#Kaua’i: Malasada Love

Fresh malasada – what’s not to love?

Last Saturday morning, YaYu came home from her service project and handed Brett and I a bag: “I brought these for you.” Inside the bag were two still-warm and fluffy malasada, or as they are sometimes called, “Hawaiian doughnuts.”

I avoid most carbs and can say no to a doughnuts, but I will not say no to a malasada. First of all, they are delicious. Second, we don’t see them very often because they sell out very quickly here.

Traditional egg-shaped and sugar-coated malasada may look like a regular doughnut on the outside, but their appearance hides the deliciousness inside. They’re way more rich and flavorful than a regular doughnut. Yeast-raised and fried, malasada dough contains egg, usually one egg to every cup of flour, and they’re also made with either evaporated milk or cream.

Malasada came to Hawai’i with the Portuguese workers who were brought to work on the sugar plantations. The Portuguese were mostly hired from Madeira and the Azores, considered highly desirable because they were skilled from working on sugar plantations there. Like other plantation workers they brought recipes from their home country with them, including malasada.

A variety of fresh malasada from Leonard’s

The most famous place to buy malasada in Hawai’i is Leonard’s in Honolulu. Leonard’s claims to be the original malasada bakery in Hawai’i and they are well-worth a stop. While a traditional malasada is plain, they can also be filled with custard or coconut-flavored haupia, and Leonard’s carries a wide variety of filled malasada as well as plain. They make the doughnuts all day long so fresh ones are always available. That’s a good thing – allowed to cool for too long, a malasada becomes dense and more like a fat bomb than a doughnut.

Here on Kaua’i, malasada can be somewhat tricky to find. You have to know where to go and be willing to get up early to get them because they sell out quickly. Malasada are traditionally associated with Mardi Gras and the Lenten season, so a few more places around town recently had them available, although we abstained then. They are definitely worth searching out though if you are visiting, and nothing goes better with a hot cup of coffee!

Language Learning for Adults

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, especially since I’ve been studying (and struggling to learn) French now for many months in preparation for our travels there later this year. I also spent a considerable amount of time (like years) trying to learn Japanese, only to find myself with an ability less than a two year-old. Because my professional  background is in adult language learning and acquisition you would think I’d have this all figured out by now and would know all sorts of tricks to make learning faster and easier, but sadly, no.

Children pick up new languages very easily, at least the spoken part, typically because they are usually far more immersed in a new language than most adults (i.e. in school all day with other native speakers). If children learn a second language before the age of twelve they usually become fluent speakers with no accent. Although adults learn a language in the same steps as children, how adults process what they are learning is different based on cognitive differences and other previous learning experiences. The reality is it just takes adults longer to acquire a second language. The good news is it’s not impossible.

When adults are learning a second or foreign language, there are three main aspects that come into play: 1) motivation, or the reasons for learning another language; 2) how an adult views themselves as a learner; 3) who an adult sees themselves to be when they speak another language. All three of these are important, but any one of them on their own can have a profound effect on the learning experience. Being aware of these forces and the roles they play can help adults through the process.

Motivation falls into two classes, intrinsic or extrinsic. That is, motivation to learn another language either comes from within or from without. Are you learning a new language because you want to or because you have to or need to? How strong is the desire or need? A combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic reasons for learning is best, and together can provide powerful motivation to push through difficult stretches and improve.

Language learning has often proven to be a sticky problem for adults who have always seen themselves as successful learners or talented in other respects. Recognizing that language learning calls on a whole different set of skills than learning math or history, or participating in a sport or hobby, and that it might not be as easy for you as you thought (or as fun) is an important step in staying motivated and continuing to learn.

Finally, how do you see yourself when you imagine yourself speaking another language? As a native speaker of English, I view myself as a confident, skilled adult when I speak, read, write or listen to English, able to know what to say in almost any situation or figure out what someone else is saying or inferring. With a new language I often find myself with less ability than a small child, making lots of (sometimes embarrassing) mistakes, sometimes unable to order in a restaurant or ask directions, let alone manage any other social or professional situations. It’s very humbling, and can also be humiliating at times. One’s self-image when learning a new language can sometimes take some serious blows. Also, there’s the aspect to self of fitting in socially and culturally where the new language is spoken. Knowing that these feelings are perfectly normal can help you stick with language learning.

Based on my many years of teaching English to adults learners, here are some tips for making language learning more productive and less painful:

