Home Cooking: Ina Garten’s Summer Garden Pasta

It takes only two words to describe this pasta dish: easy and delicious.

This seriously had to be easiest dish I’ve fixed in ages, with the fewest amounts of ingredients. If we had a summer garden here that was producing cherry tomatoes and basil, this would be on the menu every week.

The actual dish takes less than 15 minutes to put together. The the only thing that needs to be done ahead of time is marinating the tomatoes for four hours, with the most most labor intensive part of the preparation cutting the tomatoes in half. I used only two pints of tomatoes and wished we had more. And, don’t leave out the red pepper flakes! They add a lovely zing to the dish without adding too much heat.

Marinating tomatoes

Seriously though, only three steps are required in this recipe to create a wonderful pasta meal:

  1. Cut & marinate tomatoes in olive oil with garlic and basil

2. Cook & add pasta

3. Add lots of cheese and serve

That’s it!

INA GARTEN’S SUMMER GARDEN PASTA

  • 4 pints cherry tomatoes (around 75 to 100 cherry tomatoes!)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 TBSP minced garlic
  • 18 large basil leaves, julienned
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3/4 – 1 tsp salt
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)

Cut the tomatoes in half and place in a large serving bowl. Add the olive oil, garlic (yes, really two tablespoons!), julienned basil leaves, red pepper flakes, pepper, and salt to your preference. Mix well, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and let sit out at room temperature for four hours.

To assemble the dish, cook the pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain well and add to the tomatoes and combine. Add the parmesan cheese and blend.

Serve with extra Parmesan cheese and more julienned basil.

Without Complaint

My grandfather’s USC yearbook picture in 1909.

Do I get ever get bored these days? YES. Do I ever get frustrated and angry that we haven’t been anywhere off of Kaua’i in nearly 18 months? YES, YES, YES! Do I feel at times like I’m in a rut, doing the same tasks over and over and over with no end in sight? YES! Do I wish that things would happen faster than they are? YES (for some but no for others).

Lately I’ve been thinking about my grandfather, who walked on crutches almost his entire life. He was born in a sod house on the prairie in Nebraska in 1887, the middle of three boys, but moved with his family to California after a bout with polio in 1898 left his legs twisted and useless. Instead of becoming a lifelong invalid and hiding himself away he instead decided to challenge the status quo head-on and live the best life he possibly could. He worked as a teenager at the Green Hotel in Pasadena pulling apart wooden crates that the restaurant produce came in. He saved enough to put himself through USC and earned a degree in 1909, when the disabled were expected to stay at home and not be seen. He bought and taught himself to drive a conventional car, and then drove and camped across the whole country and back before the Roaring 20s arrived, repairing the car himself when needed. He married, created his own successful insurance business which supported his extended family during the Depression, and raised three children and put them through college. Although he couldn’t enlist during the two world wars, he served as his neighborhood’s blackout warden during WWII and fulfilled other necessary tasks as he could. He was an active and respected member of and leader in his church and several civic organizations right up until his death in 1959.

My grandfather didn’t ask for help and he didn’t complain – he just got up every day and did what needed to get done. He died when I was seven years old, and for the longest time I just missed the man who read to me, and gave me 3 Musketeer Bars and Black Jack gum (he loved them). As I grew older and learned more about him, I came to see and appreciate what an accomplishment his whole life had been, and he is now one of my strongest role models. Accept what you are given, do what needs to be done, and face what needs to be faced . . . without complaint.

So, I think I can manage to get through another 16 months of living comfortably in Hawaii without complaining. I’ve decided to make the effort to appreciate everything we have here, and how blessed we have been for being able to live on Kaua’i. I will practice patience as time continues to move on, and I know we will eventually reach our goal. Everything doesn’t need to be sold, the bank accounts don’t need to be full, and reservations don’t need to be made right now. I’m looking forward to the future, but want to go forward feeling more grateful and positive about having the time to get to that goal in the best possible shape. And, I want to appreciate where we are now as well as all that we have, which is everything we need.

