Friday, January 29, 2016

Fashionably Late -- Humpback Whales

Normally in January we would be knee deep in humpback whales.  This year, they are very late to the party.  Most blame el nino for this occurrence.  Certainly, it has had an effect on our weather as we are experiencing more dry sunny weather than normal on the east side of the Big Island.  

El nino was also responsible for our very busy hurricane season last fall, which thankfully, had no direct impact on Hawaii.

Apparently the whales sent a text message letting everyone know they're still coming but due to the unusually warm waters, they've decided to stop at the ocean buffet for a meal en route.

I am looking forward to seeing them in Hilo Bay -- yes, apparently they stop by for a visit in our back yard.  Maybe, with luck, I'll be able to get some video to share.

Meanwhile, here's a short nature clip for you to enjoy:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Krishna, Party of One

The Lone Krishna

A few years ago while visiting Hilo, we noticed a lone krishna follower downtown.  He was dressed in a t-shirt and robes and sometimes would carry a drum and chant.  Eventually, he had a small group of followers that would sing and march with him throughout downtown.  It made for quite a parade on Saturday mornings.

When we moved to Hilo last fall, we noticed he was back again to being the Lone Krishna. I always smile a little bit when I see him.  He brings back memories from my childhood.

If you were around in the 1970's, you might recall the krishna religion was growing and followers were often found in airports handing out flowers or on street corners singing and dancing.  

If you have ever seen the moving Airplane, you have seen a satirical version of an encounter with krishnas at the airport.  Of course, that is pre-9/11, when anyone could walk out to the gates without any security checks and the krishna would hang out in groups near the gates or by the baggage pickup.

In the early 1970's, my uncle joined the krishnas in San Francisco.  He gave up all of his worldly goods, shaved his head (except for a small ponytail) and donned saffron robes.  I have a vivid memory of a photo taken of my uncle sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace at Christmas in his robes.  He visited every Christmas and we received incense for our presents.  During those years, he always smelled of incense.  He stayed with the cult for nearly ten years.  I recall how odd it was to see him in street clothes and with curly hair after he left.

A few times we visited my uncle at the temple in San Francisco.  As a young child of seven, my memories are of boredom, awful food (lentils and curry), overpowering incense, and much chanting and banging of cymbals.  I recall being shushed often as I attempted to (repeatedly) communicate to my parents how I felt about being there.  It seemed to me if they would just listen to me lay out my case, they would understand and let me go home.

I do recall enjoying looking through the gift shop and always begged to go in there (shush!) to look at all of the shiny brass.  I remember it was during this time my uncle introduced me to Cost Plus as back then they imported many items from India, but I think that was after he left the religion.

As in the movie Airplane, my uncle must have spent a great deal of time proselytizing.  He appeared in the movie The Laughing Policeman (1973) with Walter Matthau, which was filmed in San Francisco. I watched the movie again a few years back, and it is indeed my uncle handing Mr. Matthau a pamphlet on the street corner in his krishna garb.

My memories now are rather fond ones.  Not many people had the experience I did and the uniqueness of it is special to me.

When we were shopping in town today, we noticed The Lone Krishna once again has a follower. 

Krishna, party of two!

Movie Recommendation:  The Laughing Policeman. I would call it a typical 70's dark cop movie.  There are great shots of San Francisco in the early 70's when the Embarcadero Freeway bathed much of the downtown and waterfront areas in shadow.  Buildings were so close to that freeway, it seemed like you could reach out and touch them as you drove by.  Worth a watch for the city scenes alone.

Music Recommendation:  Slow Down Krishna by The Bobs

Monday, January 25, 2016

Making Babies - Pineapple Style

We eat pineapple nearly every day for breakfast.  We go through a pineapple about every two days.  We've been here since September, so you can imagine we have collected quite a few pineapple tops.  

Pineapples are bromeliads and if you are patient, you can re-plant the tops and grow more pineapple. can see my master plan, right?  By now, I envisioned an entire crop of baby pineapples in our backyard.  Well, to grow a pineapple you must be patient.

