Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!
Gong xi fat cai 恭喜发财 (Cantonese)! Xi nian kaui le 新年快乐 (Mandarin)! Many wishes for prosperity, health, and Happiness in the year of the Ox. And, happy Valentine’s Day! Brett and I are hoping to head up north is a short while to hike the Stone Dam trail and enjoy a picnic when we get to the dam, but the weather is iffy so we’re not 100% sure we’ll make it today. Dinner tonight will be very romantic (LOL): breakfast sausages, buttermilk pancakes, and fresh papaya, with ice cream and cookies for dessert. Brett gave me a giant Hershey dark chocolate bar for my gift – if we hike we’ll take some along.
YaYu has been gone almost a week and we miss her. The first couple of days after she left the apartment felt too big and too empty, but Brett and I have been slowly adjusting and enjoying having more space again. The day after YaYu left we put things away, cleaned the apartment, and rearranged a some things, but both of us would have given anything to have our girl for a few more days. This is different than when she left last September – we were ready then for her to head back and eager to have our apartment to ourselves. Not this time though – her leaving hit me hard with the realization that it would be at least 10 months before I saw her or any of our children again. YaYu made it back to PA right on schedule though, and has quickly settled back into college life, including getting in some sledding because of all the snow they’ve had. Ally Cat has been by daily since she left, and we keep her water bowl filled and Brett tries to interact with her, but she misses The Girl and really doesn’t want anything to do with us. I think the only thing I’m happy about right now it not having to cook so much.
With YaYu back at school, Brett and I have been having a lot of conversations about our future, and where we see ourselves in a few years. We’ve been talking about traveling, financial goals, and lots of other things that will/might be happening in the next few years. Our first step though is to get our Covid vaccinations – still no word on when that might be happening here but we assume in the next month some time. We remain grateful that we live in such a safe spot, and where our state’s leadership has been willing to make difficult choices to keep the spread of the virus low. I noticed last week that the number of visitors in the area has been picking up once again, so things are going to be changing, maybe faster than we care for, but necessary none the less.
The weather has been beautiful for most of the week (Monday was a rainy mess) with clear skies and light breezes, perfect for walking, but very chilly at times, especially in the morning and at night. This coming week is predicted to bring lots of rain though, so on top of the cold it’s also going to be damp. Wonderful (not). I can’t wait for Hawaii to get this weather out of its system!
This morning I am:
- Reading: I finished A Perfect Spy just in time for two more books to come off of hold from the library, so my daytime reading is Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok, and my evening reading is The Ice Beneath Her by Camilla Grebe. Both are great, and I’m moving through them at a quicker pace than I did A Perfect Spy. A third book came off of hold yesterday, The Thursday Murder Club, by Richard Osman, so as soon as I’m done with one of the other two I’ll get started on that.
- Listening to: Not a very quiet morning today, at least outside. There’s a very loud rooster that won’t turn it off, and one of the neighbors is running their bandsaw off and on. The temperature is lovely though and although there are a few more clouds than usual I can still see quite a bit of blue sky. We’re debating whether it’s worth it to drive up to the Stone Dam – rain is now predicted up there for right about when we’d be in the middle of the hike, and it rained last night which most likely left most of the trail a muddy mess. We’ll see.
- Watching: We’re into the third season of Call My Agent but are almost done with the available episodes of The Umbrella Academy – we should finish up in a few more days. We’ve made a list of new shows to check out and will look into those next week – stay tuned. I’ve been itching to watch Band of Brothers again though. I miss watching cooking shows with YaYu – it’s not the same watching them on my own.
- Happy we accomplished this past week: As he finished up his quarantine, Brett also finished up his list of household chores this past week and now the apartment is in tip-top shape. We moved around some furniture and decorative items to open up the space a bit more and make the place seem less cluttered without actually giving up anything. I got a new set of activity cards ready for the next six weeks but I’ve dropped French study for the time being, and will pick it up another day. It was just too much. I’m enjoying my new Japanese activity: 15 to 20 minutes of daily kanji study using a multiple choice format. The program also gives me the percentage of correct answers and so far I’ve been averaging about 88% correct each day, so I’m happy with that. There are over 1500 kanji in the exercise, but I do around 30-35 each day. They come up in a random order so the group I get is different every day, the ones I miss automatically show up again the next day, and others occasionally repeat themselves as well, so it’s a great practice. I learned more than I realized with Memrise, but there are plenty I’ve never seen before so it’s always a challenge.
