Sunday Afternoon 4/29/2018

I am having the BEST time with our son and family! We’ve already had our grandson over for a couple of sleepovers, and I spent all day last Thursday with him in the pool at their resort (I think I went down the slides around 20 times – fun!). Our granddaughter recognizes us now, and points us out to her mom and dad (at 18 months she’s still not quite ready yet to let us hold her though we’re getting close). I went down to Poipu for a day at the beach with them yesterday (the beaches here on the east side remain closed due to the lingering brown water advisory from the floods) and then they all came over for dinner last night, and were back for a big breakfast this morning. We’ve also all gone out to breakfast at the Kountry Kitchen, which is always fun. The pool at their resort is fabulous though – I knew they’d have trouble getting our grandson out once he got in, and our granddaughter loves the kiddie pool there too.

Living room of our summer 2019 rental in Portland

I’ve had no plans to book a place in Portland for next summer until after the first of the year, but this past week I was checking at what was available in our price range and discovered there wasn’t much – only five places! Portland is a very expensive city these days. I began to have visions of having to move from place to place all summer because all I would be able to find later were rentals for a week or so at a time. Or, we’d have to rent a car because the only place available would be in an un-walkable neighborhood or far away from public transportation, and our costs for the summer would skyrocket. So, I started down the list and wrote to each owner of the five possibilities, telling them about us, and asking when was the earliest they would accept a reservation. Our first choice turned out to no longer be a rental, and our second choice wasn’t available during the summers. But, the owner of  our third choice said he’d be willing to book us now if we wanted, so I went ahead and did that and we are now set for next summer! The house is a lovely two-bedroom condo that’s within our budget, and located in one of the prettiest areas in Portland, in a great neighborhood with convenient public transportation.

This past week our landlord here brought three potential renters through the house(on the same day, so not as disruptive as it could have been) – the first was the original Mr. Potential Renter, the one who wants central air; the second was a couple with one child; and the third was a single professional woman. All three loved the house and the second couple was willing to write a deposit check on the spot, but we learned from the third woman that he is asking for $500 – $500!!! – more a month than what we are currently paying! Unbelievable. That’s also $300 more per month that what was published in the ad, but he blamed that error on his wife. We’ve loved living in this house, and we’ve had a great relationship with the landlord, but yesterday made me glad that we’re moving on. Like a lot of landlords on the island he’s charging that much because that’s what the market will bear right now, but I also feel it’s a bit greedy.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading Little Fires Everywhere, and I love it, but didn’t make much progress this week as I usually fell asleep after the first few pages. My insomnia is over, but it’s like I’m now catching up on all the sleep I missed.
  • Listening to: It’s a bit overcast (again) this morning, but it’s not raining so lots of people are out working in their yards, and the roosters have been on a tear too. Everyone is over here now – M & M came for breakfast this morning – so there’s lots of chatter going on. Our grandson spent the night last night, but right now he and YaYu are playing a game on the Wii. We just got the laundry started too, so it’s a happy, busy, noisy morning here!
  • Watching: Brett and I really haven’t watched anything this week – we’ve been so busy and/or tired every evening. We did watch the movie Coco again with our grandson – it was just as enjoyable the second time as the first.

    Matcha treats for me: Cookies, KitKats, and even a yummy matcha baumkuchen!
  • Cooking/baking: We’re having fried rice with Chinese barbecue pork, eggs and vegetables for dinner tonight – I’ll do all the prep but YaYu will fry it up. No baking will necessary for a while  – our D-I-L brought us loads of treats from Japan, including several matcha-flavored ones for me, which I am slowly enjoying. I’ve put slow cooker kalua pork (we’re going to make a Hawaiian-style meal for our son and family); pulled pork tacos; grilled Korean-style chicken; and grilled chicken & apple sausages with rice on the menu this week, but we may go out to dinner with our son, or eat over at their place one evening, so nothing is set in stone. YaYu’s track season is finally over, so she and Brett will be home for dinner every night again – yeah!.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I didn’t really accomplished much of anything special this last week – I’ve just mostly been enjoying my time with the family. I have spent some time working on our travel budget, figuring out how much we’ll have each day to spend for meals and transportation, but there’s still work to do with that because every month is different with some having more travel than others, or one area being more expensive than others. I drank lots of water every day this past week, and studied French almost every day, but we didn’t even get to take one walk because of the weather, track meets, and family. Next week should be better though with track season over. I did get that whole day in the pool though (and slept like a log that night)!
  • Looking forward to next week: Just spending more time with my family! I’m going on a tubing tour with my son and grandson tomorrow, floating through the old sugar cane and pineapple plantation irrigation channels. It’s been on my bucket list so I’m looking forward to going.

    Daughter-in-law and granddaughter enjoying the beach.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: I spent a wonderful, sunny afternoon at the beach yesterday with my son and family, and got to swim in the ocean for the first time this year. We headed south to Poipu, where the water was clean and the clouds were few – it was glorious! Finding a great long-term rental in Portland for next summer and being able to book now was a very good thing, and a big relief. I loved being able to swim and play in the pool with our grandson the other day – he is a lot of fun (and a total bundle of energy), and I can’t wait to do it again this week. I also got our hotel room reserved for Hong Kong, and most of our New Zealand lodgings booked. The only lodgings left to set up now are in Perth, Australia, and Napier, New Zealand, but the place we want to stay there isn’t accepting bookings yet for our dates.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Other than paying our regular bills (water and gas), we had a no-spend week! We put $5.15 into the change/$1 bill jar, change back from paying our water and gas bills.
  • Reporting gains and losses: I didn’t lose any weight again this past month, remarkable since we got in so few walks, so my total weight loss since last year still stands at 32 pounds. Our son and D-I-L said they could see a difference in both Brett and my appearance, that we both look “slim and fit!” We paid $1570 on our credit card balance this month, but there’s still a bit more to go.
  • Grateful for: I take the Internet for granted most of the time. Sometimes when I need to look up something I’ll stop for a moment and wonder how we ever managed before it came along, but most of the time I never give it a thought unless we’re knocked offline for some reason and I start to panic a bit because I’m not connected. I have been extra thankful recently for the ability to look things up on the Internet, make reservations, compare locations and prices and so forth. It’s an amazing tool and is helping us not only save but also get the most for our money on our upcoming Big Adventure.

