Now is exactly the right time to craft gin

I have a lot of packing to do before we move on some yet-to-be-determined day(s) in the next two weeks.  My to do list tells me the bedrooms are up for a clean today.  And I have to get dressed before the plumber comes.  But instead, I’m finishing my gin.  No, not finishing OFF the gin, it’s 10:30 am here and I have to work at noon.  I’m finishing crafting my very own gin. I figured that I’ve mentioned it enough times on here, promising to regale you with stories “next time.”  Well, what better time than now?  (Yes, I admit we have just established that there would indeed be a better time, but, eh.)  It really doesn’t take much hands on work as it is just filtering right now so I’m not being horribly irresponsible.  I have actually done some packing.

So here’s what I’ve got going on.

All the makings of something great

All the makings of something great

I started with a giant bottle of vodka from Costco (not pictured).  I usually use their brand, but they were out so I tried Skyy.  We are talking 1.75L for $14. I know of no greater bargain in life.  (Right now, my Virginia peeps are so jealous of the fact that Costco sells liquor here.)   The quality of the vodka doesn’t have to be great as I work some magic that results in a smoothness you won’t believe.  You may be wondering what’s up with starting with vodka.  Well, gin is just a clear base alcohol infused with, at the very least, juniper berries.  Vodka makes a great base since I’m not up for moonshining.

Next comes the botanicals.  That’s a fancy way of saying all the junk that goes into making gin gin.  I don’t follow the recipe terribly closely, rather I use it as a guideline.  Each batch comes out different since I really don’t care enough to pay attention and document what I’ve done.  Then the mixture sits on my counter for over a week, getting a slosh every day or so to mix it up.  You can see it turns the once clear vodka into a pretty dark product.  Good thing I don’t love gin for its looks.  I guess I’ve been lying when I say that I don’t drink brown liquors.  I meant the scary stuff like bourbon, but now I’ll just have to eat drink my words.

Next comes the filtering, also known as the magic part.  I pass it through a gin-dedicated Brita water pitcher no less than 7 times. That reminds me, I have to go send it through again.

And there you have it– the smoothest cheap “homemade” gin this side of, hmm… what’s around here… the International Date line?  Equator? Let’s go with this side of an active volcano.

I’ve been working on infusing some fun flavors into the gin but nothing fabulous yet. Pineapple didn’t do much, maybe cucumber next.  I’m determined to get the ginger infusion right– tough since it adds bite after I smooth it out.  It’s hard work, but someone has to avoid real life and do it, right?

Here’s the basic recipe if you’re interested

  • 6 1/2 c vodka
  • 20 grams dried juniper berries
  • 8 grams whole coriander, crushed 
  • 2 grams dried orange peel (I tried fresh this time since I was impatient)
  • 2 grams dried lemon peel (ditto)
  • 3 grams whole cinnamon
  • 1 whole cardamom pod, crushed (I often don’t have this)

I exercise strong self control. I never drink anything stronger than gin before breakfast.
              W.C. Fields

tentatively joyful,

Twenty years come and gone

Twenty years come and gone…  I might as well be dreaming. 

As I paraphrase Paul Simon, I’m wrapping up a great visit back east.  I’m feeling reflective and pensive and yes, a wee tad bored because I’m barely two hours into my 8 hour flight.

I hadn’t planned on a trip to Virginia so soon after my May visit, but the stars aligned. About three months ago I got news of an upcoming twenty year high school reunion. I have mixed feelings about my school years and hadn’t planned on going. However, I soon learned that our Alexandria home needed a little work, which if I did myself would save enough cash for half my plane ticket. That was enough convincing—sentimentality doesn’t get me, frugality does. Since my visit in May was mostly about family, I decided that this visit was going to be about friends.

The visit was great; of course there was tons of fun with the nieces and nephews, bonding with my mom over home repairs, and catching up with my absent love– Trader Joe’s. But also a good chunk of time with friends from various chapters of my life. Friends from whom I got much needed advice and laughs, updates on 20 years of interesting lives and more laughs, and then some more laughs after that—sensing a trend? I clearly have no time for anyone who can’t make me double over in laughter.

Milestone events like a reunion can make a gal pause to evaluate her life. (A reunion can also make a gal pause to ask, “Why don’t I remember that?!?” but I will not go down the oh-I’m-so-old path today.) Luckily I’ve been picking apart my life for a while now so I had a bit of a head start. I didn’t have any revelations, but I did get some personal confirmation to keep heading in the direction I’m going.

