Sunday Afternoon 7/30/2017

Hawaiian Tropical Fruit Still Life #2: Dragonfruit, mangoes, lychee fruit, and papaya.

Our lazy summer here at Casa Aloha continues. WenYu’s job is keeping her busy, as are YaYu’s volunteer commitments, and they both go for a run every evening (when WenYu isn’t working) but there have been few demands on Brett’s and my time. I prepare dinner, we share house-maintenance chores, and otherwise spend our time at the beach, taking care of the occasional errand, or reading, watching TV or getting some exercise. It’s everything we thought retirement would be and it’s wonderful.

It’s almost hard to believe that YaYu will be back at school a week from tomorrow. This year will be the last year for Brett and I when it comes to full-time child rearing, so we’re looking forward to it both with anticipation and dread (i.e. the whole college/scholarship application process). By the time YaYu leaves for college next year we will have been raising children for 40 years, and are finally ready to enjoy an empty nest (unlike when our son graduated from high school in 1996, when we were not ready – Meiling joined our family the following spring).

The weather continues to be hot and sticky, but the mornings and nights are thankfully still cool and comfortable. The remnants of a hurricane passed by this last week, and they tend to drag along hot, HUMID air as they go by. The last time I checked there were three other storms moving across the Pacific, so we’ve got our fingers crossed that once again they all miss Hawai’i.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finish up Evicted and am currently reading Rich People Problems, by Kevin Kwan. It’s a fun, fluffy book, which I needed after Evicted. What an eye-opening book that was! I was frankly shocked at how the poor were exploited when it comes to housing. Only 33% of the poor in our country receive any sort of housing subsidies (vouchers or public housing); the rest are at the mercy of predatory landlords, and there is no other way to describe it than that they exploit these renters, and suck whatever they can from them. The unsubsidized poor are often paying 70 – 80% of their income in rent for substandard or downright unsafe and unsuitable housing, but it’s what’s available, and where they are forced to turn to for housing. One emergency, or foul-up with their income and these renters are evicted, which creates a further downward spiral of poverty.
  • Listening to: It’s relatively quiet now, but there was a lot of noise earlier this morning, both from neighbors taking care of lawn maintenance, and one very loud rooster. There’s a lovely breeze right now, so I can hear the palm trees rustling outside, and birds are singing. The girls are still asleep, and Brett is reading, so for now it’s also quiet inside.
  • Watching: Brett and I started and finished a documentary on Netflix this past week, The Keepers, about a small group of people who started out trying to solve the mystery of who killed one of their high school teachers, Sister Catherine, back in 1969, and ended up exposing a whole web of abuse and cover-up within the Baltimore Archdiocese (and possibly the Baltimore police). It was fascinating. We’ve got one last episode of Granchester to watch tonight, but are going to start another documentary, Room 237, about the real Overlook Hotel and Stanley Kubrik’s film of The Shining. I’ve almost finished all the available episodes House Hunters: International – I’ve been watching it when I work on Swagbucks. It’s addicting, and I wish there were more episodes available!
  • Cooking/baking: We’re having grilled teriyaki chicken and zaru soba tonight – we had the Caprese skillet eggs on Thursday evening because the fresh basil we got at the farmers’ market had to be used quickly.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I bought Meiling’s and WenYu’s plane tickets to come home at Christmas, getting a good price and good itinerary for both of them. I managed to get in at least one bike ride every day – some days it was just too hot and humid in the afternoon, even with two fans blowing on me. I drank all of my glasses of water every day, studied my language, and made my first goal on Swagbucks every day. Actually, I’ve ended up doing better than the personal goal that I set for myself on Swagbucks this month.
  • Looking forward to next week: Getting our oven fixed – the repairman came this past week, but had to order the igniter. Of course, it worked for him, but he agreed it was “failing.” We don’t use it all that much, but it has been missed.

    The best place to spend a hot, sticky summer afternoon!

