, Mississippi pot roast, and also a Baked Alaska for her birthday cake. Getting that done was a bit difficult because I didn’t have the right pans and had to improvise, and it was also humid enough that day that the meringue didn’t want to set or hold its peaks for very long. Part of it slid off in the oven when the meringue was browning and I got it out just in time. It was still delicious, and YaYu had a nice day which included l-o-n-g Zoom gatherings with her friends and sisters. She finally has her return date to head back to Pennsylvania – February 9 – so she will depart Kaua’i on the 8th, and head over to Honolulu where she’ll catch a redeye flight to Seattle to meet up with a good friend there, and the two of them will continue on to Philadelphia. She has accumulated enough stuff while she’s been here that she’ll have to mail a package or two back to herself before she leaves. This week we are going to pick up some of her favorite snacks for her to take back, things like macaroni and cheese and cup noodles and hopefully some of those will be able to fit into her carry-on with the rest being mailed.

I wasn’t sure if I when I was going to get to wear these again, but it was cold enough last week!

This past week has been pretty wild weather wise. We woke up Monday to LOUD gale-force winds and cold (for here) temperatures. Sixty-eight degrees might not seem very cold back on the mainland, but it’s break-out-the-parkas weather here and it lasted all day – brrrrrrrr. Since Tuesday there’s been rain off and on (including flash flood warnings most of Tuesday), and lots of wind, although nothing as crazy as Monday. Sometimes though it’s sounded like freight trains have been moving through our yard. Evenings have stayed cool, and we’ve often had to put on sweaters or sweatshirts to stay comfortable, and I had to break out my Italian wool slippers to stay warm a couple of times. I enjoy the cooler temperatures to a degree – they make walking so nice. Rain is predicted again this coming week, but we have no idea how that will play out. It’s sometimes hard to see the seasons change in Hawaii, but we definitely know right now that it’s winter.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished Everything I Never Told You (by Celeste Ng) this past week and was excited to finally be able to focus all my energies on finishing The Woman In White. However, it was not to be because two books came off of hold from the library at the same time this week. My new daytime book is John LeCarré’s The Perfect Spy, and my nighttime book is A Necessary Evil by Abir Mukherjee. I’m going to try to read all of LeCarré’s Smiley novels this year. Also, The Woman In White was probably not the best book to have picked to start off the year as it’s taking much longer than I imagined to get through (all this time and I’m only at 60%!). I will pick it up again though when I finish at least one of the library books – I am determined to finish. 
  • Listening to: It’s not as quiet as it usually is here in the the morning: the wind is still blowing strongly through the yard, although thankfully not as loudly has it has been. Some chickens are having a session nearby as well, and a couple are screaming over something. Inside, Brett is reading, and YaYu is still under her blankets and listening to a podcast so it’s pretty quiet. The sky is sort of gray and cloudy though – I’m glad we have today off from walking and won’t have to worry about the weather (rain is forecast for most of the day).
  • Watching: Brett and I are still watching Dark, although we’re almost done. It’s mostly Brett watching now because the show has gotten a little too science-fiction/dystopian for me. We also watched the latest season of Last Dance in Halifax this past week, a show we love but thought had ended. We’re currently watching Ratched, a “prequel” to the character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – and we give it two thumbs up. It’s very strange, but compelling as well. I especially love the styling and the strong way color is used throughout the show. YaYu watched a show called Alice in Borderland on Netflix this past week and I sort of watched it out of the corner of my eye with her. It’s set in Tokyo, and while I didn’t really follow the story I did like listening to see what I could understand (not much), and also enjoyed the Tokyo scenes (even though they were rather dystopian). There’s an amazing scene where three characters walk out of Shibuya station, one of the most crowded places in the world, and it’s deserted. How they got permission and emptied that area for those scenes is nothing short of amazing. YaYu and I also finished watching Top Chef: Kentucky, and our favorite chef won!
  • Cooking/baking: I’m going to make this section its own post every week, called Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise – the first post up will be tomorrow. It will cover not only what’s we’ve been cooking and eating and some thoughts about that, but also how we’re meeting our exercise goals. Brett turns 71 this year and I turn 69, and I want to focus on how we’re staying healthy without denying ourselves so we can do and enjoy all the things we’re only able to dream about now.
  • Happy we accomplished these past two weeks: We got lots done these past two weeks including getting to the beach for the first time in a while. We were surprised when we arrived because there was almost no beach that wasn’t being overrun with waves – we had to search to find a bit of sand to park our chairs in, and even that part was nearly under siege a couple times from big waves rolling in. It was very windy as well, but the sun was out and we ended up staying for a few hours. We also picked up a full bag of driftwood for our backyard fire pit whenever the weather decided to cooperate. Brett got his passport renewed for another 10 years (mine goes in next month). I got flights arranged for both Brett and YaYu – Brett is going to Honolulu for a day to see a medical specialist – he’ll leave early in the morning and return in the early evening – and YaYu will be returning to college on February 8. Walking achievements/accomplishments will be covered under Staying Healthy going forward.
    We picked up a bag of driftwood at the beach for our fire pit, but the weather still refuses to cooperate
  • Looking forward to next week: We don’t really have anything on our calendar next week other than a quick runs to Costco and the farmers’ market, and a haircut for Brett down in Hanapepe, so I’m looking forward to a relaxing week. Hopefully we’ll be able to get our walks in, but rain/showers are predicted for the entire week so that’s sort of up in the air.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Everything that happened these last two weeks was a good thing! I feel relaxed, happy, and ready to blog again. My mood these days matches this song, one of my all-time favorites. John Legend more than did it justice at the inauguration!

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) I used the credit I got for YaYu’s unused Hawaiian flight back in November to get her over to Honolulu for her flight back to the mainland. 2) We put $7.33 into the change/$1 bill jar these past two weeks. 3) Not very frugal, but we tried: although we stuck to our list, our food shopping this past week was $80 over budget – we had run out of so many things all at the same time – razor blades, laundry detergent, vanilla extract, toothpaste, and so many, many other things – and replacing/stocking up was not inexpensive although we are now well set for the next 6 – 12 months. Our food spending has been high overall while YaYu has been with us, but will drop again after she leaves next month. 4) Another case of toilet paper from Amazon arrived last week. It approximately $7 more than it did the last time we bought a case, but the price per roll was still under 60¢ which is way better than we can do anywhere on the island, including Costco. 5) There were lots of leftovers this week but they were all eaten and we didn’t throw away any food. 6) We had two no-drive days over the past two weeks, and 11 no-spend days. 7) I earned 1,541 Swagbucks this past week, 1,523 the week before. Earning SB has been very difficult this month, and frustrating, and instead of pushing myself to earn 275 every day I’ve decided to instead focus on making my daily goal, and the second one if possible, and otherwise not stressing over how much I earn each day. I really don’t want to spend a lot of time on SB, or have it taking over my day as there are other more fulfilling and rewarding things I’d rather be doing. I still think I can earn two $500 gift cards this year though, or at least get very, very close, and that’s okay.
  • Grateful for: During our walks this past week I’ve thought a lot about the on-call surgeon who repaired my knee back in 1999 and how grateful I am for what he accomplished. WenYu had just joined our family just a couple of months earlier, and one morning in May my toe caught on the top of the baby gate at the bottom of our stairs, and I went down and shattered my left kneecap into five pieces. Before the surgery the doctor talked with me and Brett and told me there was a good chance he could not repair it, and what that meant for my future. But, he did repair it, beautifully. Post-surgery warnings from him were that I could/would develop arthritis in that knee and/or I would eventually need a knee replacement. In the past 22 years neither of those has happened, and thanks to the skill of Dr. T I am able to comfortably walk long distances without any side effects, and no knee replacement has ever been needed.
  • Bonus question: Is there a band/singer you love that had a big hit with a song you didn’t like? A fun question, but at first it stumped me. After some thought I remembered that while I love Elton John, I’ve never liked the song Daniel, and I disliked Crocodile Rock even more – ugh. Both of those songs were big hits though. Angie by The Rolling Stones is another song I absolutely cannot stand (Brett neither), although I like everything else by the Stones. Finally, the Beach Boys’ hit Kokomo drives me crazy every time I hear it, but I otherwise like The Beach Boys. I was working at the Casa Marina resort in Key West when that song was a hit, and the hotel got the brainy idea to change the name of their outdoor bar to Kokomo. Thankfully that didn’t last long. I could not come up with one Beatles song I dislike (OK, I am not a huge fan of Octopus’s Garden but I don’t hate it), and same for every other band or group I could think of.

I was so happy that President Biden’s inauguration went well. I was actually up when he and VP Harris were sworn in, and watched it live on Twitter; I actually choked up watching Kamala Harris as I honestly did not think I’d ever see a woman reach that far in my lifetime. As one of his first acts, the President froze federal student loans until the end of September, and took the interest rate to 0%, which was very good news. My student loans, however, were once again not covered by the freeze. Although my loans are federally guaranteed, they (and those of around 8-12 million others) are owned by a private company and those companies do not have to honor the current freeze. The owner of my loan, Navient, has been collecting payments and interest all during this last freeze (and interest continues to accrue – after 20 years nearly half of my payment still goes to interest) and unless FFLE loans are ever specifically included in any DOE directive, Navient will continue to do to extract payment and interest. It’s maddening because all loans back when I got mine were owned by banks and private companies – the US government only guaranteed them. I refinanced mine in 2005 for a lower interest rate, but the refinancing program no longer exists either; all federal loans since 2010 are now direct loans from the government and those are the ones benefiting from the freeze. I am very happy that so many will receive relief now, and remain hopeful that there will be some relief for borrowers like me. Legislation has been proposed that these loans, as they are federally guaranteed, should also be included in the freeze, so we shall see. 

Things have been growing and blooming in the yard in spite of the weather. We can’t get over how big our avocado tree is.

And . . . that’s a wrap for these past two weeks! Thank you again for letting me have some time off. It was needed, and was well used. Here’s looking forward to the week coming up, and that it’s filled with good food, many accomplishments, and good things happening for all of us.

Sunday Morning 1/10/2021: What a Week

Sunsets this week were pretty, but brief and sort of low energy.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

What a week this was, from the election results in Georgia to the insurrection at the Capitol, and the continuing aftermath of that. What happened at the Capitol, and why, was frightening, horrifying, and absolutely infuriating, and should never have gotten as far as it did. The more I learn about what happened (and what didn’t and should have), the more grateful I am that far worse didn’t occur. This wasn’t just people inside the Capitol taking selfies in front of statues, or with their feet up on Nancy Pelosi’s desk. This was beyond a violent attempt to overthrow the past election – it was an attempt to overthrow the U.S. Government, and there were people in that group who planned to do great harm (i.e. zip ties, guns, bombs, flash bangs were among the things found afterwards; a scaffold was built and a noose hung; people were shouting “death to Pence;” and on and on). People died, both rioters and a Capitol Police officer who was at his job defending the Capitol, and we can sadly no longer say that one of the hallmarks of American democracy is the peaceful transfer of power following an election. That distinction is gone forever. What happened in Washington D.C. this week deeply wounded our country, but in my opinion that was the intention all along. In spite of feeling that things will improve in 2021, I am still preparing myself for more of what happened this past week as I sadly believe things may only be getting started. One sign of the times popping up since last Wednesday: ads for camouflage combat wear/gear have been appearing on sites I visit.

Out on the Awa’awapuhi Trail

Back on Kaua’i we’ve had a great week for walking – the weather has been wonderful and just cool enough to making walking easy (I still work up a sweat though). Brett and I walked for over an hour on six days this past week, at 4.6 to 4.7 mph, so we’ve been getting a great workout. It was a breakthrough for me as the final lap we walk has always been a chore, but I had no reservations about adding it this past week. We’re going to keep this route for the rest of the month, and then will start adding another lap in February, one extra per week until we establish a longer route we can do every day. On Thursday, Brett and YaYu headed to Kokee State Park to do a 6.2 mile hike on the Awa’awapuhi Trail; I stayed home for some rest and for some sorely needed quiet time. The weather was again beautiful, the hike went well, but after hearing about it I am glad I didn’t go – apparently there was over a mile of continuous uphill walking on the way back, and both said that it was quite difficult and tiring. I know I’m not in any sort of shape yet to have handled that.

18 months old . . .

Meiling turns 25 today – 25!! We fell in love with her the moment we got our referral and her picture, and today is the 24th anniversary of the day I got “the call,” something we had begun to think wasn’t going to happen. I can still clearly remember meeting a scared little one-year-old baby girl in the hallway of the hotel we were staying at in China, dressed in several layers of clothing so that she looked like the Michelin Man, and carrying a bag of (Chinese) Cheetos. It wasn’t long before Brett and I discovered she was in fact a genuine spitfire, something that hasn’t changed one bit. She was the girl who watched us carefully as we opened the safety latches on the kitchen cupboards for a couple of days and figured out how to open them on her own (nothing was ever truly safe from her – we had to know where she was and what she was doing at all times). She was the girl who could eat onions like an apple and would eat anything we put in front of her. She was (and is) the girl who could draw amazing, detailed pictures at an early age. She could and can figure out almost anything if she sets her mind to it. She’s always been math, mechanical, technology, and art oriented – she wanted a vacuum cleaner from Goodwill instead of an American Girl doll for a gift when she was nine because, as she explained, she could take a vacuum cleaner apart, study it, and put it back together and that was way more practical than a doll – and it’s gratifying to see her doing so well in her post-college tech career. She’s always been a loving, generous daughter and sister, and we can’t wait to see her again.

