May Odds & Ends

Some May happenings too small for their own post:

Tools of the trade
  • I could probably write a whole post about work this month, but basically I added an extra day each week so am now working three versus two days. The back-to-back days that occasionally occur in my schedule were initially a bit rough but I am getting used to them. I’ve also been somewhat moved off of loading shelves and freezers for three to four hours a shift and am now serving as a “Helmsperson” for an hour or two during my day and/or doing one or two food demos during each shift. When I’m Helmsing, I walk throughout the store talking to customers, helping them find thing, making sure the store looks good, etc. (I helped a customer one day to select dog treats and ended up getting a lead on a great day care and kennel for Kaipo!) When I’m at the demo booth I give out samples and help sell products which is easy and fun. I love both of these jobs because I enjoy interacting with and helping customers. I still load products for an hour or two each shift but am no longer so exhausted I can barely stand at the end of the day. Also, I got a TJ’s back brace to wear and it has made a world of difference in how I feel.
  • Although I was feeling under the weather with what appears now to have been nothing more than a cold, I had an absolutely lovely birthday and Mother’s Day. I had video calls with all of my children, M and the grandkids came over with an ice cream cake, and I received lovely gifts, including some of my favorite candies, a full set of Stasher silicone storage bags to add to our collection, and a Crate & Barrel gift certificate (used to purchase three useful kitchen tools). Brett spoiled me with another relaxing Day of Doing Nothing. M had planned for us to go out for brunch, but with Brett, me, and both grandkids sick we postponed it.
  • Our big plan to move into a bigger apartment in the complex collapsed this past month when we learned of the many non-refundable fees and expenses we would have to cover again (deposit, pet deposit, and a couple of others) – nothing transferred from this apartment. When we added up the costs the move just didn’t seem worth it. Our daughter-in-law feels the same, that the costs involved with moving are not worth it for only two more years, and as we like living close to each other we’ve both decided to remain in our current apartments until it’s time to leave. We will be getting a discount on our rent when we sign a new lease, so that will somewhat lessen our disappointment. (Update: we received our renewal offer right after I posted this. Our rent will increase by $19/month if we renew early, $70/month if we wait. Guess what we’re going to do?)
A few of the vegan options we bought at Trader Joe’s.
  • We decided around mid-month to return to a mostly vegan diet. There are so many more choices for us now just at Trader Joe’s let alone all the other stores in the area, especially compared to what was available on Kauai, and we thought, why not? The amount of meat we were eating was dropping considerably anyway and we knew we felt much better when we were eating no meat or dairy. We’ll continue to eat fish/seafood and occasionally cheese (and will eat meat and dairy at Meiling’s wedding), but otherwise will segue back to mainly plant-based products.

Location A or Location B?

One of the reasons Brett has asked that I not reveal our future location is that once we do, we always change our mind. Well, guess what? We are once again questioning what we believed a month ago was a firm decision on where to go plus a back-up location.

Since I posted earlier this month that we’d made a decision, we have been going through a process of maybe Location B instead of Location A would be the better choice in the long run? The two top locations on our list share many positives which led us to once again looking more deeply at both. They both feel like a good choice for us (for different reasons) and we know we could be happy in either place. Location A had been feeling more right for us than Location B for a while, but now Location B is making its move.

Here are some of the positives both places share:

  • We have spent time in and enjoyed both cities.
  • We have friends in both cities.
  • The visa process for both locations is fairly easy and straightforward, and we have more than adequate income to qualify.
  • We love the local cuisine in both locations.
  • The languages spoken in both places are both one of the easiest for an English speaker to learn (not that it’s easy for us). We wouldn’t have to learn a separate writing system, for example.
  • Public transportation is good in both locations, and it’s very possible to get around by walking. A car would not be needed to live in either city.
  • The cost of getting from Location A to the U.S. and vice versa is a bit more expensive than getting to Location B. But, the process of travel to and from both locations is straightforward.
  • Both places offer good healthcare, although Location A is better overall. Location B offers better dental care.
  • The cost of living in both locations is very affordable. Some things cost more in one place, other things cost less. For example, rent is approximately 17% less in Location A, but utilities and other costs are much higher than Location B. Taxes in both areas are low to non-existent.

