This Week’s Menu: Creating a Menu

Pork, rice & bean burritos

I’ve probably written about this before, but I’ve lately been thinking again how differently we shop now, and how differently I menu plan these days.

I’ve been a menu planner for as long as I can remember. Even when Brett and I were just starting out, and we had just $72/month for groceries (Really! Military pay was not all that much back then), I was planning – I had to. I planned meals for our son and myself when Brett was out at sea for long periods of time. I can’t imagine not planning anymore.

Before we moved to Kaua’i, I used to menu plan for two weeks but sometimes for a month, and then shop (the “list method”). I worked to keep costs down and stick with low-cost, frugal meals and it worked out most of the time, but I still sometimes found myself back in the store throughout the week or month picking up items here or there that I forgotten we were out of or didn’t have when I planned.  Our food budget was often out of whack each month. With higher food prices here on Kaua’i, I figured out pretty quickly that sort of planning and spending wasn’t going to work at all, and I pretty quickly found myself buying “basics” every month and then planning strictly from what we had on hand. (“the pantry method”). This change has helped to lower our monthly food expense by nearly half of what it was when we arrived (although we initially way over-budgeted for food costs).

These day we buy basic food items (i.e. very little prepared or processed food) every month on our Big Shop. When I plan now I look at what we have in the fridge, freezer or pantry and think what sort of meal I could make from those items, keeping in mind food preferences and that we like variety. I check very carefully these days to make sure we already have the necessary items to make a dish so there’s no going back to the store (except for eggs). It also helps me to use items that might spoil or be wasted otherwise. The only weekly list I make these days is for the farmers’ market.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Burritos with slow-cooker Mexican pulled pork, rice and beans; sliced tomatoes; cucumbers (just pork, beans, tomatoes and cucumbers for me)
  • Wednesday: Grilled chicken & vegetable skewers; pilaf (no pilaf for me)
  • Thursday: Homemade fish cake sandwiches; coleslaw (I’m skipping the bread)
  • Friday: Mabo dofu; steamed rice; cucumber salad (no rice for me)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Scotch eggs; toast; fruit (just eggs and fruit for me)
  • Monday: Slow cooker Thai-style pork stew; steamed rice; Asian-y coleslaw (once again, skipping the rice)

We’ll be getting cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, green onions, bananas, papayas and dragonfruit at the farmers’ market this week, but otherwise we’re in good shape for produce.

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And Just How Are We Paying For All This Travel?

We’ve known from the start that our Big Adventure was going to cost A LOT, and that we had to have a good, solid financial plan to make it happen.

Before deciding to go ahead with the Big Adventure, Brett and I crunched a whole lot of numbers many, many times, made several changes to the itinerary, and finally came up with a realistic plan for covering the costs of continual travel on a fixed income, and without incurring any debt.

Our goal is to cover one year’s around-the world travel combining travel savings with our regular monthly income. We’ve been putting away as much as possible this year, and plan to finish this December with at least $8500 in our travel account. Next year our goal will be to bring our total amount saved to somewhere around $28,000 – $30,000 by the time we leave Kaua’i at the end of August.

Here’s how and what we’re saving next year:

  • We’ll be putting a minimum of $800 a month into our travel savings account for the eight months before we depart Hawai’i.
  • We’ll be using our credit card to pay upfront for some travel expenses (see below), but will pay the card in full each month and put the rewards toward travels expenses.
  • Income tax and other refunds, gifts or windfalls will go into savings, and we’ll continue with our change/$1 bill savings. The monthly increases in Brett’s military retirement and our Social Security will go into our travel savings – we weren’t expecting any increase this year since we haven’t had one in four years, and view it as a windfall.
  • We will sell our car as well as the furniture and household items we’re not going to store here before leaving Kaua’i.
  • The savings total will include approximately $1500 in Southwest Airlines gift cards – most will be earned through Swagbucks.

