Goodbye January, Hello February

Here’s how we did with our goals this past month, and our goals for February.

Our January goals:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings. We put $6067.96 into our travel account, which included $5000 from my inheritance.
  2. Clean off one set of shelves in the garage. Done!
    The shelves before . . .

    . . . and after. Everything on the shelf now is something that we’re going to sell (well, except for the Diet Coke – that is all mine!).
  3. Get my hair cut. Can you see how happy I am to have gotten rid of that big frizzy mess that was on my head? I tried a new salon this time and had a much better experience for the same amount as I was paying before at a different salon.

    New glasses, new haircut
  4. Get Brett’s hearing aids. They were fitted a little over two weeks ago – yeah! He saved a bundle by choosing the Kirkland brand of appliances at Costco.
  5. Have new glasses made with my updated prescription. I love having red glasses again. I also saved a bundle by ordering the frames online, and having the glasses made at Costco.
  6. Update our wills. Done! Besides creating our wills, the software we used also allowed us to prepare advance health directives and a durable power of attorney to handle our finances if we become incapacitated. And, we got the software for free!
  7. Take at least one bag of items to the thrift store. We took in three bags and one large box of stuff that WenYu cleaned out of her closet.

    Three bags of stuff ready for the thrift store.

Here are February’s goals:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account.
  2. Combine all pantry items into one closet. We currently use two small hallway closets for our pantry, but will downsize and condense into one.
    We want to clean out and organize this closet . . .

    . . . so all of this will fit in there as well.
  3. Make reservations for an overnight stay on the Big Island, and a two-night stay at one of the PMRF cottages during spring break. Camp Kilauea on the Big Island is inside Volcanoes NP, and very affordable. The cottages at PMRF out in Waimea are one of the best places on the island to see the sun set, and a good base for Brett to do some Waimea Canyon hiking.
  4. Decide on bed pillows and cases to take along on the Big Adventure. We’ve got a few options in mind, but need to make a decision. We’ll wait to buy in March though.
  5. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store.

Let the downsizing continue!


Sunday Afternoon 1/28/2018

The view WenYu and I contemplated on her last day – it’s not always sunny, but always beautiful!

We are three again here at Casa Aloha and the house almost feels too empty. Brett and I had gotten used to having WenYu around and we’re already missing her like crazy.

She left early Friday morning to head back to school but not without us having to purchase a last-minute ticket to get her back to Boston from Honolulu. We had booked the original ticket on Hotwire last fall, but somewhere along the line the return flight schedule back to the mainland got changed and Hotwire apparently set up a whole new itinerary but never sent it to either WenYu or me. All we had was the original one. Hotwire claimed that they tried to call us but couldn’t reach us, but when I asked the number they had wasn’t WenYu’s or mine. ???? They also couldn’t explain why they didn’t email the new itinerary. Really, really AWFUL service all around – I have nothing good to say about them AT ALL. Anyway, the new itinerary they had set up had WenYu departing Honolulu at 10:50 p.m. on a different airline which would have had her waiting in the Honolulu airport for nearly 14 hours, then flying into Los Angeles and arriving (if on time) just 30 minutes before the connecting flight to Boston departed. Nope. I tried but couldn’t get the schedule changed with Hotwire, gave up and went to Expedia where I found her a new flight on Hawaiian that got her into Boston via New York just a couple of hours later than her original itinerary for an amazingly reasonable price (she split the cost of the new ticket with us).

It was especially hard to say goodbye to her this time because it might be nearly a year before we see her again. The day before WenYu left, she went along with Brett and I on our walk, and she and I stood for a while looking out at the ocean. We both got weepy thinking this might be her last time on Kaua’i (like us, she loves it here). She said she was thinking maybe she should come back next summer to work, and help us move, but then again it would be a good thing if she can get an internship back in Boston in the summer, and also neither she nor her boyfriend want to be apart for the whole summer. Decisions, decisions, decisions. I know that everything will fall into place in a couple of months, but told her that for now all she should think of was how great it has been that she got to live here, even if only for a few years, and what a positive difference it made in her life.

Seniors are bedecked with gifts from their teammates at the end of the season! The goofy inner tubes and floaties were signed by the whole team and coaches.

Lots of “lasts” are happening now too, and I know they’ll be coming up again and again in the coming months. For example, I’ve been making garlic bread for the girls’ cross country and swim teams’ Friday spaghetti dinners for the past four years. It was always a something of a chore, and yet I felt sad it was over when I finished up for the last time on Friday. YaYu swam in her final meet on Saturday, and I cried all the way through her last race. I so enjoyed getting to watch both of the girls swim here. So many BIG changes will be happening for us this year, and it’s bittersweet remembering all the wonderful experiences we’ve had, and the things we’ve done here, both big and small, over the past four years.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading Grant’s Memoirs. I’m positive I’m not going to be able to finish it before my check-out time expires so have decided to purchase a copy from Amazon for my Kindle if I have to . . . for just 99¢.
  • Listening to: Although it’s not raining now, it was earlier and I can still hear the rain dripping off the roof. The roosters are just getting going again – I can hear them across the way. It’s quiet otherwise – YaYu is at a volunteer function, Brett is reading and we haven’t gotten the laundry started yet. It’s so different from how it’s been the past few weeks – I’m enjoying the quiet but it’s almost a little too quiet.
  • Watching: Still nothing. I’m thinking though about signing up for the free trial week of HBO Now so I can watch Big Little Lies.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re back to having eggs for dinner on Sunday evenings, and tonight we’re having baked chili rellenos, along with yellow rice, and cucumbers. No baking today – we have lots of other cookies and snacks still available right now. On the menu this week will be grilled skirt steak and broccoli salad, slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy, grilled Polish sausages with mixed roasted vegetables (bumped from last week), hamburger sliders and coleslaw, and tofu and broccoli stir-fry with spicy peanut sauce.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We had a much quieter week than the one before, but I had to go get my annual blood work taken care of, and schedule a mammogram and bone density test for next month. I got my hair cut last Monday and am so happy to have short hair again! Brett and I were invited by one of the colleges where YaYu applied to write her a recommendation (!!!) and I got that done and sent off. We bought WenYu a big plastic tub with a lid to store the things she wants to hold on to, so she went through all her clothes and stuff here and pared down all her possessions and tossed or donated the rest. We got in almost all our walks, although rain got in the way a couple of days, I studied French six out of seven days, and drank my water allotment every day.
  • Looking forward to next week: We have no appointments or errands to run this week, and swim practices and meets are over for the season. I’m hoping to get some more reading done, and once again fingers are crossed the weather cooperates so we can get to the beach. It has been too long!