Staying Healthy: Exercise & Eating (8/29 – 9/4)

Brett tallied up the total miles walked in August last Tuesday: 87 miles walked in August. That made our total miles walked for the year 758, and if we keep up our current pace we will walk over 1000 miles by the end of the year! From the first of September last year to this year we walked a little over 1,263 miles. I honestly never, ever saw us walking this much when we arrived here, but here we are and we are so much better for it. Our little side gig of golf ball hunting has added to the enjoyment, and I have yet to get tired of the views out from Kukuiolono. Driving up to the park to check it out last year was one of the best things that ever happened to us.

Scenes from around the golf course on Thursday including wind through the palms, dramatic clouds and long views, a rainbow seen from the massive green at Hole 3, and the remains of a wall built by early Hawaiians.

I’m glad now we decided against doing a long distance walking tour, and I almost shudder to think of the distances we would have to be walking now to get in shape for one of those. We know we could do it, but our nearly four daily miles is enough, and when I finish our four miles now I am ready to stop. I am no where near needing a hip replacement, but my hips definitely let me know these days they are there – they’re sore after a walk. Same for my right foot – I have pains there now that weren’t there when we started all this walking. Brett has more aches in his ankles as well. None of it is enough to cause us to slow down, or keep us from walking or doing other things, but they are signs we are getting older, and we know if we weren’t getting as much exercise as we do we would be feeling a whole lot worse and be in much poorer shape.

We enjoyed another full six days of walking last week with five days at the golf course and one shopping day. Monday’s weather was sketchy, but we headed up to the golf course anyway. It wasn’t raining when we started out, but a light mist began about a third of the way though our walk and we were stuck out on the course. We didn’t get very wet except for our shoes, which got soaked in the wet grass and became very uncomfortable. In spite of the weather we still found eight lost balls. Tuesday afternoon we headed into Puhi/Lihue to shop at Costco and Walmart, and along with other errands got in all of our steps. Wednesday was breezy, cool, and overcast – perfect walking weather – and Thursday was still cool but quite humid as well and I felt like I was melting for much of the walk. I stumbled into another lost ball graveyard on Thursday, and walked away with 15 more balls in my pockets. Brett also found a bunch and we ended up bringing home 30 balls. We arrived at the course on Friday just after a storm has passed over and had another great walk, and found an astounding 37 lost balls that day! Saturday’s weather was supposed to be miserable but it cleared up in the afternoon so we got to walk again. We broke all previous lost ball records last week, finding another 97 lost balls to add to our stash!

I had to change up our meat dish this week and fix the basil beef stir fry instead of chicken enchiladas when Brett picked up not one but two bundles of basil at the farm stand for some reason. Basil doesn’t keep well but between Wednesday’s pasta and the stir fry I used all of it. The summer pasta recipe was super easy and delicious and as long as we can get fresh basil we’ll be making it fall, winter, and spring in spite of its name!

Sunday: Broccoli & tofu stir fry with spicy peanut sauce; steamed jasmine rice

Monday: Grilled vegetable ravioli w/ pesto; roasted green peppers

Tuesday: Mini vegetarian cheeseburger pizzas with ground be’f, onion, tomato, dill pickle, and cheddar

Wednesday: Ina Garten’s summer garden pasta

Thursday: Basil beef stir fry

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Vegetable yakisoba

Looking at the above photos, our pottery bowls sure got a lot of use this past week!

I’m trying our two new recipes next week: kabocha squash risotto in the InstantPot, and some Mexican-spiced quinoa stuffed peppers.

  • Kabocha squash risotto
  • California roll salad
  • Stacked chicken enchiladas
  • Orange chick’n & fried rice
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Spicy quinoa stuffed peppers

Desserts this week have been microwave s’mores on a couple of evenings, but otherwise we’ve been enjoying lemon-blueberry baked oatmeal. The apple pie is greatly missed.

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!

Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 6)

Container ship loaded with cars (Photo credit: iStock)

Whether or not to bring your car along or buy here is a big question when considering a move to Hawaii. Maybe you dream of living without a car and using public transportation, or living with just one car in retirement. There are both pros and cons to bringing shipping a car over, and while public transportation is an issue that may not affect many, as with everything else in Hawai’i there are both pros and cons, especially depending on the island you live on.

PRO: The cost for shipping a car to Hawaii from the west coast of the U.S. isn’t as expensive as one might imagine. We paid just $1000 for the service in 2014 but these days the price runs between $1500 – $2100. However, if you own a paid for, used car in good condition or are still making payments on a newer car it can make sense to pay to ship your car over because replacing your car here can cost a whole lot more.