. . . and now, a NYC career woman (this was taken pre-COVID).

This morning I am:

  • Reading: The Woman in White is still by my bedside and gets read almost every night. It is an effort, but thankfully remains a good story. It has made me very glad that trends in novel writing has moved to being less wordy. My goodness, it seems to take Wilkie Collins 100 words to say the same thing as current writers say in 10. Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line was a great but very sad and sobering read; there was no happy ending. I finished it yesterday, and as of today my new “day book” will be Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng – I’m starting it this afternoon.
  • Listening to: I was expecting to wake up to clouds and rain this morning, but instead of rain I’m Iistening to a lovely, cool breeze blow through the trees, and the sky is a beautiful blue! Yeah! It’s quiet inside – Brett is reading, and YaYu just woke up. My kind of morning!
  • Watching: Brett and I are still watching Dark, and then the three of us have been getting together afterwards to watch a couple of episodes of Cobra Kai. It’s better than we expected and we are all enjoying it. YaYu and I also usually got in an episode of Top Chef: Louisville most days last week but have several more episodes to go before the final. Yesterday evening we watched the movie Prom on Netflix, starring Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and James Corden -we loved it!
    The girl can cook! One of YaYu’s creations (for herself): super spicy mabo tofu and homemade pulled noodles.
     
  • Cooking/baking: Last week seemed to involve an awful lot of time in the kitchen for me (and lots of dishes for Brett), so I want to take a bit easier this week and let YaYu do more of the cooking. She’ll be making Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs for our dinner tonight. Other meals will be Instant Pot pork chops and sauerkraut with apples and bacon; ham fried rice; mabo tofu; InstantPot chicken risotto; and chicken tikka masala pizzas. I baked an olive oil orange cake yesterday, and we’ll be having a small piece of that topped with a spoonful of Monkeypod orange-chocolate sauce for the next few days – so yummy! Later this week I’m planning to make a dark chocolate cake frosted with a coffee buttercream.

I’m proud of what I am able to read and write these days in Japanese, and the grammar I know. Now I have to somehow maintain it all!

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Besides getting lots of walking done, I was able to take care of almost everything on my activity card this week, although it’s going to take me a few weeks to find a rhythm to fitting everything in. I am using this video for a 10-minute strength training session every day (in a couple of months I hope to knock it up to two sessions a day). I finished Level 6 of Japanese on Memrise (yeah me!) and will begin using Japanese for Busy People and an online kanji course this week, still just for 20 minutes/day. I also decided to use the Memrise French program again for now (the MIT program required three expensive textbooks which I didn’t want to purchase). 
  • Looking forward to next week: Fingers are crossed for continued good weather as we hope to head up to Kilauea and hike the Stone Dam trail again this week. We really would like to get to the beach as well, but it’s been just a bit too cool for us.
    All that was missing was a sprinkle of chocolate powder on top, but otherwise our first homemade cappuccinos were perfect.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett’s and YaYu’s hike was a very enjoyable experience for both of them, and I needed a quiet day off more than I realized. We finally got around to using the new milk heater/frother that Meiling gave me for Christmas, and Brett made some very tasty cappuccinos this past week. The frother was so quiet though I had no idea it was even being used! YaYu was able to get together with one of her good friends yesterday and was happy about that. Her friend has been working, and had to return back to school yesterday (on Oahu), but they managed to find some time to get together and catch up.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We put $2 into the change/$1 bill jar, leftover from the farmers’ market. I bundled $25 of $1 bills to go to the bank this next week. Last week was a no-spend week other than the farmers’ market. We ate all of our leftovers and there was no food waste. I earned 2,265 Swagbucks, which includes 587 bonus SB for making my goal every day in December. Earning SB was difficult several days this past week, but I’m staying patient and focusing on making my daily goal for now. Hopefully things pick up next week.
  • Grateful for: My very occasional expressions of politics on my blog sometimes upsets some people for some reason, but I’m grateful this week for three things: the election results in Georgia; the certification of Joe Biden’s and Kamala Harris’s Electoral College win; and that the insurrectionists/rioters were removed from the Capitol and that there are already charges for some and more are coming. In spite of all that happened, democracy won the week, but my beloved country will have to remain extremely vigilant going forward in order to keep it.
  • Bonus question: What food do you think about most from your travels? Pizza! While we expected to find pizza in Italy, we discovered tarte flambé in Strasbourg and fell in love with that and I dream of eating it again in our favorite city. Those pizzas remain one of the top three meals I enjoyed during our travels. We also had an unusual but delicious Moroccan pizza when we were in Rotorua, New Zealand, topped with dried apricots and cream cheese. We were a little wary when we saw it on the menu and read the ingredients but decided to give it a try and were very pleasantly surprised – the pizza was flavorful and the apricots and cheese fit right in. The apex of pizza for me though was learning to make Napoli pizza from a master during our time in Florence. I created a simple pizza with buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce, basil, and truffles, and every bite was a revelation (especially the crust!). The pizza-making experience was everything I hoped for and more as well. We ate other pizzas while we were in Florence, but the one I made in our pizza class was the best, from start to finish. The pizza we had in Rome was very different, but I loved the experience of going into a shop and having a slice of the variety I wanted cut from a huge rectangular sheet pan and then weighed to determine the cost. The crust was entirely different than what we’d had before, more like focaccia, but still very good. We also ate pizza in Normandy, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, and England, and we could have had it in Hong Kong if we desired. The only places I don’t remember seeing pizza were Uruguay, Paris, Lisbon, and India, but I’m pretty sure it exists in all three places. Other than pizza, I still dream about the dinner our Strasbourg host prepared for us in her home: duck confit, potatoes, a Mirabelle plum tarte, and an assortment of wines and cheeses. It was pure food heaven along with some very good company.

I am once again going to take some time off from writing beginning this week, for two weeks this time. I have been having difficulty finding time and inspiration to write these past few weeks, and have realized it’s time to rest and recharge and think about how I want the blog to be going forward. I have also come to realize I can either blog or start writing a book but not both, so I want to think about that as well. These first few days of the year have been busier than I imagined, with more daily activities to complete, longer walks, etc., and finding time to write for the blog has frankly been difficult (although never a chore). I’m not giving up, but want some time to reflect and think about a direction that will work for me going forward, things I’d like to write about, and so forth. For those that just subscribed I hope you’ll stick around . . . I will be back on January 24.

That’s a wrap for now! Here’s hoping for a calmer week going forward, with good things happening and time for all to breathe. Wishing two good weeks for all ahead, and I’ll see you in 14 days!

Sunday Morning 1/3/2021: A New Year Begins (finally)!

There really weren’t any pretty sunsets most of this past week. It was either too cloudy or there were no clouds at all. The sky was still interesting at times though.
This was to the east last night though – it glowed. The sky to the west (the view from our porch) was empty.

Good morning on the first Sunday of the new year! Aloha kakahiaka! Hau’oli makahiki hou! And, in Japanese, 新年)あけましておめでとうございます(akemashite omedetou gozaimasu – “happiness to you at the dawn of the new year”).

January is always an expensive month for us, with two of the girls’ birthdays happening just a week apart in January (and not long after Christmas), and the third birthday falling in early February. We’ve ordered Meiling’s gift and it’s on it’s way to her – we almost can’t believe she turns 25 this year – but YaYu will be celebrating her 21st birthday here with us, and we’re already making plans to create a special day for her. WenYu has the February birthday, and her presents have been ordered and are on their way. They will be coming here and then we’ll mail them off to her toward the end of this month. We used to make a big hoopla over each of their birthdays, with parties, balloons, and fancy bakery cakes, but toned that all way down when we got serious about paying down our debt. After the last birthday is done in February though we’re pretty much done with gifts until Christmas. We send money to our grandchildren for their birthdays, but Brett and I don’t exchange gifts for our birthdays, Father’s or Mother’s Day, or for our anniversary. We might go out to eat for our anniversary this year (at the end of March), but we’ll decide about that later when we can assess whether or not that will be feasible.

Along with taking care of birthday gifts we’ve also been making sure we are well stocked with supplies for the year, things that can often be expensive and hard to find here. We have a Subscribe ‘n’ Save order with Amazon for toilet paper, but have purchased bulk orders of liquid hand soap and dish soap refills, razor blades, shaving cream (Brett), hair creme (me), and other things that will get us through the year, and beyond in some cases. All of this is a big expense now, but will help us save throughout the year.

We bought a few more jars of goodies from Monkeypod. They are going to be missed – their products were all so good. I’m glad we have enough to enjoy for a while.

