Sunday Morning 10/4/2020: Hot Time On the South Side

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Wednesday’s sunset was very pretty.
Last night was pretty as well.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka! I forgot to hit the post button this morning – sorry!

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We had a very soggy Monday morning. The rain eventually went away but left behind big clouds and oppressive humidity.

I am so glad to have gotten through this past week – it was a tough one weather wise. We started off on Monday morning with biblical amounts of rain that thankfully departed by late afternoon. However, they ushered in higher temperatures and high humidity. A front then parked itself offshore and blocked the trade winds for most of the week which made things close to unbearable. We still went to the park each afternoon to walk, but the heat, humidity, and giant swarms of gnats kept us off our usual path and we instead had to walk on a cooler but more challenging loop through the woods instead. There were thankfully no gnats in the woods, but it was just as humid as everywhere else and we left the park each day soaked in sweat. We almost gave it up yesterday as there were storm clouds threatening rain and the humidity was at its worse, but in the end we felt funny sitting at home and ended up getting in a good walk after all (and again left drenched in sweat). Even the beach gave no relief on Friday, and was just as hot and humid as everywhere else, with little to no breeze. With our ceiling fans going full time on high we stayed comfortable in the apartment. We woke up this morning though to the trade winds blowing once again around the house and through the yard, and the humidity level has dropped back so all is well once again.

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We were the only ones at the Barking Sands beach on Friday. It was hot and very humid, and while the ocean looked deceptively calm, the waves that broke at the shore were anything but.

The second of our upstairs neighbors came back this past week to clear his stuff out of the apartment and get it and his car shipped back to the mainland. It didn’t take us long to figure out that he had been the one who used to make all the noise upstairs – he literally pounds across the floor when he walks, drags things around, yells, etc. He’s quarantined for the next two weeks, although we’ve heard him coming and going over to our other neighbor’s apartment (they had a barbecue last night). There have been several showings of the upstairs apartment over the past few weeks, but until this guy moves his stuff out no one else can move in. Fingers are crossed that our eventual new neighbors will be quieter.

Covid-19 cases are increasing again on Oahu, and there continue to be visitors who don’t think the rules apply to them. One couple arrived in Honolulu last week, and immediately broke quarantine and were fined $2000 bail and released. They immediately broke quarantine a second time to go surfing and are now sitting in jail (and have been fined a second $2000). It’s just nuts, and they’re not the only ones thinking the rules don’t apply to them. It’s also maddening that it appears Trump had the coronavirus for a few days before the news of his condition was released, including during debate prep and at the debate, and he possibly infected all sorts of people (and refused testing before the debate and his family refused to wear masks there even though they were required). I have been feeling especially frustrated and angry with those who have been consistently calling the virus a hoax, swearing that masks are not necessary, the “China virus,” and that the 210,000+ deaths were from something other than the virus. We have all deserved better than that.

This morning I am:

The path through the woods

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: In spite of the awful heat and humidity, we managed to walk every day again, although it was too hot to do our increased distance as planned. We’ve decided to wait on that until things cool down a bit again. We went to Barking Sands on Friday, and did a long beach walk when we were there (I burned my toes). We drove over and checked out the old Koloa sugar mill yesterday, something we’ve been wanting to do for a while. We’ve often see the mill off in the distance and wanted to take a close up look, or as least as close as we could get. I finally filed our claim with the moving company, but we are not expecting much back from them. The replacement cost of the antique banner that was lost is now $1200 to $1500 (I definitely paid a LOT less than that), but the most we could claim was $500. I frankly think we’ll be lucky to get $50 back for our lost items.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re heading up to Kapaa tomorrow: I am getting a much-needed haircut, and we’re having dinner with Alan and Cheryl. In between we plan to take a long walk on the beach path for a change of pace. There’s nothing planned for the rest of the week though.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) While I had to have four very small to tiny pre-cancerous lesions frozen off at the dermatologist’s (a result of all the sun exposure and bad sunburns I got as a child), my skin is otherwise in very good condition, “especially for your age.” 2) Our yard got another trim, including the hedges, and is looking especially nice. On a sad note though, our lilikoi vine was mistakenly trimmed (destroyed) along with all its ripening fruit. 3) The guava harvest has finally ended. 4) We stopped one day to chat with one of the other regular walkers, Jim, a realtor, and discussed home buying vs. renting here for a few minutes. When we told him what we were paying for rent (with utilities and yard service included) he told us he wouldn’t consider buying – what we have for the price is amazing. It was nice to hear as Brett and I have been feeling these days like it will take a crowbar to get us out of this place – we love it here. 5) Jim also told us that on very clear days we should be able to see Oahu off in the distance from the end of the path we walk, something we did not think was possible.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We put $15.55 into the change/$1 bill jar this past week. Two of those dollars were a gift from our bank – we stopped by a new branch that opened this past week and is located less than 10 minutes away from us, and they had just had a traditional Hawaiian blessing that morning and were giving everyone who came in a crisp, new $2 bill along with some other goodies (face masks and disinfecting wipes) as part of the blessing! Such a lovely surprise, and we’re thrilled to finally have a branch that’s closer to us. 2) We somehow managed to stay under budget with our food shopping this week and got everything we needed, although it took effort and restraint. 3) We needed to order paper filters for our Chemex coffee maker this past week, but I discovered that for less than the cost of two boxes (which would only last for six months) we could get a stainless steel filter that will last for years and save us a bundle. The metal filters are a new thing, for us anyway – we’ve had our Chemex for years and this is the first time I’ve ever seen them. 4) No food was thrown away, and we enjoyed all the leftovers we created. 5) I earned 2155 Swagbucks this past week from taking several high-paying surveys.
  • Grateful for: This past week we felt beyond grateful for the wooded path option in the park, as it was cool(er) and gnat-free, and allowed us to still get in our daily walks. Unfortunately it was still very humid, but having two out of three made walking a whole lot easier. By doing two loops on the path we were able to get in our regular 3+ miles, and also get in some hill climbing.

