A Few More Clues

Here’s a picture of somewhere we’re not going!

A friend asked me the other day if I could give her even some small clues about where Brett and I will be going on our BIG Mystery Adventure™ next year and what we’ll be doing. After some thought, and talking with Brett, here are the clues I gave her:

  • We will be leaving right after we take YaYu to college in 2018. Depending on what school she ends up attending, that could be in either August or September.
  • We will be taking at least four plane flights after we leave YaYu.
  • The trip will cost a bit more than $7000, which is our savings goal for this year. We haven’t set a firm goal for next year but will again be saving all we can before departing. We have also set one other savings-oriented goal, but it’s a secret for now.

And, here are three clues that I’ve already dropped in the blog:

  • We will be needing large suitcases versus traveling with carry-on only.
  • We will be transitioning seasons.
  • The word BIG is in the name.

I actually can’t wait to share the details, but won’t until spring of next year, which is when we plan to start making the actual reservations for our journey. Still, we’re only looking at around 15 months out until we’ll be on our way, and if the past is predictive that will be on us faster than we can imagine.

Any guesses?

Sunday Afternoon 5/21/2017

The view from my beach chair on Saturday

This weekend is all about the beach. We spent a couple of hours there yesterday – blue skies, light breeze, warm water and beautiful views – perfect! WenYu and I spent a nice amount of time in the water while we were there, jumping through and diving under the waves and swimming. Today is just as lovely as yesterday, so as soon as this is posted we’re heading back down the hill for another couple of hours, maybe longer. Both Brett and I really look like tourists right now though – I’m pale as a ghost, and Brett has tan lines around his neck and on his arms from wearing a t-shirt when he walks every day. We also carry a ton of stuff with us when we go: umbrella, chairs, towels, beach mat, and a big bag of drinks and snacks.

Another view from my chair

I had an absolutely wonderful, perfect day last Sunday – Brett and YaYu took care of absolutely everything, all day long, and Brett made Scotch eggs (hard-cooked eggs coated in sausage and cooked) for our dinner – they were amazing! They were so good in fact that we plan to have them again next weekend, and will put them into regular rotation on the menu. Anyway, Brett and YaYu knocked my joint birthday-Mother’s Day celebration out of the park!

And, WenYu is home! I am in my happy place getting to see and talk with her every day. She’ll be hitting the pavement tomorrow though to see if she can find a job. I don’t have any doubts that she’ll find something soon – she has restaurant (wait staff) experience, good recommendations, and interviews well.

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m nearly half-way through My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, and greatly enjoying it. It was rated one of the best books of 2016, and I can see why – it’s beautifully written.
  • Listening to: It’s been very quiet here so far today, with nothing going on outside in the neighborhood other than lots of birds are singing. The chickens aren’t even making any noise today. I can hear the girls chatting and laughing back in their room, but Brett is out on his daily walk so it’s quiet out here in the front of the house. We did the laundry yesterday afternoon, so that isn’t spoiling the quiet today either.
  • Watching: Brett and I watched the most recent episodes of Midsomer Murders, and are now watching Better Call Saul – we loved the character on Breaking Bad, and the show is great. I finished up all the Great British Bake Off Masterclass episodes, so WenYu and I are now watching old episodes of Househunters on Hulu. Why and how any of these couples managed to get and stay married almost puts this show into the mystery genre as well – nobody likes the same thing, and they bicker quite a bit. Brett and I watched Manchester By the Sea on Friday evening (free via Amazon Prime) – such a beautiful, bittersweet film. I saw it on the plane on the way over to Japan and was happy to watch it again, but Brett hadn’t seen it before.
  • Cooking/baking:  It was everyone for themselves this morning when it came to breakfast: ramen with bok choy and ham for the girls, oatmeal for Brett and I had my usual yogurt with berries along with a sprinkle of Anahola Granola. I’m fixing Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs for dinner tonight – WenYu has never had them, and we all think she will love this egg dish. Everyone but me will have steamed rice, and we’ll all enjoy some crisp, cool cucumbers to go with our eggs. No baking today – I made an orange bundt cake yesterday evening, after it had cooled off.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I’m glad we got our food shopping done for the next month (six weeks actually this time) – we had run out of so much. Our big shops are always a  chore, but so nice to have a full fridge, pantry and freezer again. I made my Swagbucks small goal every day this week, and the large goal twice even though Swagbucks has raised that to a nearly-impossible amount. I have pretty much had to give up my afternoon bike ride because of the heat, and the morning ride on a couple of days as well – it’s just too humid, and I know if I push myself to do it there’s a good chance I will end up stopping riding all together (which is what has happened in the past). But, if I skipped a ride I added a bit more time in the evening, drank my eight glasses of water a day and then some, and did my language study every day.
  • Looking forward to this week: Friday is YaYu’s last day of school for this year, and she will finally get to stand down for a while – it’s been an intense year. No more school lunches, wacky schedules, etc. for us as well for a couple of months – yeah! Otherwise, there’s nothing on the calendar for us – our time is our own. Maybe we’ll get to go to the beach again!

