Feel Good Friday

It’s been miserably hot and humid here this week, with temperature records broken on a few days, but in spite of the weather it’s still been a pretty darn good week!photo

  • Brett and I had the good fortune to meet a regular blog reader, Julie (and her mom too), at the farmers’ market this week. They are here on vacation and were at the market to shop, and Julie recognized me with my short gray hair and red glasses. We greatly enjoyed chatting with both Julie and her mom before the opening whistle blew!
  • We put $10.95 into the change/$1 bill jar (includes bottle and can recycling refunds). During July we saved $47.22 in change and dollar bills.P1080363
  • Brett and I finished our latest puzzle, and it was a challenge. The picture lulled us into thinking it wouldn’t be too difficult, but boy were we wrong!
  • A vendor was selling beautiful casaba melons at the market this week. Have I told you how much I ♥♥♥ melon of any variety? (The watermelon we bought from him last week was fantastic.)
  • The girls started school successfully yesterday and both got most of the classes they wanted. There may be a couple of changes, but overall it’s all good.
  • Other than our weekly trip to the farmers’ market, it’s been a no-spend week for us.
  • Meiling’s Kickstarter project has reached 250% of its funding goal, and with 12 days still to go is continuing to bring in backers. We are so proud of her!

How is your Friday going? What good things happened for you this past week?

Rural Mailboxes and Meter Houses

Along the routes between our house and two of the three trailheads on Sleeping Giant are several interesting structures such as I’ve never seen anywhere else we’ve lived. Creative mailbox installations are not new to me, but the unique shelters created so that utility meters can be read from the road are something else altogether. This was the first to grab my attention.

Shelter for utility meters, "Meter House" with Terracotta roof.
Terracotta Meter House

Unfortunately, the residence to which this meter house belongs was getting a new green composition roof on the day I photographed the matching meter house.

Spanish style home
Spanish Tiled Residence

Shaked roofs, although more common on out buildings than on houses because of rapid decay in our hot, wet, tropical climate, often mimic the residence in the background.

House and mailbox with shaked roof.
Shaked Roof

Some meter houses have only a simple roof. As you can see, this is not the most durable shelter, but fortunately, the populated side is in fairly good shape.

meter house with plywood roof
Noble Shelter

While some mailboxes are quite elaborate, many are merely painted by their artist owners. This one reminds me of the Pacific Northwest with its fish head and tail.

mailbox decorated with tin fish head and tail
Salmon Mailbox

…and here is a lovely passion fruit bouquet on a mailbox.

lilikoi blossoms painted on mailbox
Lilikoi Mailbox

Some meter houses are quite spartan, a basic design that is fully functional, as shown below.

Basic Design. Painted Lumber and Asphalt Shingles
Purely Functional Meter House

Still others are clearly identified with the house number (and at one time, I imagine would have had a roof that matched the house as well).

Utility Meters with house number on shelter
Meter House with House Number

I love this particular mailbox, for a local bed & breakfast, because it is actually a model of the house!

model of house as mailbox
B&B Mailbox

Meter houses borrow various architectural treatments from the residences, such as this T111 sided box.

Meter box constructed with T111 siding
Meter House Constructed with T111 Siding

Stone veneer forms the base of this mailbox, just like the house.

Mailbox mounted in stone.
Stone Mailbox

…and sometimes the mailbox matches the fence.

Mailbox mounted in bamboo pillar
Bamboo Mail Box

Meter houses are sometimes quite massive, more likely to endure a major storm than any of the houses.

Block house for utility meters
Meter in a Block House

So much of the beauty of the hike occurs before you get into the woods (jungle), and makes the journey to the trailhead at least as exciting as discoveries along the trail. And this is just tiny sample because all of these are less than two miles from home.


Cutting Down On Food Waste, Hawai’i Style


The most expensive food you buy is the food you throw away.

I’m not sure where the above quote came from, but reading it the first time was an eye-opener for me. We’ve always been fairly good as a family about not wasting food, but until a few years ago, when we got serious about getting rid of our debt, I had never really thought about it from a savings point of view. I just didn’t like waste.

If there is anything I dislike more than throwing away food, it’s throwing away money, which I finally understood is what happens when we buy or make food and then end up throwing it away.

