Monday, February 29, 2016

Instant Pot - Hardboiled Eggs

Bev Sykes via Creative Commons
Lately I've been using the Instant Pot to make my hard boiled eggs.  It's dead easy and you can still control the doneness of the eggs.  Additionally, because the eggs are steamed, they are easy peelers about 90% of the time.

Here's what you are going to need:

  • Eggs -- I cook nine at a time
  • Instant Pot
  • Instant Pot wire steamer insert
  • 1 cup water
Plug in the Instant Pot and place the steamer insert inside.  Add a cup of water to the pot.  Carefully place your eggs on the rack inside the Instant Pot.  I read somewhere that the eggs should not be touching to reduce the possibility of breakage.  I just put them on the rack and keep them from touching, but I don't worry if they roll together and touch a bit.  Just don't crowd them.

Secure the pressure cooker lid on the Instant Pot and make sure the vent on the top is set to the CLOSED position.  Press the steam function and adjust the time down to between two and four minutes and let the Instant Pot get to work.

TIME:  Currently I use 3 which produces what I would call a lightly boiled egg.  The inside center is just the teeniest bit soft.  I want to try 2 minutes to see if I can get a softer boil.  Four minutes produces a fully hard boiled egg suitable for deviled eggs.

When the Instant Pot beeps at the end of the cycle, vent the excess pressure (you can put a cloth over the vent to capture the steam) and remove the lid once the pressure is normalized.  Remove your eggs (I use a set of silicone covered tongs) to an ice bath and let them rest for five minutes or so.  Our daughter likes to eat them warm, so I don't let them sit in the cold water very long.  This step is important, however, as it helps the egg release from the shell, improving the likelihood of an easy peel.

Do you have an Instant Pot?  What recipes do you like to make?



Friday, February 26, 2016

Local vs. Organic -- Sometimes You Have to Make a Choice

via Creative Commons

Obviously, local and organic is the best choice.  In our new home, sometimes we have to make a choice.  Living 2,500 miles from everywhere has an impact in our food buying choices.

In the past, we have always had access to local and organic dairy products  
There are very few dairies in Hawaii.  Literally a handful.  I think there are two left on the Big Island and two others in the state.  That's why milk on Maui is so bloody expensive.  The two dairies on the Big Island may be merging and who knows how long they will stay in business.  They do not produce organic milk due to the high cost of shipping organic feed from the mainland.  

Here's a link to an article that talks about the dairy industry in Hawaii and the difficulties faced with producing local milk at a high cost.  Thankfully an agreement was reached and, for now, we will still be able to get local milk.  

Unfortunately, there is no local organic supplier of milk.  As with many places, the sale of raw milk for human consumption is illegal.  All milk that is shipped in from the mainland is ultra pasteurized and therefore unsuitable for making yogurt (which I make every two weeks).  Additionally, our daughter says there is an odd taste to the milk that is ultra pasteurized.  I cannot detect it, but I do think the local milk tastes more like milk.  

So what to do?  Organic or Local?  The answer is not always easy, but in the case of living on an island, where at any given time the supply of food in grocery stores and warehouses is only seven days for the population, I am going to choose local.  I am going to choose to support the local food growers as much as I can.

The local supermarket, KTA, has created a food brand called, Mountain Apple.  All products under the Mountain Apple label are produced on the Big Island.  KTA has sourced local food for about 30 years and has really done a great deal to support the local economy and specifically food growers.  I seek out this brand as much as I can and if you visit the Big Island, I would recommend you do too.  The food is affordable and fresh and you will be supporting the local economy in a meaningful way.

 


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Where We Live -- Our Neighbors



When I'm home, I often think our lives could be hash tagged with #SingleWallLife.  

When you live in a single walled dwelling with the windows constantly open, you get to know your neighbors whether you want to or not. 

We have lived many places over the years and often have had a close connection to at least one of our neighbors, but in Hawaii, it goes to a whole new level. 