    YaYu’s sports letter with yearly pins

  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu lettered in four sports this past year (cross country, swimming, track & field and tennis) and this past week not only was awarded the pins for her letter, but also earned an official windbreaker from the school. WenYu brought home a few of the KitKats we sent to her (in limited flavors), so I’ve been once again enjoying a single KitKat with a cup of coffee after dinner – yum! Although it’s been hot and humid, for the most part we’ve had absolutely gorgeous weather this past week, and other than for one short period in the middle of the week the trade winds have consistently been  blowing.
  • Grateful for: My daughter-in-law has been sending regular videos and photos of our grandson and granddaughter, and this week I got to watch them play together (adorable!) and see our granddaughter just about take off crawling – she’s almost there. I am so thankful for all the photos and the little films, for my daughter-in-law sending them and for the technology that makes them possible.

    Enjoying each other’s company

  • Bonus question: If you were told you could keep just one of your possessions, what would you choose? After some discussion, both Brett and I agreed we would keep our cell phones – we can talk with, message and email each other, our children, and friends; take and keep photos; surf the Internet; manage our money; play games; keep blogging; and take care of lots of other tasks on these little devices as long as we continue to pay our phone bill every month. Before smartphones were around though my choice would have been the coffeemaker. “I get up in the morning because I know there will be coffee” was my motto for a long time.

And that’s what’s been going on at Casa Aloha. How was your week? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you?

Five Frugal Things: 5/19/2017

  1. Instead of paying to park when we picked up WenYu at the airport on Tuesday evening, Brett dropped YaYu and me off at the terminal, and then waited in the cell phone lot until WenYu was off the plane and had her luggage. Savings = $5.00.
  2. Brett and I limited ourselves to just two items when we got together with Renee and friends last Saturday for lunch at Street Burger. I ordered a bacon-blue cheese burger, which I split with Brett, and he ordered the Texas Poutine (otherwise known as fancy chili fries). We drank water instead of ordering beverages off the menu, and our bill came to just $24. Brett brought home over half of the poutine as well as the fries that came with my burger, and those leftovers provided dinner for him and YaYu that evening, and lunch again for Brett the next day.
  3. The big roast chickens from Costco, at $4.99 each, are the best deal around. We bought two of them this month: one is in the fridge and is being used for meals this week, and Brett stripped the meat off the second one, which went into the freezer for meals in the future. We’ll get seven main dishes and lots of chicken salad for sandwiches from the two chickens for less than $10.
  4. We cut back our weekly farmers’ market budget from $20 to $15, because we’ve discovered that we can still get an awful lot of beautiful produce for that amount. Also, now that the heat and humidity are with us again produce has the potential to spoil faster, and we don’t like to keep any more than a week’s worth of produce on hand, even if it’s in the fridge.
  5. We received word this week that YaYu’s round-trip flight to and from the Honolulu airport in June for her trip to China will be covered by the organization sponsoring the tour, a savings of $160 (or 15,000 frequent flyer miles, which is how we were going to purchase the tickets). YaYu and one other girl from Kaua’i are the only two students not already living on Oahu, and the organization did not think it was right that they had to pay more than others in the group to make the trip.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

95% Paradise

Someone asked me the other day if there was anything I didn’t like about living on Kaua’i. Didn’t I miss all the shopping opportunities I’d find elsewhere, not just for clothing and such, but places likeWhole Foods and Trader Joe’s? Didn’t I miss all the restaurants, coffee places, etc. that I’d enjoyed back in Portland?

