Money Matters

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that we’ve been saving like crazy for over a year to pay upfront for most of our big travel adventure. We set up and have been feeding our dedicated savings account with a regular monthly allotment along with every extra spare penny we’ve gotten along the way.

We’re at a stage right now though where, for the first time in a long, long while, we are carrying a balance on our credit card; that is, we’ve overspent our savings in order to make upfront reservations for the trip. We knew this was going to be the situation for a few months, but it’s still a bit uncomfortable for us, to put it mildly. We could take funds out of our regular savings and pay it off, but the plan has always been to pay for our travels using only dedicated travel savings and proceeds from the sale of our household goods and car. We’ll chip away at the balance for the next couple of months and have it gone by the time we depart in August, if not before.

While we travel we’ll live on our regular monthly income, and plan to put the amount we’re currently paying for rent into a separate savings account to build a sort of secondary emergency fund, if you will. This savings should also give us a nice cushion to land on when our adventure ends. When we leave Kaua’i we’ll have just two monthly payments – my student loan and our phone bill – and they’re already set up on auto-pay. Otherwise we’ll have no other bills – no rent, no utilities, no gas, no cable, no car or rental insurance, etc. – our income after putting away savings should be more than enough to cover food, inter-country transportation, side trips and other daily expenses each month.

We plan to travel and live as frugally as possible along the way. The Senior Nomads recently said they shoot for two no-spend days each week and we think that’s a worthy goal for us too. Not only will this help us to stay within our budget, but also require us to get out more and explore our surroundings rather than depend on tours, tickets, etc. to entertain us. I’m not sure yet whether we’ll be able to go without gelato for two days when we’re in Italy, or avoid stopping into the patisseries or boulangeries for two days when we’re in France – we’ll have to see about that. We may need to set up a separate gelato or bakery fund that we can dip into.

I’ve always been a firm believer that by setting realistic goals, financial or otherwise, and supporting them with careful, well-thought out, long-term plans dreams really can come true and be sustainable. We’re about to once again test those beliefs in a big way!

Sunday Afternoon 4/22/2018

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It’s going to take a long, long time for Kaua’i to recover from last week’s floods, especially the towns from Hanalei to the west. The slideshow above is a small look at the destruction caused by the record rains and flooding (Hanalei received 28 inches of rain in 24 hours). The flood’s effects won’t stay localized to the North Shore either because tourism, the main industry on the island, will be affected all over. Visitors come to Kaua’i to experience nature and the local environment versus staying at a resort the entire time, and road repairs, trail maintenance and other clean-up will be a long process.  Although other areas on the island fared better than the north shore, all of Kaua’i was affected by the storm. The Coconut Marketplace (where the man is on his paddleboard) is just around a couple of miles away from us in Kapaa, and areas on the south shore were flooded as well and had to be evacuated.

And yes, that’s a buffalo on the beach! Buffalo are raised on a ranch, near Hanalei and flood waters drove all 85 of them off the ranch with three making it all the way down to the beach. Almost all the buffalo have been rounded up taken back to the ranch, but it was something to see video of them running along the beach or pictures of them standing in the middle of town.

Food donations have been pouring in from all over the island, and soup kitchens have been set up to feed residents who have lost their homes or don’t have power. Pet food has also been donated.

The island is receiving assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers, but most everything that’s being done has come from state and local residents pitching in. Over $20 million has been donated for relief and rebuilding (Google and Facebook each donated $1 million). Many families on the island lost everything. We learned this past Friday that our next door neighbor’s sister’s house in Hanalei was destroyed, and it sat on pilings seven feet off the ground!

Toys for our granddaughter. The Chatter Telephone is an American classic!

Our son and family arrive this week, and I am so excited I can hardly stand it! I’m especially looking forward to getting to spend time with the grandkids. Our granddaughter (“the Destroyer”) was just five months old the last time we saw her, but now is walking and talking. Our grandson has gotten taller and lost several teeth since we were in Japan last year. I’ve promised our grandson that I will go down both slides at the pool with him, and Brett and I are planning to take him out one day for a belated birthday excursion, including hot dogs at Puka Dog, a stop at Lappert’s Ice Cream, and finishing the outing with a visit to the toy section at either Walmart or Kmart so he can pick out something he wants (the last time we did the choosing we got him something he already had). We’ve already gotten a couple of toys for our granddaughter that she can play with here, as well as some Kona coffee for our daughter-in-law, flour tortillas and cheese for our grandson (he loves quesadillas), and plenty of Diet Coke for our son. In spite of the ongoing clean-up, I think there will still be plenty for them to do while they’re here, although some plans are going to have to be adjusted. Fingers are crossed that the weather improves while they are here.

Finally, last week I gave myself a goal of commenting on someone’s blog at least once a week. I have tried to comment not once, but twice this week, on two different blogs, and my comment vanished each time when I hit the publish button! Sigh. Hopefully it’s just a temporary glitch with Blogger.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Goodbye Things on Friday, and give it one thumb up. Lots of points the author makes are things we’re already doing or have done, but the book got me to think more deeply about what we’ll put into storage while we travel, and what we’ll keep for when we eventually settle down again (not much). I downloaded Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng, from the library yesterday. I’ve been waiting for it for a long, long time, and am excited to get started.
  • Listening to: The birds are back! Lots of birdsong outside today – it’s been missing for the past couple of weeks due to the miserable weather. But, it’s not raining and there’s blue sky peeking out between the clouds. The next door neighbors also have a large (noisy) humidifier running – the hot water gasket under their kitchen sink failed the other night and almost the whole house was flooded so they’re drying it out. Inside, YaYu is preparing her traditional bowl of Sunday ramen (with added vegetables, sliced Chinese barbecued pork and LOTS of hot sauce) and Brett is listening to Youtube videos. The laundry awaits.
  • Watching: Brett and I greatly enjoyed Case Histories, and wish more episodes had been available through Prime (there are more, but you have to pay to see them). Last night we watched one of my all-time favorite movies, Kung Fu Hustle. Tonight we’ll go back to watching the Ruth Rendell Mysteries, which are OK but not the best mystery show we’ve ever watched.