This is a pineapple top that is a few months old.  It took that long to get the roots to grow -- and the roots need to grow before they can be planted.

We have also started some pineapple seeds. They don't often appear in pineapples, but we have come across a few and are germinating them on some paper towel in a jar.  It takes 30 days for them to sprout and we finally have some with cotyledons.  We just transferred them to potting mix.

So if you come to visit, we will still be eating pineapples from the farmer's market for a couple of years, but eventually we will have our own production.

Now, if we can only keep the neighbors from swiping them in the middle of the night when they are ripe!  No joke.

Have a terrific day wherever you are!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Zappos Happy Returns

Shortly before Christmas, I received an email from Zappos about a new program they were offering.  It is called Zappos Happy Returns.  The first 500 callers to contact them the day after Christmas would receive a $100 gift certificate if you agreed to send them an unwanted gift you received for Christmas.  They will donate all of the items received.

I set my alarm clock for 5:50AM HST so I would be awake in plenty of time to dial my phone at 6AM (8AM Las Vegas time, where Zappos is located).  I managed to be one of the lucky callers and Zappos emailed me a UPS label to use to send in my gift.  That's right, I didn't even have to pay postage for the item I was sending them.  

Today, UPS dropped off a shoe-sized box with my gift certificate inside.  Also received from Zappos in an email was a 20% off code, which means I can now shop for a $125 pair of shoes absolutely free.  How amazing is that?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Moving to Hawaii: How I Pay My Mortgage and Other Things

Image courtesy of Creative Commons

Part of our planning process when we moved to Hawaii was focused on how to pay the bills.  We accepted the fact that our earning power with local employment would be about 50% of what we earned on the mainland (Northern California) and reduced our expenses to match those reduced earnings as much as possible.

The budget is very tight and does not have much room for the little things.  I am talking about some needed things and some wanted things.  I have a penchant for Japanese stationary items as well as art supplies.  Additionally, I expect to purchase a new iPhone some time in the next 12-24 months.

Our basic living expenses are covered by our daytime jobs, but the budget is too tight for too many other expenses right now so I do a little bit of work on the internet mornings and evenings to get some cash I can spend on myself without guilt. Additionally, I can save for the emergency fund and home repairs.

How do I do it?

Right now I use to methods.  Both require little to no training and do not take much time:

Complete Surveys Online
I signed up for and take 10-15 minute surveys.  I usually do a survey in bed before I get up in the morning.  I use my phone or my laptop, whichever is handy.  You earn points (anywhere from 15 to 150 per survey) by answering questions or providing your opinion of new products.  For every 625 points earned, you can get a gift card for $5.  Typically, I earn between $5 and $10 a week in Amazon gift cards.  Or Starbucks -- guilt free (well, except for the calories).  I know it doesn't sound like much, but an extra $50 bucks a month to spend guilt free with very little work sounds good to me.  Looking at it another way, you could earn an extra $500 a year.  That's enough for an iPad.

Become a User Interface (UI) Tester
Back in the fall, I read a great article on about ways to make extra money. If you haven't heard of Trent Hamm's site, I heartily recommend it.  The site is loaded with great actionable tips on saving money, getting out of debt, and making money. 

The article mentioned sites like and where you can sign up to be a website tester.  I signed up for about five of these companies and have had the most success with the two I listed.  Most UI tests take about 20 minutes and you are paid $10 for each test.  $30 an hour for sitting at home talking?  Yep.  

What's the catch and why am I not doing it full time?  Most websites are built for certain demographics and to make sure to get the right testers for the right sites, you have to answer a pre-test questionnaire.  If you are not the right fit, you can't user test.  What this means in my experience is that typically, you fit about one test a day and you can expect to make $100 to $200 a month if you are logged in for several hours each day.  The companies pay via paypal and you are sent a 1099 annually for tax purposes.  You need a microphone (I use my iPhone earbuds), reliable internet, and need a quiet, distraction free place to test.

