Sunday Afternoon 1/14/2018

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

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

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

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

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

This afternoon I am:

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

    Matcha-chocolate chip cupcakes getting frosted with matcha buttercream. So tasty!

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

    Two necklaces ready for travel: my Hong Kong stone necklace was (finally) restrung, and the bead shop also made the turquoise necklace with my leftover silver earring from our Grand Canyon trip.

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

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

Sunday Afternoon 1/7/2018

What’s left of a winter fruit still life after the girls got into it: a breadfruit, a papaya, a few longan (they’re similar to lychee) and some rambutan.

OK, I had to write the date twice because I initially typed in 2017 and it took me a couple of glances (“something doesn’t look right”) to catch it.

It’s been a somewhat crazy, busy week here. We got Meiling off OK last Sunday evening, although we weren’t sure for a while if that was going to happen or not. Earlier in the day she was feeling a little unsure about how close together her arrival in Honolulu from here was to her flight leaving for the mainland because that flight would already have started boarding when her flight from Lihue landed. So, we paid a $50 change fee and got her on the next earlier flight departing Kaua’i. However, when we arrived at the airport an hour before her flight the line from security came out of the building and snaked all the way down the sidewalk past the end of the terminal! In all the years we’ve lived here, all the flights we’ve taken or met, we’d never seen anything like it – it looked like every visitor to the island was leaving that evening! Meiling ended up stuck in the security line and missed her flight, but Hawaiian put her on the next flight (the one she was originally supposed to take). The flight attendants put her at the front of the plane and let her off first so she could catch her next flight, which she thankfully did. Meiling is appealing for a refund of the change fee since she ended up on her originally scheduled flight, but we’re thinking it’s most likely $50 down the tubes.

We had lunch at Duane’s Ono Charburger on Tuesday. Brett and I shared a “Local Boy,” a teriyaki-cheeseburger combo. It was divine.

We’ve also been busy this past week entertaining WenYu’s long-time friend. She’s an easy and helpful guest, but we’ve been taking her and WenYu around the island while at the same time trying to fit in errands, appointments, YaYu’s swim meet yesterday, etc. The holidays have been wonderful, but both Brett and I are ready for things to return to a somewhat normal pace again.

YaYu sets off on her 500m freestyle race (20 laps). It’s the only one where she doesn’t care about her time; she just wants to get it done.

YaYu heads back to school tomorrow for her final term of high school. I seriously can almost not believe this will be the end, but we know the term is going to be a busy one and hopefully it will pass quickly. YaYu got another slew of college applications off on Monday (January 1 deadline), and now has just three more to go (due January 15) before the Big Wait officially begins. She’s been quite sick with a cold this past week on top of everything else, but after two days home from swim practice she was back at it and seems to be doing OK.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m about a third of the way through We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy and finding it not only a good read, but extremely thought provoking.
  • Listening to: It’s cool and a bit overcast today, and for the most part it’s been very quiet (yeah!). The girls have all been sleeping in, but that’s about to change shortly, and I’m going to start the laundry as well. I have no idea what the girls have planned for the day, but I’m looking forward to a quiet day here at home (both figuratively and actually).
  • Watching: I haven’t been watching anything at all! I’ve been so caught up in reading that I haven’t bothered to look for something new to watch. I am giving myself a self-imposed break from Swagbucks for the month, so have not been staying up to do that resulting in no late-night TV for me.
  • Cooking/baking: I made blueberry pancakes for breakfast this morning, and served those with breakfast sausage that Brett did out on the grill (I had sausages and a cup of blueberries). I’ve got a balsamic pork roast going in the slow cooker right now (and it smells divine) – we’ll have it with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. I’m baking e a pan of brownies with pecans for Brett and the girls this afternoon. Coming up on the menu this week will be mabo dofu with rice, spicy steak pizzaiola, sloppy joes, grilled teriyaki chicken and zaru soba, and maybe (hopefully?) pizza.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: With Brett’s help I got all the Christmas decorations down and put away, and was able to fit all of the decor we are keeping and will store into one box. I boxed up and mailed off the wooden Advent tree to our grandchildren, and still cannot get over the cost of sending something so light to Japan from here. My new frames arrived on Thursday, and I dropped them off with the prescription at Costco on Friday. They’ll be ready in a week or so and then I will be ready to get my hair cut! I drank at least eight glasses of water every day, walked three miles every day with Brett down on the beach path except for Friday, studied French for 10 minutes every day, and colored in my coloring book every day except last Thursday (when we were out and about most of the day down on the south shore).
  • Looking forward to next week: I am frankly looking forward to a little more peace and quiet and a calmer schedule as our household returns to its normal composition and schedule. I’m hoping Brett and I (and WenYu) can get to the beach at least one day – it’s been too long.