Car registration fees in Hawaii can be inexpensive compared to other states on the mainland. There is an annual base state registration fee of $45 each year, and each county then assesses their own registration fees. On Kaua’i the rate for cars and passenger trucks is $1.25 per pound. We own a Honda Civic, a fairly light car, and our registration fees and inspection came to $178 this past year.

The availability of affordable public transportation means that seniors have the means to stay mobile and active longer, even if they can no longer afford to maintain a car or just want to reduce the amount of driving they do. People aged 65 and older can ride TheBus all over the island of O’ahu at a discounted cost. Those over 60 receive a discounted fare to ride the Kauai Bus, and 55 and older can get a discounted monthly pass on the Mau’i Bus. Bus transportation is free for seniors aged 55 and older on the Big Island’s Hele-On public transportation system (you must provide ID each time showing proof of age).

CON: If you’ve shipped your car to Hawaii, the system for registering your car in Hawaii is convoluted and complicated. The first step requires getting your car inspected, and since it isn’t registered in Hawaii it will automatically fail. The failed inspection inspection report is then taken to the DMV, where you show the title and/or any lien, pay the registration fee, any taxes due, or other costs based on the age of the car, the weight, and so forth. Once that is done you’re given your registration and Hawaii license plates. The car then has to go back to the inspection station to get approved, and inspection stickers are applied to your license plate (you only pay the inspection station when you pass the inspection) and you’re good to go. A new car purchased on the island receives an inspection sticker good for two years; all other cars, including new cars shipped from the mainland, only receive a one-year sticker.

Used cars on Hawaii go for higher prices than they do on the mainland and may not be in as good a shape. Rust, salt and sun damage are endemic. In some cases, it can make more sense to purchase a new car on the mainland and have it shipped over. There are no luxury car dealerships on Kaua’i, for example, and if you want one of those you will have to pay extra to have it barged over from Oahu.

As for public transportation, the system honestly isn’t very good. Other than on O’ahu, public transportation is less than ideal and seniors without a car usually must rely on cabs, ride share, friends, and relatives for transportation. After 10 years and still going, the much anticipated Honolulu light rail system is still under construction and only half complete, and costs for its construction have more than doubled. Bus systems on islands other than O’ahu are also less extensive. For example, on Kaua’i, while the bus travels all the way around the island from Kekaha in the southwest from Hanalei in the north, there are limited bus stops along the route, sometimes with several miles between them. If you don’t live near one of the bus stops then public transportation isn’t very convenient, useful or even worth considering, especially if you need to use it for shopping. It’s the same for the bus systems on Mau’i and the Big Island – they are limited. There is no public transportation on Molokai.

Our entire family were big fans and users of public transportation in Portland, and we were initially interested in using the Kaua’i bus here. We noticed during visits that the system appeared to be used quite a bit, with buses often filled to standing room only. However, the reality turned out to be no bus stops anywhere remotely close to where we lived during our first stay, and the bus schedules didn’t fit the girls’ after-school schedules either.

Staying mobile might not seem much of a hassle in Hawai’i, especially if you plan to bring your car along or buy one here as soon as you arrive (in many cases it costs less to ship your car than buy here). Except for Hawaii, the Big Island, the islands aren’t all that big. Still, gasoline is expensive, there’s wear and tear and premature aging to your car from the elements and you may find yourself sitting in traffic every day if you commute. We considered public transportation, and we currently live nearby to a bus stop, but so far our little car gets the job done and doesn’t cost us much to operate.

Home Cooking: Broccoli & Tofu in Spicy Peanut Sauce

This Thai-influenced dish was Meiling’s all-time favorite meal when she was young. She would have happily eaten it several times a week, for breakfast and lunch as well as dinner, and she has already requested I make it when she’s here in December. I came across the recipe many years ago in Molly Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, and the rest, they say, is history. There was a time I could have probably made the sauce for this in my sleep because I’d fixed it so many times.

It’s actually a very quick recipe to pull together, and is very amenable to variation (substituting chicken or pork for the tofu, for example), but we’ve always preferred tofu. I used to boil the tofu cubes for around 10 minutes before adding them to the stir fry as it “set” the tofu so it wouldn’t crumble, but these days I press the tofu before cooking and it holds it shape just fine.