Each area of course has positives that the other doesn’t have, including the weather, more and better travel and cultural opportunities, and so forth.

Over and over we keep asking ourselves, What are we really looking for? We know no place is going to be perfect, but it feel like there is one factor we haven’t thought of that would make either Location A or Location B the better choice for the long term. For now though, we are extremely grateful to have two good, solid choices in front of us and the time to make the right and best decision for our future.

Another Travel Challenge

I used my days off a couple of weeks ago to make hotel reservations for our trip up and back to Vermont and Maine in July. What is usually a fun task for me – comparing prices, and finding the best hotel deals – turned into two days of nearly utter frustration at times.

A drive up to Vermont from Nashville requires two nights on the road, but a couple of months ago YaYu called and asked if we would please come through Philadelphia and pick her up because she couldn’t afford to get to Vermont otherwise (she’s a research assistant and her pay is meager). We said of course although it added an additional day to the trip, so Brett recalculated our route and we adjusted our budget. Brett’s sister and her husband are going to the wedding as well, driving over to Nashville from Texas where we’ll join up and caravan up to Vermont together. They also have a dog that will be coming along, and they were fine with the Philly detour.

So with my trusty computer and my calculator by my side, I set out to find places for us to stay along the way. We and our in-laws agreed on a maximum price point for each night for lodging that was affordably pet friendly and offered a free breakfast.

How difficult could this be? I thought.

I quickly discovered it was going to be very difficult. Most hotels where we wanted to stop met either one or two of our criteria, but hitting the trifecta (price point, pet friendly, free breakfast) proved to be impossible. What happened over and over was I would (finally) find a pet-friendly hotel that offered a free breakfast, but when the date for our stay (mid July) was entered the price went skyrocketing. Most hotels though had only two of the three things we wanted.

I eventually found a good (name brand) hotel in Roanoke, Virginia, our first night’s stop, where the price dropped when I put in our date. The hotel is both pet friendly and offers a free breakfast, and the nightly price is low enough that even with the additional pet fee we will be within our budget. The in-laws were happy with the hotel and we reserved our rooms.

I foolishly thought our next evening’s stop, Philadelphia, might also provide some similar prices and options for a night. However, after a couple of hours of checking prices I was almost ready to give up the entire trip. There was nothing that fit our needs nor our budget, at least nothing anywhere near where YaYu lives. After nearly pulling out my hair in frustration, I thought to myself that it really was too bad YaYu couldn’t fly to Boston and ride up to Vermont with her sisters. This option had been problematic as Meiling and K don’t drive and would be riding up with WenYu and her partner; there wouldn’t be room for YaYu. I went ahead and looked at flights anyway and found a non-stop one for one-third less than our hotel budget! I communicated with the girls and this time they agreed to drive her up to Vermont after all. A short while later I had YaYu booked on the flight.

Brett figured a new post-Roanoke route with Scranton now our destination for the second night. Once again, hotels that fit our needs either did not exist nor if they did, were completely unaffordable. I was about to give up and admit we were going to have to spend above our budget when I got the idea to check Airbnb. Within minutes I had found a lovely house just north of Scranton that accepted dogs. The cost for our half of the rental (taxes and fees included) would be $10 less than our nightly budget! I communicated with my sister-in-law who quickly let me know they would happily split the cost for the Airbnb. The reservation was made and with that our trip up to Vermont was set.

All’s well that ends well! When I added everything up, including the cost of the plane ticket, we are are spending $82 less than we had budgeted for the trip up to Vermont. And, without the detour into Philadelphia, we will be saving on gasoline expenses as well.

While it was worth it in the end, searching was a beyond frustrating experience this time. I did not have fun doing it like I usually do (and was extremely grateful we already have hotel reservations in Maine). It felt the whole time that I had lost my travel mojo. I’m thinking now though that what I encountered over and over is just a sign of the times and what comes along with traveling with a pet, a new experience for us. I’m relieved to be finished with this part of the trip and am happily surprised things turned out as well as they did.