    Chocolate Overload (otherwise known as Brett’s birthday cake)

  • Cooking/baking: Dinner tonight is Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs again, because we found big, ripe tomatoes at the farmers’ market this past week, and it’s a dish that makes all of us happy. I baked Brett a triple-chocolate bundt cake with chocolate glaze for his birthday yesterday, so he and YaYu are set with sweets for a while. On the dinner menu this week will be meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy (one of our son’s favorite meals, and difficult to make in Japan); noodles with pork sauce; slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy; and stuffed peppers. We don’t have a schedule for getting together with our son and family for meals, but I think I’ve got all the bases covered.

    With the garage freezer shut down, everything from the Big Shop had to fit into the house freezer. I don’t think there’s room in it right now for a piece of paper!

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I worked some more on my travel notebook, and I am caught up for now. I was thrilled this past week to find an amazing non-stop fare from Boston to Portland in early December and booked that leg of our journey in extra-comfort seats (flight is 6 1/2 hours). WenYu is going to come stay with us in Boston for the night we’re there, and then see us off at the airport the next day. I also found a sweet, affordable apartment in Sydney, located fairly close to the Botanical Gardens, and not too far from the Opera House. We had not intended to reserve anything this early, but this place was too good to pass up and we knew it wouldn’t last long. Brett and I did our monthly Big Shop last Friday, probably the last “big” one before we leave. We got the last few things in the garage freezer moved into the house, and shut the outside one off. I studied French almost every day, drank lots of water, but we only got in two walks because of YaYu’s schedule and the weather. Next week isn’t going to be much better, unfortunately. Both Brett and I are very ready for YaYu’s obligations to be over!

    The living room of our Sydney apartment

  • Looking forward to next week: I can’t ask for more than having my son, beautiful daughter-in-law and grandkids here.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We learned this past week that YaYu will be one of 43 valedictorians in her class (WenYu’s class had just nine). So proud of this girl – she has maintained a 4.0+ GPA all through high school. I have been seeing our eye doctor twice a year for the past two years because I was beginning to develop cataracts, but they are no longer growing and my vision has stabilized for now, so the Dr. said I can go back to once-a-year vision checks (having to have my eyes dilated is not a good/fun thing!). Costco surprisingly had a few items that we haven’t seen for a while back in stock, including frozen cherries (one of my favorite snacks) and the big packages of ground pork! I woke up to sunshine yesterday morning – the first time in weeks – it was glorious!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We are changing to T-Mobile’s military plan today, which will save us $48/month and give everyone unlimited data. 2) We will also be eligible for free Netflix through T-Mobile (we didn’t qualify with our current plan), for another $14.00/month savings. 3) We ran out of quite a few things this past week, but I shopped the fridge, pantry and freezer and was able to come up with some tasty meals without having to go to the store before the Big Shop on Friday. 4) In spite of buying some extra items for our son and family, we still came in under budget on the Big Shop. 5) We put just $3.00 in the change/$1 bill jar, our leftover from the farmers’ market.

    Truckloads of pet food have been donated and dispersed.

    Volunteers set up soup kitchens to feed displaced persons and rescue workers.

  • Grateful for: The outpouring of help and aloha we’ve seen this past week has been awe inspiring and humbling: boats evacuating stranded residents and bringing in supplies; a doctor setting up clinic for those trapped by landslides; massive amounts of food donated and cooked for those who lost their homes; funds donated for farmers who lost all their crops; community or school groups volunteering their time to assist with clean-up; paniolo (cowboys) helping to round up escaped livestock (buffalo or otherwise); city and county workers putting in extra hours to clean up debris; random acts of kindness everywhere, and on and on.
  • Bonus question: Do you enjoying gardening? In a nutshell, no. I wish I did and am somewhat envious of those who do garden and enjoy it, but any sort of yard work or planting or such just does nothing for me. I blame my father – he made gardening a chore when I was young, and I developed a strong aversion to it. While Dad was planting, watering, trimming, harvesting and doing all those things that would have been fun, my siblings and I were stuck with weeding and hoeing, or things like cleaning and sorting wood chips – necessary but backbreaking, miserable and mundane tasks that destroyed my desire to have a garden. Brett and I have set up and maintained a garden in the past, but gardening has just never been my favorite thing to do. I am thrilled that we have someone taking care of the yard here, and I would be happy to live in a condo with nothing more than a deck or lanai and a few plants in pots. I used to have a green thumb when it came to houseplants, but currently don’t have any (because of bugs).

That’s all for this week from Casa Aloha. How was your week? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you?

(I don’t have any way to credit the flood-related photos above – they’ve just shown up in various feeds on Facebook, taken by different people around the island.)


