Side Trip Ideas

Clockwise from top left: Colmar, France; London; Glasgow; Bacharach, Germany; Loch Ness, Scotland.

One of the things we enjoy most about doing a long stay in a particular place is that it gives us the time to to make shorter side trips to other nearby places we want to see without all the hassle of repacking our big bags, etc. We stayed in Florence for a month in 2018, and did an overnight getaway to the Cinque Terre and a day trip to Sienna. During our three month stay in Blockley in 2018 we did three-day getaways to Bath, London, and Edinburgh.

We learned a lot from those trips about how to plan and use time efficiently as well as how to save. We rode trains on all those earlier trips, but this next go round we will be using buses for some of our side trips. While not quite at fast as a train they cost much less and are big, comfortable, and come with WiFi and other amenities. We also booked Airbnb rentals for our stays before; this time we’ll be looking more closely at B&Bs and hotels and employing other strategies to save on dining out.

We’ve come up with some ideas for side trips and getaways we’d like to do during our stays in Strasbourg, Oxford, and Edinburgh. Our finances will be the ultimate decision maker on whether they happen or not, but all can be adjusted according to our situations at the time

  • Strasbourg: Because we’ll be located so close to the German border and the Rhine River, at the top of our list is a two or three day trip of day cruises on the Rhine to see the castles. We’ll definitely be making a day trip to Baden-Baden and visiting the Black Forest, but we’re also planning rent a car for a couple of days and driving the Alsatian wine route or at least part of it, and visiting Colmar, located to the south of Strasbourg.
  • Oxford: While the city of Oxford itself will most likely keep us plenty occupied during our time there, we want to go back to London for four or five days, and also spend a couple of nights back in the Cotswolds if possible, either in or near Blockley. The Oxford-Heathrow bus is an affordable way of getting to London, but the train isn’t all that much extra. We’d probably rent a private room in someone’s home versus springing for a hotel or private Airbnb lodging. We did this when we traveled through New Zealand and enjoyed the experience and the people we met along the way, and saved quite a bit as well.
  • Edinburgh: We hope we can pull off a “big” 4-day side trip to Inverness and Skye while we’re in Edinburgh, taking the train both ways as the trips are said to be among the most scenic in Scotland. We’d spend two days in Inverness then to Kyle of Lochalsh and pick up a rental car to cross over to and explore the island of Skye for a couple of days. We also plan to spend a couple of days exploring in Glasgow, and if we have the energy and funds, head up to Aberdeen as well.

One of our favorite things to do whenever we first visit any city is start with a walking tour, a free one if possible, so we’re already researching those. Besides teaching us about the city and its history, the tours help ground us, and guides always have great tips about other places to visit as well as good, affordable places to eat.

For now, we’re at a “we’ll see what happens” for each of these places we’re staying, and decided once we’re there if these side trips are financially feasible. We’re not contemplating any side trips while we’re in Japan. It’s too far out for now time-wise, and in our opinion will be too cold for sightseeing when we’re there. We’ll enjoy being with family and happy exploring the neighborhood where we live.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (10/10 – 10/16)

On our last shopping trip shredded mozzarella was on our list; we use it for our mini pizzas and occasionally other dishes. I have been buying the Walmart brand because of the price but the other day decided to splurge and instead picked up the bag of Tillamook. What a difference! The Tillamook cheese cost nearly $2 more per bag, but the quality and flavor were just light years ahead of the Walmart brand. The same happened a few weeks ago when we decided to buy a jar of Rao’s pizza sauce instead of the Great Value brand. The GV sauce was OK, but the Rao’s has been wow!

Those two items have gotten me thinking a lot about saving versus quality. When does it make sense to stick with a cheaper or store brand versus choosing a more expensive name brand? While our goal is to make healthy food choices and to keep our food budget in line, we are still figuring out where and when we can and should splurge, and the times when buying the store brand is an equally good and healthy choice (canned beans come to mind). Kauai’i is a unique laboratory for this because of overall prices on the island and a limited amount of shopping options and choices, We’re learning lots that we can and will carry along with us in the future and that will inform our shopping while we travel.

We had some great meals last week, and some tasty leftovers as well. I had forgotten how quickly yakisoba goes together and how satisfying it is, even without any meat or other protein included. The chicken pot pie was from Marie Callender, found in the vegan section at Walmart – it was very good and we’ll be buying it again. The spicy bean dip also went together quickly and we enjoyed the leftovers for lunch for a few days. I’m planning to make it when the girls are here for Christmas, and will use it as a base for nachos. I swapped some leftover peanut stew from the freezer for the basil b’ef stir fry that was planned as there was no basil available at the farm stand this past week, and we didn’t want to pay the (super expensive) local supermarket price.

Sunday: Vegetable yakisoba

Monday: Vegan chick’n pot pie; steamed broccoli

Tuesday: Spicy black bean bake; Fritos; grape tomatoes

Wednesday: Vegan chick’n tenders; onion rings; coleslaw; barbecue sauce for dipping

Thursday: Mini pizzas with barbecue sauce; leftover chick’n, and onion

Friday: Cheese board (Manchego, Irish cheddar, and Boursin with shallots)

Saturday: Vegan peanut stew with sweet potato & kale; steamed rice

We’ll be Big Shopping on Tuesday, but still have a few things to use up in our pantry and freezer next week. Still, our meals will be uncomplicated and easy to prepare. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we can find the meatless meatballs again at Walmart, and that Costco still has the vegetable egg rolls in stock. You never know here though.

  • Risotto with peas
  • Vegan sloppy Joes
  • Vegetable egg rolls & fried rice
  • Mini Pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Spaghetti with marinara (and hopefully meatless meatballs)
  • Grilled fish tacos

Walking has once again been hit or miss this week. After missing two days at the end of last week because of bad weather, we were able to walk on Sunday, then again on Monday, but had to stay home on Tuesday due to rain. We walked again on Wednesday but then had to stay home on Thursday for the plumber (a beautiful day outside, of course), and because of rain again on Friday. Saturday we tried to walk earlier than usual, and got a mile in before the rain started. We typically walk a little over 80 miles each month; this month we walked only slightly over 30. We’re still aiming for 1,000 miles of walking this year but this winter’s weather may shoot down our chances for accomplishing that goal. It’s supposed to rain all next week except for Friday, and we fear this is what much of the winter here is going to be like going forward.