The answer was no, I didn’t miss those things (well, I do miss Trader Joe’s still, but just a little). Our move here has been a very positive experience for us, and we’ve adjusted well to island life. Kaua’i is home.

But surely, my friend asked, there must be something that bugs you?

I couldn’t think of anything on the spot, but after some reflection came up with two things that make my life here just a tiny bit less than ideal:

  • After three years here I am no closer to adapting to the humidity than I was when we arrived. My skin loves it, but the rest of my body doesn’t, and I dislike the way I feel overall when the humidity climbs, which along with feeling like a wet, sticky mess sometime includes occasional  headaches. I know air conditioning would take care of it, but we don’t feel like putting an air conditioner into a rental property, or paying the electric bill that would result from running it. I’ve developed some tricks for staying cool(er) and more comfortable, but overall I still really dislike the humidity.
  • I’m often frustrated that we have to get in our car to go anywhere around here. Compared to Portland ,where it was very walkable, it’s not so easy here. There are few sidewalks, and unless we wanted to live in what’s a tsunami-warning zone (we don’t), houses are typically located far enough from the commercial areas to make walking an unpleasant chore, not counting the heat and humidity. Just walking up to the main road from our house can turn into an adventure, with cars speeding close by. Brett and I had dreamed of living somewhere after retirement where we could walk to our favorite coffee shop every day, but that’s just not possible here. I’m very grateful for the beach path, even though we have to get in our car to get to it, and I have to admit it’s nice to be in the car at times with the air-conditioning.

And that’s all I could come up with. I also don’t care for the big toads here, but am willing to put up with their occasional appearance in our yard in exchange for living in a place that has no snakes.

So no, life on Kaua’i isn’t perfect, but it’s practically perfect for me!

This Week’s Menu: Another Place At the Table

Slow cooker chicken pho

WenYu will be home tonight! Not in time for dinner, but I’m so excited that my favorite middle daughter will be back with us for the next three months. She’s had a terrific first year at college, but is ready to be home and get to work. We’re all hoping it doesn’t take her too long to find a job. I’m going to be planning meals like she will be home for dinner every day, but that could change if the job she finds requires her to work evenings. Also, with four of us there might not be as many leftovers for YaYu’s school lunches, something else I need to consider.

We will be going food shopping again tomorrow versus next week as we have been running out of things faster than we thought this month. I have no idea why other than last month we had reserves and this month we haven’t. For example, in March we bought two jars of peanut butter, but already had one in reserve and got through until the next shop without running out. This month we bought just two jars of peanut butter and have run out. It’s been the same for several other items, and the refrigerator and cupboards are looking quite bare.

The slow cooker balsamic pork roast I made last week was very, very delicious and will be repeated, but huli huli chicken unfortunately didn’t get made. I went to fix the marinade and discovered we only had about two tablespoons left of soy sauce in the jug, and the recipe called for a cup. So, we just grilled the chicken instead, and will try the huli huli later. This week we’ll be using up one of the two roast chickens we plan to pick up tomorrow.

Here’s what we’re having this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Stir-fried chicken with broccoli; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Wednesday: Grilled hamburgers; onion rings; cole slaw (no hamburger roll or onion rings for m)
  • Thursday: Chinese three-color salad with chicken (only salad toppings for me)
  • Friday: Slow cooker chicken pho with bok choy (I’ll skip the rice noodles)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs; steamed rice; cucumbers (no rice for me)
  • Monday: Chicken tacos; yellow rice (no tortillas or rice for moi)

About the slow cooker chicken pho: I always cut the amount of spices called for in half, otherwise it tastes like you’re eating a Christmas potpourri. Also, I’ve found it works best if you soak the rice noodles separately, then place them into the bottom of the soup bowls and pour the soup over the noodles. If you add them to the slow cooker the noodles tend to disintegrate. You don’t need to have all the garnishes either – choose the ones you prefer if you don’t have them all (we like cilantro and basil).