#Kaua’i: Kipu Ranch Ultimate Ranch ATV Tour

Looking out to Kipu Kai beach

Ever since I saw George Clooney look out over the Kipu Kai beach in the film The Descendants, and found out that the only way I could see it was by taking an ATV tour, the Kipu Ranch’s Ultimate Ranch Tour has been on my Kaua’i bucket list. The beach seen in the movie is part of a four-mile stretch of beaches on the south shore of the island. While the beach seen in the movie is public (there are no private beaches allowed by law in Hawai’i), overland access to it is privately owned by the Waterhouse family. Currently, the only way to reach the beach is by boat or kayak.

Denise, Brett and I have our helmets on and are ready to roll!

We rode with one of the guides, which allowed us to focus on all the beautiful scenery versus concentrating on the road . . .

. . . which became challenging pretty quickly into the tour

Besides the beaches, the Kipu Ranch contains an amazing variety of landscapes, from grazing land to mountains to beaches. The ranch runs several large herds of cattle, and the property is often used for movie locations, including the first four Jurassic Park films (the first one was being filmed when Hurricane Iniki hit in 1992), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and The Descendants among others. The ATV tour takes visitors to see many of the film locations as well as other breathtaking sights that exist on the ranch. The ranch also hosts several zipline tours.

Grazing land runs right up against the mountains. Four of the five Jurassic Park films were filmed in this location, near the mountains.

Mt. Ha’upu (also known as the Hoary Head) is the most imposing feature of the ranch. The tour took us up the face of the mountain and over one of the cuts to get to the ocean side of the ranch.

The ranch land was originally owned by a member of Hawaiian royalty, Princess Ke’elikolani, granddaughter of King Kamehameha I. Land was the only thing of value that Hawaiian royalty owned, so when the princess wanted some money to live in Europe she first leased and then sold some of her land to William Rice, a rancher, with an agreement that it never be developed. Rice sold the ranch to Jack Waterhouse in 1948. Waterhouse was descended from early missionaries on Kaua’i, and was related to Rice through marriage. During his stewardship roads were built, irrigation was developed, and other improvements made, all while maintaining the original agreement that the land not be developed.

Yes, there was LOTS of red mud. We didn’t get too dirty, but some of the other drivers came back coated in the stuff.

Most of the other tour members in our group drove their own ATVs, but we arranged to ride with one of the guides, and were glad we did. The roads were not in the best repair, mainly due to all the recent rain we’ve had here, and we were glad we didn’t have to worry about navigating all the bumps, ruts, potholes and hills, and could instead focus on the scenery along the way. It was still a very bumpy, muddy ride though.

Looking back down over the ranch from the mountainside.

Our two tour guides were very knowledgable – both were born and raised on Kaua’i, and had worked for the ranch for many years – and they added to our enjoyment of the tour. We made several stops along the way where they described different parts of the ranch, spoke about the ranch’s history, and pointed out sights we might have missed otherwise. About halfway through the tour we stopped for water and some very tasty homemade banana bread.

The overlook view of Kipu Kai Beach, the highlight of a tour of highlights.

While everything we saw along the way was amazing, the highlight of the tour came at the end, where the sky cleared and we were rewarded with a stunning view of Kipu Kai beach. We learned that because the land is private most local residents never get to see the beach; the ATV tour is the only way to access the view.

Looking down at the city of Lihue from the highest point on the road, the last breathtaking view before finishing the tour.

Jack Waterhouse died in 1984, and deeded the ranch over to the state of Hawai’i. The heirs still control the property, and it will remain private until all the Waterhouse nieces and nephews are gone. There’s no way to know at this time what the state will do with the land, but many residents of the island are hopeful the land will remain undeveloped and use it for research. It’s an amazing place, and shows off the best of Kaua’i. Plus, the ATV tour is just a whole lot of fun!

Staying Organized: The Notebook

The Notebook

Along with all the reservations I’ve made over the past couple of weeks have come emails. with confirmations, addresses, etc. Most of them arrived in my inbox and were then relocated to a special file I’d set up (Brett also maintains confirmation numbers in a calendar). Even though I’ve arranged them in order by date they’re frankly still a pain to get into and go through when I want or need to know something.

Although I’m always trying to go as paperless as possible these days, I finally figured out that I would be happier in this case if I had everything printed out and organized. So, I created The Notebook.

I purchased a half-inch three-ring binder, lightweight yet big enough to hold everything I want. It also has pockets inside both the front and rear covers to hold odds and ends that we collect along the way, including the pages from guidebooks that we want to take along.

Then, I printed off calendar pages for each month we’ll be traveling, and filled in each day with where we’ll be, using a different color for each destination. It’s easy to look at the calendar page and see which days we’re traveling, and for how long we’ll be staying at each location. Travel days get an arrow, and also are coded to let us know if we have airline tickets, lodging and/or hotel or car rental, if needed, or if there’s something that still needs to be taken care of.

The calendar helps easily see where we will be each day of the month, our travel days, what’s been reserved and what still needs to be taken care of.

Behind each calendar page go hotel and flight reservations, and Airbnb rental agreements. The Airbnb information contains phone numbers, addresses, etc. which will be highlighted and easier to find if needed, and we’re planning to print out a page from Google Maps for each of our Airbnb rentals to show their location, which we might need to share with a cab driver or someone else if get lost. We can add extra information to the pages if needed, things like directions, which bus or train to take, luggage fees and so forth.