    My favorite sandwich: the reuben. Brett and I shared this one when we ate at Dan Ryan’s Chicago Grill in Hong Kong.
  • Bonus question: What’s your favorite sandwich? Mmmmmm – sandwiches. I’m hard pressed to think of a sandwich I don’t like (other than the chopped olive ones my mom made once for our school lunches – YUK!) but I do have three favorites, all hot sandwiches. Number one is a reuben, next is a French dip, and in third place is the patty melt. I have a personal rule that if any one of these appears on a menu I have to order it, even if there are other dishes I might prefer. If two or more appear on the same menu, the reuben will almost always take precedence, but sometimes I’ll do rock/paper/scissors with Brett or someone else to eliminate one of them. Other favorite sandwiches are barbecue pulled pork with coleslaw, a tuna melt, roasted or grilled vegetables and cheese panini, and a good hamburger. A big thick pastrami on rye bread is also well-liked. My favorite fast food hamburger would be one from Five Guys, with (iceberg) lettuce, tomato, onion, dill pickles, mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup, but Street Burger‘s bacon & barbecue burger is my hands down favorite burger here on the island (and I love their house made ketchup too).
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Brett’s and my drive out past Koloa and Poipu yesterday gave us an opportunity to see what we could of the old sugar mill and what else there outside of town. The remaining old mill buildings were behind a gate and couldn’t be approached (too dangerous anyway). After stopping outside the mill, we drove out as far as we could into the countryside to see what was out there, if anything. Once we passed the gorgeous grounds of the Grand Hyatt resort, the road turned to unpaved and bumpy, and the landscape to mostly scrub (including cactus), but we did come across some beautiful views now and again. It was surprising how hot it was out there too. Hawaii is usually thought of as being purely tropical, but yesterday was a good reminder that there are desert-like areas on the leeward sides of the islands. As we drove around, thunderheads began forming and the humidity began climbing, and we eventually decided it would be best to turn around a come back home before we got stuck in a storm on a dirt path. The sky turned dark with clouds yesterday afternoon, and although temperatures dropped a little bit the rain never arrived and the humidity didn’t decrease either. It was still a nice outing and we were glad we went.

Another reminder from me to make a plan and make sure to vote! The election is less than a month away now, and I know for me it’s the most consequential election of my lifetime.

This was one of those weeks where I greatly missed fall and its cooler temperatures. However, I know things will improve here soon and this miserable weather will be but a distant memory. Here’s hoping that everyone had a good week, that lots of good things happened, lots got accomplished, and that the week coming up will be a better one!

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Home Cooking: Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

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(photo credit: chocolatewithgrace.com)

Fall has arrived (well, everywhere but here) along with pumpkin season. If I remember correctly, Trader Joe’s and lots of other places probably have a pumpkin version of just about everything they sell (pumpkin cream cheese? pumpkin coffee?) on their shelves right now, both sweet and savory, or at least they did a few years ago. My favorite pumpkin item from Trader Joe’s was the pumpkin spice toaster pastries, which were a fun breakfast treat. 

We are still big fans of pumpkin (although we gave the pumpkin cream cheese a pass and I may be the only one who doesn’t like pumpkin spice lattes). I have been known to stock up on organic canned pumpkin in the fall (when prices are low) so that I have it available year round, and back when we had a garden we grew our own pumpkins and then baked them and froze the puree. We love pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin nut bread and roasted pumpkin, but I think our whole family would agree that these pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting are at the top of our list of ways to enjoy this iconic fall squash.

This pumpkin bar recipe comes from a restaurant Brett and I used to regularly dine at, especially for special occasions: Ron Paul’s in NE Portland. The restaurant closed many years ago, long before we left Portland, but while it was open the wonderful Mr. Paul put out a regular newsletter which included this recipe. They’ve been a favorite since the first time I made them.

The bars are rich and moist, and the frosting adds just the right amount of sweetness without being overpowering. Mini chocolate chips can be substituted for the nuts if you want to take it to the next level, but we prefer pecans (or walnuts).

PUMPKIN BARS WITH CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

For the bars:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (or mini chocolate chips)

For the frosting:

  • 3 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, blend together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs, then add sugar, vegetable oil, and pumpkin stirring until well mixed. Add pecans (or walnuts or chips). Pour into a well-greased 10″ x 15″ x 1″ (jelly roll) pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden and set. Cool and frost.

To make the frosting: Beat cream cheese and butter together until fluffy; add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on high speed until smooth. Frost when bars are completely cooled. Makes 32 bars.

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Still Free: Dreaming and Planning

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As much as I am enjoying our current life on Kaua’i, I also honestly miss traveling. I miss the rush of being somewhere different, somewhere new, and both exercising the skills we had along with learning new ones as well. While I enjoyed sightseeing, I also loved learning more about the places and locations where we spent time, from shopping at local markets to turning down an alleyway to see where it went to talking to locals whenever possible. Although travels days involved a lot of effort and were always very tiring, it was always exciting to be going someplace different, knowing we were going to spend time in a place we had only dreamed of before.

So, what’s a travelaholic like me supposed to do when going anywhere is out of the question for at least for another 18 or so months?

In my case, it’s time to turn to the research and planning stage of travel which, right up next to actual travel, is one of my most favorite things to do. And, it’s a great time to dream about travel as well.

Brett and I have decided on a destination for our first trip off the island, a visit to Japan to spend a month in Tokyo near our son and family followed by an 11-day, 10-night walking tour of the ancient Nakasendo Way, from Kyoto to Tokyo. Planning and researching the Tokyo part is fairly easy except that this next time we’d like to stay in a different place than we did for our last two visits, and it’s anyone’s guess what airfares to Japan and back will be like at that point as well. We’re also keeping a running list of other dream trips we’d like to do in the future, including touring SE Asia and going back to New Zealand and Australia.

The Nakasendo walking tour has added a whole new level to planning. We already have plenty of travel clothes, but putting together an 11-day walking wardrobe, along with gear and supplies needed, is going to require some advance planning, and Brett and I have already started to work on that. For example, both of us are going to need new trail shoes before we go. I am currently walking in the ones I bought in 2019, when we were in Portland, but they’re going to wear out before we go so I’ve been reading advice about which sort of new ones might be best for long-distance walking and figuring out how much they might cost. Brett’s walking shoes are already on their last leg, so this is something that will be coming up soon for him. Then there are other items we’ll need to get, like clothes for layering, some of which we have, some of which we don’t. We’re going to need rain gear and rain hats, wool socks, comfortable hiking pants, and more. Then there’s the specialized gear we’ll also need, like walking poles, moleskin patches for blisters, water bottles, and so on. Thankfully we already have daypacks.

So, while we can’t go anywhere right now, we’re making up a list of what we already have and we’ll need to acquire before we go and then will move on to figuring out when and where to purchase those items. Several things will make great holiday, birthday, and anniversary gifts between now and when we go, but other things we’ll have to choose on our own (a question now, for me for example, is do I want to wear hiking pants or leggings – both have advantages and disadvantages). This task of figuring out what we’ll need is both fun and motivating, we’re learning a lot, and it gives us yet another goal to work towards. In the meantime, we’re having fun, gathering important information, getting in some good conversations, and working on getting physically ready to go.

Dreaming and planning for travel are free, all the better for spending time instead of money on going somewhere isn’t possible. We’re using this time to focus on our savings, and figure out what and how much we’ll need to take our next journey up a notch, all without spending a fortune and getting only what we need. The planning stage is what makes things come off without a hitch, or at least gives us a better chance of that happening, so we can enjoy our destination more, and without unnecessary worry.