Our move to Kaua’i last year put us on a steep learning curve when it came to keeping food out of the trash. Food is more expensive here than back on the mainland, but Hawaii’s warmer temperatures and humidity mean things can spoil a whole lot faster here than they did back on the mainland. Fruit ripens more quickly. Meats can turn more quickly. Mold sprouts more quickly. Things go stale more quickly. And, ‘quickly’ gets cranked up to super-fast when summer arrives with its higher temperatures and higher humidity.

In order to save money and stay within our food budget we figured out fairly quickly that we all needed to become more vigilant. Brett and I are now nearly certified fanatics when it comes to keeping food out of the trash.

All pantry staples have to be kept in sealed jars; they can become moldy and/or turn to mush in a few days otherwise. That includes cereals, nuts, noodles and pasta, flours and other such items.

The whole family has become very good at keeping watch on our weekly purchase of bananas, and using or adding them in a variety of things – muffins, pancakes, smoothies and so forth – when they start to turn. We now know a pineapple has to be eaten in a couple of days or go into the fridge (if there’s room). Bread, muffins or cakes can sit out for a day, but then it’s into the refrigerator for them as well, but even in the fridge there’s a possibility mold will develop if a baked item is not eaten up quickly enough. Other leftovers are packaged up quickly after meals and moved right into the fridge as well. We’ve got ants too that show up if anything is left out for too long, especially sweets.

Our stuffed-to-the-max refrigerator
Our stuffed-to-the-max refrigerator

As you might guess, our small-ish refrigerator is always full. Always. That causes problems as well because food can get lost or forgotten. We use clear glass Pyrex containers for storage, but even that doesn’t help when something gets pushed to the back. Lots of things go into the freezer as well, but our goal is more to use them or eat them up sooner rather than later.

We’ve talked about going food shopping more frequently rather than doing a monthly bulk shopping at Costco. However, whether to pay Costco prices versus supermarket prices is a no brainer – our monthly food spending would go way up if we didn’t primarily shop at Costco. Brett and I would rather not sweat paying for a plane ticket for one of the girls to come home for a visit, or save so we can sip a glass of wine in Italy some day rather than do more frequent food shoppings at the supermarket. Bulk-buying at Costco is here to stay.

Saving money these days means being smart about our food in a whole new way. It means being more organized not only about what we buy, but also in our thinking about what to fix and when to fix it so that nothing gets thrown out. Almost every morning Brett and I discuss what we have and prioritize what needs to get eaten, as well as what effect the day’s weather will have on whether we’ll want to cook in the kitchen or not. The girls are very good about eating leftovers during the day (and Brett is certified Master Class), and with school starting up more leftovers will start going into their lunches again. We’ve learned much since last year, and have made incredible strides towards keeping food out of the trash, but there is, as always, still room for improvement. We’re good, but we can be better.

(P.S. The picture of the fridge is blurry because it turned out condensation formed on the lens when the cold air hit the warm, moist air around the camera. Yeah humidity.)


Where In the World Should We Go: The First Three Journeys

Early this month I posted a query: Where in the world should Brett and I go on an annual fall sojourn? Our goal is to stay for three months every spring in Japan to be near our son and his family, but we also want to spend two months every fall slow traveling in another part of the world.

We were given LOTS of good suggestions of places to visit (thank you!!), so Brett and I spent time this month talking about where we each wanted to go and why. It turned out we pretty much agreed on where we wanted to visit, but disagreed on the order we wanted to wanted to see them. We eventually worked that out, and came up with a list of the top three places we’d like to visit:Florence

1. Italy: Placing Italy at the top of our travel list was not as easy as one might think. Brett has been to southern Italy several times (Naples and Sicily) courtesy of the navy, but this would be a first-time visit for me. I was (and still am, to some degree) concerned about spending two months on our own in a country where we do not speak the language, but Brett feels that if we play it safe and initially go somewhere where English is spoken we might never be eager to venture to a place where it isn’t. He believes we need to takes risks earlier rather than later. We still haven’t completely decided on exactly where in Italy to stay as there are so many wonderful areas to explore. We have some ideas, but nothing definite yet. So, there will be lots of reading and research over the next couple of years to help us make a firm decision about where to stay and what to see. The target date for this journey is the fall of 2018.bath_CNT_12feb13_alamy_b