All the ingredients are low cost, and most, if not many, are items I usually have on hand in the pantry, refrigerator, or freezer (frozen broccoli florets can be used, if necessary). Again, chicken or pork can be substituted for the tofu; just stir fry it first and then remove it from the pan while you cook the broccoli and onions. The spiciness of the sauce can also be adjusted by changing the amount of cayenne or chili-garlic paste that’s added (we like it kind of spicy).

Although I usually serve the stir fry over steamed rice, (jasmine rice is especially yummy), I have also tossed the sauce with noodles (spaghetti or rice noodles) for another simple main dish.

BROCCOLI & TOFU IN SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

  • 1 package firm tofu
  • 1 pound broccoli florets
  • 1-2 TBSP vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sliced onion
  • 1 TBSP fresh grated ginger
  • 4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp salt (optional)
  • 2 green onions, minced
  • Spicy Peanut Sauce (recipe below)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped peanuts (optional, especially if using chunky peanut butter)
  • steamed rice

Press the tofu for about an hour before cooking to remove a much of the water as possible (I press between layers of a dish towel to keep the water from going everywhere). Cut into 1-inch cubes and set aside.

Make the spicy peanut sauce and set aside.

(If using chicken or pork instead of tofu, stir fry the meat first, then set aside and wipe out the wok before proceeding.)

Heat a large wok or large skillet. After about a minute, add the vegetable oil and then the onion slices. Cook over high heat until crisp-tender.

Add the broccoli florets, ginger, garlic (and salt, if using). Continue to stir fry over high heat for about 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is bright green and just tender. Add the tofu cubes and the green onions, and stir-fry about 2-3 minutes more, until the tofu is heated through.

Pour in the sauce, and stir until everything is coated. The sauce will thicken as it cooks. Serve immediately over hot rice, topped with the chopped peanuts (if desired).

SPICY PEANUT SAUCE

  • 3/4 cup natural peanut butter (no added sugar)
  • 3/4 cup very hot (but not boiling) water
  • 5 TBSP rice or cider vinegar
  • 3 TBSP soy sauce
  • 3 TBSP molasses or brown sugar
  • cayenne pepper or chili-garlic paste to taste

Mix the peanut butter into the hot water until well blended. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk together. If you use molasses, be sure to whisk the sauce again right before using because some of the molasses can settle at the bottom.

Minimalism Suits Us

Our home in 1992 following Brett’s retirement and the delivery of our household goods from Japan. We had So. Much. Stuff.

Brett and I were talking this past week about when he retired from the navy in 1992, and how much stuff we had back then. Up until his final tour in Japan we had always lived fairly simply and had never acquired or accumulated much because we only had a very small weight allowance for moving our household goods. During the second year of our last tour, when we were in Japan, Brett received a promotion, and along with a nice pay raise also we received a huge increase in our household goods weight allowance. My reaction to that was to shop incessantly.

Shopping was my primary form of recreation while we were living in Japan. Beyond Brett’s income, I made good money teaching English conversation, and I did nothing with my earnings but buy, buy, buy, especially antiques. I attended every monthly bazaar, hit all the local shops and stores, took shopping tours, and visited monthly antique sales held at Japanese shrines. We came home with an assortment of 15 antique tansu (Japanese chests), loads of antique porcelain, antique kimonos, and tons other things that I had convinced myself we couldn’t leave Japan without owning. Looking back, there probably wasn’t a day that I wasn’t shopping somewhere for something. I didn’t know what I really wanted so I bought everything.

I believe our first wakeup call to minimalism came when our household goods shipment from Japan failed to arrive back in the U.S. on time, and we were told it could no be located anywhere in the system, that it was lost. Deep, deep panic that almost everything we owned was gone forever was our first emotion.

But something changed in both of us as we waited for news about our shipment. We also began to admit to feeling somewhat liberated by the thought of not owning all those things. I began to question why I had ever wanted to buy and own so much stuff, and realized the thrill had been in the hunt, not the owning. I felt deep, searing pain whenever I thought about losing photo albums and other personal and truly irreplaceable items that might be gone forever. For everything else however, I discovered I felt no real attachment whatsoever. What I wanted was our simple, uncluttered life back again.

