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.

Sunday Morning 6/20/2021: Happy Father’s Day!

Monday evening’s sunset was absolutely amazing. It bathed the whole interior of our apartment in color.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! Hau’oli la makuakane! I hope all you dads will get a bit spoiled today. Brett and I are heading out in a short while for brunch at the Little Fish Cafe in Poipu. They have a wonderful bagel sandwich menu, and we’re going to choose one to share. I also got him a (very) small gift, and he’ll be off KP duty tonight as well.

What a great week we had! We had a wonderful evening with my good friend’s daughter last Sunday evening, sold something during the week, and even a miracle (for us) occurred! Of all the things that were in the box the movers lost last year, the one thing we could not get over losing was an antique cotton Boy’s Day banner, found in a pile of old textiles during our last tour in Japan. It’s a one-of-a-kind piece, with a warrior tangling with a tiger (symbolizing strength for Boy’s Day), and was created using a wax resist method. I initially used it to cover some holes in the wall of the Japanese house we were renting (long story) but we’ve enjoyed it in every home we’ve lived in since and were miserable about losing it. The banner had been clearly marked on the shipping manifest for the lost box (“1 fabric banner and poles”), so we had accepted it had been lost along with the other things in the box. However, this past week I got out WenYu’s hat lamp to put on Buy & Sell next week – the lamp’s base had been sitting up in the top of our closet, still wrapped in paper, and marked “lamp.” As I removed the paper, a thin bamboo pole caught my eye and lo and behold, there was our Boy’s Day banner, rolled and packed next to the lamp base! Brett hung the banner this past week, and we are so happy to see it in our home again, a favorite piece of art restored to us. It’s one of the few things that will not be sold when we move and will be sent to stay with one of our girls for safekeeping. Anyway, finding that banner counts as a miracle in my book, and made me especially glad that I decided to go ahead and list the hat lamp now rather than waiting until later.

The much loved hat lamp that kept our banner safe – we bought it when WenYu was a baby. It used to have a big bow tied around the hat, but the ribbon didn’t make it through storage. One section of the base was also lost in the move.

The virus has returned to Kaua’i. After a few weeks with no cases on the island, COVID has returned, and there are currently 20 active cases on the island. I’m beginning to think this is going to be the new normal going forward, that vaccinated or not we will need to remain careful for a long time coming. Apparently if we are vaccinated we will be safe from the virus, but can still transmit the new Delta variant because it’s so contagious. I was surprised and disappointed to learn this past week that a woman my high school class has apparently chosen not to get vaccinated and for nothing more than political reasons as far as I can tell. She was very angry that she was required to wear a mask at a hair salon while others who had been vaccinated didn’t have to. I honestly don’t get it, because I’m sure she’s never had a problem with getting vaccinated for school, travel, the flu or other things, but COVID is apparently a bridge too far.