With these two simple ways to make additional money, I can earn about $2000  extra per year to either save or spend as I like without dipping into the family budget.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mohinders Shoes -- Product Review

Mohinders Shoes - Women's Flats

Cruising around Instagram in December, I came across an interesting company called Mohinders Shoes.  I was intrigued and checked out their website. 

They offer handmade leather shoes made in India.  

Typically, I am disappointed with small shoe companies as I wear a size 11 women's shoe and many companies don't makes shoes bigger than a women's size 10.  I really liked the styles, however, and kept looking through their site.  

I found that for the women's flat they actually recommend you order down a size and they make sizes up to 10 for women.  Success!

I was super excited and attempted to order a pair. Being a small company sizes and styles go in and out of stock quickly.  I signed up for their waiting list and within a week I received an email that my size was back in stock.  I immediately ordered a pair and in three days, they were in my hands and on my feet.

Mohinder's shoes recommend that not only do you order a full size smaller (for the women's flats only), but the shoes should actually be tight when you get them.  Surprisingly, they were not too short, as I had feared, but my little toes pinched a bit.  Having trawled through instagram, I had seen comments that this was common.  I wore them around the house for the first evening and they stretched right out.  I instagrammed my new shoes and mentioned the fit and received a comment back within just a few minutes from Mohinders advising me to keep wearing them and to contact them should I need any assistance at all.  Don't you just love social media when it's at its best?  I surely do.

Like all natural leather products, they started to develop a patina and molded to my feet.  I have very high arches and they do not rub on the tops of my feet at all. 

They are extremely comfortable.

They remind me of a more stylish version of the huaraches I used to buy in Mexico when I was a teenager (eons ago).  Back in the day, I always had to purchase men's styles from the cobblers in Guadalajara because my feet are so large.  I loved how they fit and felt on my feet.  The natural leather wore like iron, but the style always left me a bit wanting.  I wanted the cute styles that were made for women.  

Now I have something very close to just that.

Mohinders takes it a step further by adding a crepe sole so you won't slip on smooth floors (like concrete sidewalks, which used to happen).

You can read all about their story on their website.  Here's a link:

I recommend them!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Where We Live: The Afternoon Chicken

So, we have chickens that live down the street.  

They're not exactly feral and they're not exactly domesticated.  They're somewhere in between.  They roam freely throughout the neighborhood, coming as close as the neighbor's property, but they go home to roost at night.  I am not certain whether the "owner" feeds them or not.  Certainly there's plenty to eat in Hawaii just in what grows by the side of the road and in the yards.  In fact, bird feeders are strongly discouraged as birds have enough to eat and the excess seed encourages rats and mongoose.

Hens lay eggs more or less daily.  Generally egg laying occurs in the morning, but it can happen anytime during daylight hours.  We have lots of hens in our neighborhood and they all pretty much lay their eggs in the morning -- except for one.

One hen likes to lay her egg in the afternoons.  
And she bitches about it.  Every.  Single. Time.  

You can just about set your watch by her.  The afternoon chicken goes on and on. Bitching and moaning about the task at hand.  We smile at each other in acknowledgement when its "Hen-thirty" and listen to her lay what must be the world's first square egg.

We seem to have a new clutch of chicks every few weeks.  I am not certain what's eating the chickens (maybe the owner) but we don't have a population explosion on our hands.  Rooster count is three or four.  I am very glad they live several houses away.  Just far enough to be pleasant, thankfully.  

This city girl always wanted chickens when she was growing up.  Every summer I went to sleep away camp at a ranch for two weeks.  One of my favorite memories is the sounds of the chickens in the lazy afternoons when we were supposed to be napping in the heat of the day.  Their "rrrrr  rrrrr rrrrrr-ing" noise is difficult to describe, but they comfort each other with the sound and it comforts me as well.  

We are in the city and the country at the same time.

It's one of the things I love about living in Hilo.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Chuck Norris vs. Communism

I just finished watching the documentary Chuck Norris vs. Communism and I  recommend it.  

Romania in the 1980's was one of the most closed countries in recent history.  