    The most dangerous savory snack of all for me is . . . Cheetos, the world’s most perfect junk food.
  • Bonus question: Do you eat junk food? I’ve thankfully never been all that into junk foods, except for Cheetos, which I adore. They’re one of those foods I can start eating and lose track of time and suddenly, the bag is empty and I’m still craving more. I’ll eat potato chips, popcorn, and some other savory snacks occasionally, but they don’t call to me. Cheetos (the fried ones) on the other hand are on a whole different level, but I know better and just don’t buy them even though I am often very tempted. I also really, really like caramel corn, and G. H. Cretor’s “Chicago Mix” of cheese and caramel popcorn is an especially dangerous snack for me. I guess Diet Coke counts as junk food too – I usually have one a day, but can stop with that, and I’ve gone long stretches without drinking it. But otherwise I have no problem avoiding junk food.

That’s a wrap for this week from Casa Aloha. This coming week is going to be a busy one for us, but I have a couple of posts ready to go, so things here should keep rolling along. How was your week? What are you reading? What good things happened for you?

#Kaua’i: Talk Story Bookstore

Located somewhere near the middle of historic Hanapepe town, coming from either direction, is the westernmost bookstore in the United States: Talk Story Bookstore. Any time we’re in Hanapepe, Talk Story is a must-stop location.

The bookstore opened in November 2004.

Now in business for 13 years, Talk Story Bookstore is a book-lovers dream, an old-fashioned store with something for everyone, including the latest bestsellers and beach reads, cookbooks, travel guides, books for kids, and Hawaiiana among other offerings. The store also stocks over 3,000 used, out-of-print or rare books, and also carry vintage and Hawaiian vinyl records, vintage comics, vintage sheet music and songbooks, and ukulele and Hawaiian slack-key guitar lesson courses.

The old Yoshiura food and clothing store in Hanapepe

The Talk Story Bookstore is owned by Ed and Cynthia Justus. They came to Kaua’i on their honeymoon in 2002 and never left the island. One day they were offered the space in Hanapepe, the Yoshiura building, which had previously held a long-time food and clothing store. The offer came with one month of rent free to test a new business so they agreed to the deal and opened with their eBay inventory, which just happened to contain used books.

Half of the store’s Hawaiiana offerings – both fiction and non-fiction

The Justuses had never intended to open a bookstore, but made enough during the free month to either pay next month’s rent on the store or the house where they lived. They chose the store, and moved into their van while they built up their business. Thirteen years later Talk Story Bookstore is a Kaua’i institution, and a destination for visitors from all over the world.

Visitors are encouraged to browse – the selection is pretty amazing for such a small space

Located on the west side of the island, historic Hanapepe town is a must-stop if you are visiting Kaua’i, and Talk Story Bookstore a must-visit while you’re there. The store welcomes visitors, and invites them to come in and browse for a while. The store also accept old books with store credit given in return, and they will also ship books back to the mainland if there’s no room in your suitcase!

Money Matters

If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that we’ve been saving like crazy for over a year to pay upfront for most of our big travel adventure. We set up and have been feeding our dedicated savings account with a regular monthly allotment along with every extra spare penny we’ve gotten along the way.

We’re at a stage right now though where, for the first time in a long, long while, we are carrying a balance on our credit card; that is, we’ve overspent our savings in order to make upfront reservations for the trip. We knew this was going to be the situation for a few months, but it’s still a bit uncomfortable for us, to put it mildly. We could take funds out of our regular savings and pay it off, but the plan has always been to pay for our travels using only dedicated travel savings and proceeds from the sale of our household goods and car. We’ll chip away at the balance for the next couple of months and have it gone by the time we depart in August, if not before.

While we travel we’ll live on our regular monthly income, and plan to put the amount we’re currently paying for rent into a separate savings account to build a sort of secondary emergency fund, if you will. This savings should also give us a nice cushion to land on when our adventure ends. When we leave Kaua’i we’ll have just two monthly payments – my student loan and our phone bill – and they’re already set up on auto-pay. Otherwise we’ll have no other bills – no rent, no utilities, no gas, no cable, no car or rental insurance, etc. – our income after putting away savings should be more than enough to cover food, inter-country transportation, side trips and other daily expenses each month.

We plan to travel and live as frugally as possible along the way. The Senior Nomads recently said they shoot for two no-spend days each week and we think that’s a worthy goal for us too. Not only will this help us to stay within our budget, but also require us to get out more and explore our surroundings rather than depend on tours, tickets, etc. to entertain us. I’m not sure yet whether we’ll be able to go without gelato for two days when we’re in Italy, or avoid stopping into the patisseries or boulangeries for two days when we’re in France – we’ll have to see about that. We may need to set up a separate gelato or bakery fund that we can dip into.