I made my first travel reservations for next year this past week – very exciting! The date for YaYu’s commencement has been set, so I started looking at hotel prices in the area last week and was able to reserve a room in a very nice hotel less than five miles from the BMC campus for more than $400 less than I thought we would be paying! That’s a huge savings. I also reserved a car for our time back there, including a toll pass, for less than $400, another big savings. These were the two reservations I wanted to make early because prices will only be going up during the next year as we get closer to the date, and hotel rooms will become more and more difficult to find. Neither reservation involved a pre-payment, good for us in case things get changed. Our flights back east will come later though – it’s still way too early for those, but we have $1500 in gift cards to put toward that expense. We already plan to do most of our dining at the hotel’s complimentary breakfast or in our room to keep our food costs down. The room comes with a refrigerator, and there is a Trader Joe’s nearby, so we’ll stock up when we arrive.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: It’s been very enjoyable having only one book to read, and I’ve been slowly going through Kate Atkinson’s Blue Sky. There are links back to the earlier Jackson Brodie series and I sometimes have to stop from time to time to think about things and link characters and incidents to what’s going on in the current book. John le Carré’s The Spy Who Came In From the Cold is up next.
  • Listening to: Even though it’s Father’s Day, Brett is making the coffee and putting last night’s dishes away. Our upstairs neighbor is thumping around upstairs a bit, but nothing too loud. There’s also a pretty good breeze blowing outside that’s making some noise, but the sky is blue and it’s delightfully cool so all is well. After our bagels we’re going to head over to Salt Pond for some time on the beach!
  • Watching: We’ve started the third and final season of The Unforgotten, and are contemplating what to watch when it’s over. The second season was incredibly sad and finished unresolved, but the topic was child sexual abuse and that’s something that’s both incredibly sad and really never resolved, so the ending made sense. I finished the final episode of Great British Menu on Friday and have decided to rewatch the series again because I loved it that much, and want to watch some of the chefs cook again. Brett and I tried to watch The Longest Day last Wednesday, but our Internet connection kept skipping (a sometimes frequent occurrence here) which made it impossible to watch on YouTube. We’re currently looking for another way to stream it.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: 1) Our grocery shopping trip was a genuine chore this last time because we visited three stores versus two, and had to take several things off of our list in order to stay as close as possible to our budget (we still went over). It didn’t help that all three stores seemed to be out of things we wanted, but we eventually found what we were looking for or substitutions. 2) I created an Etsy shop to start selling our Japanese items, but it’s a work in progress, and more difficult than I imagined. I try to add a couple of items every day (and get help/critiques from Meiling and WenYu who are helping with photos). Once I get it up to speed I’ll provide a link. 3) I am so happy to have gotten the reservations done for our hotel stay and rental car when we go to Pennsylvania next year, and to be saving so much from what we thought we’d have to pay. 4) We had a wonderful day at the beach last Thursday, along with a hike on the Waiokapua Trail. 5) I got a new set of activity cards made up for the next six weeks. The last six weeks went by very quickly.
My beach boy is very tan these days
  • Looking forward to next week: So far we have nothing on our calendar, so we’re looking forward to maybe a couple of trips to the beach, and some nice walks up at the park in the evening.
So happy to see and spend time with Jess (and eat at Japanese Grandma’s Cafe too!)
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) Our Sunday evening with Jess was grand, and we spent nearly three hours eating and talking and catching up. 2) I cried when I saw that banner sitting next to the lamp this past week. Finding it safe and sound was just the best thing. 4) We had a perfect hike and day at the beach on Thursday, and just a lovely week overall. 5) Our landlord gifted us a 1.75 liter bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin as a thank you for being such good tenants!
Gin & tonics coming up!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) Besides the frugal travel deals I found this week, I also sold a Le Creuset baking pan that I hadn’t used in years. I had earned it as an incentive back when I sold cookware, so what I got for it was pure profit. I also sold another lamp that we never use. 2) We went $12 over budget on our grocery shopping, and that’s after removing several things off the list, but I still consider it a win all things considered. Costco prices have remained steady, and Walmarts are always low, but Safeway’s prices were off the chart. Unfortunately, it’s the only store in the area where can find certain things (e.g. cannellini beans). 3) We put $7.69 into the change/$1 bill bag, and I earned 1,930 Swagbucks this past week. I am growing more and more annoyed with Swagbucks each day though, but I am determined to earn at least one more $500 Delta card by the end of the year so I grit my teeth, curse under my breath at times, and continue. 4) All the leftovers were eaten, and nothing was thrown away this past week.
  • Grateful for: We’re feeling grateful for good weather, good friends, a great landlord, and in spite of the rising cost of living our life on Kaua’i. Island life is a good fit for us and we plan to enjoy our time here as much as possible until it’s time to hit the road again.
  • Bonus question: What albums do you count as the most influential in your life? For the past couple of weeks, the albums above have been popping up in my Facebook feed, from when I did an Album Challenge to pick 12 favorite albums that have had an impact on me. I was nominated by our son and had a lot of fun – it was very thought provoking. The above 12 are not ranked in any way, but all are still favorites, and I can still sit and listen through them all with the same joy I felt when I first heard them. There are more, but these are the original dozen. Sadly, they all make my age very clear.

We enjoyed other pretty sunsets this past week beyond Monday’s showstopper. There are so many things we love about our apartment, but the sunset views from our front door are at the top of our list. As the days grow longer we have to wait later and later for them to appear, but the warmer weather seems to produce better sunsets than we get in the the winter, and they last longer as well.

And that closes the book on another very good week here at Casa Aloha! I hope everyone enjoyed a great week as well. Wishing a happy Father’s Day to all the dads reading – I hope you have a wonderful, wonderful day. And, I’m hoping the week coming up is another great one for all!

Home Cooking: Carrot & Cilantro Salad

A month or so ago I watched Padma Lakshmi prepare this salad on Instagram. My mouth watered as she put the salad together and I knew it was something Brett and I would love. However, it did require a couple of special ingredients I knew would be difficult, if not impossible, to locate on Kaua’i, and a quick check of Amazon’s prices showed they would not be inexpensive. I have a bad memory of giving away or throwing out so many special ingredients and spices that I had ordered or bought when we lived here before but then rarely used, and I really did not want to go down that path again. I knew I could make the salad without the two special ingredients – orange oil and za’atar – but she had stressed in her video that they really made a difference.

Fast forward to my birthday in May, and I received an Amazon gift card from my son. I spent part of it on a new pair of earrings, but had enough left over that I decided this was my chance to purchase the orange oil and za’atar. I searched Amazon again and found two affordable choices, and a few days later they were in my possession!