  • Communication should be the goal. Not fluency, not perfection, although you can strive for those. Can another person understand what you’re trying to say or write and communicate back to you? That’s what really matters.
  • Know how difficult a language is to learn. Russian or Chinese or Finnish are going to be w-a-y more difficult for an English speaker to learn than Spanish or French. All language learning takes time and effort, but if you want to learn one of the more difficult languages, give yourself even more time. Although the goal may be much less than professional proficiency, here is the Foreign Language Institute difficulty ranking for English speakers, and the time it takes to reach Speaking 3: General Professional Proficiency in Speaking (S3) and Reading 3: General Professional Proficiency in Reading (R3) in different languages.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Seriously, mistakes are how we learn, especially in language learning! Think of all the mistakes children make when they’re learning to speak. Adults go through the same steps, and mistakes will happen. The important thing is to keep trying to produce the language in some form rather than shut down. An ideal instructor (or online program) will always model the language correctly for you when you make a mistake and give chances to try again. It’s also important to find a classroom and instructor where you feel safe to make mistakes. My Japanese instructors in college didn’t go for safety and it was an incredibly stressful and miserable experience. I remember nothing from those classes other than wanting them to end (although I was able to get a Master’s thesis out of the experience!).
  • Be prepared to memorize. Memory is a very big part of language learning. We memorize constantly when we learn our own language (I took weekly spelling tests through the eighth grade because much of English spelling and pronunciation is based on memorization, even for native speakers), and it will be true for any other language. It’s more difficult to remember things when we’re older because we’re carrying around and having to deal with so much more information in our brains than we did when we were younger. The best way to remember what you’re learning is to practice. Every day.
  • Don’t sweat pronunciation. The ability to speak another language without an accent ends at about age 12. That’s when our mouths and oral muscles “solidify” around our native language. Not worrying about pronunciation doesn’t mean not trying to pronunciate a new language correctly in order to be understood, but sounding like a native speaker doesn’t need to be the goal.
  • Find ways to expose yourself to the language. Learning French in France is going to be a whole lot easier than trying to learn it in the U.S. Why? Because learners are immersed in the language there – it can’t be escaped and has to be dealt with. In your own country, once you’re out of the classroom it’s difficult to find opportunities to practice and use the language you’re learning. Immersion experiences here in the U.S. do exist though. Shop in international markets and read the labels or ask questions in the language you’re learning. Pick up a newspaper or magazine in the new language, go through it and see what can be figured out. Watch foreign films or TV shows in the new language without subtitles. For example, when our girls were learning Chinese, they found that all their favorite Disney Channel shows could be watched online in Mandarin, so they got lots of extra listening comprehension practice from those. Go to a church service where the language you’re learning is spoken (they exist). See if you can set up conversation experiences through local colleges, or hire a tutor and have them provide a weekly immersion session. I was sometimes able to match up my students, if they had time, with an English speaker who was trying to learn their language. They’d spend one hour together in one language, the second hour in the other language.

Knowing another language opens doors for understanding a new and/or different culture, but language learning is a process that takes time, in some cases LOTS of time. It’s important to remind yourself, especially if you’re struggling or on the fence about sticking with it, that you didn’t learn English (or any other native language) quickly as a child either. Unless necessary for professional reasons, fluency doesn’t need to be the goal of language learning; rather, you should strive to learn enough of a new language to communicate effectively, and as a means to better understand and enhance  experiences in a different culture.

Finally, one other interesting side effect of language learning is that you will probably learn more about English as well, and what a crazy, difficult, and sometimes impossible language it is. I thank my stars every day that English is my native language, and that I didn’t have to learn it as a second or foreign language. My years of teaching gave me an immense amount of respect for anyone trying to learn English, a daunting task if there ever was one.

Sunday Afternoon 3/18/2018

Second round coming up!

It’s been a week of ups and downs. YaYu received rejection notices from both Bowdoin and Colby on Friday, but took them in stride and we all drowned our sorrows in bowls of ice cream that evening. Yesterday morning she heard from both Colgate and Bates: rejected at Colgate, and waitlisted at Bates. Admission to all four of these schools was very competitive this year – the increase in the number of applications received at the schools ranged from 25% – 45% more than last year. This first round of decisions was tough for YaYu, but she will hear from five more schools this week, and remains hopeful for good news. Brett and I keep reminding her that whatever school she ends up attending, even the University of Hawaii, will be a great fit for her and will be her school. On the bright side though, earlier in the week she learned she had been awarded a General Erik K. & Patricia Shinseki Foundation scholarship for $1000! That will be officially awarded on May 2, at a recognition luncheon held at Gaylord’s restaurant in Kilohana (Brett and I get to go too!). And, in other good news, Meiling got the tech job she interviewed for week before last! She’s especially excited because beyond the experience her salary will be more than double what she’s made at previous jobs.

Blue skies and calm seas for as far as the eye can see.

After nearly three weeks of overcast skies, strong wind, and lots and lots of rain, Friday saw the return of sunshine and beautiful weather. It was actually even hot when Brett and I walked on Friday! All the gloomy weather reminded us though of why we decided to leave Portland more than four years ago. Brett and I have both concluded that wherever we settle when the Big Adventure finishes, sunny, warm weather will again be a top consideration.

I’ve been going through my annual bout of insomnia for the past few weeks, but hopefully it will be over soon because I’m very, very tired of being tired all the time. I have absolutely no idea what causes it, but even reducing or giving up caffeine has no effect on my ability to fall asleep, nor does any of the other tricks or sleep aids I’ve tried. I think nerves over YaYu’s college news has been playing a role this year, but that should all be over next week and hopefully my sleep schedule will start getting back to normal.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Chinese Lessons this past week. It was a thought-provoking read for me because I could identify with so much of the author’s experience, thoughts on, and nagging questions about adoption. I’m just getting started with Eat Up!: Food, Appetite and Eating What You Want by Ruby Tandoh, about one of life’s greatest pleasures: eating. Ruby was a finalist on the Great British Baking Show one season, and this book has gotten great reviews.
  • Listening to: It’s very quiet here, both inside and outside. Everyone is reading or writing, and the laundry hasn’t been started yet either. Outside right now there’s a wonderful breeze blowing, enough to cause some noise as it rushes through the palm trees. Otherwise even the animals are quiet this morning, and no one is working on their yard, at least for now. There are some clouds out, but it’s still mostly sunny. I hope that lasts too!
  • Watching: This past week I watched Season 2 of The Tick on Amazon. I didn’t think it was quite as funny as the first, but still entertaining. Brett and I watched the first episode of British series The Brief, but switched to movies on Friday evening beginning with Get Out (really good), then Ladybird last night, and tonight we’re watching The Shape of Water. We’ll be back after that with The Brief.

    Open-faced hot turkey sandwich – yum! They’re a total carb-fest, but I skip the bread and have just a quarter cup each of the stuffing and mashed potatoes.