Here's the lowdown:
  • There's a guy down the street near the chickens that coughs up a lung every morning.  We can hear him from nearly every part of the house. HowManyLungsDoUHave
  • The guy next door snores.  Loudly.  Every night. If I get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I can hear him sawing logs. #HowDoesSheStandIt
  • The same house loves to drink on the weekends.  We have lost count of the number of times the following steps have occurred:
    1. Drinking
    2. Loud singing -- usually Country Home by John Denver
    3. Passing out
    4. Puking
    5. Threats to pour all the liquor in the house down the toilet
    6. Showering
    7. Snoring 
    8. #FutureLiverTransplant
  • Two houses next door to each other across the street are occupied with elderly folks that went to elementary school together. #OMGSoCute
  • Lots of kids in the yard behind us, but mostly on weekends.  I would guess shared custody.  Those kids love to play outside and I have yet to hear them fight.  The sound of kids happily playing is a joyous thing. #Princesses
  • Our other next door neighbor who insists Larry call her grandma, when I suspect she is only about ten years older than him. #HeAintThatYoung
  • Family just down the street that is three generations.  So much laughter heard from this home.  Very few arguments, but when they occur they are often the young couple, and man, are they entertaining.  Remember the fights you had with your partner when you were twenty?  #Drama
  • Neighbors up the street.  We refer to them as the Winchesters.  If you don't know about Sarah Winchester, check out the Winchester Mystery House.  Much like Sarah Winchester, this family just keeps expanding their house, although I doubt they have built stairways to nowhere like Sarah did. #KeepBuilding
  • Neighbors across the street.  The sweetest couple you could ever meet.  They've lived there over twenty years.  The heart of the neighborhood and very welcoming.  They bring us food and plant starts all the time and we reciprocate with butter mochi. #DaBest
The folks that walk by the house are equally entertaining.  Our realtor, who is super informed about Hilo, advised us that our street was often used to cut through to 7-11, so we knew this in advance of our purchase.  Her description was spot on.  I'm a people watcher, so what could be better than having a show 24/7 right outside my door?  

We get people walking by day and night heading to or from the store.  They are on foot, on skateboard, on electric scooter, electric wheelchair, and bicycle.  An amazing number do this while chatting on the phone.  In fact, I have never seen so many people talking on cell phones.  I use mine so rarely to make calls that sometimes I forget that is supposed to be it's primary function.  Around here, people use their phones to make t-e-l-e-p-h-o-n-e  c-a-l-l-s.  

At work, when I mention where we live, sometimes I get a funny look that says, "why would someone not from around here choose that neighborhood to buy a house?"  Living this closely to other people is not for the uninformed or faint of heart and the locals know it.

I find it vastly entertaining and would not change it for the world.  I am not here to live tentatively.  I want to grab life with both hands and hold on for a crazy ride and I want a neighborhood that is alive in both good ways and bad.  I want to experience everything Hawaii has to offer and to do that I need to live at it's heart and the heart of Hawaii is it's people...#AllOfUs.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Reviews - TryMyUI.com and UserTesting.com

I have been performing website usability testing for several companies since November.  I have done the most tests for User Testing (over 50) and Try My UI (about 10).  Both sites are similarly run in that you get paid $10 per website test.  

User Testing has been a way to consistently make some extra money while working at home.  Besides the usual testing, they do surveys to do more focused testing, which can earn you significantly more money for not much more time.  In early December I participated on a panel, where I gave 20 minutes' worth of feedback for seven days and earned $150.  User Testing consistently pays seven days after testing and there have been zero issues.  I also rarely encounter issues with their testing software.  Testers are generally screened prior to being approved to do a particular test and it is really hit-or-miss as to whether I am selected.  That being said, I have earned nearly $700 over a two month period.  I recommend this company.  They do exactly what they state and have been very professional every time I have spoken with or had a discussion via email.  

