Awesome in July

July has been an extremely difficult month for us. We’ve had thousands of dollars in extra expenses this year, and not enough work to go around. But this blog is all about keeping it awesome even when the money is tight. We did manage to experience some super awesome stuff in July, all made even better by the very special human we got to share it with.

Kiss My Grits

Awesomest way to get your Southern food fix in the middle of the ocean: Kiss My Grits

I think my new favorite restaurant in Honolulu is Kiss My Grits on University Ave. in Puck’s Alley. I lived in the South for 12 years, and I learned to love a good biscuit, salty ham, and hushpuppies that will still burn your fingers. Kiss My Grits serves all this and more. I’ve been there twice now, and I still need to go back several more times to try all the things I want to check out on their menu. Except for the things that swim, I pretty much want to try everything on the menu. I also love the bottomless mason jar of sweet tea. So far, I’ve tried two of their cat’s head biscuit sandwiches (as in, biscuits as big as a cat’s head.) They were both a perfect blend of Southern flavors made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. And I didn’t manage to finish either one. It’s not Southern food if you don’t leave the table feeling like you might slip into a coma.


Awesomest way to see a city destroyed: Pacific Rim

We saw Pacific Rim on $6 movie day, and I think I have a new favorite summer movie. The spectacle of giant sea monsters and giant robots smashing up cities is something you must see on the big screen. This film does a great job of cutting through all the convoluted exposition and blending story and action. They use a great narrative voiceover to keep the story moving forward, and they let the subtext speak for itself without having to make every feeling explicit. Also, there’s Idris Elba. If you just said “Who’s Idris Elba?” you need to rush to your Netflix and watch Luther and become a huge fan. Run out and see Pacific Rim right this minute.


Awesomest book to fill you with righteous anger: Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

This month, I read Two or Three Things I Know For Surea memoir by the brilliant Dorothy Allison. I’ve also read her beautiful and tragic novel Bastard Out of Carolina. Both of these books were heartbreaking and beautiful. They deal with the difficult subject of sexual abuse of a child. Bastard Out of Carolina is told from the point of view of the child whose courage is remarkable. If you haven’t read anything by Dorothy Allison, please give her work a try. It’s powerful and difficult and necessary. 


Awesomest kid on the planet

I got to spend the month of July with my baby who is about to become a teenager in just 11 days and is nearly as tall as me. It’s a bit difficult to grasp. I love every moment that she gets to spend with us, which is never enough. We played silly games, had Uno tournaments, took funny and artsy photos all over the island, cooked together, read together, and hugged a lot. My baby is the super awesomest and I can’t wait until she’s back for Christmas. 

Things you found awesome

You were super stoked about double chocolate muffins.

You also love to spice things up with bacon-wrapped jalapeno poppers.

And mostly, you love to feed your feathered friends with this DIY chicken feeder.

Exciting things are coming our way in August. I’m not sure what they are yet, but I know it’s gonna be awesome!

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How To Be Awesome When Times Are Hard

sun through trees

Thus far, the year of the snake has not been our year. The ever growing list of calamities is too long to mention, but let’s just say supply is not keeping up with the universe’s demands. It’s so easy to get depressed and believe that it’s never going to end. That things will never get better. That despair will always be a step away. No matter how hard you work, things will never change.

They say that money can’t buy happiness, and this time they’re right. But let’s not pretend for one second that a lack of it isn’t difficult. It is. That’s just a fact of life. But today, I want to change my story. Maybe I can convince myself by trying to convince you. This is an unusual type of post, but this blog has always been about real life, and making things awesome with less. It’s a necessary departure in our journey.

Here are five ways to stay awesome when $20 a day is a luxury.

Kailua sunset

Take back your power

I made a plan to cut our spending and try to rebuild our savings. I don’t know if it will work, but we’re going to give it a shot. Having a sense of control over your destiny, even if it’s an illusion, is empowering. I’m doing something about it, rather than just letting my problems control my life. I’m not throwing up my hands. I’m taking back my power. 

Making a budget is too much like math. I don’t do math. But building obscure plans and rules is right up my alley. I came up with a strategy for my husband and I to try to limit our spending and put some money back into our savings account. And there are rewards at the end when goals are met, so the incentive is awesome. It will force us to make some tough choices, but hopefully, we won’t have to live like paupers. Too much restriction is depressing. Too much freedom is a slippery slope to the poor house. I hope we’re hanging out somewhere in the middle. Somewhere called awesome. 


Get outside

This is, of course, both literal and figurative. I find the best way to clear my mind is to take a walk, preferably somewhere with beautiful trees and flowers. Sitting in one place and dwelling on your problems does absolutely nothing to solve them. It just makes you feel like crap. Decidedly unawesome.

Get up, get out, breathe deep, and just put yourself somewhere else for a while. Nature won’t ask you to spend a dime. The exercise will do your mind and body good. And if you go with a friend, there’s a good chance you’ll find something to laugh about. Getting out of your house, and outside of yourself, can be a tremendous relief. It’s awesome out there. Go get in it.

on the wall

Be exactly who you are

Sometimes you’re just flat broke, and there’s no way around it. Often, though, I find that my feelings about my lack of money have more to do with society’s expectations than from anything actually related to who I am or what I want. If I don’t have a decent house/car/clothes/pet/phone/gadget and on and on, people will think I’m a failure. If I don’t have a high paying job with an impressive title, people will think I am a useless waste of space. Wait a minute? Since when did I start caring so much about what people think?

