Feel Good Friday


All of us here at Casa Aloha are feeling very good this Friday: WenYu was selected as a national Questbridge Scholarship Finalist! We were feeling very anxious about the results, and by Wednesday morning I had convinced myself that she was not going to be selected. When I opened her text at noon and saw the good news I burst into tears!

Questbridge connects high-achieving, low-income students with top colleges and universities all over the country, including all the Ivies and schools such as Stanford, University of Chicago, MIT, Vanderbilt University, Vassar and others. Thirty-six colleges in all partner with Questbridge.

The scholarship program has two parts, beginning with the finalist round. Students complete a rigorous application, write two essays, and submit transcripts, test scores and parent financial information to Questbridge. Students can also choose to “rank” up to 12 partner colleges that they would like to attend (WenYu ranked seven: Scripps, Wellesley, Oberlin, Davidson, Colorado College, Pomona, and Vanderbilt). Questbridge reviews all the applications, and finalists are selected. Finalists’ applications are then sent to all their ranked colleges where they will be reviewed for a possible match scholarship awarded by the college (Questbridge itself does not actually award any scholarships; they provide a matching service that identifies qualified low-income students and connects them with participating schools). A Questbridge match scholarship from one of the partner schools covers all tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, and travel expenses for four years, with no student loans and no parental contributions. Some universities award as many as 40 Questbridge scholarships each year; smaller colleges award around 10 or less.

Although not the golden ticket itself, being selected as a finalist is still a major honor, and provides a huge boost for admission to one of the partner colleges even if the student is not matched with any of their ranked schools. Last year (2014) 11,654 students applied to Questbridge, with 4,180 chosen as finalists (36%). From those, 501 match scholarships were awarded by partner colleges, and an additional 1,499 finalists were accepted by partner schools through regular admission, many with a full need-based scholarship.

Questbridge finalists do not have to pay application fees to partner colleges (which is saving us nearly $420!). Only one of WenYu’s college choices requires a further writing submission, but official transcripts, tax returns and test scores have to be sent to each college by November 1. Match scholarship winners for all schools will be announced on December 1. If WenYu doesn’t receive a match, her application will be automatically moved over to the regular decision round at each of her ranked schools, and she can apply to other colleges as well.

We bought mint chocolate chip ice cream, hot fudge sauce and whipped cream on Tuesday, and were prepared to either celebrate WenYu’s success or drown our sorrows in ice cream depending on Wednesday’s results. So, so thrilled though that we got to celebrate! We are still doing the happy dance here at Casa Aloha and are extremely proud of our girl and all her hard work.

We are all definitely feeling good this Friday! I hope everyone else had a very good week too!


Feel Good Friday


Yesterday’s spa day at the Waipouli Beach Resort with good friend J turned a good week into a great one.

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Besides our spa treatments (facial for J, mani-pedi for me), J also arranged complementary day passes for the pool area, so we also soaked in the hot tubs, swam, ate lunch by the beach, talked our heads off, and r-e-l-a-x-e-d for the whole day.

It was sublime.

  • And, we also put $14.97 in the change/$1 bill jar this week.

What are you feeling good about today? How was your week?

Feel Good Friday

The view from the top of Sleeping Giant (Nounou), looking east over Kapaa (photo by YaYu).

It has been a very difficult week. Not only did I not feel particularly well for a couple of days, but we also received some unfortunate information that we have had to digest.

I gave myself a couple of days to feel down, but I prefer to look forward and think about the positive things that are going on. So, here are some of the good things that happened this past week:

  • The weather has been cooler and nicer. The trade winds are back and we haven’t had to turn on the ceiling fan in our bedroom for over a week now, or any fans other than the ceiling fan in the living room, and even that’s been too cool a couple of times.
  • It’s been great fun having the girls home this week.
  • I got a hair cut. I tried out a new stylist last time and am very happy with her. She does a terrific job with my short cut, and she’s local, born and raised on Kaua’i, so I enjoy “talking story” with her. She gives me so many good tips about places to try, as well as insight into what life is like for many locals here.
  • We put $39.12 in the change/$1 bill jar this week. Brett brought back a LOT of $1 bills and change from his trip.
  • The ant infestation is decreasing. We got some good information from locals about what to use (Terro) and it is working! We would have preferred to use a more natural product, but locals say this will kill them down in the nest and stop them completely. (The other night I found them swarming over my cup of black coffee. Black coffee!! I knew then it was time to bring out the big guns.)
  • We spent less than $100 on our mid-month Costco visit, a nearly impossible accomplishment.
  • We got through another week without having to throw away any food.
  • I got our Christmas shopping started, all at no cost to us thanks to Swagbucks!