    Love this photo of our son with the grandkids!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu finished her swim season with two strong races, and beat her own personal record in both by several seconds. Now it’s on to track season, which begins tomorrow. My daughter-in-law sent a whole bunch of photos this past week, including ones taken after the big snow they got in Tokyo. We felt very lucky to find that last-minute flight that worked for WenYu and was affordable. It will also provide a whole lot of Hawaiian miles!
  • Thinking about frugal things we did this week: Having to buy a new plane ticket for YaYu was not frugal, but : 1) Other than getting coffee and snacks when we were up in Kilauea (a planned outing), we ate all meals at home and used up all the leftovers; 2) We saved gas by combining errands each time we went out; 3) We downloaded software to make our own wills because our estates are not complicated. The software was $69.99 while a lawyer here would have charged in the area of $150-$200 each, and I paid for the software with Amazon credit so nothing was spent out of pocket; 4) Our landlord reduced our rent next month by $250 to cover taxes and the extra we paid on the water bill. The difference will cover our half of WenYu’s ticket; 5) We put $6.81 into the change/$1 bill jar this week: $2.00 back from our Java Kai coffee date (which I forgot to put in last week), $4.61 from Safeway, and I found 20¢ on the ground. I spent our entire weekly budget amount at the farmers’ market this week so nothing back from that weekly errand (and I could have spent a lot more – so many beautiful fruits and vegetables were available this week)!
  • Reporting gains and losses: I didn’t lose any weight this month, but didn’t gain any either, so yeah! I am changing shape though. Two months ago I couldn’t fit into my white linen pants or the sage green cotton pants I’m taking along when we travel, but they fit perfectly now. We put $6067.96 into our travel savings this month. Total saved so far is $15,317.96.
  • Grateful for: On Thursday evening YaYu brought up how sad she felt that our family is splitting apart, with her and her sisters all going to different colleges and from there to jobs and lives in different places with their own families. She felt sad because it’s only going to grow more and more difficult for us to get together each year whether that’s over the summer or during the holidays. We’ve been a very tight-knit group, but Brett and I have always known that our children were ours only for a short time, and that it’s been our job to raise them to go out on their own and soar, to be able to function and succeed on their own. I think we’ve done a pretty good job. I am so thankful for all the times we’ve had together, with our son and with the girls. We have the best children, and we couldn’t be more blessed.

    Those were the days: Evans Seafood
  • Bonus question: Can you name one place you loved to go in the past that no longer exists but where you’d love to go again? Well, there are a few places, but number one on my list would be Evans Seafood on St. George’s Island in Piney Point, Maryland, just south of the Patuxent River Naval Air Test Center. Evans was a casual place that sat on the edge of the Chesapeake Bay, with absolutely gorgeous views of the bay, and served amazing local seafood. We went several times a year because whenever one of the chief petty officers was transferring from Brett’s squadron at Pax River all the chiefs and their wives would take over the banquet room at Evans for an all-you-can-eat “farewell and fair seas” seafood feast. The tables would be placed in a horseshoe and covered with brown paper, and out would come buckets of peel-and-eat shrimp (note: I am a virtual bottomless pit when it comes to shrimp. Any restaurant offering all-you-can-eat shrimp will never know what hit them if I show up). The shrimp was followed by fried fish, oysters, mussels, soft-shelled crab and/or steamed blue crab if in season as well as hush puppies with honey, corn and cole slaw – all of it “all you can eat.” It was very casual, but so, so much fun and the seafood was SO GOOD. Evans was sold a few years after we left Patuxent River and turned into a more high-end restaurant, but that closed after a couple of years. If I found out the original Bugsy Evans joint was back in business both Brett and I would seriously consider buying plane tickets to the east coast just to eat there again.

That’s a wrap for this week! How was your week? What are you reading? What good things happened for you?

#Kauai: The Kong Lung Market Center

The historic stone Kong Lung plantation store is now home to Kong Lung Trading.

Brett, WenYu and I wanted to go out for coffee and grab a treat following some lab work I had to take care of earlier this week, so after that was done we headed over to the nearby Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza in the Kong Lung Market Center, located in Kilauea town on the north shore, on the way to the historic Kilauea Lighthouse. I got a latte, Brett had a cappuchino, and YaYu chose a homemade barbeque pork bao (Chinese steamed bun) a small cup of lilikoi lemonade. We also picked up a half-dozen coconut macaroons, WenYu’s favorite cookie.

What’s where in the Kong Lung Market Center: 1) Kong Lung Trading; 2) Cake Nouveau; 3) Banana Patch & Aloha Spice Company; 4) Lighthouse Bistro; 5) Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza; 6) Island Soap & Candle Works; 7) Coconut Style & Tugu; 8) Lotus Gallery; 9) Calvary Chapel North Shore; 10) Palate Wine Bar; and 11) Palate To Go

In 1902, the Kilauea Plantation rented one of their buildings to a Chinese businessman named Lung Wah Chee, who opened a store to supply merchandise and services to the plantation workers. The store not only carried a variety of merchandise, but also contained a barber shop, butcher shop, post office and even a diner. The original wood-framed building was replaced by a stone building in the 1940s, which is today occupied by the Kong Lung Trading gift store. The plantation stopped operating in 1970, but many of the buildings that were attached to it are now on the national historic register, including the Kong Lung Store stone building.

The Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza has a large shaded lanai, perfect for dining al fresco.
Several of the bakery’s selections are made with local produce, like breadfruit, lilikoi or coconut.
Service at the bakery is quick and friendly no matter what you’re ordering.

The Kilauea Bakery is located in a building behind the Lighthouse Bistro restaurant, which is easy to see in the front of the Center. Along with terrific coffee drinks and bakery goods made with local ingredients, the Bakery sells wonderful soups and sandwiches and tasty pizza by the slice. There are a few tables for dining inside the bakery, but most people choose to sit outside on the lanai. There’s a couple of large bookcases located out there – the books are donated by the community, and funds from their sale goes to the local public school’s literacy program (books are $2 each; children’s books are $1).

Buying a book from the Bakery helps promote literacy at the local elementary school.
Kilauea Bakery’s big, tasty coconut macaroons are our favorite.

Besides stopping at the bakery, we always like to check out what’s new at Kong Lung Trading as well. They have a wonderful assortment of gifts, toys and baby items, jewelry, clothing, books and other household decor. The shop is a fun place to look for a souvenir, and also one of the best places on the island to find a special gift. They also carry a great selection of cards for every occasion.

Kong Lung Trading has a fun selection of items, from stuffed animals to cookbooks and everything in between.
One of the plantation store’s original window has been updated, and now displays aloha shirts and gift items.

We usually also stop in the Island Soap & Candle Works when we visit the Market Center, but since we had just been in their Koloa store a couple of weeks earlier we didn’t go in this time. Soaps and candles are made on site, and come in a wide variety of scents. I am a huge fan of their lotions, especially the Hawaiian Sunrise scent (fresh orange), and also love their Relaxation Bar soap.

Located in a preserved historic building, the Island Soap & Candle Works has a large variety of locally made products.

The entire Market Center invites browsing, either in one of the shops or outside in the courtyard while you enjoy a meal, snack or beverage. Visitors are welcome to take their time, and enjoy themselves. The Center also boasts an award-winning Historic Photo Retrospective located throughout the Center. The oversized photos illustrate life in Kilauea before, during, and after plantation days.

The Market Center courtyard
If you desire shade, they have that too. The large poster on the tree is one of the photos in the Historic Photo Retrospective.

The Kong Lung Market Center is a great place to stop if you’re up on the north shore, or heading out to the Kilauea Lighthouse. While you’re there you can grab a bite to eat or have a coffee and a snack, browse through the stores to pick up a gift or Kaua’i souvenir, or check out the photos to learn a little bit more about the history of Kilauea. Whatever your reason, the Market Center always invites visitors to put themselves on “Hawaii Time” and go a little slower.

