Finding Your Way On Kaua’i

 

That’s the St. Regis Hotel in the upper left of the picture, and Hanalei Beach in front. There’s no direct walk from one to the other.

Every year on Thanksgiving our family watches The Descendants, starring George Clooney. It’s a wonderful film, and part of it is set on Kaua’i. Every year though we roll our eyes and sigh when he and his family climb into a jeep with his cousin at the airport and head north, and yet somehow end up overlooking the ocean on the south shore at Kipu Kai Ranch, a geographically impossible feat. Or, when Clooney and family walk from the St. Regis hotel in Princeville to the beach in Hanalei, making it look like there’s a seamless beach the entire way. Nope. The St. Regis sits perched on the top of a bluff to the east of Hanalei, and you’d have to cross a golf course, scramble down a wooded cliff and cross the Hanalei River at the mouth before arriving at Hanalei Beach. There are other scenes where locations are out of place, but we chalk it all up to “Hollywood magic.”

A couple of weeks ago, I was alerted to an article in the New York Times: 36 Hours in Kauai, Hawaii. They article listed a lot of interesting places to see, shop and eat at on the Island, but I was worn out by the end of reading just the first day! The author had readers start at the Kaua’i museum in Lihue, on the east side, at 3:00 p.m (after their long flight arrives), then drive out to Hanapepe on the south side to order an aloha shirt at 4:30, followed by driving all the way back  to the Kilohana plantation in Puhi to take in a rum tasting at the Koloa Rum Company at 5:30 before attending a luau at the Plantation and then driving all the way back to Waimea (in pitch black darkness) for the night. The distance from Lihue to Hanapepe might not look like much (18 miles), but in the afternoon you’re going to be mixing with the pau hana (‘quitting time’) crowd heading back home to the south and west side, and that seemingly short drive can take up to an hour. It’s an exhausting schedule, especially if you decide to go with the article’s recommendation and take in some of the Hanapepe art night before heading back up to Kilohana. Maybe for someone from the mainland the driving might not seem all that excessive, but for those of us who live here it’s absolutely crazy.

The other two scheduled days are equally frenetic, and involve an insane amount of driving back and forth from one side of the island to another. The lodging recommendations are bizarre considering how long it can take to get around the island (most of the highway is only two lanes). Most of all, the 36-hour schedule in the Times misses the whole point of visiting Kaua’i. The best reason to come here is not to try to see and do as much as possible and fill every single moment, including negotiating Kauai’s traffic, but to relax, most especially if all you have is 36 hours to spend. Life moves slower here on Kaua’i, and the best and most authentic experience of all is to embrace the slower place. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, sit on the beach for the day or go for a hike, take a nap, pick a place or two to visit, have a wonderful dinner or attend a luau, but don’t try to squeeze in everything.

Visitors are always welcome on Kaua’i, and there are lots of things to see and do here. But finding your way on Kaua’i takes a change in how one experiences time and place. Geography is more than just places on a map, or distances between towns, or times posted on Google. It’s more than pretty scenes in a film. The geography of a place is about how and where people live, and how they use the mountains, beaches, towns, roads and the surrounding environments. It’s about how local residents spend their time, and what they value about where they live. Even a small amount of knowledge about these things can make a visit anywhere more enriching.

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This Week’s Menu: Lots o’ Links

Slow cooker balsamic pork roast – the leftovers make wonderful sandwiches.

It wasn’t intentional, but I realized after I made this week’s menu that other than our dinner tonight I could link to all but one of the dishes I’m fixing for dinner this week (there are recipes online for lumpia of course, but we buy ours ready-made at Costco).

Of all the benefits of being connected on the Internet, having access to so many recipes has been one of the biggest and most wonderful. For years I clipped recipes and filed them in notebooks, and then had to remember which notebook they were in and where. No longer though – these days I can do a quick Google search or go to my bookmarks and voilà! I’m ready to go!

Plus, there’s all the fun of searching for new recipes, whether that’s on your own or on Pinterest or other sites. If you have dietary restrictions, or want low-fat or low-calorie or low-anything, you can find it. If you want the most decadent recipe around you can find that too. Is your food stock getting low? There are sites where you can put in what you have on hand and be rewarded with several recipes using those ingredients.