As we move through the calendars each month, pages will be moved to the back of the notebook to form a sort of “diary” of our journey. Brett will be keeping a journal of each day, but the notebook will hopefully add another dimension.

I realize The Notebook is one more thing to carry along, but I’ve already found it useful and know it will continue to be so as we move along. I figure we can’t be too organized, especially with as much as we’ve will have going on.

Sunday Afternoon 4/15/2018

Our walk venue on Monday – the rubber track was very comfortable for walking, but I still prefer the beach path and the gorgeous views.

This past week was one of those that felt both incredibly busy yet also very relaxing. I got lots done, caught up on chores and other things that needed to get done, but also found plenty of time to read and have fun. YaYu’s track schedule was once again crazy, maybe more so than usual. They have a new coach this year (a single guy with no other obligations) and he wants the team at the stadium as much as possible to practice on the track, which is at a minimum 30 minutes away from the high school and our house. Other than Thursdays (meet day) though, YaYu never knows until the day before whether they’ll be practicing at the stadium or not, and it’s far enough away that Brett and I usually can’t plan or do anything while they’re practicing there. YaYu is having a great track season, but we are all looking forward to it being over!

A bit of blue sky on the other side of the mountains at Kipu Kai Ranch gave us hope on Tuesday that things might be clearing up. Nope.

The weather stayed mostly miserable for another week (we’ve had only two full days of sunshine since February 22), although last Monday the clouds cleared out for a while in the afternoon, the sun came out and it actually got a bit hot. Brett and I had an errand near the stadium that day, so we did our walk on the outside lane while YaYu and her team practiced. We were hoping the good weather would last through the next day, when our ATV tour was scheduled, but it was not to be. The rain and clouds were back on Tuesday although it thankfully didn’t actually rain while during the tour even though it threatened to the entire time. The sun appeared for the last stop on the tour, the overlook for the Kipu Kai beach on the south shore, and it was glorious. Getting to see that beach was one of the big reasons I wanted to do the tour too. There was LOTS of mud everywhere, but the whole experience was fun, fun, fun from start to finish, and best of all we got to do it with our friend Denise!

This gorgeous bougainvillea tree in Hanapepe made me think for a moment that spring had really arrived. The clouds in back told the real story though.

Meiling got back the results from her DNA test and discovered she is 97.99 . . . Chinese! The test results were interesting though. Han is the main ethnic branch in China, followed by Mongolian and then several other minority groups, and it was interesting to see the makeup of her DNA. The results also mentioned a couple of medical markers, but those were vague (“you might develop xxx in middle age or older”). Neither of the other girls is particularly interested at this time in doing a DNA study (nor are Brett and I).

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Eat Up! mid week, and have also finished Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann, and The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn. I could put neither book down – both were the definition of page-turners. Although it was non-fiction, Killers of the Flower Moon read like a fictional murder mystery, and was about a tragic and unsettling piece of American history, the Osage murders in Oklahoma, something I ashamedly admit to knowing nothing about before reading this book. The Woman in the Window grabbed me from the first sentence and wouldn’t let me go until the last page (I read all  448 pages in less than two days). I’m back to non-fiction today though with Goodbye Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki.
  • Listening to: We’re listening to the sound of more rain again this morning. There were massive thunderstorms passing over all last night, many areas on the island are flooded, and there have been landslides and closures. Hanalei on the north shore has gotten 24 inches of rain in the past 24 hours. Here at Casa Aloha, YaYu is fixing her brunch (spicy Thai noodles with chicken), and we’re getting ready to start the laundry so that will shatter any other semblance of quiet. Supposedly there will be more thunderstorms tonight. (Photos above by Kolohe Kapu.)
  • Watching: We finished up all the available episodes of Death in Paradise this week, and started a new British mystery series, Case Histories. There’s currently only one season of the show available right now on Amazon Prime, so when we finish we’ll have to look for something else.
  • Cooking/baking: Because we’re starting to run out of lots of things (Big Shop is next week), it’s breakfast for dinner once again tonight: scrambled eggs, grilled sausages, fruit and toast for Brett and YaYu. I made brownies a couple of days ago, so no baking today. Other dinners on the menu this week are grilled chicken & apple sausages along with steamed broccoli,  grilled pork & vegetable kabobs; chicken and vegetable curry; and fried rice with Chinese barbecued pork and vegetables.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got started on a big project of organizing all of our travel reservations for the Big Adventure. Both Brett and I have things saved in our email accounts, but I wanted to have all of it in one easy-to-locate place for both of us to access. The project’s not finished yet but I’m off to a good start. I also made our flight reservations to Philadelphia from Dallas, and hotel reservations near Bryn Mawr, so the first half of The Big Adventure is set. Brett and I went back to Hanapepe on Friday and picked up a guidebook for Australia from the Talk Story bookstore. While we were down that way we also took care of a couple of Big Adventure-related errands at places that were on the way coming and going. I drank lots of water, studied French every day, but it’s been a terrible week for walking thanks to YaYu’s schedule and the not-so-good weather.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re meeting Denise tomorrow for breakfast at the TipTop Cafe! She heads home on Wednesday, but I’ve got an appointment with the eye doctor on Tuesday so we picked tomorrow morning for one last meet-up. Otherwise we’ve got nothing on the calendar for the week.