  • Cooking/baking: Dinner tonight will be baked chili rellenos, along with rice and cucumbers. I made a plain yellow cake this morning – we have a lot of whipped cream on hand, and YaYu thought yellow cake filled with whipped cream would be delicious. I wasn’t able to fix yakisoba with chicken last week so we’re having that this week, as well as slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy; vegetable and chicken curry; roast turkey with mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy; hot turkey sandwiches; and turkey divan casserole (we’re picking up a roast turkey breast at Costco). And, there will be some more ice cream eating going on as well, one way or another. YaYu is on spring break this week, so I need to make sure there are leftovers and snacks around for her.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I got the big living room tansu pretty much cleaned out, and did some work on the baking cupboard in the kitchen. We had planned to mail some of our baking things to Meiling, but unless it can fit into a flat-rate box it will go out at our moving sale or to the thrift store – the postage to mail anything from here, even to the west coast, is just too much. Although I drank lots of water and studied French almost every day, between YaYu’s practice and meet schedule, being under the weather on Monday night and most of Tuesday, and some epic rain on Wednesday, Brett and I were only able to walk on Friday and yesterday. We’ll be out again though later this afternoon.
  • Looking forward to next week: All of us are excited and nervous about hearing from the rest of the colleges – Wellesley and Bryn Mawr announce on Wednesday, Carleton on Thursday, Smith on Friday, and Amherst on Saturday. Last week YaYu got an email from the Bryn Mawr financial aid office asking her to clarify some information for them, but we don’t know if that means good news is coming or not – the notice certainly wasn’t giving anything away. We’re also supposed to get another week of overcast and rain, but we are hoping beyond hope that the sunshine continues – we (me especially) need it! Brett and I had to postpone our Starbucks coffee date last week, but should be able to go this week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: In spite of not receiving good news from colleges this past week, YaYu’s scholarship award and Meiling’s new job were enough good news to keep our spirits up. Also, the sun broke through the clouds Thursday afternoon in time for YaYu’s track meet so it didn’t have to be held in the rain – thank goodness! She beat her personal best in the long jump by a foot last week! She was also moved up to the next faster heat in the 800m race, and while she didn’t finish as high up as others she also didn’t come in last!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We almost had a no-spend week except for buying ice cream, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream to celebrate and/or mourn YaYu’s college announcements. Otherwise we did the typical frugal stuff around here, including getting the list made for next week’s Big Shop. We put $11.11 into the change/$1 bill jar: $5.01 change from our cable bill, $2.87 back from recycling, and $3.23 from ice cream shopping.
  • Grateful for: Believe it or not, I’m thankful for all the rain we have received this winter – it’s the rain that keeps Kaua’i green and lush, but all the cloudy days have also helped me appreciate the sunshine that much more, as well as realize that I am happier when there’s more sunshine than not. I just don’t do well with clouds, rain, and overcast anymore, at least not when it drags on for days or weeks. I am also thankful that because of the clear skies and calmer ocean Brett and I were able to watch some whales off in the (near) distance yesterday when we took our walk! We saw one leap out of the water, and another wave its flipper, and there was also plenty of spouting going on. I had been afraid I wouldn’t see any whales this year because the ocean has been so rough, and it’s almost time for them to leave Hawai’i.
  • Bonus question: How did you and your spouse/significant other meet? I’ve probably mentioned it before, but Brett was my instructor in a transistor theory class at navy “A” school in Millington, Tennessee. I can still close my eyes and picture the first time I saw him, standing in the middle of the classroom holding two electric leads as I walked in. He came right up to me and introduced himself. He was above me in rank (obviously), so I had to address him formally in class, but something definitely clicked right from the start. The transistor class was only two weeks long, but after I finished and moved on to the next course he asked me out. Our first date was going to see the totally forgettable movie I Will, I Will . . . For Now with Diane Keaton and Elliot Gould. I came home from that first date and told my roommate I was in love. I found out later that Brett used to watch me from the window when my previous class took our breaks (my class before transistor theory was on the first floor; TT was on the second), and he pointed me out one day to the two other instructors he worked with, telling them he was going to marry me some day. Our meeting was 41 years ago this past May 25th.

How was your week? What good things happened for you this week? What are you looking forward to next week?


#Kauai: Historic Christ Memorial Episcopalian Church in Kilauea

The front of the church with its traditional stained glass rose window.

Brett and I have driven by this small, beautiful stone church several times on trips up to Kilauea, or at least seen it off to the right as we get ready to turn left to head for home. The other day though, after a doctor’s appointment, we had some time on our hands and the weather was lovely, so Brett and I decided to turn right and see what we could find out about this old and historic church.

The cemetery on the south side of the church. The border around the grave indicates a family plot.

The south side and cemetery – several of the stones are over 100 years old. The building across the street is the church’s thrift shop.

The church and cemetery grounds to the rear, on the south side.

Episcopalian worship services were held beginning in 1888 in Kilauea under Bishop Willis who had been sent to Hawai’i by the Church of England. The idea for a permanent church came about in 1924, on the site of a frame church where the church had been meeting but that was owned by the Hawaiian Congregational Church. In 1939 the Kilauea Sugar Company deeded the churchyard to the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii and donated the native stone used to build the current church. The chief benefactor, however, was Mrs. Robert Shepard, of Griffin, Georgia, in memory of her husband. The church was consecrated in 1941.


The cemetery around the church dates back to the earliest days of the original Hawaiian Congregational Church, with several graves more than 100 years old. There are also many unmarked graves on the grounds, and the number of people buried here will stay a secret “known only to God.” Many of the gravestones include not only dates, but information about how the person died, and their position in the family. The most recent burial we could find was in 2013, in a family plot beside the church.

South side stained glass windows.