I’ve always been a firm believer that by setting realistic goals, financial or otherwise, and supporting them with careful, well-thought out, long-term plans dreams really can come true and be sustainable. We’re about to once again test those beliefs in a big way!

Sunday Afternoon 4/22/2018

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It’s going to take a long, long time for Kaua’i to recover from last week’s floods, especially the towns from Hanalei to the west. The slideshow above is a small look at the destruction caused by the record rains and flooding (Hanalei received 28 inches of rain in 24 hours). The flood’s effects won’t stay localized to the North Shore either because tourism, the main industry on the island, will be affected all over. Visitors come to Kaua’i to experience nature and the local environment versus staying at a resort the entire time, and road repairs, trail maintenance and other clean-up will be a long process.  Although other areas on the island fared better than the north shore, all of Kaua’i was affected by the storm. The Coconut Marketplace (where the man is on his paddleboard) is just around a couple of miles away from us in Kapaa, and areas on the south shore were flooded as well and had to be evacuated.

And yes, that’s a buffalo on the beach! Buffalo are raised on a ranch, near Hanalei and flood waters drove all 85 of them off the ranch with three making it all the way down to the beach. Almost all the buffalo have been rounded up taken back to the ranch, but it was something to see video of them running along the beach or pictures of them standing in the middle of town.

Food donations have been pouring in from all over the island, and soup kitchens have been set up to feed residents who have lost their homes or don’t have power. Pet food has also been donated.

The island is receiving assistance from the Army Corps of Engineers, but most everything that’s being done has come from state and local residents pitching in. Over $20 million has been donated for relief and rebuilding (Google and Facebook each donated $1 million). Many families on the island lost everything. We learned this past Friday that our next door neighbor’s sister’s house in Hanalei was destroyed, and it sat on pilings seven feet off the ground!

Toys for our granddaughter. The Chatter Telephone is an American classic!

Our son and family arrive this week, and I am so excited I can hardly stand it! I’m especially looking forward to getting to spend time with the grandkids. Our granddaughter (“the Destroyer”) was just five months old the last time we saw her, but now is walking and talking. Our grandson has gotten taller and lost several teeth since we were in Japan last year. I’ve promised our grandson that I will go down both slides at the pool with him, and Brett and I are planning to take him out one day for a belated birthday excursion, including hot dogs at Puka Dog, a stop at Lappert’s Ice Cream, and finishing the outing with a visit to the toy section at either Walmart or Kmart so he can pick out something he wants (the last time we did the choosing we got him something he already had). We’ve already gotten a couple of toys for our granddaughter that she can play with here, as well as some Kona coffee for our daughter-in-law, flour tortillas and cheese for our grandson (he loves quesadillas), and plenty of Diet Coke for our son. In spite of the ongoing clean-up, I think there will still be plenty for them to do while they’re here, although some plans are going to have to be adjusted. Fingers are crossed that the weather improves while they are here.

Finally, last week I gave myself a goal of commenting on someone’s blog at least once a week. I have tried to comment not once, but twice this week, on two different blogs, and my comment vanished each time when I hit the publish button! Sigh. Hopefully it’s just a temporary glitch with Blogger.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Goodbye Things on Friday, and give it one thumb up. Lots of points the author makes are things we’re already doing or have done, but the book got me to think more deeply about what we’ll put into storage while we travel, and what we’ll keep for when we eventually settle down again (not much). I downloaded Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng, from the library yesterday. I’ve been waiting for it for a long, long time, and am excited to get started.
  • Listening to: The birds are back! Lots of birdsong outside today – it’s been missing for the past couple of weeks due to the miserable weather. But, it’s not raining and there’s blue sky peeking out between the clouds. The next door neighbors also have a large (noisy) humidifier running – the hot water gasket under their kitchen sink failed the other night and almost the whole house was flooded so they’re drying it out. Inside, YaYu is preparing her traditional bowl of Sunday ramen (with added vegetables, sliced Chinese barbecued pork and LOTS of hot sauce) and Brett is listening to Youtube videos. The laundry awaits.
  • Watching: Brett and I greatly enjoyed Case Histories, and wish more episodes had been available through Prime (there are more, but you have to pay to see them). Last night we watched one of my all-time favorite movies, Kung Fu Hustle. Tonight we’ll go back to watching the Ruth Rendell Mysteries, which are OK but not the best mystery show we’ve ever watched.

    Chocolate Overload (otherwise known as Brett’s birthday cake)
  • Cooking/baking: Dinner tonight is Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs again, because we found big, ripe tomatoes at the farmers’ market this past week, and it’s a dish that makes all of us happy. I baked Brett a triple-chocolate bundt cake with chocolate glaze for his birthday yesterday, so he and YaYu are set with sweets for a while. On the dinner menu this week will be meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy (one of our son’s favorite meals, and difficult to make in Japan); noodles with pork sauce; slow cooker chicken adobo with bok choy; and stuffed peppers. We don’t have a schedule for getting together with our son and family for meals, but I think I’ve got all the bases covered.

    With the garage freezer shut down, everything from the Big Shop had to fit into the house freezer. I don’t think there’s room in it right now for a piece of paper!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I worked some more on my travel notebook, and I am caught up for now. I was thrilled this past week to find an amazing non-stop fare from Boston to Portland in early December and booked that leg of our journey in extra-comfort seats (flight is 6 1/2 hours). WenYu is going to come stay with us in Boston for the night we’re there, and then see us off at the airport the next day. I also found a sweet, affordable apartment in Sydney, located fairly close to the Botanical Gardens, and not too far from the Opera House. We had not intended to reserve anything this early, but this place was too good to pass up and we knew it wouldn’t last long. Brett and I did our monthly Big Shop last Friday, probably the last “big” one before we leave. We got the last few things in the garage freezer moved into the house, and shut the outside one off. I studied French almost every day, drank lots of water, but we only got in two walks because of YaYu’s schedule and the weather. Next week isn’t going to be much better, unfortunately. Both Brett and I are very ready for YaYu’s obligations to be over!