A beautiful double rainbow at the park last Wednesday, but there’s a somewhat faint bank of clouds behind it, and it was raining up at the park not too long afterward this picture was taken.

Brett and I are trying to wean ourselves from the golf ball finding and to that end have sort of slacked off, but golf balls seem to keep finding us! After all the crazy weather week before last we figured there wouldn’t be many lost balls to find when we walked last Sunday, but we somehow came home with 17, and this was after watching one of the groundskeepers drive his cart around the perimeter to pick up balls and seeing the haul (30+ balls) two young guys had also made that day. On Monday, we were thinking we’d be lucky to find one or two lost balls, but ended up coming home with another 10! All these were easy finds too – no “hunting” involved. We found another 21 (!!!) on Wednesday, ending our short walking week (just 3 days) with 48 lost balls. We have decided to “officially” stop looking by the end of November so we can get everything organized and listed on Buy & Sell, and hopefully have all of the golf balls out of the house by the time the girls arrive for Christmas. We’re going change our route again in the next couple of weeks (weather permitting) and start walking through the woods again versus out on the golf course at the park.

Sunday Morning 10/17/2021: Earth, Wind, and Thankfully No Fire

There were no beautiful sunsets this week, so for something different here’s moonrise over a palm tree taken from Hole 6 at the Kukuiolono golf course.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

The wind this past week was in Surrender Dorothy territory every single day. It has blown hard, strong, and LOUD almost all week long and I was honestly tired of waking up to it, having it as background all day, and having to listen to it at night while I am trying to fall sleep (it could be heard though earplugs). Thankfully things quieted down a bit yesterday. Unfortunately it looks like it may be around for a while as we’re now officially in La Niña conditions, which means cooler temperatures (air and water), more wind, and stronger storms for the next few months. Reduced humidity (if it isn’t raining) has been a nice side effect of the weird weather although I’m not particularly crazy about how cool it’s been. We’d love to go to the beach, but there hasn’t been any beach weather for a while. I honestly feel sorry for the people who have been coming on vacation recently (and there have been a LOT of them) as the weather has been less than ideal.

And, there was an earthquake last Sunday! We have been though several of them in Japan – 6.4 was the worst, strong but mercifully short – and recognized immediately what was happening (versus it being our upstairs neighbor’s washing machine off balance again). Apparently somewhere south west of the Big Island the ocean floor “bent,” whatever that means. Kilauea had erupted again recently, but the two events were not connected this time. I think this earthquake was somewhere in the 4-point range, but it was also over quickly, thank goodness. Still, it was strange to feel things shaking here, if only for a few moments.

We have only four items left to sell on eBay (an antique tea ceremony basket, an antique iron teakettle, a coffee mug, and a group of vintage navy cloth patches), and only the remaining hashioki and a few other vintage items are left on Etsy. The items on eBay have been getting lots of extra looks and have picked up some watchers, so we’re hopeful they will sell before the end of the year as we’d like to close that account. I may close the Etsy shop then as well (for tax purposes). We’ll see what happens in the next couple of months. There is a man who keeps messaging me (politely) on Etsy asking me to sell him the antique iron tea kettle at a price that, after postage, would leave me with around $15. I keep explaining to him why I won’t sell at the price he wants, he says okay, but every few weeks he’s back and tries again. I’ll keep the teakettle before I let it go at his price – it’s valuable. After a lot of thought about the cost to send our wool area rug back to Massachusetts, we decided to sell it here before we go. Although we deeply love the rug, the shipping cost is just too high and too complicated, even sending it back on the plane with WenYu and Meiling. I read a great article the other day on moving overseas (which is sort of what we’re doing), and the main message was “get rid of everything and minimize as much as you possibly can” and we’re determined to do that this time. We’re going to store a very few small but meaningful items with WenYu, but otherwise everything else will be sold this time. Downsizing remains a process – so many things we thought we’d keep we no longer will. Some things are more difficult to let go of than others, but we’re getting it done, and as always, once the stuff is gone I never miss it.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished John Banville’s Snow on Monday, and started Life As We Knew It just because I wanted to reread it again. The book is the first in a dystopian trilogy for YA readers written by Susan Reid Pfeffer, about what happens to a family and community in eastern Pennsylvania after a world-wide, catastrophic natural disaster. I love the book for not only its great story (written in the style of a teen’s diary), but for also showing how the family survives (albeit barely) and the steps they take to overcome the many hardships that arise – there’s lots of food for thought. It’s not really a mystery as such, but since I otherwise do not care for dystopian fiction, I figured I could fit it in this year. Anyway, it was finished on Friday and I am now reading The Perfect Nanny, a thriller by Leila Slimani. It is a sort of Columbo-style mystery: you know what happened and who did it right from the start, but have to read to find out the why and the how.
  • Listening to: The wind isn’t as loud as it has been this week, but it’s still having its moments this morning where things pick up. There are lots of clouds in the sky as well, so who knows what the afternoon will bring? Inside it’s quiet – Brett got up early this morning and has already left to run some errands up in Lihue and Kapaa.
  • Watching: This week was almost the same as last week: Only Murders In the Building on Tuesday, Great British Bake Off on Friday, and Billions every other evening. Billions has become more interesting since the main characters seem to reacting less to each other and instead dealing with other characters and plot lines in Season 3. I finished all the available Father Brown episodes this past week, but we discovered that BritBox has the entire Inspector Morse series, so we began watching those, and will follow up with the Lewis series, and finally catch up with Endeavour so that we will be very ready to take a Morse/Lewis/Endeavor walking tour when we’re in Oxford. I’m looking forward to hooking up with Apple TV next month and watching Ted Lasso – I’ve heard nothing but good things about it for months.
  • Happy we accomplished: We try to do at least one task each day that moves us closer to our goal of selling (almost) or getting rid of everything before we go, and did several things this past week toward that end, including packing up some things to take back to YaYu next year, getting other items ready to list on our local Buy & Sell, and sorting other things that will sell better at a yard sale. Otherwise it was pretty much just taking care of regular chores around here. We did get our shopping list made for Tuesday’s Big Shop – that’s always an accomplishment.
  • Looking forward to next week: Same as always these days: good/better weather, possible a beach day, and hopefully selling something on eBay or Etsy. I am looking forward to our Big Shop on Tuesday as we’ve done a good job this last month of using things up.
We miss these people so much!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) Our daughter-in-law sent us a load of pictures from this summer and fall – I think I must have gone through them about 20 times already! I miss them all so much, but seeing so many pictures helps. 2) The pottery plate I sold on Etsy arrived safely at its destination – what a relief! 3) We found something other than golf balls on one of our walks last week: a ripe lilikoi! We have been walking past a vine that has been flowering like mad for the past few weeks, but has only produced a couple of fruits. We watched one of those ripen and then picked it on Wednesday, and it was delicious. 4) Not the most exciting thing in the world, but we got a new toilet on Thursday. The previous one had been slightly problematic since we moved in, maintenance and repairs had nursed it along, but it finally gave up for good on Thursday (not the toilet itself but all the seals, gaskets, etc.). Our landlord got a plumber in right away, and by early evening we had a brand new toilet. The only not-good part was having to go without for a few hours during the day – not fun, but we survived. And, the repairs/labor didn’t cost us a dime!