We’ll have to pick up more cucumbers at the farmers’ market, as well as tomatoes, bok choy, green onions, cilantro, basil and papayas. We can get organic cabbage and lettuce now at Cost U Less, so will stop for that when we do our food shopping.

Postcard From: Senso-ji

The entrance to Senso-ji temple is the Kaminarimon, or ‘Thunder Gate,’ with the first of three giant paper lanterns, famous throughout Japan. On either side of the gate are large wooden statues of fierce Buddhist gods, who protect the temple. On the right is the god of wind, and on the left the god of thunder. (Photo is from matcha.jp.com – it was too crowded the day we passed through to take a picture)

On our trip to Japan in March, on our list of places not to miss was Sensō-ji temple. WenYu, YaYu and I had been unable to see it when we visited Japan in 2015, so this time we were determined to go. Not only is the shrine itself a fascinating and imposing site, and the surrounding neighborhood interesting as well, but we also knew we would be sure to find ramen shops there, and YaYu was determined to have a bowl of authentic Japanese ramen before we headed for home.

Located in the Asakusa district of Tokyo, Sensō-ji is the oldest temple in Tokyo. The temple is dedicated to Kannon (Guanyin), the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, and is the most visited religious site in the world, with over 30 million visitors annually. The original temple was constructed in 645 C.E., but was bombed and destroyed during World War II. It was rebuilt following the war and is a popular destination for both Japanese and foreign visitors. Entrance to the temple grounds is free.

The temple area was extremely crowded the day we visited, although we never found out why other than it was a nice spring day. It was difficult to take pictures as well as get through the crowd, and we missed getting to see the temple’s impressive five-story pagoda. Still, everyone visiting was polite and at times it seemed more like we were participating in a festival than visiting a religious shrine.

After passing through the Kaminarimon, we headed down Nakamise, “Center Street.” It’s a long, straight road lined with souvenir shops on either side. There are lots of fun things to look at, but we didn’t buy anything (mainly because it’s mostly geared to tourists and overpriced).

At the end of Nakamise is the Hōzōmon, or “Treasure House Gate.” It contains the second huge, distinctive paper lantern in the center, flanked on either side by two large black and gold lanterns. One the sides of the gate are two more of the large statues of gods -these two are Nio, the guardian deities of Buddha.

Hondō, the main temple hall, is straight ahead and across a paved courtyard after passing through the Hōzōmon.

We passed under a third giant lantern as we made our way into the main hall to view the altar. The lanterns at the temple are replaced around every 10 years.

The interior of the main hall is protected from visitors, but you can still view the main altar. There was a ceremony being performed while we were there, but we could only watch for a few moments as there were long lines waiting behind us for their turn to view the altar.

In the courtyard in front of the main hall is a giant brass urn where worshipers burn incense. The smoke from the incense is wafted over parts of the body that are ailing, while prayers are said.

Because of the crowds, we weren’t able to make it over to the pagoda, which is to the left of the main hall (photo courtesy of Wikipedia).

On the right side of the main hall courtyard visitors can catch a view of the Tokyo Skytree, the second tallest structure in the world. Completed in 2011, the tower is used primarily for broadcasting, but contains a restaurant and observation platform and is a very popular attraction in Tokyo.

Cherry blossoms at the temple were just getting ready to open.

The Asakusa neighborhood is ‘old Tokyo’ and there are many restaurants and shops in the area serving or selling traditional foods and folk crafts. At one ramen restaurant, in an old-style building, a statue of a peasant from the past can be seen perched on the roof with his umbrella.

We saw several people carrying ‘melonpan,’ or melon bread, so called because its shape is reminiscent of a cantaloupe. These large loaves of sweet bread could be enjoyed plain, or split and filled with whipped cream.