However . . . I still have to make reservations for the trip back. Wish me luck!

Future Plans & Some Goals

Brett and I have made a decision about where we are going to go after we leave Tennessee, but he has asked me not to write our decision until a year or so out from our departure, and I’ve agreed to his request. In his opinion, there’s still too much we need to accomplish before we start announcing where we’re going. But, there are things I can bring up now, about our goals and plans for the future, and some of the things we have already been working on.

The biggest and most important factor we have to consider when it comes to where to live post-Tennessee was that it has to be a location where I can continue to afford to to stay if Brett predeceases me. The majority of our retirement income comes from his military retirement, and while I would be able to keep the benefits (healthcare, travel, commissary and exchange privileges, etc.) if he dies before me the military income will cease. I would continue to receive the pension he earned post military, and his larger social security benefit (but give up my social security). The total loss of income would mean I would receive a considerably smaller amount than we currently do. There are places we could afford now, like Honolulu, but if something happened to Brett I could not afford to remain there.

There are several locations in the U.S. where I could live on the smaller income . . . but I don’t want to live in those places, and none of them are close to where our children live. The kids have all said they would help to support me no matter where I lived, but I don’t want to have to depend on them if something happens to Brett nor put that burden on them.

That leaves remaining affordable options for us that we would consider outside of the U.S. We have long dreamed of living overseas, and see this next move as our last chance to make those dreams come true.

So, refining an earlier list, we we came up with a dozen criteria to use for evaluating different locations, including both needs and wants. We realized affordability could not be the only guide, and we set out to find a location that would be both affordable and somewhere we truly would love to live. We came up with this list:

  • somewhere we’ve been before and could see ourselves living
  • cost of living that I could afford if Brett predeceases me
  • ease in acquiring long-term resident visas
  • proximity to our children
  • good healthcare and dental care
  • a climate we could live in
  • good public transportation/no car required
  • low taxes
  • the ease of learning the language
  • safety
  • proximity to U.S. military facilities
  • travel opportunities in, from, and around the area

Although we thought we had settled on Mazatlán, we felt we should expand our horizons and ended up evaluating other places in Mexico as well as locations in Europe and Asia in order to make the best decision for us. We also decided we should have a back-up location, just in case our first choice might become unviable for some reason.

Both of us are satisfied and happy with our overall decision and are now working on making it a reality.

In order to make a future move as easy as possible, we also developed a short list of goals we want to accomplish before leaving Tennessee:

  • Save a base amount of $30K+ to cover relocation costs. This is the amount we believe will be necessary to cover visa costs, transportation, rental fees, furniture and other household goods that may be needed to set up housekeeping, as well as other incidental costs that will arise from a move to another country. We also want to have a nice cushion in place for things we can’t think of or don’t know about now. A portion of this will come from the sale of our car.
  • Learn as much of the language as we can before we go. We don’t expect to be fluent or really even conversational, but we want to have a solid foundation of basics to start out. We will continue taking language classes after we arrive.
  • Stay active, and keep ourselves in good shape and good health.
  • Think very carefully about what to take along with us, what to store, and what to get rid of. We have to get this move right because there will be no do-overs. We plan to give some our furniture to one of our daughters, and leave some other pieces and household goods in storage in Tennessee because we don’t want to start from scratch again if we eventually have to return to the U.S.

So . . . that’s where we are now, and what we’re working on. Our budget is currently set up to get us where we want to be without having to feel deprived or resentful while we’re in Tennessee. It is still going to require vigilance, determination, and some sacrifice to reach our goals, but as in the past we know we can do this if we set our mind to it, to make our future dreams and plans a reality.

Seventy-One Is the New Fifty (sort of)

(photo credit: unsplash/Diliara Garrifullina)

This weekend I will celebrate my 71st birthday. Seventy-one! I know I’m not the first person to do this and certainly won’t be the last, but for some reason the seventies do not seem as momentous as I they might be. Maybe the eighties are going to be the Big Ones?