One of the things I’d like to pursue in this new direction is getting into some sort of financial coaching. I’m getting ever closer to a life full of joy, but a big piece that’s missing is a sense of purpose. I need to use my powers for good, not evil—oh wait wrong comic book. I need to feel like my skills are being used in some way for the betterment of something. My volunteer gig will hopefully get me heading towards that. The hardest part will be putting myself out there. I’m not very good trying things at which I may fail. I give anyone reading this permission to nag me about it.

So, that’s it for today. I’m going to try and do shorter, more frequent posts in hopes of getting a little momentum going.

tentatively joyful,

Searching for a home

(continued from first post)

And now frustrating parts of the past month– we’ve decided to move from our rental and possibly purchase a home here in Kailua.  The market is beyond crazy, like, far far beyond crazy.  Very little inventory and stupid prices.  We found someplace we liked and could have been the back-up to the 2 back-up offers.  A short sale opportunity fell into our laps and we have been waffling ever since– it’s a great investment or a horrible mistake.  Our offer was accepted and we started moving towards purchasing.   The house itself is fine and with a little love would be great.  The property, however, in addition to being cursed (so says the next door neighbor), is right in the middle of a cluster of family homes.  While local folks are pretty welcoming for the most part on this side of the island, no one likes an outsider in their backyard.  And here’s the best (and by best I mean worst) part.  The home has a cess pool.  Yes, that’s a real thing, not just words that people use to describe a disgusting place.  One step below a septic tank, but better than an outhouse.    It checked out fine by the inspector so it really wouldn’t be a problem.  If only that was the end of the headache.  The bank’s approval of the short sale expired on us July 1, so we are back to square one.  While we still don’t know if it would be a great investment opportunity, I think we know that we want to wash our hands of the property.  We just didn’t get any warm fuzzy gut feelings and I need that.  Next up was a very small house that we had decide we could make work.  Our offer was countered then the sellers finked out after our counter offer.  I found out about it this morning and to be honest I was really saddened.  I am heading into a state of panic about where we’ll live this fall, but I know that the worst case scenario of staying where we are isn’t terrible.  (Though the way the carpet smells when it rains is terrible, so I still need to get out of here before next winter.)  Our landlord is pushing us to give our notice of renewal, but I’m afraid to lose this place without having another.  I wish that we could just rent another place, but the rental market is crazy and our two major needs (cat friendly and a carport/garage) eliminate most places.  We already pay a ridiculous amount in rent and with the latest round of military housing allowance raises, rental prices have increased to beyond ridiculous.  So I’m trying to keep my hopes up and see what great things the (hopefully immediate) future brings.   Please send good house hunting vibes.

tentatively joyful,


Each time I thought about posting over the past few months, I ended up deciding that what I’m doing isn’t important or interesting enough.  I’ve fallen away from my journey and settled into routines.  I received a wake up call this evening upon hearing of the failing health of a friend.  While we aren’t terribly close, we’ve supported each other from afar for a few years now.   Her situation has reminded me that I need to be present in my life and appreciate all that I have.

I was prepared to come on here and gloss over all of the wonderful things I’ve been doing and mostly complain about our struggles finding a place to live next year.  Yes, that has occupied us for the past month, but it isn’t going to define the time.

So here goes for May, June and some of July.

May started out pretty slow, with Dave heading to DC for work.  I finished up working on the deck furniture.  It came out great!  (That’s a fire bowl under the table top.  Just in time for it to be too hot to sit by the fire. Oh well.)

Photo on 5-9-14 at 2.42 PM

Later that month, I flew back to the east coast for the first time since moving.  I got to catch up with my family at the beautiful wedding of my youngest cousin in North Carolina.


Cute photo booth pics

I then spent a few days in Richmond where I got to be the mystery reader in my niece’s preschool class– so fun!  For Memorial Day, it was off to the Rappahanock River where a tree promptly fell on the house.


It could have been way worse and thankfully no one was hurt.  While a carefree beach weekend would have been more delightful, I think we had a good time bonding as a family over the clean up and power outage.

In June, we did a little diving, a lot of beaching, and I got more involved in my volunteer efforts.  I’m spending a half day each week as a Client Services Assistant with the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society at the nearby Kaneohe Bay base.  The Society provides financial support to service members.  It has been wonderful to find an outlet for my talents here in Hawaii.

In late June we had a very odd experience with a houseguest and my lesson learned was that when things go kooky the most important thing is that Dave and I stick together.  Even when the birthday/anniversary weekend is shot to hell.  I did get a chance to veg at the beach on my birthday, so it wasn’t a complete washout.


We veered from our normal routine and set up along the canal. Lots of shade trees that provided the perfect hammock support.

We have also done a little hiking.


And this was the prize at the end of the hike!


Then I did a solo climb up the Koko Head Crater stairs.  Holy moley my legs were killing me for a week!