This is honestly one of the best dishes I have made in a long time. I cut the recipe in half for the two of us, but Brett and I could have finished off the regular recipe on our own in one sitting . . . it was that good. The recipe comes from Padma’s Tangy, Tart, Hot & Sweet cookbook and this salad is all that and more. And the orange oil and za’atar were worth the expense; in fact, I would say the orange oil may be the salad’s key ingredient. We could taste the orange flavor in every bite, even with the tiny bit that’s used and up against all the other flavors. It was the same with the za’atar, and the jalapeño also added a necessary kick without overpowering anything else. The whole salad goes together very quickly too, with the most difficult part of making it the task of grating the carrots. A food processor would have made that task go quickly, but alas, I no longer have a food processor.

The recipe below is for the full, big salad, which makes enough for six generous portions. Cutting it in half made more than enough for the two of us. The salad would makes a wonderful side dish for grilled chicken or fish, but was a great part of a meatless meal for us. We used leftovers on sandwiches a couple of days later and it was still very yummy.

CARROT & CILANTRO SALAD

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 2 TBSP lime juice
  • 1/4 tsp food-grade orange oil

Salad:

  • 2 pounds carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh cilantro leaves (don’t chop)
  • 1/4 cup lightly toasted white sesame seeds
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and finely diced
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 tsp za’atar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

In a large salad bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients.

Add the grated carrot, cilantro leaves, toasted sesame seeds, jalapeños, and cranberries and toss together.

Sprinkle the za’atar and salt over the salad just before serving.

Refrigerate the salad if not serving immediately. It’s best served same day but the dressing will start pickling the salad after that, which is fine but the taste will be slightly different.

What Would You Take Along?

A couple of our fellow walkers up at the park moved to Mexico last month. They apparently moved everything they owned down there, including a baby grand piano! From some of what we gathered, the move cost them more than a small fortune but they were unwilling to part with anything.

Listening to their experience got Brett and I thinking about what we would take along if we moved to another country and we’ve talking about it ever since, off and on. After shipping things to and from Hawaii not once but twice, and having a good understanding of the expense of shipping even a small container full of furniture and other things, we quickly decided that if we ever moved to another country we would take nothing other than what could fit into suitcases. The number of suitcases would be limited to how many suitcases we were willing to check, and after some discussion we decided three full-size suitcases each as well as a carry-on bag would be our maximum because that’s all we think we could manage.

What would we take if everything had to fit into six suitcases? Below is the list we came up with:

  • Clothing & shoes: What and how much in this category would be determined by where we were moving. If we were going to Japan, for example, taking clothing for all seasons would be a priority as it’s difficult there to find clothing in our sizes there, and what’s available in military exchanges is limited as well. If we were going somewhere in Europe however, we would most likely be able to find clothing and shoes that fit so less clothing would need to be packed. Basically, the clothes we own currently for both both cold and hot weather would be enough to give us a good start.
  • Keepsakes: I can only think of a very few keepsakes I would want to take along: a few of our Japanese clay bells, one of our porcelain stacking boxes, and our remaining small Chinese teapots. There are six or seven pieces of art we would probably take, all of which would fit into a suitcase. Otherwise, we agree that everything else can pretty much go.
  • Kitchen items: Believe it or not, we would take along some but not all of our everyday dishes (unless we were moving to Japan, where they could easily be replaced), our cutlery, and some basic cooking utensils, including all our OXO tools. At first it was hard to think about living without my wonderful All-Clad cookware, which I’ve owned for nearly 30 years, but I realized I can cook just as well in pretty much anything.
  • Electronics: We would each take a laptop, a new iPhone, our Kindles, and one tablet that both of us can use along with two or three converters, and additional chargers.
  • OTC medications: If we were moving to Japan these are things we could find on any base, and the same for some places in Europe. However, there are locations where this would not be convenient so a good supply of OTC medications to start off with would be a good thing to bring. Painkillers, vitamins, nutritional aids (probiotics/prebiotics), stomach aids, cold medication, laxatives, etc. would go with us. We would carry written prescriptions for other medication so we could get those filled if necessary, although finding a local doctor would be a priority.
  • Tools: Brett has said depending on where we were going he would take along a basic set of quality tools (screwdrivers, wrenches, etc.), especially in metric sizes.

We imagined living full time in every place we visited during our travels and then paid attention to what was available in stores, the prices of things, clothing and shoe sizes, etc. Could we easily buy furniture there? What did it cost? Was used furniture available? Was there an IKEA in the area? Were our shoe sizes available and in stock? It was a helpful exercise, and we learned that what we would actually end up taking along with us on a move to another country could only be decided after an extensive amount of research about what’s available there, and after reading others’ experiences of moving to that country and the advice they offer.

Living in another country was a fun thing to think about when we were traveling and it’s still interesting to think about now. Could we get all of what’s listed above in six suitcases? Who knows? What I do know is that with time we could probably cut back on what’s listed above to where it did fit.

What would you bring along? What would be non-negotiable for you?