TryMyUI.com has been much more inconsistent.  I have had a number of issues with accepting tests only to be told another tester completed the test after I had started the test.  I have also had issues with websites not functioning that have taken a number of tries and phone calls to TryMyUI.com to resolve (at the risk of receiving a bad user review and ranking.  By the way, their website states "talk to a live person" and provides a phone number.  To date, I have telephoned them four times during normal working hours and got Google voice mail every single time. I have also followed up with an email.  They currently owe me $70 and $50 of that is past due per their payment guidelines.  Because of this and their non response, I cannot recommend this company.  Should my issue of non-payment be corrected, I will update this review.

Update:  After several emails and phone calls (none of which were responded to), I received payment for my outstanding tests.  I would recommend TryMyUI with reservations.  I do continue to test with them, but it is not the first site I go to when seeking work.

Friday, February 19, 2016

An Afternoon at the Library

We recently spent an afternoon at the Hilo Public Library. It is one of my favorite buildings in town with an open courtyard with covered searing on four sides. 

Here is a clip showing the interior.  It is such a peaceful place to visit and linger.




It was raining lightly and the gurgling from the downspouts along with the rain drops created a white noise symphony. Larry was doing research (i.e. Reading books they won't let you check out) and I was going through the weekly grocery market ads. I also found three novels to read:


  • The Girl in the Spider's Web
  • Death by Water 
  • Trust No One

The Girl in the Spider's Web is the continuation of the Millennium series by Steig Larsen. I started in on it right away. I had recently downloaded the audio book from the library but kept falling asleep while trying to listen to it at night. It's a "hot pick" which means the check out time is only seven days instead of 21. Since it was a holiday weekend coming up, it was a good time to hunker down for some good reading. My expectations were low however since I really didn't think someone else could fill Steig Larsen's shoes. 

I finished it las night and enjoyed it.  I won't say it was as captivating as the original three novels, but it was a good read and I do recommend it.


Death by Water is now on my nightstand and I'll start it sometime today.  It's by the Nobel Prize winning author Kenzaburo Oe.  I'm going in blind as I have not googled the author or his work.  I'll let you know what I think.


Trust No One is by Jayne Ann Krenz is strictly lightweight reading and I expect to finish that one off in an afternoon.  I have ready many of Ms. Krenz's books and generally enjoy them.


I love that this library has a large set of shelves just inside the door with all of the new and hot books just waiting to be checked out.  It is easy to find something to read even when you are not sure what you wanted to read when you walked in.  I also like that the "hot picks" books are available to pick up rather than waiting for months for a popular book to become available.


I have fond memories of the little library in our neighborhood where I grew up.  It was in a 1920's english cottage style house next to an elementary school.  My siblings and I each had our own book bag hand sewn by my aunt.  We would go weekly to the library and pick out as many books as would fit in the bag.  Sadly, we stopped going after my mother went back to work, but they were good times while they lasted. Would you believe I still have that book bag?  

Here it is!


Yep, my nickname was Re.  A long time ago.

Do you visit the library?  Let me know in the comments below!




Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Tomatoes in Hawaii



I've mentioned before that it is difficult to grow tomatoes in backyards in Hawaii due to nematodes that kill the plants as soon as they sprout.  They are expensive in the stores and somewhat cheaper at the Farmers Market ($2 for three small/medium size fruits).  I miss them.  So I did some research online and found the University of Hawaii at Manoa College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources' website.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Here is their paper on growing tomatoes in Hawaii.  You can also purchase seeds from them online here. I am so excited to be placing an order.  I am going to try all three varieties of bush tomatoes.  They are currently out of cucumbers, but I'll be checking back as they are also expensive in stores and at the farmers market.  

I am very excited to become a tomato gardener once again!  

Monday, February 15, 2016

Using iPhone's Assistive Touch Technology

I recently read about a work around that will allow you to take screen shots on your iPhone if either your on/off button or your home button is broken or you just wish to have an easier way to screen shot your phone with just one hand.