Travel Clothing Part 1: Laura

Both Brett and I are pretty much done putting our travel wardrobes together. Other than a couple of pair of shoes for Brett we’re done thinking about, looking at, and buying clothes and shoes to take on the Big Adventure.

During our travels we will be experiencing every season, from transitional winter-to-spring weather in both South America and Japan, to fall and winter temperatures in Europe, India, Japan, and the mainland, and hot, hot summer weather in Australia and probably New Zealand, with everything in between. In my case, while I have tried to stay within certain color palettes, I also have tried to keep some variety so that I don’t get bored with everything half-way through the journey, and want to go and spend more on something new. I’m proud that with the exception of two pairs of Skechers, every item of clothing I’m taking will either be things I already own, or were bought on deep discount/sale or with a coupon.

The week before last I rounded everything up and put it all into my suitcase to be weighed using the handy-dandy hanging scale Brett received for Christmas. It all surprisingly didn’t fill the suitcase, and the total weight for all my clothes was an even more surprising 35 pounds, nine pounds (give or take a few ounces) less than the 44-pound limit we’ve given ourselves. I was sure my suitcase was going to be massively overweight, so the weight was happy news. There’s still room for a pillow, and maybe a few toiletries and/or gifts (although those will most likely go into my backpack).

Anyway, here’s a look my travel wardrobe:

I started with 13 fall-winter-spring tops, but after I took this picture I removed two (the gray shirt at the top of the left column, and the blue shirt second from the top in the middle row) and set them aside – I’ve had them for a while and realized I’m just not very fond of them, and they probably wouldn’t get worn much, if at all. As you might guess, my color themes are blue and black. The denim shirt in the upper right is actually a tunic, to be worn with leggings. Because of their weight, I’m only taking along two sweaters – a light blue kimono-style cotton sweater, and the chunky cotton navy blue & cream striped rollneck. 

These are all my lightweight spring and summer tops. The two pieces on the left (white cotton shirt and black linen top) are both tunics – and are a little dressier than the rest. All the other tops are cotton or linen, and are lightweight and easy to care for. The blue flowered shirt at the bottom of the middle row is the one I just bought on sale at Blue Ginger. I also have the two tops below coming from J. Jill – a white linen shirt, and a cream sleeveless knit tunic with a black vine print. I’m also taking a black sleeveless t-shirt, but I was wearing it when I took the picture.

My favorite travel pants are L.L. Bean’s Perfect Fit Pants (on the left) – I’m taking three pairs of black, one pair of charcoal gray, and one pair of navy blue. They are super comfortable and can be worn both casually or dressed up. For warm weather I’m taking four pairs of J. Jill’s easy linen cropped pants, in black, blue, natural and white (I wear them everyday here) and a pair of Gap light sage green cotton pants that I bought at a thrift store and can finally fit into again. The legs can be worn down or rolled up to make capris. I’m also taking a three-season knit maxi skirt and two pairs of black leggings.

Four pieces of cold-weather outerwear are going along on the Adventure:  a plum quilted car coat; a lightweight (but very warm) black jacket; a denim jacket; and a lightweight (but very warm) spring green vest. Spring green is one of my favorite colors, and I always try to take along at least one thing in that color when I travel. The vest and black jacket weigh next to nothing, a good thing because the other two pieces are a bit heavier.

Brett has started calling me Imelda because I’m taking along five pairs of shoes (although I’ll always be wearing one pair): Two pairs of Skechers for walking (navy blue and black), a pair of comfy gray suede Skecher loafers, super comfortable Scandinavian black clogs, and a pair of sparkly silver Mephisto Helen sandals. All the shoes are lightweight – each pair of the Skechers weighs only 10 ounces.

I’m taking just a few accessories: three scarves, five pairs of earrings and four necklaces, including my 22″ string of pearls for when I feel like dressing up. I’ll also be wearing my Chinese jade bangle and my silver bracelet from Arizona – both were gifts from Brett and I never take them off. The light gray-blue scarf in back is made from bamboo, and is quite warm; the indigo and black checked ones are only for a little flair.

It all seems like so much, maybe too much, but then again we will be traveling for nearly a year and through many different types of weather and a variety of venues and experiences, from hikes to high tea. Forty years ago, when I was pregnant with our son, I had around seven or eight maternity outfits, and by the time our son arrived I was so completely sick of them all that all I wanted to do was set them on fire and roast marshmallows over their flames – and I only wore those clothes for around five months! I took that memory into consideration when deciding how much to pack for this trip.

All total though there are less than 40 pieces of clothing, and including the shoes it doesn’t weigh anywhere near what I thought it would. I rationalize that we will be staying in most places long enough to be able unpack and will appreciate having the variety. In my wildest dreams though I cannot imagine living out of a backpack for a year with somewhere between 15-20 pieces of clothing like I’ve read about online.

Brett and I will be dividing our clothes between our two suitcases, so if one gets lost or damaged someone won’t lose all their clothes. Plus, we will both be carrying at least one outfit in our backpacks in case our luggage is lost or delayed, and wearing one, so that will help keep the weight down as well.

In a couple of weeks I’ll post what Brett’s taking. I can guarantee it’s going to be a lot less than what you see here.

Sunday Afternoon 1/21/2018

The coach’s wife took this amazing picture of YaYu flying through her 100m butterfly race in last week’s meet. When she joined the swim team four years ago she didn’t know how to dive off the starting platform, let alone swim the butterfly. We’re so proud of this girl and her effort over the past four years.

And another busy week at Casa Aloha comes to a close! We’ve had dental appointments, doctor appointments, swim practices, a swim meet, a birthday, the monthly Big Shop, farmers’ markets and more going on all through the week. Next week will be only slightly better, but then hopefully after that life here will calm somewhat down for a while. I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to a day when I can wake up and know I don’t have to be somewhere at certain time.

WenYu returns to Massachusetts this week, and none of us is looking forward to her departure. Although she’s happy about being with her boyfriend again, she’s not particularly excited about classwork starting up again, and is definitely not happy the cold weather back east. Brett and I and YaYu just love having her around though – she’s such a calm, easy-going person. She’s not sure if she’ll be back next summer before we go – she’s applied for a couple of internships in Boston, and will stay back there for those if she’s chosen. It’s been dawning on me that it might be a whole year until we see her again, and on her that she might not come back to Kaua’i, or at least not for a long time. She was so against our moving here, but has come to love the island life, and now says the move is the best thing that could have happened for her.

The living-dining area of the Tokyo Airbnb we’ve rented. The location is about a 20-minute walk to our son’s condo, or one subway stop away.

Things continue to fall into place for the Big Adventure. This past week we were able to find and reserve a rental in Tokyo for our three-month stay in 2019! I had found a place we liked a couple of months ago, in another part of Tokyo that we’re familiar with, but when I went back to check on it the monthly cost had soared sky-high. Not sure what was up with that, but there was no way any longer we could afford the new price. I started looking for rentals nearer to our son’s new address, and found this great apartment that fits our budget (we were given a substantial discount due to the length of our stay) and had lots of great reviews. The Tokyo rental was the one we have worried about the most because of the length of time we need it, and the cost, so we are thrilled to have gotten this set up already. We are looking forward to having our grandson over for some sleepovers while we’re there, and also being close enough to babysit for the grandkids so M & M can go out for dinner, or a movie or something once in a while. Meiling is also going to come visit during her spring break, and maybe WenYu and YaYu as well.