I carry lots of recipes in my head, ones I’ve made for years and don’t need a recipe any more. But I have to admit I’d be lost without the Internet these days, and all the wonderful recipes I’ve discovered there.

Here’s what we’re having this week:

We’ll need to get broccoli, bok choy, cucumbers, ginger, bananas, papayas and hopefully more rambutan from the farmers’ market this week, but otherwise we’re in good shape for produce.

The Second Half of the Big Adventure is Taking Shape

Crossing the Australian continent on the Great Southern Railway’s Indian-Pacific train.

The second half of our Big Adventure, in 2019, is setting up nicely. Although we have over a year to go, we’ve taken advantage of a couple of “early bird” specials and booked both our India tour and our rail trip across Australia, and saved a nice amount of money in the process. If nothing else, we have dates for each piece of the journey.

Most other purchases and reservations can’t be made yet, but having the dates has given a window to start our research and get an estimate of prices and costs.

Here’s how our itinerary for 2019 is shaping up:

  • 1/7: Depart Portland for New Delhi. Most flights we’ve looked at head east, through Europe, making for a very long flying time. There are some flights though heading west, including a couple of non-stops, so we’re keeping our eyes on those.
  • 1/8: Arrive in New Delhi. We’re coming into India a day early to get rested before our tour begins (and hopefully avoid any fog delays).
  • 1/9 – 1/15: India tour
  • 1/15 – 1/21: Depart New Delhi for Hong Kong on the evening of the 15th for a six-night stay at the Salisbury YMCA Hotel. We could stay an extra couple of days here, but Hong Kong prices these days are high, so we decided to keep to our original plan.

    We’ll definitely be eating dim sum in Hong Kong, probably more than once.

  • 1/21 – 1/27: Depart Hong Kong for Perth, Western Australia. We originally thought Perth would be a one-night stay before boarding the train for Sydney, but we’re now planning to stay for several days because a) the cost is less than Hong Kong, and b) we felt we needed a chance to “recharge our batteries” after India and Hong Kong. There’s plenty for us to see and do in Perth, but we’ll also have lots of down time to relax as well.
  • 1/27 – 1/30: Board the Indian-Pacific train on the morning of the 27th to begin our cross-continent trip to Sydney. The train trip includes off-train excursions to Kalgoorlie, Adelaide, the Blue Mountains and several other places before arriving in Sydney in the afternoon of the 30th. The trip includes a private compartment with en suite bathroom, all meals in the dining car and complementary Australian wines and beer, alcoholic spirits and non-alcoholic drinks.

    These iconic sights will definitely be one of the highlights of our trip.

  • 1/30 – 2/4: Spend six nights in Sydney. We’re planning to take some free walking tours, and maybe a harbor cruise among other activities while we’re here. We’re also seriously considering adding in one of the fun experiences arranged by Airbnb.
  • 2/4 – 2/16: Fly to Auckland on the 4th, pick up a car at the airport, and hit the road with stops in Rotorua, Napier, Wellington, and New Plymouth on the North Island before ending back in Auckland for a few days of sightseeing there.

    Hiroshima (including Miyajima Island) will be on the itinerary when we’re in Japan.

  • 2/16 – 5/15: The big Japan visit. We’ll be in Japan for 89 days, one less than the allowed number of days without a visa. We’ve already found a great house to stay in, in a wonderful neighborhood, so fingers are crossed we can make the final arrangements for that in a few months. Brett and I are planning to purchase 7-day Japan Rail Passes before we go, and visit Hiroshima and Kyoto for a week, most likely sometime in April.
  • 5/15 – Depart Japan for Portland

Plans for what to do at the end of our travels are starting to take shape as well, but they’re all really still ideas at this point. Meiling graduates from college in June 2019, so that’s the only definite thing going on at this point.

The front part of our trip, in 2018, can’t be arranged until we know where and when YaYu will be going to school. But, we should know that no later than the end of next March, giving us plenty of time to set everything up.