2. England/Scotland: I have wanted to visit England and Scotland for as long as I can remember – this is where my ancestors come from (and some of Brett’s as well). Again, Brett has visited some of England (Portsmouth and the surrounding area) via the navy, but it will be a first for me. At least for this trip we agree on where to stay: One month in Bath, and one month in St. Andrews. No, we don’t play golf, but St. Andrews is less expensive than Edinburgh, and it’s near enough to be an easy commute to the city for visits and touring. We think we’ll rent a car for the month we’re in Scotland so we can take drives into the Highlands. We’ll fit in a short visit to London when we’re in England, but the city of Bath will be our primary headquarters. It’s a fantastic location all on its own, but also convenient to Wales and other places in the southwestern part of the country that we’d like to experience.


3. New Zealand: A visit to New Zealand was high on both our lists, and we are definitely in a more convenient location for getting there. However, to take advantage of all there is to see and do there may actually require more planning than our first two trips and probably cost us more as well, so we will wait and see how our savings are holding up before we commit to a full two months down under.

If we decide to continue our travels after these first three years, then we’ll come up with another list. But we’ve got enough now to get us started and are feeling quite motivated.

It’s all very exciting to dream and make plans, but now the real work begins in order to make our dreams and plans come true. Until we leave it’s all about getting the girls off to college, saving, reading and researching, saving, saving, researching and reading, and more saving. We will continue to study Japanese to prepare for our annual stays there, but as we get closer to traveling to Italy we will try to learn a bit of that language as well.

Here we go!


Sunday Afternoon 7/26/2015

One way to use up overripe bananas . . .
One way to use up overripe bananas . . .
It’s the last Sunday of summer vacation! Well, in Hawai’i it is anyway. It’s almost hard to believe, but the girls head back to school on Thursday. Neither is feeling particularly ready to go back either. The summer break here is much shorter than they’re used to, and WenYu has had very little time off because of her summer classes. One big difference coming up this year though will be that WenYu will be able to drive to school a few days each week. Brett will still get up with them and fix them breakfast, make their lunches and see them off, but he won’t have to make that trip over to the school and back twice every day (which will bring down our gasoline costs). We’ll be stuck at the house of course on the days they take the car, but will deal with that as it occurs.

Brett and I thought the puzzle we started this week was going to be easier than the last but we were wrong! Way wrong. The pieces are larger, but we’re finding it much more difficult because the picture is a painting, with lots of soft, fuzzy edges to the images in the picture. We like a challenge, but this puzzle is going to take us a bit more time than we expected.

Otherwise, today I am:

  • Reading: I finished Untangling My Chopsticks last night, and today I’m starting a mystery, The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji, set in Japan. I’m really craving books about Japan right now, but none of the ones I want to read are available for download through the library so I’m going to have to decide if they’re worth buying for my Kindle.
  • Listening to: The hum of the fans. There is only a little breeze right now so it’s very quiet. The girls are still sleeping in too, and Brett is reading something.
  • Watching: Brett and I are working our way through the Inspector Morse series. The stories are still entertaining, but we’re having fun as well with the fashions and technology that were in style when the series was filmed, things like big shoulder pads, midi skirts, frizzy 80s hairstyles, and phones the size of a shoebox. I also watched a terrific thriller last night on Netflix: The Awakening. If you enjoy a good, scary movie I heartedly recommend this one. The acting is superb, the storyline gripping, and the ending a true surprise.
  • Cooking/baking: Brett whipped up some banana-coconut pancakes this morning to use up the rest of the overripe bananas. I had planned to make “super nachos” for our dinner tonight, but the avocados we bought are still not quite ripe enough so I’m going to make a turkey divan casserole instead. No baking today – the girls made banana-chocolate chip muffins the other day so we’re set for now. I’ll probably make a loaf of bread tomorrow though.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Getting the monthly food shopping done and staying under budget. This month was difficult because we had to get items that work in school lunches that we haven’t had to buy the past couple of months, and our “month” covers five weeks this time instead of four. Social Security pays on a particular Wednesday each month based on your birthday date, and a couple of times a year there’s a five-week gap which takes a little extra planning. And, I also finished another lesson of Japanese on Rosetta Stone – just one more to go and then I can move up to the next level. It’s still familiar, but getting more challenging as I go along. It feels like I have forgotten more than I ever learned.
  • Looking forward to next week: I will miss having the girls around each day, but I’m also somewhat excited about them heading back to school. It’s WenYu’s senior year and she and I are both kind of anxious about it, for different reasons. The girls have settled in nicely to their new school, and I think this year will be a great one for both of them.
  • Thankful for: That Brett’s and my time is, for the most part, our own these days. Today is absolutely beautiful, and when I came out to the living room I told Brett that if we didn’t drop everything and go to the beach today we were idiots. Being spontaneous wasn’t often worth it in the past for the havoc it could create in the rest of a week’s scheduling, but these days I’m grateful we finally have the time to make up our day as we go along.
  • Bonus question: What’s the most money you’ve ever found? One year in college I needed to take summer classes. I was attending the University of Arizona, and lived with two friends out in town. I received money from my parents at the beginning of the summer, but after paying tuition, fees, books and three months’ rent upfront I had very little money left over. As I feared, even with careful budgeting it ran out before the first two months were up. I literally had no money left for food, transportation, anything, and had no idea how I was going to survive because I couldn’t ask for more money. I had been unable to find a job that worked with my class schedule either. Feeling near panic one day and not sure how I was going to make it, I walked over to see a friend (in 100+ degree heat!) who was living in a dorm – I thought maybe she could loan me a tiny bit of money (my roommates were already covering my part of the utilities) so I could buy some food. As I climbed up to the dorm, I found a pile of money lying on one of the steps, both bills and coins. I looked around – there was no one else out in that heat. I sat down and waited a while to see if someone came back for the money, and when no one showed up I picked it up and took it into the dorm. No one was around there either. I waited some more, but no one seemed to be missing the money and after a while I decided it was safe to keep it. The amount I found was $87 and some change – more than enough to feed me through the end of summer and cover my part of the utilities. To this day I believe my guardian angel put that money there for me to find so that I could eat and finish the summer term.

So how is Sunday going for you? What are you up to today? How was your week?

Feel Good Friday

Here we go again . . .
Here we go again . . .

This has been a terrific week, with lots of good things happening both big and small:

  • We’ve enjoyed lovely weather for the most part this week with less humidity. There was one day of storms, but we were never directly affected.
  • We got our big monthly food shopping done and stayed within our budget.
  • I earned another $100 gift card from Swagbucks.
  • We put $8.40 into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • I enjoyed a good phone conversation with my mom.
  • YaYu got her learner’s permit!
  • WenYu finished her first college class (Art 101) with an A grade.
  • Brett and I started a new 1000-piece puzzle. So far it seems it will be a bit less challenging than the last one.
  • Meiling’s Kickstarter project is still going strong and has brought in over 200% of its goal. She also registered for her fall classes at college, and got the ones she wanted.
  • Pineapples were still affordably priced at the farmers’ market, and this week we also got a locally-grown watermelon.

What good things happened for you this week?

Gecko Land

Hawaiian gecko
Hawaiian gecko

The other night I had turned out all the lights and was ready to head down the hall to bed. While I was in the kitchen getting a glass of water, I suddenly heard the girls whispering out in the living room. I came out to see what was up, and both girls were holding large plastic containers and shivering.

Was there perhaps a gecko in one of their rooms, I asked?

Geckos are a fact of life in Hawai’i. You will see them inside, outside, during the day, in the evening, at night . . . everywhere and all the time. Hawai’i is a hard place to live if you can’t deal with bugs or small lizards because they are part of daily life here.

I don’t believe that there is any half-way about geckos either. You can either ignore them and live with them, or you can’t. Brett and I can; our girls claim they can’t. After over a year here they are still scared to death of them.

I like having them around because they eat bugs – lots and lots of bugs. I know one of the reasons we don’t have many bugs in our house is because we are up on the second level, off the ground, but another, equally strong, reason is because we have a nice population of geckos living with us, both inside and out. We actually rarely see the geckos in the house, but they are here. Mostly we see them at night, clinging to the outside of the windows, just waiting for a juicy, unsuspecting bug to arrive and share the window with them.

A brown anole trying to attract a date with his beautiful red dewlap.
A brown anole trying to attract a date with his beautiful red dewlap.