And finally I’ve been working on my SUP skills.  It’s a little windy at our beach these days, so often I just end up prone paddling.  Get gone, flabby arms!


So that’s been the good parts.  I’ll leave it at that and post the frustrating parts separately.   Here’s that post.

trying to be joyful,


I know I’ve been pretty negligent in my updates on what’s going on here on our little rock.  The past three months have seemingly flown by.  Sometimes I feel like I’ve got nothing to share, other times I stop and say to myself, “This is amazing, I need to share this with my peeps.”  Then I forget or rather, let’s blame not having a smart phone, I’ll want to take a picture but all I have is a little beat-up, no data ‘dumb phone.’   I am also lazy, but that’s no surprise to anyone.  That being said, I’ll catch you all up on springtime in Hawaii. I will try to be brief since I know all anyone wants to see is the pictures.

February brought our first visitors.   It was great to see Dave’s parents and show them around our adopted home.  With them, we took our first trip to Maui and had a great time.

There were lots of waterfalls…


This is looking over the top of the falls


Dave and I swam/waded out underneath of this one. So cold.


We found a weird lobster in this pool. How’d he get there?


We jumped off the top of this one!

And lots of whales…

This was from the beach...yeah, they are that close to shore.

This was from the beach…yeah, they are that close to shore.

We took a sunrise tour and met this mom and baby right next to the boat.

We took a sunrise tour and met this mom and baby right next to the boat.

And speaking of sunrise…

Sometimes it's worth it to wake up

Sometimes it’s worth it to wake up


In March, my mom came to visit.  After a tearful reunion at the airport, we were off on all sorts of adventures.  Starting of course with Costco, because what better way to see how people live than at Costco? (The hotdog/drink combo is $1.50 just like back east, which makes lunch there the best deal on the island.)

We checked out the Polynesian Cultural Center and found this guy in a tree…

Polynesian Cultural Center

Mom and I also tried hula and ukulele lessons there– thankfully no video or audio record of that!

We flew to Kauai which I think is my favorite island so far.  Compared to Oahu, Kauai  is wonderfully unspoiled. (Oahu of course is stunning compared to the DC area, so I’m certainly not knocking my home isle.)

We drove around the island…

and found this giant canyon,

and a coffee farm,

and a coffee farm,

And a cave under a giant rock wall (see Dave there on the bottom right?)

and a cave under a giant rock wall, (see Dave there on the bottom right? Mom stayed safely on the other side of the road pretending the cave didn’t exist.)

and saw dozens of waterfalls.

and dozens of waterfalls,

and this beautiful lighthouse scape.

and this beautiful lighthouse scape.

Then Dave and I got on this…


And saw…


Na Pali Coast

The Na Pali coast– by air or sea is the only way to take a peek of this part of the island


The ritzy north shore where all my celebrity friends have houses

and the Jurrasaic Park waterfall

and the Jurassic Park waterfall.

That ride was probably in the top 10 list of coolest things I’ve done.

Ok, let’s see what else is up.  Oh yeah, I made friends with a goat…

Meet Billy.

Meet Billy.  He’s as cute as you can imagine.

As we head into summer (much like DC in recent years, spring and fall are pretty much skipped here) in preparation for spending less time inside,  I’ve also been working on sprucing up the outdoor space at our rental house.  I’ll talk about that another day, but I will say now, look out when I’ve got a can of spray paint!  My other projects have included making my own kombucha and my previously mentioned bathtub gin.  More on those projects later.

I’ll leave you with this–

Oi kau ka lau, e hana i ola honua ~

Live your life while the sun still shines


tentatively joyful,

Yep, still searching

So, yeah, just in case you were wondering, I’m still searching for my joy.  It’s been just over 4 years of blogging about my journey, and while I’m not there yet, I feel like I’m in a good position to finally find it.  Yes, I do know that it won’t be like “Eureka! I have found it!”  Maybe it’ll be more like seeing a rainbow and being able to see where the end is (which I  luckily experience here often), but knowing that’s not actually how rainbows work though still being pretty happy.  Anyway.  I’m still working on it, that’s my point.  Speaking of rainbows, here’s one from the other day.  I was on the phone with Dave talking about all the rain, then poof, this appeared and was spanning the sky in front of the house. I couldn’t capture the panorama, so just use your imagination.


I thought I’d be stress-free by now, but of course my inability to just relax for a little bit caused me to jump right into a job. Now, that job shouldn’t be causing me stress, but due to some unfortunate situations, it is.  I’m mean, like I couldn’t sleep the other night.  Hopefully the situation is over and being dealt with, but it’s left a bad taste in my mouth about the company and I’m not sure how long I’ll stay there.  I’m still working on getting a reduced schedule at least.  I thought it would be January, now it’s looking more like March.  It’s been a little better so I’ve been able to have at least part of each weekend off to spend with Dave.