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Sunday Afternoon 11/26/2017

Thanksgiving Day at the Pineapple Dump with my baby girl (and my crazy hair)

How was your Thanksgiving? We had a relaxing, wonderful day here at Casa Aloha. We timed our hike out to the Pineapple Dump perfectly – less than half an hour after we got home it began to pour. Our dinner was delicious too, and we relaxed afterwards with our annual viewing of The Descendants.  The day started off kind of weird though –  I was awakened at 6:00 in the morning by a strong smell of smoke. I was out of bed in a flash, but it turned out (thankfully) that one of our nearby neighbors was smoking their Thanksgiving turkey and had just gotten their fire going. Whew!

Brett’s turn for crazy hair! It was VERY windy on Thanksgiving

The surf was fierce too – this is what was going on under the old Pineapple Dump jetty

We learned this week that YaYu was elected one of the co-captains of her swim team! I think of all her achievements this one is the most meaningful for her. She loves to swim, but because of her disability it’s been a challenge (imagine swimming with your fists closed and you’ll have an idea of what she is up against). She has worked hard though over the past years and although she’ll never be the fastest swimmer, she’s not the slowest either, and her technique is impeccable. It’s especially heartwarming and satisfying that her coaches and teammates recognized all her effort and teamwork and named her one of the captains.

Our TV fried itself the day before yesterday. I was watching late Friday night when it just shut off. When I went over to check the entire right side was so hot I couldn’t touch it. Brett worked on it on Saturday, but we could not get it to come back on. This was NOT an expense we needed or wanted right now, but we ended up buying a new TV yesterday, and were pleasantly surprised by how much lower prices were than five years ago (like $300 less), and for a better TV.

Finally, I want to get it out there that because the blog now has its own domain, I am no longer able to comment on blogs that use Blogger as their platform unless the Name/URL option is available. I’ve tried to comment several times recently on different blogs but have been unable because they no longer accept my old WordPress address.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished The People Are Going to Rise this past week with minutes to spare, but since nothing else had come off of hold I decided to download and re-read The Namesake. Big thanks to Laurel for the reminder! It’s a terrific book about the Indian immigrant experience in the U.S. Of course, once I started that The Leavers, one of the new books I had put on hold, became available.
  • Listening to: We woke up to a rainy, windy and cool (for us) morning here and have been listening to the wind whip through the palm trees all morning. Otherwise all is quiet around here. YaYu is still sleeping, Brett is reading, and we haven’t started the laundry yet (which will have to go through the dryer today versus being hung outside – there’s no sun).
  • Watching: New episodes of Longmire are available on Netflix! Brett and I have been watching that every evening, trying to stretch it out because it’s the final season. Once we’re finished with that we’ll go back to Auntie Duohe. Brett and I watched the movie The Right Stuff yesterday via Amazon Prime – it’s still a terrific movie. We should have known something was going wrong with the old TV because the last couple of weeks we were having trouble connecting to anything on Amazon Prime, but that problem has thankfully been solved.
  • Cooking/baking: I baked a pan of brownies this morning, and I’m going to make and freeze chocolate chip cookie dough later this afternoon. Dinner tonight is western omelets, grilled breakfast sausage, toast for Brett and YaYu, and sautéed apples with cinnamon and a little agave syrup for sweetness.

    My low-tech, old-school method of keeping track of water, walks and French – works for me!

  • Happy I accomplished this week: Last week was a very low-key one, and other than a trip to Costco for a few sale items (and a new TV and phone for Brett), I don’t think I accomplished much of anything special. I did get the last Christmas gift ordered (for WenYu) – all that’s left to do now is pick up a couple of gift cards at Safeway. I drank eight glasses of water every day, studied French for 10 minutes, and Brett and I took a walk every day except yesterday, when it rained. Hopefully the rain will have let up by this afternoon so we can walk today.
  • Looking forward to next week: We don’t have anything on the calendar so it should be another nice, relaxing week. I am supposed to be able to remove the buddy taping on my fingers sometime this coming week, but my hand is still quite sore so I may hold off on that. I am looking forward though to finally being able to take a shower without having to wear a plastic bag over my hand. I’d also be able to pick back up some of the chores Brett has been doing for me the past couple of weeks. While we’ve been enjoying the cooler weather lately, we’d love it to warm up enough so we could go to the beach.