    Blue skies as we approached the Kipu Kai beach overlook! The weather stayed overcast and rainy on the other side of the mountains though.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: The ATV tour was the only touristy thing I’ve ever really wanted to do here, and it was worth every penny. We had a great time, and riding with one of the guides was the way to go. Plus, Brett and I got to spend some quality time with our friend Denise and have plate lunches afterwards at Mark’s Place, and those are always good things! Besides picking up guidebooks while we were in Hanapepe, we also stopped at the Midnight Bear Bakery for coffee and a pastry, and brought home a treat for YaYu.

    I had a macadamia nut cinnamon swirl pastry for lunch at the Midnight Bear Bakery in Hanapepe. Maybe not the healthiest of choices, but it was divine.

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) YaYu asked Bryn Mawr to recalculate her financial aid award because they had based their calculations on us having just two in college versus three next year, and they increased her aid for next year! However, the previous aid award gives us a very good idea of what the following year’s aid amounts will be after Meiling graduates. 2) We had to pay income tax this year (no more extra child credit). It wasn’t too bad, but we put it on our credit card for the reward points and then paid it off. 3) The cost of the Australia guidebook was completely covered by the used book store credit we had received. 4) We’ve done a very good job of using up produce odds & ends and leftovers this week – nothing has gone to waste. 5) We put $15.51 into the change/$1 bill jar: $8.75 back from the water bill, $5.02 back from the cable bill, and $1.74 change from the dentist. We spent all our money again at the farmers’ market.

    I have learned lots of vocabulary with Memrise, and while I can read and understand sentences I still can barely put one together. My pronunciation is terrible, and I am completely unable to conjugate a verb. I need some real communication! (#1 is the correct answer above, BTW)

  • Grateful for: I’m feeling thankful these days for my training as a language instructor. It doesn’t make learning French any easier, but it has helped me realize what I need to do to be a more effective learner. In my case, that’s getting lots of feedback, and real communication, even if that’s just from other learners. Textbook and online exercises help, but they only go so far, for me anyway.
  • Bonus question: What is your least favorite household chore? I have maybe covered this before, but hands down I hate dusting, mainly because it has to be done here  every. single. day. There is no rest. Sometimes it needs to be done twice even because the dust here is awful. It’s even worse right now because of the damp and the dust is sticking to everything. I would rather clean toilets than dust. I also don’t like doing yard work, or the laundry, which is the main reason we only do it once a week. I am one of those obnoxious people though who will refold towels and such if someone folds them “wrong.” Otherwise I don’t mind most chores because I like a clean, tidy house. My favorite chore is probably washing the dishes – I find it very contemplative – but I only have the morning and lunch duty these days – Brett does the dinner dishes every evening.

That’s all for this week! Thank for indulging me with some time off last week. How was your week? What did you accomplish? What good things happen for you?

Sunday Afternoon 4/8/2018

The beautiful (and tiny) YaYu went to her prom last night. She was our “late baby” – Brett and I were both over 50 when she joined our family) – but what a wonder and joy she has been (and is)!

We learned this week that YaYu was awarded two more scholarships: $500 from the Rotary Club, and $1500 from Kiwanis, bringing her scholarship total to $3000! We’re so proud of this girl, and it’s so, so gratifying to see all her efforts rewarded.

Our landlord has apparently already found a renter for after we move out at the end of July. Landlord has been in the rental game for a long time and has learned to advertise early, and I guess someone moving here for work saw the ad and latched onto it because of the garage. I’m also guessing Mr. Potential Renter had been looking at Craigslist and caught on quickly to what a house with a garage usually rents for and decided this place would be a bargain (it is). One interesting twist though is that the Mr. PR insists he can’t live without central air-conditioning, and is willing to pay to have it installed! So, this past week a representative from an A/C company came out to look things over and give the landlord an estimate: $7900. Landlord is willing to kick in $1800, but that’s still a LOT of money Mr. PR will have to come up with. So we will see. My money is on the guy deciding this place isn’t as affordable as he thought (or he wises up and decides to go with A/C window units versus central air).

A few of the books we’re looking at these days

This past week we finally started checking out some of our guidebooks. It’s fun and exciting, but also still a bit overwhelming at this point, with almost too much information to take in. Some of these books are also heavy which makes me wonder if we’ll take them along with us, or as someone suggested, just rip out the pages we’ll need/use.

Finally, we have a lot going on this week so I’m going to take a few days off from writing. I’ll be back next Sunday though.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m more than halfway through Eat Up! and the further I go, the more I’m enjoying it. Ruby (after GBBO I have to use her first name) again and again covers aspects of food and eating that I hadn’t even considered. It’s all very interesting and enlightening.
  • Listening to: The sound of yet more rain is our background music this morning. No birds, no roosters, not a single other sound is out there. It’s quiet inside too: YaYu is still out with her friends, and Brett is reading. We’re not planning on starting the laundry until later this afternoon, so I am going to enjoy the peace and quiet as long as possible (wish the rain would stop though).
  • Watching: We finished up Last Tango in Halifax (and hope there will be another season), and were going to watch new episodes of Death in Paradise but discovered Better Call Saul also had new episodes so we watched all of those. All the actors in the series are superb, but Michael McKean has really stood out. The ending to Season 3 was jaw-dropping.

    The matcha cake with a dark chocolate glaze is very tasty!