And, here’s another reminder that if you haven’t already, I hope you’ll check out and follow us on Instagram at #theoccasionalnomads. I post just a few times a week now, but plan to post daily when we begin traveling later this year!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: It’s been slow going with Grant’s Memoirs, not because it’s tedious, but because of the detail he has included. The only difficult part so far was when he described his service during the Mexican-American war, and the battles fought in Mexico. I have no sense of place with any of that, and several military terms and tactics went right over my head. It was interesting though to read about how many future Confederate generals he met and served with in Mexico, including Robert E. Lee. I’m able to follow along a little better when he’s writing about the Civil War – I just finished reading yesterday about his experiences during the Battle of Shiloh.
  • Listening to: There was lots of noise outside this morning from several neighbors working on their lawns, but it’s all quieted down now, thank goodness. Brett is out taking care of the recycling, the girls are puttering around in the kitchen, and the washer and dryer are quiet for the time being. The weather is a nicer than it has been the past couple of days – the sun is shining again and there’s a nice breeze blowing through the trees.
  • Watching: I still haven’t found anything I want to watch, but Brett has been continuing with an episode or two of The Republic of Doyle every evening while I read.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m fixing Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs for dinner tonight. We all love this dish, and I wanted to make it for WenYu before she left. Beautiful tomatoes were in abundance at the farmers’ markets so the timing is perfect. I’ll serve rice and cucumbers (also in abundance) with the tomatoes and eggs. I’m also hoping to make the olive oil orange cake this afternoon – I think I can squeeze it in. This week we’ll be having grilled fish tacos with mango salsa, grilled polish sausages with coleslaw, ravioli with pesto, and I’m trying a new recipe: Ghanian groundnut (peanut) chicken stew. I bought a big bag of riced cauliflower at Costco last week, so now can have some of that whenever everyone else is having rice.

    I enjoyed a pineapple frosty after my doctor’s appointment: frozen local pineapple run through a juicer so it has the consistency of ice cream. YUM!
  • Happy I accomplished last week: It felt like we did everything this past week. I had a good check-up at the doctor’s (he was really pleased with the weight loss!), picked up my new glasses, had a great birthday celebration with YaYu, did some more decluttering in the garage, and much more. Brett got his new hearing aids on Monday and we’ve all noticed the change. It was a somewhat tiring week overall though, but very satisfying with all we got done. Brett and I walked three miles every day but Friday and Saturday (rainy weather), I drank all my water, and I studied French for at least 10 minutes every day. I sadly didn’t get to work much in my coloring book because it was just too busy most days. Not my accomplishment other than I reread everything and checked for errors and such, but YaYu submitted the last of her college applications last Sunday evening. Now we wait, although there is still more writing coming up for scholarship applications.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am having my annual fasting blood work done on tomorrow morning (which I’m not looking forward to), but Brett, YaYu and I are going to go for coffee at the Kilauea Bakery after that’s done. I’m getting my hair cut on Tuesday afternoon (YEAH!) – I am so excited to get rid of this big frizzy mess that’s on my head right now. Saturday will be YaYu’s final swim meet, and I know already it will be bittersweet. She’s ready to be done, but she has improved so much over the past four years, and is such a pleasure to watch swim these days (her swimming yesterday was exceptional). We couldn’t be prouder of all the effort she has put into it. All in all though I’m mainly looking forward to things beginning to slow down a bit.

    More travel goodies: New razor and blades, travel tubes, the BEST sleep masks, and Bee’s Wrap reusable food wraps. We also got a voltage converter and some packing cubes.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I had a nice coffee date at Java Kai on Friday and used up the gift card on a couple of smoothies. Neither of us had been for a while and enjoyed ourselves and our drinks, and I saw a couple of low-carb items on their food menu that I’d like to try before we leave the island. Finding and then actually getting a reservation for an apartment for the Tokyo part of our journey was very exciting, and a BIG relief. While I was in with the doctor last week, Brett scooted over to Banana Joe’s and got me a pineapple frosty! I prefer the banana frosties, but the pineapple one was low acid and delicious. We had a big order come from Amazon with lots of travel-related items this past week. It was like Christmas all over again! I feel though like we are getting to the end of accumulating travel things, including clothes and other accoutrement.
  • Thinking of frugal things that we did: 1) We came in approximately $50 under budget with this month’s Big Shop; 2) We saved over $60 by booking WenYu’s flight to Honolulu a couple of hours earlier in the morning on Friday versus closer to her departure time (and she’s fine with a longer Honolulu layover); 3) Pork loin chops were $3 off per package at Costco, so we bought two packages instead of one (pork is YaYu’s favorite protein), and saved over $100 on other sale items that were on our list (including new electric toothbrushes for Brett and me); 4) We put $9.00 in the change/$1 bill jar, leftover from the farmers’ market. 5) We got a substantial “discount” on the Tokyo rental ($200+) when the exchange rate improved in our favor the day the payment posted.

    It was VERY windy last Thursday and the surf was fierce. One giant wave after another were rolling in – their roar was almost deafening.
  • Grateful for: Brett and I walk three miles every day along the Kaua’i beach path, which runs for approximately seven miles along the east coast. The views are fantastic no matter the weather or which direction we go, and the path is wide and smooth enough to share with others whether they’re jogging or on bikes or walking like us. I’m so thankful this walking venue is available – in my own case it makes me want to get out and walk every day, and the views never disappoint.
  • Bonus Question: Do you ever suffer from road rage? LOL – I yell at other drivers all the time . . . from the safety of my own car and with the windows rolled up. Actually, I’m pretty much a very patient driver, but now and again I get stuck behind a bad driver and get frustrated (or actually angry if they’re doing something dangerous). The one thing that gets to me more quickly than anything else is being behind someone who drives inconsistently on the open highway (speeds up, slows down, brakes for every curve, etc.). Arrrrrrrgh! It’s especially maddening because they seem to always speed up when I try to go around them. There are also occasionally tourists who get lost and just stop in the middle of the road in town – seriously! Pull over, park, go around the block but please don’t just stop and sit there while you check your GPS! Brett has a shorter fuse than I do, but he’s grown more patient the past few years, and all of his yelling is also done from inside the car. The girls think our grumbling at other people is pretty funny, but we’ve told them it’s a way to safely let off a little steam in what for us can be a frustrating situation.

That’s what’s been going on here at Casa Aloha – how was your week? What did you accomplish?  What are you reading? What good things happened for you?

#Kaua’i: Visiting the Island for Less

Spectacular Waimea Canyon is a must-see on Kaua’i . . . and it’s free

A visit to the Garden Island of Kaua’i can turn expensive very quickly. Put together a stay at one of the many resorts, a car rental, lots of restaurant meals, $10 gallons of milk, and an expensive activity or a luau, and suddenly you’re talking real money, and that’s on top of what you spent on airfare to get over here.