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Sunday Morning 9/27/2020: Socially Distanced and Enjoying It

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Only a couple of picture-worthy sunsets this week – usually the clouds had cleared out by that time of day and nothing happened.

Good morning!

This past week was a reminder in some ways that we are deep into “Sweatember” (as our friend Alan has named it) here on the island. Although we got quite a bit of rain this past week it’s also been hot and humid, uncomfortably so at times, and we’ve often walked with the sun beating down on us the entire time. September always seemed to be the worst month humidity-wise, especially when we lived here earlier, but we seem to be faring a bit better down here on the south side of the island. There were some days this past week when we wondered if we would be able to go for a walk either because of rain or the heat and humidity, but we always got ourselves up to the park and got it done (and were glad we did when we finished). We remain grateful for our apartment’s location because the wind/a breeze continues to blow daily, and along with our ceiling fans we’re staying cool and comfortable inside.

That cut through the hills in the distance funnels the wind and breezes directly down to our address, keeping things cool.
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Rainbows appeared several days this week, from small pieces to full arcs. 

I wasn’t going to weigh myself until the end of the year, but MyFitnessPal kept asking me to update my weight, so I climbed on the scale yesterday and discovered I have lost an additional three pounds. That’s 17 total so far, so I now have less than 10 to go to reach the doctor’s recommendation of 25 pounds gone. The walking is really making a difference, but I have also been consistent and honest about tracking my eating with MyFitnessPal, both what I eat and how much, and have had no problems with keeping to 1200 calories per day. I used to get discouraged quickly when I would track my eating, and get tired of measuring or weighing everything, but these days I plan my next day’s meals and snacks the evening before and then stick with it, keep up with the measuring, and so far that’s been working well. I’ve decided I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing now (walking and portion control) for the next several months and into next year and will see where it takes me. In the meantime I’ll continue to stay away from the scale, except for a once-a-month check to keep MyFitnessPal from bugging me.

I spoke with all three of the girls this past week, and their lives all seem to offer a snapshot of the “new normal” so many are experiencing now. We were sad to learn that WenYu quit the waitressing job she was so excited about. She liked the work and coworkers, but quickly discovered it made her and her boyfriend (and his family) very nervous for her to be interacting so closely with the public, even if she was wearing a mask. She is once again looking for something full-time in her field, but in the meantime is doing graphic design projects for her boyfriend and also working part-time as a personal assistant to another artist. Her boyfriend has an extra car, and has offered it to her to get into Boston more easily once she finds work. I also spoke with Meiling a couple of times last week, and she confessed that she is bored and hasn’t been out of her apartment in six months other than to move to their new apartment (in the same building) and to go for a couple of long hikes with friends in the mountains. She and her boyfriend use a meal kit service for many of their dinners, and her boyfriend does the food shopping once a week as she just doesn’t want to be around other people yet. Her job keeps her busy though and she is saving, with goals for the future so she is putting up with all of it. YaYu is doing well at school – it seems that after a bit of a shaky start Bryn Mawr students are doing a very good job of keeping up with the new protocols and precautions. After two rounds of testing only two cases have been discovered and both those students are currently in quarantine. 

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’ll finish Love and Other Consolation Prizes today and will start Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as soon as I’m done as it came off hold at the library yesterday. Brett just finished reading our friend Susan Spann’s recently published book, Climb, about climbing 100 of Japan’s mountains following her recovery from breast cancer, and I’ll start that after I finish Harry Potter. I keep telling myself that I’ll eventually get to read Sex and Vanity, hopefully by the end of the year.
  • Listening to: I got up early again this morning, although not unreasonably so. The wind is blowing outside and making a bit of noise, a couple of roosters are doing their thing, and Brett is putting around in the kitchen making coffee and putting away last night’s dishes. The sky is blue but there are clouds to the north, so we’ll just have to see how the day turns out!
    Looking foward to watching Ratched starring the wonderful Sara Paulson.
  • Watching: We have just a few more episodes of Bordertown to watch, and we’re almost at the end of One Foot In the Grave as well. We watched the first episode of the Great British Baking Show on Friday evening though. At the top of our watch-next list are two “prequels” currently available on Netflix: Young Wallender and Ratched, about who the nurse was before she appeared in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Ratched is said to be pretty wild and very colorful. We also want to check out Cobra Kai for something different – we’ve heard good things about it (and are still fans of the original Karate Kid).
  • Cooking/baking: Instead of beans over rice, tonight I’m putting together burritos with Mexican cowboy beans, some leftover pot roast, shredded cabbage, cilantro, and salsa for our dinner. We have been enjoying the A Dozen Cousins beans so much that we’ve decided to get them regularly through Amazon’s Subscribe ‘n’ Save (which will also save us a little bit). Also on the dinner menu this week will be Guadalajara quesadillas; grilled ahi with guacamole salad; grilled Italian sausages with sautéed peppers and onions; and of course, leftovers. The rum cake did not get made last week because we couldn’t find dark rum! It’s not that there isn’t any on the island, but we only want a pint and not a full bottle because that’s too much, too expensive, and we don’t drink rum. The Koloa Rum store is scheduled to reopen on October 1, and whether that will happen remains to be seen, but we can get miniatures there which would be ideal so are holding out for that. Anyway, I baked a coffee walnut cake for us last week instead, and we plan to pick up a Costco pumpkin pie next week to have after we finish the cake. By the time we finish the pie we will have hopefully have a solution to the rum issue!
    Another five-week set of cards is ready to go! They are instrumental in helping me stay on track and reach my goals.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week (and two fails): 1) We made a small food shopping trip on Wednesday and once again stayed within our budget. 2) I filled in the last card of my last five-week daily activity cards, and made a new set for the next five weeks, which will see me all the way through until the end of October. It’s still amazing to me how quickly five weeks passes when I use these cards (plus, I know I’m getting everything done I need to do). 3) In spite of the hot and humid days, and rain some days as well, we walked 3+ miles every day again this week. 4) Not my accomplishment, but Brett got the car washed and all spiffed up. It’s hard to keep a car clean here because of all the red dirt, but it will hopefully stay nice for a couple of weeks. 5) Fail: We still have not gotten the windows washed, but it will happen one of these days. 6) Fail: We decided to postpone our Waimea Canyon visit for a while as all the overlooks are currently closed, and the views are the main reason for going!
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m seeing the dermatologist on Wednesday for a skin check – I’m always glad to get that done. We will begin adding some more distance to our walk this week, starting with just one day a week and adding a day each subsequent week until we’re walking the new distance daily. We’ve got our route picked and we’re ready!
    The guava tree is still producing, but the harvest is thankfully slowing down.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The guava harvest has continued, but has been nowhere near what it was last week. Brett only had a half bag fruit for Monkeypod this past week. Pretty much everything else that happened this week was a good thing as well, including getting to talk with all the girls and our son walking 29 miles (in the rain!) during the Komazawa Challenge yesterday and raising nearly $8,000 this year!
    M’s walk this year included a few changes of wet clothes, but he still walked nearly 30 miles!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) After comparing prices, we ordered a case of Scott’s toilet paper from Amazon at $42.22 (including tax) for 80 rolls, or 53¢ per roll. I’m not sure right now where we will put all of it, but we’ll manage somehow at that price. If the price stays low we’ll sign up for Subscribe ‘n’ Save for it as well 2) We put $3.03 into the change/$1 bill jar, left over from this past week’s shopping trip. We actually ended up with $8.03, but decided to spend an extra $5 at the farmers’ market as we found some great bargains. 3) Other than our grocery shopping, the farmers’ market, and a gas fill-up on Wednesday we had a no-spend week. We also had three no-drive days, which saves on gas and wear and tear on the car. 4) I earned 2,085 Swagbucks and am getting close to the halfway mark for a $500 Delta gift card! 4)It was another good week for finishing leftovers, and once again no food was thrown away or wasted.
    This week’s haul from the farmers’ market: bananas, avocados, baby zucchini, papayas, limes, cucumbers, dragonfruit, green beans, and cilantro.
  • Grateful for: We continue to be exceedingly thankful to be living on Kaua’i, in our little COVID-free bubble here. The state has extended the quarantine again until the end of October, but will be offering testing options for visitors beginning mid month. We’ve seen fewer visitors around these days though. We feel very safe here, but like the rest of the island, take nothing for granted and continue to take precautions like mask-wearing (required in any public area except when exercising outdoors), social distancing, and hand washing. We know this pandemic is not over by a long shot.
  • Bonus question: Was there some perfectly normal activity or thing that terrified you as a child? I was always abnormally terrified during Fire Prevention Week, held every fall in our city’s elementary schools. We had five days of drills, a visit from the fire department, lessons on fire prevention, etc. culminating in a fire prevention film on Friday. The film always scared me out of my wits, and I was never able to get out of watching it. Fifth grade was the worst – the film was about a fire starting in a school, but little Bobby was goofing around and decided he didn’t need to go out when the alarm went off because it was just a drill. After all the other kids were out his teacher went back in to look for him, and at the end of the film a fireman found them dead from smoke inhalation in a stairwell. It was horrifying. That film stayed with me for nearly a year, even though none of our schools had stairs. Every year the films made it impossible for me to fall asleep at night for months because I believed the minute I nodded off our house would burst into flames (there were no smoke alarms then), and when I did fall asleep I would frequently have nightmares about fires. So, I would lay in bed, my heart pounding for what seemed like hours, and tell myself over and over that Dad was still awake downstairs (thankfully he was a night owl) and would get us all up if a fire started. If for some reason though he came to bed earlier then usual all bets were off as to when or if I would fall asleep. Ironically, the most likely way for a fire to have started in our house back then would have been from one of my dad’s cigarettes! Anyway, when I moved up to sixth grade in the middle school, no more Fire Prevention Weeks, no more sleep problems, and no more nightmares. Also, listening to Prokofieff’s Peter and the Wolf gave me nightmares (those French horns!), and had me imagining wolves were waiting for me right outside my bedroom door (the absurdness of wolves living in urban Southern California, let alone inside our home didn’t occur to me at age five).