- Looking forward to next week: Well, we’re not looking forward to rain, but hopefully the afternoons will be dry enough to get up to the park and walk. After a somewhat long stretch we’ll make a food shopping trip on Tuesday – our list is ready. I’m looking forward to shopping for just the two of us again – our list is blissfully small for a change.
- Thinking of good things that happened: WenYu’s birthday present safely arrived finally and she loved it, especially since she had been wanting hot cocoa (“And now I have the BEST cocoa!”). We had a few scary moments though when we learned this past week that the package had been delivered five days earlier but she hadn’t seen it. It turned out the mail carrier had put it in a plastic bag and left it by the mailbox, and no one had seen it in the snow even though they check the mail daily! All’s well that ends well though. We also got to see the house where WenYu and her partner live – absolutely gorgeous inside and out. YaYu and I had a great last walk together up on the eastside beach path last Sunday. We walked three miles, and were prepared to go further except for some big ugly clouds were rolling in and convinced us to turn around and head back to the car. I had my dental appointment on Friday and all is well – the chip that occurred was a small piece of porcelain that came off of an older crown, and the dentist said there is absolutely no reason to replace it, and everything is otherwise in good shape. I go back in May for a cleaning, full round of x-rays, and a full exam.
- Thinking of frugal things we did: We put $11.20 into the change/$1 bill jar, a combination of some change I discovered in my wallet and left overs from the farmers’ market and a quick trip to Safeway to get some ice cream (which was all on sale). I took $65 of change/$1 bill savings to the bank this past week. I earned 1,921 Swagbucks last week, and I’m right where I want to be for the month. I used funds from our travel savings and bought a $500 Delta gift card from The Hawaii Plan for future travels – win-win for both of us. I have enough in gift cards now to pay for most of our flights to and from Pennsylvania for YaYu’s graduation in 2022; now it’s on to earning more cards to get us to Japan in the fall. We received our first rebate check from Costco after returning to an Executive account last summer – $48.49. An equal amount will come out of our grocery budget next week and into our travel savings. Other than my trips to Safeway and the farmers’ market it was a no-spend week, all the leftovers were eaten, and no food was thrown away.
- Grateful for: Life is good right now. We miss our children and grandchildren and can’t wait to see them again, but otherwise we are enjoying being back in Hawaii, love our apartment and the location, we’re staying healthy, and are feeling very thankful we came back here nearly a year ago. We briefly debated going back to Portland when we had to leave Japan, but we made the right choice for us when we returned here.
- Bonus question: What was your first job? From middle school on I did a LOT of babysitting, but in high school I also started working as a server/kitchen help at parties and did everything from serving at sit down dinner parties as well as plating and passing canapés and hors d’oeuvres to guests at cocktail parties. I also served as general kitchen help (picking up dirty dishes, washing dishes, putting things away, general clean-up, etc.). I made very good money doing this (for someone in high school) and built a good word-of-mouth reputation so got hired fairly frequently. My first “real” job happened the summer after my junior year of high school when I worked as a part-time kitchen aide at a psychiatric hospital. I served meals in the cafeteria there and washed pots and pans. The crew I worked with was very weird but it was a good experience for me overall. In college I picked up the server/kitchen help work again. My favorite position was when I lived in Tucson, AZ and worked as kitchen help for a doctor whose wife was in a wheelchair. A professional chef came in a few times a week and did the shopping and prepared meals (the husband cooked on the weekends), but my job was to heat and serve them and do kitchen clean-up in the evenings. I was definitely a servant, but was paid very well, and the wife always sent lots of leftovers home with me so I ate well too.
A house YaYu and I passed by on the beach path had these gorgeous hibiscus out front. The blossoms are all about six inches in diameter.
Almost all of the ubiquitous chickens up at the park are wild jungle fowl, although the variations we see from time to time can be amazing. Lately however we have seen some interesting breeds that are NOT jungle fowl – they come out of the woods now and again into the parking lot, although they are no where near as aggressive as the jungle fowl and don’t mix with them. We have been very curious about how they got there. Our main hypothesis is that someone was raising them but decided to let them go for some reason and brought them up to the park. Or maybe they all escaped from nearby and ended up at the park. We’ve spotted four different breeds so far, including the one below, with her big chest and fluffy feather.
It’s been something of a bittersweet week for us, but mostly a good one, and we’re looking forward to the one coming up, even if it ends up doing nothing but rain every day. I hope everyone had a great week as well, with lots of good food, good books, and lots of good things happening. Here’s to a good week coming up!