However, a wonderful time on Kaua’i with a week full of wonderful memories can be had for a lot less than you might expect. Here are some of our family’s tips for taking an affordable trip to the island:

Beautiful views can be found at Spouting Horn geyser in Poipu, on the south shore, as well as glorious sunrises and sunsets
  1. A visit to Kaua’i should not be a last minute decision if you want to save. I cannot stress this enough! You’ll pay more for everything at the last minute. Schedule your trip several months in advance to look for the best bargains and save the most.
  2. Avoid the peak tourist seasons: These are winter break (this starts around the second week of December until just after New Year’s Day); summer (mid-May through Labor Day); and mid-March to mid-April (spring break time). Unless lodging is booked early, it can be difficult to find affordable choices, especially in your preferred location. Prices are usually higher during the peak season anyway.
  3. Start looking for airfares early. Airfare to Lihue will be your biggest expense, but if you don’t have miles to redeem, there are some terrific deals to be found if you start looking early enough. I checked prices on Kayak last weekend and found roundtrip economy airfares for the week of April 19 – 26 (nonstop to Lihue from Seattle) starting at just $374 (just after spring break). Come during the heavier tourist seasons, or wait to book until the last minute and the price of that same flight would more likely be $750-$850 (at a minimum).

    This cute studio rental in Princeville is just $99 a night, much, much less than you’d pay for a room at a hotel or resort.
  4. Once you have your flights nailed down, then look for lodging. If you don’t have hotel points to use, and you want to save on lodging, do not even think of booking at a hotel or resort! I strongly suggest checking what’s available on VRBO – I found this rental in pricy Princeville on the north shore for $98/night (it sleeps four and has a washing machine), or this one for $85/night, or this one for $99/night, and there are others similarly priced in other areas of the island for much less than the room rate at any hotel or resort (and, these are summer prices!). The only thing that might cost less per night is a bunk in one of the hostels. Even a VRBO studio rental will have a microwave and other cooking options to boost savings. There are several local vacation rental agencies, but I’ve found their prices to be higher than what you can find on VRBO. Craigslist also advertises vacation rentals, but buyer beware – not all are legit.

    Costco is the place to save on the island (and get all your Hawaiian treats)
  5. If you don’t have a Costco membership, get one. You’ll save more than the $55 membership fee on your car rental as well as on food and gas by shopping at Costco. I searched Costco’s travel site for that same week in April that I was checking airfares, and found an intermediate size car (think Camry or Accord) for seven days from Budget for just $276 on Costco’s travel site – and that’s the full price, including tax. Gasoline out in town right now is around $3.55 per gallon but at Costco it’s $3.09. Costco here is also located near the airport so it’s easy to fill your tank right before you return your car at the airport. Food prices at Costco are pretty much the same as they are on the mainland (a roast chicken is still $4.99 here too). Costco is also the place to find inexpensive Hawaiian snacks and local favorites like poke. Their hot dog meal is $1.50 here as well.
  6. Try to eat at least two meals each day at your rental. Stop and get some supplies and fix breakfast in your room, and enjoy a light dinner there too and you’ll save a bundle. Lots of the condos where the inexpensive rentals are located have outdoor grills that guests can use, and you can heat other things in your microwave or on a hotplate, if provided. It’s fun to go out on the town, but you’ll pay much, much more out there for beer, wine or a cocktail. You can save by enjoying drinks on your lanai while watching the sun set.
  7. Buy your food where locals do. That means staying out of the Whaler’s Markets or the ABC stores – that’s where you’ll find those $10 gallons of milk – and shop at Costco, or at Big Save for the biggest savings. Foodland will cost you a little more and Safeway is the most expensive supermarket on the island. If you want milk, look for the “expires soon” sticker on the carton – the milk will be half price, and will be OK for a few more days. Also, make a point of going to one of the many farmers’ markets on the island – you can find days and times online – and buy your produce there. Skip the $7 or $8 pineapples though and pick one up at Costco – they’re Hawaiian grown and just $3.99.

    Burgers at Duane’s Ono Charburger are affordable and DELICIOUS
  8. There are lots of inexpensive places around the island to buy filling, healthy, and delicious lunches (or dinners) for less without having to resort to McDonalds or Taco Bell. For example, there’s Hamura’s saimin (noodles) or the Tip Top Cafe in Lihue for lunch; or Duane’s Ono Charburgers in Anahola (a must stop in my opinion). No.1 in Kapaa might not look like much but they serve decent Chinese food and great hamburgers at good prices. Pono Market in Kapaa Old Town is another local favorite – they sell a variety of take-out items including poke bowls and great plate lunches. Da Crack (killer chicken burritos) or Puka Dog in Poipu (Anthony Bourdain showcased Puka Dog on No Reservations) are both worth checking out on the south shore as is the Sueoka Market snack stand in old Koloa Town for ono, local-style plate lunches. You can get BIG and tasty  Hawaiian-style spicy ahi tacos on freshly made tortillas at Island Taco in Waimea, and Shrimp Station (located in both Kapaa and Waimea) serves affordable, out-of-this-world coconut shrimp. Bring along your own bottled water to drink wherever you go.
  9. Take advantage of coupons. There are several different free publications you can pick up all over the island that have coupons for local restaurants and activities that can help you save.
  10. Snacks don’t have to be expensive either. Locally made products can be found for less at Costco, but a shave ice once in a while is always good. I recommend Wailua Shave Ice in Kapaa, the original JoJo’s in Waimea, or Rainbow Shave Ice in Hanalei. If you can find TegeTege’s trailer – they move around the island – their shave ice is a little more, but is outstanding. A banana frosty (or pineapple frosty, if they’re out of bananas) from Banana Joe’s in Kilauea is a must-try. Also in Kilauea is the Kilauea Bakery & Pau Hana Pizza – their macaroons are to die for, and they also make good sandwiches and soups.

    Anini Beach on the north shore is just one of Kaua’is many beautiful beaches
  11. The best of Kaua’i is free. There is so much to see and do on Kaua’i that it might actually feel overwhelming at first. Kauai’s beaches are known for their powdery sand and they’re usually not crowded; in fact, at some you might be the only visitor at a particular beach on the day you visit. You could go to a different beach here every day, each with a different view and experience (remembering to always, always respect the power of the ocean here). It’s the same for the numerous hiking opportunities all over the island, with their spectacular scenery and vistas. No visit to Kaua’i is complete without visiting the splendor of Waimea Canyon (the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”) and Kokee State Park. A stop at Spouting Horn in Poipu costs nothing, as will a stroll through Hanalei on the north shore, Old Koloa town on the south shore or Hanapepe on the west side of the island, where you can get a closer look at historic buildings from plantation days and do some window shopping (be sure to take a walk across the swinging bridge if you’re in Hanapepe). History buffs can check out the historic churches and temples located all over the island, or visit and learn the history of the heiau (sacred Hawaiian structures). A beach cruiser can be rented in Kapaa for as little as $10 – $12.50 for three hours for rides along the seven-mile beach path with its glorious views. There’s a small fee (adults 16 and older are $5; under 16 is free; seniors free with National Park pass) to visit the historic Kilauea Lighthouse and Bird Sanctuary but it’s well worth it. And, don’t forget the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets – they’re always free too.

With a little research and careful planning, it’s possible have a wonderful, fun-filled time on the island of Kaua’i for a lot less than you might imagine, and create memories to last a lifetime. There are enough ways to save here that you could include a special meal at one of the fabulous restaurants located around the island, or indulge in a special activity like zip-lining, ATV  tour, or even a boat ride without blowing your budget or going into debt. E komo mai!