I worked with a young man in the late 1980's who had fled Romania a few years earlier.  Other than to say Ceaucescu was evil, he would not speak of his life before coming to the USA.  I had never seen someone who had such a hate of another person and yet, he was a very light-hearted fellow.  I enjoyed working with him and was always curious to know more about his life, but he chose not to discuss it.  I would have liked to hear his story about how his family made it out.

If you would like to see a good film depicting this era, I would recommend 4 Months, 3 weeks, and 2 days.  I think it's portrayal of Romania during that time must be fairly accurate.  

Romania was allied with Eastern Germany and everyone was spying on everyone else in the mid to late 1980's.  It is amazing that VHS tapes were  allowed to be circulated in such a closed society.  Allowed is probably too free a word.  Officials looked the other way.  They were viewed as insignificant and since everyone (including the party leaders) enjoyed them so much, nothing much was done about them.

Clearly they were not insignificant.  They were one more thing that helped to bring down down communism in Romania.  They provided a window, albeit a flawed one, to the west.  So many heroes in 1980's movies.  So many individuals risking it all for change.  Surely this did have an impact.

In reading articles about the overthrow of Ceausescu, people were ready for change.  The austerity campaign, started in 1980, was designed to pay off $10B in debt.  Everything, it seems, was rationed.  Nine years of this and folks had had enough.  With easy access to Radio Free Europe and western films, Romanians knew there was a better life just across the border.

Here's a link to the Wikipedia article about the Romanian revolution.  I encourage you to read further.  It appears Ceausescu had very few supporters in the end.  I am not surprised.  I am remembering the look on my friend's face when he mentioned Ceausescu's name.

I would also encourage you to read about North Korea, a country even more closed off than Romania in the 1980's.  There are a few documentaries out there.  I recommend Inside North Korea.  It's on YouTube:  

In North Korea today the lesson has been taken to heart: no outside influences are tolerated.  To possess a tape or to view one and get caught earns you a one way ticket to a labor camp.  One you likely will never leave.

May your day be a better one.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Late to the Party -- Stainless Steel Cleaner

I've never owned stainless steel appliances, but I do have a few items (Berkley water filter, kitchen trash can, coffee maker) that are either stainless steel or have a plastic finish that has a stainless steel look.  

I have always felt that my regular all purpose kitchen cleaner and window cleaner never did them justice.  On a whim, I purchased some stainless steel cleaning wipes the other day at Target.  

Man, have I been missing out!  I cannot believe how easy it is now to get my stainless steel items bright and shiny.  

I tell you, it's the little things.

Here's what I bought and I definitely recommend it:

Weiman Stainless Steel Wipes

They say they are non-toxic, but they also don't recommend eating them or wiping your eyes with them.

Go ahead, get some.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

PBS in January -- Stream It for Free

Sherlock on PBS

One of the downsides to streaming TV is I have found that it is nearly impossible for me to watch television programs on anyone's schedule but my own.  Broadcast tv does have some shows I would like to watch, but anything after 9pm is definitely out (I'm in reading in bed by then) and putting tv shows in my calendar just seems odd to me.  

Fortunately, I can get my PBS fix by streaming and it's free.  I'll tell you how and what shows look good right now.

You can stream PBS shows in HD for free through either a Roku device or Apple tv.  I suspect Google Play and Amazon Fire also offer PBS. Scroll through your channel options and you will find PBS.  Netflix, Amazon, and Apple will also take you hard earned money and rent or sell you the shows, but PBS always has them for free, albeit for a limited time, so be sure you find the PBS channel and stream you content for free.

You can also stream PBS' offerings on your computer, tablet, or phone also for free.  Just download their app.  They have improved the viewing experience though their app, so if it's been more than six months, you may want to try this option again.  The interface for me wasn't stable and the app would often crash, but they have fixed those issues.

