Sunday Afternoon 11/29/2015

Two of my three favorite guys. These two will be here in less than 3 weeks!
Two of my three favorite guys. They’ll be here in less than 3 weeks!

The last Sunday in November, and Thanksgiving is over – it’s almost hard to believe how fast we’re moving to the end of the 2015. It’s both exciting and bittersweet.

We’ve been greatly enjoying our long weekend here at Casa Aloha. We’ve been sleeping in and relaxing, and doing lots of reading. And, of course we’ve been eating! The Thanksgiving leftovers are almost gone now – just a little bit of dressing and some gravy left that someone will probably eat for lunch today.

We did our big monthly shop-athon yesterday and are almost ready for our influx of visitors next month. Our big shopping score yesterday was a 7 1/2-pound pork loin that we got for just $6.38 at Costco! All pork loins and whole turkeys were $10 off this weekend, and I wish we had more room in our freezer because we would have bought several more loins as well as a couple of turkeys. Oh well – as it is, we can barely get the door closed on the freezer because it’s so full. We also spent $73 less than we had budgeted for our Costco shopping, so we’re really happy about that too.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m about half-way through The Boys In the Boat and am thoroughly enjoying it. I love books that combine history with personal effort, perseverance and triumph and this book has it all.
  • Listening to: It’s very quiet here today. The washing machine is going as the sun is out and I want to give everything a good, long time outside to dry.
  • Watching: Brett and I finished up the latest Murdoch Mystery series, and started watching The Man In the High Castle. We’ve finished six episodes so far and are finding it very dark and dystopian. It’s a welcome break from the mysteries though (and now I want to read the book it’s based on).
  • Cooking/baking: Brett made French toast for breakfast to use up the last of some Portuguese sweet bread that was in the freezer. I’m going to make a zucchini frittata for dinner tonight and serve along with garlic bread and some sort of salad. No baking today – we still have a little bit of the pumpkin cheesecake left.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We’re so glad to be completely done with the old place, and have our deposit back in the bank. Getting this month’s shop-athon accomplished was something of an ordeal, but the girls came along and helped and we pretty much have everything on hand for Meiling’s return and our son and his family’s visit.
  • Looking forward to next week: Questbridge Match scholarships will be announced on Tuesday. Neither WenYu nor we are expecting her to be matched as the odds are so small, but I still maintain a tiny bit of hope. As before, we have mint chocolate chip ice cream, hot fudge sauce and whipped cream on hand so WenYu can either drown her sorrows or celebrate.
  • Thankful for: Whether WenYu is matched or not, I am so grateful we learned about the Questbridge College Match program this year. Even without a match, because she is a finalist she has an advantage if she applies to Questbridge partner colleges for regular admission. Being a finalist is also a significant honor to put on her applications to non-partner colleges. The Questbridge application takes a great deal of work to complete, so she is already well-ahead on her other applications and her essays can be reused.
  • Bonus Question: What are your favorite ways to use Thanksgiving leftovers? We traditionally always have hot turkey sandwiches the day after Thanksgiving which uses up most of the stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy. The following days I typically make a turkey divan casserole with noodles, a turkey pot pie and then we finish up with turkey rice soup. The girls also get turkey sandwiches in their school lunches. Usually we look forward to several days of turkey meals; this year we were burned out after the hot turkey sandwiches. Meiling has asked me to make the turkey divan casserole when she’s home, so I froze most of our leftover turkey and we’ll have that casserole in a couple of weeks.

How is your Sunday afternoon? What are you up to? What are you looking forward to?

Feel Good Friday

The Pineapple Dump: Back in the day a train backed out onto this narrow platform and dumped debris from the pineapple cannery into the ocean!
The Pineapple Dump: A train used to back out onto this narrow platform and dump debris from the pineapple cannery into the ocean.

Happy Day After Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday. We’ll be celebrating here at Casa Aloha by staying home and not spending any money.

It was incredibly windy on the trail yesterday!