Geckos here are both brown and green, but we usually see more of the brown ones. And, some of our geckos are not actually geckos – they’re anoles. Some anoles are have beautiful bright lime green skin and bright red spotting like a gecko, but others we see are brown with yellow markings. Anoles can be differentiated from geckos by the red dewlap males sport under their chin. Anoles are actually more aggressive than geckos, especially the brown anole, but both will go after smaller members of their own tribe. True geckos “chirp” as a mating call, but we almost never hear the chirping at our house, another reason we think the little lizards we host are more likely to be anoles and not geckos.

Whatever, anoles eat bugs just as well as geckos do and both are welcome in our home. In Hawaiian folklore, geckos represent the spirits of past ancestors, and are to be treated with love and respect.

I will give the girls credit that they never want to kill the geckos they find in their rooms, just catch and release them outside, and they’ve gotten quite good at it. That’s what the big plastic jars they were carrying were for. But, the other night the gecko they were after kept getting away (they are quick as lightening) and then another, bigger one leapt onto the window outside and frightened them. So, it was mom to the rescue. I quickly found the offender, captured him (or her) and then released the prisoner outside.

Geckos I can live with. It’s snakes I can’t abide, but there are thankfully none in Hawai’i.

I Am Not a Foodie

59144403According to Wikipedia, a foodie is “a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food and alcoholic beverages. A foodie seeks new food experiences as a hobby rather than simply eating out of convenience or hunger.”

I think there is one thing they left out though in that definition. A foodie also wants to make sure you and everyone else knows about their ardent or refined interest in food. A foodie is going to make sure you know not only all about what they ate but where they ate (or what they cooked or are going to cook). Their meal will be photographed, and uploaded to Instagram, Facebook or discussed in their blog. You will probably learn more than you wanted about the ingredients their meal includes or that they will be are using (often exotic, high end or with some special cachet).

In other words, it’s not really about the food . . . it’s about the foodie.

There is so much more to food though than just opportunity for pleasure or showing off. People all over the world enjoy going out to eat and trying new foods. Who doesn’t enjoy a well-cooked meal no matter where they live? Lots of people enjoy watching cooking shows, and picking up new tips and ideas to try. Reading restaurant reviews on Tripadvisor can be helpful in finding a restaurant in an unfamiliar city or town. But enjoying good food is more than eating out, more than chasing the latest food fad, or more than using some high-end, name-brand or exotic ingredient. It’s more than having and/or using the most expensive cooking equipment. It doesn’t involve name dropping. And, it’s definitely more than pictures of food posted on the Internet. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it doesn’t stop there. Good food, as Mark Bittman says, “is real, it’s healthy, it’s produced sustainably, it’s fair and it’s affordable.”

In other words, it’s really all about the food. People, no matter where they live or their socioeconomic status, eat because they’re hungry. What I wish “foodie” meant is ensuring that everyone everywhere has the opportunity to access and enjoy good, healthy and delicious food.

I enjoy sharing recipes and trying out new ones. I enjoy finding good deals on food, especially locally raised or grown food. I enjoy going out to eat, and highlighting local restaurants that serve good food at affordable prices. But, I don’t feel the need to always be on the lookout for the next best thing, or to let everyone know where and what I am eating. I genuinely dislike taking pictures of my food when we eat out. I don’t need to find out if we are fabulous because of where we’re eating and what we ordered. I’m a good journeyman cook and I’m satisfied with that.

I am so not a foodie. Nor do I aspire to ever become one.

(P.S. The definition of foodie from the Urban Dictionary always makes me laugh: A douchebag who likes food.)

Bad Trip/Good Trip

I believe anyone can come up with both a “worst” and “best” travel experience. Overall, I think both Brett and I been very fortunate when it comes to traveling, with no really horrific stories. Every time we’ve run into any sort of problem it’s never been as bad as it could have been, and a solution or resolution has been quickly found.

Both my worst travel experience and best happened on journeys to China to adopt our daughters.

