Let the Downsizing Begin!

Brett and I made a command decision a couple of weeks ago that we will not be putting anything into storage again when we set off on Big Adventure II. Just about everything will be sold, including most of our Japanese antiques. Anything we keep will need to be small enough to be packed in a box and affordably mailed to one of our daughters on the mainland, including art work.

The decision was made after lots of discussion about what we should keep along with the cost of shipping those items back to mainland once again. Besides the expense of shipping our goods back to the mainland, the movers losing a large box of our stuff and our shipment not being packed very well when we left Kaua’i last time played a major part in our decision. The main thing though is that we want less to own and be responsible for while we travel.

We’ve been storing several things for the girls but have let them know they will need to go through their things while they’re here in December and decide what they want to keep and what they can let go of. For example, we’ve been storing WenYu’s first guitar, a Fender Mini-Strat and its amplifier, and she’s already let us know she intends to take that back with her when she visits this December. But the cute “hat lamp” she’s had since she was a baby and was so insistent on keeping before she now no longer wants. It will most likely be the same with many other items they couldn’t bear to part with before.

Because the girls are adults, we will also be giving them all their official paperwork (birth certificates, adoption paperwork, diplomas, etc.). They will also get the packet of clothing they were wearing when we received them in China and that we’ve kept for them all these years. They will each be carrying back a piece of art work (or two) of their choosing when they depart as well – they’ve already agreed to that. We will be taking some things to Japan next year when we visit, things that our son should have to either keep or dispose of.

We’ve already started selling a few things as we’d rather have the money in our bank account now than those things sitting around unused, or in a closet collecting dust. Our goal is to sell at least two things each month. At the end of last month we sold my apple green KitchenAid stand mixer because I had not used even once in the last year; my hand mixer is more convenient these days and gets the job done. I listed the KA on our local Buy & Sell group and it sold in less than half an hour for the full asking price. The next day we sold a Noguchi pendant lamp that we can’t use. Last week we listed an ultra-thin light box that WenYu no longer needs and a small TV that YaYu didn’t want to keep. Those sold in a couple of days so we’ll probably list something else this month to keep the ball rolling. After the girls are here for Christmas we’ll reassess what else we can let go, and we’ll have a garage sale right before we depart in 2023 with anything that’s remaining.

We’ve learned during the last few years that downsizing and getting rid of stuff isn’t the worse thing in the world, and there’s nothing we’ve previously sold or given away that we miss. Our kids don’t want our stuff, and we’d plan to live very minimally when we eventually settle, so this is the right thing for us to do, and there’s no reason like the present to get started.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (5/30-6/5)

Our meat supply is slowly dwindling, but not quickly enough for me, honestly. We have been enjoying our meatless meals but quite a bit of meat protein still remains to be used. I’ve added some more ingredients to our pantry for future meatless meals: cashew butter, tahini, falafel mix, and bulgur wheat and am looking forward to creating meals with those in the future (the cashew butter though is for me to have on toast for breakfast). Amazon is the most cost effective place for us to find natural pantry items for the most part – local stores’ prices other than Costco or Walmart are usually way too expensive. Walmart, we’ve discovered, for as small as its grocery section is has a surprising amount of natural and organic options at very reasonable prices.

The first vegetarian cookbook I reserved at the library, Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, came off of hold and I’ve been going through it, although it sadly appears not to be a good fit with a Kindle. It takes a while to maneuver through the book and find different recipes. It’s maybe a book I’ll have to buy (or suggest for a Christmas present). The America’s Test Kitchen vegetarian book has also come off of hold, but I haven’t been able to go through it yet. I hope it will work better with the Kindle. My best source for vegetarian/vegan recipes continues to be the Internet, and I’m just getting started looking on Pinterest.

Below are what we ate for dinner this past week. There were four meals that included meat, three without. The carrot salad on Wednesday was the biggest hit of the week – I will post the recipe for it soon. Both Brett and I could have eaten the entire bowl of it in one sitting and I cannot wait to make it again. The leftovers were great on the roasted marinated artichoke sandwiches we had a couple of days later – very yummy!.

Sunday: Grilled Italian sausages; pasta with marinara; roasted zucchini

Monday: Hamburgers; 3-bean salad

Tuesday: Grilled teriyaki chicken; zaru soba; cucumber slices

Wednesday: Italian sausage & artichoke mini pizzas

Thursday: Chicken-less nuggets; steamed artichoke; carrot & cilantro salad

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Roasted artichoke sandwiches; 3-bean salad

We’re enjoying the baked oatmeal for our desserts. We started off the week with a blueberry-banana version, and finished the week with a strawberry-banana one. They’ve been much more satisfying than a regular piece of cake or ice cream, and healthier too!

Below is what’s planned for dinner next week. I almost can’t believe that in this warm weather we’re having soup not once but twice, but it is what it is. Depending on what kind of mini pizzas get made we could be having four meatless meals versus three:

  • Chili pork sauce with baked sweet potato
  • Red pepper & tomato soup with toasted cheese sandwiches
  • Mabo dofu
  • Chicken & pasta soup with vegetables
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Bulgur Mexicana

Our week of walking started out well, and other than one day spoiled by rain we got in good walks every day. We took our usual Sunday off, and then did a long walk at the park on Memorial Day, around the perimeter. On Tuesday we walked two miles on the Waiokapua Trail at Barking Sands, and on Wednesday we walked three and a half miles on the eastside beach path after my hair appointment. It was hot, hot, hot at both those places but there was also a breeze both times that helped made the temperature bearable. Rain kept us home on Thursday, but Friday and Saturday we did perimeter walks at the park again. We love going later in the day when things have cooled down a bit and we get shade almost the entire way on the perimeter walk. There are also fewer people at the park, almost like we have the place to ourselves.