Here's what I'm watching on PBS in January:

  • Sherlock -- Season 4.  I cannot recall a pair that has more on screen chemistry than these two actors.  I am so glad they did another season and  I cannot wait to watch.  It appears to have been shown January 1 and will be rebroadcast on January 10 (at 10pm) and available on on January 11.  Watch this one while you can.  I don't know if January 11 is the only day it is available.
  • Downton Abbey, the Final Season.  Yes, I'm watching it and unless you've been living in a cave for the last four years, you know about it and are either in our out.
  • Mercy Street -- Civil War, Ridley Scott, PBS.  Starts on January 17th and should be available to view online the following day.  I am intrigued!  I love period dramas.
  • In Defense of Food -- Michael Pollan.  I haven't watched yet, but at least one episode is up and ready to view.
  • Chuck Norris vs. Communism -- Independent Lens.  Not sure when this is going to be viewable, but I've added it to my watchlist.  The 80's in Romania.  Movies that sparked a revolution.  Can't wait!

What are you watching these days?  What do you recommend?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Headspace...Follow up

I have been using Headspace for a few months now.  I meditate nearly every day and I am really enjoying the process.  

After the 30 day basic pack, I started in on the anxiety pack and finished that.  Did it help?  I believe it is the reason my anxiety is now greatly reduced.  I still occasionally get that sudden anxious feeling, but it note it and move on.  And it subsides.  Like a miracle.  I am working through the Appreciation pack now.  I am not sure it is resonating with me and I might move on to Relationships. 

I purchased an entire year and do not have any regrets spending the money.

Has it improved my relationships?  Well being?  I believe it has improved those things too, although I will always be a work-in-progress.  I note in my calendar my good days and bad days emotionally.  

I recently had a string of 14 good days.  

Considering as recently as six months ago, I was hitting one good day in two weeks, I'd say something is working and I will keep using Headspace to meditate just in case it's the key (I do think it is one of several things that are working for me right now).

I'll give you another update in a few months' time and see how it's going.  Meanwhile, if meditation is something you've been considering, please give it a try.  

Don't have time to meditate?  Sounds like me.  You can set the length of meditation time to as little as ten minutes.  Ten minutes.  You can find that, right? 

You can download Headspace to your smartphone via the appropriate app store and get it free for ten days.  Plug in your earbuds and you are ready to go.

Have you tried Headspace?  Let me know in the comments.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Do You Know Who Makes Your Clothes?

Do you know where your clothes are made?  

via Creative Commons

Most people don't unless they check the label.

If you've been anywhere on the internet in the last few years, there has been more and more information about the conditions in which most clothing is made on this planet.  Sweatshops employing children in terrible conditions are the stories you typically hear.

However, even as recently as thirty years ago (the 1980's), it was not too hard to find a substantial amount of clothing made in America.  Levi's jeans, for one.  All over the southeast of the US, there were clothing mills that made nearly all the t-shirts worn in America.  

They are all gone now.  Many people blame the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Having done some research, it makes sense.  So many manufacturers have moved off shore.

It has been difficult for a long time to find clothes made in America, but if you google search for them, you can find companies.  

Why does it matter?

It matters because in order for us to be a healthy nation, we must adopt the concept that we need to take care of each other (conservative republicans, please move along now and click on Fox News' webpage to read something trashy about Obama instead).  

We need to consider how what we purchase impacts the health of the country as a whole.  Every time we choose to purchase something off shore, we are impacting our country.  When all of the mills closed down in the southeast in the 1980's, it affected everyone in those communities regardless of where they were employed.  Those wages and their economic benefit for the region was completely removed.  Thirty years later, the impact is still felt in this region.

Every time we move business offshore, it impacts us as a country.  Sure, dollars are saved for corporations and stocks may rise because of it, but it is cutting the middle class out of our country and in the long term is not sustainable.

While it would be extremely difficult to purchase an entire wardrobe made in the USA, (I find undergarments and shoes to be a real challenge), consider next time purchasing clothing made in the US.  

One company I have had the pleasure to purchase from over the years is Love Your Peaches Clothing Co.  They are based in rural New York and the clothes are made to order.  The only caveat is you have to be plus-sized to fit into their clothes but there are other companies out there like them, you just have to seek them out.