  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu’s new running shoes arrived – she says they’re comfortable and fit well. Yeah Zappos! WenYu had more HawaiianMiles in her account than we realized, and she transferred them over to my account – there were enough to cover her flight over to Honolulu when she heads back to school at the end of next month. We went to the beach on Thursday, when WenYu had the day off – it was breezy, cool(er) and wonderful. And, the waves were big so the surfers were out – they are so much fun to watch! Prices were excellent this week on locally-grown tropical fruit, and we stocked up. The girls also deep-cleaned their room yesterday evening – it was a mess, but looks really lovely now.
  • Reporting gains and losses for July: I lost another two pounds this past month, and 23 total since last February. Since I had to cut back on some of my daily bike rides because of the hot weather, I’ve been eating less, and measuring everything. Brett is within two pounds of his goal weight, but will keep up with his walking/hiking to stay in shape. And, we put $808.54 into our travel savings this past month!! Our total is now at $4589.76, so we’re well ahead of where we need to be at this point.
  • Grateful for: I really don’t think about it much, but was made aware again of the benefits of living below our means when I totaled up this month’s savings. I’m very thankful for the simple, but comfortable lifestyle we enjoy these days in such a beautiful place, and that we are able to save enough for future dreams and travels.

    The Tatsuzawa Fudo waterfall near Fukushima – it was gorgeous!

  • Bonus question: Do you have a story of a time something went wrong but turned out for the best? Brett and I arranged to go on a tour of the Fukushima prefecture during our first tour in Japan (the prefecture extends far inland, and we were not anywhere near the coast or the infamous nuclear reactors). We woke up the morning of our tour and realized we had overslept by two hours! We called the navy recreation office, explained what had happened, and they told us where and how we could meet up with the tour that evening. So, we took our son to the babysitter, and headed for the train station – we would have a long ride to get to where the tour was staying that evening. The train ride was wonderful! Although it cost us extra, we saw so many places along the way that we’d never seen, including a ride through a grove of plum trees in bloom (breathtaking!), had some tasty ekibento (station bentos) and snacks, and met kind and helpful people along the way. When we arrived at our destination it was very late, but we took a taxi to the inn where everyone was staying, and were put into a large traditional Japanese room, where we were given warm robes, our futons were made up for us, and someone brought us hot tea and snacks. We met up with our group in the morning for breakfast, and quickly realized that they had all slept dormitory style, with all the women in one room, men in the other, so we kept quiet about our luxurious accommodations. After breakfast (during which there was a fairly strong earthquake) we boarded the tour bus with our tour group, and enjoyed the second day of the tour, which included visiting a temple and some beautiful waterfalls, and returned home that evening. We still say that our mistake of oversleeping ended up providing us with one of the nicest getaways we’ve ever enjoyed!

How has your week gone? What did your accomplish? What good things happened for you?

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10 thoughts on “Sunday Afternoon 7/30/2017

  1. Isabella says:

    I enjoy reading about your frugal life. For me, the good thing is that for the first time in 8 months I do not have a doctor’s appt. this week. Yay! For the past 8 months, I have been going through breast cancer treatments for a recurrence after 16 years. (5 months of chemotherapy followed by a bi-lateral mastectomy. Reconstruction will be the next beast to slay). I am going to enjoy the week off. We are also looking forward to traveling to Newport, Rhode Island at at the end of August to visit our children and grandchildren who live there. Can’t wait!

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    • Laura says:

      Isabella! I’m channeling all my positive thoughts your way, for healing and strength. You are a warrior!

      Newport in August sounds delightful. We visited there when I was 13, so a long time ago, but it was lovely. You’ll have a wonderful time with your family.

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  2. Laurel says:

    Evicted enlightened me on so many distressing details re: the poor and their housing dilemmas. I was also amazed that they are often evicted if they call the police when they are victims of domestic violence, because they are classified as “problem renters.”