We also purchased some more Monkeypod jam, sauces, and sauerkraut this past Monday – nice for us, but very sad overall. The store closed down for good on Tuesday, and Monday they sold off their remaining stock of jams, sauces, and pickled goods as well as store fixtures and other items. I chose two more jars of lilikoi curd, one orange-chocolate sauce, one cranberry-orange sauce, and a jar of sauerkraut made with locally grown cabbage. I also bought a glass pie plate (mine were in the lost moving box), two bamboo sushi rollers, and a sturdy cotton chef’s apron (another lost box item) out of their rummage items for just $4. Savings for us, but the experience was one we wished did not have to happen, not just for the loss of a great product, but because the owner had been such an integral part of the community. She won many awards, including several “best of,” and awards from several national organizations as well. With the economic downturn on the island though she just couldn’t keep the business going.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I am still reading The Woman in White, but have not made a lot of progress this week, and will go back this coming week (I will just check it out again though). I had difficulty finding time to read – there was so much going on around here, and finding a slice of quiet time for myself was nearly impossible. At night I was exhausted and fell right asleep. Hopefully I can better organize my time this week and make reading more of a priority, especially since Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line just came off of hold and I’ve got it started. It will be my “day book” and I will continue with The Woman in White at night.
  • Listening to: A fairly strong breeze is blowing again this morning, and making lots of noise as it moves through the trees, but nothing like the winds we’ve had the past few days. Birds are signing and there’s a rooster out there making his presence known. It’s not as cool/cold as it’s been either, and the sky is blue so it should be a lovely day, and great for walking later in the afternoon. In other words, another perfect morning! Everyone is up here at Chez Aloha – Brett is puttering in the kitchen, putting away last night’s dishes and making coffee, and YaYu has headed out to the deck out back.
    We saw scenes like these going on in Bath when we were there. (photo credit: Somerset Live)
  • Watching: Brett and I finished with Bridgerton (on Netflix) on New Year’s Eve – it was wonderful! Some of it was filmed in Bath when we visited in 2019 – we saw streets that were covered with dirt to look like they did in the Regency Era and a couple of other location setups around the town, but had no idea at the time what was being filmed because the name of the show was kept a secret. YaYu took one look at the show opening the other day and said, “Oh, a period piece” and left the room! Her loss, we tell her because we think she would have loved the story. We’ve started watching a creepy German show called Dark, and also Cobra Kai. I loved the original Karate Kid movies, so this one is fun – love all the links and nods to the original movies. We also watched the new Pixar movie, Soul, this past week and enjoyed that as well. The effects were amazing and it was a wonderful story as well. YaYu and I finished Britain’s Best Home Cooks and our favorite won, so that was satisfying. She and I are now watching Top Chef Louisville – she loves the cooking shows!
  • Cooking: We are starting off this year with almost a week where rice will be included in the meal in some way. Tonight we’re having tomato paella along with grilled Italian sausages. Other dishes this week will be katsudon (a first-time attempt for me to make my favorite Japanese dish); dirty rice; carnitas & rice burritos; carnitas bowls; and California roll salad (if I can find good avocados at the farmers’ market; otherwise we’ll have mabo dofu). There will be only one evening without rice when we have pepperoni mini pizzas. I’m doing carnitas in the InstantPot this week because oranges, a key ingredient, are ripening now on the tree in our yard. We will be enjoying lemon cake with a lemon-coconut buttercream for our daily dessert this week – I finally got around to baking it on Saturday and it is yummy.
    Cards are ready for the next six weeks (I forgot strength training, but it was added at the bottom later). My days are full!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: This past week seemed busy, busy, busy every day, but we accomplished a lot. We put away all the Christmas stuff so we had a clean house to start the New Year, and got Meiling’s and WenYu’s boxes of Christmas ornaments sent off to them. I also belatedly got the giveaway winner’s prize sent off (sorry, M’Shell!). We took care of lots of recycling, made lists and submitted our final Amazon orders (I will close our Prime account as soon as all our orders arrive). We walked every day except for last Sunday when it unexpectedly rained the entire day and I instead did some Zumba with YaYu (which was completely exhausting – I was grateful to get back to walking). I got started on my strength training – also tiring. We did a Big Shop at Costco and Walmart on Wednesday and are well provisioned for the coming three weeks. And, I made my first set of activity cards for the new year’s – my days are full!
  • Looking forward to next week: A more relaxing week, I hope! I’m getting my hair cut on Tuesday but other than that we have nothing on the calendar to demand our time this coming week. Maybe the weather will be nice enough that we can get to the beach – we had hoped to go on New Years Day, but it was too windy and cold.
    WenYu’s first crochet project!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We enjoyed much nicer weather, including a few days that were genuinely hot, although most of the week was breezy and cool (but no rain). New Year’s Day was especially windy but made for very nice walking weather. Our daily walks up at the park have been very pleasant – strong breezes makes the walking easier. I finally broke down and ordered a wedge pillow to see if that would help with my ongoing stomach issues; it arrived this past week and made a big difference right away, so that was money well spent. WenYu decided this past week that she wanted to learn how to crochet, and in a few days she figured it out well enough to make this cute sweater and a matching tank top to go under it! Just amazing. My mom was a master crocheter and I’d like to think she is smiling down on WenYu and her efforts. Our son and DIL bought a house! Being that it’s located in Tokyo I don’t even want to think what they paid for it, but they bought an older home and will be doing some remodeling and renovations before they move in later this spring. It’s located near to where they live now so they will still be able to take advantage of the park and all it offers.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Once again, not a very frugal week because of all the stocking up we did. Our food shopping expenses were higher than usual as well, but we have three weeks to get through (because other than our weekly trip to the farmers’ market, we only shop on our “paydays,” three times a month – we’ve found if we stay out of stores in-between we spend less). Our food expenses are just higher right now as well with YaYu here. We put $11.45 into the change/$ bill jar this past week though. I’m going to track this little bit of savings all year to see how just how much we save. We received our stimulus payment on January 1, and it has been tucked away. I gave myself another slow week with Swagbucks (good thing because it was difficult to earn any this past week) and earned 963 SB, but I earned my bonus for December, and am starting off the year with a 2,000+ SB balance. I’ll crank my efforts back up next week as I have a big goal for the year (100,000 SB). Finally, we did a superb job of using up our Christmas leftovers this past week, with meals of avocado toast with smoked salmon and onions; steak & stuffing hash topped with a poached egg for breakfast; chicken, vegetable & rice soup (which cleaned out our vegetable drawer); “kitchen sink” pancakes that used up the last of some yogurt, the remaining fresh berries, and the POG; and tacos de las sobras, made from leftover steak, leftover sautéed Swiss chard, leftover shredded cheese, tomatoes, and salsa. Nothing was thrown out last week!
  • Grateful for: Brett calculated our walking distance for the year (he tracks it every day) and we walked 1,030.5 miles in 2020! We’re so thankful that we now live where we can not only walk almost every day, but in such a beautiful location as well. Our walking this year has been truly life-changing for both us, for our health and weight, and we’re looking forward to doing more of it, and increasing our time and distance as this year progresses.
  • Bonus question: What is your favorite New Year’s Eve memory? Brett and I are not party people, and tend to stay home and have a quiet evening on New Year’s Eve. We always stay up until midnight though to welcome in the new year, and have rung in the new year together 43 years now (would be 44 except that Brett was gone on January 1, 1991 for Operation Desert Storm). When our children were little we would all stay up and bang on pots and pans at midnight – lots of fun when you’re a kid! The best memories of New Year’s Eve were when we lived in Japan in the early 1980s, in Yokohama – at midnight on January 1 all the ships in the harbor would blow their whistles for an hour, and the sound would float up to where we lived. It was magical. Also, New Years is the biggest holiday in Japan, and the country pretty much shuts down for about five days. We loved being able to drive around with the usually crowded roads nearly empty, or have the few stores that were open (like Tokyo Hands) practically to ourselves. New Year’s Eve in Hawaii is a pretty big occasion, and there were LOTS of fireworks being bought at Costco and Walmart last week. Thursday night was a very noisy here but everything quieted down right after midnight.
Short lines, social distancing, great prices, and no crowds at the farmers’ market these days – I love it.
This GIANT bunch of beautiful Swiss chard was just $2 at our favorite farm stand – we got two meals and leftovers from it!

Although the island economy is suffering, we continue to enjoy the lack of crowds on the island right now, and it seems that most residents we speak with are enjoying it as well. The holiday period, usually a crazy crush of people here, was very subdued and enjoyable this year. We especially like shopping at the farmers’ market these days – no long lines, impatient people, etc. Prices are still good as well, but we’re sure it’s hard on the farmers as they usually sell out before the end of the market (we go early so have no idea if that is still happening with just local shoppers). For now things will stay locked down (10-day quarantine for all residents and visitors) until at least the first of February, if not longer.

These big poinsettia plants run along the entire front of this home’s lot. They’re kind of fading now, but still beautiful.

I forgot to post a picture of these poinsettias during the holiday season, but snapped one the other day as we were driving by. In my opinion, it is/was the best Christmas decoration on the island! 

Here’s to the new year and new beginnings, with lots of good books, good food, good friends, and good things happening for all.

Sunday Morning 12/27/2020: Looking Forward

The only sunset we had all week was on Thursday, and it was lovely.

Good morning – it’s the last Sunday in 2020! Aloha kakahiaka!

The annus horribilis that has been 2020 will end this week. I don’t think I’ve ever been through a year that has been as miserable, and taken as long to get through as this one. Although it has contained 366 days like every other leap year, the days have seemingly dragged on, which is saying something as time usually seems to go by too quickly for me. The year has taken us on a wild ride, to say the least, full of ups and downs, twists and turns, but I’m feeling hopeful for better things happening next year, although I think it’s going to take a while for many of those to manifest themselves. Most of all I am hoping for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, or at least getting it under control where “normal” life can resume, and the endless deaths can end. I don’t believe we’re ever going to return to how things were in 2019 – that world is gone – but I’m feeling more positive about a new normal that will hopefully be the result of what we’ve been through.

We had a lovely, quiet Christmas celebration at Chez Aloha. The weather was stormy and cold outside, but we all slept in, enjoyed hot cocoa and coffee when we got up and watched YaYu open her “stocking” – actually a Foodland reusable shopping bag filled with treats from Hawaii that she can both enjoy here or take back to school with her. Then it was time for brunch: smoked salmon, fresh berries, and warm scones that YaYu made for us (half plain, half with chocolate chips) along with some Monkeypod lilikoi curd and orange-chocolate sauce. Brett made each of us a POG mimosa as well. Gift opening came next and was fun because everyone got things from their list this year. Brett got four much-needed t-shirts (he had been down to three), including a gorgeous one that WenYu designed and printed for him. I got items for our 2022 walk (water bottle, trekking poles, and merino wool socks) along with some custom handmade stickers from WenYu celebrating our Big Adventure. I think YaYu was the most surprised though – Meiling gave her a pair of Apple AirPods, her dream gift, something she had put them on her list as a joke. She also got cash and gift cards from the rest of us as she needs new clothes and shoes, but will shop for those when she gets back to school. After the gift opening we had a Zoom gathering of the clan that lasted for a couple of hours. Even though it was virtual, I absolutely loved having all my kids together for a little while.

YaYu learned this past week that Bryn Mawr now won’t be reopening until mid-February, which made me exceedingly glad I hadn’t bought her return ticket yet. No one is sure what that means for how the rest of the year there will go, but the school is determined to keep everyone safe. Brett will be traveling over to Oahu for a medical appointment next month (a day trip), and I’m hoping to be able to use the two flight credits I now have from Hawaiian and Southwest to get him there and back. I’m not sure right now if they have to be used for YaYu or whether I can use them on any ticket – that’s one of next week’s projects. We also have to figure out whether he’ll have to quarantine or not following that trip.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m a little over a quarter of the way through The Woman in White. It’s a dense, detailed book, and wading through the mid-19th century language takes a bit more work than usual. Still, the story moves along, and it continues to be interesting, both the story and the way the book is put together.
  • Listening to: We’re enjoying a quiet morning here after two days of rain, wind, cold, etc. – yesterday was pretty wild, in fact. Today there’s thankfully a nice breeze outside blowing through the trees, and I can see big patches of blue sky. Brett is putting away last night’s dishes and fixing coffee in the kitchen, and YaYu is quietly doing something on her phone so it’s quiet inside as well – a very nice morning!
  • Watching: We finished watching Schitt’s Creek last night and are already feeling sad that it’s over. I’m not sure there’s anything that can top it – we’ve loved every episode. Brett and I also finished the very weird and creepy Black Spot last night, and we plan to start watching Bridgerton tonight and probably a second show if we can make up our minds.
  • Cooking/baking: There are currently no beans in the house, so tonight we’re having coconut chicken curry with mango over jasmine rice. We’ll be going food shopping on Thursday, but before that we’ll be cleaning out the freezer and pantry as much as possible and cooking with what we have on hand. Dinners this week will include homemade chicken soup with rice and vegetables; spaghetti carbonara (for New Year’s); farmers’ market pasta (we froze half of what I made earlier this month); hamburgers; Guadalajara quesadillas; mini pizzas; and probably breakfast for dinner one night. We will finish up the Bacardi rum cake on Tuesday (we had mango pie the past three days – it was amazing), and I plan to make a lemon cake next, but I got some Kauai Kookies as a gift (cornflake crunch, my favorite), so I want to purchase some Kozy Shack rice and tapioca puddings this week and have those along with a cookie for our dessert for a couple of days in between cakes. I like Kozy Shack’s products because they use real ingredients and no preservatives.

Our Christmas Eve walk was tiring but beautiful . . .

While Christmas Day and the day after were stormy and miserable.

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I managed to walk every day this past week except for yesterday when it was stormy and wet all day. We got rained out on Christmas Day too after just one lap, although after our Christmas Eve walk one lap was almost fine with me. On the 24th, Brett suggested we walk the golf course route backwards, which sounded nice but turned out to be something we should have saved for later this year. The backwards route turned out to be uphill the entire way, and by the time we walked around to the club house, about 2/3 of the way through of our walk, we were both exhausted. It was only a very gradual climb, but after nearly 40 minutes it it was very tiring. To make up for the lack of walking on Christmas Day I did 25 minutes of Zumba dancing with YaYu, and again yesterday. Oh, to be 20 again! Thursday was rough but I got through the whole routine yesterday. At least I now know what I can do on the days we can’t get out and walk.
  • Looking forward to next week: Next Friday we will finally be done with 2020 – YEAH! We’re going to celebrate quietly with a cocktail and a special dinner on New Year’s Eve (YaYu’s yummy spaghetti carbonara) and spend a quiet day on Friday. Brett and I have ambitious goals for the coming year though, and I am looking forward to getting started on them on Friday – I’m making up a new set of activity cards this week with everything I want/need to do each day. 2021 is not going to start of easy by any stretch of the imagination, but I honestly believe we (the U.S.) are finally going to turn a corner this coming year and start healing.
    Finally feel fit enough to wear these leggings.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) Getting to talk with all our children on Christmas Day via Zoom was pretty wonderful for Brett and I, the next best thing to being together. 2) I had pretty much forgotten most of what I put on my Christmas list this year, so every gift was a delightful surprise in some way. 3) I loved seeing Brett’s and YaYu’s reactions as they opened their gifts – it was a lovely, thought-filled morning, and our other children were very happy with their gifts as well. 4) Thanks to the J. Jill gift card I received from Meiling, I ordered a pair of patterned performance leggings to put away for our walking trip in 2021 (they have pockets!). I almost didn’t get them as they were sold out the day after Christmas, but I had put a pair in my shopping cart on Christmas so had a pair reserved for me and they are coming! 5) I have lost enough weight and toned up enough this past year that I finally feel comfortable wearing patterned leggings, a big step for me.
    We had a simple, “rustic,” but very, very nice Christmas this year.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We did not spend any money on wrapping paper this year, and instead got creative and used what we had on hand which didn’t diminish any of the joy we received from our gifts. 2) We put $3 into the change/$1 bill jar this past week, leftover from our trip to the farmers’ market. 3) Other than picking up a few things at the farmers’ market, it was otherwise a no-spend week for us. We’re going to try this year is to have at least one no-spend week per month (other than the farmers’ market), and we’re also hoping to put more into the change/$1 bill jar this year by spending a little bit less when we go shopping. 4) There were lots of leftovers generated this past week, but we have kept up with them and didn’t have to throw away anything. 5) I cut back my time on Swagbucks this past week, but still managed to make my daily goal and earned 1,201 to start off my earnings for 2021. 6) We cancelled two TV streaming subscriptions (Britbox and Showtime) – a savings of $18/month. It’s not a lot but it all adds up. 
  • Grateful for: As we end 2020 we’re feeling especially thankful for our simple life on Kaua’i. The island has been a safe haven for us this year, and in spite of all the expense of getting settled again, we know the ropes for living frugally here and are looking forward to a good year in 2021.
  • Bonus question: What’s one good thing that happened for you in 2021? Even though 2020 has been horrible in so many ways, the year hasn’t been all bad, and the best thing that happened for us was coming back to Kaua’i and finding our apartment. Our short visit in January before heading over to Japan cemented that we did want to eventually return to the island, but we had no idea at the time that it would happen so soon! Our new location (south side versus east side) has been a major improvement for us, as is having a wonderful landlord and neighbors. If not for our three daughters requesting last year that we eventually return here, and our January visit, we honestly wonder where we might have ended up going last March, and if our life there would have gone as well as it has here or how we would be feeling about being there now.