The Christ Memorial Episcopal Church is one of the most picturesque historical churches on Kaua’i and in the Hawaiian Islands. It is especially noted for its beautiful stained glass windows. The windows were originally made in England, but reworked in 1968 to insure a longer life.

North side stained glass windows.

The church is open to visitors from 2-5 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, on Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and on Saturdays from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. There’s also a wonderful thrift store operated by the church across the street. The church is closed to visitors on Mondays and Sundays, although we stopped by on a Monday and there were people there who let us come in.  It truly was a beautiful place to stop for a while, and absorb a little history of the island.

Less Than Six Months To Go!

Other than continuing to save we haven’t been doing all that much directly related the Big Adventure lately both because there’s been lots of other stuff going on and mainly because we can’t. It dawned on me last week though that we have less than six months to go before we depart! While we’ve accomplished what we can so far, planning and scheduling is going to accelerate quickly beginning next month.

For now, we’re scheduled to leave the island on August 20. We still don’t know though where we’ll be heading, whether that will be over to Honolulu first to take YaYu to college there, or on to somewhere on the mainland. Once we have the college information we’ll be able to pull out the big calendar to figure out locations, dates and deadlines.

Anyway, here’s what we’ve already done to get ready:

  • Purchased our luggage and backpacks. We still need to get locks though.
  • Purchased all our clothes and shoes, and put together our travel wardrobes (minus one pair of leather shoes for Brett). Both of us are under the weight limits that we set for ourselves for our big suitcases (44 pounds).
  • Assembled all our electronics. We’re taking my MacBook Air, an iPad, our iPhones, Brett’s iPod, two Kindles, my digital camera, all the chargers, and a couple of converters. We’re also going to take Brett’s old Samsung phone to use for local calls (will buy a SIM card at each location). Otherwise our phone plan gives us data and texting for no extra charge.
  • Made reservations for Kaua’i condo (7/27 – 8/20), the India Tour, the Australian rail journey, and our Tokyo Airbnb.

There’s still more than plenty left to do though:

  • Make travel arrangements to the mainland. Our current plan is to fly into Seattle from here using our Hawaiian air miles, and go from there. Whether there will be three of us going, or just two, is the big unknown right now. If YaYu is with us (i.e. attending college on the mainland), we will spend a couple of days in Seattle to take care of cold(er)-weather clothes shopping for her before heading on to her college.
  • Reserve Airbnb lodgings (and Hong Kong hotel). This can be done once we can set dates for the rest of the trip. We are working this month on narrowing our list of possible rentals, and ranking them. The Salisbury in Hong Kong hasn’t released their 2019 prices yet – not sure when that will happen, but once they do we’ll make our reservations there.
  • Make flight reservations. Besides getting ourselves to Dallas we also will make reservations from Dallas to Miami, Miami to Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires to Paris, and Lisbon to mainland and on to Portland for Christmas. Early next month will be a great time (five to six months out or so) to find good prices for international flights. Other flight reservations will be made while we’re on the road
  • Set up mail forwarding service. We will have mail collected here and forwarded on once a month to Brett’s sister and brother-in-law in Dallas. They will also be keeping all of our important and official papers while we travel. We plan to spend a couple of days visiting with them before we take off for Buenos Aires.
  • Purchase pillows. We are still going back on forth on these. We’ve settled on some a couple of times, but then discover they’re too heavy, or too big, too soft, or too something else. I know we’ll find the right ones eventually, but so far this has been frustrating.
  • Assemble toiletry and medication supplies, and purchase gifts for Airbnb hosts. This will be done closer to departure, but we especially need to make sure we will have enough of our medications for at least the first three months of travel. We also plan to leave a small gift of some Kaua’i-made items for our hosts as a thank-you.
  • Arrange for cleaners to assist with move-out cleaning of the house (floors and windows). This house has to be cleaned to perfection in order to get any of our deposit back (it was perfection when we moved in). We can do most of it on our own, but the floors and windows will require some extra assistance, especially the floors. They are etched and stained concrete, beautiful but a real pain to maintain. We have to strip and replace the seven (!!) coats of wax the landlord put down before we moved in.
  • Arrange storage for household goods we are keeping. We plan to meet with Royal Hawaiian, the company that moved us over here, in early May to set that up.
  • Advertise, set up and hold moving sale. For now we have been separating things out that will go to the sale, and we plan to hold the sale in early July. We also need to arrange to sell our washer and dryer, but closer to the end of July. Our landlord is thinking about purchasing the pair for the house though – fingers crossed as that would be ideal for us.  Whatever is left over from our moving sale, or that doesn’t go into storage will go to a local thrift store when we leave the house at the end of July.
  • Sell our car and reserve a rental for our last month or so on the island. We plan to have the car detailed and listed in early- to mid-July.

Looking over this list, I feel both excited and stressed! There’s a lot still to do. Hopefully being proactive now about saving, downsizing and getting organized is going to make the process easier and less stressful, and I’m excited about booking our lodgings and getting our flights, but I imagine things are going to pile up at bit as we get nearer our departure time. I know it’s all going to come together though and then we’ll be off!


Sunday Afternoon 3/11/2018

YaYu’s college notifications start arriving this week! She’ll hear from two colleges at the end of this week, from two more next week, and then the rest by the end of the month. The mood around here is cautiously hopeful, but we are stocking up on ice cream tomorrow (cookies ‘n’ cream and mint chocolate chip), chocolate sauce and whipped cream so we can either celebrate with her or help her drown her sorrows. Bowdoin College in Brunswick, ME remains her top choice, but the other schools she is waiting to hear from are Bates, Colby, Wellesley, Amherst, Smith, Colgate, Bryn Mawr, and Carleton. All are in cold, cold places! None of us have any idea whatsoever how it’s going to shake out, but I hope you’ll send lots of good thoughts her way. It’s going to be a very anxious few weeks for her (us too)!