I have to admit I am enjoying our “new normal” these days – a weekly trip to Lihue for gas and supplies, our daily walk at the park, and an occasional trip to the beach. We get up when we want, have our meals when we want, and otherwise have to time to do many of the other little things that we didn’t before, all without pressure. As an introvert it’s been a dream come true for me. It’s all been very relaxing, but frankly I would rather this pandemic be done so we could be traveling again. I know my reality is very different from many if not most people, and am very aware that our comfortable life these days comes from having a steady income and not having to work, and not having to deal with the public in any meaningful way like so many others do. We are lucky and we know it.

American readers: are you registered and ready to vote? If not, I urge you to please get it done, and then vote early if you can in your state, or find out how to make sure your mail-in or absentee ballot gets in on time. Hawaii is now a mail-only state – our ballots will arrive in another three weeks, and we will be dropping ours off at the election office in Lihue. 

That’s a wrap for this week. I hope it was a good one for everyone, and that lots was accomplished and plenty of good things happened. Here’s looking forward to the week coming up!

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Home Cooking: Guacamole Salad

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(photo credit: Food.com)

Avocados are currently in season here on Kaua’i. Trees we see around are loaded, and there are mounds of them at the farmers’ market. We found some beautiful big ones this past week at the farmers’ market and decided to spend a little extra and pick up a couple so I could make this yummy salad. The recipe comes from Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa. I saw her show one day several years ago when she prepared this to serve with grilled blue cheese burgers and I knew immediately I had to try it. It quickly became one of our favorites and is a great accompaniment to everything from burgers to fish. The salad comes together quickly and is easy to make all year as avocados are available everywhere these days, year round (we can even easily find them in Japan now), as are cherry tomatoes and peppers. I’ve even added shredded chicken in the past (shrimp would be great too) to turn this into a main dish salad, and served along with corn chips for an easy warm-weather meal.

The secret to making a great guacamole salad is to make sure the avocados used are perfectly ripe, and not mushy, so that they don’t fall apart or collapse in the salad. Ripe avocados should be judged by two characteristics: color and feel. A ripe avocado will most likely be dark greenish-black, but not always so it’s important to also use feel to test for perfect ripeness. A ripe avocado will give slightly to firm but gentle pressure using the palm of your hand (not the fingers). An unripe avocado will not give at all, and an overripe one will feel mushy and give easily to the slightest pressure. Also, check avocados for bruises and soft spots as they may indicate rot or overripeness. Unripe avocados can be ripened by placing in a dark cabinet for 4 -5 days, one that isn’t opened frequently (just don’t forget them, which I have sadly done more than a few times).

GUACAMOLE SALAD

  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 tsp grated lime zest
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • (optional) 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/2 cup diced red onion
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 ripe avocados, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 1/2 – 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • (optional) 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and veins removed than diced

Blend together the lime juice, lime zest, olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper and cumin (if using) and set aside. In a large bowl lightly mix together the yellow pepper pieces, tomato halves, red onion, black beans, jalapeño pepper (if using), and chopped cilantro. The salad can be chilled at this point, if desired. Just before serving, cut the avocado and place the cubes in the bowl, pour the dressing over everything and gently toss to blend the salad (over-mixing will make the avocado mushy).