In the iPhone's software, there is an Assistive Touch function.  When you turn it on, you will have access to a special screen button on your phone that when pressed, brings up a mini menu that will allow you a number of functions.  

My old iPhone 5 is over four years old and the on/off button has nearly bit the dust.  Additionally, I have to take my cover off to access the button.  It can easily take ten tries to simultaneously press the on/off button and the home button at the same time.  This is frustrating as I use the screen shot function a great deal.

To turn on Assistive Touch, go to Settings, then select General.  Scroll down and you will see AssistiveTouch.

Turn it on and you are ready to go.




Once you activate it, you will see a small ghost-like button appear on your screen.  Is it in the way?  You can actually move it around on your screen anytime you need to.  Go ahead and press the button. There's your mini menu.  These buttons are customizable to a certain degree.

I am happy I found this clever work-around and use it all the time.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Avocado, the Poor Man's Butter



I remember being in a small store in downtown Hilo a few years ago when the shopkeeper's friend came in to give her a scone as a treat.  She said, "Oh, I just need some avocado to butter it with".  

Being a curious sort, I butted in and she was happy to explain to me that when she was little (I am going to guess she was in her 70's or 80's at the time of our conversation), butter was too expensive for families to afford so they always used avocado as a spread instead.  Avocados literally fall off the trees around here and thus, are very inexpensive.  There are also many different varieties, Haas not being one of them.  You can find them three to a dollar at farmer's markets.  

They are a superfood and loaded with fiber and good fats.  I am trying to incorporate them more into my diet and I love them on toast.  I love that making healthy food choices is often the most affordable option around here.


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Our Diet - Farmers Markets and Local Food


We go to the farmer's market in Hilo twice a week:  on Wednesdays and Saturdays.  Typically we spend $20-30 per visit.  We purchase several hands of bananas (typically apple, lady finger, and williams) at $1 a pound, one or two pineapples at $3.50 each, and papayas (currently five for $2).  Because it's winter and mangoes are out of season, they are pricey when they are for sale.  We will occasionally buy a couple as they are such a treat.  Rambutan are in season now, but I prefer lychee and pulasan, which are somewhat similar fruit, where you peel the exterior and eat the flesh that is around the seed.  During our last trip to the farmers market, one seller had rambutan that was so fresh we bought two pounds.  Often rambutan looks limp or slightly wilted, particularly if they are bagged.  These were still firm and boy were they tasty. $3 a pound (about a dozen fruit). Star fruit are also in season, but I've never been a fan.  They are waxy and don't taste like much to me (your mileage may differ).  

Often for lunch, I will have a second bowl of fruit.  I just never seem to tire of it.       

Eating fresh local food is such a treat.  We eat fish about three times a week and it is locally caught.  Grass fed beef is also readily available.  I purchase locally raised and butchered beef at KTA, our local supermarket, for $5.99 a pound.  KTA has many Big Island grown products and they are easy to identify because KTA packages them under the Mountain Apple brand.  

When it's not too rainy, local eggs can be found at the farmer's market.  Going rate is $6 a dozen.  If it's been raining too much, the chickens go on strike and we have to buy mainland eggs at the store.  They are somehow treated to last longer.  I think maybe they are pasteurized.  We can get them on sale for $7 for two dozen but of course, they never taste as good.

We also buy our coffee and macadamia nuts at the farmers market, although we have to shop around for the best prices.  There's one guy who drives up from Ka'u who sells coffee for $18 a pound.  Now that Starbucks has discovered Ka'u coffee, that's a good price as often it sells for $30 a pound or more.  We haven't seen him at the market the last several visits and we will need to buy non-local beans.

We found one lady that sells macadamia nuts for $22 for three pounds.  They are roasted, unsalted, and vacuum packed.  They yield about three pints of macadamia nut butter, which is delicious but usually expensive.  Eight ounces costs about $11 at the store.