Good news or bad, I hope for all of you that your week has leaned toward the positive, and that good things happened for you.


Feel Good Friday

Blue skies over Kauai . . . finally!
Blue skies over Kauai . . . finally!

It does not appear that our offer on the Lesser Prince was accepted. Although the seller has until noon HST today to let us know, it’s been nearly 72 hours now without a peep from them. The condo is still listed as active though, so who knows?

Still, I have much to feel good about this Friday:

  • Brett comes home tomorrow afternoon. Cannot wait to see him again!
  • He sent us a lovely big box filled with goodies from the Asian supermarket in Portland and Trader Joe’s.
  • I have survived getting up early every morning this week. Tomorrow will be a super-early wake up for another cross country meet, but then Brett will be back on wake-up duty.
  • Except . . . the girls have all of next week off for Fall Break. Everybody sleeps in!
  • Lots of rain this week, but it’s been delightfully cool, almost like it was fall here or something (by delightfully cool I mean it’s been in the low 80s). Yesterday’s weather was perfect: blue skies, trade winds blowing all day, and just the right amount of warmth.
  • WenYu got her massive scholarship application turned in last Sunday. Her essays make me so proud and inspired every time I read them (and I read them every day). Also, by applying for this scholarship, application fees will be waived at most of the colleges where she is applying, a substantial savings.
  • I am caught up on all my cleaning chores and letter writing.
  • I did not throw away any food this week. It was a challenge trying to use/eat up everything with just three of us here, but the girls and I did it.
  • I put $7.50 into the change/$1 bill jar. Our total change/$1 saved in September was $31.42.
  • American Horror Story Season 4 is finally available on Netflix. WenYu and I will be binge watching next week.

Hope you all have had a terrific week, and have lots to feel good about this Friday!

Feel Good Friday

College life begins . . .

It’s been lonely with Brett gone, and I am not enjoying having to wake up so early in the morning to get WenYu and YaYu off to school, but there still have been good things to celebrate this week:

  • I got the big Costco shop-athon done all by myself, and more importantly got it all up the stairs and put away (it was a chore though).
  • I spent nearly $200 less than expected at Costco and still got a lot of good food.
  • Brett and his sister got Meiling moved into her dorm yesterday and then headed out on their Big Adventure.
  • Meiling is happy to be at college and is looking forward to her classes starting.
  • Both WenYu and YaYu ran their best times ever at yesterday’s cross country meet!
  • We put $9.07 into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • On Wednesday it was (unexpectedly) cool enough to bake so I made a cobbler with some peaches I bought at Costco – yum!
  • A happy surprise – we learned that the condominiums where The Prince is located are actually VA approved after all. Besides The Prince, another condo there, recently renovated, is supposed to be listed this weekend.

How is your Friday going? What good things happened for you this week?

Feel Good Friday

Run, WenYu, run!

Even though we’re just getting started, and the mortgage application process is already driving me nuts, I’m still feeling very good this Friday because:

  • Our offer for the house was accepted (we were frankly surprised).
  • We learned our gross income for loan qualification is actually a bit more than we thought (so much better than less, right?).
  • The Feds did not raise their rate (which means current mortgage interest rates should hold fairly steady).
  • We put $3.78 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Other than going to the farmers’ market, and buying a small bag of coffee, it was a no-spend week.
  • Dragonfruit (one of my new favorites) were still available at the farmers’ market, although I think this was the last week.
  • WenYu was elected as one of the captains for the cross-country team!!
  • I have over 32,000 followers on Pinterest.