We will use the savings to pay upfront for:

  • All our Airbnb lodging expenses except for Sydney and New Zealand – those will be booked further along in our travels (Airbnb requires payment when we reserve a home). We have given ourselves a strict upper limit for how much we can spend per night.
  • Normandy B&B
  • India tour
  • Train trip across Australia
  • One-way airfare for two to Buenos Aires from Houston, TX.
  • One-way airfare for two from Buenos Aires to Paris.
  • One-way airfare for two from Lisbon back to the mainland.
  • Additional travel insurance – our military insurance covers all medical expenses everywhere in the world, but we’d like to have evacuation coverage and a couple of other features
  • A rental car for approximately one month before we leave Kaua’i (how long we’ll actually need it will depend on how quickly we sell our car).
  • Three week’s to one month’s vacation rental on Kaua’i before we leave (we plan to move out of our house at the end of next July)
  • One year’s worth of storage fees
  • Flights on the mainland with Southwest Airlines, paid with gift cards

The rest of our expenses, including meals, local travel expenses, travel between most countries, and incidentals will come from our regular monthly income. We’ll have just three fixed expenses when we leave Kaua’i: my student loan payment, our phone plan and non-owner car insurance, which together will total less than $500/month. We’re keeping our T-Mobile plan because it gives us free data and texting in all the countries we’re visiting, and the girls are on the plan until they graduate from college. Without having to cover all our current expenses we’ll have a solid amount to live on as well as continue to save while we travel.

I have enough miles in my Hawaiian account to cover flights for four of us back to the mainland at no cost, and we will use the Southwest gift cards to cover airfares when we or the girls are flying inside the U.S. mainland.

Brett will be manning the spreadsheets to keep track of our expenses and spending, and like our heroes and retirement role models, Michael and Debbie Campbell (The Senior Nomads), we will be keeping a daily log as we travel, and tracking every expense down to the penny (or euro or yen or whatever).

Meanwhile, in the coming year we’ll continue saving, saving, saving as well as using it up, wearing it out, making it do, or doing without as we get ready to go!

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Sunday Afternoon 10/29/2017

Happy Halloween!

I’ve been feeling very nostalgic the past few days, thinking about Halloween and our kids, and the costumes they wore, the pumpkins we carved, and all the nights Brett and I took them around trick-or-treating. So many good memories, and YaYu and I have had fun trying to remember all the costumes! We’re still not sure though about what we’re going to do about Halloween candy here this year. We had a few kids from the neighborhood come to the house last year to trick-or-treat, but not enough to finish the bag of candy we bought. We got a giant bag of mixed candy from Costco and divided it up for the girls, and we’re hoping maybe we can get YaYu to part with a few pieces from her stash when kids come to the door since she still has so many pieces of candy left from last week’s lei gifts. Maybe though we’ll just run out and grab a last-minute bag and Brett can deal with the leftovers (which he wouldn’t mind doing).

Thursday’s walk-through with the landlord was great. We told him about next year’s travel plans, and that we want to move out at the end of July, so instead of a year’s lease we signed a month-to-month one. And, although we were expecting our rent to go up he’s keeping it the same, so that was a nice surprise as well. He told us he’d take us back as tenants any time when and if we come back to Kaua’i after we’re done traveling. The day after he texted Brett and told him he would like to help us sell the stuff we’re not storing (he’s been here a l-o-n-g time, and has a LOT of connections on the island), and that before we go he and his wife want to take us out to dinner! He seems to be in good condition right now health-wise, and said he’s “winning the battles” against his cancer but still doesn’t know yet if he’s going to “win the war.”

The weather has been absolutely glorious here this week! It rained all day last Monday, sometimes so hard we could barely see the house across the street, but the rest of the week has been lovely during the day with sunshine, breezes, and very low humidity. It’s been cool enough that we’ve been able to keep our ceiling fans off most of the time. On Thursday night the temperature dropped to 66º, which is pull-out-the-parka-and-boots weather here.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I confess to getting absolutely no reading done this week. Between our walks, working on the house and other chores, there’s been no time during the day, and at night I’ve fallen asleep the moment my head has hit the pillow. Both books I have checked out from the library will be going back without my getting them finished – sad.
  • Listening to: It’s pretty quiet outside, although a few nearby roosters are doing their thing now and again. It’s a sunny, but cool, day and there are LOTS of birds singing. We all got up early here this morning for some reason, and then Meiling called and we did a group chat with her for a while – fun! Brett went for a run, YaYu is reading and the laundry hasn’t gotten started yet, and I’ve been enjoying the quiet. Wait – someone just started up their weed trimmer, so there goes the quiet.
  • Watching: We didn’t watch much TV until Friday, when Stranger Things started! We want to binge watch all the episodes, but are pacing ourselves so the series lasts a little longer. I also started rewatching The Crown at night to review and get ready for the second season which will start on December 8.
  • Cooking/baking: I baked a fresh orange bundt cake on Thursday, so there won’t be a need to bake anything else for a while. Dinner tonight is one of our favorites: Chinese stir-fried tomatoes with eggs. Brett and YaYu will have rice with theirs, and we’ll have some cucumbers as well.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: We were really happy with how the house looked before the landlord came on Thursday, as good as it did when we moved in (the landlord was impressed). We took last Sunday off from walking, and got rained out on Monday (I rode my bike instead), but otherwise Brett and I did our 3-mile walk every evening. I drank all of my water every day, even though I didn’t feel like it some days because of the cooler temperatures. J’ai étudié le français pendant 10 minutes tous les jours et I moved up to Level 4!
  • Looking forward to next week: I hope we see a few trick-or-treaters on Tuesday! We still get a big kick out of seeing the kids in their costumes and handing out candy. Weather permitting, both Brett and I would like to get down to the beach at least one day this week. Otherwise, there’s nothing urgent on the calendar.