It’s been an awesome week though, with lots to feel good about today:

  • We had a fantastic Thanksgiving! The weather was cool, overcast and windy, but we were able to make our second annual hike to the Pineapple Dump from Kealia Beach. After dinner we watched The Descendents, our favorite Thanksgiving movie.P1080509
  • I didn’t overeat on Thanksgiving (in spite of that plate looking mighty full. It was my first and only meal of the day).
  • Meiling celebrated Thanksgiving with her boyfriend and his family, and our son celebrated in Tokyo with some other American ex-pats.
  • We spent less than $400 on our move (for van rental + tank of gas Saturday before last, movers for 9 heavy pieces last Saturday, and two extra tanks of gas for all the trips back and forth between houses each day).
  • We all worked and cleaned out our old place last Sunday, and turned in our keys to our former landlord and got our deposit back on Tuesday.
  • We put $31.01 in the change/$1 bill jar (over the last three weeks).
  • WenYu was named as one of the co-captains for the swim team!
Looking back toward Kealia Beach. Lots of surfers were out yesterday – the winds made for great waves.

How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Giving Thanks Every Day


2015 has been another very good year for me and for our family. We are all healthy; there have been no major medical issues for any of us. My 91 years-old mother is still in assisted living and doing OK. We’ve been able to live well here in Hawai’i on our income, and even save. I segued easily into retirement month before last. Meiling survived and prospered after moving back to Portland at the end of last year, and has started college and is doing well. WenYu, YaYu and I had a terrific trip to Japan last March, and Brett had a wonderful time with his sister back in Oregon and California this past September. We were able to find and move into a fantastic new rental home just this month, and we’re looking forward to our son and his family’s visit in just a few weeks. Our cup really has “runneth over” with good fortune, and we have much to give thanks for.

I admit though to not being very good in the past about taking time each day to feel gratitude or give thanks for all that I and my family have. I very easily took way too much for granted. I’ve tried to change that this past year, and be more conscious of and more reflective about, even if just for a few minutes, all I have in my life. I’m getting better at it, and these days I almost always am able to stop, look around, and say thank you at least once a day.

Clean water every time I turn on the tap. Hot water on demand. Electricity 24/7. Food in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Shelves fully stocked when I go to the store. Up-to-date appliances and equipment to prepare and cook my food, or clean my house. Beautiful weather (most of the time). Money in the bank. Plenty of clothes. Stunning scenery all around me. Ocean views every day. Fantastic beaches year round. Good friends. A happy, healthy family. A long, loving marriage. Travel opportunities. Aloha every day. A safe home. A comfortable bed every night. A big TV to watch. Music. Technology. Books. Uninterrupted free time. The opportunity to blog about my life. Fantastic readers and followers of my blog. And on and on . . . I have been blessed with so very, very much.

Although tomorrow’s holiday is special, and my favorite of the year, it’s really only another day to give thanks for the abundance I and my family enjoy every day. We are rich beyond measure.


Small House Love

I’ve been dreaming of living in a small house for the past several years and here we are, finally. Our new house is just 859 square feet, almost 1000 square feet less than the house we sold back in Portland, and nearly 250 square feet less than the house we just moved from. And yet, we fit in just perfectly here, and the space is more than adequate. It’s cozy and comfortable without being cramped.

Back when we lived in navy housing, we were always assigned a small house and I always wanted something bigger. I realize now though that’s because we were in an acquisition phase of our lives, buying furniture and decor, appliances and other accoutrements, especially when we lived in Japan. However, right after Brett retired we moved into a nearly 2500 square foot house . . . and we were miserable. There was more than enough room for everything we owned and then some, but it was just too big – we didn’t like rattling around in all that space.

We started downsizing then and eventually moved to a smaller place, even as we added the girls to our family. And now, here we are living in less than 1000 square feet again, just like back in our navy days. And it’s perfect.