How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Feel Good Friday

I will miss the view from our bedroom window when we move.

It’s Friday!

Good things happened again this week at Casa Aloha:

  • It finally rained yesterday, enough to actually cool things down.
  • We put $10.83 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • We bought a new but unknown fruit at the farmers’ market. We don’t know what it’s called (neither did the vendor, but she’s never steered us wrong), but whatever it is, it’s delicious. Dragonfruit and mangoes were cheap and plentiful again this week.
  • Our son and family let us know they are coming for a nearly two-week visit at Christmas. Plane tickets have been purchased, and hotel reservations have been made. I’m already so excited I could burst!
  • Meiling made it safely down to Los Angeles, and is already having a great time with her aunt and uncle there.

How is your Friday going? What good things happened for you?

  • Oh, one more thing . . . we looked at a house yesterday, and are submitting an offer today! Fingers crossed!

Feel Good Friday


Dragonfruit! Aren’t they beautiful?

Another hot, humid but good week at Casa Aloha:

  • We met our real estate agent and really liked her. We will begin looking at condos tomorrow!
  • Another unit is coming up for sale in the same complex as The Prince and The Pauper. It’s not officially listed yet, but our agent has arranged for us to tour it tomorrow since we’ll already be there to tour the other two.
  • Those hurricanes that were threatening last week changed direction and missed the islands – yeah! We did get some heavy-ish rain, and the surf was quite high on the east side, but better than a direct hit by a hurricane!
  • The landlord did extensive yard work and tree trimming this week in preparation for listing the house and everything looks so nice. I know it’s temporary, but I’m going to enjoy it as long as I can.

    Ready to peel and enjoy.
    Ready to peel and enjoy.
  • We bought two beautiful pink dragonfruit this week at the farmers’ market. We’d never had one before and wanted to give it a try – they are delicious! Dragonfruit is wonderfully juicy and lightly sweet. It’s also easier to peel than an orange, although you wouldn’t guess that from looking at it.
  • The vendor of the organic stand at the farmers’ market, who I hadn’t seen in several weeks, greeted me by name this week. I felt like a local, at least for a moment.
  • We put $7.74 into the change/$1 bill jar this week. Our change/$1 bill savings for August totaled $19.82.
  • Our weekend cocktails tonight will be mai tais, made with locally-produced rum!

How has your week been? What good things happened for you?

Feel Good Friday


In spite of the humidity, in spite of the news that our house is going to be sold, and in spite of feeling sort of generally blah right now, there still were things that went right this week:

  • I learned that my Social Security payments will be just $13 less than I was estimating. I was pleasantly surprised that I got it so close.
  • We arranged a meeting with a real estate agent next Monday.
  • We found out we can afford more condo than we thought, even with added HOA fees (doesn’t mean we’ll spend that much though).
  • $7.09 went into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • We got our monthly Costco shopping done, and were $150 under budget.
  • Brett was given a lovely set of tools by the Division of Forestry & Wildlife to use for trail maintenance.
  • We saved $30 by not going to the farmers’ market this week (it was raining, and we still have plenty of fruit and vegetables on hand).
  • We got almost a gallon of coconut water from the coconuts harvested from our trees.

How is your Friday going? What good things happened for you this week?


Feel Good Friday

Kealia Beach this past Wednesday: So many beautiful shades of blue!

Lots to feel good about this Friday:

  • #1 was getting the news that the bump on my nose was not cancer.
  • The girls have today off from school, and no meetings or other obligations this weekend.
  • I had a wonderful time at the beach on Wednesday. The weather was perfect, and I loved getting to spend time with my friend Joy.
  • I got a great haircut yesterday. My last stylist went totally flaky on me week before last and I walked out. It was scary to try out a new salon and new stylist, but she did a terrific job with my short, curly hair.
  • We put $4.75 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • We had no food waste this week.
  • Brett got in three good hikes in spite of some icky weather on a couple of days.
  • Meiling got her dorm room and roommate (who is from Portland) assignment. She’s happy and so are we!

How was your week? What went right for you this week?