    The living room of our Sydney apartment
  • Looking forward to next week: I can’t ask for more than having my son, beautiful daughter-in-law and grandkids here.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We learned this past week that YaYu will be one of 43 valedictorians in her class (WenYu’s class had just nine). So proud of this girl – she has maintained a 4.0+ GPA all through high school. I have been seeing our eye doctor twice a year for the past two years because I was beginning to develop cataracts, but they are no longer growing and my vision has stabilized for now, so the Dr. said I can go back to once-a-year vision checks (having to have my eyes dilated is not a good/fun thing!). Costco surprisingly had a few items that we haven’t seen for a while back in stock, including frozen cherries (one of my favorite snacks) and the big packages of ground pork! I woke up to sunshine yesterday morning – the first time in weeks – it was glorious!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We are changing to T-Mobile’s military plan today, which will save us $48/month and give everyone unlimited data. 2) We will also be eligible for free Netflix through T-Mobile (we didn’t qualify with our current plan), for another $14.00/month savings. 3) We ran out of quite a few things this past week, but I shopped the fridge, pantry and freezer and was able to come up with some tasty meals without having to go to the store before the Big Shop on Friday. 4) In spite of buying some extra items for our son and family, we still came in under budget on the Big Shop. 5) We put just $3.00 in the change/$1 bill jar, our leftover from the farmers’ market.
    Truckloads of pet food have been donated and dispersed.

    Volunteers set up soup kitchens to feed displaced persons and rescue workers.
  • Grateful for: The outpouring of help and aloha we’ve seen this past week has been awe inspiring and humbling: boats evacuating stranded residents and bringing in supplies; a doctor setting up clinic for those trapped by landslides; massive amounts of food donated and cooked for those who lost their homes; funds donated for farmers who lost all their crops; community or school groups volunteering their time to assist with clean-up; paniolo (cowboys) helping to round up escaped livestock (buffalo or otherwise); city and county workers putting in extra hours to clean up debris; random acts of kindness everywhere, and on and on.
  • Bonus question: Do you enjoying gardening? In a nutshell, no. I wish I did and am somewhat envious of those who do garden and enjoy it, but any sort of yard work or planting or such just does nothing for me. I blame my father – he made gardening a chore when I was young, and I developed a strong aversion to it. While Dad was planting, watering, trimming, harvesting and doing all those things that would have been fun, my siblings and I were stuck with weeding and hoeing, or things like cleaning and sorting wood chips – necessary but backbreaking, miserable and mundane tasks that destroyed my desire to have a garden. Brett and I have set up and maintained a garden in the past, but gardening has just never been my favorite thing to do. I am thrilled that we have someone taking care of the yard here, and I would be happy to live in a condo with nothing more than a deck or lanai and a few plants in pots. I used to have a green thumb when it came to houseplants, but currently don’t have any (because of bugs).

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

(I don’t have any way to credit the flood-related photos above – they’ve just shown up in various feeds on Facebook, taken by different people around the island.)


#Kaua’i: Kipu Ranch Ultimate Ranch ATV Tour

Looking out to Kipu Kai beach

Ever since I saw George Clooney look out over the Kipu Kai beach in the film The Descendants, and found out that the only way I could see it was by taking an ATV tour, the Kipu Ranch’s Ultimate Ranch Tour has been on my Kaua’i bucket list. The beach seen in the movie is part of a four-mile stretch of beaches on the south shore of the island. While the beach seen in the movie is public (there are no private beaches allowed by law in Hawai’i), overland access to it is privately owned by the Waterhouse family. Currently, the only way to reach the beach is by boat or kayak.

Denise, Brett and I have our helmets on and are ready to roll!
We rode with one of the guides, which allowed us to focus on all the beautiful scenery versus concentrating on the road . . .
. . . which became challenging pretty quickly into the tour

Besides the beaches, the Kipu Ranch contains an amazing variety of landscapes, from grazing land to mountains to beaches. The ranch runs several large herds of cattle, and the property is often used for movie locations, including the first four Jurassic Park films (the first one was being filmed when Hurricane Iniki hit in 1992), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and The Descendants among others. The ATV tour takes visitors to see many of the film locations as well as other breathtaking sights that exist on the ranch. The ranch also hosts several zipline tours.

Grazing land runs right up against the mountains. Four of the five Jurassic Park films were filmed in this location, near the mountains.
Mt. Ha’upu (also known as the Hoary Head) is the most imposing feature of the ranch. The tour took us up the face of the mountain and over one of the cuts to get to the ocean side of the ranch.

The ranch land was originally owned by a member of Hawaiian royalty, Princess Ke’elikolani, granddaughter of King Kamehameha I. Land was the only thing of value that Hawaiian royalty owned, so when the princess wanted some money to live in Europe she first leased and then sold some of her land to William Rice, a rancher, with an agreement that it never be developed. Rice sold the ranch to Jack Waterhouse in 1948. Waterhouse was descended from early missionaries on Kaua’i, and was related to Rice through marriage. During his stewardship roads were built, irrigation was developed, and other improvements made, all while maintaining the original agreement that the land not be developed.