From blossom to fresh picked to wrinkled and ripe to yum! on top of coconut cake

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had a boring, but frugal week: it was completely no-spend and we had two no-drive days as well. We didn’t put anything into the change/$1 bill bag but we ate and enjoyed all of our leftovers and we didn’t throw away any food. My sandal purchase from Duckfeet earned me enough points that I will get a discount when I make my next purchase (the boots). It won’t be much, but every bit helps. In other good financial news, there will officially be a 5.9% increase in our Social Security payments next year, and in Brett’s military retirement pay as well. It couldn’t come at a better time.
  • Adding up what we sold: I sold four hashioki, my Japanese bamboo shopping basket to a local woman from Japan, and a box of 60 golf balls. $74.35 went into our travel account.
I wanted to keep this basket, but it’s impractical for full-time travel, and I know where to get another one in Japan before we eventually settle down.
  • Grateful for: We were very thankful once again this week to have such a great landlord. We were also grateful to be renting last Thursday and not shouldering the expense of several hours for a plumber, including his having to drive back and forth to Home Depot a couple of times for parts and eventually a whole new toilet.
  • Bonus question: What streaming services do you use? We dumped cable and switched to full-time streaming back in 2016 and have never looked back. One of the best things about streaming, in my opinion, is that you can share accounts with others which can give you more for less. Currently we stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu (without ads), Showtime, and Britbox. Netflix is free with our phone plan and we share it with the girls: Amazon Prime is necessary for survival on Kaua’i (IMO) so we pay for that and use the streaming service (the girls share their own Prime account); Hulu and Showtime are free courtesy of our daughters’ accounts (we also used to have access to Disney+ but our daughter dropped the account that provided that service for free); and we pay for Britbox. Total out of pocket for us is $16.91 per month, very affordable for all we get. When I purchase a new phone next month we will pick up Apple+ for free as well. We have been known to sign up for free trials for a week or month in order to binge-stream a particular show, but that doesn’t happen often. Some of these streaming services will travel along with us but there are often barriers in place in many countries that means we can’t use them. Japan has more streaming services than we have in the U.S. though, so we always have plenty to watch there!

A very affordable price for premium economy seats on a flight over to Paris showed up this past week, and after some checking around to be sure this was a good time to buy, we went ahead and purchased them. We will be using the Delta gift cards earned through Swagbucks to cover our flights to YaYu’s graduation – we’re going to fly into Baltimore-Washington (BWI) because it’s nearly $500 less than flights into Philadelphia – but even using what’s left over on our gift cards Delta could not match the other airline’s price (or good schedule) for our two seats. While it was quite exciting to make our Airbnb reservations last month, it’s almost more exciting to book our first flight – we have just seven months until our departure!

That’s a wrap for this week! Other than our plumbing issues it was a pretty good week and lots got done to move us closer to our departure, even if it was only a decision to make some changes. We were sort of surprised to realize we have less than seven months to go, but time seems to be moving along quickly these days and there’s lots to do. Here’s hoping it was a good week for all, and that next week is as good or better!

Sunday Morning 9/5/2021: Labor Day Weekend

The sunset of the week was on Wednesday.

Good Morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

We have been saying all along that we were going depart Hawaii by April 1 of 2023, but this past week we decided to push things forward and leave at the end of 2022 to spend Christmas back east with the girls and then head to England to spend the first three months of 2023 in Blockley. However, that meant giving up our fall trip to Japan, so we decided to change things up and will begin our travels by heading Japan instead to spend Christmas with our son and family. A winter stay in Japan will be very chilly, but so would England or France, and if we have to quarantine anywhere we’d rather it be in Japan where there’s family near by. We will have to use a mail and a baggage shipping service to send the very few things we were going to drop off with our daughters but otherwise we will depart Hawaii with just what can be packed into our suitcases. With a departure date at the end of next year the whole thing seems more real and provides a major boost of motivation. 2023 was so far out there and I know we would have gotten very discouraged along the way.

I had a decent Etsy week with everything on sale, filling five orders the first two days, then none until Saturday when I woke up to three more sales, one of them a large one of 18 hashioki. eBay has been a whole different ballgame for us though. The cancelled bot sale is still in some sort of limbo – it can’t be deleted from the sold section, and their messages make it sound like the whole thing was my fault because I didn’t require the buyer to pay immediately. Their shipping options are outrageously expensive as well. Although I’m able to select USPS Parcel Select Ground service when creating a listing, when it’s time to ship it’s no longer an available option, and I’ve been left with using either Priority Mail or UPS, both of which are super expensive from Hawaii (it seems to be a bug with eBay). eBay’s fees are also quite high, especially when compared to Etsy’s, but it’s the best online venue for some of the items we’re selling, so we’ll stick with it for a while longer and see how it goes.