Here are some promised pictures of our new place:

The view inside from the front door
The view inside from the front door
The kitchen: Still no dishwasher, but way more counter space and a bigger refrigerator! To the left is a big laundry closet with washer/dryer and more storage. Our microwave oven is to the left of the sink.
The kitchen: Still no dishwasher, but way more counter space and a bigger refrigerator! Out of sight on the left is a big laundry closet with washer/dryer and more storage. Our microwave oven is to the left of the sink.  Oh, and those are granite countertops. Not my favorite surface, but they’re beautiful.
Looking back to the front door and small living room area from the hallway. Can you see the laundry hanging out on the racks on the lanai?
Looking back to the front door and small living room area from the hallway. It’s actually more spacious than it appears in the picture. Can you see the laundry hanging out on the racks on the lanai? So happy we can finally use a “solar dryer.”
Main bathroom: The landlord provided the beautiful shower curtain!
Main bathroom: It’s like a spa compared to the bathroom at our last house. The landlord provided the beautiful shower curtain, hotel quality. The floors throughout the house are etched and stained concrete – they’re gorgeous.
Master bedroom, located in the northwest corner of the house.
The “master” bedroom, located in the northwest corner of the house. We have a large wall closet with mirrored doors located out of sight to the left.
The girls are set up in the actual master bedroom, and have their own attached 3/4 bathroom. I'm guessing they might have all their stuff put away by the end of next month. It's a slow process with teenagers.
The girls are set up in the actual master bedroom, and have their own attached 3/4 bathroom and a giant closet. I’m guessing they might have all their stuff put away by the end of next month. It’s a slow process with teenagers, but they are happy with their room and with the house.
The side yard
The side yard. It’s a bit hard to see from this picture, but the eaves are very wide and deep, and keep the rain out unlike at our old house, where the minute it started to rain we had to quickly run around shutting all the windows or risk getting soaked inside. The border around the house is made from tumbled glass (!) – geckos, snail, slugs, etc. won’t cross it.
The back yard: We plan to put a vegetable garden in next spring. Up the hill are an avocado, guava and lemon tree.
The back yard: We already have a compost bin going, and plan to put a vegetable garden in next spring. Up the hill are avocado, guava and lemon trees. That pipe running through the yard is an automatic sprinkler system. A yard service comes every other week to take care of the lawn (dead lawn areas are where he apparently over-sprayed weed killer before we moved in).

The other thing we have here is a big, two-car garage that we don’t have to share with anyone (so the door isn’t always open). We have loads of storage out there which helps keep the house free of clutter.

Sunday Afternoon 11/22/2015

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My favorite place to be in the morning!

We are moved! Thank you for being patient while we got through this last week of the move.

Everything has finally been moved over from the old house and found its place in our new home. The WiFi has been reconnected, pictures hung and everything put away. We’re still having to stop now and again and figure out where something it, but for the most part the whole move went very smoothly. Only one thing broke: a cheap glass pitcher that we maybe used once every other year or so, if that. There was definitely no heartbreak over losing it.

Although things are a bit smaller space-wise here than it was at the old place, all of our things fit in comfortably. It really is so much nicer here. For starts, it’s cleaner and quieter. There are still chickens & roosters around, but nowhere near as many or as noisy, and we no longer have to deal with downstairs neighbors. Best of all, we have a lanai and can finally enjoy being outdoors more. We didn’t realize until we moved into this house how trapped we had been in our old place. We had beautiful views from each window, but were unable to be outside unless it was to go down the stairs and get in the car and go somewhere else (we couldn’t even enjoy sitting out on the lawn because of the mosquitos and the downstairs neighbors who seemed to claim all the outside as theirs). I have been enjoying my coffee outside every morning, something I dreamed of doing when we moved to Hawai’i.

Anyway, on this Sunday afternoon, I am:

  • Reading: I finished A Pleasure and A Calling this past week (lots of time to read with no Internet) and started The Boys In the Boat, by Daniel James Brown, about the men’s rowing team that won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. I know nothing about rowing, so it’s interesting learning about the sport.
  • Listening to: It’s very quiet over here today. We can hear roosters off in the distance, but there are none screeching up close and personal like we had at the other house. Everyone here is either reading or working on something so it’s quiet inside too.
  • Watching: Brett and I are back to watching Midsomer Murders and Murdoch Mysteries. We’re hoping we can finish both series by the end of this year and move on to something else! The hardware was already in place in this house to wall-mount our TV – it not only saves space but looks great!
  • Cooking/baking: Tonight I’m fixing Italian sausage and zucchini in tomato sauce to serve over pasta. I bought a lemon meringue pie yesterday and more than half is left, so no need to bake anything.
  • Happy you accomplished this past week: Getting this move over with and everything put away! We also got the old place cleaned out and ready for the next tenants, as well as selling them a bed we don’t need any more. I also have everything purchased for our Thanksgiving meal – no more trips to the store until next weekend, when Brett and I will do our big shop-athon. And, I arranged for a photo shoot for when my son and family are here next month. I am excited to work with this particular photographer, and she is super-excited about working with our family as well.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re meeting with the old landlord on Tuesday to hand over the keys and get our deposit back. And of course I’m looking forward to . . . Thanksgiving! It’s my favorite holiday of the year, both for time with the family and for the food.
  • Grateful for: Being able to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine while I sip my morning coffee. Being connected to the Internet again. Finding this house and being able to afford to move. Knowing that everyone in our family is healthy and happy no matter where they are in the world.
  • Bonus question: What do you serve for Thanksgiving? We’re pretty traditional here with our Thanksgiving menu: I’m fixing roast turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, cranberry sauce, steamed baby peas, and biscuits. The girls have let me know though that they don’t really care all that much for pumpkin pie, so this year we’re having pumpkin cheesecake instead. I used to always roast a whole turkey, but they’re fairly expensive here so these days I buy a roasted turkey breast from Costco. They’re more affordable, less mess, and they’re delicious. Plus, we get at least four meals from one breast so still can enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers.

How is your Sunday going? What are you up to this afternoon?


Saturday Morning: Moving


I wrote the following post evening to get it ready for this morning, but before we heard the news from Paris, and before we got started on our very busy day, weekend and week. But, the problems and tribulations of our days ahead suddenly seem very, very small indeed compared to what the people of Paris have suffered and what their days ahead will bring. Although I’ve never been to Paris, my heart is both broken yet at the same time full of love for the city in her grief.

For those of you still checking in, thank you! It’s been a very busy week as we here at Casa Aloha continue to move from our old address to our new. Brett and I have been making trips over to the new house every day, usually more than one, but have made a lot of progress. Actually, we’ve gotten enough moved over that we’ll be sleeping in the new house tonight!

I have especially enjoyed being able to put most things away as soon as they’re at Casa Aloha v.2, rather than have everything dumped off at once and then having to take days to find a place for everything. The kitchen is almost completely set up; we’ll be moving everything from the fridge today as well as the last of the dishes and will be enjoying our first dinner in the new house this evening.

Our old landlord finally picked a new tenant this past week, two single guys (we showed the house to one of them; he was very nice). We were sure he was going to pick one of two families because he called during the week to ask us again our impressions of them and said they were at the top of his list, so hearing that the guys were chosen was something of a shock. No matter, we will be leaving the two guys with a clean house. The last of our things will go over next Saturday (the first day we could arrange for movers – we need them to move about eight pieces too heavy for Brett and me), and all of us will all be back over here on Sunday for a final cleaning. Keys will be turned over on Monday, November 23, our deposit returned and then we are done with The Treehouse. It’s been a great first home for us here on Kaua’i, but we are ready to move on.

I will be mostly offline for the next week – our WiFi won’t be switched over to the new house until next Friday, but we won’t be back at the old address all that much. Our goal is to get the new house fully operational with everything in place by next weekend.

Here’s hoping you’ll continue to hang in there with us as The Occasional Nomads finish up our relocation – we’ll be back blogging in another week!


Sunday Afternoon 11/08/2015

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Our new house! I am so excited about having a place all to ourselves.

What a C-R-A-Z-Y week!

We’ve gotten started on the move, and let me just start out by saying how glad I am that we got rid of so many things before our move over here! Just a few days of carrying stuff over in our car and it feels like we’ve gotten half of it over to the new house already. We’re not actually that far along, but what we have taken so far has made a very visible difference. We’ve given ourselves a goal of being able to sleep in the new house by next weekend.