Yes, there was LOTS of red mud. We didn’t get too dirty, but some of the other drivers came back coated in the stuff.

Most of the other tour members in our group drove their own ATVs, but we arranged to ride with one of the guides, and were glad we did. The roads were not in the best repair, mainly due to all the recent rain we’ve had here, and we were glad we didn’t have to worry about navigating all the bumps, ruts, potholes and hills, and could instead focus on the scenery along the way. It was still a very bumpy, muddy ride though.

Looking back down over the ranch from the mountainside.

Our two tour guides were very knowledgable – both were born and raised on Kaua’i, and had worked for the ranch for many years – and they added to our enjoyment of the tour. We made several stops along the way where they described different parts of the ranch, spoke about the ranch’s history, and pointed out sights we might have missed otherwise. About halfway through the tour we stopped for water and some very tasty homemade banana bread.

The overlook view of Kipu Kai Beach, the highlight of a tour of highlights.

While everything we saw along the way was amazing, the highlight of the tour came at the end, where the sky cleared and we were rewarded with a stunning view of Kipu Kai beach. We learned that because the land is private most local residents never get to see the beach; the ATV tour is the only way to access the view.

Looking down at the city of Lihue from the highest point on the road, the last breathtaking view before finishing the tour.

Jack Waterhouse died in 1984, and deeded the ranch over to the state of Hawai’i. The heirs still control the property, and it will remain private until all the Waterhouse nieces and nephews are gone. There’s no way to know at this time what the state will do with the land, but many residents of the island are hopeful the land will remain undeveloped and use it for research. It’s an amazing place, and shows off the best of Kaua’i. Plus, the ATV tour is just a whole lot of fun!

Staying Organized: The Notebook

The Notebook

Along with all the reservations I’ve made over the past couple of weeks have come emails. with confirmations, addresses, etc. Most of them arrived in my inbox and were then relocated to a special file I’d set up (Brett also maintains confirmation numbers in a calendar). Even though I’ve arranged them in order by date they’re frankly still a pain to get into and go through when I want or need to know something.

Although I’m always trying to go as paperless as possible these days, I finally figured out that I would be happier in this case if I had everything printed out and organized. So, I created The Notebook.

I purchased a half-inch three-ring binder, lightweight yet big enough to hold everything I want. It also has pockets inside both the front and rear covers to hold odds and ends that we collect along the way, including the pages from guidebooks that we want to take along.

Then, I printed off calendar pages for each month we’ll be traveling, and filled in each day with where we’ll be, using a different color for each destination. It’s easy to look at the calendar page and see which days we’re traveling, and for how long we’ll be staying at each location. Travel days get an arrow, and also are coded to let us know if we have airline tickets, lodging and/or hotel or car rental, if needed, or if there’s something that still needs to be taken care of.

The calendar helps easily see where we will be each day of the month, our travel days, what’s been reserved and what still needs to be taken care of.

Behind each calendar page go hotel and flight reservations, and Airbnb rental agreements. The Airbnb information contains phone numbers, addresses, etc. which will be highlighted and easier to find if needed, and we’re planning to print out a page from Google Maps for each of our Airbnb rentals to show their location, which we might need to share with a cab driver or someone else if get lost. We can add extra information to the pages if needed, things like directions, which bus or train to take, luggage fees and so forth.

As we move through the calendars each month, pages will be moved to the back of the notebook to form a sort of “diary” of our journey. Brett will be keeping a journal of each day, but the notebook will hopefully add another dimension.

I realize The Notebook is one more thing to carry along, but I’ve already found it useful and know it will continue to be so as we move along. I figure we can’t be too organized, especially with as much as we’ve will have going on.

Sunday Afternoon 4/15/2018

Our walk venue on Monday – the rubber track was very comfortable for walking, but I still prefer the beach path and the gorgeous views.

This past week was one of those that felt both incredibly busy yet also very relaxing. I got lots done, caught up on chores and other things that needed to get done, but also found plenty of time to read and have fun. YaYu’s track schedule was once again crazy, maybe more so than usual. They have a new coach this year (a single guy with no other obligations) and he wants the team at the stadium as much as possible to practice on the track, which is at a minimum 30 minutes away from the high school and our house. Other than Thursdays (meet day) though, YaYu never knows until the day before whether they’ll be practicing at the stadium or not, and it’s far enough away that Brett and I usually can’t plan or do anything while they’re practicing there. YaYu is having a great track season, but we are all looking forward to it being over!

A bit of blue sky on the other side of the mountains at Kipu Kai Ranch gave us hope on Tuesday that things might be clearing up. Nope.

The weather stayed mostly miserable for another week (we’ve had only two full days of sunshine since February 22), although last Monday the clouds cleared out for a while in the afternoon, the sun came out and it actually got a bit hot. Brett and I had an errand near the stadium that day, so we did our walk on the outside lane while YaYu and her team practiced. We were hoping the good weather would last through the next day, when our ATV tour was scheduled, but it was not to be. The rain and clouds were back on Tuesday although it thankfully didn’t actually rain while during the tour even though it threatened to the entire time. The sun appeared for the last stop on the tour, the overlook for the Kipu Kai beach on the south shore, and it was glorious. Getting to see that beach was one of the big reasons I wanted to do the tour too. There was LOTS of mud everywhere, but the whole experience was fun, fun, fun from start to finish, and best of all we got to do it with our friend Denise!

This gorgeous bougainvillea tree in Hanapepe made me think for a moment that spring had really arrived. The clouds in back told the real story though.