We generally go just to the Hilo farmers market, but sometimes on Sundays we will go out to the Makuu market near Pahoa.  This market has lots of cooked food and often feels a little more like a flea market with plants and used items for sale.  If you are visiting, I would recommend you take a drive out there on a Sunday morning and plan to eat breakfast.  It's no more than 20 minutes from downtown Hilo.

Have a great day!




Monday, February 8, 2016

Good to Know: Amazon Lockers

I was watching a YouTube video on sailing the other day and the crew stopped off in San Diego to provision.  They stopped at an Amazon Locker location to pick up packages.

Amazon Locker?  What?!

I did a little research:  You can place an order at Amazon.com and have it delivered to a designated locker location where you go pick it up.


I certainly can take advantage of this next time I am traveling, should I need something and can't easily pick it up somewhere nearby.  

Here's a great video on how Amazon Locker works:





Let me know if you have heard about this service and if you would use it.

Have a great day!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Moving to Hawaii, the East Side of the Big Island, Part 4

Moving to Hawaii

The East Side of the Big Island


Part 4


Here are links to parts 1 through 3:
Moving to Hawaii, the East Side fo the Big Island, part 2 
Liliuokalani Park and Gardens



Final Attempt and Success!


I spent many months doing online research, discussing options with our realtor, and even considering (gasp!) not purchasing property in Hawaii.  

We experienced some life changing events (death, accidents, illness, etc.) in that time that furthered our resolve to move while we were still young enough to enjoy life fully. 

During the last few years, we had been saving as much money as we could.  I also reached out to a mortgage broker and discovered the lenders had eased up recently and down payments of less than 20% were now possible, freeing up some of our ready cash for the move.  This meant we had sufficient funds to consider purchasing a home, if we could find one we could afford.

About eight months ago, I contacted USAA for a referral to a real estate agent in the Hilo area.  If you have access to USAA, I do recommend this service.  We were hooked up with a great agent to has lived and worked in the area for many years.  If you use a referred realtor (you do not have to use their mortgage services, although you can), you will be eligible for a rebate after the close of your home.  We received $950, not a bad deal at all, and were pleased with the service we received.

I started working with our agent about six weeks before our next trip to the Big Island, which was for a long Memorial Day weekend.  If you are planning to look at homes while on vacation, it is a very good idea to make sure your agent will be available during your stay, particularly if you are visiting during a holiday. 

Our initial discussion focused on what our interests were regarding size and location.  Over the years, we had narrowed it down to Upper Puna, Volcano, and South Hilo.  We also were looking for a smaller (hopefully more affordable) home with one to three bedrooms.  We were also looking for long term accessibility (little to no dirt roads) and as I am risk adverse, I wanted lava zone 3 or higher.  I wanted to keep my options open, however, in case there was a property that wasn't exactly what I thought I wanted that turned out to be perfect for us so I also told our realtor to send us any other properties that caught her eye but didn't fall in within our guidelines.

 Over the next few weeks, our agent sent us listings to review online.  We looked at well over 100 properties and narrowed our search to about 20 that we wanted to look at over a two day period.  That list narrowed a bit further due to properties that went into escrow and our agent's recommendations regarding neighborhoods.  I would say I probably spent no less than 32 hours looking at properties during a one month time.

Meanwhile, I began working with a local mortgage broker to pre-qualify and begin the loan process.  I found it much easier this time around.  We were pre-qualified and ready to look at properties, and hopefully, make an offer.

About a week prior to our trip to the Big Island, we gave our final list of properties to our realtor so she could make preparations for us to visit the places that interested us.  I did not limit the list based on missing or bad photos.  I wanted to keep all of our options open.  I did notice a disturbing trend toward highly stylized or photoshopped images that were very pretty to view but were completely useless when trying to critically view properties online.