Brett and I have designated 2021 a Year of Saving. This last year was a crazy one spending-wise as we set up housekeeping again, but we’re settled now and want to focus on putting our extra dollars to work for us for future dreams. We’ve upped the amount going to our travel savings account, and have taken time this past week to look for ways we can cut back and save even more. Food costs will remain high while YaYu is with us, but we should see those go down once she heads back to school (whenever that is). We have given ourselves a goal of saving $8000 for travel this year, and plan to give ourselves every edge we can so we can reach that goal. One of our first steps will be cancelling our Amazon Prime membership once again in January. Our membership more than covered all the shipping fees we would have incurred otherwise in 2020, but our goal now is to order nothing via Amazon this coming year (other than cases of toilet paper) and do without Prime Video. Not sure how that will go, but the few shipping fees we will incur will be far less than what we would pay for Prime each year. We’re still going through everything to determine other ways we can save this year.

One of the blooming ti plants in our yard – we’re looking forward to more flowers, more beauty, and other good things to come in the new year.

It’s finally time to turn and look forward to 2021, and all the potential it may bring. I’m glad to have survived this past year, but it’s sobering when I think how many did not, and how many continue to suffer from the effects of the pandemic and the economic troubles it caused. Here’s to better days for all in the coming year!

Sunday Morning 12/20/2020: Christmas Week Has Arrived

Tuesday’s sunset was spectacular, but the rest of the week was meh.

Almost hard for me to believe, but it’s the Sunday morning before Christmas! Aloha kakahiaka and Mele Kalikimaka!

First things first: There were 45 entries to the Kaua’i coffee break giveaway, and the winner, chosen randomly by namepicker.net is . . . M’Shell! Congratulations! I will be sending an email to her later today to get her mailing address, and will have her coffee and cookies off to her no later than Tuesday. Thank you again for all the entries and the great recommendations for local foods from your home area or places you’ve traveled.

I’m having a bit of hard time accepting that Christmas is just five days away. Everything is ready here for the holiday – the presents wrapped, the food bought, the decorations up – and yet I found myself feeling somewhat stunned this past Friday when I realized Christmas Day was just a week away, and not days and days away like I thought it was. I think some of the cognitive dissonance I’m experiencing this year comes from Meiling and WenYu not arriving this week, but also because the past couple of months have been busy, crazy, and disjointed, from the election and its ongoing aftermath to YaYu arriving to everything else going on. Also, after being in gloomy/rainy Portland for our last two Christmases, to now look out most every day at palm trees and blue skies, it just hasn’t seemed like it’s time for Christmas. Oh well – our little twig tree is decorated, our wooden Santas are out, and the refrigerator is full of food for the holidays. Christmas will be here whether it feels like it or not.

I started collecting wooden Santas in 1990, with two from the Philippines (they’re in the back in the picture on the left). At one point I had over 40 different Santas, but when we moved to Hawaii I culled the collection and kept my favorites. Some were gifts, some came from craft fairs, and others were unexpected finds.

I admit to being very curious about what I’ll getting for Christmas this year (I’ve seen packages but have no idea what’s in them). I don’t think anything can top the Hamilton tickets we received from Meiling last year (and then didn’t get to see thanks to COVID), but I loaded up my wishlist with practical items this year so we’ll see. I honestly don’t need anything, but asked for things that I can use on our walking tour in 2022 as it’s never too early to start assembling those items (walking poles, merino wool socks, etc.) and for a couple of small kitchen items. The most difficult person to shop for this year was YaYu, but I think we ended up doing OK, and that she’ll enjoy her gifts. We shopped for Meiling from her Christmas list, but used another prompt from WenYu to put together her gifts – we think (hope) she will be surprised (and happy). We’re looking forward to learning how the grandkids plan to spend the yen we sent them, and we’ll do something special for our son and daughter-in-law the next time we see them! I can say nothing about Brett’s gifts as he reads the blog but I think he’ll enjoy (and be surprised by) his gifts.

Kaua’i is very quiet these days with the quarantine reinstated; there have been almost no visitors coming to the island for the past several weeks and our number of COVID cases has stabilized. From what I’m reading and hearing there have been mixed feelings – residents realize we need visitors to keep the economy running, but at the same time have been enjoying the peace and quiet of not having to deal with tourists everywhere. I hope a compromise can be found once the pandemic is finally under control. There were frankly too many visitors when we left in 2018 and the island’s infrastructure was struggling to support everyone, both tourists and residents. I don’t think anyone wants to see a return to those days (although I am sure there are some who would love it). Hawaii is always going to be a tourist destination, and there’s no getting around that, but I’m hoping another industry can be developed here even though we face unique problems because of the islands’ location. 

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I got an early start this week on next year’s mysteries and am now reading Wilkie Collin’s The Woman in White, published in 1859. Said to be the first detective/mystery novel written, it’s one I’ve never read, so I thought it would be a good start to the year.
  • Listening to: It’s very windy this morning, and cool (cold) too. Winter has arrived in Hawaii! And, the wind is loud too as it blows through the trees. It rained like crazy last night, and the wind howled, but this morning I can see blue skies along with the clouds, so fingers are crossed for another good day because weather like this is wonderful for walking.
  • Watching: We continue to binge on three episodes od Schitt’s Creek each evening, and then watch an episode of Black Spot each night. It continues to be creepy and mysterious and I have no idea what’s going on or how things might turn out. YaYu and I are also still watching Britain’s Best Home Cook, but our favorite was eliminated last night so we’ve got to pick another favorite (and don’t particularly care for any of the others left).
    Lots of green this week (the bananas ripened quickly though) for just $19!
  • Cooking/baking: I baked a Bacardi Rum cake last Friday instead of the lemon cake I had planned as the coming holidays seemed to call for something a bit more festive. We decided on a mango-lilikoi pie though from Kalaheo’s The Right Slice for our Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner desserts. Scallops were determined to be too pricey, so we’ll be having shrimp risotto on Christmas Eve instead, along with whatever vegetable looks good at the farmers’ market this coming week, and a sliver of mango pie for dessert. For our Christmas meal we’ll grill a flank steak and have that along with homemade stuffing, a vegetable, and some more pie, and Christmas morning brunch will be freshly-baked scones, smoked salmon, fresh blueberries and raspberries, POG mimosas, and some of our special holiday coffee or hot chocolate. I’m looking forward to all of it – simple, but delicious. Other meals this week will be curried chickpeas and rice for our dinner tonight; and chili pork burritos; grilled Italian sausage along with spaghetti and marinara; and egg roll in a bowl for Monday through Wednesday dinners. There was lots of great produce at the farmers’ market as well this past week, so we’ll be enjoying that along with our meals. Next Saturday we’ll have our mini pizzas and use some of the leftover steak on those.
    Mango-lilikoi pie!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We’ve had mostly had nice weather this week, at least in the afternoons, and walked every day, but the weather still ran the gamut from bright sunshine to high humidity to crazy winds to rain, rain, rain. Most days Brett and I were able to walk for over an hour. I lost three pounds this past month, and continue to get smaller – YaYu says I am converting fat to muscle now (I still have plenty of blubber to lose though). Everything is ready to go for our holiday celebration this week – YaYu and I stopped by The Right Slice on Friday and ordered our pie which we’ll pick it up early Thursday afternoon. I finished Lesson 5 of Japanese and started Lesson 6, but it appears to be a word-for-word repeat of Lesson 5! I’m going to continue with it though as it’s a good review, but I’m moving through it very quickly. I’m going to start looking this week for some sort of online kanji lessons so I hopefully don’t forget all I’ve learned before we go to Japan again.

Our walking route at Kukiolono these days takes us approximately 65 minutes (@4.5 mph). We start with a loop around the Pavilion, then cross the parking lot and head up the hill to the club house, enjoying the views of Kalaheo and out to Port Arthur and Niihau along the way. Then it’s down the hill and into the upper woods. At the bottom we cross the entry road and head into the lower woods for a loop and a half, and finish with another loop around the Pavilion. Our goal by the end of this year is to walk this route twice at least four days a week.

  • Looking forward to next week: Although I’ll be greatly missing the rest of our family, I’m looking forward to Christmas morning with Brett and YaYu, and our whole family’s Zoom get-together on Christmas afternoon – we’ll be connected from Japan to Hawaii to New York City! Otherwise we’ll be enjoying a relaxing week with nothing on our schedule other than going for a walk each afternoon, the farmers’ market on Wednesday, and picking up our pie and berries.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu finished all her work for the term and got everything submitted on time. Brett saw the Dr. for his annual heart check and all is good and the way it should be. The first two tomatoes on our plant ripened, almost a miracle because the poor plant has been attacked by some crazy bug or spider but keeps hanging in there. Our avocado tree continues to grow and thrive however.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This was not a frugal week, nor was it a crazy one either, but there was more spending than usual to get us ready. The only time we intend to step into a store for the next two weeks will be to pick up berries for Christmas morning and our pie (although it has been paid for). YaYu and I visited Ishihara Market in Waimea for the first time last Friday to see what kind of noodles they carried and check out their poke (very, very impressive), and we found some good deals in their sale cart including large packages of mung bean vermicelli (each enough for Chinese 3-color salad) for just 89¢ each, and a 5-pound bag of Lundberg Farms Arborio rice for just $2.97 (usual price is over $9 on Kaua’i). Between the cannister of arborio we bought for our Christmas Eve dinner and this bag we’ll be able to enjoy risotto for several months next year! We put $4.37 in the change/$1 jar, and I earned 1,857 Swagbucks this past week giving me enough for my first $500 Delta gift card!
  • Grateful for: In spite of our family not being able to gather for the holidays this year, both Brett and I are grateful for our family’s good health and good fortune. Our son and family are doing well in Japan, with both grandkids in good schools, and our grandson old enough to ride his bike to school and home each day. Both Meiling and WenYu are employed, and both are with partners that support and love them. YaYu is doing well in school, and has a wide circle of friends. We’re all looking forward to connecting on Christmas Day, and dreaming of a reunion next year here on Kauai.
  • Bonus question: What are some of the little luxuries you allow yourself these days? I can think of just two that I would qualify as luxuries: quality small-batch gin for Brett and my gin and tonics, and some wonderful imported goats’ milk soap for showering/bathing. Brett and I have enjoyed gin and tonics for many years, and really don’t drink much of anything else other than a little (inexpensive) wine now and again, but we always bought cheap, generic gin. We introduced ourselves to quality gin when we were in England last year, and that changed everything. What a difference! These days we stick to the small batch stuff, some domestic, but most of it from the UK (one of our favorites comes from Japan though). This stuff is not cheap, but it is delicious and lasts us for a few months. We were thrilled to find several new varieties to try next up at the Kileaua Market. The goats’ milk soap was first discovered at Costco when we were in Japan in 2019, of all places, and we decided to buy a box (which we split with our DIL). The soap is creamy and luxurious, and we toted our bars of it around with us for the rest of our travels. We happily discovered that we could purchase the soap on Amazon, for a really good price (much less than it had been in Japan) so we have stocked up again and are good to go for a long while.

I saw milk at the store this past week that had expiration dates in 2021,  my first sign of hope that this crazy, awful, ridiculous year is almost done! Good things have happened for us this year, but on the whole it’s been a trial, not just for our family but for the country and the world as well. I’m hoping we can get through this next month without anything crazy happening, but 2020 still has a few more days to go and as I think we all know now, anything can (and might) happen. It’s been that kind of year and I will be happy to see the end of it..

Wishing all of you and yours that celebrate Christmas a very happy and peaceful holiday, and a good week coming up for all!

Sunday Morning 12/13/2020: A Beautiful Week in the Neighborhood

Not a lot of pretty sunsets this week as the sky to the west was almost always cloud free. The days are growing longer though, and sunsets will hopefully be lingering a bit longer rather than disappearing in moments like they have been.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Friday’s weather was perfection, so we decided to head up north for a hike.