  • Cooking/baking: We’re having breakfast for dinner again this evening: scrambled eggs, sausages, fruit and toast for Brett and YaYu. I baked a matcha cake with chocolate glaze a couple of days ago, so no baking today. I’m now trying to figure out how many other things I can glaze. Also appearing on the menu this week, in between YaYu’s track practices and meets will be lumpia and potstickers; Thai red curry chicken; mabo dofu; and pork & pepper stir fry. There’ll be rice with everything, but we need to use it up.

    Around 100 feet from where Brett and I start our walk is a sacred ancient Hawaiian burial site, the Kapa’a Ahupua’a, Puna Moku. I’d never noticed it before this week because I’d always been looking ahead or to the left at the ocean.

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got four packages of bakeware/kitchenware boxed up and ready to be mailed to Meiling next week. She was never interested in cooking and baking when she was young, but she’s developed into a pretty good cook and baker lately, and I’m happy she can use this stuff. Not a big deal, but I spent all last week organizing and cleaning up my Pinterest boards. I hadn’t looked at Pinterest for nearly a year but had fun playing with it again. It is still addicting. We made good progress on cleaning out the garage freezer this past week. There are still a few more things to use in there, but we should be able to reach our goal of having it emptied out by the end of the month. I drank lots of water, studied French almost every day, and Brett and I got in three walks. It was not a great week for walking thanks to both the weather and our schedules. Yesterday the rain started two minutes before we reached the car and we got soaked!
  • Looking forward to next week: Good friend Denise is arriving on the island today, and on Tuesday morning she, Brett and I are doing the ATV tour out at the Kipu Kai ranch! Fingers and toes are crossed that the rain holds off, although it’s probably going to be muddy one way or the other. Brett and I plan to head back to Hanapepe one day this week to use our store credit and get a couple more guide books (for Australia and New Zealand). We also want to stop by the bakery when we’re in town. I’m going to start putting together our travel itinerary notebook this week, and I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it (a feeling somewhere between excitement and what in the heck are we doing?).
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Besides YaYu’s scholarship announcements, she went to her prom last night. Prom is so different these days from when Brett and I were in high school. Back then you had to have a date, but these days it’s more about friends getting together, dressing up and having a good time. Of course plenty of people have dates, but YaYu and five of her friends went together, and from the messages and photos YaYu sent they had a wonderful time. One of her friend’s parents both work at the Marriott (where the prom was held) and got the six girls a room there, so after prom they had a slumber party at the hotel, and had brunch there this morning – fun!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I earned a big enough bonus from doing Swagbucks last month that I was able to get another $25 Amazon gift card for 2200 points, but I am now officially done with Swagbucks. YaYu found her prom dress at Ross for less than $20, borrowed some sparkly shoes from a friend, and her friends did each others’ hair and makeup – the big expense was the $50 prom ticket. We put $10.07 in the change/$1 bill jar: $2.07 from recycling, $4.00 back from purchasing YaYu’s graduation tassle and stole (she is reusing WenYu’s cap and gown), and $4.00 back from last week’s valet parking at Duke’s. We went to the farmers’ market but spent all our money!
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I, and our daughters, are blessed that our son is able and willing to pay for their books while they attend college. It’s a big expense, but he has stepped up every year for Meiling and WenYu, and will be covering three of them next year. When Meiling joined our family 20 years ago, M was not happy – he did not want a sister. But, he’s become all three girls’ biggest fan and is a terrific big brother to each of them.

    This is me when I think about commenting on others’ blogs.

  • Bonus question: What’s one thing you know you could be better at doing? I am terrible – I mean the worst – at commenting on others’ blogs. Every year I resolve to do better, but I am not one who can casually dash off a comment – writing anything is always an effort, even a quick comment, because I’m never satisfied with anything I write. Introversion also plays a strong role; that is, it’s one thing to write on my own blog but quite something else to inject myself into someone else’s work even when invited. It’s like going to a party where I don’t know anyone else: sort of scary. I also often find that by the time I get ready to comment someone else has usually said what I want to say, and has said it better than I ever could. All of these are of course excuses and rationalizations – I just need to make more of an effort at commenting (although just thinking about it already has my heart pounding).

That’s a wrap for this week! How did your week go? What good things happened for you? What are you cooking?

See you in a week!


SAD on Kaua’i

Brett and I tried to go for a walk on Tuesday, but it was raining and the wind was fierce enough that it snapped my umbrella so we gave up.

We’re going through yet another week of overcast, rainy, windy, cool weather here on the Garden Island. There have been some indications of spring lately, and the odd warm and sunny day, but mostly the gloomy weather continues. March roared in like a lion and pretty much left the same way, and I think there were only seven or eight days in the entire month when it didn’t rain. A couple of friends here also originally from Portland have said that at times it’s felt like we were there again and not on Kaua’i.

A typical March day this year.

Back when Brett and I were deciding where we wanted to retire, weather was the number one item on our list. After 22 years in Portland, we had grown more than a bit weary of the long gloomy winters (and falls and springs). We both loved Portland and our life there, but the weather kept us hibernating indoors almost all winter. I grew sluggish and always gained weight, and as the years went on felt more and more depressed through the long dreary winter season. Both Brett and I yearned for warm, sunny days year-round, and when we evaluated our choices Hawai’i came out on top.

For the most part Hawai’i has kept its promise, but these last few months have made us realize how much we have come to love and depend on the usual sunshine and warm temperatures. It’s been hard being stuck indoors more often than not, and having to forego planned outings because of the weather.

The less-than-good weather does have benefits at times though.