There were no beach days this week, just another seven days of wacky weather including rain, big winds, clouds, cool temperatures, etc. There’s been some humidity as well, but for the most part we’ve stayed cool and comfortable in our apartment (actually cold at times). I am remembering summer and early fall weather here during our first four years though and how we thought we would melt from the heat and humidity, and the weather and cooler temperatures are far preferable along with being great walking weather. However, I am beginning to think we might not make our goal of 26 beach visits this year. Today is actually pretty nice, but it’s a scheduled no-drive day, so no beach trips. Maybe tomorrow.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished An Advancement of Learning last Monday, and of course as soon as I did another book came off of hold at the library, A Rule Against Murder, the next book in the Louise Penney Inspector Gamache series. So, I am once again having to read two books at the same time: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy during the day and Louise Penney at night. When I finish these two books though I will have met my reading goal for the year: 52 books!
  • Listening to: There’s a fairly stiff breeze blowing through the trees (and the apartment), a nice change from the freight train that’s been blowing through the yard the past couple of days. A chicken was screaming her head off a short time ago, but she’s thankfully quiet now. Skies are blue with a few clouds and it’s nice a cool with very low humidity – a perfect morning. It’s nice and quiet too, both inside and out although I’m going to have to get up in a few minutes and make breakfast for the two of us (pancakes with fruit).
  • Watching: We finished McDonald & Dodds, loved it and hope there will be more episodes in the future. Tuesday evening we started watching Only Murders In the Building, starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez on Hulu, a spoof of true crime podcasts. We caught up on all the available episodes, but going forward there’ll be only one new episode released each week. A new episode of Vera was also released, but on the same schedule of one new episode per week released so in the meantime we’re watching another Britbox show, Whitechapel (the area where Jack the Ripper operated in London). Father Brown marches on with season after season left to go. I was surprised to learn this past week that Father Brown was/is a daytime serial in the UK – who knew?
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Tuesday was “errand day.” We headed up to Puhi and Lihue and stopped at four stores looking for styrofoam peanuts (none available), but found the smoke detector battery we needed at Ace Hardware, got our shopping done at Walmart and Costco, and got the eBay package sent from the UPS store. I also got eight Etsy orders packaged and five shipped this past week (three more will go to the post office on Tuesday morning) and listed a couple more items on both Etsy and eBay. Otherwise all we accomplished were the usual tasks we do around here, which now includes washing and sorting all the golf balls we find.
  • Looking forward to next week: There’s nothing on our calendar for the coming week, but I am enjoying these unhurried, quiet days more and more, with time to get everything done around the apartment as well as time to read, take care of sales on Etsy and/or eBay, go for walks, and talk with our kids. We have enough to do each day that the time passes fairly quickly.
Delicious Bartlett pears – one of my favorites!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Costco had flats of beautiful Bartlett pears this past week – a perfectly ripe pear is one of my all-time favorite fruits and I’ve been enjoying one every day. We heard from all three of the girls this week, and our son (love, love, love their new house!) and Meiling has set up our family Christmas exchange list in preparation for our gathering in December. My Etsy Labor Day sale did kick up sales a bit at the beginning of the week, but then they dropped off again although there were lots of views and favoriting, and some big sales did come through on Saturday.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We stayed under budget on our fill-in shopping trips to Costco and Walmart. We had more than $20 leftover which went into savings ($11.15 went into the change/$1 bill bag). I earned 2,333 Swagbucks, which includes a 602 SB bonus for the month of August. I just hope I can drag myself over the finish line for that Delta Card before the end of the year. Otherwise, regular frugality reigned with leftovers eaten, no food thrown away, and no spending other than on shipping supplies for Etsy/eBay.
The set of Chinese pots that sold this last week. They’re all reproductions, and not as old as they look.
  • Adding up what was sold: Thirty-six hashioki left the house this past week as well as the three-piece set of vintage Chinese pots (sold on eBay). Our upstairs neighbor also paid us for three months of Internet sharing bringing our total side hustle income this past week to $266.38.
  • Grateful for: Every day I stop to give thanks for everything we have. Not just our material things, but also for those things that are easy to take for granted: fresh, clean water (hot and cold) on demand, electricity, a reliable car, a good food supply, and so forth Even as we downsize and part with our things, I realize how fortunate we are and that we always have enough, more than so many. I am also grateful for those whose labor provide these things for us: the farmworkers, utility workers, mechanics, and so many more.
  • Bonus question: What’s been the best part of growing old? What’s been the worst? Watching our children grow and create and build their own lives has been, hands down, the best part of growing older for me. I worried in the past about so many things, especially the ramifications of having our children in two groups so far apart, but the timing actually turned out to be to our advantage, with our son established in Japan with two children, and our daughters just beginning their careers and life on their own. It’s allowed Brett and I to make our nomadic fantasies a reality. Growing older has also given me a gift of perspective, the chance to look back and see what I did right as well as acknowledge that other things I worried about really weren’t all that important in the long run. Everything has turned out better than I imagined and I actually created a very happy life for myself. The worst part? The small aches and pains of an aging body – I am in good physical shape and healthy, but every day my body lets me know that I am growing older.

This whole online selling thing is something of a challenge for me, and I have a lot of respect for those who do it a whole lot more than I do. More than anything it’s making me a more patient person. I of course want everything to sell now, but every day I have to accept that it will take time, especially since most of the things I’m selling are niche items – not everyone loves Japanese antiques or vintage like we do or has the disposable income to buy them (even though my prices are very low for said items). I sold some things on eBay back in 2013, before we moved to Hawaii, and often have to remind myself that it took weeks for some of the items to sell back then. One book took almost a year to sell! Also, there is more to it all than just the listing and selling – there are taxes to pay, supplies to buy, and so forth. I learned some valuable lessons this past week when I shipped those three Chinese pots this week, that I need to plan better and price accordingly so that selling doesn’t turn into an expensive and frustrating chore. Whenever I get frustrated about it I tell myself that least the pots were sold, and I made more than I would have selling them at a yard sale. I want to retake the pictures above at the end of the year and hopefully see a lot fewer things than there are now.