It’s been an absolutely lovely week in our part of Kaua’i. The weather has been beautiful, and Brett and I have gotten out as much as possible, including snap decision to do a six-mile hike on the Stone Dam trail on Friday. We took the “Enchanted Forest” loop versus the shorter route this time, which added nearly two miles to the hike, but it was easy and beautiful, and we finished in one hour and fifty-five minutes. There had apparently been some heavy rain the night before and that morning as the trail was quite muddy in places, but we were mostly always able to find some solid ground to get around or through the mud. We’ve decided to do the hike once a month next year as part of our long-distance walk training. The drive up to the north side of the island is kind of long, but the hike is definitely worth it. We stopped in Kilauea on the way back to drop off some books at the Kileaua Bakery’s little lending library, and also to check out the new Kilauea Market. Wow! Their gin collection was amazing, and included several lovely varieties from the UK – we’ve decided that we’ll stop by each time we’re up there and add to our collection.

Even encountering mud along the way, we had a great hike on Friday. The scenery was pretty nice too.

YaYu has finished her 3:00 a.m. wake ups, and has been very busy writing papers and preparing for her final exams. Those should be submitted and over by mid-week, and then she can finally relax for a while. She received her bill for the spring term this past week, and between what we’ve put away and her own savings (she saves portion of her work-study income each month) we can cover the bill, so that’s a relief. In the meantime she relaxes by cooking whenever she can, although it feels at times as though she is eating us out of house and home. As expected, our grocery spending has once again ballooned. We’re thrilled though that she is here with us, and as Christmas approaches Brett and I grow sadder about the other girls not being here this year. We have our fingers crossed for a big reunion in 2021!

One of YaYu’s creations this past week: noodles in fiery pork sauce. She made the noodles from scratch.

The week before this last one I realized all of my prescriptions were running low and I had not heard a thing from the prescription-by-mail service we’re required to use even though I’m supposed to be on automatic refills. I called and manually reordered the prescriptions, and then this past week realized I had once again heard nothing from the service about my order. Usually I get an email within a day or so letting me know that the prescriptions have been refilled and are on their way, and a tracking notification. But this time, nothing. So, I called again and was told by the automated service that “your prescriptions are in process” and would be ready to ship in about two weeks time, meaning my medication would run out before the new order arrived. I immediately requested to speak to a representative who checked things over, went and talked to someone, and then said there had been a “glitch.” Oh great. There has been a “glitch” with my account for nearly a year – I’m unable to register with the service online for a reason no one can figure out; earlier this year they sent my prescriptions to the Airbnb we stayed at last Christmas; and now this. I spoke with someone from the company’s IT, and she could not figure out what was going on other than it appeared at some point someone who had no idea what they were doing messed things up with my account and then tried to “fix” it and screwed things up even more! Anyway, the IT rep did some work and got this current order straightened out, but told me “glitches” may continue to show up now and again until things are fully straightened out. I received an email the next day that my prescriptions are now on their way and will arrive this week. I remind myself that we are very fortunate to have such an affordable prescription plan, that things usually go right, but this last incident was the kind of postmodern screw-up that can absolutely ruin a day.

Kauai Coffee and Kauai Kookies – the perfect coffee break.

Another reminder that the Kauai Coffee giveaway is open until midnight next Friday, and that you can enter once a day to increase your chances of winner. Thank you again for all the lovely replies and notes about local foods from your area or places that you’ve visited.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I have almost finished reading Caste. It’s been a difficult book to read and I’ve had to steel myself sometimes to open it up because of the emotions it brings forward. Once I start though, it’s difficult to put down. It will stay with me forever.
  • Listening to: It’s another quiet Sunday morning, and beautiful day here. YaYu is already working outside, Brett is putting away last night’s dishes in the kitchen, there’s a couple roosters making noise in a nearby yard, but otherwise all is calm and still. The breeze was stronger just a little while ago, but it’s mostly died off now. I sometimes can’t get over how much more quiet it is here than it was back in Kapaa, where it was always noisy (the chickens and dogs especially).
  • Watching: Our Schitt’s Creek binge continues and I love it more with each episode. We gave up on Darkwind and are now watching Black Spot, a creep show from France. YaYu loves to watch cooking and food shows, and and she and I finished a season of the Ultimate Food Truck Race this past week, and are now watching Britain’s Best Home Cooks, with Mary Berry, and we all watched the Great British Bake Off’s holiday specials on Friday – very fun.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re going to have burritos again this evening using the Mexican cowboy beans along with some grilled chicken, seasoned rice, finely shredded cabbage, and salsa. Other dinners this week will be shrimp pad Thai; mabo nasu with rice; grilled teriyaki chicken and zaru soba; grilled fish tacos; and meatloaf and mashed potatoes. We’ve been having pizzas on Friday evenings using mini naan breads as the crusts and I’ve decided to make chicken tikka masala pizzas – yum! The small pizzas have been filling without adding loads of calories. We’ll finish our chocolate ganache cake tomorrow and on Tuesday I’m planning to make a lemon cake which we’ll have with a homemade blueberry syrup.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I got in a lot of good walks this week, almost all an hour or more in duration, but we took Thursday off because neither of us felt very good (overly tired). I finished the last of my Christmas shopping and just need to get things wrapped. I found and purchased a twig tree from Amazon that we will use for our Christmas tree. It should arrive this week. It’s very simple, and I’m anxious to see what it look like, but it’s big enough that we can hang a few ornaments on it. YaYu and I got started yesterday on sorting through and organizing everything in our Christmas box – it’s going to be a big project for a few days.
    I covered this zinc-lined wooden tea box during our first tour in Japan, in 1982 (I used to teach the class at the rec center), and it has held our Christmas things ever since, with no damage during all our moves. The last set of movers taped it shut without wrapping it first, destroying the outer paper covering. They wrote on the outside as well further marring it.
  • Looking forward to next week: If the good weather continues (it probably won’t, sadly) we will definitely head to the beach this week. We’re also doing a slightly big food shop on Tuesday, and get everything we need to be ready for Christmas except for our Christmas Eve scallops and Christmas morning berries – we’ll get those the following week. With few visitors on the island once again, the stores aren’t crowded like they were a couple of weeks ago.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We were very pleased with this week’s Stone Dam hike. The distance is close to several of the days and distance we will walk on our Nakasendō walk, so if we can do this now we are confident we will be able to do the entire walk. There are no standout happenings as everything about the entire week was good!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Not a particularly frugal week because of the Christmas shopping, but we put $3.83 into the change/$1 bill jar, leftover from when YaYu’s and my shopping trip. YaYu kept me in check and didn’t let me get anything not on my list. I earned 1920 Swagbucks this past week and am inching ever closer to that Delta gift card. We unfortunately had to throw out an entire bunch of cilantro the day after we bought it because it froze in the refrigerator in spite of our efforts to keep it safe, but otherwise there was no wasted food. I baked pumpkin – chocolate chip bars to use up some leftover pumpkin puree, and otherwise all leftovers were eaten.
  • Grateful for: We continue to remain thankful for the wonderful walking venue that Kukuiolono Park provides. There’s loads of ways we can switch up different routes to keep things interesting, and this past week Brett tried out a new wooded path that immediately became a must-do part of our daily walks. We’re also thankful that the walks include hills with some decent climbs and downhills, and of course there’s always the beautiful scenery and views.
  • Bonus question: Is there a book you can think of that’s been the equivalent of a blockbuster movie? The most recent book I can think of that fits this category was the final few books in the Harry Potter series. They literally flew off the shelves; there were parties so people could buy a copy at midnight the day the book came out; and they were greatly anticipated and talked about endlessly. Prior to that the only two books I can think of that were immediate blockbusters were Stephen King’s The Shining, and Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist. Both were eagerly anticipated, and I remember buying them as soon as they came out, and staying up all night to finish each one because they were both so scary I was afraid to put them down. I reread both of them last year and they both remain great reads (and are still scary even though I know what’s going to happen).

Even though it’s almost “winter” here, there are always beautiful things blooming and growing on the island. We spotted the pretty gold and red berries pictured above at Kukuiolono this past week, and the gorgeous pink ginger up at the Stone Dam. The lavender blossoms are from the gold berry plant, an interesting combination. Our yard is looking very lush and green these days, and we continued to feel beyond lucky to have such a beautiful place to look out on.

That’s a wrap for this week – it was an absolutely lovely one. I hope it was a good week for everyone reading as well. Rain has been forecast for later this coming week, although I never believe the weather report until I see it as things can change so rapidly. For now, here’s to another week of good weather, good things happening, good food and good books, getting things accomplished, great walks and more!

Sunday Morning 12/6/2020: Blue Skies Again

Many evenings the sky was empty of clouds and the sun went down quickly, but there were three nice sunsets though, on Sunday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

It’s Sunday morning in Hawaii! Aloha kakahiaka!

There were mostly blue skies this week! Friday was pretty windy, and there was some rain, but mostly it was wonderful.

This past week has been a very lovely week – we’ve woken up to sunshine in the mornings, the humidity has been low, there was less wind (until Friday when it was blowing like crazy again), and only a little rain now and then. It’s been downright delightful. It has mostly remained cool too, to the point that we sometimes got cold in the evenings, and have been able to keep the ceiling fans turned off. The weather has been ideal for walking though, although we did miss one day when we were crazy busy with errands, and then saw dark clouds rolling in right when we should have been heading over to the park. I have no idea if all the visitors to Kaua’i have been going to the beach or not because it’s been a bit too cool for my taste, but I guess if you spent a lot to get over here you’d probably go to the beach no matter what. There are still a LOT of tourists here, although this week Kaua’i went back to a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all visitors, residents, and those coming from other islands. The amount of visitors changed from over 600 one day to just seven on the day the quarantine went back into effect, so we’re hoping this will allow the island to get the virus under control here again.

COVID-19 cases have continued to climb however. I don’t know if anyone heard or read about the local couple that flew home to Kaua’i this past week from San Francisco even though they knew they had both tested positive for the virus! They were arrested upon arrival and charged with reckless endangerment, fined $1000 each, and as soon as they have recovered will face a judge. I imagine the legal implications for them and the airline (United) because of this may be huge; that is, even though they were told not to get on their flight to Kaua’i and were put in the quarantine area at the San Francisco airport, they left and boarded their flight anyway, endangering everyone on the flight. If anyone on that plane comes down with the virus they possibly have grounds to sue, both the couple and/or the airline. Likewise, anyone who came into contact with them before boarding or upon arrival here has possible grounds. Brett and I think the couple possibly flew to San Francisco for Thanksgiving, maybe infecting everyone they came into contact with there, and then home to Kaua’i. They were traveling with a four-year-old as well, but we read the child has been placed with other family members for the time being (not sure whether voluntarily or by court order). Stuff like this not only makes me furious, but frankly makes me more scared to go out at all, including to our weekly trips to the farmers’ market, although we purposely spend as little time there as we can. Same for going to Costco, Walmart, or Big Save, and forget any other place else these days. Unfortunately, if we want to eat we have to go shopping as there are no delivery services on the island, and if they were they would be too expensive. The return to quarantining on Kaua’i will have a positive effect on the spread of the virus here, but I also feel badly that so many who just were able to go back to work will once again be unemployed for a while. I am beginning to wonder though if our country will ever get a handle on this virus.

Whipping up another one of her amazing creations!

YaYu learned on Wednesday that her fourth and final COVID-19 test was negative, so she at last feels comfortable going out with us, and we can finally give each other hugs. She’s managed all her early wake-ups this week and gotten all her classwork done, but keeps saying she is very ready for the term to be over. She’s running up at the park again, and has been a big help for me in the kitchen. She surprised up with some delicious ham buns (yeast rolls filled with chopped ham) when Brett and I were out doing our shopping, and also prepared the farmers’ market pasta the other night, but she mostly spends her time on school work, or outside on the deck with the neighborhood cat, Ally, who couldn’t be happier that YaYu has returned. She is torn about returning to school at the end of January or staying here and taking all classes remotely. She says she wants to have a better sense of what’s happening with the virus before making a decision about whether to return or not, and will let us know in early January.

Ally is very much in her happy place now that YaYu is home again.

Finally, don’t forget to enter the Kauai Coffee giveaway! You can enter once a day to increase your chances of winning – just leave a short comment, hopefully one about local foods you enjoy or have discovered on your own travels. I am enjoying all the comments, and taking notes about things to remember for future travels.