But, what’s made this week crazy has been all the showings to prospective renters. Our landlord put up the ad on Craigslist on Tuesday at noon, and we did our first showing that evening. By Friday we had fielded 14 requests for showings from our landlord – he took the calls and screened them, then sent on a number to us to set up the showing. Out of those 14 requests we did nine showings, with another one potentially scheduled for next week, although hopefully the landlord will have chosen a new renter by then. When he called with the last one on Friday evening though we said “Enough! Pick someone!” He said he had three good, interested candidates and would be interviewing them early in the week.

Along the way, we have met some very “interesting” people and some genuinely nice people as well. Actually, I would have a very, very hard time deciding between two families that we know seriously want to rent the house. One family just moved here, the other is local, born and raised on the island. I almost hope we don’t find out if one of them is chosen just because I will feel so disappointed for the family who is not.

I want to give a shout out that Sluggy, over at Don’t Read This; It’s Boring, has another great “Boring Box Giveaway.” Not that I want any competition, mind you, but these giveaways are fun. Lots of great stocking stuffers in this one!

Finally, my Oregon retirement finally showed up. So, as of this past week I am officially retired!

Anyway, this afternoon I am (besides taking more stuff over to the new house):

  • Reading: Nothing but blogs – they’re all I can seem to fit in these days. I didn’t get a lick of book reading done this past week. No time, and I was asleep every night before my head hit the pillow.
  • Listening to: The girls moving about in their rooms pulling together stuff that can go over to the house today. And chickens. We can still hear chickens and roosters over at the new place, but they are not living (and arguing) right out in the yard like they do here.
  • Watching: Brett and I got in a few episodes of Murdoch Mysteries and Midsomer Murders this past week, but mostly we’ve been too tired to watch any TV.
  • Cooking/baking: Brett made an apple puffed pancake for our breakfast this morning, and YaYu is baking a triple chocolate bundt cake just because we all want something chocolate (and then the mixer is going over to the new house). Tonight for dinner I am fixing a pork and pepper stir fry and serving with steamed rice. It will use up the last packages of CookDo sauce mix we brought back from Japan this spring :-(. I am asking my son to bring more with him when he comes next month so we should be good.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: Getting the move started! Things are slowly by surely getting moved over to the new place, and the address has been changed for all our accounts. I’m also glad (surprised, actually) I’ve been able to keep up with my usual household chores here in spite of the showings and getting things over to the new place.
  • Looking forward to next week: Getting the new house set up so we can (hopefully) start sleeping over there by the end of next weekend. Yesterday evening Brett and I lined all the cupboards so that the dishes and other kitchen stuff can begin their move and be put away. We’re renting a truck next weekend and a lot of the furniture will start going over, at least the things Brett and I can get down the stairs on our own.
  • Grateful for: I’m beyond thankful right now that we brought so little over here with us when we moved last year. And, that we haven’t accumulated much since we’ve been here other than a few beach accessories.
  • Bonus question: Do you have a favorite drink at Starbucks? I honestly don’t stop at Starbucks very often, maybe once every three or four months, but my usual drink of choice is a “grande nonfat green tea latte, no syrup.” Yep, when I go to Starbucks I order a hot tea drink, even in the summer. I also like plain, nonfat lattes and occasionally order one of those, usually if I’m there early in the morning. I don’t like flavored coffee drinks except for peppermint or orange mochas, but I think it’s been over two years since I’ve had one. I’ve never ordered a size larger than grande – I don’t think I could finish a venti anything. Not a big fan of Frappuchinos either, although the girls love them. Once though I got a blueberry Frappuchino up in Seattle – they were test marketing the flavor – and I thought it was out of this world. Obviously it never went any further than Seattle. And, when I was in Japan in 2014, one of their summer Frappuchino flavors was Green Tea-Fudge Brownie. Oh my, but that was good! Brett’s orders are always consistent: either a tall (dark) coffee of the day or a tall caramel macchiato.

Hope you have all had a great week and are enjoying your Sunday afternoon! I’m off now to move more stuff . . . .