    We have had a great week of travel in Canada, upstate NY and Pennsylvania capping it off today at Fallingwater, which is just amazing. We were both just enthralled with it. And tonight we are in a hotel in Ohio with decent wifi, which is a first for us in a while. My data allowance is low and I am thrilled to be relaxing with an internet connection. Small pleasures. 🙂

    I haven’t heard of The Keepers and will check it out. It sounds interesting.

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    • Laura says:

      Distressing is the perfect description for what I learned from Evicted. I really wanted to like the landlords, and try to understand their side, but in the end I couldn’t find much sympathy. They all just wanted to make a LOT of money, and were fine with doing so off the backs of the poor.

      I would love to see Fallingwater. All of Wright’s buildings are so thoughtful, but Fallingwater especially so. There was a FLW house in my hometown – very prairie style, but also unobtrusive.

      How did we survive before the Internet? I can’t imagine life without it now.

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  3. Vivian Gibson says:

    I have not read Evicted but I have been a landlord. i was spoiled by my first renters. They only stayed 3 months but the woman was a wonderful housekeeper. It all went downhill from there. The next family was paid up but disappeared one night in the middle of the month. They left every door and window open when they left. Took every light bulb and toilet paper holder. Broke the heating element in the stove and left cigarette butts all inside the stove. The only reason I knew they were gone is that my cousin called and told me to check on the place. Thank goodness it didn’t rain. The next family quit paying the rent. They both had good jobs and made good money but just decided to quit paying. I had to pay to have them evicted and even though I took them to court and won my case I never received all the money I was owed. When the last family left, I saw a board in the utility room and when I removed it there was a hole in the floor about a foot wide. Damage in other areas where the AC had leaked and they never reported to me. Needless to say the security deposit didn’t begin to cover the damage. I know that there are bad landlords but there are also bad renters.
    After 7 years of renting out my home and repaying 2 of the 3 loans, I was finally able to afford to move into my home. I have never been a landlord again.

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    • Laura says:

      I have heard similar stories from others who have been landlords – there are definitely bad renters out there. What evicted explores though are the predatory landlords, and how the poor are exploited by these people, and how wealthy these landlords are. The author’s thesis is that there should be more subsidized housing for the genuine poor – that when one’s housing is not under threat of being lost, then neighborhoods improve, and people have a better chance to move out of poverty (he gives examples of this). Subsidized housing has to meet high standards, and so do the tenants.

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  4. Roberta says:

    I do have you beat. I have been raising children for 45 years. Next June I will finally be done. I hope to have a nice quiet retirement after that. This year will be bad though since as you say, it is college applications, financial aid etc. I am looking forward to not having to cook so much when the grandson moves on.

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    • Laura says:

      I will gladly hand you the trophy! When I think of adding five more years to ours, it makes me feel very, very tired, so you are a champion.

      I’ve already told Brett I’m not going to cook anymore when the kids are gone, and that we may only be having sandwiches for dinner, or take-out. I like to cook, but I want a break.

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  5. quesoit1 says:

    Thanks you for sharing your thoughts on Evicted. That book was a real eye-opener for me.

    Congrats to both you and Brett on your continued success at weight loss! I’ve been going in the wrong direction and gained two pounds this summer. It’s Obon season in Southern California and I’ve been indulging in too many festival treats — like the Reese’s peanut butter cup-filled mochi at the Pasadena Obon. Am now following your strategy of eating less and strict measuring. Bummer that it’s so much harder to gain weight than lose it!

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    • Laura says:

      I’m anxious to increase my exercise again, but it’s just too hot now. So, I eat less. I got out my Weight Watchers scale, and am also using the set of measuring ladles I got from them to make sure I don’t serve myself too much. The heat does a pretty good job on its own though of surprising my appetite.

      I would so eat the Reese’s peanut butter cup filled mochi, and probably more than one. It sounds amazing.

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