Let’s get the worst out of the way first: When it was time to adopt WenYu, I traveled with my very, very good friend Kris as Brett needed to stay home with Meiling, who was too young to travel that far and for that long (two weeks). Kris arrived at our home in Portland the day before our departure, and we repacked her things into one of the two large, hard-sided Samsonite suitcases we would be taking. Back then, you had to bring everything your child might need, including formula, diapers, clothes, food, medications, etc. – there was no guarantee you could find what you needed in China. A full-size suitcase was required just for the baby things we were taking (WenYu was just one year old when we adopted her), and Kris and I shared the other one.

We flew to Hong Kong, where we would be attending a required orientation as well as doing some sightseeing, and after getting through customs we hired a taxi to take us into the city to our hotel. Our suitcases were too big to fit easily into the taxi’s trunk, but the driver wedged them in and we were off.

Kris and I were sitting in the back of the taxi, chatting away, when a car came along beside us, honked and signaled something to our driver. We turned around to look behind us only to see one of our suitcases being run over by a bus, and then bouncing across the highway. As we had just crossed over a bridge over part of Hong Kong harbor, I had visions of the suitcase bouncing out to the edge and falling into the water. To say that Kris and I were devastated at that point would be a gross understatement – we had no idea whether the lost suitcase held all the baby stuff for WenYu or all our clothing for the trip.

Our driver was able to get turned around and we headed back to where we had lost the suitcase. Fortunately it had not gone over into the water but was lying by the side of the freeway, a bit crushed but still in one piece. The suitcase’s locks had held, and it looked like we might be able to rescue it if we could get back on the other side of the freeway.

As we stood looking across the freeway at our suitcase, a very good-looking, well-dressed Chinese man in a sports car pulled up beside it, got out and picked it up. Kris, the taxi driver and I started jumping up and down, screaming and waving our arms as the man put our suitcase into his car! The man yelled something across to the taxi driver before driving off, so we got back in the taxi, turned around and headed into Hong Kong. I can honestly say I have never been so scared and confused – we had NO idea what was going on, but as far as we knew we had lost our suitcase for good.

Our destination in the city turned out to be a police station, which frightened us even more. It turned out though that the good-looking man was a police detective who was on his way to the station and had been alerted about the suitcase. After a short interview and signing some papers, our somewhat flattened and mangled suitcase was handed over and we were sent on our way. I learned later that the taxi driver had to pay quite a large fine for not securing the suitcase properly, and he also got in a bit of trouble for leaving the meter running while we were in the police station, trying to squeeze as much fare from us as he could.

We finally got to our hotel and managed to open the suitcase. We were amazed to discover that not one thing inside had been broken, including several small jars of baby food. The only damage to the contents were a few flattened granola bars. Never have I been so grateful for having a hard-sided suitcase! Kris and I took pictures (which I sent to Samsonite), laughed about the condition of the suitcase and our good luck, and then headed into town where I bought a lovely new suitcase that got us through the rest of a fantastic trip!

And for the sublime: Each one of our three adoption trips was of course life changing, but they were also the best trips I have ever taken. Other than the suitcase incident, everything else went perfectly. The goal of our adoption agency, Holt International, was for adoptive parents to focus on bonding with their child while in China instead of worrying about travel details, and Holt had (and still has) amazing teams in place to make sure every part of the trip went smoothly, from the paperwork to the entire in-country experience. So, besides the absolute joy of having our new child placed in our arms, we also had three incredible travel experiences. We stayed in beautiful hotels, including three stays in the five-star White Swan Hotel on Shamian Island in Guangzhou. Holt not only arranged interesting tours for our travel groups, but also got us out and about on our own. We ate well, including full Chinese banquets arranged by Holt, authentic Peking duck in Beijing, beggar’s chicken in Hong Kong, American food at the Guangzhou Hard Rock Cafe, and incredible hotel breakfast buffets, interspersed with other tasty restaurant and street food meals. We shopped in Chinese department stores, street stalls, mom & pop stores, and even a Walmart superstore. The first two trips included upfront stays in Hong Kong, one our favorite cities, and on our third trip we visited Beijing with Meiling and WenYu for four days before heading to meet YaYu. All three trips took us to Guangzhou, where we saw and experienced something new and interesting each time. Every aspect of those trips was done superbly, and we were able to enjoy a very special time with each of our new daughters in the country of their birth.

So, those are my worst and best travel experiences. What was the worst thing that’s ever happened when you traveled (if you can bear to share it), and what was the best? I love travel stories, and am excited about hearing yours!