Kauai Coffee and Kauai Kookies giveaway – don’t forget you can enter once every day.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: It has been a difficult week for reading. I had hoped to finish Caste this past week, but had more than a few nights where I started reading and fell right asleep. The book isn’t boring by any stretch but we’ve been walking more this week and when I climbed into bed I have been ready to sleep! It’s difficult to read during the day with three of us in the apartment.
  • Listening to: It’s very quiet this morning, although things are starting to happen: Brett is making coffee (our holiday blend) and YaYu is waking up. It’s very, very quiet outside – not even a leaf on a tree is stirring. The sky is blue, there are almost no clouds, so it’s going to be a lovely (and probably hot) day. Bring it on!
  • Watching: We are watching an episode or two of Schitt’s Creek every evening, and Brett is still watching Deadwind. We enjoy Scandanavian mysteries and police procedurals, but this one has lost me.
  • Cooking/baking: It’s Sunday, and that means it’s beans for dinner. Tonight we’re having Cuban bowls: rice topped with Cuban black beans, roasted sweet potato, fried banana (in place of the plantains we can’t get here), and a little salsa. Other dishes on this week’s menu will be Mississipi pot roast; French dip sandwiches using pot roast leftovers; roasted fish with lemon and rosemary; Guadalajara quesadillas; and chicken adobo with bok choy. Tonight we’ll finish up the Blue Bunny banana split ice cream we bought last week (on sale again at Big Save), and then YaYu and I will make the chocolate cake with ganache tomorrow and have that for our dessert the rest of the week.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: 1) We somehow ended up with a lot of errands to run this past week, or at least it seemed that way – it seemed like we had to go somewhere and do something every day. Brett took care of the car’s oil change and did some recycling, and we did our food shopping on Monday (Costco/Walmart), Tuesday (Big Save), and Wednesday (farmers’ market). We drove down to the Big Save in Eleele for the first time – wow! It’s quite large and much more organized than the one in Koloa where we usually shop, so looks like we will be heading to Eleele from now on. It’s not quite as close to us as Koloa, but the store makes the slightly longer time it takes to get there worth it. 2) We got YaYu’s Christmas stocking gifts finished up, and just have a couple more things to get for her. 3) Every walk Brett and I did this week was over four miles and took an hour because we’ve started to think more about how long we walk versus how far as we know we have to be comfortable walking two to four hours per day when we do the Japan walk in 2022. We’re going to stay with where we are for now, and then add start adding some more time near the end of January – slow and steady should do it. 4) I finished up another five weeks of activity cards, and have another five-week set ready to go!
  • Looking forward to this week: I am going to head out on my own to do some Christmas shopping for a couple of things for Brett, and one thing for YaYu, and then I am done. And, If this good weather holds (and it warms up a little), we may get to the beach!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) WE USED THE FIRE PIT AND MADE SMORES!!! Brett decided to light it off last Tuesday evening following hamburgers for dinner, but although he got it going it didn’t last very long as the evening was more damp than we imagined. Still it was fun, the s’more were delicious, and the potential for future enjoyment is there. 2) Brett and I had a shorter than usual but fun time at the Kauai Coffee Company, and were able to taste five different coffees (and purchased a bag of their Chocolate Mistletoe (actually mint) blend. We’re not fans of flavored coffees, but this one is delicious). 3) Brett also got a much-needed new t-shirt there as he was down to only three shirts for daily wear. 4) The county is finally fixing the road we have to use to get up to the main highway – YEAH! The road has been in terrible condition ever since we’ve been here, with massive potholes, etc., and made worse recently as it was used by trucks as a detour while another road was being repaired. The road has not only been very bumpy and uncomfortable to drive on, but unsafe as well as cars swerve to miss the potholes and other rough spots in the road. It looks like sidewalks and curbs will also be installed along the way, which will be very welcome. Anyway, although things will be a mess for a long while, the work is much appreciated and welcome. 5) I’ve lost three more pounds!

Kauai Coffee used to offer over 20 varieties to self-sample out on the coffee patio; these days there are just five and they’re served to you, but we still had a good time. The view out over the coffee groves is still pretty wonderful though.

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We did our food shopping this past week, got everything on our list, stayed under budget, and put $5.62 into the change/$1 bill jar. 2) I earned 2,664 Swagbucks this past week, which includes the 633 bonus SB I earned last month. Swagbucks have been difficult to earn this past week though – there was little I could do over the holiday weekend, and I don’t think I’ve ever been kicked out of so many surveys as I was this past week. I just keep plugging away though as I have less than 5,000 SB to go to earn a $500 Delta Airlines gift card. 3) Otherwise we did all the usual frugal things around here – everything has been used up and nothing has been wasted other than a brand new head of lettuce that got pushed to the back of the fridge (grrrrr) and froze solid.Grateful for: Both Brett’s and my Social Security will receive small increase next year, and Brett’s military retirement will also go up a little, and we’re thankful that between the three it will be enough to cover our rent going up in April (the small increase is built into our lease) and the small amount we now have to pay each month for YaYu’s health insurance through the military (Brett’s and mine thankfully remains no cost for the time being).
  • Bonus question: Do you collect or keep magnets, photos, or other things on your refrigerator? We used to keep on lot more on our fridge, and I had a huge magnet collection that I had assembled from all over, but I sorted through those before we moved over to Kaua’i, and these days I just keep my favorites or ones the girls or Brett have given me. They don’t hold up much these days either as the fridge is in a location where stuff can get brushed up against and knocked off easily, and we also don’t have that many reminders to put up anyway, or photos – everything is digital now. I picked up several magnets from our times in China and Japan, and I love my “bitchy woman” ones that the kids and Brett have given me. The others are gifts from the girls, friends, or from their colleges, etc. They don’t get used much, but I still find them fun to look at and remember when and where they come from.

 

My favorite ad from when we were in England last year – it never gets old. Christmas season there started the day after Halloween (because there’s no Thanksgiving holiday to get through first).

I’ve been feeling very detached from the approach of Christmas this year. Compared to last year Portland, we’ve only seen a few decorations about here, and even with getting our presents wrapped and sent and Brett getting out our Christmas mugs (we got them for our first Christmas in Portland, in 1992), I’m just not getting any sort of Christmas feels this year.  YaYu and I have been discussing our menus for Christmas Eve (scallops) and Christmas morning (scones, smoked salmon, fresh berries, and mimosas) and our Christmas dinner (grilled steak and a couple of sides; a pie from The Right Slice for dessert). Maybe that’s a good thing? We still haven’t decided whether we’re going to get anything to use for a tree, or whether we’ll just put out the presents on Christmas morning and call it good. YaYu and I are going to get out our big Christmas box one of these days and sort through all the ornaments and divide them up to get those packaged and sent to everyone for next year – hopefully that will help me get into the spirit a little more. Maybe though it’s just being back on Kaua’i with the sun shining and the shorts wearing that’s affecting me this year, or that the family won’t be gathering for the first time. Or, maybe I just need to get a panettone.

It’s been a very good week overall, and this coming week looks to be just as nice. We’ve got a few errands to run and some shopping to do, but otherwise we’ll be hanging out at home other than a trip to the farmers’ market and our daily walk up at the park. I’ve been working on goals for the coming year and feel like I may be overloading myself, so am going to do some thinking about that as well. Anyway, I hope this past week was a good one for all, and that everyone is looking forward to the one coming up. It’s wonderful to know there are only 26 more days left to go in this crazy year.

 

Sunday Morning 11/29/2020: Heading into December (finally)

There were sadly almost no photo-worthy sunsets this week: either there were too many clouds or no clouds at all, and the sun seemed to disappear very quickly. We did get some breathtaking views out to Niihau and Lehua though from the top of Kukuiolono Park during our walks.
Saturday evening tried, but this small effort only lasted a few minutes and then turned completely gray.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

The end of a rainstorm almost always means there’ll be a rainbow. We could see where the pot of gold was located with this one.
A fully-arched rainbow is always enough to get us to stop and stare for a few moments. This one was a double!

We’ve had a lovely week, even with the crazy weather that started off the week. Rain, wind, cold temperatures (for here) – we got it all, but on Friday we woke up to blue skies and sunshine, and a normal level of wind. It has stayed cold though – yesterday morning it was 63° which is break-out-the-down-parkas weather here. We’re very much enjoying having YaYu here with us, although she is still suffering a bit from jet lag. She goes “back to class” tomorrow, and will be waking up at 3:00 a.m. HST to log into her 8:00 a.m. classes in Pennsylvania. Classes will continue for the next two weeks, but I wear ear plugs at night so should be able to sleep right through her early rising. I’m not so sure about whether Brett will be able to sleep through it though – we’ll see.

YaYu relaxing on Thanksgiving Day with some adult coloring. I love her hair color – it’s actually blue but has a greenish tinge in this photo.

YaYu’s Hawaii returning resident COVID test, taken last Wednesday, was negative, so thankfully she hasn’t had to quarantine except for the first few days home. However, she is still very nervous about possibly having picked up the virus on her journey, and wants one more test before she can relax and feel safe going out, so she will be doing that today. She did go and walk with us at the park this past week, but it’s a very socially distanced activity so she felt safe. Kauai’s COVID cases have climbed into the upper 20s, and there has been one death, an 80-year-old man who unfortunately had underlying conditions. There are so many visitors on the island now – Brett and I were frankly shocked and dismayed on our farmers’ market trip last Wednesday by how many there were. Thankfully most people were wearing masks, but we saw a few people who I guess didn’t think the rules applied to them (even with signs everywhere reminding people that masks are mandatory). Hawaii is going to do away with their testing protocol this coming week – all visitors and returning residents will once again be required to quarantine for two weeks. Too many with the virus were slipping through and cases were climbing here, so the state is going back to what worked before. We continue to not go out much, and the park where we walk is not a tourist destination, so hopefully we will all stay OK. We are going to Costco and Walmart tomorrow and I’m sort of scared of how many people may be there but we will be armed with masks and hand sanitizer.

I can barely believe however that December will finally arrive this week – one last month to get through in this crazy year. I’ve been allowing myself to at least think about the coming year, what I would like to do and what I would like to accomplish along with what isn’t going to happen (travel) and how we’re going to manage that. Some of what I’ve been thinking about has been coming together and there will be some posts coming up about where we want to go and how we’re going to get there. 

This morning I am: 

  • Reading: I am nearly half of the way through Caste. Thought-provoking does not come close nor do justice to the effect this book is having on me. The descriptions and examples of how we deal with race in America and why go beyond horrifying, shocking, disgusting, and rage-producing because they’re unfortunately all too predictable.
  • Listening to: Brett is reading and YaYu is quietly listening to a podcast on her phone, and while there are blue skies outside there a nice breeze blowing so our background noise is rustling palm trees once again this morning. It’s delightfully cool though, and the humidity is low.
  • Watching: We finished The Crown (Charles was awful – there, I’ve said it), and we’re now binge-watching Schitt’s Creek and loving it. We had our traditional viewing of The Descendants on Thanksgiving, and of course the final of the Great British Bake Off on Friday (and our favorite won!). I’d love to see GBBO go back to its roots next year though, and get away from some of the weird and unnecessary things/themes it’s been doing this season, like “Japanese Week.”
    I think we have a new Thanksgiving tradition! Hamura’s lilikoi chiffon pies are legendary. The filling is flavorful but light as a cloud, and melts in the mouth. Pure heaven.
  • Cooking/baking: It’s beans and rice night but this week we’re having the curried pumpkin chickenpeas with lime that I fixed and froze a few weeks ago. We’ll add lots of cilantro this time and also some chilis to spice it up a bit for YaYu’s tastes. We’ve still got quite a bit of leftover ham, so we’ll also having three-color Chinese salad (hiyashi chukka) this week to use up some more of it. Other things we’ll be having this week are hamburgers; chipotle chicken tacos; farmers’ market pasta (if I can get zucchini and basil at the farmer’s market); and pepperoni pizza. Ham sandwiches will figure frequently on our lunch menus. We’re finishing up our Thanksgiving lilikoi chiffon pie tonight and tomorrow I’m going to bake a chocolate cake which YaYu will top with her homemade ganache.
    The Hanapepe posters came from Hanapepe (!) – one of our favorite Kaua’i towns. They were the perfect finish to the kitchen and our home decor.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We got a lot done this past week, or at least it seemed that way. 1) The frames I finally found for our two Hanapepe posters arrived this past week and Brett got those hung in the kitchen over the stove. With that task done the apartment is finished – there will be no more decorating or other household purchases. 2) In spite of some really awful weather this past week, Brett and I were able to walk every day with a minimum distance of three miles most days, and longer walks on Thanksgiving, Friday, and Saturday. We’re not sure of the distance we walked on Thanksgiving because the app was acting up, but we walked for a full hour and have decided to use time as our measure versus distance. 3) Brett finally got the coconuts we brought from the park opened up; we shredded the coconut meat to use for cooking and baking and have been enjoying the coconut water. 4) We got Meiling’s and YaYu’s Christmas presents mailed off, a more expensive proposition than we imagined but a necessary one. 5) I finished Level 5 of Japanese on Memrise and began Level 6. Level 5 was very difficult, and included lots of Japan-related political terms and such that I had difficult remembering. I am doing much better at remembering kanji overall, but worse it seems at remembering vocabulary. My grammar level seems to be holding steady though – some of it I get, some of it I don’t.
    We have lots of coconut now; I just need to think up some ways to use it.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re happy that YaYu will be regularly going along with us to the park when we walk next week – so many friends we’ve made there have asked after her, and we know they will be happy to see her again (and she’ll be happy to see them). We’re going food shopping tomorrow, always a fun outing for me, and we will start getting some things for our Christmas meals – fun! 
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a lovely Thanksgiving Day in spite of rain off and on for much of it. The lilikoi pie was as delicious as hoped and has been such a wonderful treat. YaYu’s negative test this past week was of course the best news, and made for three negative tests in a 10-day period. Hopefully today’s test will be the last of it. 
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) I signed up for a free one-week trial of HBO Max so we could watch The Descendants for free on Thanksgiving, then cancelled the subscription the next day so I wouldn’t forget and be charged. 2) It’s sometimes difficult on Kaua’i to find pantry/fridge staples at reasonable prices. For example, a 10-oz bottle of Kikkoman low-sodium soy sauce costs between $5 – $6 in stores here (if we can find it, that is). That’s too much for me as we go through soy sauce fairly quickly, so I went ahead and ordered a 64-oz bottle available on Amazon for less than $17, a savings of nearly 50% overall, especially with free shipping. 3) I made a shopping list for our trips to Costco and Walmart tomorrow and we will stick to the list! 4) There was nothing this past week for the change/$1 bill jar – we spent our entire $20 again at the farmers’ market, and other than that trip we had a no-spend week. 5) I earned 2172 Swagbucks – with the holiday it was a somewhat difficult week to earn but I kept at it and reached my weekly goal of 2100 SB. 6) Leftovers here are disappearing at a fast pace now that YaYu is home, and nothing is being thrown out.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling very thankful for the good weather that returned this week and the cooler temperatures – it makes walking up at the park so pleasant and it’s much easier to add to our time and distance. Not having to dodge rain clouds, nor feel drained by heat and humidity after a couple of laps feels pretty darn nice.
    A clean desktop keeps me very happy and calm. This picture of Catalina Island is very calming too.
  • Bonus question: How much email is in your inbox? How many apps/icons are on your desktop? I’m one of those who tries to keep my email folder as empty as possible. I get lots of ads and other requests these days and almost all of those go right into the trash as soon as I see them. The only things that stay in my inbox for more than a day are reminders of some sort, like for a doctor’s appointment, but as soon as I don’t need them they’re deleted. Right now, for example, the only thing in my inbox is reminder I sent myself with ideas for future Sunday bonus questions. I keep a “saved” folder for things I need/want to keep track of, like YaYu’s flights, for example, and while we traveled I had a special folder filled with reservations for Airbnbs, flights, train trips, etc. but that folder has been deleted for the time being. My desktop is always clean – it drives me nuts to have stuff sitting there. My desktop photo is a shot from the Apple file of Catalina island. We used to be able to see the island from the kitchen window of our family beach house, so the photo brings good memories for me and I like to keep it clutter free.
The Iron Deer sporting some holiday finery!