The little Inu Hariko figure I bought, my favorite Japanese folk character. He looks like a cat, but is actually a dog.

We walked back to the main road, to get back to the station, down a side road that had the backs of the Nakamise souvenir shops on one side. One of the things I remembered from past visits to Sensō-ji was a wonderful gelato shop at the end of this road, but when we got to the end we discovered the gelato place was no more. The small shop selling folk toys and paper that I remembered was still there though, and I bought myself a small Inu Hariko made of papier-mâché. Back on the main street we found a ramen restaurant, and after standing in line for a while were finally seated. YaYu and Brett both got ramen, and I ordered stir-fried pork and cabbage – delicious!

Our outing was an adventure, a very Japanese one with the crowds of people present, but well worth the effort. We were all glad we had gone, and hope to go back again next time we visit Japan so we can see the pagoda.

Sunday Afternoon 5/14/2017

Happy 65th birthday to me (and call the fire department)!

Happy Mother’s Day! Today is my official “Day of Doing Nothing,” where Brett and the girl(s) take care of every chore and activity around the house, and let me completely and totally relax. As it’s also my birthday, Brett and YaYu are going overboard. I just finished a long call with WenYu, and Meiling has messaged that she’ll be calling later this afternoon. My son wrote from Japan late last night. Life is good!

I received the best Mother’s Day gift of my life though when I read YaYu’s prize-winning essay on Thursday. Her ‘essay’ was actually two letters, one from me to her about meeting her for the first time, bringing her into our family and getting to know her, and the other was from her to me, about what I have meant to her. YaYu can seem distant, and keeps her emotions close, so it was so very, very special to hear her express her feelings. She got my emotions and feelings for her perfectly too.

I am also officially “old” today, 65 years. I don’t feel particularly old, other than having a head of gray hair (but my hair has been turning gray since I was in my 30s). I’m healthy, in fairly decent physical shape and getting better, and living a happy, comfortable retired life with Brett. You’ll hear few to no complaints from me.

With Marji at the Kalaheo Cafe

Brett and I had a delightful meet-up with blog reader Marji and her husband, Art, last Monday. We took over a table at the Kalaheo Cafe and stayed there for nearly three hours, without ever running out of things to talk about. As I wrote last week, every reader I’ve met has been a delight, and with Marji and Art the streak continues! And, yesterday I got together with someone I haven’t seen in over 40 years – the niece of my former boyfriend. Even though things didn’t work out between the boyfriend and me (we both went on to long, happy marriages with someone else), I always had a great relationship with his family, one of the nicest, most close-knit group of people I’ve ever had the privilege to know. I reconnected with my old boyfriend’s older sister on Facebook a few years ago, and this week her daughter has been visiting Kaua’i, so we got together for a catch-up and lunch. And yes, Brett has met them all, including the old boyfriend, and likes everyone as much as I do.