We met with our realtor the day after we arrived in Hilo ready to spend the tow days looking at properties.  The day prior, she had contacted all of the listing agents to be sure the properties were still available and viewable.  

A few of the properties were rented so she needed to work with the agents and the sellers to give the proper 72 hour notice to the tenants.  I read somewhere that it takes significantly longer to sell a home if it is rented.  In Hawaii, 72 hours' notice must be given to the tenants so I certainly believe this could be true.  

Additionally, if we wanted to view a rented property a second time, we would again have to be sure 72 hours' notice is provided, meaning we would have to wait three days to look at any rented properties we were interested in again.  Challenging if you are on island for just a short period of time.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

We looked at a lot of properties in two days.  Some should have been red-tagged (if there is such a thing in Hawaii).  Our realtor stepped through the floor in one of the kitchens.  A couple we just opened the door and peered in.  Traditionally, one takes their shoes off before entering a home in Hawaii. There were several times our realtor looked at us and said, "shoes on".  We listened.

I learned a lot in two days.  

I learned how to tell the difference between piles of dead fire ants and the piles of termite poops that resemble coffee grounds (just about every home had one or the other or both).  We learned about single wall vs. double walled homes, types of windows (or in one case, lack thereof), foundations (post and pier vs. poured cement), which neighborhoods had piped water, and which had sewer (hint: very few).  

We looked at homes ranging in price from less than $100,000 to nearly $300,000.  At the end of two days, I could tell you which ones were under $100,000, but I couldn't tell you which ones were over $200,000.  Aesthetically, I could no longer tell the difference.

In the end, we purchased the second house we looked at.  It hit nearly all the marks:  location, covered parking, size, price, condition.

In the next installment, I will discuss in detail the aspects of moving to Hawaii should be considered.  After that, I will delve into the particulars of moving to the Big Island.

I hope you will stay tuned.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Instant Pot - Hardboiled Eggs

I love using my Instant Pot.  It is extremely energy efficient and does not heat up my home, even when cooking for long periods of time.

Hard boiling eggs is dead easy in the Instant Pot and they come out perfect every time.  

I use the steamer insert and add about 1 1/4 cups of water to the pot.  In go the eggs.  I try to leave a little space around each egg and find I can easily fit nine in at a time.

Close and seal the lid.  Make sure the steam vent is in the closed position.  Select steam and adjust the time down to four minutes.  This will give you a hard boiled egg.  Three minutes will be a soft boil.

The Instant Pot will do the rest.  When it's done, vent the steam.  A neat trick is to put a dish towel over the steam vent which will keep the steam from going everywhere.  Open the lid and transfer the eggs to an ice bath.

I find these eggs peel perfectly every time and no broken ones!

Have a great day!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Adventures in Water Kefir, Part 5 "He's Dead Jim"



Here are the links to the first four parts of my water kefir saga:
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4


Oh man, I thought I'd killed my water kefir.  

I woke up the other morning and neither the first ferment bottle nor the second ferment bottle were showing any signs of life.  I tentatively tasted the second ferment bottle and it was flat and sugary tasting.  It should be effervescent and slightly vinegary tasting.  I started to panic.  What had I done wrong?  

It's true that working with the water kefir every day for months, I really don't pay a lot of attention so it was possible I had made a mistake.  I decided to set it aside and figured I would research it later to see if I could come up with an answer.  

Well, I procrastinated an entire day and the next morning it was showing signs of life!

Reflecting back, I realized the nights have gotten considerably cooler (down to the low 60's) and the daily highs were barely reaching 80.  In a single walled home with no heat, your outdoor temperatures are your indoor temperatures.  This is generally true within just a couple of degrees.  My water kefir is now taking 48 hours on both the first and second fermentations due to the cooler temperatures.  So, for now, less water kefir for me unless I want to bump up my production to a half gallon again until the temperatures come back up in a month or so.

The good news?  It's been cold enough at night that the coqui frogs have been relatively quiet!

Stay tuned.