    Rambutan look weird, but the fruit inside is sweet, juicy and delicious, like lychee.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our lovely Thanksgiving, and YaYu being elected one of the swim co-captains were the two best things that happened this week. We’re so proud of that girl! Brett finally got a new phone (his old one was almost six years old and on its last legs) at a terrific price. The iPhone7 is not Apple’s latest model, but fits his needs perfectly. The cool weather has been a blessing, and has made our walks very pleasant. Rambutan is at the farmers’ market again, and this past week we found some affordable bags of it for sale.
  • Reporting gains and losses: I lost another pound this month, making it a nice even 30 pounds gone since February. I’m very satisfied with where I am right now, but am going to keep going with what I’ve been doing and see what happens. We put $777.47 into our travel savings in November, for a total of $8331.65 saved so far this year. We took some out to make the deposit on our India tour and pay for the Australia train trip, but that’s what the savings is for!
  • Grateful for: I’m thankful that we were able to purchase both a new TV and a new phone for Brett without worrying about exploding our budget. This would not have been true a few years ago.
  • Bonus question: If you celebrate Christmas, when do you start decorating? I used to go crazy with decorating for the holidays, and always started on December 1, but these days I keep it much, much more simple. We’ve always put up our tree the first weekend in December, but Meiling said she wanted to help hang the ornaments this year, so we’re going to wait to decorate until after she’s home on December 11. We have to move a few things around to fit our tree into the house, but we’ll do that the day before she arrives. I love putting up the ornaments – we have been collecting them for over 40 years and each one is a memory. I also put out a few wooden Santas that I saved from my once-huge collection on the windowsill, and we break out our big holiday coffee mugs, but that’s it these days for decorations around here. Lots of houses in our neighborhood already have their lights up.

That’s a wrap for this week from Chez Aloha. How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Five Frugal Things 11/24/2017

A melange of roasted vegetables: cauliflower, butternut squash, zucchini, red pepper and onion.

  1. We had no food waste this week. I used up all sorts of vegetable odds and ends that were hanging out in the fridge by making a big pan of mixed roasted vegetables – yum!
  2. YaYu is the queen of fundraising to help reduce her school and/or club expenses, and this past week she asked her school’s foundation if they could help support the 15 students signed up to attend the state Key Club convention in Honolulu. The foundation donated $1500 to help cover costs, $100 per person to reduce their cost for the trip!
  3. This past week was our quarterly propane fill-up. As with other utilities, we’ve worked at reducing our gas usage (we have a gas range, gas dryer, and an on-demand gas water heater), and our bill was $43 dollars less than the last fill-up.
  4. It’s Black Friday today and we are not buying anything. Nor will we buy anything on Cyber Monday. However, we are going to Costco tomorrow to pick up four items including local favorites that will be on sale: POG (passionfruit, orange and guava juice) – buy one gallon get one free; Kaua’i-made Anahola granola – $2 off a 1.5 pound bag; a box of Japanese sweet cakes (imagawayaki) – $2.50 off; and a pork tenderloin roast – $8 off. Last year we got an 8-lb roast for just $6. The girls love POG, and along with some champagne it makes a very tasty mimosa.
  5. We put $5.00 in the change/$1 bill jar this week, left over from the farmers’ market.

What frugal wins did you have?

So Much To Be Thankful For

I’ve so very much to be thankful for this year:

  • Our four loving, smart and generous children who get along well with each other, and support and help each other and cheer for each other’s success
  • My loving husband and best friend who steps up without complaint when the need arises
  • Our family’s continued good health
  • Our comfortable home (and no rent increase!)
  • Having enough to eat every day, and knowing how to cook
  • Clean, fresh water every time we open the tap
  • Being able to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world
  • Getting to see the ocean every day
  • The amazing flora and fauna on our island, all of it a wonder – and no snakes!
  • The local farmers who grow and bring their fresh produce to the farmers’ market every week and sell it so affordably
  • Having enough in retirement that we don’t need to worry about covering our expenses
  • Having enough to be able to save and travel
  • Having good, affordable healthcare
  • Two beautiful, smart, fun grandchildren and the best daughter-in-law in the world
  • The generous financial aid that both Meiling’s and WenYu’s colleges provide them, that will allow both to graduate with no debt
  • Fresh, hot coffee waiting for me every morning when I get up
  • Living in a country where we are free to criticize our government
  • The people who continue to come to the blog every day, and who take the time to comment and support my writing
  • The people who touch my life each day in some way, who challenge me and make me think and reflect

Wishing everyone a blessed and bountiful Thanksgiving!