I accept that I am old, but other than at the end of a shift at Trader Joe’s I honestly don’t think about it all that much. All things considered, I’m still in pretty darn good shape physically. Yes, I have wrinkles, mostly the result of spending my youth in a very sunny location and not using sunscreen (I don’t even know if such a thing existed). Parts of me occasionally wear out or are starting to, but backup systems work and kick in when needed. I can still do physical labor, and although I’m very sore at the end of a workday it’s taking less time for my body to rebound. I continue to enjoy walking and get out as much as possible. I eat well and am at a good weight for my age, not skinny but not overweight either.

I’m grateful to remain on top of things mentally. There are of course those senior moments when I walk into a room and forget what I wanted to do there but for the most part I get everything done every day that needs to get done. Our house is clean and the laundry gets done, the budget is followed, our grandchildren get to where they need to be or picked up on time, meals are fixed, books are read, blog posts are written, and so forth. I enjoy learning new things and still retain a sense of wonder. I am grateful to no longer have to cook, do laundry, or pick up for five, or have to drive all over the place (that’s Brett’s job now), but I do love staying active both physically and mentally.

I’m not so old either that I can’t and don’t dream about the future, or make plans for it. I still get excited even though dreams these days are somewhat conditioned by future financial possibilities. I’ve accomplished all I’ve wanted to do in life (actually more), but dreaming for the future, setting goals, and making plans remain as much fun as they’ve always been. I look forward to what each day brings, especially as we work toward our next Big Adventure.

Life has been a roller coaster ride. My youth was that big, slow climb to the top, filled with both excitement and trepidation about what the future would bring. And then came the twists, turns, and unknowns of adulthood (and boy have I had a lot of those, most of them fun but some very scary ones as well). More love than I thought possible has accompanied me along the way though. I’m now entering the final phase of my ride. I believe there are still some loops, drops, twists, and turns to come before I slide into the end, but I accept that I am closer to the finish than the beginning. I want to make the most of the time I have remaining.

So, to my 71st birthday I say, bring it on! I still have a lot of living and loving to do.

Eating Well On $450 a month

I think we’ve been eating pretty well so far this year, spending a little less than $450 each month. With careful planning and using items and ingredients we already have on hand, we’ve been able to enjoy some very tasty and satisfying dinners.

Does it make a difference that I get a discount at Trader Joe’s? Definitely! Not only does the discount provide savings, but also a larger variety of meals to enjoy these days. I’d still buy a few of these items if I didn’t have the discount, but otherwise would substitute other low cost meals. For example, instead of the Caprese salad we had this past month I might have instead made spaghetti with marinara.

Below are most of the dinners we enjoyed at home in April. Ingredients for some of them were things we already had on hand, like the puff pastry for the chicken pot pie or the Polish sausages, sauerkraut, and hot dog rolls. There are less than 30 meals pictured though because we ate out on the first evening of the month for our anniversary, our DIL took us out to dinner on Brett’s birthday, and she brought over the Japanese hiyashi beef stew one evening (a delicious surprise). Other missing days are when we ate leftovers, and a couple of days when I was too tired to take a photo (we had mini pepperoni pizzas and roasted red pepper soup with toasted cheese sandwiches on those nights).

Lunches are always leftovers, and breakfasts are cereal (for me) or oatmeal (for Brett), English muffins with peanut butter and/or jam, or occasionally pancakes.

(Apologies in advance for the poor quality of the photos.)

Clockwise from the top left: Italian wedding soup & beer bread; chicken Waldorf salad with grapes & beer bread; deconstructed Frito pie; chili-pork burritos; chicken pot pie

Clockwise from top left: katsudon; Polish sausage with sauerkraut, three-bean salad; fried rice; Caprese salad, salami, Dutch oven bread; Cuban sandwiches on Dutch oven bread, sweet potato fries

Clockwise from top left: Mississippi pot roast, mashed potatoes, green beans; lemon-ricotta pasta with peas and Dutch oven bread; Cuban bowl, gorgonzola gnocchi and sautéed green beans; French dip sandwich and coleslaw

Clockwise from top left: Korean-style short ribs, bulgogi fried rice, and green beans; loco moco, apples, and carrots; “Chinese takeout” (*beef & broccoli, honey walnut shrimp, and mandarin orange chicken); hiyashi beef stew with rice (from our DIL); cacio e pepe, sautéed zucchini, and garlic toast; tuna melts and apple slices; spanakopita pie and pita bread

Our menu and spending work for us right now because there’s just the two of us. However, if we were still feeding the girls, I think another $200 – $250 per month would be enough to still provide variety and eat well. There would definitely be a few changes in the menu however.