And now we turn our eyes and hearts toward Christmas. We’re looking forward to having a very simple holiday here with just the three of us, and are starting to make plans for meals that day, and the very little bit of shopping we still need to do. I don’t think we’ll have a tree this year – there’s really no room in the apartment, and neither Brett nor I have seen anything we’re interested in getting. YaYu and I will be going out in the next couple of weeks to do our shopping for Brett – we’ve got a few ideas up our sleeves. I’m already thinking we’ll grill some steaks for our Christmas dinner this year, and have the rest of the menu to plan around that (stuffing has already been mentioned as everyone loved it). Our Christmas morning brunch will be different this year as well as YaYu is not crazy about bagels nor cream cheese (our traditional Christmas morning breakfast), and Brett and I don’t really want one either – too much bread for the both of us. It’s looking like we may have scones with some kind of curd (Tahitian lime? lilikoi?) along with smoked salmon and fruit. In the next couple of weeks YaYu and I are going to go through all our ornaments and divide them up to send to everyone next year. It will be an all-day job for the two of us, but it needs doing.

It was a very good week, if I do say so. Lots accomplished, frugality reigned, a good book to read, and our little family group together and well for Thanksgiving. I sincerely hope it was a lovely week for everyone as well – here’s to another great week coming up!

Sunday Morning 11/22/2020: Tanned, Rested, and Ready

Last Sunday’s sunset looked like a painting in the sky.
Thursday’s sunset never reached its potential – the clouds all turned gray.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

While I am rested and ready to get back to writing, I’m sure not very tan (and this week’s weather sure didn’t help either). I’ve gotten used to being asked if I’m enjoying my visit whenever I wear shorts as my legs are pale enough that they glow. But, I feel rested again and ready to move forward. I had very a pleasant week off and thought a lot about what I wanted to write and when. I’ve decided that for the time being I’ll continue to write on travel topics now and then, and about all the other things in the blog header (plans, goals, Kaua’i, and so forth). The posting schedule I’ve been using works well for me right now as well, so I’m going to stay with the Sunday Morning posts, have something else up on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and recipes on Fridays for the time being. The response to the recipes has frankly been a pleasant surprise as they’re simply ones our family has enjoyed over the years, ones I’ve collected from all sorts of places. I’m feeling grateful that I put almost all of them online several years ago because my cookbooks were in the box that was lost in the move.

YaYu in full travel regalia

Our baby girl is home, but once again her journey nearly turned into a logistical nightmare. Sometime last week Alaska changed her schedule, and had her flying from Philadelphia to Chicago on American Airlines for the first leg of her flight versus the non-stop we had booked into Seattle. Their email informing her of the change went to her spam filter for some reason and she didn’t see it until Friday. The new Alaska flight out of Chicago had her arriving later into Seattle than the original reservation, so her flight into Honolulu had been changed to one that didn’t arrive there until 9:00 p.m., long after the final connecting flight of the day to Lihue on any airline had departed – she would have had to spend the night in the Honolulu airport! I got on the phone with Alaska, explained the situation, and they quickly changed her to a non-stop flight to Lihue from Seattle at no extra charge. However, that left us with the Honolulu to Lihue Southwest ticket that we had booked for her back when Hawaiian changed their schedule, but I was surprisingly able to cancel that ticket for a full refund right at their website with a click of a button – so easy. Hopefully YaYu didn’t catch the virus from the huge crowds that were at the Philadelphia and Chicago airports, but we will be practicing social distancing and mask wearing here at home for the next few days just in case. She wore both a mask and face shield during her travels, and was very conscientious about wiping things down and cleaning her hands so we hope all will be OK.

The Eastside beach path views never disappoint

It’s been another week of wacky weather, running the gamut from sunny and hot to rainy, cold, and damp. The ceiling fans haven’t been on all week, and on most evenings it has been cold enough to put on a sweater (it gets downright chilly here when temps drop into the low 70s, and frigid in the upper 60s). It rained all day Wednesday, too much to even try to get to the farmers’ market; but on Thursday we walked one lap before the rain arrived and soaked us. We thought Friday was going to be a bust as well, but the rain stopped long enough in the late afternoon for us to walk a couple of miles. Yesterday we woke up to heavy rains and gale-force winds again with gusts above 20 mph all day, there were torrential rains falling horizontally at times. We caught a break in the late afternoon though and were able to get in an hour’s walk, although we had to skip the trail through the woods because of the mud. However, last Monday was lovely – warm, sunny, and with a nice breeze. We were up in Kapaa for my haircut and decided to walk out to the Pineapple Dump, and ended up going beyond it to check out Donkey Beach. On the way back though the breeze stopped, the sun was beating down on us, and shortly before we got to the car I started feeling strange: my legs felt like they were made from jelly, I started having cramps in my chest and abdomen, and I began feeling very dizzy and foggy. I had apparently become dehydrated and was also suffering from low blood sugar as I hadn’t eaten or drank anything in a few hours, and combined with the heat I got pushed fairly close to heat exhaustion. Once in the car I finished the entire contents of our water bottle, Brett got the A/C in the car turned on me, and by the time we got home I felt fine again. It was a scary experience though, and I won’t walk that distance again, especially when it’s hot, without taking water breaks along the way and making sure I bring along a snack. Lesson learned!

A big surprise this week was the arrival of the box our son and daughter-in-law sent to use back in July. I sort of jokingly guessed when they sent it that the earliest we could expect it to arrive would be Halloween, so that ended up being not too far off. Packages into the U.S. from Japan can only be sent by surface mail right now (i.e. a slow boat) and then have to clear customs, creating a long, long delay. The package contained 10 packages of mugicha tea bags, which will hopefully last until we get back to Japan and can get more, as well as several spicy sauce mixes and some spicy chips for YaYu, and three packages of Japanese cookies for us, including our favorite asparagus biscuits (not made from asparagus, just shaped like spears of asparagus).

This morning I am:

  • Reading: My current book, Caste, is powerful, excellently written and researched, with the truth of what the author says difficult to read some times and anger-producing as well. America is a special case in the world when it comes to race, and this book lays out clearly and in a compelling fashion what that is and how we got here.
  • Listening to: The wind is howling loudly once again but at least it’s not raining . . . for now. Brett is making coffee, YaYu is reading, so it’s quiet inside but outside it is LOUD. Hopefully this storm or whatever it is will blow though today. LOTS of visitors arrived last night on the plane YaYu came in on and I’m pretty sure this weather and noise has to be discouraging for them.
  • Watching: We watched five different shows this week, six if you count Friday night’s Great British Bake Off semi-final episode (Patisserie Week). We’ve started off each evening with an episode of The Crown, followed by Young Wallender (which we finished), and then either Bordertown (which we finally also finished) or Unsolved Mysteries. With Young Wallender and Bordertown finished we started The Valhalla Murders, set in Iceland. We think The Crown has been fairly brutal and quite unflattering to the royal family this season. 
  • Cooking/baking: It’s Thanksgiving week, but we’re skipping the turkey this year as YaYu doesn’t care for it. Instead, our Thanksgiving meal will be ham along with herbed stuffing and sautéed green beans on the side. Dessert will be a lovely, fluffy lilikoi chiffon pie from Hamura’s Saimin in Lihue. Tonight’s dinner will be bean burritos fill with Mexican cowboy beans, leftover pulled pork, seasoned rice, shredded cabbage, and salsa. Other dinners this week will be noodles with pork sauce; mabo tofu; ham fried rice; soup with ham and cheese sandwiches, and of course leftovers if there are any although with YaYu home things should be eaten up more quickly. I won’t be baking this week although YaYu might feel like making something. Brett and I finished up our chocolate cake last Thursday, but instead of picking up a pumpkin pie at Costco we got some more Bubbie’s mochi ice cream and have been enjoying a couple of those with a two Japanese cookies for our dessert. I’m going to make an olive oil orange cake tomorrow though to get us through Wednesday and then we’ll be having a small slice of the lilikoi pie on Thursday and for a few days after before I bake something again.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We ended up getting in six days of walking this week, even if not as much or as long as usual on some of those days. We got all the food shopping done for Thanksgiving and don’t have to go again until December 1. We also got Meiling’s and WenYu’s Christmas presents packed up and ready to go to the post office early this coming week. Brett got our avocado tree transplanted into a big pot (he chose one from the collection of pots under our porch) and it will now continue to grown outside. We still can’t get over how big it got growing in the jar.
    The little tree that could.
  • Looking forward to next week: Besides spending time with YaYu again (at a distance), I’m honestly looking forward to not going anywhere next week except to the farmers’ market and up to the park every day for a walk. Stores were already getting crowded last week because of the upcoming holidays and I’m dreading going shopping during the next month or so. I’m wondering now if our fire pit brought a curse along with it, but fingers are crossed for better weather next week as well so we can be outside more (also because we have everything to make s’mores now).
    Single eggs Benedict for both of us yesterday: traditional for Brett, kalua pig for me.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Besides finally 1) receiving the package our son sent, and 2) having YaYu home with us, we 3) got big news from WenYu that she had been hired as adjunct faculty at a tech school in Boston to teach web design and another web-related course! The job pays well and is a perfect fit for her, and still gives her time to create items for her Etsy site as well. Currently all courses at the school are being taught online, but she will eventually teach in a classroom once it’s considered safe enough to reopen the school. We’re so very, very happy for her, especially that she found something in her major field! 4) I had my six month eye exam on Friday, and learned I don’t need new glasses . . . yet. I will be going for a consult next spring however for cataract surgery as the doctor feels it’s best for me to get it done early rather than wait. 5) Brett and I finally got out for our breakfast date yesterday morning at the Kalaheo Cafe. The food was delicious, we were appropriately distanced from others, and we had a good time! 6) The week has been a mostly gloomy one, but on the plus side there have been lots of rainbows spotted, including a couple of full arches. They are glorious.
    Saturday afternoon’s rainbow show

Sunday’s rainbow was a spectacular full arch. I should have taken a panoramic shot – it was huge, and especially bright.