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This Week’s Menu: Thanksgiving!

In this charming but completely unrealistic picture, Priscilla Mullins offers turkey to Squanto at the first Thanksgiving. I am one of over probably a million Americans directly descended from Priscilla Mullins and her husband, John Alden, the handsome Pilgrim in black behind her.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I used to love preparing a big meal for the family, with all the trimmings. These days, not so much.

During our navy years, Brett was usually deployed on Thanksgiving, and when he was away our son and I would often join friends at the enlisted dining facility on base. For just $2.65 each we could enjoy an amazing turkey dinner with all the trimmings, as well as several types of desserts (navy cooks are incredible, BTW). The only downside was there were no leftovers. After Brett retired from the navy I fixed a big Thanksgiving meal every year, usually making three types of pie. Sometimes our celebration was just our family, but other years we gathered with and shared our meal with friends.

I haven’t made a home-cooked Thanksgiving meal since we arrived here in Hawai’i. For one thing, it’s been too warm here (for me) to roast a turkey, let along makes all the sides. And, these days since it’s just Brett, YaYu and me, a whole turkey seems just too much (especially since YaYu isn’t all that crazy about turkey).

The past couple of years we’ve gone out to a local restaurant for dinner, but Brett and I decided against it this year because we’re saving for the Big Adventure. Instead, I’m putting together a “cheater” dinner, courtesy of Costco. We bought a roasted turkey breast as well as mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, and cranberry-sausage stuffing from Costco’s deli section. We tried all of these items a few years ago when we spent Thanksgiving in a cottage down at the Oregon coast, and they were very good. All I will have to do this year is slice and heat the turkey, and heat the potatoes and stuffing in the microwave. The gravy will be warmed on top of the stove, and the only thing that will go into the oven will be asparagus for roasting. Our meal won’t exactly be “home cooked,” but it will be tasty, and provide us with leftovers for a few days.

YaYu doesn’t care for pumpkin pie, and Brett and I don’t need it, so we asked YaYu what she’d like for dessert this year and she chose cookies & cream ice cream. We found cookies & cream mochi ice cream balls at the store last week (!), so will surprise her with that – two of her favorite things in one.

We’ll fill out the holiday with a family hike/run to the Pineapple Dump before we eat and the traditional viewing of The Descendants in the evening. Both WenYu and Meiling will be having Thanksgiving dinner with their boyfriends’ families, but will call us in the afternoon.

Here’s what’s on the menu for the whole week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled Polish sausages; roasted mixed vegetables
  • Wednesday: Grilled fish tacos with fresh mango salsa; yellow rice (no rice or tortillas for me)
  • Thursday: Roast turkey breast; mashed potatoes with turkey gravy; cornbread stuffing; roasted asparagus; cranberry-orange relish; country bread; cookies ‘n’ cream mochi ice cream (I’m having 1/4 cup each of the potatoes and stuffing, but skipping the bread and ice cream)
  • Friday: Hot turkey sandwiches with gravy and leftover stuffing and/or mashed potatoes; roasted zucchini (no bread for my sandwich, but I’ll have 1/4 cup each potatoes and stuffing again)
  • Saturday: Turkey Waldorf salad; country bread (I’ll skip the  bread)
  • Sunday: Omelets; breakfast sausage; toast; fruit (no toast for me)
  • Monday: Mabo dofu; steamed rice; cucumber salad

We’ll be buying cucumbers, tomatoes, ginger, bok choy, papayas and rambutan from the farmers’ market this week. Citrus fruit has been showing up – maybe we’ll find tangelos!