    Friday’s view at the half-way point of our walk.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our rent not going up is a very good thing, especially since we were expecting and had planned for an increase this coming year. We learned that both our Social Security benefits and Brett’s military retirement will get a 2% cost-of-living increase next year. It’s not a lot, but we’ll take it! The cooler fall weather and low humidity this past week has been wonderful, and it’s made our walks down by the beach in the evenings very pleasant. My new gray shoes arrived and they’re better than I imagined – they fit great and are very comfortable and lightweight.
  • Reporting gains and losses: We put $752.63 into our travel fund this month! Our total savings are now $7554.18, so we’re well ahead of where we thought we would be at this time. I lost another pound this month as well, for a total of 29 lost so far. I still have a few more pounds to go, but I’m really happy with how I’ve done so far.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling very thankful right now for all the events that conspired along the way to get Brett and me to this place in our lives right now, and for all the family and friends (and loyal readers!) that are part of it.  We know life can change in a moment of course, but for now life is very, very good, and we are blessed.
  • Bonus question: Fall brings soup weather (even to Hawai’i!). What’s your favorite soup? My all-time favorite, since I was little, is tomato, and right now I am especially in love with Pacific Foods roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Yum! Costco recently got in their fall shipment, and we bought two cases when we shopped last week, and hope there will still be some left next month so we can buy two more. I also recently discovered Costco’s cheddar cheese and broccoli soup and have fallen in love with that as well. Both soups are surprisingly low carb, and I could eat them every day, but limit myself to a couple of times a week. I also love a good, homemade clam chowder or seafood bisque, potsticker soup (of the infamous stolen recipe), and pretty much any kind of vegetable soup. I’m OK with some chicken soups, but don’t care for soups with beef. I’ll eat them, but won’t go out of my way to make them or order them in a restaurant.

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

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Five Frugal Things 10/27/2017

Colby College (in Maine) is one of the schools waiving YaYu’s application fee.

  1. The second $10 L.L. Bean gift card I received earlier in the month from an order was due to expire this coming weekend, so I applied it toward the purchase of a pair of Perfect Fit Pants (my all-time favorite travel pants), regularly priced at $39.95. Shipping from L.L. Bean is free, and there was no tax. As an added bonus, I am now able to order the pants in size small again!
  2. Even though she was not chosen as a Questbridge finalist, YaYu heard from several of their partner colleges this past week letting her know they will waive their application fee (regularly $60 per school) for regular admission if she still wants to apply (she does), saving us approximately $360.
  3. We’ve been working at lowering our monthly utility costs, and after a huge water bill last month due to a plumbing issue (that’s been resolved, thank goodness), this month’s water bill was down by more than $100, and was actually $18 less than our normal average monthly charge.
  4. Brett needed some screws to repair our mailbox after someone accidentally backed into it, and went to Ace Hardware on Tuesday to take advantage of their senior discount day. As a military retiree, he also received a 10% discount from Home Depot last weekend when he bought light bulbs and a couple of other items – he just had to show his ID card.
  5. We put $13.95 in to the change/$1 bill jar this week: $5.45 in change from Home Depot, and $8.50 from the farmers’ market.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

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#Kauai: Hanalei Lunch Date

Looking out to crescent-shaped Hanalei Bay before descending into the Hanalei valley. The mountain in the background is Bali Hai.