That’s all for this week. Life continues to be good, and what needs to be done is getting done, albeit slowly at times. Things got accomplished and we have things to look forward to, along with good books to read, good food to eat, good things happening, and much to be grateful for. Time seems to be moving a bit more slowly these days, but in some ways it feels better than it moving too quickly. Here’s to another great week coming up! Welcome September and this last (official) summer weekend!

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (8/1 – 8/6)

We like tofu. We’ve been eating it for years, but as meat diminishes in our eating, we’ve decided we want to add more tofu to our diet, and have it maybe once or twice a week. It’s a great, inexpensive source of protein that can be used in a variety of way, especially as it absorbs the flavors of what it’s cooked with or marinated in. Tofu worked well as a substitute for pork in the stir fry this week, and the barbecue tofu bowl was a hit as well. We love hayayakko (chilled soft tofu), and somewhere I’ve got a recipe for a yummy Caesar dressing made with tofu that I want to dig out again. But otherwise I’m going to try to find new recipes and new ways to use it. When we do our next big shop we’ll pick up a case of firm tofu at Costco, and then hope it doesn’t freeze in our tiny refrigerator. Soft, nigiri, or other varieties can be found at Big Save..

We’re having a good time trying new things and finding what works for us and what doesn’t. We have a a pretty good selection of vegan and vegetarian items available on the island (Costco is a great source). I think Brett wishes I would add eggs back in once in a while, but for now I think we’re doing OK without them (I use applesauce as a substitute when I bake). Otherwise, our meat supply is almost gone, and we should be almost fully vegetarian by next month (we still plan to have locally caught fish now and again).

Last Sunday’s Hawaiian barbecue bowls will remain in regular rotation going forward although the amount of barbecue sauce called for was a bit excessive and will be cut back in the future. We tried a frozen pizza for a change this week but think our homemade mini pizzas are much better. The sweet potato sandwiches were planned for Saturday had to be cancelled when the potatoes turned to mush midweek (thanks humidity) and we substituted crispy (vegan) chick’n sandwiches instead (which used up some leftovers!).

Sunday: Hawaiian barbecue tofu bowls

Monday: Vegan burgers; coleslaw

Tuesday: Chili pork burritos; leftover coleslaw

Wednesday: Tofu & pepper stir fry; steamed rice

Thursday: Margherita pizza

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Crispy chick’n patty sandwiches with avocado and feta; grilled zucchini

This past week we finished the cherry baked oatmeal, had a s’more one evening, and then had lemon-blueberry baked oatmeal (our favorite flavor so far) for desserts.

We’re trying one new thing this coming week, squash and coconut dal we found at Costco on our last big shop. Fingers are crossed that we like it because we bought a case! We’ve got zucchini that need to be used, so we’re having noodles, and feta cheese that needs to be finished as well so I’m going to add some to a favorite quinoa salad. We’ll need to make a stop at the farm stand this week for parsley, mint, cilantro, and cucumbers but otherwise we have everything else on hand.

  • Squash & coconut curry dal (lentils)
  • Orange (vegan) chick’n & vegetable fried rice
  • Zucchini noodles with meat sauce
  • Quinoa salad with feta
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Falafel sandwiches

We somehow managed to get in six days straight of perimeter walks in spite of last week’s wacky weather. Most days were fine (albeit very windy), but Tuesday we spent the entire time dodging squalls that were crossing the golf course, each one coming from a different direction. We somehow made it around the course without getting too wet, but spent several minutes in shelters and under big trees until the squalls passed. On Thursday we carried a bag and picked up trash around the perimeter because we were sick of looking at it, but there was already more out there again when we walked on Friday and by Saturday there was almost half again what we had picked up. The trash was mostly food wrappers, but we also found styrofoam food containers and other paper goods. In spite of the wacky weather and seeing fewer golfers than ever, we beat our previous high-number week and found 36 lost balls. We also found two new, unopened bags of golf tees laying out on the course to complement all the balls we found.

Another sign of the passing seasons in the park – golden berries are back again.

I don’t know if my shoes are starting to break down, or where we’re walking, or what’s happening, but by the time we finish our walks lately my feet have been killing me, especially my right foot. Everything starts out OK, but the last lap we do around the Pavilion has become almost pure torture at times. The pain is mostly on the top of my right foot, near the toes, so I no idea what’s happening. Something else to ask about when I see the doctor, I guess.

Sunday Morning 8/8/2021: Blowin’ In the Wind

In spite of stormy, windy, weather during the day, we still got a beautiful sunset almost every evening.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

This has got to be the weirdest summer when it comes to the weather. Last Sunday, August 1, I found myself wearing long sleeves, leggings, and my wool slippers because it got so cold. The rest of the week we dealt with crazy winds, rain, and everything in-between. Usually by this time of the year the trade winds have died down and humidity has settled in, but that hasn’t happened this year. The humidity shows up now and again, but for the most part strong winds and cooler temperatures in our area have kept it at bay. We definitely have not been enjoying a lot of beach weather this summer, and temperatures have often been cooler than back on the mainland.

Last week was another a good one for side hustles – three big Etsy orders and I sold the blue dragon bowl on Buy & Sell. That sale was funny: I got a notice on my phone that “Cheryl” wanted to purchase the bowl so I shot off a simple, standard message that it was available and about meeting at her convenience. When I went back later to check for her reply I saw that Cheryl was actually our friend Cheryl of Alan and Cheryl! Anyway, we chatted online and then got together up in Lihue on Monday to pass over the bowl. We met at a patisserie that Brett and I had seen located two doors down from our eye doctor, and he and I shared a piece of haupia (coconut) cake and a cup of coffee. The shop had absolutely beautiful pasteries and cakes, and we are planning to stop in again during the holidays for something special when the girls are here.