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A Trip To India, A Dream Come True

The Amber Fort & Palace in Jaipur

I have been fascinated by India for more years than I can remember. I’ve read loads of books about the country and culture, both fiction and non-fiction, watched movies and travelogues, and have dreamed of being able to visit one day.

My dream will be coming true in January of 2019 because last week Brett and I put a deposit on a seven-day tour of the “Golden Triangle” of northern India: Delhi, Agra and Jaipur.

Chandni Chowk, Delhi

Neither Brett nor I felt comfortable going into India on our own for a first visit. In spite of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel making it look somewhat easy, we knew that any introduction to India would be intense, and most likely overwhelming for us, so we decided to go with a guided tour, something we normally aren’t all that interested in doing.

Sunset at the Taj Mahal in Agra

The tour company we chose is Easy Tours of India. We did lots of research before picking who to book with, and Easy Tours kept coming up again and again as one of the best, five stars, etc. They offered a variety of different tour options, superior lodging, and tour groups limited to 12 persons. Also, the tour company is based in the U.S. and the guides and drivers in India get great reviews. Included in the tour price are daily breakfasts and lunches, all entrance fees, and in-country transportation.

Jaipur’s Gaitaji Temple

The tour we booked is advertised as eight days long, and we were initially concerned when we noticed ours was only seven days. However, after comparing itineraries we discovered the only difference is instead of staying in Jaipur on the last night and departing for Delhi the next day to fly home (or wherever), we will instead fly to Delhi on the last evening, and then on to Hong Kong that night for us, avoiding a l-o-n-g stay in the Delhi airport.

By reserving a spot for the tour early we saved $456 dollars off the regular cost, which will allow us to spend an extra night in Hong Kong (seven nights instead of six) or a full extra day in Perth, Australia, before boarding the train to Sydney. Currently the extra day in Perth is our preferred choice.

Rajasthani Thali

It will be cold in northern India when we go, and intense fog may be a problem. But, we decided we’d rather visit cold India than hot (and humid) India, and we’ll have the clothing necessary to stay comfortable.

It’s truly a dream come true, and hopefully the first of more visits.

Here are some of my favorite books about India and Indian culture and history. They’re just the tip of the iceberg, really:

  • A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth – a BIG novel covering a young woman’s search for love and identity in post-Independent India. This book is massive (over 1400 pages) – be prepared for a very long read. It’s still my favorite though.
  • The Raj Quartet by Paul Scott – there are four volumes in this telling of the end of British rule (the Raj) in India. The mini-series The Jewel in the Crown was based on the Raj Quartet.
  • Speaker of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri – a collection of nine short stories about the Indian immigrant experience in America.
  • Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald – a look at different religious traditions in contemporary India
  • Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo – a moving examination of the poverty that exists in modern Indian. If you’ve ever wondered what real poverty looks like, this is it.
  • Gandhi: His Life and Message for the World by Louis Fischer – written by a long-time friend of the Mahatma, the book does not shy away from the facts or try to glorify him.
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy – the story of fraternal twins in India whose lives are changed forever when a new law is put into place decreeing “who should be loved, and how. And how much.”
  • A Passage to India by E.M. Forster – a classic story about India during British rule, and the difference in how justice was meted out for Indians versus the British.
  • The Far Pavilions by M.M. Kaye – an epic novel about British-Indian history, and forbidden love.

Several of these books have been turned into movies or miniseries. If you can find it, The Story of India, a six-part series that aired on PBS, is excellent and The Jewel in the Crown is still a compelling series with some top-notch acting.

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Sunday Afternoon 11/19/2017

Between preparing for the holidays and getting ready for the girls to come home, this month’s Big Shop was BIG (and exhausting)!

The doctor released me from my splint on Friday, which means I can sort of type normally again. I say ‘sort of’ because my broken finger is buddy-taped to the fourth finger, and the two together get in the way of typing cleanly. I still have to wear the splint from time to time because of pain, and when I go out, more as a warning to others to be careful around my hand and not bump it. The bruised rib is (slowly) healing as well and although it still hurts it’s nothing like it was at the beginning of last week. So, huzzah for getting better! I am an impatient sick person, and having to slow down as much as I have has been difficult at times. Brett has been magnificent, as always, in picking up the slack. Also, a BIG thank you again to all who sent get well greetings.