Every single time I’ve visited Hanalei, located on the north side of Kaua’i, it’s rained. Every. Single. Time. Sometimes it’s been a gentle rain, other times it’s poured, but every time I’ve gotten wet and the visit has been a miserable experience. But, Brett and I decided to try a lunch date there last week, and lo and behold . . . my losing streak ended! Oh, a few drops tried to start something, and although there were plenty of clouds around, actual rain never materialized. We had a wonderful time, and I finally got to visit several places in the small town that I’d been unable to see before because of the weather.

Hanalei Bridge

To get into Hanalei, the highway descends into the Hanalei valley, and crosses the Hanalei river by way of the historic one-lane Hanalei bridge. Vehicles go single file, up to five at a time, and then stop to let those on the other side cross over. Sometimes after heavy rains the river will flood and the bridge is closed, effectively trapping everyone in Hanalei and beyond until the water subsides.

Tahiti Nui restaurant and bar. They have great food, great drinks and great live entertainment in the evening.

We arrived in Hanalei just a little before noon, and decided to have lunch at Tahiti Nui. This is the restaurant in The Descendants where George Clooney’s character runs into his cousin (played by Beau Bridges) and they chat briefly at the bar about the upcoming family meeting concerning the sale of the family trust on Kaua’i.

Brett peruses the menu at our table out on the lanai.

We peeked inside the restaurant and thought it was kind of dark, but because we had fortunately arrived before the main lunch rush, Brett and I were able to snag a nice table out on the lanai.

Our drinks were VERY delicious and VERY refreshing.

Brett ordered a cucumber mint mocktail; I had a passionfruit sun tea with lemonade. Both were amazing.

We brought home half of our pizza for YaYu, who said it was divine.

The waitress recommended the huli-huli chicken pizza, and it did not disappoint. So good! Yes, I ate carbs . . . and they were delicious..

Hanalei Pier, with Bali Hai in the background.

After lunch we drove over to see the Hanalei Pier, which I had never seen before because of rain. We strolled out to the end to enjoy a spectacular view of Hanalei Bay, Bali Hai (the mountain in the distance), and also got to watch several kids doing flips into the water.

Hanalei Beach

The pier also gave us a great view Hanalei Beach (also featured in The Descendants). Even though it was cool-ish and quite breezy there were several people swimming or lying out on the beach.

Threatening clouds appeared while we were viewing the church, one of Hanalei’s most famous landmarks.

Leaving the pier, we drove slowly by and ogled as many of the beautiful beachfront homes as possible (some owned by people in the film industry), and then drove over to see the beautiful Wai’oli Hui’ia Church, founded by missionaries in the 19th century. It’s the oldest church on Kaua’i, and is listed on both the state and national registers of historic buildings. This was another site I had especially wanted to see, but had never been able because of the weather on previous trips.

Someone’s happy with his coffee and biscotti!

While we were at the church it began to look like my streak of bringing rain to Hanalei was going to continue after all, so we headed back into town and to the Hanalei Bread Company, a bakery and coffee shop, where Brett and I both got coffee and he enjoyed a tasty biscotti.

A little friend joined us for coffee!

This little red-crested cardinal (or as we call them, Hawaiian cardinals) settled himself nearby while we sipped our coffee, ready to catch any stray crumbs that customers might supply.

The Old Hanalei School is located in the center of town, right across the street from the I Ching Shopping Village.

The rain thankfully never showed up! We were ready to go home though, and as we headed to our car we walked past the Old Hanalei School which now houses shops and a great restaurant, Hanalei Gourmet (where we’ve eaten before). Hanalei’s full-time population is around 450, but there are probably at least three times that many tourists in town at any given time, and more shops and stores where they can spend their money than you can count. We were sad to learn though that our favorite Hanalei business, Kaua’i Nut Roasters, had closed.

The taro fields of Hanalei Valley.

Once back over the bridge, up the hill and on to the highway, we stopped at the Hanalei Overlook, one more place I had never been able to see because of rain. There were lots of clouds around but the views were absolutely stunning. The valley is home to numerous taro fields. Taro is an important food to native Hawaiians, and is used to make poi.

The view across the valley to the north, to Mt. Wai’ale’ale.