All is well with our health otherwise. I’m getting labs done this week for my annual cholesterol check, and all lab work for Brett looks good following his surgery. Hopefully we’ll have our teeth back in shape soon as well. Coming back to Kaua’i has been very good for our health overall – we’re stronger, we’re eating better, we’ve lost weight. Noho’ana hau’ole: life is good.

Sunday Morning 6/6/2021: Summer Has Arrived!

No spectacular sunsets this week, just a pretty glow as the sun went down.

Good Morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Summer has officially arrived it seems. We started off the week with lovely warm/hot weather (finally) but rain returned on Thursday and Friday mornings before the good (better) weather returned. The island is crowded with tourists once again though – numbers arriving on the island each day have been over 2,000 for several days. The traffic is awful again, stores are crowded again, gas lines are long, and so forth. We were up in Kapaa this past week and were reminded once again of how grateful we are to be living on the south side versus having to deal with the traffic up there. There are changes coming though – work has started to another lane to the highway in the Wailua area, one of the biggest traffic bottlenecks on the island. And, it looks like the old, ugly remains of Coco Palms may finally be coming down – time will tell.

This past week was a busy but very productive one. I finally have a new ID card, and along with getting that taken care of we also got in a hike on the Waiokapua Trail as well as some time on the beach when we were at Barking Sands. It was the perfect day to be there too – hot and barely a cloud in the sky but with a nice breeze. On Wednesday we drove up to Kapaa for my haircut, then took a walk on the eastside beach path before coming home, another hot but beautiful day. Thursday Brett went up to Kilauea for a doctor’s appointment, and while he was on the road I had a tele-appointment with the doctor! In between all our activities we got the meals cooked, the dishes washed, the laundry done, the house cleaned, books read, etc. One great thing about being so busy: the week went by very quickly!

We are entering a very long stretch of not being able to do much related to future plans and such; that is, there are only a very few things we can do now, like save as much as possible, but not a lot of activity that otherwise seems directly related to our future plans. It’s too early to make reservations for anything, or to even guess what things will cost when it’s finally time to do those things, let alone what the situation will be with the virus. All we can do now is get our minds wrapped even tighter around saving for the future, continue to exercise and stay in shape, and get started on the things we can do now, like learning the basics of another language, none of which frankly seem very exciting or motiving. Everything we dream of doing seems so far off, but I’m glad we at least have a plan, and live in a beautiful place while we wait to bring that plan to fruition.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished one book this past week, Deception Cove, and am almost one with a second, The Chestnut Man. Both were/are good, but The Chestnut Man is the better of the two, in my opinion. Two cookbooks became available this week and I’ve been looking through them, but neither seem to be very easy to navigate through on the Kindle, so I’m going to have to rethink this. Another book I’ve been waiting for, A Fatal Grace by Louise Penny, has been downloaded. It’s the first in the long series of her Inspector Armand Gamache books, set in Quebec. I read the last book in the series earlier this year and want to read them all, starting at the beginning. I’m looking forward to starting it in another day or so.
  • Listening to: Right now there’s a quiet breeze blowing outside, but it’s been off and on all morning. The sky is somewhat overcast, and it’s sort of cool, so not sure what the rest of the day will be like – will it rain or will it burn off? Birds are singing in the background though, always a good thing to get to listen to. Brett’s reading and finishing his oatmeal (I can hear him scraping the bowl). It’s a lovely morning to read, write, and relax with my coffee.
  • Watching: We discovered that we’d already watched most of Silent Witness when the theme music changed for the second season – we recognized it immediately! So, we switched over to The Unforgotten, which has three seasons for us to watch. So far so good. I am getting close to finishing Great British Menu and will start the final available season this week (starting the finals for the penultimate season tonight). I have no idea what I’ll watch when it’s over, but I’ve enjoyed it so much, especially while I work on Swagbucks in the evening.
  • Happy we accomplished last week: We got a LOT done last week. It was a busy one but great overall.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re honestly looking forward to a less hectic week but still hope to get to the beach one day, probably Salt Pond versus driving all the way over to Barking Sands again. Our niece will be visiting Kaua’i this week with her family (they’ve been on Maui this past week). They’ll be staying right down the road from us in Poipu, but we’re going to try and get together later in the week so we can hear about everything they’ve been doing while visiting Hawai’i. I am not looking forward to visiting the dentist this week to get my old filling redone, but needs must.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: My new ID card is good for five years versus four as they were in the past. That will push me up to 74 years when it expires, and the card I get then will have no expiration date. We got to see two monk seals basking on the beach while we were at Barking Sands, always a good thing. We saw them when we were hiking on the Waiokapua Trail and initially thought they were big pieces of driftwood, but then noticed the driftwood had changed positions on our way back! Guards arrived as we walked to the beach to set up perimeters around the seals as they are an endangered species. Meiling gifted us with an Airbnb certificate that she received as an award from her work but can’t use! We’re going to put it toward an overnight staycation on the island later this year.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Other than getting my hair cut, buying gas for the car, and picking up a bunch of cilantro from the farm stand we had a no-spend week. We put $9.32 into the change/$1 bill bag, and I earned 2,300 Swagbucks, which includes my 659 bonus for the month of May. I now have just slightly over 1000 SB to go to earn to get another $500 Delta gift card which I should accomplish this week! We had to throw out two more zucchini last week – we bought them at Costco but they spoiled quickly so won’t buy them there again. I also threw out a can of coconut milk that I had planned to use for whipped coconut cream. It had frozen in the refrigerator and ruined the consistency needed to make the cream. I hate throwing out food – such a waste!
  • Grateful for: I’m grateful that we’re able to put away more for travel this year from our income. Last year it seemed there was barely anything left over in the budget to set aside, but that’s changed this year and our travel savings are growing again, providing lots of motivation and an incentive to do even better.