Meiling got back the results from her DNA test and discovered she is 97.99 . . . Chinese! The test results were interesting though. Han is the main ethnic branch in China, followed by Mongolian and then several other minority groups, and it was interesting to see the makeup of her DNA. The results also mentioned a couple of medical markers, but those were vague (“you might develop xxx in middle age or older”). Neither of the other girls is particularly interested at this time in doing a DNA study (nor are Brett and I).

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Eat Up! mid week, and have also finished Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, by David Grann, and The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn. I could put neither book down – both were the definition of page-turners. Although it was non-fiction, Killers of the Flower Moon read like a fictional murder mystery, and was about a tragic and unsettling piece of American history, the Osage murders in Oklahoma, something I ashamedly admit to knowing nothing about before reading this book. The Woman in the Window grabbed me from the first sentence and wouldn’t let me go until the last page (I read all  448 pages in less than two days). I’m back to non-fiction today though with Goodbye Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki.
  • Listening to: We’re listening to the sound of more rain again this morning. There were massive thunderstorms passing over all last night, many areas on the island are flooded, and there have been landslides and closures. Hanalei on the north shore has gotten 24 inches of rain in the past 24 hours. Here at Casa Aloha, YaYu is fixing her brunch (spicy Thai noodles with chicken), and we’re getting ready to start the laundry so that will shatter any other semblance of quiet. Supposedly there will be more thunderstorms tonight. (Photos above by Kolohe Kapu.)
  • Watching: We finished up all the available episodes of Death in Paradise this week, and started a new British mystery series, Case Histories. There’s currently only one season of the show available right now on Amazon Prime, so when we finish we’ll have to look for something else.
  • Cooking/baking: Because we’re starting to run out of lots of things (Big Shop is next week), it’s breakfast for dinner once again tonight: scrambled eggs, grilled sausages, fruit and toast for Brett and YaYu. I made brownies a couple of days ago, so no baking today. Other dinners on the menu this week are grilled chicken & apple sausages along with steamed broccoli,  grilled pork & vegetable kabobs; chicken and vegetable curry; and fried rice with Chinese barbecued pork and vegetables.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got started on a big project of organizing all of our travel reservations for the Big Adventure. Both Brett and I have things saved in our email accounts, but I wanted to have all of it in one easy-to-locate place for both of us to access. The project’s not finished yet but I’m off to a good start. I also made our flight reservations to Philadelphia from Dallas, and hotel reservations near Bryn Mawr, so the first half of The Big Adventure is set. Brett and I went back to Hanapepe on Friday and picked up a guidebook for Australia from the Talk Story bookstore. While we were down that way we also took care of a couple of Big Adventure-related errands at places that were on the way coming and going. I drank lots of water, studied French every day, but it’s been a terrible week for walking thanks to YaYu’s schedule and the not-so-good weather.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re meeting Denise tomorrow for breakfast at the TipTop Cafe! She heads home on Wednesday, but I’ve got an appointment with the eye doctor on Tuesday so we picked tomorrow morning for one last meet-up. Otherwise we’ve got nothing on the calendar for the week.

    Blue skies as we approached the Kipu Kai beach overlook! The weather stayed overcast and rainy on the other side of the mountains though.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The ATV tour was the only touristy thing I’ve ever really wanted to do here, and it was worth every penny. We had a great time, and riding with one of the guides was the way to go. Plus, Brett and I got to spend some quality time with our friend Denise and have plate lunches afterwards at Mark’s Place, and those are always good things! Besides picking up guidebooks while we were in Hanapepe, we also stopped at the Midnight Bear Bakery for coffee and a pastry, and brought home a treat for YaYu.

    I had a macadamia nut cinnamon swirl pastry for lunch at the Midnight Bear Bakery in Hanapepe. Maybe not the healthiest of choices, but it was divine.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) YaYu asked Bryn Mawr to recalculate her financial aid award because they had based their calculations on us having just two in college versus three next year, and they increased her aid for next year! However, the previous aid award gives us a very good idea of what the following year’s aid amounts will be after Meiling graduates. 2) We had to pay income tax this year (no more extra child credit). It wasn’t too bad, but we put it on our credit card for the reward points and then paid it off. 3) The cost of the Australia guidebook was completely covered by the used book store credit we had received. 4) We’ve done a very good job of using up produce odds & ends and leftovers this week – nothing has gone to waste. 5) We put $15.51 into the change/$1 bill jar: $8.75 back from the water bill, $5.02 back from the cable bill, and $1.74 change from the dentist. We spent all our money again at the farmers’ market.

    I have learned lots of vocabulary with Memrise, and while I can read and understand sentences I still can barely put one together. My pronunciation is terrible, and I am completely unable to conjugate a verb. I need some real communication! (#1 is the correct answer above, BTW)
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling thankful these days for my training as a language instructor. It doesn’t make learning French any easier, but it has helped me realize what I need to do to be a more effective learner. In my case, that’s getting lots of feedback, and real communication, even if that’s just from other learners. Textbook and online exercises help, but they only go so far, for me anyway.
  • Bonus question: What is your least favorite household chore? I have maybe covered this before, but hands down I hate dusting, mainly because it has to be done here  every. single. day. There is no rest. Sometimes it needs to be done twice even because the dust here is awful. It’s even worse right now because of the damp and the dust is sticking to everything. I would rather clean toilets than dust. I also don’t like doing yard work, or the laundry, which is the main reason we only do it once a week. I am one of those obnoxious people though who will refold towels and such if someone folds them “wrong.” Otherwise I don’t mind most chores because I like a clean, tidy house. My favorite chore is probably washing the dishes – I find it very contemplative – but I only have the morning and lunch duty these days – Brett does the dinner dishes every evening.