We also had a terrific view to the north from the overlook, of more of the valley and of Wai’ale’ale. Looking out at the view, it was perfectly clear why Kaua’i is called The Garden Island.

Brett and I had a lovely day, and a fun lunch date. Now that my Hanalei rain spell seems to be broken, I’m actually looking forward to returning again, to enjoy the beach and take in more of the gorgeous views.

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A Domain of Our Own

The Occasional Nomads has finally made the big time – we have our own domain!

And, we have a new web address: http://theoccasionalnomads.com

We ran out of space on the (free) blog on Monday, so I purchased an upgrade from WordPress with more storage. The upgrade also removed all the ads that WordPress was placing on the site. Brett and I have no plans to monetize the blog so the site will now be completely ad free!

You’ll still be able to reach the site from the old web address, but the new one will hopefully be easier to remember.

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This Week’s Menu: Occasionally Organic

Oyakodon. The chicken and egg dish’s name is a blend of oya (parent) and ko (child). Don is short for donburi, a Japanese dish where fish, meat, vegetables or other ingredients are simmered together and served over rice. There are more varieties of donburi than can be counted.

I used to be a bit more fanatic about buying organic foods, but these days . . . not so much.

The biggest factor to buying organic here is, quite simply, the cost. Like most places, organic food costs more and along with other higher prices here sometimes the extra expense for organic just isn’t worth it, especially these days when we’re saving for something big. For example, I used to only purchase organic chicken, but now just go with regular. We don’t buy organic bread any more because we just don’t eat very much of it these days. The bread from Costco’s bakery is fine.

Still, there are several items where we stick to organic, or at least make an effort:

  • Fruit: We buy organic whenever we can, especially apples, and berries. I wish we could get organic peaches and melons during the summer, but they’re just not available here unless we want to turn over our bank account and our first-born.
  • Vegetables: We always choose organic if possible at Costco, and their frozen vegetables are nearly always organic. The farmers we buy from at the market do not raise their crops organically, but they don’t use pesticides either.
  • Eggs: Costco sells two dozen organic eggs from the mainland at an affordable price, so we’ve stuck with these even though ‘regular’ eggs are cheaper. Sometimes Costco has local eggs for sale – talk about expensive!
  • Soy milk: We don’t use regular milk any more (Brett’s allergic and YaYu is lactose intolerant), and Costco’s soy milk is organic. Easy peasy.
  • Meat: We do buy organic chicken breasts (they come frozen), but a package will last us for three to four months so the cost gets spread out a bit. When we buy other meat or meat products (like sausages and bacon) we try to purchase those with no added nitrites, additives or other preservatives. Again, we spend a little more but prefer to know we’re not getting that stuff. We could buy organic ground beef at Costco, but we like to buy grass-fed beef these days from local ranchers for about the same price.
  • Miscellaneous: We still buy organic tofu, flour, butter, soup, sugar, peanut butter, and some snacks.

Anyway, we’re not as devoted to organics these days, but we do our best as well as continuing to try to eat as clean as possible while sticking to our budget.

Here’s what we’re having for dinner this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled Italian sausages; stuffed tomatoes; grilled zucchini
  • Wednesday: Oyakodon (no rice for me); edamame
  • Thursday: Slow cooker chicken with rice soup; bread (I’ll serve my portion before adding the rice)
  • Friday: Leftovers – last cross country spaghetti dinner for state finalists
  • Saturday: Grilled Polish sausages; onion rings; coleslaw (no onion rings for me)
  • Sunday: Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs; rice; cucumbers (I’m skipping the rice)
  • Monday: Grilled teriyaki chicken; zaru soba (zoodles for me); edamame

We’ll be picking up carrots, cucumbers, papaya and whatever else catches our eye this week. We still have edamame left over from a couple of weeks ago (it keeps well in the fridge). We bought some beautiful tomatoes on the vine at Costco last week, so will be using those up this week.

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Mystery Revealed: Laura & Brett’s Big Adventure!

Surprise! Bet you weren’t expecting this!

Nighttime Tokyo

The Occasional Nomads are preparing to become permanent nomads for a while! When YaYu leaves Kaua’i for college next August, we’ll be leaving Kaua’i as well.