Looking out from the old Pineapple Dump pier always puts everything about living in Hawaii into perspective for me. The beautiful but powerful ocean and skies go on forever – the next land reached straight ahead is 3,600+ miles away. It’s always a reminder of how isolated we are out here.

  • Bonus question: Have you done everything on Kaua’i you wanted or are there still things you want to do? We have had so many wonderful experiences on the island, and have done and seen pretty much everything we wanted to see and do outside of daily living. We’ve done a couple of “tourist experiences” and enjoyed them, like the ATV tour at Kipu Ranch, and the tubing experience, but we still would like to take a boat tour out to see the Na Pali Coast and plan to do that before we leave. We have absolutely no desire to do any zip lining or take a helicopter tour of the island though. There are some beaches we will be fine with never having visited, although we were talking this week of maybe going back up to Haena and Ke’e beach on the north side this fall after the tourist numbers have hopefully quieted back down (a pass is required to enter the park, ordered online before your visit), and we’d also like to visit to the Limahuli Garden and Preserve up there. We’ve also never visited the Allerton Gardens and would like to do that before we leave although tickets are quite expensive, even for island residents. Otherwise just living here is enough.

I posted about language learning last week, which got me thinking about my own plans to learn another language, and how I want to accomplish that. I’ve done some reading and searching this past week about effective online programs, and have found a couple that offer a free trial that I want to try out this week. I’ve used Memrise before, and Duolingo, and learned from both of them, but they only go so far. I have heard about the Pimsleur programs for years and how effective they are, and wonder if maybe it would be worthwhile to invest in one of them (they’re not free but not horribly expensive either). They focus not only on conversational speaking and listening, but also writing and pronunciation and might be a better fit than the free programs I’ve tried. I really need something more interactive than what I’ve used before, and as classroom instruction is not an option here, something like the Pimsleur program may be the next best thing. Decisions, decisions.

That’s all for this week, a busy but great one nonetheless filled with good books, good weather, good food, good friends, and lots of good things happening and getting accomplished. I’m looking forward to the week coming up (well, except the trip to the dentist) and hope everyone is as well!

Japan On My Mind

A few weeks ago I read a detective story set in contemporary Japan. I was familiar with some the setting, but even when I didn’t know the neighborhood I could picture what was going on: the path alongside a river, the bento shop, the apartments. The story was a good one, and kept me guessing until the end, but by the time I finished the book I would have just about given anything to be in Japan again.

It’s been over a year since we left Japan. The grandkids are growing up so quickly: our granddaughter, who was still pretty much a toddler when we left last year seems to have grown about a foot or more, has ditched the training wheels on her bike, speaks English easily, and judging from the videos sent to us is just about completely fearless these days. Our grandson is taller and more mature as well: he bikes to his school every day, is involved in school clubs and activities, and has also gotten bigger and taller.

I miss living in Japan. I’ve accepted it’s not something we can do permanently, but I loved our long stretches of time there and being able to see our family and helping out, our daily lives there, and getting out and about, where a walk in our neighborhood is an adventure, let alone any trip into greater Tokyo. I want to buy KitKats again. At least once a week I check the rentals on Airbnb to see if I can find something affordable near to where our son’s new house is located (there isn’t much), and dream of the time we can return and stay for a while.

Japan’s autumn foliage is spectacular. (photo credit: toxinu/Unsplash)

We are planning to return to Japan next year, in the autumn, hopefully for a month’s stay. The Olympics will be over (if they aren’t cancelled again, which is looking likely), and we’ll get to enjoy the beautiful fall weather for a change, along with the leaf changing, momiji 紅葉, which is almost as spectacular in Japan as cherry blossom season, and the wonderful fall dishes and foods that become available during the season. We’ll get to celebrate our son’s and granddaughter’s birthdays with them.

But I wish we could go now. We’ve been away too long.

Home Cooking: Pork & Apple Stir Fry

I added a green pepper along with a red one this last time because that’s what I had on hand! I also prefer the apples unpeeled.

This quick and easy pork & apple stir fry has been a favorite with our family for almost 30 years; I clipped it out of a Cooking Light magazine and was making it for Brett and myself before even MeiLing joined us. It’s wonderful fall recipe, and the flavors of pork, apples and red pepper in a mild sweet and sour sauce go together perfectly.

The original recipe was just for two, but it was easy to expand to make enough for our family of five. The only amount I didn’t change was the pork, as eight ounces has been plenty for all of us. I upped the number of apples from one to three, added a second pepper and only slightly increased the other ingredients after discovering that doubling them created way too much sauce. Once the prep is done with the ingredients, the whole dish comes together very quickly, in around 10 minutes. Only the pork is actually stir fried; the apples, peppers and onions actually simmer quickly in a sweet and sour broth, which is then thickened with a small amount of cornstarch at the end.