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This past week was not a particularly frugal one as we overspent on food, but that was because we decided we did not want to go out at all this coming week so we bought the things we would have bought next week. Finding room for everything in the pantry, freezer, and fridge has been a challenge. We finally received our settlement from the moving company for the box they lost. Their initial offer was an insulting $22.80 but I told them that was unacceptable considering this wasn’t a couple of broken items but an entire box that they failed to load into our shipment. They then offered us $100, which we accepted. It doesn’t cover what was lost, but I knew that was the best we were going to get from them based on the coverage we had purchased. The check went right into our travel savings. I earned 2,352 Swagbucks, but we didn’t put anything into the change/$1 bill jar again last week because we didn’t get any change back anywhere. We had more than the usual amount of leftovers this week for some reason but they were joyfully eaten, with no food wasted.
  • Grateful for: Brett and I are both so thankful that our girl is safely home once again and that she was able to arrive as planned and on time. We’re also thankful BMC paid for her Hawaii-required COVID-19 test (@$139.95) as it was required for her to come home and not have to endure two weeks of quarantine. We’re going to take things easy for the next couple of days, although she got a negative result again on her preflight COVID test (second in a week). She will be tested once more on Wednesday (free for island residents) and if that’s clear then we can stand down here at home. For the time being though we’re staying masked full-time and are keeping ourselves distanced as much as possible.
    This was my location from randomstreetview.com: Hamnvik, Norway. A little isolate, a little rocky, but looks lovely in the summer. Not too sure about winter though.
  • Bonus question: If you were given five million dollars, with the condition that you had to live in first place you clicked on randomstreetview.com, would you do it? Could you do it? This was another fun question that popped up on Twitter this past week. The location selected for me was Hamnvik, Norway, located up near the Arctic Circle. I’m not so sure that $5 million would be enough to get me to live at this spot as it’s so far north. The view is spectacular though, and with $5 million I could probably afford to build a gorgeous house on top of that rock formation with a state-of-the-art heating system, but winters would still be extremely problematic, especially since I’d be coming from Hawaii. Also, I’d have to learn Norwegian – not sure about that although it’s probably easier than Japanese. Still, the $5 million dollars is quite tempting – after the house and other needs are met, there would probably be enough money left over to travel as much as I desired, and I could go live in the south of France or back here on Kaua’i during the winters!
Wearing a pristine white apron, my great-x11-grandmother, Priscilla Mullins, serves turkey to Squanto on the first Thanksgiving, while her future husband, John Alden, stands ready with the sweet potatoes. Miles Standish, in full uniform, stands to the right. Sadly, there is nothing remotely accurate about anything in this picture other than those people were actually there.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday – no presents, no expectations (at least not in our family), just good food and being together and thankful for all we have and have been blessed with. This year it will just be the three of us, and our meal will be very untraditional, but that’s the way things seem to be going this year. We’re planning on sleeping in on Thursday, and will take a walk out to the Pineapple Dump if weather permits, a tradition we started when we lived here before. In the evening we’ll have our annual holiday viewing of The Descendants (last year we watched it early when we were in Edinburgh). Sometime during the day we’ll have a chat with Meiling and WenYu, and maybe will get to talk with our son and family, although the time difference is always an issue and it doesn’t sometime happen. No matter what, it should be a lovely day. 

And that was the week that was (mostly)! It was a very nice one too, and I’m looking forward to our simple Thanksgiving and the rest of the week coming up, and hope you are too!

Sunday Morning 11/15/2020: Blowin’ In the Wind

Last Sunday’s sunset was a showstopper!
The only other sunset was on Thursday. There were no clouds to the west, but the eastern view glowed.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

YaYu arrives home this week for her two-month winter break! She was tested on campus for the virus yesterday, and then will have a second test on Thursday that meets Hawaii standards. She’ll quarantine here for a couple of days, until she can get the results online from the Thursday test and submit them, but should otherwise be good to go. We talked with her the other day and could tell she is nervous. She has been exceedingly careful, but remains terrified of bringing the virus home to us. We don’t have any other options though and would prefer her to be here for these next two months. She still has no idea when she’ll go back to school in January, but hopefully she’ll hear soon as return flights from Honolulu to Philadelphia are currently very inexpensive. We were able to get a credit from Hawaiian Airlines for the flight we had reserved to get her from Honolulu to here next week as they had changed the time of the flight making it impossible for her to make her connection to Kaua’i – it will be used in January. She’ll instead be coming over on a later Southwest flight. I asked her the other day if she had snacks, etc. for her long trip and she said yes, but that she couldn’t imagine taking down her mask to eat or drink during the day. She says she will wear double masks during her journey, and she is a fanatic about wiping things down, disinfecting, and using hand sanitizer so we think (and hope) she will be OK.

This week in the park has been windy and cool. There have been more than few rainbows. And chickens. Lots and lots of chickens.

This has been one of those “be careful what you wish for” weeks. Just a short while ago I was moaning about the missing trade winds, but they came back, and with a vengeance this past week. Seriously, we had near gale-force winds on several days, enough that it’s been cold (for here) and we haven’t needed our ceiling fan on. There have also been several short but torential rainstorms along the way as well, and thunderstorms too. On Friday the house next door was being tented for termites, and the poor guys trying to get the tent on were almost blown off the roof a couple of times. Things have been blown over in the house because we keep the windows and the French door open almost all the time, but walking up at the park was a treat in spite of the wind – it was nice and cool all week. I had to give up wearing my visor though as it kept being blown off my head. On the plus side too the winds took care of some dead palm fronds that were hanging from a tree in our yard, but on the down side we still haven’t been able to use our new fire pit. Maybe next week

Can I say once again how incredibly frustrated I am not to be able to comment on Blogger sites? I have tried numerous permutations and NOTHING works. For a short time it seemed as if I would be able to comment using my phone, but that only worked with one blog and didn’t last. I don’t comment often, but it’s maddening not to be able to comment at all these days.

I am going to take the next week off from writing. I’ve been feeling like my muse has been off doing something else for a while, and that I need a few days to refocus my thinking and let inspiration flow. I’ll be back next Sunday though.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished reading Climb, and overall I give it a score of 3.8. I enjoyed the book, but it seemed more of a travelogue overall, although Susan’s personal journey of finding strength and building a new life for herself along the way is documented. That’s just my 2¢ though – Brett loved it. I’ve just started reading Caste and have a feeling it’s going to be more than merely eye-opening.
  • Listening to: I’m enjoying a very quiet morning, especially as there’s only a gentle breeze blowing. It’s about time! There are blue skies too, another nice change. Brett’s fixing his breakfast in the kitchen, and some birds are signing outside, but otherwise there’s not a sound to be heard. I love it.
  • Watching: We finished The Queen’s Gambit this past week. It was absolutely pure viewing pleasure from start to finish, and one of the all-time best series I have ever watched. We’ve got three more episodes of Bordertown to go, watched Dessert Week (the quarterfinals) on the Great British Bake Off last Friday, and started Young Wallender on Netflix last night. Season 4 of the The Crown starts tonight (Princess Diana!) so we plan to watch an episode of that each evening as well. We’re also watching an episode of Unsolved Mysteries every evening – it’s more interesting that we imagined. Brett especially has really gotten into it.
  • Cooking/baking: Tonight’s dinner will be A Dozen Cousins Trini curried chickpeas, served with jasmine rice and a cucumber salad. Also on this week’s menu will be chili pork burritos; barbecue pulled pork sandwiches with cole slaw; and grilled teriyaki chicken with simmered kabocha pumpkin. We’ll also eat leftovers and other odds and ends we want to get out of the refrigerator before YaYu comes back. We plan to pick up another big pumpkin pie at Costco this week and along with YaYu hope to have it finished before Thanksgiving as we have decided on lilikoi chiffon pie from Hamura’s to go with our holiday meal. I’m greatly looking forward to YaYu helping out in the kitchen again – she’s a very talented cook!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We walked every day this week even though a couple of days were pretty sketchy weather-wise. On Friday we got caught in a shower for a few minutes but decided to carry on and the rain thankfully stopped. On two days we were able to push our distance to 4.5 miles, and will go for three days at that distance next week. All of the girls’ Christmas presents have been wrapped, with Meiling’s and WenYu’s box almost ready to send back to the mainland – we just need to pick up two more small things to tuck into it first. 
  • Looking forward to next week: 1) YaYu’s homecoming is at the top of our list, of course – we can’t wait to have our baby girl home again! 2) I also can’t wait to get my hair trimmed up tomorrow – it needs it. 3) We’re hoping the cooler temperatures remain, and that we can walk every day, but also that the wind doesn’t feel the need to blow quite as strongly as it did this past week. 4) Brett and I are planning to have a breakfast date again the week at the Kalaheo Cafe, sometime toward the end of the week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) I’ve lost another five pounds and am very happy about that, especially since I’ve now met the amount my doctor’s wanted me to lose. I plan to keep on doing what I’ve been doing for a while longer though and see where it takes me. 2) Meiling steeled herself this past week and asked for a raise . . . and got it! We’re so proud of this girl and all she has accomplished and is accomplishing. She has set some solid goals for herself and is on her way to accomplishing all of them. 3) We’re getting a new stove! The large burner on our current one has been acting up and now only has two temperatures; high and melt-the-pan high. And, the knob started smoking the other day as well – scary! A repairperson came to look at it, but wanted so much to fix it that the landlord decided it was more cost effective to purchase a new stove. The stove has to be special ordered because of its size, but should be here in two to three weeks. In the meantime, no pan goes unattended on that burner, and I avoid it as much as possible (it’s great for stir fries though). 4) Since my “political” post last Sunday, my daily readership has climbed by over 500% per day for the week. It’s been kind of fun but I know it’s not going to last for long.
    Lots of great produce for just $20: apple bananas, a big dragonfruit, some rambutan, a bag of green beans, cilantro, two papayas, and a kabocha (Japanese pumpkin).
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We put nothing into the change/$1 bill jar this week because the only spending we did was at the farmers’ market where we spent every dollar of the $20 we took with us. 2) I wrapped the Christmas gifts with the sheets of Japanese newspaper the dishes we bought during our 2019 stay had been wrapped in and that I had saved for some reason. I added red and green ribbon to the packages and they’re very pretty. 3) I earned 2,411 Swagbucks this past week. It was a slog, but worth it as I’m getting very close to earning my first $500 Delta gift card. 4) Aside from those things we did all our other regular frugal things: ate leftovers, didn’t throw away any food, etc.

A year ago today we walked a mile and half down to where the old Blockley station used to be. It was downhill going and uphill the whole way back on a cool, overcast November day. We stopped at the Blockley Cafe before going home for some cake and tea.

  • Grateful for: I took so many pictures last year and the year before, and Apple has been throwing up a memory each day from our travels, using pictures from my photos file on my phone. I sometimes wondered if I was taking too many pictures, but now am so grateful that I did take of all we saw and did, and the memories we made.
  • Bonus question: Two music questions this week – What’s the first album you bought with your own money? and What’s an album you can put on and listen to all the way through? I don’t really remember the first album I bought with my own money, but it may have been either The Doors or the Beatles White Album. I honestly can’t remember but I know we had those two early on. The Doors album’s Side B was mistakenly pressed with a different artist from the Doors – we had no idea who it was and never figured it out, but it definitely wasn’t The Doors. My older brother and I still wore out the A side (“Light My Fire” and all). The first album I owned on my own though was Herman’s Hermits (a gift for my 13th birthday), and the first 45 single I bought was “The Letter” by the Box Tops. We wore that out as well. I haven’t listened to an entire album in years, but a few older ones that I could still put on and listen all the way through are Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Joe Cocker; B.B. King’s Indianola Mississippi Seeds; Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby; and Ladies of the Canyon, Blue, and Court & Spark by Joni Mitchell. There are others but these are the first ones that come to mind. By the way, does anyone remember being able to go into a listening booths at music stores to “preview” singles? I used to stop by our local store several times a week to listen to records I couldn’t afford to purchase otherwise.

This past week we had to change the route we take to go over to the park because of three very close calls last Monday. We were almost hit head on not once but twice as we headed up the hill to the park – two large pickup trucks came speeding around sharp corners in the middle of the lane, assuming I guess that no one would be there, and pushed us off into the side of the road. That was scary enough, but on the way back home another truck came along in the middle of the lane and pushed us up against a bridge we have to cross. That was, as they say, a bridge to far for us, and we now are taking a longer route but with a wider road, and fewer curves and blind spots. Not sure what was going on last Monday, but it was a very unnerving experience and we feel lucky to have come out OK. Hopefully those truck drivers were a little bit unnerved as well.

This is the strangest thing going on in our yard right now.

A Hawaiian ginger plant in our yard has started sprouting out of its blossom – so strange. We’re thinking of cutting off the blossom and planting it for more ginger plants. Also blossoming in our yard are several ti plants, something I never knew happened. All of our plants currently have a long drooping blooms sprouting out of them, all in a shade of pinkish lavender – they’re lovely.

Blossoming ti plants

That’s a wrap for this week! Other than ferocious winds, it’s been a very good week, and I’m looking forward to the one coming up and hope you are as well. I’ll be putting things back together again and will be back next Sunday!