With the confirmation of our India tour dates, and the booking of the cross-continent train trip in Australia, the rest of the 2019 part of our Big Adventure is firming up, and we now know for sure where we’ll be when and for how long. This past week I also came across lovely Airbnb rentals in Tokyo and Portland that are not only in great locations for us, but come in well under budget, something that we had pretty much given up on for both places. It’s too early to book the rentals now, but we’ve been in communication with the owners and they are tentatively holding the dates for us, so we’ve got our fingers crossed those work out in the end.

YaYu got her first college acceptance, from the University of Hawaii! It’s not her first choice of schools, but she says she will be happy to go there if she doesn’t get accepted at any of her other preferred colleges.

Finally, it’s normally a rare occurrence here to see a Hawaiian monk seal sleeping on the beach – their numbers are dwindling, and they’re on the endangered list – but over the past two weeks Brett and I have seen four of them when we’ve been out for our evening walk! Unbelievable! Apparently for the seals, Baby Beach is THE beach to head to right now when a rest is needed.  When a seal is spotted on the beach a volunteer is called, and he or she comes and sets up a perimeter around the sleeping seal with cones and such, and hangs signs letting people know not to bother the seal. The volunteer (or volunteers, depending on how long the seal is there) stands watch to make sure the seal is not disturbed. The seals are greatly loved here, and we feel incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to see four of them in such a short time frame. One of them was positively huge, and found his spot under one of the picnic tables that are along  the beach.

A Hawaiian monk seal pup naps on Baby Beach. If you look closely there are a couple of sticks in the background, stuck into the sand as part of a protective perimeter around the seal.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I have been dragging out finishing The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore because I am waiting for a couple of other books to come off of hold, but I’m going to have to pick it up because the download ends in three days. I have nothing else on deck so hopefully the other books will show up sooner rather than later.
  • Listening to: We enjoyed another cool (cold?), breezy morning here. Thankfully the sun is out today though because it poured rain all day yesterday. I’m listening to the washing machine and dryer inside on top of the sound of the winds through the trees outside. Otherwise it’s pretty quiet around here.
  • Watching: Brett and I re-watched Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts while I was on my healing break, but that finished and we’re all back to watching the Chinese soap opera with YaYu, Auntie Duohe. It’s so dramatic, with lots of crying (and lots of running too for some reason). I discovered the Big Family Cooking Showdown, sort of Great British Baking Show-like contest for Britain’s best home cooks, and watched that while I worked on Swagbucks at night. It was a fun show and I loved it (Nadiyah Hussein, who won the bake-off one season, is one of the hosts), and can’t wait for the next season.
  • Cooking/baking: I made more chocolate chip cookie dough last week (which was an interesting and somewhat challenging experience), so no baking going on right now. Dinner tonight is baked chili relleno casserole, cucumbers, and yellow rice for Brett and YaYu, .
  • Happy I accomplished: Brett and I did our Big Shop last week, and it was a particularly BIG one because of Thanksgiving and Meiling’s coming home before next month’s shop. We also finished up our Christmas shopping except for two gift cards, and got most of the wrapping done. It was not my accomplishment other than to be Reminder Mom, but YaYu sent her Early Decision application off this past week, so we’ve all got our fingers crossed once again. This college is a long shot, but it’s her #1 choice so she wanted to try for early decision and know one way or another whether it’s a yeah or nay. Brett and I walked every day down on the beach path except for Tuesday and yesterday because of rain. I moved up to Level 5 in French, et encore une fois, j’ai étudié le français pendent dix minutes et j’ai bu huit verres d’eau tous les jours.
  • Looking forward to: Thanksgiving! It’s my all-time favorite holiday because it’s all about family and food, with no pressure to decorate or find gifts. We’ve gone out to eat the past couple of years but will be staying at home this year, and I’ll be serving a traditional turkey dinner with help from Costco. We’ll watch The Descendants again, and take a family hike out to the Pineapple Dump to check out the view.