I tried making this with chicken instead of pork, but it didn’t go over well. The chicken just didn’t have enough flavor to compete with the apples and pepper, and wasn’t a good match for the sauce. Turkey has worked well though, and is a great substitute if you don’t eat pork.

PORK & APPLE STIR FRY

  • 8 oz. lean, boned pork loin, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2 inch strips
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp coarsely ground pepper
  • 3 TBSP sugar
  • 3 TBSP rice or cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 2 red bell peppers, cored and cut into thin strips
  • 3 Granny Smith or other tart apples, peeled and cut into thin slices
  • 2 tsp grated, peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 cup sliced green onions (including the tops)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp water
  • steamed rice

Coat a large skillet or wok with cooking spray or a small amount of vegetable oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Add the pork and cook until done. Remove from the pan, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and set aside and keep warm.

Add sugar and vinegar to the cooking pan and cook for 1 minute. Add wine and broth; cook an additional 30 seconds. Add the pepper slices, apple slices and ginger; stir in the broth around 3 minutes, then add the green onions and continue to cook until apples are tender, about another 2 minutes. Combine cornstarch and water in a small bowl; add to the cooking pan and mix throughout. Bring to a boil and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly – the sweet-our broth will thicken slightly. Return pork to the pan and cook until thoroughly heated. Serve immediately with hot steamed rice.

Learning Another Language As an Adult

(photo credit: Leonardo Toshiro Okubo/Unsplash)

(This is an updated version of a post I wrote in May of 2018)

Brett and I have once again been thinking a lot about taking up another foreign language in preparation for our future travels. It makes sense for us to have some basics in another language if we’re going to travel and stay in another country for long period of time. I know enough Japanese to not get lost, buy things, and so forth, and found the basic French I learned last time helped us to get around in that country as well if for nothing more than reading signs and simple directions. Current plans are that Brett will go with Greek as he studied it for a while back in his navy days, but I’m torn between German and Italian, both of which I’ve studied before. I have spent a considerable amount of time (like years) trying to learn Japanese, only to still find myself with an ability less than a two year-old. Because my professional  background is in adult language learning and acquisition you would think I’d have this all figured out by now and would know all sorts of tricks to make learning faster and easier, but sadly, no. That’s not how language learning works.

Children pick up new languages very easily, at least the spoken part, typically because they are usually far more immersed in a new language than most adults (i.e. in school all day with other native speakers). If children learn a second language before the age of twelve they usually become fluent speakers with no accent. Although adults learn a language in the same steps as children, how adults process what they are learning is different based on cognitive differences and other previous learning experiences, and the reality is it takes adults longer to acquire a second language. The good news is it’s not impossible.

When adults are learning a second or foreign language, there are three main aspects that come into play: 1) motivation, or the reasons for learning another language; 2) how an adult views themself as a learner; and 3) who an adult sees themselves to be when they speak another language. All three of these are important, but any one of them on their own can have a profound effect on the learning experience. Being aware of these forces and the roles they play can help adults through the process.

Motivation falls into two classes, intrinsic or extrinsic. That is, motivation to learn another language either comes from within or from without. Are you learning a new language because you want to or because you have to or need to? How strong is the desire or need? A combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic reasons for learning is best, and together can provide powerful motivation to push through difficult stretches and improve.

Language learning has often proven to be a sticky problem for adults who have always seen themselves as successful learners or talented in other respects. Recognizing that language learning calls on a whole different set of skills than learning math or history, or participating in a sport or hobby, and that it might not be as easy for you as you thought (or as fun) is an important step in staying motivated and continuing to learn.

One’s self-image when learning a new language can sometimes take some serious blows. As a native speaker of English, I view myself as a confident, skilled adult when I speak, read, write or listen to English, able to know what to say in almost any situation or figure out what someone else is saying or inferring. With a new language I often find myself with less ability than a small child, making lots of (sometimes embarrassing) mistakes, sometimes unable to order in a restaurant or ask directions, let alone manage any other social or professional situations. It’s very humbling, and can also be humiliating at times. Also, there’s the aspect to self of fitting in socially and culturally where the new language is spoken. Knowing that these feelings are perfectly normal can help you stick with language learning.

Based on my many years of teaching English to adults learners, here are some tips for making language learning more productive and less painful:

  • Communication should be the goal. Not fluency, not perfection, although you can strive for those. Can another person understand what you’re trying to say or write and communicate back to you? That’s what really matters.
  • Know how difficult a language is to learn. Russian or Chinese or Finnish are going to be w-a-y more difficult for an English speaker to learn than Spanish or French. All language learning takes time and effort, but if you want to learn one of the more difficult languages, give yourself even more time. Although the goal may be much less than professional proficiency, here is the Foreign Language Institute difficulty ranking for English speakers, and how many hours of study it takes to reach General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (Level S3) and Reading (Level R3) in different languages. Notice that for a Class 1 language it takes less than six months to reach this level; to reach the same level with a Class 5 languages it takes closer to two years! This is honestly not meant to be discouraging, but provide a realistic look at what you’re taking on.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Seriously, mistakes are how we learn, especially in language learning! Think of all the mistakes children make when they’re learning to speak. Adults go through the same steps, and mistakes will happen. The important thing is to keep trying to produce the language in some form rather than shut down. An ideal instructor (or online program) will always model the language correctly for you when you make a mistake and give chances to try again. It’s also important to find a classroom and instructor where you feel safe to make mistakes. My Japanese instructors in college didn’t go for safety and it was an incredibly stressful and miserable experience. I remember nothing from those classes other than wanting them to end (although I did get my thesis topic out of the experience!).
  • Be prepared to memorize. Memory is a very big part of language learning. We memorize constantly when we learn our own language (as an example, I took weekly spelling tests from first through the eighth grade because much of English spelling and pronunciation is based on memorization, even for native speakers), and the same will be true for any other language. It’s more difficult to remember things when we’re older because we’re carrying around and having to deal with so much more information in our brains than we did when we were younger. The best way to remember what you’re learning is to practice every day.
  • Don’t sweat pronunciation. The ability to speak another language without an accent ends at about age 12. That’s when our mouths and oral muscles “solidify” around our native language. Not worrying about pronunciation doesn’t mean not trying to pronunciate a new language correctly in order to be understood, but sounding like a native speaker doesn’t need to be the goal.
  • Find ways to expose yourself to the language. Learning French in France is going to be a whole lot easier than trying to learn it in the U.S. Why? Because learners are immersed in the language there – it can’t be escaped and has to be dealt with. In your own country, once you’re out of the classroom it’s difficult to find opportunities to practice and use the language you’re learning. Immersion experiences do exist though. Shop in international markets and read the labels or ask questions in the language you’re learning. Pick up a newspaper or magazine in the new language, go through it and see what can be figured out. Watch foreign films or TV shows in the new language without subtitles. For example, when our girls were learning Chinese, they found that all their favorite Disney Channel shows could be watched online in Mandarin, so they got lots of extra listening comprehension practice from those. Go to a church service where the language you’re learning is spoken (they exist). See if you can set up conversation experiences through local colleges, or hire a tutor and have them provide a weekly immersion session. I was sometimes able to match up my students, if they had time, with an English speaker who was trying to learn their language. They’d spend one hour together in one language, the second hour in the other language.

Knowing another language opens doors for understanding a new and/or different culture, but language learning is a process that takes time, in some cases LOTS of time. It’s important to remind yourself, especially if you’re struggling or on the fence about sticking with it, that you didn’t learn English (or any other native language) quickly as a child either. Unless necessary for professional reasons, fluency doesn’t need to be the goal of language learning; rather, you should strive to learn enough of a new language to communicate effectively, and as a means to better understand and enhance experiences in a different culture.

Finally, If you’re a native speaker of English, one other interesting side effect of learning another language is that you will probably learn more about English as well, and what a crazy, difficult, and sometimes impossible language it is. I thank my stars every day that English is my native language, and that I didn’t have to learn it as a second or foreign language. My years of teaching gave me an immense amount of respect for anyone trying to learn English, a daunting task if there ever was one.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (5/23-5/29)

(Posting a day later than usual because of yesterday’s holiday).

I’ve been having a good time searching for new vegetarian recipes. For now, my research has all been online, but I’ve got three all-purpose cookbooks on hold at the library, to see if I like them and feel they would be worth purchasing. One is How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman. His original How to Cook Everything has been our most-used cookbook for many years, and we’re eager to see what the vegetarian version holds. Two other books we’re waiting on are from America’s Test Kitchen: The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook and Vegan for Everyone. I’d also like to find a vegetarian cookbook for the InstantPot, but our library doesn’t have the one I’d like to start with so I’m still looking. I’d love any suggestions you may have for vegetarian cookbooks!

Big changes are coming this week to our breakfasts and desserts. I am going to be giving up yogurt and instead will be having cereals with oat milk instead. I love shredded wheat so that’s what I’m starting with, but there are other good cereals out there are well. Cereal with oat milk has more calories than my usual yogurt breakfast, so I am going to have to be careful about everything else when I menu plan. And, we are giving up ice cream and cakes for dessert (sob!). We’ve decided to eat something healthier instead, and our first treat will be a dish traditionally eaten at breakfast: baked oatmeal! There are so many yummy, healthy versions out there so we can mix things up and still feel like we’re getting something special. We’re also going to try and have more fruit for dessert, easier now as summer fruits, both tropical and otherwise, become more available. It didn’t help that Costco didn’t have any melons last weekend, but we did get strawberries, blueberries, and bananas. Peaches will be appearing soon as well.

We managed to have three vegetarian meals this past week – the spicy black bean bake was both easy and tasty and I’m already looking forward to having it again (although I want to use pepper jack cheese instead of the cheddar next time and leave the red pepper flakes out of the beans). We could have eaten more vegetarian meals but our goal right now is to use up the meat in the freezer (without going crazy). Here’s what was eaten for dinner last week:

Sunday: Pork & apple stir fry; green beans

Monday: Spicy black bean bake; Fritos; wilted cucumber salad

Tuesday: Pasta with meat sauce; roasted zucchini

Wednesday: Burritos with rice, beans, chicken, and cabbage; honeydew melon

Thursday: Tofu & sweet potato curry; honeydew melon

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Italian sausage & roasted squash mini pizzas

We head into June this week, so according to our plan there will be three vegetarian meals on the menu this week: a cheese board, chicken-less nuggets, and roasted artichoke sandwiches. Our once-a-week cheeseboard and mini pizza dinners continue, but the chicken-less nuggets are something we found at Costco and want to try. The mini pizzas this week will be topped with leftover Italian sausage and probably roasted squash for a second week. We’ll have the teriyaki chicken with zaru soba.