    We enjoyed beautiful weather and scenery on the south shore when we visited. This view is looking west from Spouting Horn in Poipu.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Meiling making her flight and getting back to the mainland on time was a very good thing. We were very worried that she was going to end up stuck overnight in the Honolulu terminal, and would miss a doctor’s appointment she had scheduled in Portland before heading back to Eugene, but it all worked out. We had a terrific time down on the south shore in Koloa and Poipu on Thursday, and did a little shopping as well as have lunch at an affordable burrito place we have been wanting to try – it was delicious! YaYu had a good swim meet yesterday, and got her long race (500m) out of the way. We also tried breadfruit for the first time and liked it, and got to try egg fruit for the first time too.

    While the girls poked around old Koloa Town, Brett and I went to Aloha Roastery: an espresso for Brett and a matcha latte for me. We’ll definitely be visiting here again.

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: In hindsight it was not the most frugal of weeks. We had two lunches out with the girls (burgers at the Ono Charburger, burritos at Da Crack followed by ice cream at Lappert’s) – not expensive places but when you’re paying for five it adds up. Otherwise we ate all our meals at home, and Brett and the girls did a great job of eating the leftovers. I’ve wanted something from Blue Ginger since we’ve lived here but have bided my time, and on Thursday I found a top I loved on the sale rack, saving $14 off the regular price – it will be great to take on the Big Adventure, and a wonderful memory of Kaua’i. December was a very lucrative month with Swagbucks, and I earned 1178 in bonus Swagbucks for the month, giving me enough to redeem for $150 in Southwest Airlines gift cards. We put $12.61 into the change/$1 bill jar: $8.86 from Safeway, $2.30 change back from the post office, $1.25 left over from the farmers’ market, and 20¢ we found on the ground.

    And look what popped up yesterday when I did a quick search . . .

  • Grateful for: I’ve been unable to come up with any particular thing I’m thankful for this week. I live a blessed life, and am truly “lucky I live Hawai’i!” I and my whole family are healthy. We live in a nice house, have reliable utilities and hot and cold fresh water on demand. I have everything I need and a few extras as well. Best of all, I am loved and I have many to love back. I am so very thankful for it all.
  • Bonus question: What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done? I don’t remember if I have written about it before (and apologies in advance if I have), but when I was a recruit in navy boot camp one day we had to put out a fire in a burning building (actually a 10′ x 10′ room with 10′ ceiling and no windows). The fire was “controlled” but still very real and dangerous. Our company was divided into teams of four, and by luck of the draw I ended up as the lead in my team, which meant I had to enter the building first carrying the nozzle of the fire hose (which was VERY HEAVY and difficult to control with the water shooting out of it). Two other fellow recruits were behind me to carry the heavy hose, and the fourth woman on our team walked behind my right shoulder carrying a long, thin nozzle that sprayed water over my head while I worked the main nozzle. Before the exercise began I was terrified, but when our team was called up and told to “put it out,” I went through the door and was all business. I first knocked the fire down from the ceiling and at the top of the walls. Then the command was given to “lower the hose” followed by “sweep!” where I moved the nozzle back and forth sideways on the lower walls and floor until the fire was completely out. Our team was given high marks for our work, but what was most remarkable to me was realizing that once again I was not the flighty lightweight my family thought I was, but someone who could concentrate and not panic when called upon to do something difficult and dangerous. By the way, after the firefighting drills were over our company went to lunch, then marched back to get tear gassed in the afternoon. Good times.

That’s all for this afternoon. How was your first week of the new year? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you?

And, I hope (if you haven’t already) that you’ll follow The Occasional Nomads on Instagram!

 

Sunday Afternoon 12/31/2017

Christmas Day view from the Pineapple Dump jetty.

First, a BIG thanks to all for sticking around while I took some time off to spend with the family. It’s been beyond wonderful having the girls here, and spending time with them and watching them interact with each other, but things change this evening when Meiling heads back to the mainland. WenYu is here until the end of January though, and we will stay at full capacity for a while longer as her best friend since kindergarten is visiting until the 10th,. Plus, even though she doesn’t go back to school until the 8th, YaYu still has swim practices, and the next meet will be coming up on the 6th. There’s never a dull moment around here!

We spotted two nene (Hawaiian goose) with their babies on our Christmas walk! They’re endangered, so it’s always a treat when we get to see them.