It’s so easy to give into expectations, even if that’s not truly what makes you happy. Honestly, the thing that’s brought me the most contentment lately is writing this blog. It makes me about five cents a day. I don’t want to spend all my time doing something I hate just so I can buy stuff. It’s only making me miserable and making someone else rich. I would like to be more secure, but I don’t need things to prove that I am successful. I don’t need to play that game. I do occasionally need $5 for a mai tai.

So, you strike a balance. Trade some hard work for the moments of pleasure where life really happens. And you scheme to tip the balance more toward the wonderful moments. And you ignore the voices that tell you what you should be because you know who you are, and who you are is awesome.


Open up to love

Getting through hard times is so much about shifting your perspective. You have to confront your problems, sure, but you don’t have to dwell in them every moment of every day. It’s easy to isolate yourself, especially when you don’t have money to go out. Don’t do it!

Reach out to the people you love, and they will help to take you away, if only for a moment, from the heaviness. I, myself, sometimes have to dig a little deeper to find the happiness, but I’ve come to a point in my life where I want to make an effort to dwell more in the light and push the darkness to the edges. Gather your friends and family around you. If you need some time for catharsis, take it. But skip to the laughter as quickly as possible. That’s where the living happens.

And if you ask nicely and make a pouty face, they might bring a bottle of wine.


Gain perspective

Even with all the problems we face, they are still first world problems. We’re struggling in the perspective of our neighbors, but worldwide, we’re in the top 12% in income. The fact that I can walk into my kitchen and have drinkable water at any given moment is a blessing and a miracle. I may not have a dryer, a dishwasher, air conditioning, or access to affordable healthcare,but I have safe drinking water. I have a roof over my head. I am able to read. I really am privileged. Everybody’s life is complicated, regardless of income. We all have struggles. My problems are not any less real, but neither are my blessings. It’s worth remembering.

I know we’re not the only ones struggling these days. I am determined to hold onto my awesomeness. I just have to choose it. Who’s with me?

Awesome in June

Bad Day Rainbow

Well friends, the year is half gone. As for me, I couldn’t be happier. The year of the snake has been especially rough (though not the worst of my life), and June brought it’s share of hardship. But we make it awesome anyway. Broken down scooters, be damned. Nothing gets between me and awesomeness!


Awesomest way to get your Benedict Cumberbatch fix

We saw Star Trek Into Darkness this month and had a blast. A movie that combines action, humor, bad Scottish accents, well-natured emotional manipulation, and the world’s greatest cheekbones has got to be a winner. I’m not exactly a Trekkie, but I have to say that watching this movie actually gave me the urge to go back and explore the source material. I was endeared to the characters and wanted to know them better. Sometimes it’s good to just have fun at the movies. If you don’t enjoy yourself at this movie, you might be taking yourself too seriously. 


Awesomest source of simultaneous guilt and humor

This month, I’ve read two books by the amazing Sherman Alexie, a Native American author from the Spokane Indian Reservation, which is about two hours from where I grew up. I think that makes four or five of his books that I’ve read in my life, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every one. His stories are raw and honest, and his voice is completely uncontrived. I’ve run the gamut of emotions while reading Ten Little Indians and The Toughest Indian in the World. Along with my fair share of white guilt, I’ve laughed and nearly cried. I’ve felt angry, uncomfortable, and joyful. If you want some insight into the life of a modern American Indian, you absolutely must read something by Sherman Alexie. You won’t regret it.

Photo by Rebecca of Foodie with Family

Awesomest thing I need to stuff in my face

When I saw these filthy burgers from Foodie with Family, I almost died. I need NEED to eat this burger. It’s pure genius. Beef, pulled pork, and bacon all smashed together in one massive patty of ridiculousness. Top that baby off with some melty colby jack and slather it in barbecue sauce and then die and go to heaven. Am I right? Lord have mercy! You must go and visit this awesome blog and make this burger. Then send me a photo of you with barbecue sauce all over your face. Trust me.


Awesomest small screen diversion

Dudes, Firefly is the bee’s knees! I know I’m a little late to the game. What’s new? I don’t even know what day of the week it is most of the time. I’ve heard fellow nerds raving about Firefly for years, but just never found the time to watch it. We’re halfway through the only season of this Joss Whedon space western, and I’m already sad that it’s going to be ending so soon. My husband and I are both really loving it. We especially enjoy trying to figure out the Chinese cuss words. We may have picked up one or two of those during our time in Taiwan. It’s streaming on Netflix and awaiting perusal at your leisure. Don’t wait. I wish I hadn’t.

Things you thought were awesome

 Here are your favorite posts from Awesome on 20 this month.

You were digging some gluten free lemon polenta cake.

You think chickens are cool, and you really want to feed them with this DIY chicken feeder by Geoff.

But mostly, you couldn’t wait to get your hands on some Ono Hawaiian Bread Pudding

I hope your June was super awesome. July is going to be sweet! I can’t wait to introduce you to my assistant. 

Be excellent to each other!



*This post contains Amazon Affiliate links because a girl’s gotta eat.

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