  • Grilled teriyaki chicken
  • Pasta with marinara; Italian sausages
  • Hamburgers
  • Cheese board
  • Mini pizzas
  • Chicken-less nuggets
  • Roasted artichoke sandwiches

Last week was a great week for walking. Sunday was our regular day off and on Monday we visited Waimea Canyon and got in over a mile of walking there, and could have done more except for the weather. Tuesday through Friday though we walked the golf course perimeter every day (3.6 miles) – great workouts – and Saturday we did our Costco and Walmart shopping trip, walking over two miles. That trip is also a good workout, for me anyway, because I’m also pushing a cart the entire time, and then we also have to carry all we bought up two flights of stairs to our apartment. We always finish our shopping trips feeling more tired than we do after walking up at the park!

It’s amazing how quickly we can walk a couple of miles in Costco, but the store is HUGE. They’re always moving things around as well so we have to walk practically the entire store at times to find what we’re looking for.

We walked our shortest total distance this past month though, only 67.1 miles. We had seven days where we walked less than a mile, almost always because of the weather. In April we walked a total of 78.5 miles.

An additional “benefit” we’ve discovered of the perimeter walks around the golf course is that we almost always find golf balls, at least one a day but sometimes two or three. We walk in the out-of-bounds area and guess some golfers just don’t bother to look if they hit their ball out of bounds. We’ve got quite a collection of balls now, both white and colors, and should have a couple of bags of them to sell when we get ready to leave the island!

Sunday Morning 5/30/2021: Memorial Day Weekend

Pretty evening skies this week.

Good Morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Ads for Memorial Day sales have been popping up all week on the Internet, and as another veteran we know said this last week, we’re being thanked again and again for their service. We appreciate the sentiment (we do!), but this is not the holiday for that – Memorial Day is for our country to remember those who gave their lives in service to America. It’s a day to have a picnic, spend time with family and friends, and reflect on all of those whose goals went unrealized and dreams unfulfilled, and the sons, daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, and friends that sacrificed all for our country.

On Sunday evening the weather was perfect, the wind was only a soft breeze, and we were finally able to build and enjoy a fire in our fire pit! We got out our s’more ingredients, had one each for our dessert that evening, then sat out and talked while we enjoyed the sunset and warmer temperature for a while. It was wonderful. So wonderful, in fact, that we did it again on Wednesday and Saturday!

What we were hoping to see at the Koke’e Overlook . . .

Brett and I finally headed out to visit Waimea Canyon and Koke’e State Park last Monday, on what was supposed to be the best day of the week. Hah! It was sunny on the drive to Waimea and as we started up into the canyon, but the higher we climbed the denser the clouds became and it eventually started raining. We drove all the way up to the Koke’e Overlook hoping that there would a break in the clouds but instead we ended up in the middle of a giant, misty cloud. We stopped at lookouts all the way back down and walked around a bit, and were able to enjoy some great views of the canyon in spite of the weather. The sun came out just as we left Waimea State Park and shone all the way home until we got within a mile or so of our house where the rain started up again. We had a great time though, and it’s always renewing to see Waimea Canyon, which Mark Twain called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Both state parks were packed with tourists the day we went, and reminded us again of how spoiled we were during the pandemic when we had the island to ourselves. It was disturbing to see visitors already doing stupid and dangerous things – at one lookout the lower viewing platform was closed due to unstable and dangerous conditions, with the paths to the platform closed off with barriers, but it was still crowded with tourists who had climbed over and under the barriers, or created their own paths down the hillside from the upper platform, including a family group of over 25 people who were all leaning against the railings for group photos!

. . . and what we saw. There is a view there somewhere under that cloud LOL.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Lady In the Lake on Tuesday (good book with somewhat of a surprise ending), and also finished The Bitterroots, by C.J. Box, a mystery/procedural set in Montana. The book opened with a 39-word run-on sentence and I was worried how the writing would go after that but thankfully things got much better and it was a good read. I started The Chestnut Man on Friday, a Danish thriller/procedural by Søren Sveistrup, and another book, Deception Cove, by Owen Laukkanen, came off hold yesterday, so I’ll be reading two books at the same time once again. Fingers are crossed also that some of the vegetarian cookbooks I put on hold will be available next week.
  • Listening to: We’re enjoying a very quiet morning today – the skies are blue this morning with a few clouds, but the leaves are barely stirring on any of the trees or plants outside, nothing is going on in the neighborhood, and Brett is reading while I write. The only sound I’m hearing is the birds singing. I wonder how long the the calm will last?
  • Watching: Brett and I watched Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence for three nights last week – very good but a bit confusing and hard to follow at times as well. Bill Nighy was one of the stars though and he’s always fun to watch. We’ve started a series called Silent Witness, about a pathologist who helps solves crimes (sort of an updated, British version of that old show, Quincy). Amazon did not have The Great British Menu season with the Women’s Institute that I was expecting for some reason, but instead skipped to next season where the chefs are competing to cook for a banquet celebrating Outstanding Britons (those who have won awards from the Queen). This is the penultimate season of Great British Menu that’s available on Amazon Prime and I can already feel I’m going to go through withdrawal when I finish the last season this coming month.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Besides getting up to Waimea Canyon, being able to enjoy not one but three evenings out by the fire pit feels like a huge accomplishment after waiting so long. Our main accomplishment otherwise this past week was getting our car inspected and registered for another year. It’s a nine-year-old car, but it still runs great. We’re glad that’s over though, at least for another year, but we can’t wait not to own a car again!