Like most other places in the U.S., the COVID situation here grows worse each day. Kaua’i had a 46% increase in cases this past week with two hospitalizations, but is doing far better than the other islands. Although the state achieved a 70% vaccination rate earlier, the unvaccinated, both locals and visitors, have caused a steep rise in the caseloads on all of the islands, with 95% of those now hospitalized unvaccinated. The Big Island has been especially hard hit, and apparently whole families are finally going in together to be vaccinated. The state has mandated vaccinations for all state and county employees, but unions are balking so we’ll see how that goes. Most health officials believe that the worst is yet to come, with cases peaking in October.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I took my time and enjoyed reading Jane Harper’s The Lost Man – it was such a pleasure to read only one book instead of having to try and squeeze in time for two. I loved the characters, and that I could clearly picture the setting in Australia, a cattle station west of Brisbane on the edge of the desert, because we rode through similar areas on our train journey in 2019. I could also remember quite well the unforgiving heat that plays a role in the book. Anyway, I liked the book so much I checked out another of her books, The Survivors, and am reading that now.
  • Listening to: Well, I’m not listening to the wind roaring through the yard for a change this morning. After a week of constant strong, loud wind, there’s only a gentle breeze blowing outside this morning – yeah! However, it’s also wet and completely clouded over, although it looks like maybe that will burn off before noon. We’ll see. There are a few birds starting to sing outside, and Brett is making coffee and putting away last night’s dishes in the kitchen so it’s momentarily noisy in there, but otherwise a very calm and quiet morning, much appreciated after a very noisy week.
  • Watching: We finished watching Collateral on Sunday, and on Monday we signed up for BritBox and began watching Vera – they have seven seasons available, and also several other good series available for afterwards that makes the small monthly cost worthwhile to us for now. Vera has been a nice change from other series because each story finishes in one episode versus being carried over a full season.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Beside my three sales on Etsy, I also got some hashioki rearranged and re-listed, a necessary chore as things sell. So many of the groups I created to start out have now only got one hashioki left in them, so they have to be changed to single listings. I have sold about 15% of the hashioki I started with. Not my accomplishment, but Brett got his second shingles vaccine done this past week, so he is good to go for a couple of months until it’s time for our flu vaccines. I still need to get my shingles vaccine ordered (I admit to procrastinating). Otherwise, nothing out of the ordinary was accomplished.
  • Looking forward to next week: Not sure how much I’m looking forward to it, but I am determined to have my Hawaii business license by the end of next week. It’s affordable ($20), and I need it because of my Etsy shop, but it’s still been a somewhat confusing endeavor to figure out. I plan to go talk with someone in the Dept. of Revenue office here on Kaua’i and get my questions answered before I purchase.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: It was great to see Alan and Cheryl again and catch up after a long stretch of social distancing. I am also always happy to get more things out of the house and on to new owners who are happy and excited to have them. There are no more items in the house to sell right now though as it seems everything that remains is being used for now. The apartment is definitely looking more stripped down these days, and I love it. Guavas on the tree are starting to ripen – Brett picked three this past week and there are more coming on. The ripe guavas make the apartment smell so good, and we know when the big harvest hits in about a month or so we’ll be innundated, and it will be jam-making time again. The yard guys came and gave us a haircut this week – I always love how much nicer our yard looks when they’re done. Sort of a bittersweet thing going on with the yard this week: the koi in our pond will be moved to a nearby hotel. Brett has been faithfully caring for them since we moved in but those duties will end and I think he’s secretly glad.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had a good side hustle week with selling the blue dragon bowl and the three big-ish Etsy sales. It wasn’t a no spend week although we didn’t spend a whole lot: we shared a piece of cake and coffee on Monday when we turned over the bowl to Cheryl; we bought a tomato and bottle of mustard at Safeway for the burgers we had that evening; and we bought Brett the shirt pictured above – the minute we saw it we knew it was perfect for him. He rarely buys new clothes, but the shirt ticked all the boxes and was priced reasonably. We put $2.62 into the change/$1 bill bag, and I earned 1,825 Swagbucks. All the other stuff (i.e. leftovers) got taken care of but I had to throw out two sweet potatoes that went mushy.
  • Grateful for: I’ve been feeling thankful all this past week for our apartment, its location, size, yard, amenities, cost, our great landlord, and the giant luxury bathroom. It’s a cozy place, just perfect for the two of and how we choose to live now – we couldn’t have found a better place if we had tried.
  • Bonus question: Is buying a small place someday and settling down in our future? The short answer: I don’t think so, or at least not the buying a small place. First of all, for now we can’t come up with any place where we would want to settle permanently, and this is something we have gone over and over again and again, and given much thought to. Second, for now anyway, the thought of being stuck in one place just doesn’t feel right to us. We were homeowners for 20 years in Portland, made some money on our homes, and honestly hated every minute of it. It made sense to own a home when we were raising kids though, but not any more. The other day I spotted a cute, small condo for sale in Portland. It was a studio, 468 square feet but with a layout that would work well for Brett and me (we do fine in small spaces). It was in a great, walkable location in the city, another plus, and the price was very affordable. I crunched the numbers and discovered (because of property taxes and HOA) that our mortgage payment would be only slightly less than what we’re currently paying for our 700 square foot apartment in Hawaii, which has a deck and a yard, no utility payments, a washer and dryer, a huge bathroom, and sunset views almost every evening. And, we feel restless here – I can’t imagine how stuck we’d feel with that condo! Just thinking about owning something makes us feel even more restless. We’re realistic enough to know there is eventually going to come a time when we have to settle down somewhere, but we’re not there yet, and when we get there we will rent.
We’re always happy to see her these days, and know she’s alright.

We go long stretches these days without seeing Alley the cat, but she came by a couple of times this week to say hello and get a drink. She looked healthy and was as chatty as ever as I freshened her water bowl – it’s like she wants to catch us up on everything she’s been doing since the last time we saw her. She definitely prefers Brett to me, although she will let me scratch her back (briefly). She’ll sit with Brett though and let him pet her. We know she comes by mostly to see if The Girl is back, but we’re always happy to see her and know she’s still OK.

That’s a wrap for another good week! I hope it’s been a good week for everyone, filled with good food, good books, and lots of good things happening. Even if there’s nothing big coming up, I’m looking forward to the coming week, and hope everyone is too!

Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 2)

As military retirees we can access Trippler Army Medical Center on Oahu at no cost. However, we have to pay our own way over there (and back) and pay for lodging if we’re there for more than a day which can get expensive.