We have spent the last 30 years divesting ourselves of all those Japan things. We have enjoyed them while they were with us, but the sale of the items has financed countless adventures, vacations, and other undertakings. Selling some of the items helped get us through some difficult financial times and helped fund the girls’ adoptions, payed off debt, got us to Hawaii, and launched our last Big Adventure. Selling the remaining items now is helping us save for our next adventure.

Brett and discovered during our travels that we were very satisfied living with only what we could fit in our suitcases. What we carried with us in those suitcases was enough, and it was the experiences we shared that made us happy and filled us up, not the things we owned.

Minimalism fits the nomadic life we crave now as we work toward an even more minimal lifestyle. Nothing we have sold over the years has been missed, and the same is true now. We are eager to divest ourselves of more, and the fewer things we have in our apartment these days, the happier we seem to become. Our daughters will go through their and our things this Christmas, and take back with them the items they want to keep. Almost everything else we own will eventually go, and in the end we will keep only what can be packed into a suitcase and taken to our daughter’s home for storage. We don’t need anything else.

Maybe this final turn toward minimalism is a function of aging, maybe it’s heredity, at least for me. Who knows? When I was young my grandmother always let me go through her things and choose something to take home because she was “thinning things out.” She said she didn’t need so many things any more, even though she already lived simply. My mother also got rid of most of her possessions and downsized when she got older. She would rather have traveled than maintained or worried about a lot of stuff, which is where we’re at now as well. I used to call Brett the “king of the packrats” as he used to hold onto everything, but he has also fully embraced minimalism these days and has a small footprint.

Whatever the reason, as the time passes the less both of us want to own and maintain. It’s an adventure for both of us as we learn what we no longer need or want, and what it’s time to give up. We remain a bit surprised by how well we like living with less, how easily we adapt, and we are looking forward to future of living out of a suitcase once again, this time with nothing left behind to tie us down.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (8/22 – 8/28)

Every week I post what we have for dinner, but what about breakfast and lunch? Well, beyond wanting to overwhelm anyone with photos of every meal we eat, breakfast and lunch are much more simple and, in the case of lunch, usually consist of leftovers from our evening meals. Breakfast is even more simple: a bowl of Cheerios with blueberries and oat milk for me these days, and a bowl of oatmeal with fruit for Brett. I occasionally will make us some pancakes or mini-waffles, but otherwise we stick to the basics.

The above montage shows some of my lunches for the past week, using leftovers and other items that need to be used up. The exception was Wednesday’s brunch of eggplant lasagna at Ku’ulei’s Gourmet in Hanapepe, but in a switch those leftovers were enjoyed for dinner last Thursday. Otherwise I enjoyed a vegan chick’n patty sandwich which used up a piece of avocado; leftover egg roll in a bowl; a bean & rice burrito from the freezer; tomato & roasted red pepper soup; and leftover lasagna. Brett also ate leftovers all week. He is the king of making something delicious out of what’s on hand, no matter how small or how weird a combination might seem, and is a big reason why we rarely throw away any food. I’m the picky eater around here these days in comparison.

Our evening meals this past week were easy and delicious. With a package of ground beef used in the egg roll in a bowl we now only have a package of roast chicken, a small pork chop, another package of ground beef, and a very small bag of meat sauce. It should all be used up by the end of September and we’ll eat meat free until the girls are here for Christmas.

Sunday: InstantPot black bean & rice burritos

Monday: Egg roll in a bowl

Tuesday: Better Than Burger cheeseburgers; three bean salad

Wednesday: Vegetarian cheeseburger pizzas

Thursday: Wednesday’s brunch leftovers: eggplant lasagna (me) & ahi tuna melt (Brett)

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Vegan corn dogs; three bean salad

One-twentieth of a Costco lattice apple pie

We enjoyed a thin slice of apple pie every evening, but finished it yesterday. We’re having a s’more tonight, and then I’m baking another lemon-blueberry baked oatmeal as there we have everything on hand to make it.

We’re excited to try the garden pasta recipe this week as long as we can get some fresh basil (it got bumped by leftovers last week), and are looking forward to the grilled vegetable ravioli as well. We haven’t had yakisoba in ages, and the tofu & broccoli stir fry is a long-time family favorite that I also haven’t fixed in a long while. The Bulldog sauce used to flavor the yakisoba is vegan versus regular Worcestershire sauce (which contains anchovies).