Until One Is Committed

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!”

William Hutchinson Murray

The best description I ever heard of the China adoption process was that putting the dossier together was like doing your taxes over and over and over and over and over and over . . . again and again and again and again. A slew of documents needed to be assembled upfront: a homestudy, birth certificates, marriage certificate, medical reports, police reports, financial statement, adoption statements, immigration forms, etc. – there were nearly 20 documents required in all. Each one of them had to be notarized in the state where they originated, then each notarized document went to the Secretary of State of that state for the notary to be certified. After that, the entire stack, by now nearly three inches high, was sent by courier to the U.S. State Department for certification, and then to the Chinese Embassy for each document’s final certification and approval. Four copies then had to be made of every page of the entire dossier and only then could it finally be sent to China and put in line for us to be matched with a child.

The process took several months to complete, and along the way there was always the possibility for China to tweak or change their requirements. For example, we were almost done with the dossier for Meiling’s adoption when China suddenly announced that physicals could no longer be more than six months old, and ours were seven months old at that point. Panic! But, our doctor squeezed us in, and every other part of the certification process worked flawlessly (for a change) and in just a few short weeks the dossier was finally complete and off to China in late May of 1996. Matches and referrals were taking only three or so months back then, so our hopes were high that by the time we returned home in August from taking our son to college we would have news of a new daughter.

However, when we returned home and called our agency the news was not good; in fact, it was very bad. China had shut down adoptions for families that already had children, which of course included us. Our agency was moving families into other adoption programs, but China had been the only program that worked for us because of our ages (we were each over 40 years old). What had happened, we later learned, was a power struggle over the international adoption program had broken out between two different political bureaus in China, and adoptions had ground to a halt while they fought it out and reorganized. (We later learned our agency was convinced at the time that the entire program was going to collapse.)

All of our hopes and love, and quite a bit of money, had gone into the adoption process for more than a year, including all of Brett’s and my work assembling our dossier. I was in graduate school at the time, and my work began to suffer because I could barely concentrate. Brett unhappily slogged off to work each day as well. Our son was at college in another state, so it was just the two of us at home each evening, and we were glum, depressed and unsure of what to do or how to proceed.

On one particularly bad day one of my professors emailed me the quote above, and told me to “hang in there.” I shared it with Brett that evening, and we talked about how deeply committed we still were to adopting from China, and had been from the start. All sorts of unexpected and serendipitous events had happened and helped us along the way to make our adoption dream so far a reality, and we decided that rather than pull out we would stay with it to the end and see what happened, no matter the outcome. We both felt in our hearts that our daughter was waiting for us there.

The William Murray quote was a turning point for us. And, it has proven prescient ever since. When we have committed to something, whether it was adding an additional child to our family again through adoption, or getting ourselves out of debt, or moving to Hawai’i, or planning a trip – when we have committed ourselves, as the quote says, Providence has always moved too. Things we couldn’t have imagined happened to help make our plans a reality, and we were given the drive, vision and persistence to see our dreams come true and our goals reached.

Commitment has been the step where we’ve gone from “do you think?” or “should we?” to “let’s do this” and then started figuring out how to accomplish it. The path to success has not always been straight or smooth or easy, but time and experience has shown that the unexpected does and will occur along the way to help, especially when we need it most. As each journey continues we begin to see things in different ways and act on them accordingly, with our commitment to finishing growing stronger the further along we get.

As the new year began in 1997 we were still waiting, but Brett and I had reached the depths of despair. There had been no positive word from our agency for weeks, and we felt like we were hanging on to hope by our fingernails. We had enjoyed having our son home for Christmas, but he returned to school on January 9. So, when the phone rang on the morning of January 10 I assumed it was him asking about something he had forgotten or wanted us to send. I had been lying on our sofa, crying and asking God for some kind of a sign, that if there was to be no adoption to let us know somehow and we would let it go, but if we were to continue to hope then we would continue to hang on. When I answered the phone though it was not our son but our social worker: “Laura, there’s a baby girl waiting for you in China.” On March 12, 1997, in the hallway of a hotel in China, we met our little Meiling for the first time and she was ours.

This was the only picture we received of Meiling before we met her.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!

Sunday Afternoon 1/14/2018

There’s not a whole lot of places to shelter on Kaua’i, nor an easy way to get away in the case there ever is a missile attack. The warnings (maybe) give you enough time to say goodbye.

Well, yesterday morning was interesting! WenYu and I woke up to the cancellation notice for the ballistic missile attack that was erroneously sent out – for some reason neither of us received the actual alert of an incoming missile attack (“this is not a drill”) on our phones (and those alerts would wake the dead). And, Brett and YaYu were stuck in traffic on the way to her swim meet when they heard it – there had been a bad accident earlier in the morning which had backed up traffic both ways on the two-lane highway. They followed what was happening on the radio, although only one station was keeping up with the situation. Poor YaYu was completely traumatized – she honestly thought she was going to die. The warnings here though are really only good for giving you enough time to say good-bye to your loved ones and friends, if you can get to them. There are no shelters here, or any way to leave the island quickly. This was a MAJOR mistake though beyond all the panic created. Hopefully there will never be a real attack, but if there is, many people may be more complacent and figure it’s just another error. And Brett, who worked with “special buttons” during his military career thinks there’s a bit more to this than “just pushing the wrong button.” It’s not that easy to do, or at least shouldn’t be.

I made chocolate chip pancakes for WenYu on Friday evening. It’s been fun cooking for her again – she eats everything with no complaints.

It’s been a busy, busy week here but things are slowly beginning to return to their normal pace. WenYu’s friend left for the mainland on Wednesday morning, so it’s just the four of us now until the end of the month. Still, there have been lots of extra errands and running around, and there are more things coming up on the schedule this week as well. I’m not a fan of the busy life any more, and am looking forward to calmer days.

I had a bit of fun on Twitter this past week when one of my tweets briefly “went viral.” I mostly read Twitter to keep up with the news, or to post cute pug pictures to WenYu, and rarely tweet or comment, but when someone posted a tweet about Oprah running for president I threw off a line that rather than wanting her to run for president, I wanted her to buy Fox News instead. For some reason that caught people’s attention, and it took off. In a day I had over 700 likes on my rarely read feed, but a couple of people with a zillion followers retweeted it, and one of them got over 33,000 likes and 15,000+ retweets – crazy! A few more people followed me, but they’ll soon be disappointed and leave when all they start seeing from me again are the odd re-Tweet (without comment) and cute pictures of pugs.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished We Were Eight Years in Power on Friday, just in the nick of time before the library snatched it back. It was a very thought-provoking and enlightening book, one I’m going to be thinking about for a while, especially the chapter on the case for reparations to African-Americans. I started Personal Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant this evening. Written when he was broke and dying of cancer of the throat, and published in 1885, Grant’s Memoirs are now considered to be one of the great works of American literature. Grant thought no one would be interested in his life, but the Memoirs were very popular and well received and their success guaranteed his family’s financial stability (he died five days after finishing the last edit). His writing is clear and insightful and an absolute pleasure to read.
  • Listening to: The girls are up and fixing breakfast while YaYu watches a video on YouTube, the washer and dryer and going, and a rooster is screaming his lungs out right outside. Oh well. It’s a beautiful day though, with not a cloud in the sky and a lovely breeze blowing so I can’t complain. We may head down to the beach after the laundry is done.
  • Watching: I still haven’t been watching anything! Brett has been watching The Republic of Doyle on Netflix, and he and the girls watched the newest Pirates of the Caribbean movie last night, but I’ve been heading back to another room and reading instead. I saw that there is finally a new season of Doc Martin on British TV, but know it’s going to be a while before it shows up on Netflix (but worth waiting for). I’m eager too for another season of Happy Valley to show up.