More than half of my clothes come from Love Your Peaches.  My favorite fabric for clothing is linen, and Janelle Lowe, owner of Love Your Peaches, designs a whole line of linen clothing.  She also designs swim suits.  Colors and styles are updated a couple of times a year. 

The clothes are well made and last for years.  I am 5' 11" and ordering longer length clothing is no trouble at all.  In fact, you can select most of your specifications (length, long or short sleeves, etc.) right when you order.  Need more adjustments than length?  You can do that, too.  Just contact Janelle and likely she can make it happen.

At first you might think the clothes are expensive.  I would beg to differ.  I have sewn my own clothing and considered as a cost savings to do so again.  Pricing quality linen yardage at retail prices, I quickly realized I would spend very close to the same amount sewing my own clothes that I was already paying for clothing from Love Your Peaches. And I can guarantee the pants from Love Your Peaches will fit me better than I can ever sew.  

I encourage you to explore where your clothes are made and if, like me, you are plus-sized, give Love Your Peaches a look.  I doubt you will be disappointed.

Do you care where your clothes are made?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Gratitude in the New Year

I have come to the conclusion that gratitude, with practice, can be learned.

Gratitude and Rust, by Shannon Kringen

I keep encountering the word GRATITUDE in books, tv programs, the internet, everywhere I go and it has caught my attention.

It was discussed in a documentary I watched called Happy (on Netflix).  Last spring I attended a seminar at work that had a segment on starting a gratitude journal. It seems I see a reference on the internet on a near daily basis.

I intend to spend 2016 exercising my gratitude muscle.

Gratitude and happiness are closely linked, according to Harvard Health, and many other sources.

"After 10 weeks, those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation."

I am starting a gratitude journal exercise and I encourage you to do the same.
Each day I am going to write down four things I for which I am grateful in my daily journal:

Would you like to join me?
If you don't journal already, you can keep a simple book to write down daily at least three things.  Any sort of book will do.  You can keep it in your nightstand and write them down just before bed.

I don't intend to go back an reflect on the items, but I may.  I think it is the action of calling up the things and writing them down that is important -  so the type of book you use is not.

I don't know how I will measure my success, but I'll follow up in a few months and let you know my findings.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Firecrackers New Year's Eve in Hilo Hawaii

On New Year's Eve, we set off a total of 5,000 firecrackers.  Here's a string of 2,500.  All types of fireworks are popular in Hawaii, but these are the special strands that are used at New Year's.  Enjoy!

15% off

The other day I mentioned the site  She imports beautifully hand made jewelry and ceramic functional art from Cambodia.  I follow her on Instagram and she just posted they are having a 15% off sale site wide until January 8, 2016.  

The discount code is:  HOLIDAY15  <-- a="" font="" not="" s="" that="" typo="">

I love her ceramic designs, particularly the vase/jewelry box and the small hand dish.  

Remember, prices are in Australian dollars.  The conversion to US Dollars is very favorable right now (our prices are about 25% cheaper).  When I put the vase I like in the cart, added shipping, and the 15% discount, my US price is 58.06 ($79.65 in AUD).

Let me know if you place an order.  I've already got something in my cart and am ready to push the button.

Have a great day!

Friday, January 1, 2016

coconut chia pudding

Happy New Year's to you!
Here's a recipe for a great start to the new year.

Coconut Chia Pudding

I used to make this recipe all the time.  It is a great snack or even a breakfast food.  I like it when I have a hankering for something a little sweet before bed. As usual, I'd like to start the new year resolving to eat a little better and this recipe is healthy and easy!

Coconut Chia Pudding
Mix all items together in a bowl and pour into the jars.  If you are using a pint sized jar, you can pour everything straight into the jar, seal it tightly, and shake shake shake.

Leave in the refrigerator overnight and enjoy.  Sometimes I put a little into a bowl and add fresh fruit.  Other times, I just scoop out a spoonful and nibble away.

Let me know if you give this recipe a try!