Brett and I with Renee at Street Burger, in Wailua

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: The day before I finished reading The Snowman, one of my hold became available for download: Band of Brothers: E Company, 506 Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, by Stephen E. Ambrose. “Easy” Company fought on D-Day, in the Battle of the Bulge, and were the first to reach Hitler’s retreat in Berchtesgaden at the end of the war. I’ve watched the mini-series twice on Amazon (it’s excellent), so the names and experiences in the book are very meaningful and easy to follow. The book is extremely well written, and I’ve found myself a couple of times going much further than usual on my bike because I’ve gotten so caught up in the story.
  • Listening to: It’s semi-quiet around here right now; YaYu is talking with WenYu, Brett is reading, and I’m writing.  A few people are mowing lawns as it’s a beautiful day, and there’s a pretty strong breeze outside. I’ve heard on rooster off in the distance – I don’t know if I’ve finally gotten used to them, or if they’re just not around all that much these days, but they don’t seem to be as noisy as they were in the past.
  • Watching: Brett and I are almost done with Shetland (love it, and I’ve got a couple of the books that inspired the series on hold at the library), and last night we finished watching the latest episodes of Death in Paradise. I’ve left before the ending several evenings to do my last bike ride of the day, but have correctly guessed the murderer 100% of the time. I’ve finished re-watching all of the Great British Baking Show episodes which were actually more interesting to watch the second time around, and am now watching the accompanying Masterclass shows while I work on Swagbucks.
  • Cooking/baking: I am doing absolutely NO cooking, baking or dishwashing today. Brett and YaYu have a zero-carb surprise up his sleeve for dinner tonight, and made me a lovely bowl of yogurt with fruit for my breakfast this morning.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Not my accomplishment, but YaYu somehow got through all her tests last week – she had one every day! Now we just have to wait and see how she did. I got in all my bike rides, even though there were days I really didn’t feel like it because of the heat and humidity, drank all my water and then some, and did my language study every day.
  • Looking forward to next week: WenYu is coming home on Tuesday!!! We’re all super excited about having her here again. She had a terrific first year at Wellesley, and will spend her summer here working and building up her savings account. Brett and I will be doing our monthly big shop this week rather than the week after. I can’t believe how much we’ve run out of in just three weeks, and I’m hoping, hoping,  hoping that we can stay within our budget. I’m pretty sure WenYu is going to want to go to the beach, so we may actually finally get there this week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: As I said above, our visit with Marji and Art was wonderful – they are delightful! We also hadn’t been to the Kalaheo Cafe in a while, so that was a treat as well (Brett had eggs Benedict, and I had a big, delicious smoothie). And, I loved seeing Renee again and finding out what everyone in her family has been up to all these years. We put $4.00 into our change/$1 bill jar – $1.50 left over from the farmers’ market, and $2.50 from recycling bottles and cans. All those little bits add up!
  • Grateful for: I’m exceedingly thankful these days for my good health. I occasionally have aches and pains that I didn’t have before, but for the most part I’m in very good shape. I’m eating well and losing weight again. Nothing is perfect, but for all the abuse I’ve heaped on my body over the years I think I’m doing very well.
  • Bonus question: What’s the best thing about growing older? What’s the worst? I think for me the best thing is that I worry far, far less about what other people think of me. I wasted an awful lot of time in my life trying to please people, meet unrealistic standards, or be something I wasn’t but these days I’m happy and content with who I am. I don’t worry about pleasing others so much and am comfortable in my own skin. I also have a much better sense of what’s truly important and what’s not, and am proud of what I’ve accomplished. The worst part of getting older? Chin hairs and flabby arms. They are the bane of my existence these days.

That’s a wrap for the week from Casa Aloha. How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Five Frugal Things 5/12/2017

The only place we spent money last week, and less than $10.

More frugal happenings at Casa Aloha:

  1. We realized that other than our weekly trip to the farmers’ market, we had a no-spend week last week, and the only spending we did this week was for the farmers’ market again, gasoline for the car (less than $20), and breakfast with Marji and her husband on Monday. Money for the farmers’ market and gasoline had already been set aside, so breakfast was the only discretionary spending.
  2. Brett carries a bag along when he walks, and picks up any cans and bottles that are littering the beach path, taking care of two things at the same time: the beach path is cleaner, and we get to recycle the cans/bottles, with the money going into our travel fund.
  3. I went through the J. Jill site the other day (my favorite place to buy clothes), and put four items in my shopping bag . . . and that’s where they still are. I need some new warm weather clothing, but I still can’t bring myself to buy anything this year.
  4. YaYu took leftovers every day for her lunch.
  5. The group sponsoring the trip to China that YaYu will be on this summer recommended students bring $300 – $400 in yuan along for spending money. We asked YaYu how much she wanted to bring and she said $100 – “I know what things cost there. I’m not planning on buying anything other than street food.” That’s our girl!

What frugal wins did you have this week?