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Budget Challenge: Grocery Shopping on Kaua’i

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Brett and I have a standing challenge whenever we go food shopping: buy what we need but try to stay under budget if possible so there’s something leftover to put into the travel savings. Between Walmart, Costco, Safeway or Big Save Market, and the weekly farmers’ market we have a wide selection of places to shop, but staying within our budget can be difficult because prices here can be high, sometimes a good deal higher, than they are in most places on the mainland. We’re very good at knowing the difference between a need and a want though, and telling ourselves “no” whenever we have to. We shop for groceries three times a month, weekly if you count our Wednesday trips to the farmers’ market, and we try very hard to not have to go to any store in-between shopping trip if at all possible. We no longer do “big shops” or stock ups because we don’t have the storage space like we did in the past nor do we like spending such vast sums.

Last week was a good week for us, shopping wise. We had budgeted $160 for the week, but spent only $128.80, and put $31.20 into our travel savings ($11.20 into the change/$1 bill jar and an additional $20 bill for good measure). Here’s how we did it:

We ALWAYS shop with a list, and by the time we make it to the store it usually looks like the one above. The circled items are the items that made the final cut; others were deemed either not necessary or not necessary now and were added to this week’s list. Two of the circled items on the Costco side did not get purchased: sparkling water and a beach towel ($9.99 at Costco). Costco had no affordable choices for sparkling water, and although we had the funds for a beach towel we decided it could wait. It will eventually need to be purchased and will go on a list in the future.

We spent exactly $41 at Walmart, and got everything on our list except for soba noodles and Yoshida (teriyaki) sauce, neither of which they had. We couldn’t find suitable substitutes there for either so decided to look for those items at Safeway, which was going to be our last stop of the day.

Our Costco list ended up being quite short, but we didn’t need much. We spent $50.10 there and now have enough dental floss for months to come (it was on sale this month). It’s sort of strange to leave Costco with so few things these days – when we lived here before any trip to Costco meant a cart filled to overflowing.

We sometimes stop at Safeway because it’s pretty much right next door to Costco and on our way home. Along with the head of lettuce and the big locally-grown tomato for our hamburgers we also found the brand of soba we like and some teriyaki sauce that worked for us. The soba cost more than it usually does at Walmart, but the teriyaki sauce was on sale and cost less so it evened out. Still, we spent $17.70 total for these four items, which is a lot and a good indicator of why we don’t regularly shop at Safeway here. Milk was also on our list but they didn’t have what we were looking for (a quart of 1%), and we decided we didn’t need it this week after all.

We budget $20 every week for the farmers’ market, and this past week spent every bit of it on a big bunch of bananas, two huge papayas, a large dragonfruit, three cucumbers, green beans, green onions, and a head of cabbage. 

We will go shopping again tomorrow, but with a smaller allotment than last week, and then go once again next week. Both shopping trips will pose additional challenges as we need to make sure we shop smartly to get ourselves through a three week stretch before our next piece of income rolls in again. That’s a long time to go without shopping, but we have plenty of protein on hand (meat, chicken, and fish) for the two of us, a good supply of other pantry staples, and along with the produce from the farmers’ market every week we should make it – fingers are crossed!

(If you have any questions about individual prices here for items we bought, let me know in the comments and I’ll look them up.)

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Sunday Morning 9/20/2020: Hot Weather, Chickens, and Too Much Fruit

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We had some pretty sunsets this past week!

Good morning!

M enjoying breakfast with his spunky little girl last year.

Happy birthday today to our son, M (his birthday is already over now in Japan though)! He has been a delight since the moment he was born, was pretty much the world’s easiest child to raise, and we couldn’t be prouder of him if we tried for all he has accomplished both personally and professionally, as well as for being such a great husband and father. One of the very cool things he does every year is walk the Komazawa Challenge to raise funds for a charity in Japan that supports and assists children with terminal or incurable diseases and their families. He believes this year he will go over $30,000 total that he’s personally raised for the charity during the five years since he founded the walk in 2017. He usually holds the event in June, but because of Covid-19 it was postponed until September this year (the walk is next Saturday). We’re not-so-secretly hoping he’ll do the same in 2022 when we’re in Japan so we can walk with him, for at least part of the distance anyway as the total walk is near marathon length.

I have now grown sick to death of the scent of guava, something I never believed could happen. Guava have a naturally sweet, perfumed aroma that I used to love, and in the past we’d set a bowl of ripe guava out on the counter in the kitchen (we had a guava tree in the back at our old house that produced about six to ten fruit per year) and it would perfume the whole house for a short period every year – it was lovely. With the daily bags of fruit now coming off our tree, the scent in the house is ever present and getting into everything, and the aroma now is overly cloying and overly sweet. Brett took two huge bags of fruit up to Monkeypod this past week, but the ripe fruit just keeps on coming. I love the jam we made, and Monkeypod is happy to receive all of our excess fruit, but the amount the tree keeps putting out has almost been overwhelming. Even the birds seem to have had enough.

One day’s guava pickings (and an almost-ripe lilikoi in his right hand)

Brett received a notice this week that beginning January 1 he will be charged $25/month for our Tricare Standard insurance, the same insurance that was guaranteed to be free for life when Brett enlisted in the navy in 1970 as well as when he retired in 1992. We have to have a Tricare Standard policy to cover YaYu until she graduates in 2022, but thankfully our separate Tricare for Life insurance remains no cost, for now anyway, but we expect that will soon change as well. While it’s frustrating to see our benefits erode, the $300 dollars/year will be thankfully much, much less than Bryn Mawr’s mandatory health insurance cost. This year was the first where students could opt out of that insurance if they could show proof that their personal insurance was as good or better than what the college offered. Health insurance in this country is a flat-out mess, and I am hoping in the next few years that something similar to our military plan will be made available for everyone. Having lived with “government insurance” for over forty years, I can attest that it works well and beats anything else currently out there. 

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None of these guys wanted their picture taken – they never stopped moving!

It would be easy for us to take chickens for granted here on Kaua’i, and most of the time we do, but others times some will surprise and amuse us. We’ve been walking long enough up at Kukuiula Park now that we can recognize different roosters and chickens and have gotten to a point that we look for the ones we know. We’ve also started to give some of them names (perhaps an early sign of insanity?). One of our favorites these days is a rooster we’ve named Chatterbox, that will occasionally walk along the path with us for a while, singing/chatting the entire way, or if he doesn’t walk with us, will just come over and greet us and chatter a bit as we walk past. Another rooster we always look for is General Custer, named for the blonde feathers that cascade down his neck and gold feathers on the back of his body. Both Chatterbox and the General are wild jungle fowl and they hang out up in the park. The most stunning rooster I have ever seen though is one we’ve spotted in the parking lot at the bottom entrance to the park. We’ve named him Mr. Beautiful because he is simply gorgeous (and he knows it). He is large, and perfectly proportioned from the comb on his head to the tip of his beautiful brown tail feathers. His other feathers are in blocks of tan, rust, burgundy, and gold and are beautifully glossy – he’s just something else to look at. We don’t get to see him very often, but when we do he always has large harem milling around him. Several of the other regular walkers feed the chickens in the park from time to time with stale bread, but we haven’t gone that far yet (mainly because we never have leftover bread), but that doesn’t keep most of the chickens from running up to us almost daily to make sure.