That’s all for this week! Thank for indulging me with some time off last week. How was your week? What did you accomplish? What good things happen for you?

Sunday Afternoon 4/8/2018

The beautiful (and tiny) YaYu went to her prom last night. She was our “late baby” – Brett and I were both over 50 when she joined our family) – but what a wonder and joy she has been (and is)!

We learned this week that YaYu was awarded two more scholarships: $500 from the Rotary Club, and $1500 from Kiwanis, bringing her scholarship total to $3000! We’re so proud of this girl, and it’s so, so gratifying to see all her efforts rewarded.

Our landlord has apparently already found a renter for after we move out at the end of July. Landlord has been in the rental game for a long time and has learned to advertise early, and I guess someone moving here for work saw the ad and latched onto it because of the garage. I’m also guessing Mr. Potential Renter had been looking at Craigslist and caught on quickly to what a house with a garage usually rents for and decided this place would be a bargain (it is). One interesting twist though is that the Mr. PR insists he can’t live without central air-conditioning, and is willing to pay to have it installed! So, this past week a representative from an A/C company came out to look things over and give the landlord an estimate: $7900. Landlord is willing to kick in $1800, but that’s still a LOT of money Mr. PR will have to come up with. So we will see. My money is on the guy deciding this place isn’t as affordable as he thought (or he wises up and decides to go with A/C window units versus central air).

A few of the books we’re looking at these days

This past week we finally started checking out some of our guidebooks. It’s fun and exciting, but also still a bit overwhelming at this point, with almost too much information to take in. Some of these books are also heavy which makes me wonder if we’ll take them along with us, or as someone suggested, just rip out the pages we’ll need/use.

Finally, we have a lot going on this week so I’m going to take a few days off from writing. I’ll be back next Sunday though.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m more than halfway through Eat Up! and the further I go, the more I’m enjoying it. Ruby (after GBBO I have to use her first name) again and again covers aspects of food and eating that I hadn’t even considered. It’s all very interesting and enlightening.
  • Listening to: The sound of yet more rain is our background music this morning. No birds, no roosters, not a single other sound is out there. It’s quiet inside too: YaYu is still out with her friends, and Brett is reading. We’re not planning on starting the laundry until later this afternoon, so I am going to enjoy the peace and quiet as long as possible (wish the rain would stop though).
  • Watching: We finished up Last Tango in Halifax (and hope there will be another season), and were going to watch new episodes of Death in Paradise but discovered Better Call Saul also had new episodes so we watched all of those. All the actors in the series are superb, but Michael McKean has really stood out. The ending to Season 3 was jaw-dropping.

    The matcha cake with a dark chocolate glaze is very tasty!
  • Cooking/baking: We’re having breakfast for dinner again this evening: scrambled eggs, sausages, fruit and toast for Brett and YaYu. I baked a matcha cake with chocolate glaze a couple of days ago, so no baking today. I’m now trying to figure out how many other things I can glaze. Also appearing on the menu this week, in between YaYu’s track practices and meets will be lumpia and potstickers; Thai red curry chicken; mabo dofu; and pork & pepper stir fry. There’ll be rice with everything, but we need to use it up.

    Around 100 feet from where Brett and I start our walk is a sacred ancient Hawaiian burial site, the Kapa’a Ahupua’a, Puna Moku. I’d never noticed it before this week because I’d always been looking ahead or to the left at the ocean.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got four packages of bakeware/kitchenware boxed up and ready to be mailed to Meiling next week. She was never interested in cooking and baking when she was young, but she’s developed into a pretty good cook and baker lately, and I’m happy she can use this stuff. Not a big deal, but I spent all last week organizing and cleaning up my Pinterest boards. I hadn’t looked at Pinterest for nearly a year but had fun playing with it again. It is still addicting. We made good progress on cleaning out the garage freezer this past week. There are still a few more things to use in there, but we should be able to reach our goal of having it emptied out by the end of the month. I drank lots of water, studied French almost every day, and Brett and I got in three walks. It was not a great week for walking thanks to both the weather and our schedules. Yesterday the rain started two minutes before we reached the car and we got soaked!
  • Looking forward to next week: Good friend Denise is arriving on the island today, and on Tuesday morning she, Brett and I are doing the ATV tour out at the Kipu Kai ranch! Fingers and toes are crossed that the rain holds off, although it’s probably going to be muddy one way or the other. Brett and I plan to head back to Hanapepe one day this week to use our store credit and get a couple more guide books (for Australia and New Zealand). We also want to stop by the bakery when we’re in town. I’m going to start putting together our travel itinerary notebook this week, and I get butterflies in my stomach just thinking about it (a feeling somewhere between excitement and what in the heck are we doing?).
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Besides YaYu’s scholarship announcements, she went to her prom last night. Prom is so different these days from when Brett and I were in high school. Back then you had to have a date, but these days it’s more about friends getting together, dressing up and having a good time. Of course plenty of people have dates, but YaYu and five of her friends went together, and from the messages and photos YaYu sent they had a wonderful time. One of her friend’s parents both work at the Marriott (where the prom was held) and got the six girls a room there, so after prom they had a slumber party at the hotel, and had brunch there this morning – fun!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I earned a big enough bonus from doing Swagbucks last month that I was able to get another $25 Amazon gift card for 2200 points, but I am now officially done with Swagbucks. YaYu found her prom dress at Ross for less than $20, borrowed some sparkly shoes from a friend, and her friends did each others’ hair and makeup – the big expense was the $50 prom ticket. We put $10.07 in the change/$1 bill jar: $2.07 from recycling, $4.00 back from purchasing YaYu’s graduation tassle and stole (she is reusing WenYu’s cap and gown), and $4.00 back from last week’s valet parking at Duke’s. We went to the farmers’ market but spent all our money!
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I, and our daughters, are blessed that our son is able and willing to pay for their books while they attend college. It’s a big expense, but he has stepped up every year for Meiling and WenYu, and will be covering three of them next year. When Meiling joined our family 20 years ago, M was not happy – he did not want a sister. But, he’s become all three girls’ biggest fan and is a terrific big brother to each of them.