#Kaua’i: Nani Pua (Beautiful Flowers) – Part 1

Heliconia – locals call it “sexy pink”

One of the joys of living on Kaua’i is the abundance of vibrant, beautiful flowers everywhere, all year round. Every day here we’re treated to an amazing array of colors and blossoms. Some of the flowers, like plumeria or gardenia, have intoxicating aromas, but even if they don’t smell I’m still drawn in by the stunning colors on display. Whether we’re at the weekly farmers’ markets or just walking around the neighborhood or wherever, the abundance of flowers provides a daily feast for the eyes.

Hawaii’s most famous flower is the hibiscus (the yellow hibiscus is the state flower). Hibiscus bloom year-round, and come is a variety of colors and petal arrangements.

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The most common flowers for sale at farmers’ markets are Hawaiian ginger, bird-of-paradise and heliconia, which can be seen year-round. Other flowers, like gardenia, can be found when they’re in bloom.

Hawaiian ginger

Bird-of-Paradise

Fragrant gardenia bouquets for sale at the market

Many trees on the island also get into the act and have striking and colorful flowers. Perhaps the most well-known is the plumeria, with its beautiful, fragrant flowers, often used for lei. At night, when they’re in bloom, we can sometimes catch their sweet aroma on the breeze. The royal poinciana tree is also a delight, with its giant red blooms. More of a shrub than a tree, bougainvillea can be found everywhere on the island, typically covered with  purple flowers but sometimes orange can be found. There are other exotic trees as well with interesting and unusual flowers.

Bright red blooms cover royal poinciana trees

The flowers on an angel’s trumpet tree are gorgeous, but highly poisonous

Plumeria blossoms can also be a deep, bright pink or white with pink and orange. The tree is seasonal, and during the winter all the leaves and blossoms are gone leaving only thick, bare branches – the tree looks dead!

Vibrant bougainvillea

The pictures above show only a fraction of the flowers we’re treated to here all year long, and I have yet to get tired of them, or fail to notice them whenever we’re out and about. Sometimes we even get lucky, and find something truly unusual, like the white bird-of-paradise we spotted a couple of weeks ago when we were out for a walk – we had no idea they were in any other color than bright orange!

White bird-of-paradise

This Week’s Menu: Two Celebrations in One!

Huli huli chicken on the grill

This is one of those years where both my birthday and Mother’s Day fall on the same day. When I was growing up, I hated when this happened because it was always just Mother’s Day. My parents never made a big to-do about birthdays as it was, but in this case it was like my birthday didn’t even exist, which was pretty hard to take when I was young.

These days I’m the one that doesn’t care so much about birthday celebrations, at least not my own. And, on Mother’s Day these past few years I’ve been thrilled with my Day of Doing Nothing, where Brett and the girls take care of everything, so that will be plenty for my birthday as well, including what they prepare for me to eat.  I guess I could make a request for something special for Sunday’s dinner, but I’ve decided to leave it up to Brett and YaYu. She loves to cook, and I know she’ll make something fabulous (and low carb). At least I know there will be no cake!

In my quest to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen now that it’s getting warmer (re. HOT), I’m trying out two new recipes this week: Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork Roast, from Skinnytaste, and Huli Huli chicken, a Hawaiian favorite. I saw lots of other recipes I’d like to try, but almost all of them called for honey, which we are out of right now, so they’ll have to wait until next month.

Here’s what we’re having this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled chicken & apple sausages; couscous; steamed artichokes (no couscous for me)
  • Wednesday: Grilled teriyaki chicken; zaru soba; cucumber salad (no soba for me – sob!)
  • Thursday: Slow cooker balsamic pork roast; steamed artichokes; bread (no bread for me)
  • Friday: Huli huli chicken; steamed rice; cucumbers (no rice for me)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Whatever Brett and YaYu want to fix
  • Monday: Spaghetti & meatballs w/marinara; grilled zucchini; garlic bread

We’ll need to pick up zucchini, cucumbers, green onions, ginger, papayas and bananas this week at the farmers’ market, and anything Brett or YaYu needs for Sunday. After a couple of slim weeks, cucumbers are in abundance again, so we want to buy several for both our meals and to make some refrigerator pickles. Otherwise, we have everything else needed to prepare this week’s menu.