* both the beef & broccoli and honey walnut shrimp were just OK; I will probably not buy them again.

Lemon-Ricotta Pasta with Peas

The moment this recipe came through my Instagram feed I knew I had to make it: only five ingredients were required, the preparation was super simple, and the combination of cheeses and lemon sounded absolutely delicious, especially for a spring meal.

I can honestly say the finished dish did not disappoint, and in fact was better than either of us expected! From start to finish it was a breeze to prepare, and the sauce was creamy and bright with lemon flavor, perfect on a warm spring evening. We enjoyed our pasta with slices of Dutch oven bread.

The think this dish is a win-win-win. With only a few ingredients and about 25 minutes or less needed to bring this delicious dish to the table, it’s super easy to put together. All the ingredients are fairly inexpensive and readily found at any supermarket, often on sale, making this recipe a frugal one as well.



  • 1 12-oz package of pasta
  • 10 ounces peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese (low or full fat)
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lemon
  • Fresh basil (optional)

In a large pan, boil water and cook the pasta according to package directions. About five minutes before the pasta is finished, add the peas to the boiling water.

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta and Parmesan cheese. Add grated peel from the entire lemon, and then the juice from the lemon into the cheese mixture; blend well.

Before draining the pasta, remove 1/2 cup of the cooking water and add to the cheese and lemon mixture and blend until smooth and creamy. Drain the pasta and peas, then return to the cooking pan. Fold in the cheese sauce until all the pasta is coated. Top with torn fresh basil, if desired, and serve.

Local Tourism: Shiloh National Military Park

Union soldiers set up camp in the fields and woods above Pittsburg Landing, surrounding the Shiloh church. The Confederates attacked the Union camps at 4:35 in the morning of April 6, just as soldiers were waking up and eating breakfast.

One of the things I am always curious about when visiting battlefields is “why did a battle occur here, in this location?” In the case of Shiloh, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston had concentrated troops in Corinth, Mississippi, a strategic Confederate railroad hub located 22 miles south of Shiloh, and Union General Ulysses S. Grant had steamed up the Tennessee River to Pittsburg Landing to wait for General Buell before commencing an attack on Corinth.

Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. This was as far upriver as a boat could go. General Grant kept his headquarters in a riverboat tied up here.

The Confederate army hoped to defeat General Grant’s Army of the Tennessee before it could be reinforced, resupplied, and advance toward Corinth. The Confederates attacked Union forces by surprise early in the morning of April 6, 1862, and made considerable gains on the first day of battle. However, General Johnston was killed later that day, and by nightfall Grant’s army had not been eliminated. During the night, Grant was reinforced by a division stationed farther north and also joined by General Don Carlos Buell and some of the Army of the Ohio he commanded. The Union forces counterattacked the morning of April 7 and reversed the Confederate gains of the previous day. Exhausted, Confederate troops withdrew south and although the Union began a modest pursuit, that ended the next day (April 8) leading to an eventual battle and siege at Corinth.

The original old Shiloh church still stands.

Occurring early in the Civil War, the Battle of Shiloh in southwest Tennessee was a harbinger of how bloody and long the Civil War would be, perhaps the battle’s most important legacy. Taking place over the period of just two days, between the Union and Confederate armies casualties totaled 23,746, an unheard of number up to that point in time. Named for a small Methodist church located in the battlefield, Shiloh ironically means “place of peace.”

Monuments to both the Union and Confederate forces cover the battlefield. There are (replica) cannon everywhere as well. The large monument on the center right above is the main Confederate memorial.