(In the photo at the top, WenYu and I are meeting for the first time).


Sunday Afternoon 7/19/2015

A perfect Kaua'i day: blue skies, low humidity, and the breeze rustling through the palm trees
A perfect Kaua’i day: blue skies, low humidity, and the breeze rustling through the palm trees

It has been a week of ups and downs, and I am more than ready to start a new week. The humidity up here in the hills was frankly awful for most of this past week, and combined with warm temperatures it was often too miserable to even move at times. Plus, I didn’t feel well for a couple of days, and the heat and humidity did not help. However, the storms that have been causing all the high humidity seem to have finally moved on (unfortunately they’re heading for Japan), and the week ended on a high note. The humidity broke yesterday and Brett and I spent a long, wonderful afternoon at the beach with good friend and fellow “ex-pat,” Barb. The day couldn’t have been any lovelier, and we caught up and talked for hours.

And, Brett was able to fix our sluggish living room ceiling fan. YEAH! It had been operating on low (at best) for the past couple of weeks and we couldn’t figure out what was wrong, but he worked on it again yesterday afternoon and it now once again operating at full speed and keeping things pleasant.

It’s also almost hard to believe that this coming week is the last of summer vacation for the girls (although WenYu has been taking classes all summer), and they will start a new school year the week after next.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I started a new book this week, Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto, by Victoria Riccardi. The author spent a year in Kyoto studying kaiseki ryori, or tea ceremony cuisine. I am thoroughly enjoying it, and am learning lots about the history of tea in Japan as well as the tea ceremony. Her experiences in Japan are also interesting, and I can identify with many of them.
  • Listening to: There’s a light breeze rustling through the palms right now (thankfully), and just a few chickens screeching. Otherwise it’s just the hum of the fans. The girls are still asleep (at noon!) and Brett is reading. Our neighbor is building something (again), but for now the saws and hammers are silent.
  • Watching: Brett and I are almost at the end of Foyle’s War, with just two or three more episodes to go. We’ve decided that when it’s finished we’ll re-watch all of Inspector Morse again as it’s been a few years. WenYu loves the show as well and plans to join us as we work our way through the series. I have also started watching Luther for my late-night viewing and am enjoying it, although the crimes seem to be particularly gruesome. Update: Brett and I are going to watch Unbroken. I loved the book and hope the movie is good.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re having spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner tonight, along with some garlic bread and probably a salad. I’m thinking too I might bake a fresh peach cake for a dessert later this afternoon.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: In spite of the awful weather and my being under the weather, I did manage to get started on my retirement paperwork. It turned out though that the main application form is currently unavailable online, so it is being mailed to me. Hopefully it will arrive soon so I can finish it up next week and get it submitted. My target date for retirement is October 1.
  • Looking forward to this week: We have a new 1000-piece puzzle to start! And, YaYu will be getting her learner’s permit. One more to go!
  • Thankful for: I am so grateful for the way my children support each other. I grew up in a household where my siblings and I constantly competed against each other for almost everything, and while it was difficult then it has also made for difficult adult relationships. I don’t think Brett and I have done anything particularly special raising our children, but they all help each other and support each others’ endeavors. I am especially heartened by our son’s relationship with his sisters. He was 19 when Meiling came home, and not happy about suddenly having a sibling after being an only for so many years, but these days he has a great relationship with all of the girls, and even though they’re more than a generation apart and he lives so far away, he encourages them and helps out when he can.
  • Bonus Question: Do you play games on your phone or computer? I have seven little games downloaded on my phone: 7 Little Words (vocabulary); Flow (draw ‘pipes’ to fill the screen – more challenging than it sounds); Solitaire; Sudoku; 94 Seconds (word recall); Dots (connect dots – again, not as easy as it sounds); and 2048 (add blocks to end up with one block that equals 2048). The only one I am any good it is Sudoku – I can finish an expert level puzzle in around six minutes. I try to play each game at least once each day as I figure they all help to keep my brain sharp, and they’re great time-wasters fillers when I am stuck somewhere. I have been invited more times than I can count to play Candy Crush Saga or whatever it’s called, and Words With Friends, but just can’t get into them. What games do you like?

Hope you are enjoying (or enjoyed) a wonderful Sunday afternoon, and had a great week!