This morning I am:

The most hellish part of our daily walk are these two sections where the sun beats down and the breeze/wind stops. Thankfully they don’t take too long to get through, but we do each of them three times and dread them.

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I moved up to Level 4 Japanese in Memrise! I scored 100% on the review questions for Level 3 and got a notice that I had completed the course. Yeah me! I hope to see the kanji and grammar patterns I learned repeated from time to time in Level 4 so that I don’t forget them. Brett and I again walked over three miles every day this past week. It was difficult at times because temperatures were up this past week as was the humidity at times, especially yesterday as we walked right after some rain. The hand weights seem to get lighter every day.
  • Looking forward to next week: Brett and I have been talking about visiting Waimea Canyon and Kokee State Park this coming week but haven’t decided which day yet. We have another food shopping trip to make on Wednesday so will work around that. Otherwise it’s a pretty ho-hum week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1)WenYu finished her first paid commission, an amazing piece of animation to accompany a recording of a poem! Her animation is lovely, moving pencil sketches that highlight scenes and words in the poem, and gratifying to see because animation is what she loves and wants to do. We think this is how things are going to go for a while, that she’ll freelance and wait tables before finding something more permanent. 2) Our back yard got a trim this past week – it always looks good to me, but it’s still amazing what a difference a quick visit from the yard crew makes. 3) Although temperatures have been higher this week, the weather has mostly been lovely, although it was exceptionally windy on Friday morning and rained yesterday afternoon (and today).
    Finally: a frugal floral solution for the bathroom.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We put an amazing $31.20 into our travel savings this past week thanks to a successful and frugal food shopping trip last week. 2) I clipped two ferns from the back yard to put in a vase that sits on our bathroom sink. I had been thinking I was going to have to buy something artificial as nothing else I tried from the yard seemed to last more than a day, but the ferns have been holding their own for days now, are pretty and tropical, and of course were free (and there’s a HUGE supply in the yard). 3) I earned 2,206 Swagbucks, another very good week. 4) It’s been the same-old, same-old eating all the leftovers and not throwing away any food. One of my leftover creations this week was loco moco made with leftover hamburger patties – easy to put together and we loved it!  5) Other than our food shopping and the farmers’ market on Wednesday, it was a no-spend week.
  • Grateful for: I have been profoundly saddened by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg but am beyond grateful for her many years of service to our country and her work for women’s equality. So many of the rights many women take for granted today are there because of her, including the right to sign a mortgage without a man; the right to have a bank account without a male co-signer; the right to have a job without being discriminated based on gender; and the right for women to be pregnant and/or have kids and work. The second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, RBG had a powerful legal mind and was a brilliant jurist who fought not just for gender equality but for equality, justice, and fairness for everyone. My favorite quote from the Notorious RBG was I’m sometimes asked: when will there be enough [women on the supreme court]? And I say, when there are nine. People are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody raised a question about that. Justice Ginsberg wrote to her granddaughter shortly before her death, My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new President is installed, but it now remains to be seen if the Senate will follow the rule they imposed on President Obama and not push through the nomination of a new justice before either the election or next year’s inauguration.
  • Bonus question: What’s something you were expected to be good at but weren’t/aren’t? What’s something you were/are good at that was completely unexpected? From an early age I was told that I was “artistic” which is funny to me because I can barely draw a stick figure. Where the “artistic” came from, I think, is that I was quite good at a young age at coloring inside the lines, and using the “right” colors. Anyway, I am not artistic but I am good at arranging colors and things . . . Brett calls it “doing installations.” He, along with Meiling and WenYu are the true artists in our family. Something I turned out to do quite well that surprised both me and everyone else was that I actually had some musical talent. I learned to play the clarinet at age nine, played for just over four years, and entered and won several superior awards at solo festivals before I turned 14. However, I never came to love playing the clarinet or developed any real belief in my musical ability – my parents had chosen the instrument for me (I wanted to play the flute) and I absolutely hated having to play in the school’s marching band, which was a requirement if you played an instrument other than strings. I quit before I entered high school so I could take art classes (and did poorly at those). I finally learned to play the flute in my late 30s, and was told by my teacher then, a professional flutist, that I had genuine musical talent, but at that point I thought I was too old to pursue it and eventually quit that as well. I can still read music but that’s as far as it goes these days.

I seem to be entering another one of my biannual rounds of insomnia, but in a somewhat different way. This past week I have been waking up early, very early sometimes. In the past my insomnia caused an inability to fall asleep at night, but with all the walking we’re doing now I’m not having any trouble with that – these days I put my head on the pillow and I am out like a light, and I sleep deeply through the night. However, waking up at 6:00 in the morning like I have on a few mornings is definitely weird (and annoying). I wear earplugs and a sleep mask at night so I know it’s not the light coming through the windows in the morning nor noise from the birds or wind that’s waking me, so am not sure what’s going on. Hopefully this is something temporary because I dislike feeling sleepy in the afternoons, especially right before it’s time to head out for our daily walk.

Also, the past couple of weeks I’ve been able to comment on a couple of Blogger-platformed blogs using my phone, but with others comments from my still vanish into the Internet ether. I still have no idea why that is or how to fix it, but I keep trying!

What a year this week has been! Actually, we’ve personally had another good week, but it’s been a strange and sad one in other ways. Hopefully it was a positive week for all of you, and you had several good things happen for you. I glad we got through it, and I’m looking forward for all of us to the week coming up!

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Home Cooking: Zucchini Frittata

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(Photo credit: Real Simple magazine)

Mid-September always meant the last of the zucchini when we had a garden, sad because our plants always provided so much and because zucchini was a favorite summer vegetable. Thankfully zucchini is now available year round in supermarkets, and here on Kaua’i we’re fortunate to find it almost all year at the farmer’s market, both the green and yellow varieties. I pick some up more weeks than not as Brett and I love it, especially roasted or grilled.

This long-time favorite recipe comes from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book and uses quite a bit of zucchini so it’s a great recipe if you’re being overrun, and it’s delicious both hot and cold. A frittata is nothing more than an Italian egg-based dish similar to an omelet or quiche, and it can be either simple or enriched with additional ingredients including meats, vegetables, herbs. It’s easy to make, and can either be baked or started in a skillet and finished in the oven. Along with some good bread and a salad, a frittata makes an easy and low-cost meal.

Getting as much liquid squeezed out of the zucchini is crucial to getting this frittata to set set up properly. Our method for squeezing out the liquid it to put the grated zucchini in a clean cotton dishtowel, roll the towel up lengthwise, and then twist the ends in opposite directions (over the  sink, or outside if that’s not possible). One of the girls usually helped me with this task when they were at home, but these days Brett helps me, and between the two of us we’re able to get a tremendous amount of liquid squeezed out using this method.