One of several squalls we spotted out on the horizon last Wednesday. What the picture doesn’t show was how cold and windy it was, in spite of the surf having calmed down some.

Just like most places on the mainland (and otherwise), we’re eager for spring to arrive. We’ve had yet another cool, breezy, overcast, and rainy week here. Monday was gorgeous: warm weather, blue sky and sunshine, but I had a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day so we didn’t really get to enjoy it much other than we got to spend a nice afternoon in Kilauea. The clouds were back by evening and the rest of the week went downhill from there. We didn’t even open the doors or windows on Thursday or Friday because it was so cold, but yesterday evening things began to clear our and it was lovely again for a while, but very cool again this morning. This has definitely been the coldest winter we’ve experienced since we’ve lived here, which has been great for walking. We know warmer weather is coming though (along with increased humidity). I always think to myself when the weather is like this that I’m glad I live here and didn’t spend thousands for a vacation only for us to be unable to go to the beach or have to deal with lots of red mud.

I consider myself a very healthy person, and doing all the right things (weight-bearing exercise, healthy eating and weight, enough daily calcium, etc.) so I was surprised (and a little scared) to learn this past week that I have beginning osteoporosis in one hip and in one place in my lower spine. The first call I got from the doctor’s office about the bone density scan said the results were good, but then a few days later I got a call that the doctor wanted to talk with me about the results. It turns out my scores for the hip and spine were right on the dividing line between actual osteoporosis and pre-osteoporosis (and the other hip was close). The doctor told me to keep doing what I have been but prescribed medication to see if the progression can be stopped, if not reversed somewhat. My mom and her mother both had “good bones,” but I don’t have any idea about my dad’s side of the family, or what I might have inherited from that direction.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finally finished Hamilton! Yeah! I’ve started Chinese Lessons: An American Mother Teaches her Children How to be Chinese in China by Patti Waldmeir. Waldmier, a single mom, became the Shanghai correspondent for the Financial Times, and lived there with her two daughters, both adopted from China, for around eight years. I’m finding it very relatable, both her feelings and experiences as an adoptive mother, and her children’s reactions to being adopted and attitudes toward China. Although all three of our very American girls are proud to be from China, speak Mandarin (fairly fluently), have visited China more than once and enjoyed their time there, they have absolutely NO interest in living there (well maybe YaYu, but that’s for the food).
  • Listening to: It’s been a quiet morning here other than there have been a couple of very loud roosters of and on out in the back yard. We haven’t started the laundry yet, and with just Brett and I here it’s been quiet inside – a taste of things to come? With the windows still closed there isn’t much noise from outside, but I can hear someone’s weed trimmer off in the distance.
  • Watching: Brett and I watched both seasons of Shelbourne Hotel this week, and of course now we want to go to Dublin and stay there, even if just for a night, or just to have tea. Last night we watched Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and tonight we’re going to watch Coco with YaYu.
  • Cooking/baking: YaYu is making fried rice for us again tonight – we have leftover rice, and everything else we need (chicken, vegetables, and eggs). I baked a batch of ginger sugar cookies this past week to use up some molasses and spices and because the weather is cool, and there are still some of those around. On the menu this week is lumpia and potstickers along with rice; yakisoba with chicken; stuffed peppers; and grilled chicken (which we didn’t end up having last week).

    One of the old gravestones at the CME church in Kilauea. This young man drowned in 1888, at age 33.

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got a kitchen cabinet cleaned out this week – actually, I moved things around so that one cabinet now holds the dishes that will go into storage and another holds the things we are not keeping. When we were up in Kilauea on Monday for my doctor’s appointment, Brett and I finally stopped to visit the historic Christ Memorial Episcopal Church and cemetery. We usually turn the opposite direction from the church to head home, but are glad we took the time to visit the church and grounds – it was very interesting, especially the cemetery. In spite of the weather Brett and I got in five walks (and about got blown off the path on Friday!), I studied French every day, and drank lots and lots of water.
  • Looking forward to next week: Fingers are crossed for good news for YaYu, and for some nice, sunny weather! Maybe three weeks will be the charm and we’ll be able to get to the Stone Dam Trail this week.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Our movie watching was all free, courtesy of Amazon credit I earned from Swagbucks. Otherwise, it was just another regular week frugal-wise – nothing really stands out. It was another no-spend week except for the farmers’ market, and we put $9.00 leftover from there into the change/$1 bill jar.

    The Moloa’a Fruit Stand

  • Thinking of good things that happened: WenYu may have found a good summer job in Boston! It makes me sad she won’t be coming home this summer, but overall it will be good for her, and save all of us a lot of money. She’ll be able to stay with a friend there for the summer, so thankfully won’t have to worry about housing. Brett and I stopped at the Moloa’a fruit stand on the way home from Kilauea, and while they don’t make frosties any more, I did have a very thick and tasty papaya, pineapple and banana smoothie. YaYu is having a fabulous time at her Key Club convention – it’s on Maui this year!
  • Grateful for: Once again, I am very grateful for the prescription plan we have from our military insurance. It provides 90-days of medication, through the mail, at no or very, very low cost. The prescription service is fast, too. The doctor ordered my new medication on Monday, and I received it on Thursday (I could go to a local pharmacy if I needed it sooner though).

    Authentic Key lime pie is amazing. That is all.