    Matcha-chocolate chip cupcakes getting frosted with matcha buttercream. So tasty!
  • Cooking/baking: Tonight we’re having a beef and broccoli stir-fry along with steamed rice (we had our egg meal last Friday while YaYu was at her team spaghetti dinner). WenYu and I made matcha-chocolate chip cupcakes with matcha buttercream frosting last Thursday, and there’s a few of those still around. Coming up on our menu this week will be spaghetti with marinara and meatballs along with grilled zucchini and garlic bread (YaYu’s birthday dinner); grilled chicken-apple sausages served with rice pilaf; tofu curry with vegetables and basmati rice; potstickers with rice and coleslaw; and the sloppy joes which didn’t get made a couple of weeks earlier. I’ve been wanting to make an olive oil orange cake, but we got an cookies ‘n’ cream ice cream cake to celebrate YaYu’s birthday so no more baking this week.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: So many errands! As a one-car family, we spent an awful lot of time all week coordinating schedules so that everyone could be where they needed to be on time. Brett had his hearing aid fitting on Thursday, and they should be ready for pick-up tomorrow. He and I were able to take most of our walks (we missed a couple due to scheduling difficulties), I got in all of my daily water intake, and studied French every day.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’ll be doing our monthly Big Shop on Thursday – our refrigerator was packed full over the holidays but things are looking pretty sparse now and the girls have been asking when we’re going again. YaYu turns 18 this week! She got her present last year – a small TV that covered last year’s and this year’s gift – but we’ll celebrate with her favorite ice cream cake in the evening. Brett and I plan to go to Java Kai one day for a coffee date and use his Christmas gift card. I have my annual doctor’s appointment for a cholesterol check, etc. on Wednesday and will get set up for this year’s mammogram and other tests then. I hope he is pleased with my weight loss!

    Two necklaces ready for travel: my Hong Kong stone necklace was (finally) restrung, and the bead shop also made the turquoise necklace with my leftover silver earring from our Grand Canyon trip.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our son got a big promotion this past week – so proud of him and all his hard work! He thought he might get promoted next year, so it was a nice surprise for him. Two necklaces I was having re-strung/made at a local bead shop were finally ready, and they did a beautiful job (and the work was very affordable). I went through the other bits of jewelry I still have and gave a few more pieces to the WenYu and YaYu (Meiling took some earrings back with her earlier), so the only things I’m keeping for now are my silver charm bracelet with charms I collected from all over the U.S., and a cameo brooch that my grandmother gave me – her brother brought it back from Italy after WWI, where he had served as an ambulance driver. I got all the clothing I’m planning to take on the Big Adventure sorted and weighed and came in nine pounds under our goal weight – yeah!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did last week: 1) By choosing the Kirkland brand of hearing aids, Brett saved over $1000 over the other brands they had available. The cost was over $1600 less than what we thought we would be paying for them. 2) We used our credit card to pay for the hearing aids and will receive a nice amount into our rewards account (we paid off the card the next day). 3) After a few weeks that included several restaurant meals, we ate all meals at home this past week, and used what we had on hand or what we picked up from our regular trip to the farmers’ market. 4) When we were at Costco for Brett’s hearing aid fitting, we made sure to fill up our gas tank – the price at Costco was $3.09 per gallon versus $3.55 out in town. 5) We put $17.14 into the change/$1 bill jar this week: $3.16 back from recycling, $2.00 left over from the farmers’ market trip, $2.22 from buying YaYu’s ice cream cake at Safeway, and $9.76 change from the cable bill.
  • Grateful for: I am so very grateful there was no actual ballistic missile attack.
  • Bonus question: What are your favorite genres when it come to reading? Your least favorite? My least favorite are easy: Science fiction (including dystopian stories), romance or self-help books on any topic, although I do admit to liking the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondō, as well as the follow-up, Spark Joy. My guess is that those two books aligned closely with my own feelings about tidiness and the accumulation of stuff, so they were fun to read. I’m not a big fan of “chic lit” either. Otherwise, I like all sorts of books, both fiction and non-fiction. I especially love a good, meaty mystery or thriller, ones that take a while to work through and put together. I enjoy fiction about families or family situations, the more complicated and somewhat dysfunctional the better (maybe because my own family was so dysfunctional?). And, I love travel books and books about history, both non-fiction and fiction, especially the periods of history or places I’m particularly interested in: The Civil War, World War II, East Asia (Japan, China and Korea), and India. But for the most part, other than the topics or genres listed above, I’ll read just about anything.

That’s it for this week! How was your week? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you?

#Kauai: A Visit To Koloa

Part of Koloa Old Town’s original buildings, preserved and repurposed from plantation days.

Brett and I, along with the girls, headed down to the south shore last week to visit old Koloa Town and stop in at the Kukuiula Marketplace, an open-air shopping center in the resort area of Poipu. It was a lovely day, and along with some sightseeing we also took care of a couple of purchases we had been wanting to make.

Sueoka Market is the cornerstone of Koloa Town. It’s been open for nearly 100 years although it didn’t move to its present location until 1933. It is still operated by the Sueoka family. There’s a snack stand in back on the right that serves ono (delicious) local-style plate lunches and hamburgers.

Our first stop was old Koloa town. It’s primarily a tourist stop now, filled with shops and restaurants, but the businesses are located in many of the original old plantation buildings, and the small town still gives a sense of what it was like back when the Koloa mill was the center of sugar production on the island. The mill was established in 1835, and was the first successful sugarcane plantation in Hawai’i. The sugar mill and resulting “sugar era” started the wave of immigrants to Hawai’i that continue to make up the state’s diverse and multicultural population, and the names of the old buildings still tell the names of their original owners, and their original purpose.

The Tree Tunnel

Koloa town is also noted for it’s many big, beautiful old trees, beginning with the “tree tunnel” of eucalyptus trees, planted more than 100 years ago – it’s been called “the gateway to Koloa.” As many times as I’ve passed through it, the sight and experience of driving through the tunnel still takes my breath away. Koloa is also home to a giant banyon tree, the biggest ficus I’ve ever seen, and many other impressive and shady trees that always make the town feel cool.

This giant ficus tree is located across the street from old town, on the bank of the Waikomo Stream.
One of the many beautiful, old, big shady trees located throughout Koloa Town
Kauai Nut Roasters is located in what was a hotel back in the plantation days of Koloa. Aloha Roastery is located in the same building, to the left.