By the way, what I remember most about growing zucchini was that in spite of checking our plants every day and harvesting what was ready, I could often go out the next morning and discover a squash the size of a baseball bat! Did it grow that big overnight, or was it just well hidden and I missed it ??? It was one of the mysteries of the garden that I never could figure out.

ZUCCHINI FRITTATA

8 cups shredded, unpeeled zucchini (about 3 pounds)

1 TBSP olive oil

1 tsp butter

2 TBSP finely chopped onion

1 clove garlic, finely minced

6 eggs

2 TBSP milk

1/2 tsp crumbled oregano

1/2 tsp crumbled dried basil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

dash of hot pepper sauce or cayenne pepper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Squeeze as much liquid out of the shredded zucchini as possible – try to get it as “dry” as possible. Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet (preferably non-stick) and sauté the onion and garlic for around 30 seconds. Add the zucchini and cook over moderately low heat, stirring often, until the zucchini is just tender. If any liquid still collects in the pan, pour it off.

In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, milk, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, hot sauce or cayenne and 2 TBSP of the Parmesan cheese. Add to the zucchini mixture and pour into a well-greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Top the mixture with the rest of the Parmesan cheese and bake in a 350° oven for approximately 35 minutes, or until the eggs are set and the cheese has browned on top

OR

If you are using an ovenproof skillet, you can add the egg mixture to the zucchini in the skillet and cook everything together, stirring often, until the eggs begin to set. Sprinkle the frittata with the remaining Parmesan cheese and place the pan under the broiler or in a 500 degree oven and cook just until the top is lightly browned. (This only takes a very few minutes, so watch carefully).

Let the frittata stand for a few minutes before slicing. The frittata can easily provide six servings. It can also be garnished with tomato slices or a sprinkle of fresh herbs, or with sliced olives, if desired.

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Changed the Location But Not the Goal

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The Nakasendo Way in spring (photo credit: Walk Japan)

Just a few short weeks ago (August 3, to be exact) I announced that Brett and I had committed ourselves to walking the entire length of the Cotswold Way in the fall 2022. That goal has been a strong motivator for getting us out every day to walk, and to come up with a plan for gradually increasing our walking endurance to where we could manage the daily distances required of us to finish the walk.

Last week though we came across a company called Walk Japan, which provides “off the beaten track walking tours in Japan.” We began pouring over their website, and this past weekend we decided that while we still intend to do a long-distance walking tour in 2022, we will do it in Japan instead of England. In particular, we want to do Walk Japan’s 10-day Nakasendō Way tour from Kyoto to Tokyo. 

Scenes like this one of persimmons drying will be more common when we walk in the fall.

The history of the Nakasendō (Central Mountain Road) is what drew us to this walking tour. It was one of five main thoroughfares from Kyoto to Tokyo (and back) during the Edo Period of Japan (1603-1868), when the Tokugawa shogun lived and ruled in Tokyo (called Edo then; the Emperor remained in Kyoto and was virtually powerless at this time). In order to maintain the loyalty of those under him, the shogun required the highest lords (daimyos) throughout Japan to travel to and live in Tokyo every other year and their families to remain in Tokyo during their absence, under the “protection” of the shogun. The Nakasendō, along with the Tokaidō, which ran along the coast, was heavily used by the daimyo from the west and their families during these times. The road had 69 post towns along the way where papers and permission to travel were checked, and where travelers stopped to eat, drink, and rest. The road also served as an important route for communication for the shogunate. The Nakasendō was well developed, and was often preferred for travel because no major rivers needed to be forded along the way.

One of the historic post towns along the ancient Nakasendo route connecting Kyoto and Edo (old Tokyo).

Our decision to change the destination for our walk was not a casual one. We spent days carefully weighing and discussing several factors and the pros and cons of using Walk Japan before deciding to change our plans.

These were the two arguments for sticking with the Cotswold Way tour:

  1. The Nakasendō walking tour costs quite a bit more than a Cotswold walking tour. This was probably the biggest factor that we debated. However, the Nakasendo tour comes with a full-time guide, and not only covers each night’s lodging, almost all meals, and all interim transportation necessary to get from Kyoto to the road. We had to think long and hard about whether we were willing to pay more for these amenities but in the end figured out it wouldn’t be that much over what we would have spent going to the Cotswolds again. Walk Japan offers an unguided Nakasendo Way tour which costs less but we both think we’d rather have a guide along because of our ages and because our Japanese is limited.
  2. We would not get to go back to the Cotswolds. This was a major factor for not switching. We loved the Cotswolds and would love to experience more of the area.
The “lobby” of a traditional Japanese inn, complete with irori (sunken hearth).

There were a few more positives however which helped to sway us to a Japan walk:

  1. We would already be in Japan and not have to worry about paying for and taking long flights to England and then back to Tokyo. All we would have to purchase is a one-way ticket from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Shinkansen.
  2. We would get to walk one of the most historic routes in all of Japan along with a knowledgeable guide, learning about the history of the road as well as the villages and old post towns we would pass through along the way. The architecture alone is a huge draw.
  3. We would get to stay every night in traditional Japanese inns and hotels, and enjoy fine Japanese cuisine in those places and along the way.
  4. The tour offers transportation alternatives for the three longest walking days. For example, if we didn’t feel up to walking 15 miles on the longest day, we could walk for around 6-7 miles and then take a train or bus to that evening’s destination.
  5. The Nakasendō walk finishes in Tokyo, where we would only need a couple of days’ rest at our son’s before heading back home to Hawaii. If we went to England we would need at least two to three days’ rest at the end of the walk before flying to Tokyo, and then would have to rest up again in Tokyo from that journey before heading back to Hawaii. It was overwhelming just thinking about the jet lag.

Our task now is to figure out how to save a few thousand more dollars than we had initially planned, but we’re sure it can be done. We remain as motivated than ever to find ways to save as travel always comes out of our discretionary funds, which aren’t much right now with YaYu’s college expenses. Time is on our side though as we have two years to make this goal a reality.

Besides saving enough, we also are more motivated than ever to stay healthy and get ourselves in the best possible physical shape. I will also continue to study Japanese, not because I expect to be able to speak it, but so I can understand more during our stays in Japan and while we travel there. The big unknown at this point though is whether Japan will be reopened for American visitors by Fall 2022, and whether the virus will be under control by then as well. We certainly hope so, and not just because we want to go to Japan.

Game on!
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Sunday Morning 9/13/2020: Cloud Magnets

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This week gave us one sunset with some color. Otherwise there were either dark gray clouds or nothing.

Good morning!