A rainy day up in the canyon, but a beautiful drive up and back nonetheless.

  • Looking forward to next week: We have a busy week coming up with four appointments Tuesday through Thursday: 1) a new ID card appointment on Tuesday at Barking Sands because last week’s appointment was cancelled again, and hopefully a beach day and hike can be included; 2) a much needed hair cut appointment for me on Wednesday and hopefully a walk on the eastside beach path; 3) Brett sees our Dr. in person on Thursday morning while 4) I have a tele-appointment with him on the same day at home. All these are necessary things and I’m looking forward to getting them done! We’re also hoping to enjoy at least one fire outdoors next week as well, s’mores included.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our three evenings out by a fire, and Monday’s trip to the canyon were the best things! The weather cooperating most of the rest of the week was also a good thing, although some afternoons were quite humid and a real taste of what we’ll be up again this summer. The full yard crew came in and gave us a “deep cleaning” this past week versus the usual “haircut.” The yard always looks nice to me but the difference after a big clean-up is so noticeable. And, Alley the cat came back! We had not seen her for well over a month, but this past week she showed up again looking fatter than ever. We had been worried she had gotten sick or even died because she had been coming so regularly and then stopped so abruptly, and we were thrilled to see her again looking well. We sent loads of pictures to YaYu.
Alley the cat was well fed during her absence!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had a very good week, spending-wise. Besides getting the car registered and buying a tank of gas, the only other spending we did was our grocery shopping for the next two weeks (yesterday) and just $5 at the farmers’ market last week for a giant bunch of bananas. Swagbucks was a chore all week, but I was still able to earn 1,991. We put $1.37 into the change/$1 bill bag. Our change/$1 bill earnings for May were $15.43, and our total for the year so far is $126.55. We ate all the leftovers created this past week, but had to throw out a zucchini that had gotten buried and forgotten in the bottom of the produce drawer. Our former neighbors left us a new-ish tower fan that we’re going to use in the bathroom on humid days. They also left behind several rolls of Christmas paper and a brand new queen-size fitted sheet that we snapped up.
Our farmstand purchase: 14 tasty apple bananas for $5.
  • Grateful for: Memorial Day always is a time of reflection for me. I am in awe of the men and women who have gone into battle without hesitation even when knowing the danger and risk. I know they have been scared but relied on their training and sense of duty to their comrades to go forward and do what they had to do, risking everything. I think of the men heading on to the beaches of Normandy or in the trenches of Europe, of those in firefights in Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Iraq, or those who fought in the Civil War, and give thanks for what they did that I have never had to experience. I know I could not have done it. My gratitude for what they risked for our country and what so many gave is unending.
The view the Germans had of Omaha Beach in Normandy as the Americans landed. The fire from the Germans was terrifying and unrelenting, but the Americans kept coming and were at the top by the end of the day. We owe them all so much.
  • Bonus question: How many hours do you sleep at night? I’m sleeping very well these days, much better than I did in the past. I’m generally not awake past midnight, and am usually awake a little after 8:00 in the morning. After two cups of half-caff coffee in the morning I go all day now without feeling tired – I can’t remember the last time I needed or took a nap. Our daily walks have made a big difference in how soundly I sleep as does having a very, very good mattress. I almost always read before I go to sleep, but even checking my phone doesn’t keep me awake any more. I still wear a sleep mask and use earplugs every night, a habit I picked up when we lived here before, and the dark and quiet also make big difference in the quality of sleep I get. I took me a few days to adjust to wearing a mouth guard at night this past week, but it’s no longer an issue. I also have to sleep with my head elevated, and a few months ago I bought a wedge pillow which helped but also turned out to be extremely uncomfortable. I slid down the pillow all night, and would wake up each morning in a lump at the bottom, so I went back to sleeping with two regular pillows and so far that’s been working out alright.

WenYu and Meiling have purchased their tickets to come in December! They found a great price for a flight this past week and snapped them up. They initially didn’t think they’d be able to come until January because ticket prices around the holidays are so high, but they found an affordable flight that will give them 10 days here. The catch is that they have to depart on Christmas Day. We’re all fine with that though, and will have our big family celebration and present opening on Christmas Eve, and a brunch on Christmas morning before taking the girls to the airport. It’s going to be crowded in our little apartment, but with the yard and lanai area outside, I think we’ll manage. Two of the girls will sleep on the sofa, and we’re going to buy an Airbed (twin) for the third girl – they can figure out who sleeps where, but it will be a nightly slumber party for them. Brett and I are so excited and happy they’re coming – we have missed them terribly, and can’t wait to have all our girls together with us again. We’re already planning to get together again for YaYu’s graduation in 2022, and before we head out on Big Adventure II, but this year’s Christmas will be special.

This hibiscus is a “trespasser” – it found its way from the neighbor’s into our yard through the back fence. No charges will be filed.

That’s a wrap for this week, another great one for us. Wishing everyone a safe holiday tomorrow, and that all sorts of good things come your way. Here’s to another good week coming up!