  • Grilled vegetable ravioli
  • Vegetable yakisoba
  • Ina Garten’s summer garden pasta
  • Stacked chicken enchiladas
  • Tofu & broccoli stir fry with spicy peanut sauce
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board

After having two days off from walking – Sunday (regular day off) and Monday (rain and high winds as the remains of Hurricane Linda passed by the islands) – we got back to walking on Tuesday and enjoyed cooler temperatures and nice breezes the rest of the week. Thursday was the wild card. It was another trash pick-up day – frustrating because of how much trash shows up in a week – but rain also threatened the entire walk. We cut our walk short by a few minutes and had no more gotten into the car and shut the doors when the rain started coming down in buckets. Friday and Saturday were lovely, although the combination of rain followed by sun meant a gazillion gnat eggs hatched and we had to walk through swarms of them. We had another stupendous week for golf ball finds: 65, breaking our old record. We are eager to walk these days because of the ball hunt and it makes the walk a lot more fun as well.

I am beginning to lose weight again, albeit slowly (less than a pound a week). I was okay with where I was for so many months, weight-wise, but am also happy to see some more weight finally coming off again. I had given up thinking it would ever happen.

Sunday Morning 8/29/2021: And August Comes To an End

This was the most exciting sunset of the week.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

After a busy and rewarding month that seemed to speed by, August is sort of slouching out at the end. We had the remains of a hurricane pass by early last week, with lots of rain and wind and cooler temperatures which kept us inside all day Monday. The virus is running rampant through the islands, with most cases occurring with unvaccinated locals. Everyone is sort of holding their breath right now to see if and what restrictions may be put in place again.

Brett and I are apparently going into the used golf ball business. We’ve learned that what started out as a bit of fun for us can actually be turned into something quite lucrative. We have already found over 300 lost balls, and we spent this past week reading everything we could find about selling them, from which are the top brands to how to grade used balls to the best places to sell. We sorted some of our finds this past week based on brand, and will continue sorting as more come along, and will hopefully be ready to start selling by the end of the year. In the meantime, we’ll continue to look for balls on our walks and build up our stock, although I’m actually hoping the number we find sort of drops down for a while so we can catch our breath. The bags of balls we have already collected are beginning to take up a lot of space, so where we’ll store them is something else we’re going to have to figure out sooner rather than later.

A few of the coffee mugs that were listed this past week.

I had a very slow week with Etsy until yesterday when I had three sales. I kept busy during the week getting some other items listed on eBay, including ten coffee mugs and my old travel backpack, which is still in tip top shape. One of the coffee mugs sold within a couple of days! The prices that coffee mugs sell for surprised me, and because eBay sales can take a while we figured that getting them listed now rather than later would be to our benefit. I also cross listed a couple of items from the Etsy shop which immediately turned into a small problem when I got a scam offer from a bot, and had to remove the listing from Etsy until it gets resolved on eBay. I’ve got a week-long sale scheduled (20% off of everything in the shop) this coming week to see if I can get some more items sold. I’ve been getting LOTS of looks and favoriting, and some very good reviews this past month, so I’m hoping a sale will encourage more to buy and kickstart purchases again.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished the The Looking Glass War on Wednesday, and downloaded and started the next book in the Dalziel and Pascoe series, An Advancement of Learning. Mysteries and such currently appear to be in high demand at the library, and almost everything I’d like to be reading has a long waiting list. I felt fortunate to find the D&P book available for checkout, especially since all the subsequent books in the series have a wait list. I miraculously discovered that Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, the next book in LeCarre’s George Smiley series, was available and also checked that out so I’m ready to go. I read it years ago, and loved the movie as well (starring Gary Oldham as George Smiley).
  • Listening to: Out the windows on one side of the house are blue skies and a few wispy clouds. Out the French doors its gray and overcast, Kauai’s weather in a nutshell all summer! There’s a slight breeze this morning and it’s cool, and I can hear someone using a saw in the distance. Brett’s putting away last night’s dishes in the kitchen and making a bit of noise, but overall a nice, peaceful, quiet Sunday morning.
  • Watching: We finished all the available episodes of Vera on Wednesday, and started a new series: McDonald & Dodds. The stories are good, the acting is good, and we’re enjoying all the location shots in the city of Bath, but sadly there aren’t many episodes available so we’ll be on to something else before the end of the week. Father Brown watching continues though. I love seeing scenes filmed around Blockley and remember so many of the places shown. The Blockley exterior scenes are all shot in August, when the crew apparently takes over the village.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Getting things listed on eBay was an accomplishment for me as I found it a far more difficult system to operate than Etsy. Selling stuff online is work! Otherwise it was another very quiet week with not a whole lot going on.
  • Looking forward next week: We don’t have much on our calendar next week but we’re hoping for a day or two of beach weather. I’m also looking forward to my Etsy sale hopefully bringing in some new customers, and maybe another sale on eBay. And, we will segue into September. Even though we’re in the land of perpetual sunshine, I’m still looking forward to fall beginning and being another month closer to our next adventure.