We had a fabulous Christmas celebration here at Casa Aloha, and had a lovely, relaxed day together. We slept in on Christmas morning, then enjoyed breakfast while we opened our gifts, took a walk/run (Brett and I walked, the girls ran) out to the Pineapple Dump in the late afternoon, and enjoyed our delicious Christmas dinner in the evening. WenYu gave YaYu a game for the Wii, so the three of them played that for a while in the afternoon while Brett and I read and relaxed. All of my and Brett’s gifts were thoughtful and traveled-related, and took care of several things on our list of provisions for the Big Adventure. Brett got guides for France, Tuscany, and Rome, two sweaters, two polo shirts, a hanging scale (for weighing our luggage), a multi-plug adapter, a set of grooming tools, and a money belt. He also received over $75 in Starbucks gift cards! Meiling gave me a French-English dictionary (yeah!), a French-Italian-German phrase book, and a guide to Buenos Aires, and I also received two (!) pair of silver hoop earrings (both lovely), a scarf, a much-desired set of Kuhn-Rikon paring knives, some lipsticks, and two shirts from J. Jill. All of our gifts for the girls were well-received (with YaYu more excited by the box of spicy noodles than the watch or FitBit!). Our son sent each of us Amazon gift cards, and Brett and I decided to save our card for books to download to our Kindles before we set off next summer. It was a wonderful day!

And now we look forward to the New Year – 2018 will be a year of big changes for us, and there is much to do to get ready, but we are ready to get going! One new thing that’s up and running is the Occasional Nomads Instagram page (@The Occasional Nomads)! I think pictures are a lovely way to share, and I want to get used to regular posting before we set off on the Big Adventure. Initially I plan to post pictures just two or three times a week, about what’s going on here on Kaua’i and what we’re doing to get ready, but my eventual goal is to post daily, or almost daily, while we’re traveling, and blog just a couple of times a week. Anyway, I hope you’ll become a follower on Instagram!

Finally, we’ve got an issue pending with our landlord right now. Just before Christmas I received an early morning call from the water company (from a very annoying person) letting us know we had a toilet running or something because our water bill had shot sky high – something was generating 30 gallons of water use per hour! We knew the toilets were OK, but it turned out that when our landlord did his walk-through he had fiddled with the drip sprinklers on the hill behind the house and left them on! Brett got them turned off (and our daily water use of course dropped dramatically), and contacted our landlord because we don’t intend to pay the exorbitant water bill, but we haven’t heard back from him yet. So, we will see although we both hope his health hasn’t taken a turn for the worse again.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I have just a few more pages to read of Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, but We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, by Ta-Nahesi Coates came off of hold the same day. Hopefully I can finish it in the three weeks I can keep them. My goal last year was to read 52 books but I only finished 36. I am happy though with the books I did read and feel like I had a good mix of genre, fiction vs. nonfiction, etc. I’m not setting any goals this year, but got several good suggestions for new books the other day, and will put up another book list for 2018 and see how I do.
  • Listening to: With four girls in the house right now, there’s a bit more noise than usual, but it’s happy noise – there’s always lots of laughter. The laundry has been going since early this morning so that’s been noisy as well, and a couple of our neighbors have been out mowing their lawns. So, overall it’s been a pretty loud morning, but the girls are taking off for a hike this afternoon, the laundry will be done soon and hopefully I can catch a few hours of peace and quiet!
  • Watching: Brett is watching the new season of Peaky Blinders while I read in the evening, and he also finished up the last couple of seasons of Mad Men this past week. I finished watching all the currently available episodes of The Great British Baking Show and have moved on to Ken Burns’ The Civil War documentary (my fourth viewing) while I work on Swagbucks at night. We are both looking for a new series to watch together in the evening, but nothing has grabbed our attention yet.
  • Cooking/baking: This morning for breakfast I baked a pan of caramel-pecan french toast for the girls and Brett, and served that with grilled breakfast sausages (I just had sausages). Tonight they’re all having a big Costco chicken pot pie for dinner – Meiling asked to have it while she was here, and I wanted to serve it when there were lots of people here to help eat it since I won’t be having any (I’m having a chicken salad). Also appearing on the menu this week will be lasagna, chili pork burritos, 3-cheese ravioli with pesto and Italian sausages, and a couple of other things I haven’t figured out yet. I’m currently not baking anything else as there are still sweets (i.e. candy) around, and WenYu’s friend brought Trader Joe’s cookies with her.

    Brett’s sister sent the girls holiday appropriate accessories

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Can I count our lovely Christmas celebration as an accomplishment? We really had a lovely day, every minute of it. Otherwise it was just the usual around here for most parts: walking every day unless it was raining, making my glasses of water goal every day, practicing French every day. We mailed Meiling’s packages off on Friday; they will arrive a couple of days after she gets back to Oregon. I finally ordered my new frames – they will be here next week, and then off to Costco to get my new glasses made.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am greatly looking forward to saying goodbye to the year 2017 and moving onto 2018, hoping for better things (although we are going to see a tax increase next year – grrrr). We have several activities planned while WenYu’s friend is visiting this week, including another trip to Ono Charburger, and a visit to the south shore so the girls can get a Puka Dog and do some shopping (Brett and I will be having coffee somewhere). I am not looking forward however to saying goodbye to Meiling this evening.