Continuing on with some positives and negatives of retiring in Hawai’i, there are both good and bad economic reasons for retiring in Hawai’i. Usually the big negative that’s mentioned about Hawaii retirement is that it’s the most expensive place to live in the U.S. but there are factors that mitigate that. Negatively, there’s another, perhaps more important factor, that could affect one’s success of settling in and subsequent quality of life in the islands:

PRO: Hawai’i is one of only two states that gives a tax exemption for all pension and Social Security income. In our own case, all of our retirement income comes from pensions (including all state and federal pensions) and Social Security, and we pay no state income tax in Hawaii. Because most of our IRA savings were non-contributory, that income is also not taxed. This break on our retirement income was a major factor in our decision to retire to Kaua’i, especially since the cost of living is so high otherwise. Because of this tax break, Hawaii turns out to be more affordable than California and some other locations on the mainland would be for us, and we know we’re happier and healthier for being here. If we want to work in Hawai’i (we don’t) then we have to pay state taxes on that income – I will pay taxes on my Etsy income, for example. However, with careful budgeting and spending, our retirement income has proven to be adequate, and has actually gone further than we imagined.

CON: The risk of becoming ill on the island, far away from family, especially before you’ve had time to settle in and make good and reliable friends is something many desiring to retire here don’t think about. This negative appears, to me anyway, to possibly be more of a worry for those coming to on their own to retire, or those in poor health to begin with. Still, some treatments are not available here, and travel to Oahu for care if might be necessary (and expensive) if living on another island. Finding a doctor can also be difficult in some places. For now, Brett and I have each other to rely on, and Kaua’i has almost all medical specialities represented and quality care.

There are many other economic factors to take into consideration when determining whether the economics of retiring in Hawaii will work for or against you (lifestyle, home ownership, travel, etc.) and all of those need to be examined carefully before making a decision to move here. As with any retirement location, there is no one size fits all in retirement here, but it isn’t all bad news either.

Home Cooking: Spaghetti Pasta Salad with Avocado Dressing

I discovered this pasta salad one day when I had some avocados to use up and went searching for a recipe, which was found on Real Simple’s recipe site. These days I buy avocados in advance so I can make it!

This very yummy pasta salad with its creamy and flavorful avocado dressing is an ideal summer main dish salad. It doesn’t take long to put together either, and on a hot day all that needs doing is cooking the spaghetti. Spaghetti is an unusual pasta for a salad, but works perfectly for this salad as it carries the dressing well. There’s no reason though another pasta shape couldn’t be used as a substitute.

The original recipe calls for Greek yogurt, but I prefer the taste of sour cream to yogurt, and although Brett and I are avoiding all dairy except for cheese these days, we make an exception for this salad. The avocado should be blended into the dressing right before it’s time to toss with the pasta for maximum flavor.

There is also no reason small basil leaves have to be used for the topping, although it’s great way to use up those little leaves that always seem to be too small for anything else. Big leaves work just fine – either tear them into smaller pieces or chiffonade them.

SPAGHETTI PASTA SALAD with AVOCADO DRESSING

  • ½ cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • ½ cup water 
  • ½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves (save some small leaves for serving) 
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar 
  • 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
  • ¾ teaspoon salt 
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper 
  • 2 small ripe avocados 
  • 5 cups cooked spaghetti 
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half (about 6 ounces) 
  • ⅓ cup chopped and toasted almonds

Cook the spaghetti according to package directions; drain and rinse with cool water until not longer hot; set aside.

Blend together the yogurt (or sour cream) with the water. Add the basil leaves and blend until smooth, then add in the honey (or maple syrup), salt and pepper. Cut the avocados into small cubes, and blend until the dressing is smooth and creamy.

Place the spaghetti into a large bowl, then combine with the dressing until all the spaghetti is well coated.

To serve, place 1/4 of the spaghetti into individual serving bowls or on plates, then top each serving with some halved tomatoes, toasted almonds, and small basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Leftover salad keeps well in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed container.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (7/25 – 7/31)

One of the unexpected benefits that has come along with reducing (and eventually eliminating) the amount of meat we eat has been a noticeable decrease in the amount of gastric discomfort I experience. Apparently those with hiatal hernias often have “food triggers” that increase the amount of acid the stomach produces resulting in discomfort, and apparently meat protein has been one of my triggers. I had never considered that meat protein might be causing high(er) acid production in my stomach. I had figured out earlier that sweet and starchy foods (cakes, cookies, pies, potatoes, bread, etc.) caused problems and that cutting back on those and/or eating smaller portions also made a difference in the amount of discomfort I experienced. Coffee and chocolate, tomato sauces, and other high acid foods are noted hiatal hernia triggers but none of those ever seemed to bother me, although I’m not a big consumer of any of them. Anyway, going forward I will be monitoring everything I eat in an effort to keep GERD from raising it’s uncomfortable head. It was good to finally have a definitive diagnosis for what I’ve put up with for the past few years, and also to know the rest of my digestive system is in tip top shape, but this is something I will live with for the rest of my life.

Before my procedure last week, I was weighed (fully clothed) and was happy to see that my weight has been holding steady. It’s pretty much stayed consistent for the last six months, so I’m thinking that without a further big reduction in calories (which is not going to happen), this is what I’m meant to weigh going forward. I have greatly changed shape as a year ago I couldn’t pull on the pants I wore last week, but on Monday they were positively baggy. I’ll continue with monthly weighing at home, but want to continue to focus more on how my clothes fit and how my body feels rather than a number on the scale.

Last week’s cooking both used up leftovers and produced a lot of new ones. I happily ate spaghetti pasta salad leftovers for lunch all week, but we used up our leftover black beans in the quesadillas (delicious), and some leftover cheeses and leftover canned tomatoes with the white bean bake. It’s a real balancing act for us, but the biggest motivator is that our refrigerator is tiny and temperamental, and we have to keep things from building up.