Brunch in Hanapepe

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I had planned to have a nice brunch at the Midnight Bear bakery in Hapapepe on Wednesday morning. They don’t make pastries any more, so we went later in the morning and were going to each order a big sandwich along with some coffee. However, when we got there it was closed! We walked around for a bit trying to decide what to do, and as we got back to our car we noticed there was a sweet little cafe, Ku’ulei’s Gourmet, located next to the bakery and it was open. Not sure how we missed it before, but Ku’ulei’s had several vegetarian options on their menu, the prices were extremely reasonable, and the portions were HUGE. I got an order of eggplant lasagna, and Brett had an ahi tuna melt. We will definitely be going back! I had three sales on Etsy yesterday and woke up to another this morning, always a good thing. I also made my first sale on eBay: a Starbucks Hawaii coffee mug we bought on the island on our first visit in December 2012. The antique Japanese charcoal basket I cross listed from Etsy “sold” in less than 30 minutes to a bot and really messed things up. eBay cancelled the sale in less than two days but I still can’t relist the item until Tuesday. On the plus side, the antique iron teapot I also cross-listed is getting lots of views and has attracted my first watcher.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We made one trip to Big Save for produce, and I bought a used J. Jill denim jacket on eBay for $24. It arrived in three days and is exactly what I hoped for (in beautiful condition and fits perfectly), especially since a new jacket from J. Jill is currently $98. Our lunch orders on Wednesday were only $10 each but they were so big they also provided dinner for us on Thursday and lunch on Friday! We put $3.95 into the change/$1 bill bag, and saved $12.31 this month. That’s the least amount we’ve ever put away in a month, but I guess that’s what happens when you’re not spending much. I earned 1,729 Swagbucks, putting me that much closer to my goal. In other frugal happenings, all the leftovers were eaten or used up in one way or another, and we threw nothing away.
  • Adding up what we sold last week: It was a very slow week on Etsy and eBay, but yesterday’s three sales meant that nine hashioki left the house and that there will be more funds into savings next week. However, $18.94 was released from my reserve fund, but that’s the only side hustle income as earnings from the eBay sale won’t be released for more than another week.
  • Grateful for: I am beyond grateful for all the hospital staff – doctors, nurses, and others – who are working endlessly and tirelessly to help those suffering from COVID. It seems a pretty thankless job right now. I am also extremely grateful for Brett’s and my free vaccinations, and that there will be upcoming free boosters to help keep us safe.
  • Bonus question: How much time do you spend on social media? I’m not really active much on any form of social media these days. I took myself off of Facebook before the election last year and although I have gone back, I’ve found I’m less interested in getting involved than I was before. Most of my feed these days is advertising. I post somewhat regularly on Instagram, both on my personal account and the Occasional Nomads account (which are pretty much the same, truth be told). I read Twitter every day to keep up with what’s happening in the world, but rarely if ever post there. My Twitter feed is highly curated and I never read comments, so it remains a fairly safe place, although I find it discouraging at times. I also have a Pinterest account, but can’t remember the last time I visited. Otherwise, there’s no TikTok (unless the girls send me one), no Snapchat, or anything else other than the blog.