Brett and I have been talking about traveling on our own once the girls were all off to college for as long as I can remember. We’ve been keeping a (growing/changing) list of places we want to see for a long while now, but a few months ago, as we were trying to prioritize those places, Brett said, “Why can’t we just go and see them all?” We began to wonder, “could we do that?” So, we started to investigate if it might actually be possible, and after some serious number crunching, lots of discussion, and a wrenching decision to leave Kaua’i for a while, the Big Adventure was born.

Brett and I are going to slow travel around the world for around a year, although not in a particularly straight line. At the end of next summer It will just be us and our suitcases and backpacks, right after we get YaYu settled at college.

Here’s the itinerary we finally settled on:

Recoleta, Buenos Aires

  1. Buenos Aires, Argentina. We’ll start our journey by spending 10 days here, staying in an Airbnb rental in the Recoleta neighborhood. When our time in BA is over, we’ll take the ferry across the Rio de la Plata to . . .
  2. Montevideo, Uruguay. We’ll spend another 10 days here, again staying in an Airbnb rental. At the end of our time we’ll take the ferry back to Buenos Aires and fly to . . .
  3. Paris, France. We’ll visit Paris for just four days, renting a room in someone’s home through Airbnb versus renting an entire apartment. From Paris we’ll take the train to . . .

    Omaha Beach, Normandy, France

  4. Normandy, France. After picking up a rental car in Caen, we’ll drive out to visit the Normandy battlefields and beaches, Bayeaux, and Mont St. Michelle. We’re going to stay at a B&B (in a small château) in the area, and will be in Normandy for three full days. After that, it’s back to Caen to return the car and catch the train for . .
  5. Bordeaux, France. We’ll spend a week here, exploring the city and surrounding area, eating and of course drinking the wine. Lodging will be an apartment rented through Airbnb. When our week is up we’ll take a plane to . . .

    Strasbourg

  6. Strasbourg, France. We’ll be in this charming city for four weeks! We picked Strasbourg as our location to “settle” somewhere in France for a while, one of our trip goals. We’ll again stay in an Airbnb rental. At the end of our month we’ll catch another plane and fly to . . .

    Florence

  7. Florence, Italy. We’ll be staying four weeks here as well (in an Airbnb rental, of course), which will give us time to explore the city and other places in Tuscany. We’re planning to get a permit and make a two-day side trip to the Cinque Terre (long on my bucket list) while we’re here. When our month is up, we’ll head to . . .
  8. Rome, Italy. One week of exploring and eating in Rome will be enough on this trip. We’ll be staying with Airbnb again. then it’s arrivederci and off we go to . . .

    Lisbon

  9. Lisbon, Portugal. Lisbon has been high on our list of places to see for a while, so we’ll be spending 10 days here (once again with Airbnb), as well as visiting some of the area around the city. Then, from Lisbon we’ll fly back to . . .
  10. Portland, Oregon. We’re planning to spend around a month here, with the girls joining us on their winter breaks from school. We’re looking forward to getting together again with old friends, and we’ll have our Christmas celebration here. Brett and I will also re-provision ourselves as necessary. Sometime in January 2019, when all the girls head back to their respective schools, Brett and I will depart for . . .

    Hong Kong

  11. Hong Kong: This is a purely nostalgic visit for us. We’re interested in seeing the changes to the city, but also what’s stayed the same. Unlike previous visits when we mostly shopped, shopped, and then shopped some more, this time our focus will be the food! We’re hoping to stay at the The Salisbury YMCA Hotel, located right next door to the famous Peninsula Hotel on the Kowloon side. We’ll stay in Hong Kong for just five days, and then it’s on to . . .

    The Taj Mahal

  12. New Delhi, India. We’re going to India!!! This is the only organized tour we will take as neither of us feels ready to explore India on our own. Besides seeing Delhi, the eight-day tour will also visit Agra (the Taj Mahal!) and Jaipur. We’ll finish up back in Delhi, and then fly to . . .