Many of you are probably thinking, “cry me a river, Laura.” No, it doesn’t snow here, or get below freezing, and we’re not bundled up in boots, gloves or coats, and we don’t have to heat the house. But weather and temperatures are all relative to location, and this has been the most depressing winter we’ve experienced since we arrived. I am feeling the beginning twinges of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) once again.

I keep reminding myself that rain is what keeps Kaua’i lush and green, and the farmers productive. The rain and cooler weather has meant that our lawn doesn’t need to be watered and our water bill has been less than usual. Same for our electric bills – the ceiling fans haven’t been running constantly. Maybe best of all (for me anyway), humidity levels have been low too.

Sunshine and blue skies will return, and all the gloom will be forgotten.

The sunshine will come back, the temperature will rise, and the humidity will return. In the meantime though I’m feeling a bit SAD.


Goodbye March, Hello April

Although some good things happened for us last month, I think we were all glad to see the end of March come around. Mainly because we’ve all been pining for blue skies and warmer temperatures, but also because we are eager to keep moving forward toward the fall and the big changes that will be coming around for all of us. We’re making progress, but it still feels like there is so very, very much to get done, and not enough time to do it all. Things are still moving though, albeit slowly for now, but will pick up speed the closer we get to our move out date.

Anyway, here’s how we did with March’s goals:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account. We put $1067.50 in to our account. Lots of it came right back out to pay for all the reservations we made at the end of the month.
  2. Clean out at least three cabinets in the kitchen. Done! I organized two cabinets and one now holds the dishes we’re storing, and the other holds the ones we’re letting go. I also cleaned out the baking cabinet; most of what’s in there now are items we’re using now but selling later.

    Although we’re still using them for now, these dishes are all being sold.

  3. Clean out and organize my nightstand. Done! There was an awful lot of junk in there.
  4. Clean out the two tansu in the living room (they’ve both been sold). Done! Most of the stuff that’s left are things we’ll continue to use until the buyers come to claim the chests.
  5. Narrow our list of suitable Airbnb rentals for the first half of our trip. Done! We’ve reserved all our homes for the first half of the trip, with the total less than $30 over our budget.
  6. Set up an additional area in the garage for moving sale items. Done! And it’s filling up fast.
  7. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store. We filled one bag last month.

Here are our goals for April:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account.
  2. Continue to look for and possibly book air travel down to Buenos Aires.
  3. Clean out and shut down the garage freezer.
  4. Use up as many condiments as possible in the refrigerator.

    So many (hot) sauces, so little time

  5. Move my IRA from the local bank to our primary bank; help YaYu open an account at our primary bank.
  6. Order lei and a haku for YaYu’s graduation.
  7. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store.

Once again, we’ll see how we do!


Sunday Afternoon 4/1/2018

Wishing all who celebrate a very happy Easter!

We had originally thought we might go out for brunch today, but none of us was really up for it, especially after Brett and I just went out on Friday for our anniversary. We gave YaYu some candy this morning, but that’s the extent of this year’s Easter celebration at Casa Aloha. Back when the girls were little I used to decorate the house for Easter – we had several pieces of rabbit-themed Fitz & Floyd ceramics (Kensington Rabbit) that I picked up for a song when we lived in Japan, and also many beautiful washi paper-covered eggs I would put out. Brett and I always staged an elaborate egg hunt for the girls (inside because it usually always rained in Portland on Easter), and I’d make a eggs à la goldenrod with their hard-boiled eggs for brunch, and fix ham for dinner. Part of me misses those days, but another part is happy that all the hoopla is over.

Living room in the Portland house we’ve reserved – we’ll celebrate Christmas here!

I was able to take care of several more bookings this past week, including reserving the Portland Airbnb we wanted for our family stay in December. I found some fantastic air fares and for the most part very good schedules as well, and booked our flights from Portland to Dallas, from Philadelphia to Miami, from Lisbon to the U.S. in December, from Miami to Buenos Aires, and our flights over to New Delhi in January. Finding that last one was a bit of surprise – I went to look just to get a general idea of what fares were like, and found one-way tickets for less than half of what I expected to pay, on China Airlines via Taipei, so I snapped them up. I also got an excellent price on our trip back to the mainland in December by first heading to Madrid from Lisbon, and then flying to London and on to Boston, on Norwegian Air. The only downside is that we’ll have a 7 1/2 hour layover in the Gatwick airport, but we should be able to get out of the airport for a couple of hours to see some of the surrounding area. The upside (besides the low price) is that we were able to reserve exit row seats, with extra legroom for the longer flights, at no additional charge. We’ll spend a night in Boston, and then fly on to Portland the next day. Also, I found a decent fare for a non-stop flight to Buenos Aires from Miami on Aerolineas Argentinas, and after doing some research I decided to go ahead and book them now because all signs were pointing to the fares increasing beginning next week. However, when I clicked to complete the booking I got a notice that the price of the tickets had dropped by over $350! Amazing! I cannot say enough good things right now about Airbnb and Expedia. Both have been a dream to work with, and Expedia has consistently offered the lowest fares for the flights we want with the best routes. Budget-wise we’re currently $258.50 over what we estimated our costs to be, but the total includes the tickets to New Delhi, which we had not expected to buy until later.

This view!