We had a conversation with one of our neighbors the other day, a nurse, who told us Wilcox Hospital is currently filled with COVID patients, a sharp contrast to the situation a month ago when I had my procedure, when the nurse said things were OK here and although prepared, the hospital hadn’t experienced any increase in patients. Kaua’i still has the fewest cases of all the islands, with the west side doing best as far as infections, and Kapaa and Lihue the island hotspots. Nothing has been shut down or restricted yet, but the governor is asking for visitors not to come to Hawaii right now, and we’ve heard there will be some restrictions starting on Oahu, especially regulating gathering and group sizes. Dr. Fauci said the Delta variant would run through the unvaccinated like a wildfire, and it looks like he got that right. Nearly 99 percent of the hospitalized in Hawaii were unvaccinated. Don’t get me started on the horse wormer or sheep drench.

That’s it for this week, another peaceful quiet one with things getting done that needed to get done, but time as well for rest, reading, walks in the park, and all sorts of other good things. Here’s hoping that COVID cases and deaths begin to decrease all over, that there is no more bloodshed and loss of life in Afganistan, everyone that wants and needs to get out is able to do so, and that life is gentle with us all.

Retiring in Hawaii: Pros & Cons (Part 5)

Year-round growing weather means an abundance of fresh, local, and affordable produce at farmers’ markets and farm stands in Hawaii.

Back when we were still in Portland, when I would mention to anyone that we were planning to retire in Hawai’i, many would sigh and talk about paradise in one breath, and then turn right around and talk about how expensive Hawai’i is. Then they would sigh once more and mention paradise and the weather again.

Weather was the number one item on our list when it came to choosing a retirement location. It made no sense for us to move from the cold, dreary and wet winters of Portland to an area with even colder winters just to enjoy a lower cost of living. However, cost of living was still a major factor in deciding just where we could actually afford to live. Paradise is wonderful, but if you can’t afford to pay the rent or get out and enjoy it, then there’s really no point in living there.

The next two points about retiring in the middle of this series of pros and cons of retiring in Hawai’i (or not) are here for a reason. After working your way through the first four, the pros and cons at in this post can and should cause one to pause and maybe even reevaluate whether or not to move all over again.

PRO: The warm weather and tropical climate of Hawai’i is very kind to aging bodies and bones, and conditions like arthritis. Temperatures average between 75°-85° on most parts of all the islands during the day, and rarely fall below 65° at night. Both Brett and I definitely notice a difference in how our bodies and bones feel here. I have arthritis in one knee (from a bad fracture years ago) and the Brett has mild arthritis in some of his joints. We have absolutely no symptoms at all while we we’re here; in fact, we forgot we even had arthritis until we started traveling back in 2018. Anecdotally, I know of elderly who have been able to reduce their use of medication that was necessary back on the mainland, and who are in better health than ever. The tropical climate also means there is quite a bit of humidity, which can drive me nuts, but it’s honestly nowhere near as bad as what we experienced living in the eastern U.S. and Japan (the humidity here is child’s play compared to those places). Year-round warm weather also means a year-round growing season, so (affordable) locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables are always available, and it also means you can stay active year round as well.

CON: We call it the “paradise tax,” but everything costs more in Hawai’i. Everything (except maybe a trip to the beach). Although we save on income taxes, housing is more expensive than on the mainland, as are utilities (Kaua’i costs for electricity are the highest in the nation). Gasoline costs more. Food and medical costs are both expensive and also taxed (4%, although prescriptions are exempt) as Hawaii imposes a general excise tax versus a sales tax. All living expenses should be carefully investigated and evaluated before deciding whether a move to Hawai’i is feasible. The best means of keeping costs down in Hawaii is to not expect to live like on the mainland, but to learn to live like a local. That can mean changing habits, learning to eat new foods (and giving up old favorites), and practicing frugality at every turn.

I think the biggest reason Brett and I have succeeded here is because we w-a-y over-budgeted before we ever arrived. We researched rental costs for nearly a year to see what we could get for how much and where. We kept up with gasoline prices on the island, and food prices as well, and did our best to understand how much utilities would be. We made choices on where to live based on how a location would affect our budget. Once here, we learned over time where to shop and how to shop like a local (Costco, Walmart, Big Save, farmers’ markets and farm stands). We stuck with an economical small car and kept/keep our gasoline costs down. Our determination to live under our means in spite of the high cost of living here has provided us with a quality, healthy life using only our retirement income, and has allowed us to save, help our girls get through college, and enjoy travel out of the state and overseas. Living in Hawaii is expensive, but it can be doable.