    Dining car on the Indian-Pacific

  13. Australia: We’re going to enter Australia in Perth, on the west coast, and will board the Indian-Pacific train there for a four-day, three-night journey (in a private berth) over to Sydney, where we plan to stay for around six days. The train journey has been a dream of Brett’s for a long, long time, and it makes stops in a couple of places along the way where we can get out and explore a bit. We’ll once again be staying in an Airbnb apartment while we’re in Sydney. Then we’ll leave Australia and fly to:

    Rotorua, New Zealand

  14. New Zealand: We’ll pick up a rental car at the Auckland airport, and then will spend around 10 days exploring the North Island, starting with three days in Rotorua, then a stop in Napier, down to Wellington for a couple of days, back up to New Plymouth for a night, and finishing with a couple of days in Auckland before turning in the car and departing for . . .
  15. Tokyo, Japan. Our longest stay, we’re going to rent an Airbnb apartment here for nearly three months, and already have our fingers crossed that we’ll be able to find an affordable place fairly close to our son’s condo. We’re very excited about having an extended amount of time near our son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren (our grandson is already talking about sleepovers at Grandma and Grandpa’s house!). WenYu and Meiling will be joining us during their spring breaks which happily coincide in 2019, and are already saving for their trip (YaYu will join them if her spring break matches theirs). Sometime in mid- to late-May, we will return to . . .

    Portland

  16. Portland, Oregon. Meiling will be graduating from college in mid-June so we need to be back in Oregon, but we’d like to spend the summer here, and give the girls a place to come “home” and work, spend time with their friends, etc. And after that . . .

Who knows? Somewhere along the way we’ll decide what we want to do the following year, whether that’s continuing as nomads (which seems a very possible outcome right now, as there are many, many other places we want to see), or settling back either here on Kaua’i or maybe even someplace else. We’re going to store some of our stuff here on the island, but most of our things will be sold before we go.

We don’t have any exact dates for our travels as of yet because for the first part of our journey we need to know when and where YaYu will start school, and for the second half everything will revolve around the India tour date, and those dates won’t be available until late this year or early 2018 . So, things are still pretty fluid right now as far as scheduling, etc.

I will have a post up next Monday about all the financial aspects.

This trip is a dream come true for both of us, and you know I have been and still am in travel planning heaven. We have much to do to get ready for our Big Adventure, lots more saving to do, but things are moving along nicely. I hope you’ll follow along as we get ready to go around the world!

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Sunday Afternoon 10/22/2017

The view to the south from the Hanalei overlook

YaYu was not selected as a Questbridge finalist. After an initial bit of disappointment, by evening she was actually feeling somewhat relieved that she had not been chosen. While she would have welcomed the prestige that came with being named a finalist, all of us would have been scrambling to get things off to all her ranked schools in the coming 11 days, and even with that she knew there was almost zero chance for her to receive a match scholarship to one of those schools (there were over 15,600 Questbridge applicants this year; approximately 5,700 were chosen as finalists, and somewhere less than 800 will receive a match scholarship.). YaYu is planning to apply early decision to the top school on her list (application due November 15), then regular decision to several others that waive the application fee – those applications won’t be due until January 15. The toughest part of the application – the essay – is finished, so it will just be a matter of filling out the rest of the online application. Her “safe” school is the University of Hawaii, and she said she will be happy to go there if she’s not accepted at one of the other schools ahead of it on her list.

It’s been a busy week here at Casa Aloha. Brett and I had our lunch date in Hanalei on Tuesday, and on Wednesday and Thursday we did our monthly Big Shop.  YaYu has been as busy as ever with all her activities, and we’ve been doing extra cleaning around the house this past week. Our landlord is coming over this coming Thursday to do a “walk-through” before we sign a lease for next year. We’re not sure what that “walk-through” entails, or what he’s going to be looking for or at, if anything. We keep the house clean and well-maintained (well, the girls’ room is usually a dump), but we’ve been going over things carefully in the past few days to make sure everything is as perfect as can be. Our landlord’s been very hands off up to now and he gets his rent on time every month, so we’re also not sure why he wants to check on things now other than we had a plumbing issue last month and the problem with the oven the month before, so maybe he just wants to make sure we’re not trashing the place or something.

While last weekend’s humidity was brutal, we’ve had lots of lovely cool, breezy weather this week, and a couple of days have been downright blustery. It’s rained every night too, which means we haven’t had to turn on the sprinklers, and the dust has been tamped down (a bit). Everything is greening up again and looking fresh. Fall is here!