We enjoyed much nicer weather this past week, and Brett and I even made it to the beach last Monday. It was glorious, but after an hour big dark clouds came in, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped to where we were shivering.  When it started to rain we gave up and came home. But, the hour we were there was absolutely wonderful. YaYu is back at school this week and back to her crazy schedule, so not sure when we’ll make it back to the beach but in the meantime the sunshine and blue skies are making me very happy!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading Eat Up! Ruby Tandoh is a wonderful writer (as well as a talented baker), and is covering lots of the issues that make eating such a minefield. I’ve felt that it’s taking me longer to get through books than it did last year, but then I realized so far all I’ve been reading is non-fiction, which does take longer. I’m also falling asleep these days when I read – all that sleep I missed is catching up with me.
  • Listening to: It’s mostly quiet inside and out. Brett’s is finishing up our taxes (we have to pay this year – ugh) and YaYu is studying in her room. Besides being Easter Sunday, it’s also overcast and cool again so it’s quiet outside too. Of course that doesn’t stop the roosters around here from screaming, but most of the other noise is tamped down. We’ll start the laundry in a little while. Everything will go through the dryer today because it’s too damp outside to dry anything, so that will up the noise factor once we get started. But for now, the quiet is nice.
  • Watching: We discovered that Netflix had new episodes available of Last Tango In Halifax, so we’ve been watching that this week, just an episode an evening to make it last.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m making eggs à la goldenrod again for our dinner tonight, in homage to Easters past. YaYu and Brett will have their eggs served over toasted French bread, and we’ll all have fresh fruit on the side. No baking today – we still have enough treats on hand. On the menu this week, scheduled around track practices and meets, will be noodles with pork sauce, stuffed peppers, and grilled fish tacos with fresh mango salsa.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I drove down to Hanapepe on Tuesday and dropped off a box of books at the Talk Story bookstore – they take used books and give back store credit. Other than all the good travel deals it was a pretty uneventful week. I drank lots of water, studied French every day, and we walked every day except for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings when YaYu had her stadium track practice and meet, and Brett and I had our dinner date.
  • Looking forward to next week: Hopefully more good weather and another trip or two to the beach! If it dries out enough Brett and I are going to try to take our Stone Dam trail hike next week.

    Duke’s Hula Pie: Chocolate cookie crust filled with macadamia nut ice cream, and topped with whipped cream, fudge sauce and toasted macadamia nuts. Out. Of. This. World.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I had a lovely anniversary dinner at Duke’s Kaua’i on Friday evening (the restaurant is named for Duke Kahanamoku, the famous swimmer and surfer). We had a table with a great view of the beach, our dinners were delicious, and to top it off we were treated to a slice of their famous hula pie! Brett and I were happy to share it – there was no way either of us could have eaten that slice on our own because it was massive. On our way back home from Hanapepe last Tuesday we decided to stop off in Poipu and treat ourselves to lunch at Puka Dog, always a good thing. The line when we got there was incredibly long, but the wait was worth it – those hot dogs are delicious (especially garnished with lilikoi mustard and coconut relish)! And, our landlord messaged us to let us know he wants to buy our washer and dryer!

    Brett agrees with Anthony Bourdain that Puka Dog is worth a stop! (A.B. ate here on No Reservations)

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: It doesn’t feel like we had a very frugal week because I spent a lot of money on the reservations I made. But, we saved on all of the flights we booked, and will be getting LOTS of reward points from our credit card. We also got $30 in store credit from Talk Story Books, much more than we would have gotten from selling the books at our moving sale, and will use the credit to purchase guide books for Australia and New Zealand. We put $6.21 into the change/$1 bill jar this week: $5 back from the farmers’ market, and $1.21 from Safeway (for milk and our fruit salad for dinner tonight).
  • Grateful for: Thirty-nine years ago I married my best friend, the best dad ever, and my partner in everything. We used to talk back then about growing old together, and well . . . here we are.  We’re very different people from very different backgrounds, with very different interests, skills and talents, and yet we’ve always agreed on the “big” things like money, kids and child-rearing, where to live, retirement, etc. We’re good at compromising, and rarely argue, and we’ve never gone to bed angry with each other. Brett has only once said “no,” to me – he figured out pretty quickly that if left to my own thoughts and devices I would put the brakes on something all by myself before I got us into trouble. I’m beyond thankful for all of our time together and all of our adventures, the good times and even the not-so-good. Here’s to many more happy years together!
  • Bonus question: Do you have a favorite Easter candy? I haven’t had one for a couple of years, but hands down my favorite is and always will be Cadbury Creme Eggs. They’re so sweet they make my teeth hurt, but that sweetness limits how many I eat. Except for the caramel variation, I’ve liked the other flavors they’ve introduced from time to times as well, especially the one year when they had orange creme in the center. So good! The chocolate ganache filling was pretty nice too. Otherwise I can take or leave most Easter candy, especially jelly beans which I don’t care for except for a few Jelly Belly flavors. Brett loves marshmallow “hiding eggs,” but always waits to buy them the day after Easter when they’re selling for $1/bag or less.

And that’s how this week went at Casa Aloha! How was your week? Did you celebrate Easter? What are you eating this week? What good things happened for you?

#Kaua’i: Everyday Color

One of the joys of living on Kauai is that every day nature provides an abundance of colorful delights for the eye, in all the colors of the rainbow and then some:

Deep purple

Bluer and bluest

Lush green (everywhere)

 Juicy, sweet yellow

Fiery orange
Vibrant red

Cotton candy pink

Soft, warm brown

Weathered black

Fragrant white

And sometimes we can see almost all the colors at the same time!

Oh so lucky we live Kaua’i!