So Many Things

145855-too-many-things-to-doIt finally hit me today how crazy things are going to get around here starting today as we kick our move into gear, so posting is going to be a bit sparse for a while.

We spent yesterday showing the house several times, but no takers yet as far as we know. Brett keeps a spreadsheet of who’s coming when, who’s cancelled, etc. and has spent a lot of time on the phone setting up appointments and communicating with our landlord. There’ll be more of the same today and tomorrow, plus we are meeting with our new landlord and getting the keys, and we also need to go to the farmer’s market. I really hope this place gets rented soon so we can concentrate fully on the move.

Anyway, I’ll post when I can. Hope you stick with me until we can get through Moving Madness!


All’s Well That Ends Well

Something I will miss: Sunset views from the dining room window
Something I will miss: Sunset views from the dining room window

Our landlord re-listed our house yesterday afternoon. We did one showing yesterday evening and have two more this afternoon, maybe three. He will have a new tenant and a new lease most likely by this weekend, and his rental income stream will continue on seamlessly. We will get our deposit back.

When we gave the landlord our notice the other day he exploded, and threatened to take us to court over the lost rent. Brett dealt with him calmly and firmly, but told him we would still be moving at the end of the month and why. We offered to do anything we could to help him find a new renter. We realize now that the explosion was most likely just his initial reaction to the news and that he needed to blow off steam. We hoped that after he had calmed down and thought things through he would back off with the threats and see the sense in quickly finding a new renter. In fact, in our phone calls with him yesterday he was very kind and apologetic, and thanked us over and over for showing the house for him. Still, his initial reaction made for a tense couple of days.

Although we were breaking the lease, it turned out our landlord had broken it first. Although he is the property owner and can sell his home at any time for any reason, there is a clause in our lease that states For Sale or For Rent signs could be put up and showings held during the last 30 days of the lease. Our landlord chose that number of days, we all agreed and we all signed. Any change to that time though without putting it in writing was a violation of the lease, which is what happened when he listed the house a full eight months before the end of the lease and put up signs and started showings, and long before we gave our notice. We couldn’t have blocked or stopped his listing the house, but we could have requested a change in the terms of the lease at that time (to month-to-month) so that we could look for a new home and not have to worry about breaking the lease.

Our “big stick” so to speak though, and what we think got our landlord to calm down, is that the rental apartment below us is illegal. It’s a very nice place, fully permitted as far as the construction and plumbing, but it’s not permitted to be used as a rental. It’s an ohana, an attached dwelling for use by extended family members. By law, an ohana is not allowed to have a full kitchen, and can contain only two of the following three items – refrigerator, stove, or sink – the rationale being that family members eat together and don’t need a full, separate kitchen. The apartment below us however has all three of those items as well as plenty of counter space and nice cabinets – it’s very obvious there’s a full kitchen to be used separately from the upstairs home, which shows that the apartment is being used for something other than as an ohana.

There are many illegal ohana rentals all over the island (as well as many legal ones), and some provide much-needed housing in the very tight rental market here. Others serve as vacation rentals. Usually with an ohana rental everyone looks the other way – they are part of island life. Still, if you have an illegal ohana rental, the last thing you want to do is tick off your tenants or your neighbors because they are the ones who will report you. I don’t think we would have actually reported our landlord, but we might have made him think we would if things had escalated too much further over our leaving.

(By the way, the unit downstairs is also what’s going to make this property very difficult to sell. A buyer cannot get a mortgage for a property with an illegal rental unit, nor can a buyer use the expected rental income from the unit to help qualify for a loan. The buyer for this property will most likely have to pay cash and waive the inspection, but anyone with that amount of cash can find a much nicer property around here for the price, even one that includes a legal rental unit.)

Anyway, we will help our landlord find a new tenant for our house (which is a legal rental), and get started on our move over to the new house. We meet with our new landlord tomorrow afternoon to pick up the keys. He asked for yesterday and today to do yard maintenance and a deep clean for us, although I’m not sure what there is to clean. The place was already immaculate.

All’s well that ends well . . . thank goodness!