Monuments to the soldiers who fought and died at Shiloh appeared almost as soon as we entered the park, as well as plaques with information about what happened during the battle. The plaques were color coded: blue for Grant’s forces (Army of the Tennessee), red for the Confederates (Army of the Mississippi), and yellow for Buell (The Army of the Ohio). Large rectangular plaques gave historical information, small rectangular plaques told of troop positions on the first day, and small oval or round plaques gave troop positions on the second day. The memorial monuments ran the gamut from small and simple to huge and ornate, and were everywhere, even placed deep in the woods. I don’t think you could go five feet without seeing one, and most were to honor Union soldiers, although there were a few to commemorate different Confederate divisions.

Iowa monument at The Hornet’s Nest, where the fighting was at its fiercest for a while on the first day. The woods were much denser back then; these days prescribed burns are done to thin and protect the woods from forest fires and other natural disasters.
The Sunken Road: located next to the Hornet’s Nest, this road was a key defensive position for Union forces
The Peach Orchard: Larkin and Sarah Bell’s farm was located right at the center of the battle, and their peach orchard marks the furthest Confederates were able to drive the Union soldiers back on the first day. General Johnston was killed near the orchard that day.
The Bloody Pond: Both Union and Confederate soldiers came to this calm place to drink and bathe their wounds during the battle, staining the water red from their blood.

At the Visitors Center we picked up the map for a self-driving tour of the battlefield, which consists of both fields and forest. The route was easy to follow, and took us around two hours to complete as we stopped at many of the spots for closer looks. There was far more information though than we had time to read and absorb. We were lucky to visit on an absolutely beautiful, warm spring day when there were no crowds, and at times we felt like we had the entire battlefield to ourselves.

Tall stones mark the known dead and square, short stones denote unknown soldiers.

Close to the Visitor’s Center is the Shiloh U.S. National Cemetery, a beautiful location that overlooks Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River. To be buried in the cemetery, one had to have either died at Shiloh or fought there or in other battles along the Tennessee River. The cemetery holds 3,584 Civil War dead, 2,359 of them unknown. Confederate dead were buried in trenches around the battlefield. There are thought to be twelve of these, but the location of only five are known and marked.

One of the five known Confederate burial trenches.

Battlefields, while interesting, are always places for deep thoughts about what occurred there and why, and for the lives given. Brett and I were grateful for the opportunity to return to Shiloh (we visited twice in the late 1970s, when we were stationed at the Memphis Naval Air Station), to once again experience this historic place.

Goodbye April, Hello May!

(photo credit: The Girl Who Loved To Write)

We made good progress with our goals in April:

  • Keep grocery spending under $450. We spent over $450 on food this month – our total was $471.76. Food costs for Brett and myself were $443.92; the additional $27.84 was the cost of snack items for the grandkids (although we will be reimbursed).
  • Aim for zero food waste. We nearly had a zero-waste month – just a half cup of cooked chicken was tossed. I had bought the chicken at Trader Joes, and used most of it in a Waldorf salad and a chicken pot pie, saving a little to use in some fried rice. However, it had started to turn by the time I got around to making the rice and I threw it out (better to be safe than sorry). Otherwise, we used up everything!
  • Have one full no-spend week. We spent nothing April 17 through April 23 .
  • Have four no-drive days. We had only three no-drive days this month because of my work schedule and a trip to Shiloh National Military Park.
  • Walk 40 miles. Between work and walks at our apartment complex, I walked 50+ miles in April.
We had a great visit to the Shiloh battlefield. There were more cannon, memorials, and markers describing the battle than imaginable, but the history of events was laid out well and easy to follow and understand.
  • Visit one natural or historical site in the area. We had a very satisfying visit to the Shiloh National Military Park mid-month, with great weather, no crowds at the park, and an easy drive both ways.
  • Read four books. I read five books this month. One of them, The Far Pavilions, was v-e-r-y long, 1,000 pages, and in order to finish it before it had to go back to the library I read 5% every night. It was a wonderful book to read again though. This was my third time reading The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. It remains one of my top three favorite books ever.
  • Study ***** every day for 10 minutes. I did my Duolingo lessons twice every day. They can be frustrating at times, but I am making progress, albeit slowly. I gave Brett a pronunciation workbook and phrasebook that I hope he’ll let me borrow once in a while.