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We’ve finished up another very nice week which included not only going out for breakfast one morning, but getting in two trips to the beach. We enjoyed ourselves both times, but seemed to be cloud magnets for some reason. Last Sunday, when the skies clouded over at the apartment, we decided to head down to the beach at Barking Sands for some sunshine. Hah! It was sunny the whole way down, but when we arrived at the beach it was dark and gloomy with heavy clouds overhead, squalls out at sea in front of us, and low, dark rain clouds behind us. It was also obvious there had been some less than ideal weather there recently as the high water mark from the waves was halfway up the beach and there were still large ponds of water in places on the beach. We didn’t even bother to take our umbrella out of the car, but set up our chairs and nibbled our lunches, then took a l-o-n-g walk down the beach and back before calling it quits. We got in our car just as the rain finally arrived. Ironically, there was barely a cloud in the sky the entire way home once we left Barking Sands!

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Friday looked like another a perfect day for a beach visit so we headed back to Salt Pond Beach Park. We set up our umbrella, and had just settled ourselves in our beach chairs when a large, dark cloud moved overhead and parked itself right above us! There was sun to the left of us, and sun to the right, but our location was in shade the entire time (we took the umbrella down after a few minutes). There had been a brush fire burning on our way into Salt Pond that was producing a lot of smoke, and while we were on the beach we watched a helicopter fly in to pick up water from the ocean to help fight the fire – that was interesting to watch. After a while we couldn’t see any more smoke, but as we left to come home we noticed there were still plenty of fire and police personnel and trucks/cars around, and fire trucks were still arriving so apparently the fire was still burning or smoldering somewhere.

LOTS of ripe guava appear every day now – it’s a race to get them before the birds.

Our guava tree continues to produce amazing amounts of ripe fruit every day. Brett goes out and picks as much as he can, and has been taking at least a full shopping bag of the fruit up to Monkeypod Jam each week for the past three weeks (and will do the same probably for the next two, at least). MJ has been happy to take the guava as they use only local fruit for their jams, preserves, and baked goods. Our lilikoi are coming along but won’t be ready for another month or two, and we’ve noticed the oranges are starting to change color. They’re not close to orange yet, but have been turning a lighter shade of green getting ready to go in that direction. The orange tree is loaded with fruit as well, which makes us happy as it produces very sweet and juicy oranges. The first ones should be ripe by late November, and the tree will continue producing into spring.

This morning I am:

Breakfast date at the Kalaheo Cafe

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I had a lovely breakfast date on Thursday morning at the Kalaheo Cafe. We ate outside on the lanai because the weather was so nice and because there were hardly any people out there. Brett broke with tradition and ordered a Belgian waffle instead of French toast, and I enjoyed a smoked salmon Egg Benedict – very yummy. Brett picked up his new glasses on Thursday afternoon – a new look for him (and I like it!). This past week I discovered a company that offers great walking tours throughout Japan, both guided and self-guided, and we have been going through them wondering which one we should do first (whenever we can get back to Japan). Our DIL sent us loads of grandkid pictures again this week – we miss those two so much. They’re both enjoying being back at school. K loves her preschool, and C has moved over to the “big kids” building at his school this year.
    New clear-frame glasses for Brett
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This was not the most frugal of weeks, although we did keep our spending (ice cream, gasoline fill-up, Brita filters, and breakfast out) as low as possible. Having to buy the Brita filters was frustrating because we ended up having to get an expensive 10-pack at Costco as we couldn’t find them anywhere else (on the plus side we’re good for filters for at least the next two years, if not longer). We put $3.60 into the change/$1 bill jar this past week. We sure don’t seem to get much change these days as we haven’t amassed enough of any coins to roll since we’ve been here. I earned an amazing 1,912 Swagbucks this week (!!!) and have decided that rather than redeem for $100 gift cards I am going to work toward earning as many $250/$500 Delta and Southwest gift cards as I can before we travel in 2022 to help keep our costs down. I have a nice system now for earning Swagbucks, nothing that requires a lot of my time, and so far it’s been working better than expected. On the food front, we currently have a few leftovers to finish, but we’re keeping up with them, and no food has been thrown out. I recently discovered that I can fix just a half-cup of rice in our rice cooker, which is perfect for just Brett and I, and creates fewer leftovers.
  • Grateful for: I am very thankful right now that we stocked up our food supplies the last couple of months because this month we don’t need to purchase much. We have plenty of protein on hand and a good variety as well, so our focus this month will be more on fruits and vegetables from the farmers’ market and pantry staples. Anything we don’t spend out of our grocery budget will go into travel savings!
    These were the original kimekomi temari I made (the blue one on the right was the first). I do mono-chromatic temari as they have a very elegant (shibui) look to my Western eyes and taste; traditional Japanese temari are multi-colored.
  • Bonus question: Do you enjoy doing any sorts of arts or crafts? These days my answer would be no, but I used to enjoy doing artsy/craftsy things. I have done sewing, embroidery, tea box covering, quilting (by hand), knitting, and scrapbooking, well enough that I could use/wear/gift the things I made but these days I have no interest. My final fling with crafting was making kimekomi temari, or traditional hand balls, which I learned to do during our second tour in Japan. Kimekomi is the process of pushing and glueing fabric into grooves carved into a compressed wooden shape to create a smooth surface – it is most often used to make dolls. My daughter-in-law helped me get supplies from Japan, and I sold them through a Japanese goods shop in Seattle – they went for more than I imagined and also sold more quickly than I imagined they might. A few of my temari were also exhibited in Japan as my Western style and color choices are very different from traditional Japanese kimekomi, and besides using only traditional satin brocades I also had covered a few temari with vintage Japanese cotton indigo fabrics. I stopped making the balls when the girls’ schedules became so crazy that I had no time to make anything but dinner. It’s the one craft I’d love to go back to but I haven’t taken that last step yet to start it up again.
    Wearing my white linen capris in Sydney . . .

Finally, a goal I set for myself earlier this year was to get in shape enough to fit back into my white linen capris once again. The last time I had worn them was in January of 2019, when we visited the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia. I faithfully carried them around with me after that, but couldn’t squeeze myself back into them last summer in Portland, and I was in even worse shape when we arrived back here in March. However, with all the walking we’ve been doing I’ve been changing shape, and along with 14 pounds lost I decided to give them a try again this past Friday and . . . voilà! They were actually easier to put on then they were in 2019! That gave me a happy feeling, and another goal has been met!

. . . and again this past week (finally).

Even with our less than perfect beach days, we had a very enjoyable week and accomplished (most) of what needed doing. Good things happened, we ate well, and I hope the same happened for everyone as well. Here’s to good weather this coming week to help to tamp down or eliminate the fires raging in the West – my goodness, it’s awful in California in Oregon, and my heart aches for all those affected in any way. I’m hoping for a good or better week for all.

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