    This is me when I think about commenting on others’ blogs.
  • Bonus question: What’s one thing you know you could be better at doing? I am terrible – I mean the worst – at commenting on others’ blogs. Every year I resolve to do better, but I am not one who can casually dash off a comment – writing anything is always an effort, even a quick comment, because I’m never satisfied with anything I write. Introversion also plays a strong role; that is, it’s one thing to write on my own blog but quite something else to inject myself into someone else’s work even when invited. It’s like going to a party where I don’t know anyone else: sort of scary. I also often find that by the time I get ready to comment someone else has usually said what I want to say, and has said it better than I ever could. All of these are of course excuses and rationalizations – I just need to make more of an effort at commenting (although just thinking about it already has my heart pounding).

That’s a wrap for this week! How did your week go? What good things happened for you? What are you cooking?

See you in a week!


SAD on Kaua’i

Brett and I tried to go for a walk on Tuesday, but it was raining and the wind was fierce enough that it snapped my umbrella so we gave up.

We’re going through yet another week of overcast, rainy, windy, cool weather here on the Garden Island. There have been some indications of spring lately, and the odd warm and sunny day, but mostly the gloomy weather continues. March roared in like a lion and pretty much left the same way, and I think there were only seven or eight days in the entire month when it didn’t rain. A couple of friends here also originally from Portland have said that at times it’s felt like we were there again and not on Kaua’i.

A typical March day this year.

Back when Brett and I were deciding where we wanted to retire, weather was the number one item on our list. After 22 years in Portland, we had grown more than a bit weary of the long gloomy winters (and falls and springs). We both loved Portland and our life there, but the weather kept us hibernating indoors almost all winter. I grew sluggish and always gained weight, and as the years went on felt more and more depressed through the long dreary winter season. Both Brett and I yearned for warm, sunny days year-round, and when we evaluated our choices Hawai’i came out on top.

For the most part Hawai’i has kept its promise, but these last few months have made us realize how much we have come to love and depend on the usual sunshine and warm temperatures. It’s been hard being stuck indoors more often than not, and having to forego planned outings because of the weather.

The less-than-good weather does have benefits at times though.

Many of you are probably thinking, “cry me a river, Laura.” No, it doesn’t snow here, or get below freezing, and we’re not bundled up in boots, gloves or coats, and we don’t have to heat the house. But weather and temperatures are all relative to location, and this has been the most depressing winter we’ve experienced since we arrived. I am feeling the beginning twinges of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) once again.

I keep reminding myself that rain is what keeps Kaua’i lush and green, and the farmers productive. The rain and cooler weather has meant that our lawn doesn’t need to be watered and our water bill has been less than usual. Same for our electric bills – the ceiling fans haven’t been running constantly. Maybe best of all (for me anyway), humidity levels have been low too.

Sunshine and blue skies will return, and all the gloom will be forgotten.

The sunshine will come back, the temperature will rise, and the humidity will return. In the meantime though I’m feeling a bit SAD.


Goodbye March, Hello April

Although some good things happened for us last month, I think we were all glad to see the end of March come around. Mainly because we’ve all been pining for blue skies and warmer temperatures, but also because we are eager to keep moving forward toward the fall and the big changes that will be coming around for all of us. We’re making progress, but it still feels like there is so very, very much to get done, and not enough time to do it all. Things are still moving though, albeit slowly for now, but will pick up speed the closer we get to our move out date.

Anyway, here’s how we did with March’s goals:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account. We put $1067.50 in to our account. Lots of it came right back out to pay for all the reservations we made at the end of the month.
  2. Clean out at least three cabinets in the kitchen. Done! I organized two cabinets and one now holds the dishes we’re storing, and the other holds the ones we’re letting go. I also cleaned out the baking cabinet; most of what’s in there now are items we’re using now but selling later.

    Although we’re still using them for now, these dishes are all being sold.
  3. Clean out and organize my nightstand. Done! There was an awful lot of junk in there.
  4. Clean out the two tansu in the living room (they’ve both been sold). Done! Most of the stuff that’s left are things we’ll continue to use until the buyers come to claim the chests.
  5. Narrow our list of suitable Airbnb rentals for the first half of our trip. Done! We’ve reserved all our homes for the first half of the trip, with the total less than $30 over our budget.
  6. Set up an additional area in the garage for moving sale items. Done! And it’s filling up fast.
  7. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store. We filled one bag last month.

Here are our goals for April:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account.
  2. Continue to look for and possibly book air travel down to Buenos Aires.
  3. Clean out and shut down the garage freezer.
  4. Use up as many condiments as possible in the refrigerator.

    So many (hot) sauces, so little time
  5. Move my IRA from the local bank to our primary bank; help YaYu open an account at our primary bank.
  6. Order lei and a haku for YaYu’s graduation.
  7. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store.

Once again, we’ll see how we do!