Making Lists

(photo credit: Andrew Neil/Unsplash)

The Law of Lists: For everything that is accomplished and taken off a list, two more things will be added.

Travel-related lists are always fun to make because they mean we’re going somewhere. Making lists is one of the first steps in getting ready for any travel adventure, and include lists for clothing or food to bring along, supplies that need to be bought or things that need to be done before we depart. The lists help us stay focused, organized, and within our budget as we get ready to set out. They also keep us motivated.

It’s never too early to get started on making lists because we’ve learned over time that the The Law of Lists always kicks in. Our lists always remain in flux right up until it’s time to depart, with some even needing to remain open as we travel.

We’ve started four lists related to Big Adventure II, and one that will remain in waiting for a while and won’t be started until next year. The actual process of accomplishing tasks or obtaining items on the lists will come later, also next year, with the exception of the itinerary, although there will most likely be changes to that as we go along. We learned on our last adventure that while our final itinerary stayed fairly firm, there were still small additions and subtractions as we got closer to departure, often because of budget constraints. It’s the other lists that will grow and shrink and grow again as we get ready.

Here are the lists that we’ve started, knowing there will probably be at least one more as we move along:

  • The itinerary: It will be interesting to see whether this changes over the next year or so, but for now we’re happy and excited about the whole thing. Pushing the itinerary out for two years was (and is) a real gamble, but it will help us define our budget and think more clearly about the things we need and want to accomplish before we go.
  • Clothing: Both Brett and I can thankfully use most of the clothes we traveled with before but there will need to be a few changes/additions, like new (smaller) pants and leggings and a pair of shoes for me, and shoes and a couple more sweaters for Brett. Putting together our travel wardrobes was a major undertaking for us last time, especially since we had been living on a tropical island for four years but needed items for some colder climates. Purchases this time should be minimal thankfully.
  • Supplies: Luggage was another big expense for us before, but this time we’re set with our two big bags, two rolling carry-ons that were added while we traveled, Brett’s backpack, and a tote bag for me. For now it looks like most of the supplies that will need to be purchased will be health related or personal care items, but this time we have a better idea of what we actually need. We want to do these last two areas smarter than we did before because we ended up hauling around several items that proved to be entirely unnecessary. We learned through trial and error (mostly error) that we should pack a small duffle bag in one or our suitcases that can be checked if necessary for any overflow we accumulate, which seemed to happen before the holidays as we bought gifts for our daughters. It would also be useful when we travel to Japan and carry gifts along.
  • Technology: This will be the most expensive area before departure as several items need to be replaced or upgraded. My newer laptop will be good to go, but Brett needs a newer tablet or laptop – he hasn’t decided which he wants yet. I need a new phone, and want one with a better camera, and I also need a new Kindle – my current one doesn’t hold a charge for very long these days. We want to carry a second wireless charger this next time, and a second power converter as well.
  • Reservations: This one, for obvious reasons, won’t get started until later, and will be the only one other than the itinerary to be carried along with us. The last time we printed off each reservation and kept a notebook of our itinerary and our travel calendar but this time these items will remain virtual.

In the past I would have made a list of all the items we either wanted to sell or store before we go, but we have so few things this time that no written or virtual list will be necessary! I can look around each room and know what we want or should keep and what we can let go.

Home Cooking: Green Bean, Basil & Parmesan Salad

Last week Brett and I bought a two-pound bag of fresh organic green beans at Costco, a lot of beans for two people. We love, love, love green beans though, and most often have them either steamed or sautéed with salt, pepper, and garlic. However, with so many beans to eat in such a short time I very much wanted to find something new and different and this salad more than fit the brief.

The recipe makes a large amount of salad, enough that it lasted us for three days, and I have to say the longer the salad sat in the fridge the better it tasted. I fixed it about five hours before our dinner so it would have time to sit and marinate, and even in those few hours the flavors improved greatly. The next day it was even better, and by the third day it was fantastic.

I cut the beans before boiling and they ended up with a lot of water inside the cut pieces; cutting them after they were out of the ice water would have meant much less water to get rid of. I also cut them into three-inch pieces which were a bit too long, in my opinion. Two inches pieces would have been more manageable.

The salad is a wonderful warm weather side dish, but I had a big bowl for lunch one day and felt with the addition of either some toasted pine nuts or toasted walnuts and some croutons or toasted bread cubes it would have made a perfect main dish salad.

GREEN BEAN, BASIL, and PARMESAN SALAD

  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans
  • 1/2 cup finely diced red onion (can use shallot if preferred)
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • freshly ground black pepper

Dice the onion, then place the pieces in a bowl of cool water to draw out some of the sharpness.

In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add the green beans and blanch for 2-4 minutes (less for young beans, longer for older, larger beans). The beans should be crisp-tender and still bright green when finished. While the beans are cooking prepare a large bowl of ice water. When the beans are finished, remove them from the boiling water and put into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain the beans well, then cut into 2-inch pieces and place in a serving bowl.

Drain the onions, and mix with the green beans, then toss with the olive oil. Next, add the balsamic vinegar. Finally, add the chopped basil and Parmesan cheese and toss again. The salad can be eaten immediately, but the flavors will improve by letting it sit a few hours in the refrigerator. Serve chilled

Three-quarters cup toasted pine nuts or toasted walnuts, and/or croutons could be added just before serving.