  • Bonus question: Which do you like more: cookies, cake or pie? As I’ve said before, I am not a big sweets person these days but I do love a good piece of pie. I don’t think there’s any kind of pie I don’t like. My favorite fruit pie is cherry, I adore pecan pie, and I’m evenly divided between whether I like lemon meringue, banana cream, or Key lime pie more. The best piece of pie I ever had was a slice of banana cream at a restaurant called Perry’s in Portland. The pie had a wonderfully flaky crust, crushed pineapple and bananas under a luscious filling, and the whipped cream on top was perfect, and topped with toasted coconut. Every bite was amazing. Perry’s used to sell their pies, but I never saw that banana cream again (it probably sold out within minutes). My favorite cake is carrot cake, and my favorite cookie is anything with lemon, especially those ginger sandwich cookies with lemon filling. I can pretty much stay away from anything else though. I also love cobblers or crisps of any kind, maybe because they’re not as sweet as other desserts.

That’s all for this week!



Collections: Japanese Eki Stamps and Goshuin

The little stack of books above doesn’t look like much, but of all the Japanese things I’ve collected over the years they are the most precious of all. Each book contains stamps collected from train stations, attractions, and temples or shrines around Japan we visited during our two navy tours and other trips. Encouraged by my English students, I began collecting stamps during our first tour (1980-1983), and dutifully wrote the name and date of each station or place visited on the page to remember the visit, and one of my students wrote “memories of Japan” on the front of my first book (the green one). For the most part the books went everywhere with me because I never knew when I would be somewhere and able to collect a new stamp.

Two stamps from the Mashiko (the famous pottery village) train station. Stamp ink is either dark purple or vermillion red.

There are over 9,000 train stations (eki) throughout Japan. Most of these stations have a unique stamp (or even two) that highlights a particular attraction or novelty that the town or area is known for, from festivals to bridges to food. The stamp designs are detailed, and are a fun to way to collect memories of places visited. The stamp is usually located at the entrance to most train stations, but sometimes I had to do some searching to find it. One other issue that popped up now and again was the provided stamp pad was dry, and I could barely get a print in  my book (some hard-core collectors supposedly carry their own stamp pad). Occasionally I would come across a stamp but I did not have my stamp book on me, but many places had a stack of paper that I could use and I would glued the stamp into my book later. Eki stamps are not limited to train stations though. Most tourist attractions, including castles, museums, amusement parks, hot springs and so forth, have stamps as well.

Goshuin from Sanjusangendo Temple in Kyoto, from our second tour

Goshuin from Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion visit during our first tour

A special kind of stamp are goshuin, obtained at Buddhist temples or Shinto shrines. There is usually a special window at bigger temples or shrines where a small fee ($3 or so) is paid, and a monk or priest puts a stamp in the book and then writes the name, date, and maybe a blessing in beautiful calligraphy over the stamp. There are literally thousands of temples and shrines around Japan, and goshuin can technically be obtained at most of the bigger ones. Some people collect goshuin exclusively, but others, like me, mix them with their eki stamps.

Stamp books purchased at temples and shrines are accordion style, with room for stamps on both sides of each page.

Stamp collecting in Japan is very, very popular among all ages. There is often a “stamp rally” going on somewhere in Japan, where special books can be picked up and a prize earned for filling all the spots with stamps. Our grandson participated in one a couple of years ago, filled his book and earned two tickets to see Moana! I think I paid around $4 each for my books back in the day, but the traditional silk-covered accordion books are available for sale at most temples and shrines for around $10 now. Other stamp books, some of handmade paper, can be found in souvenir shops. It’s a small price to pay though to develop a wonderful collection of memories of places visited in Japan.

Thinking Ahead

As mentioned a short while ago, Brett and I have started discussing where (and even if) we want to settle when the Big Adventure ends in May 2019. There’s much to consider, and still lots of unknowns right now, the biggest being where YaYu will attend college. That information alone, once we have it, will have a profound affect on our decision, but in the meantime there are things we can begin to talk about. Brett and I have gone back to our tried and true method of developing lists and spreadsheets, and looking at the pros and cons of different options. Once again, we’re taking our time to come to the best decision for the direction we’ll take once the Big Adventure is over in May 2019.

For the time being we’ve been putting together a list of the things that are important to us, or that we believe will be in the future. We haven’t particularly ranked anything yet, and none of the points listed below is yet a deal-killer. Some of the things we are considering so far are:

  • Do we want to settle somewhere or keep traveling? Everything will revolve around our answer to this question.
  • Cost of living: We’re pretty sure we’re going to want to continue traveling in some form, and the lower the cost of living if we decide to settle somewhere, the more we will have for travel.
  • Taxes: We will want a location with a good tax environment for retirees that doesn’t tax Social Security, has a lower or no tax on military retirement, low sales tax, etc. (We’re allowed to dream, aren’t we?).
  • Walkability: We do not want to own a car again, if possible. We would prefer to live somewhere where we can walk or use public transportation for the majority of tasks, and use ride or car share for those times when we absolutely have to have a car.
  • Culture: We’re mainly thinking about having access to classes for enrichment, but would also like a variety of other other cultural offerings nearby if possible, like art museums, theaters, etc.
  • Health care: The availability of good medical care, specialists, etc. will become even more important as we age.
  • Travel & transportation: If we settle, the ease of our getting to other places and for our children to come see us will be important.
  • Weather: While we would prefer sunny, warm weather, we (me especially) also would prefer someplace with less humidity if possible. We’re also not crazy about living somewhere that gets a lot of snow, especially since we’d like to walk a lot for as much of the year as possible.