My next hurdle will be creating a routine for myself so I don’t just waste each day.  A friend and I are going to do some beach workouts, which is great since I’m kinda fallen off the fitness wagon in a big way.  I’m buying Dave’s old paddle board since he just got a new one, so I’m looking forward to that new hobby.  (Once my knee heals from falling off it the other day, of course. I’m averaging one decent bruise every other week.  Nice.)   I have to get back into my little cleaning schedule so this place doesn’t become one giant dusty mold pile.  Can I blame the dust on volcanic fog?  Or what if I say it’s salt from the sea spray? I’m also embarking on a few little fun projects in the kitchen– the first being infusing vodka then filtering it so it’s essentially gin.  My first basic batch is steeping now with juniper berries and other herbals, and then I’m going to start experimenting with adding local flavors like gin or pineapple.

Let’s see what else we’ve been up to…   Oh yeah, we hiked Diamond Head last weekend.  Almost better than the view was seeing the shoes that some tourists think are appropriate for hiking.  Flip flops and those weird sandals that look like cut out high top sneakers are not, in case you were wondering.  Here are some pics from the top:

IMG_5124 IMG_5121 IMG_5120

That’s about it for now.  We are looking forward to some upcoming family visits this month and next.  It will be really great to share this place with our loved ones.  And if they are lucky, I’ll even share my gin.

tentatively joyful,

Two months in a (coco)nut shell

So it’s been almost two months since I last posted. I guess I haven’t had much to say. I’m still figuring a lot of stuff out. But here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been up to:
Thanksgiving was spent with some of Dave’s coworkers at what was essentially a turkey themed pool party. The traditional feast (with the addition of a whole roasted pig) was immediately followed by a dip in the pool so some of the fun of the “I’m-so-stuffed-I’ll-never-eat-again” was, shall we say, lessened.  But that didn’t stop us from recreating our own Thanksgiving spread the following day when I was off from work.  I’ll tell ya, the best part of cooking dinner just for us was using tupperware as serving dishes making clean up super easy.

At work, since it was the busy holiday time, I had to work full time.  Standing all day, broken up by intermittent crouching to find something in a low cupboard or lifting heavy boxes, really took its toll on my body. Plus being there everyday was such a drain since I wasn’t getting much time off to do fun Hawaii things with Dave.  I don’t know how people with conflicting work schedules do it.

We’ve been doing a few hikes..



(this is the view of our side of town from the hill up behind our rental place… our’s is the brown roof all the way at the bottom of the pic)

as well as trips up the North Shore to see the big waves.  Twenty foot waves don’t look that big until there’s a tiny surfer perched on top.  The waves are loud though.  IMG_4952

December flew by and Christmas came and went without much fuss.  We spent all morning trying to catch family on the Skype/Google/Facetime, and then headed to the beach for some sun and sandwiches.  The hammock was rigged perfectly between two trees and we hung out there until (don’t shoot me) it got a little chilly.  Yes, chilly is relative.  I mean, there were people swimming and the sun was shining and it was probably 80*, but sitting in the shade was just that little bit of uncomfortable— oh, I give up.  I know it’s crazy cold back east and no one cares that I got a goose bump.  I got Dave a machete,  he got me a case for my camera so I can easily tote it along on all our adventures.  Oh, why yes, I said machete.  I want him to open me coconuts and clear stuff out of the way while hiking.  No coconut yet, but those poor innocent branches on our last hike never saw it coming.

We got to see the President one day while we were biking around town.  IMG_5019

The water security was pretty cool, too!


New Year’s Eve was pretty uneventful, just a nice dinner out at a local neighborhood fav.


Dave took a quick trip to LA for some “car guy” stuff.  I still haven’t made it off-island, and I doubt I will make it to the mainland anytime time soon, so I was jealous for sure.  (If just for the Trader Joes!!)

Work has slowed way down and while I miss the hustle and bustle, it’s nice to get some more free time.  Today a friend came over with her dog to let it run around our yard, then we headed to the beach where I worked on my SUP skills.  I’m looking for a board to buy myself, but for now Dave’s letting me borrow his while he’s at work.  

That’s pretty much it.  I’ve got something bubbling around in my head, but I’m not sure how (or even if) I want to blog about it.  I’ll leave you with a few more pics from our explorations last weekend.  I bought us a book with all the beach access points and we checked out the areas in the town just north of us.  Readying for guests! :-)

IMG_5049 IMG_5051 IMG_5032IMG_5065  

tentatively joyful,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.