The only must-buy for us in Koloa town was a couple of packages of nuts from Kauai Nut Roasters. Their product is amazing, and we wanted to support them after a near-loss of the business due to a former manager copying their recipes and then slandering the business (the theft is currently being litigated – the manager had signed a non-compete contract). The Koloa store is their only shop still open, down from four. We also stopped next door at Aloha Roastery to check it out while the girls were doing other things. The owners are two brothers, born and raised on the island, who had lived in Beijing for several years and operated a coffee shop there, but wanted to come back to Kaua’i. Our coffee/tea drinks were excellent, and we’re looking forward to going back.

Da Crack operates out of a window located in the middle of a small shopping center, but boy do they turn out some fantastic food!
Brett & my burrito, with shredded smoked chicken, black beans, shredded cabbage and pico de gallo. Tasty!

From Old Town we headed down the road to the resort area of Poipu, stopping for burritos at Da Crack, a small shop located in a small shopping center right before the Poipu traffic circle. We had been hearing good things about Da Crack for a while, and about how delicious the burritos, bowls and tacos were, and they did not disappoint. We were lucky to arrive just before the main lunch rush, because the line behind us was enormous by the time we got our burritos, and still long over an hour later when we passed by on our way back home. Service though was quick and friendly. There are a variety of ingredients on the menu that you can mix and match to customize your order. Brett and I shared a chicken burrito with black beans, shredded cabbage and pico de gallo (no rice!) – it was amazing! Prices range from $8.95 for the chicken burrito, bowl or tacos to $11.95 for ones with either fish or shrimp (there’s a kid’s menu too, with smaller portions). We will definitely be returning here!

Kukuiula Marketplace
There are stunning hibiscus located all through the Marketplace.

After lunch it was on to the Kukuiula Marketplace, a sort of high-end, open-air shopping center that caters to Poipu visitors. Shops include Reyn Spooner, Tommy Bahama, Quicksilver, Blue Ginger and Mālie Organics as wells as several other gift shops, jewelry stores and art galleries. There are also several restaurants, from Bubba’s Burgers to Roy Yamaguchi’s new restaurant, and lots of choices in between, as well as a big Long’s drugstore, and a gourmet grocery store which sells great pasteries and coffee, if you’re so inclined. Kukuiula also hosts one of the best farmers’ markets on the island every Wednesday afternoon.

It is truly difficult to choose a flavor at Lappert’s Ice Cream. Thankfully, they’ll let you sample them all!

We poked around in the shops for a while (I bought a top at Blue Ginger) and then we all got back together for ice cream at Lappert’s. Lappert’s has been making ice cream on Kaua’i since 1983, and they’re famous for their wonderful island-themed flavors. Brett and I each enjoyed a kid’s scoop of Kauai Pie – Kona coffee ice cream with macadamia nuts, shredded and lightly toasted coconut, and rich chocolate fudge – and the girls each had two scoops of other flavors. Lappert’s also sells delicious coffee and pasteries, and makes gelato – they used to make the BEST gelato flavor I have ever had: smoked dark chocolate. It was weird but insanely delicious!

The geyser at Spouting Horn bellows whenever it shoots water up – according to legend it’s the moan of a giant lizard that was trapped in the rocks below.

Since we still had some time left before YaYu had to be at swim practice, we drove the short distance over to Spouting Horn, located just southwest of Kukuiula Marketplace. The drive there is beautiful, with stunning ocean views as well as opportunities to ogle several multi-million dollar ocean-front homes. We spent several happy minutes watching Spouting Horn do its thing, and also enjoying the gorgeous views to both the east and west before heading for home.

The view to the east from Spouting Horn . . .
. . . and to the west. It was a lovely day!

Lists, Lists and More Lists

2018, at least until August, will be known around here as Our Year of Lists. At least that’s what it feels like now. We are in the throes of list-making in order to make sure that when we take off on the Big Adventure everything, or at least as much as possible, has been taken care.

List making can be fun (especially for someone like me who loves organization), but as we’ve learned about lists from past experience, when one thing gets done or is taken care of, two or more things seem to pop up and go back on the list

Here are nine lists we are currently juggling:

  1. Reservations/tickets: This list is pretty straight forward, and includes all travel-related reservations (lodging and transportation) we need to take care of, but will also include reservations for things like museums in Florence, for example. There will also be some fill-ins as we get closer to departing, like an overnight stays here or there between plane connections. We’ve already been able to get some reservations made (India, Australian train journey, Kaua’i rental), but it’s still too early for much else of it. The 2018 part of our journey can’t get started until we know when and where YaYu will be going to college, and that won’t be known until around the end of March. Brett and I work together on this list – I’m the researcher, but he keeps the spreadsheets and marks things off as they get done (and tracks the money).
  2. Paperwork: This list has two parts: 1) Official things like visas and 2) personal paperwork, and what we need to keep and where it will get stored while we travel. We are currently working on winnowing down our personal paperwork, and Brett is keeping a spreadsheet of where and when we need to worry about visas and other documents.
  3. Clothing/shoes: While this list has been fun to think about and compile, it has not been as easy as we thought. We will literally be living out of our suitcases for a year, and need to have both cold and hot weather clothing, as well as be prepared for everything in-between. We’re both almost done with acquiring what we need, and then will do a practice pack and weigh and see where we stand and what we (may) need to take out. I have searched for lists of what to pack for a year, but everything I’ve found is for travelers who intend to live out of a backpack for the year, and we’re not those people. We’re trying to keep things to a minimum, but want to have some variety for the year.
  4. Toiletries/medications; This is another seemingly easy list that’s turning out to be not as easy as initially thought. We’ll need to make sure we’re taking enough medication (both prescription and over-the-counter) to carry us through until we’re back on the mainland over Christmas, but we’ve decided that we can pick up most toiletries as we travel so we want to keep this as minimal as we can, and take just enough to get us started. Excusez-moi, où est la crème à raser? But what should those items be?
  5. Electronics: Both Brett and I are sure we have all the electronics we will need and want as we travel (laptop, iPad, iPhones, iPod, Kindles), but also want to make sure we take along all the accoutrement as well, things like chargers, cords, adapters, ear buds, etc. as well as back-ups.
  6. Miscellaneous: This list is really just the odds and ends of stuff that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else, like books we want to load on our Kindles before we set off, or small financial matters (local and otherwise) that we don’t want to forget to take care of. Following the Senior Nomads example, we want to carry along our own pillows, so they’re on this list so we don’t forget them. Also included on this list are games we want to take along to play during down times.
  7. Downsizing/storage: We have divided our household items, including our car, into three areas: Sell, donate (or throw away), and store. We’ve already sold some things, and will be working for the next several months on the donate/throw away aspect. We have a pretty solid idea now of what we’re going to put into storage, but we go back and forth on some items (with Brett usually insisting we let it go).
  8. Kaua’i bucket list: This (bittersweet) list was posted last week.
  9. YaYu’s college stuff: All the admission paperwork has been submitted (or almost all), but once we know where she will be going we will continuing the list of what she will need in the way of clothing and dorm essentials, most of which will be purchased at her college location.

I’m sure there is probably one or two other areas I’ve forgotten about, but when I remember, they’ll get lists as well. We’ll be able to finish checking off some of these lists sooner than others, but most we’ll be working on right up until we go. The key is going to be staying focused, and relying on the lists to make sure it all gets done and that hopefully nothing gets forgotten.