Yesterday YaYu ran her last HS cross country race, and she and other senior runners got were given lei and gifts afterwards Most of hers are candy lei, but she also received a couple of beautiful handmade maile lei as well (so fragrant!). The brown paper bag contains ramen – they know her so well!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: Because I was so busy this past week I got very little reading done, even at night. The second Inspector Rebus book, Hide and Seek, came off of hold though, so I’m going to have to step up my game to get them both it and Lilli de Jong done in time.
  • Listening to: We’re having a lovely day here so far: sunny but cool-ish and with a nice breeze. LOTS of people are out working in their yards, so we can hear plenty of weed trimmers and an a lawn mower. The roosters seem to be enjoying the weather as well. We sorted all our laundry last night and Brett got up early and started the washing machine, so we’ve also got that to listen to as well!
  • Watching: We didn’t watch a whole lot of TV this past week, but the past couple of nights we’ve started watching Travels With My Father, on Netflix, and are enjoying it immensely.
  • Cooking/baking: Costco had Kirkland semi-sweet chocolate chips in stock again (yeah! – they are so much better than the Nestle ones), so we bought a bag this past week and I’m going to make and freeze chocolate chip cookie dough for Brett and YaYu. We’ll be having the Shakshuka and couscous tonight that we missed having last week (although no couscous for me).
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I cleaned all the window blinds last week, a BIG chore because of all the dust we get here, and because the windows are big. Because our house is secluded enough, we’re keeping all the blinds raised to hopefully keep them from accumulating more dust for a while because I’m sick and tired of trying to keep them clean. I also got started on shoveling out the girls’ room with YaYu’s help. I don’t think either she or WenYu throws anything away, ever. Brett also washed off the outside of the house – another big chore. We got the college girls’ Halloween candy boxed up and sent off (and I didn’t sneak any!), and we put away a bag to give to YaYu. Brett and I walked for three miles on the beach path every day except for Wednesday, but after shopping at Costco and working in the girls’ room for a while I felt too tired to do much of anything that evening. I drank at least 64 ounces of water a day this week, and did my language study every day.
  • Looking forward to this week: There will be a big surprise in the blog tomorrow! Otherwise there’s nothing special on our calendars. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the walk-through with the landlord, although I’m very glad he’s feeling better and recovering.

    Whale season is starting!

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I had a wonderful time on our lunch date up in Hanalei this past week. For the first time since we’ve been here, it didn’t rain while I was there! YaYu ran a terrific cross country race yesterday, her last as a high school harrier. After the meet she and other seniors were showered with lei and gifts from other teammates (team tradition). I was so excited to find a pair of shoes I wanted for our upcoming travels (gray slip-ons) and they were both in my size and on sale! The freezer has been working fine all week, so apparently the humidity was affecting the outlet. And the whales are back – a few have been spotted off of Maui, which means it won’t be long before we can see them here!
  • Grateful for: There’s nothing in particular today, but I’m feeling very blessed for our entire family’s good health, that we don’t have to worry about having enough to eat, that two of our girls are attending the college of their choice and that YaYu still has many opportunities awaiting her.
  • Bonus question: What’s the scariest story you’ve ever heard? Last Monday, the wind was very strong during Brett’s and my walk down by the beach. It was at our back the first half of the walk, but on the way back to the car it was blowing very hard against us. Brett said at one point, “Well, now you know what it feels like up on the deck of an aircraft carrier during flight ops!” We started talking about his navy days, and I told him that nothing in my life had scared me as much as some of the things he told me he did up on the flight deck. For example, running up to jets that had just caught and released the arresting cable and were still rolling, sending hand signals to the pilot, and then climbing up on the jet while it was still hot to get into the cockpit and start pulling gear for maintenance. Or, being blown down the flight deck on his back by hot jet blast, and only avoiding being blown overboard because he was able to grab one of the padeyes on the deck. Or, standing on the edge of the deck leaning backwards as far as he could go without falling over. BRETT!! It got to the point I told him I did not want to hear any more stories, that when I thought about him out at sea the only images I wanted in my mind were the opening scenes in Top Gun, where everything on the flight deck looks very controlled and smooth and safe (which the flight deck is not – there’s a reason it’s often referred to as “controlled chaos,” and people who work the flight deck get hazardous duty pay). The opening credits and scenes in the video above (action starts at 1:00) are still the best example I know though of what Brett did for a living for 22 years. The separations when he deployed were miserable, but he loved his job, and was very, very good at it.

That’s all for this week! How was your week? What did you accomplish? What are you cooking today? What good things happened for you?

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