So far, we have come up with four general location options with pros and cons to each one:

  • Return to Kaua’i: The thought of leaving here permanently is difficult to think about, but we’re not sure it will make sense to return if all of the girls are attending college, or living, on the mainland. Especially since neither we nor they can afford the cost of them (and eventually their families) traveling here every year, or us to the mainland to see them in all in the various places they live or will live. However, if YaYu ends up attending the University of Hawai’i, it will make sense for us to continue to live here, for a few more years at least. We would move to a smaller, more affordable space on the island, and perhaps even buy a condo here (although local HOA fees have pretty much priced us out of the market).
  • Settle somewhere on the mainland: If YaYu ends up attending college on the mainland, it will make much more sense for us to resettle back there somewhere, as it will be easier to see the girls and for the girls to come and see us. It’s also easier, believe it or not, for our son and family to travel to the mainland than to come to Kaua’i from Japan. Where that somewhere might be though is the big unknown. Living on the mainland would be more affordable overall, and we would probably buy something small, a true pied à terre so to speak. Brett and I dream of being car free and able to get to places by walking, using public transportation or using a ride-share or car-share service when necessary, and there are locations on the mainland where we could make that dream a reality.
  • Relocate overseas: The opportunity to live in a different country and experience a different culture still greatly appeals to us. Having lived overseas twice (in Japan) we know many of the ins and outs, pros and cons, and pitfalls of overseas living. It would mean a major, major lifestyle change and affect the whole family so it’s currently not as viable as the two options above. Still, it’s not out of the running. We both agree that if Japan ever offers a visa for retirees (highly unlikely) we would move there in a heartbeat.
  • Continue traveling: The Senior Nomads, who have been traveling non-stop for the past four years, were the inspiration for our own upcoming Big Adventure, and we are not ready yet to write off the possibility that we will enjoy our experience enough to want to keep going for another year or longer. There are so many places we want to see and that we won’t be visiting on our upcoming Adventure, and we may decide we just want to keep traveling for a while longer.

I am grateful we have so many choices, but there is a great deal to consider before making a decision. Thankfully nothing has to be decided in a hurry. Both Brett and I are physically, mentally and in good (enough) shape financially to take on any of these options, and all of them appeal to us in one way or another. We’re currently leaning toward one of the first two options, but will reevaluate our position as the year progresses and eventually come up with a firm decision about our future direction.

Sunday Afternoon 3/4/2018

We’re eagerly awaiting the return of blue skies!

Well, March has roared in like a lion here, so hopefully that means we’ll be enjoying beautiful weather again by the end of the month. And, hopefully YaYu’s schedule will have calmed down as well. The whole week was pretty miserable, both weather- and schedule-wise. It’s been cold and blustery most of the week, nice and breezy for walking down by the ocean (if it wasn’t raining), but actually getting a walk in was difficult because we didn’t know from day-to-day what was going on with YaYu’s track schedule. We don’t blame her because she didn’t know either – the coach is currently out of the country, and the assistant coach hasn’t been very good about keeping the team informed. We ended up missing the farmers’ market on Wednesday because it was decided at the last minute the team would be practice at the stadium that afternoon. Same for the meet on Thursday – no one knew until the last minute what was happening. Anyway, it’s been that kind of week and we can only hope this next one will be better.

What those trees above have looked like this past week.

The roar of the surf has been deafening – we’ve been able to hear it from the house.

With the wind up this week, and the resulting high surf, we’ve been able to hear the sound of the waves from up at our house in the evenings – it’s been that loud. Brett and I have started walking a different stretch of the beach path lately, a little further to the north. It’s a bit more hilly than down in Kapaa, but has beautiful sweeping views. In fact, I almost walked to the edge of the cliff one time because I was so mesmerized by the view! We’re going to stick with this section for the next couple of months, and then will eventually move over to hiking out to the Pineapple Dump and back in order to be in the best shape possible when we leave on our Big Adventure.

Meeting beautiful Miss WenYu for the first time!

March is Adoption Month for our family. All three of our daughters joined us in March: Meiling in 1997; WenYu in 1999, and YaYu in 2005. The girls were all from Hunan Province, in south-central China, so we traveled to Changsha three times, and stayed in a different (fancy) hotel each time. I only have pictures of meeting WenYu – with Meiling the meeting took place in the hallway of our hotel, and there was just Brett, me and the officials, with no one to take pictures. I remember watching baby Meiling come down the hallway in their arms – she was carrying a little bag of Cheetos – wearing enough layers of clothing that she looked like a little Michelin Baby. We met YaYu in the huge reception room of the provincial office where adoptions took place, but for her adoption it was just her, the orphanage director and our family, including Meiling and WenYu (adoptions typically involved big groups of people). Five year-old YaYu was terrified and began screaming her lungs out within seconds after being brought to us, so no pictures were taken on that occasion. For WenYu’s adoption I traveled with a good friend while Brett stayed home with Meiling, who was too young to travel, and my friend took lots of pictures. WenYu was mellow the entire time, calmly taking in the whole situation and checking everyone out. She hasn’t changed a bit!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading Hamilton. I’m anxious to get it done though because I have a whole bunch of books backlogged now that I want to read.
  • Listening to: It’s semi-quiet around here. The washer and dryer are already doing their thing (thank you Brett!), but otherwise nothing is going on. YaYu is off meeting with friends to practice their presentation for the upcoming Key Club convention. Instead of the fierce winds we’ve been having lately, there’s a gentler breeze outside, but it’s still cool and somewhat overcast. There are lots of birds singing though, and one lone rooster way off in the distance. I can honestly say I will not miss the roosters. They don’t really bother me, but I don’t particularly enjoy them either.
  • Watching: Besides catching a few episodes of Bunheads, I haven’t been watching much TV these days. I’m usually at the back of the house in the evenings spending some time with Alexander Hamilton instead. Last night though we all watched Wonder Woman – fantastic! And, Hulu currently has some great movies for streaming so tonight Brett and I are going to watch Capote this evening, with Philip Seymour Hoffman. What a loss – he was a phenomenal actor.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m fixing eggs à la goldenrod for dinner tonight, and will serve Brett’s and YaYu’s over toast, with Canadian bacon and sliced apples for all of us. No baking today – the rum cake was finished last week and YaYu immediately asked for a chocolate bundt cake, so I made one of those last Wednesday and there’s still some left. On the menu for this week is pork & pepper stir fry,  grilled chicken sausages and pilaf, noodles with pork sauce, and grilled chicken and four-bean salad. We’re hoping YaYu’s track practices won’t conflict with the farmers’ market this week – we need to go!