Sunday: Spaghetti pasta salad

Monday: Grilled teriyaki chicken thighs; zaru soba; sliced cucumber

Tuesday: Guadalajara quesadillas with spinach and leftover black beans

Wednesday: Cheesy white bean-tomato bake

Thursday: Panzanella with beans and feta cheese

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Mini pizzas with pesto. marinated artichoke hearts, red onion, and feta

For dessert this past week we finished off the olive oil lemon cake, enjoyed microwave s’mores one evening, and are now having a pan of (delicious) cherry baked oatmeal.

Two new recipes are getting a tryout next week: spiced sweet potato sandwiches, and barbecue Hawaiian tofu bowls. I was pleasantly surprised to find we had everything on hand to make both recipes, ones I had bookmarked a while ago. The chili pork burritos will use up our next-to-last pork chop, and I’m going to experiment with substituting tofu for pork in our usual CookDo pork & pepper stir fry. The vegan burgers were a new find at Costco.

  • Tofu & pepper stirfry
  • Vegan burgers
  • Chili pork burritos
  • Cheese board
  • Margherita pizza
  • Spiced sweet potato sandwiches
  • Hawaiian barbecue tofu bowl

Our walking has been less than consistent this past week. Not only did my day at the hospital upset our regular schedule, but Brett has been dealing with a painful flare-up of gout in his left foot. He thinks the culprit was the asparagus we ate this past week (very high in the uric acid that causes gout). Previous attacks all happened here in Hawaii after eating asparagus, but we had both forgotten that trigger and hadn’t eaten asparagus since we were here before. It’s now been permanently banned from our list of approved vegetables. Things should be back to normal again with his foot in a few days. Anyway, we got in perimeter walks on Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, skipped the park on Thursday to shop at Costco, and then I walked alone on Friday but stayed home on Saturday because of high winds and overcast. We still managed to find 24 lost golf balls during the week.

Passionfruit blossoms on the perimeter of the golf course.

One of the joys of walking up at the park is discovering all the different plants that come into bloom. It can be difficult to figure out when one season ends and another begins in Hawaii, but seasons do exist and plants’ behavior is one of the keys. We discovered lilikoi blossoms on the edge of the course this past week – they are always stunning – and are watching other plants come into bloom as well while others fade. There are producing fruit trees in the park as well, but one big mango tree produced all of two fruit this year. We see big mango seeds out on the grass from time to time though, after the chickens have finished the fruit, so know that other trees exist and produced fruit.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (6/13-6/19)

This is so me.

I will never give up coffee, especially now that it’s been determined that drinking four cups of coffee a day can possibly extend your life. Current meta-studies are showing that drinking coffee, either with caffeine or without, can potentially extend men’s lives by 12% and women’s by 16%. Four cups a day seems to be the ideal, with anything after that providing little to no benefit.

What’s so great about coffee (besides being delicious)? Coffee, it turns out, is loaded with antioxidants. While fruits and vegetables contain more, the amount of coffee consumed by Americans ends up providing the greatest amount of antioxidants each day. Beyond living longer and providing antioxidants, coffee drinking also provides several other potential health benefits:

  • better processing of glucose or sugar
  • decreases the risk of developing heart failure
  • decreases the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease
  • decreases the risk for liver cancer and other liver diseases
  • decreases breakage in DNA strands
  • decreases the odds for colon cancer
  • decreases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease
  • decreases the risk for strokes
  • decreases the risk for Type-2 diabetes

The secret to receiving all these benefits it seems, is drinking the right amount. As with Goldilocks, there can be too little or too much, but the sweet spot seems to be three to five cups a day. I currently drink two cups of half-caff in the morning, one cup of decaffeinated most afternoons, and then share a cup of half-caff with Brett in the evenings. The downsides for coffee for me is that it can irritate my stomach, and also affect my sleep, but my current consumption does not seem to affect either of those, so I am going keep it up! I have tried giving up coffee, or going 100% caffeine free, but both of those have made for a very miserable Laura.

Below is what we ate for dinner this past week. I did not get a picture of our dinner at Japanese Grandma’s Cafe last Sunday, but you can see below that I devoured it all LOL. It was healthy and delicious!

Sunday: Vegetable futamaki (sushi); Cucumber & seaweed sunomono (salad); seared tofu & vegetables; matcha cheesecake (shared with Brett)

Monday: Chicken tikka masala with peas; steamed jasmine rice

Tuesday: Cheese white bean bake; toasted baguette; steamed artichoke

Wednesday: Mezze plate (tabouli salad, baba ganoush, hummus, whole wheat pita)

Thursday: Italian sausage sandwich with sautéed peppers and onions; roasted cauliflower

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Mini pizzas w/leftover Italian sausage, sautéed peppers and onion, & roasted cauliflower

Our desserts this past week were apple pie baked oatmeal and vegan arroz con leche (rice pudding).

There are only two, possibly three, meals with meat planned for next week because we’re finding the meatless meals much more enjoyable these days. However, once again all the meatless meals contain cheese. We love cheese but are trying hard not to go overboard.

  • Panzanella with chickpeas and feta
  • Guadalajara quesadillas
  • Egg roll in a bowl
  • Pork & pepper stir fry
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Avocado pasta salad

We had a week of varied walks: four days of perimeter walks at the park, a day of shopping (which wears us out more than anything), and a hike at Barking Sands. It was hot, hot, hot the day we walked there, with little to no shade, but we slathered ourselves with sunscreen, stayed hydrated, and did OK, although we were more than ready to get under our umbrella on the beach afterwards. Our golf ball hunt yielded 11 this past week! Looking for them has become a game and made the perimeter walk a lot of fun.

The Waiokapua Trail starts out looking green and inviting, but a few hundred feet ahead it dumps you out into the hot sun for the rest of the way. Shady areas are small, and few and far between.

The way our apartments are set up, when our neighbor comes up the stairs to his front door he can look right into our living room. No big deal, but every time I see him (and he sees me) I am sitting on the sofa working on my computer or reading. He must think I never get off the sofa! It has made me think about how sedentary I am outside of our daily walks. I do move around a lot, but also think I sit around too much as well. I work a lot on the blog each day, and now as I set up my shop on Etsy, and those two things take time, but I’m more conscious these days of making sure I get up and move around more frequently versus planting myself on the sofa for the day.