We celebrated Brett’s 73rd birthday this month although I sadly had to work that day. Our daughter-in-law took us out to dinner in the evening though and gave Brett a bartending set as well as a box of 20 different cocktail mixers! Meiling sent him a box of fancy cookies, WenYu sent a generous Starbucks gift card, and I gave him his two language books (so exciting).

Brett’s cookies came from the Levain Bakery in NYC!

Our son arrives tomorrow for a week’s visit, which means we have the first week of the month off from watching the grandkids as our son will do all the drop-offs, pickups, etc. We will offer to watch the kids one evening though so M & M can go out before he heads back to Japan.

We put an incredible $55.84 into the change/$1 bill jar in April, in spite of of spending slightly more than usual on food.

Our goals for May are pretty much the same as last month:

Our goal is to visit Chattanooga in May, including the Chickamauga and Chattanooga battlefields.
  • Keep grocery spending under $450. 
  • Aim for zero food waste. 
  • Have one full no-spend week. 
  • Have four no-drive days. 
  • Try one new recipe. 
  • Walk 40 miles.
  • Visit one natural or historical site in the area. 
  • Read four books.
  • Study ***** every day for 10 minutes. 

Upcoming events in May include Mother’s Day and my 71st birthday. Brett has promised me my annual Day of Doing Nothing, and I’m hoping I won’t have to work on either of those occasions.

April Odds and Ends

Tulips and other flowers are in bloom throughout our apartment complex.

A few April things too small for their own posts:

  • Brett is studying the same language as I am so for his birthday this past month I bought him a phrase book and pronunciation guide to help him pull things together – I hope he will let me borrow them! Both of us are making progress, albeit slow. One thing we are running into with Duolingo is the almost complete lack of any sort of explanation on grammar points. As a language instructor, it’s been very frustrating as I like a simple explanation of what I’m doing and why. The very few times I’ve gotten an explanation it’s made a load of difference.
  • Although I leave each working day feeling exhausted right down to the bone, I am loving my job at Trader Joe’s. I’m enjoying it so much in fact that I asked for an additional day of work each week beginning in May, and think I’ll be able to handle it. I’m getting so much exercise there, and I’m also recovering from each workday more quickly as well; I typically feel back to normal the next morning versus the two to three days it took when I started out. My request for time off to go to Meiling’s and K’s wedding and visit Maine in July has already been approved – I put in my request and it was instantly approved!
Beautiful, warm days like this are appearing more and more frequently.
  • Things are finally warming up around here. Trees are all leafed or budding out, and there is so much green everywhere – I love it! We’ve had a few days where wearing shorts was appropriate, and I’ve pretty much ditched wearing a sweatshirt at work. On the downside, allergies have been kicking me all month, there have also been a few (very) stormy days and nights, and we’ve had a few days of rain. Overall though it’s been lovely.
  • We binged the first season of The White Lotus, courtesy of Meiling’s one-week trial of HBO. We enjoyed it and could see why it won so many awards. We hope to eventually get to see further seasons. We also watched The Makanai on Netflix in April, a very sweet coming-of-age show about two young girls wanting to become maiko (apprentice geisha) in modern Kyoto. I can’t recommend this show enough.
Kindergarten girls waiting to be called for the opening ceremony.
  • I was invited by our DIL to attend the opening ceremony of K’s weekly Saturday Japanese lessons. This was a formal ceremony and something I’d never experienced before. There were several speeches, introductions, singing, standing for the national anthem of Japan, and so forth. Everyone, including the new students and their parents, was formally dressed, mostly in black or black and white (to indicate the seriousness of the ceremony – according to M, most of the clothing was brought or sent from Japan), but M dressed K in a colorful spring outfit – she stood out like a bright flower. After the ceremony we stopped at a Mexican seafood restaurant we had noticed and had lunch while being serenaded by mariachi. We both wished the restaurant was located closer to where we live as all the food we ate or saw there was amazing.

As you can see, overall April was a pretty quiet month, not really boring but not all that exciting either. I hope the trend continues in May!