    Coffee for me, and a coconut brownie (and coffee) for Brett, and a jar of cranberry-orange relish at the Monkeypod Jam store.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: The discounts on the India tour, the Australian dollar price for train journey versus U.S. dollars, and finding affordable rentals in Tokyo and Portland were all absolutely the #1 good things to happen last week. If we get the rentals, the total for those four things will be a savings of over $3600 from what we had budgeted for that part of the trip. I had a clean skin check at the dermatologist’s – not one thing that looked troublesome or to watch out for. And, I was told I had beautiful skin for someone my age, especially for someone who experienced as much sun exposure as I did when I was young (I think I’m pretty wrinkled though). Our daughter-in-law sent lots of videos and photos of the grands over the last two weeks – we can’t get enough of those two! And, Brett and I had a lovely time down on the south side this past week, including coffee and a pastry at the Monkeypod Jam shop when we stopped in to pick up a jar of their scrumptious cranberry-orange relish for our Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling very, very thankful that I am continuing to heal, and for all the support I’ve gotten at home these past couple of weeks. YaYu and Brett really stepped up, especially when on top of everything else going on they had to listen to me moan constantly for several days from the pain caused by the bruised rib.
  • Bonus question: What are your best and worst Thanksgiving memories? The worst was getting food poisoning one year when I was around 10 years old – my mom had cooked a stuffed turkey and then let it sit too long and I got food poisoning (the only one in the family too). It was miserable, and it was several years before I would eat turkey and stuffing again (my Thanksgiving meal for years was just mashed potatoes, no gravy, and vegetables). I have happy Thanksgiving memories otherwise – no arguments, rude guests, etc. – just good times with family and friends. My funniest memory is the first time our daughter-in-law came for Thanksgiving. She had never seen a whole turkey before (and our turkey that year was a big one), and when she came in the kitchen I was in the process of cleaning out the cavity and had my hand shoved up the turkey’s rear. M screamed and was absolutely terrified by the turkey. Since then she’s learned to cook one, but that was a true clash of cultures at the time. Both of us can thankfully laugh about it now..

That’s it for this past week or so at Chez Aloha. How was your week? What good things happened for you? Are you looking forward to Thanksgiving?

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Six Frugal Things 11/17/2017

We’re going to India!

Two weeks of savings!

  1. We put a deposit on our India tour! We saved $456 off the regular tour price by reserving our spots now. We also booked our Perth-to-Sydney Australian train journey, taking advantage of an early booking discount. We didn’t realize at first that the prices were in Australian versus U.S. dollars, and the cost for our tickets ended up being $907.62 less than what we thought we would be paying!
  2. We did our monthly Big Shop this week, and stuck to our shopping list. Costco has several items  we normally buy for the holidays on sale this month which saved us $31.50.
  3. I cancelled a magazine subscription a couple of weeks ago, and last week received a $12.50 refund for the months that were remaining but that we wouldn’t be reading. This is the first time I’ve ever received a refund from a subscription cancellation, and it went right into the travel fund.
  4. I have a small amount set aside for “traveling clothes” for next year’s adventure, and used some of it last week to buy two knit tops from my favorite store, J. Jill, that I can wear fall through spring. One item was already on sale, but I received an additional 30% off the sale price. And, I found a coupon online for an additional 25% off the entire order. I love J. Jill’s clothing not only for their style, but because they’re well made and they last. I also bought one more pair of L.L. Bean’s Perfect Fit Pants and received a 25% discount, saving another $10.

    Our frugally wrapped Christmas presents look pretty nice! We bought some reusable ribbon the next year from a thrift store.

  5. Brett and I wrapped some of the girls’ Christmas gifts yesterday. We don’t buy Christmas paper any more, and use paper bags, newspaper, shopping bags and reusable gift boxes.
  6. We put $47.91 in to the change/$1 bill jar over the past two weeks: $1.10 change from the post office, $13.00 returned from YaYu (money she had borrowed from us), $9.54 back from the dentist’s bill, $11.85 from the farmers’ market, $9.76 change from our cable bill, and $2.66 from recycling.

What frugal wins did you have?

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