    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We got Meiling’s package mailed off to her, which included her box of See’s Nuts & Chews (WenYu loved her surprise!). We made reservations for three items on our Kaua’i bucket list: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Barking Sands beach cottages, and the Kipu Kai Ranch ATV tour, which we’ll be doing in April with our good friend Denise! We were able to save big on all three, thanks to taking advantage of our military benefits for lodging, and riding with the guide on the tour versus having our own ATV, which saved us more than $40 per person over the price of renting our own ATV. While we didn’t get to hike the Stone Dam trail this week, Brett and I did get in five walks this week in spite of the scheduling madness and the weather. I also drank lots of water and studied French every day.
  • Looking forward to next week: It’s always so empty when she’s gone, but YaYu heads over to Honolulu this Friday for the big statewide Key Club convention. She went last year and had a great time so she’s excited about this year’s event as well, and we’re excited for her. I think Brett and I will be better able to work around YaYu’s crazy track schedule this week, although there seem to be a lot of appointments again for some reason, and rumor has it the stadium practice will be moving to another day – sigh. We’re all hoping the weather will be better this week too. Maybe we’ll finally get that walk up at the Stone Dam trail! Brett and I are also going to try to fit in a coffee date at Starbucks.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Besides the good deals/savings mentioned above, 1) I didn’t spend very much time with Swagbucks this past month, but still earned a bonus of nearly 400 Swagbucks; 2) Both our electric and water bills this past month were our lowest ever; 3) We did a great job of finishing leftovers, and YaYu took them every day in her lunch; 4) We had a no-spend week, not even the farmers’ market; 5) I found 3¢ on the ground this week, but otherwise we didn’t have anything for the change/$1 bill jar (no spending). We rolled a lot of coins though, and put those into our travel savings.
  • Thinking of good things that happened:  Our son and family are coming to Kaua’i in April! They will be coming for 10 days, over “Golden Week” in Japan (five national holidays in a week – it’s crazy there), and staying at a resort close to us. YEAH! YEAH! YEAH! I am already so excited I can hardly stand it! Also, Meiling had a great interview for her first “real” tech job (software and design) – we’ve got our fingers crossed that she hears soon about that as well!

    Just when you think you’ve seen every color of hibiscus there is, out pops yet another pretty one.

  • Grateful for: I continue to be thankful for being able to experience so many simple pleasures here on Kaua’i, like the sight of a hibiscus in colors I haven’t seen before, coconut palms against a blue sky, waves crashing against the shore, friendly people, tasty shave ice, etc. I have yet to grow bored with any of it.
  • Bonus question: What something about yourself that you think might surprise people? I was initially selected to go into a very specialized intelligence field when I joined the navy.  After a rigorous background check, I would have had a very high security clearance (crypto), but I started looking for something else to do when I found out I would always travel with an escort, and that I would have to work in some very, very remote locations. That just wasn’t what I saw myself doing with my life then, although in retrospect it might have been interesting. The navy was very understanding when I eventually told them I’d rather do something else, and I became an electronics technician instead, and a pretty good one at that. That change also was the reason I met Brett, so it was meant to be. But, I could have been a spy!

That’s it for this week. How did your week go? What good things happened for you? Have you read Hamilton? Did it take you forever too?

Goodbye February, Hello March

It’s a new month, and time to post the goals we want to accomplish this month. But first, here’s how we did with February’s goals:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account. We put $1261.11 into our account in February.
  2. Combine all pantry items into one closet. Here’s how our two closets looked before . . . and here’s how they look now!
  3. Make reservations for an overnight stay on the Big Island, and a two-night stay at one of the PMRF cottages during spring break. We have reservations now for the Big Island in late June, and will be staying overnight in a cottage at Camp Kilauea (with a fireplace and jetted tub!) inside the national park. My HawaiianMiles will cover our flights over to the Big Island and back (Kona), and we have free entrance to the park, so besides.lodging our only other expenses will be a car rental and dining (we plan to have dinner at Volcano House, but otherwise will bring our own food along). Brett also got us booked for two nights in early June at one of the beachfront cottages at Barking Sands on the west side of Kaua’i. They’re fully furnished, so we’ll take along our own food, and have dinner one night at the restaurant on base (Shenanigans), which is supposed to be very good. Brett and YaYu are going to spend one day while we’re there hiking in Waimea Canyon; I will hold down the fort and relax (i.e. sit out on the beach and read).
  4. Decide on bed pillows and cases to take along on the Big Adventure.We checked out several pillows this month at Costco. Some were too heavy (I’m looking at you, Tempurpedic memory foam), and others were lightweight and cheap, and we didn’t think they’d hold up well, especially after getting stuffed into our suitcases over and over. We have settled on these pillows through Amazon. They’re expensive, but very lightweight (around one pound each) and durable. There’s no hurry to order them right now though.
  5. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store. We took four bags to the thrift store in February.

Here are our goals for March:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account.

    The baking cabinet is on my list of clean-outs.

  2. Clean out at least three cabinets in the kitchen.
  3. Clean out and organize my nightstand.
  4. Clean out the two tansu in the living room (they’ve both been sold).
  5. Narrow our list of suitable Airbnb rentals for the first half of our trip.
  6. Set up an additional area in the garage for moving sale items.
  7. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store.

Let’s see how we do!