    The amazing piece of green tea pie that Meiling, WenYu and I shared for dessert at Kintaro’s (I admit to having a few bites). Brett and YaYu shared a just-as-gorgeous piece of chocolate pie.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: We enjoyed a fun family dinner on Thursday evening at Kintaro’s, a local Japanese restaurant. We have been meaning to go to for like, forever, and it was worth the wait. Our son and daughter-in-law sent loads of photos and videos of the grandchildren celebrating Christmas – it was exciting to see our granddaughter walking. She really is a little monkey! The check for my inheritance arrived mid-week and has been deposited in the bank – thank you Mom! Everything about our Christmas celebration was absolutely wonderful – it’s one for the books.
  • Thinking of the frugal things we did: 1) On the whole, we did a very good job keeping up with leftovers – there were lots of them but they all got eaten. We did lose one cucumber that got buried in the bottom of the produce drawer and got squishy. 2) We gave Meiling several cookbooks and kitchen items that she can use and that we would be selling or donating otherwise, and will be packing up more things for her in the coming months. 3) By ordering my glasses frames online versus buying them from our optometrist, I saved $40. 4) We didn’t really spend anything the past couple of weeks other than our trips to the farmers’ market and one stop at Big Save for some odds and ends. 5) We put $33.41 into the change/$1 bill jar. $19.25 left over from farmers’ market trips, $3.26 from recycling, $!0.80 from our Big Save trip, and we found 10¢ on the ground.
  • Reporting gains and losses: I lost another pound in December, bringing my total for the year to 31 pounds gone. As I’ve said before, I’m just going to continue what I have been doing, and see how it goes. I’ve indulged a bit the last week or so, but am ready to put all of that aside now. I posted our savings total for the year on Thursday, and am ready to start on more savings in 2018. Our December savings total was $963.35.

    The views never get old

  • Grateful for: I’ve said it before, but I’m thankful every day that we get to live on this incredibly beautiful island. After nearly four years here, the natural beauty of Kaua’i still takes my breath away, every day.
  • Bonus question: Do you stay up until midnight to welcome the New Year? Yes! Brett and I have stayed up past midnight every year except for the one year he was deployed. We don’t do parties, or drink champagne or anything fancy like that, but we do like to stay up to wish each other, and whichever kids are up and around, a Happy New Year! When our children were little we’d wake them up, and then would go outside and bang on pots and pans to celebrate the arrival of the new year. The years we lived in Yokohama were very memorable – New Year’s is the BIG holiday in Japan, and at midnight all the ships in the harbor would blow their horns for an hour. It was really something special. New Year’s is a big holiday here in Hawai’i as well, and we’ll most likely be kept up once again with fireworks going off everywhere.

And that’s a wrap for Sunday Afternoons in 2017! It’s been quite a year, but we’re looking forward to what’s coming next. Wishing all of you a very happy and prosperous 2018!

 

Sunday Afternoon 12/17/2017

Our new ornament this year celebrates our daughters. I bought the small clay bells in Japan last spring, and put them together to hang on the tree. The pig, tiger and rabbit are their Chinese zodiac animals. I made a similar ornament over 30 years ago for Brett, our son and me (tiger, horse and dragon), with clay bells from the same shop.

WenYu arrives home this week! We’re all getting excited about her return and having all three of the girls together again. I don’t envy her trip though – she leaves Boston at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening and gets into Honolulu at 6:40 in the morning on Thursday, and then into Lihue at little after 9:00 a.m. She is the only member of this family that I know can sleep on airplanes though so hopefully she won’t be too exhausted. Her sisters are going to monopolize her time (when she isn’t working), but Brett and I will be thrilled with whatever time we get with her. Just having all three of the girls around is going to be wonderful.

We’ve had another week of wacky weather here. It’s been cold (one morning the temperature dropped to 57°, which is bone-chilling for here), but most of all it’s been windy. Long sleeves and jackets have been required on more than one occasion this past week. There hasn’t been a whole lot of rain though so Brett and I have still been able to get out for our daily walks. We’ve seen seals up on the beach every day, and on a couple of days there have been more than one seal – very exciting!

This past year I gave myself a goal of posting five times a week on the blog. It’s been a challenge at times, and I after some thought I’ve decided I’m going to cut back to three times per week next year – I just have so many other things going on, especially as we get ready for the Big Adventure. I will be folding both the Tuesday weekly menu plan and Friday’s Five Frugal Things into other posts, most likely the Sunday Afternoon post, and then will post on Tuesday and Thursday. Other things may be changed up a bit, or might be added later, so I hope you’ll stick around! I’ll have a post up tomorrow, but after that I am taking some time off until the end of the year, to enjoy the holiday and our family time together.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m making good progress through Pachinko, and the further I go the better it gets. I was actually hoping to be further along by now, but I’ve been having a real problem with falling asleep when I read. The book isn’t boring in the least, but I’ve been apparently more tired than I realized.
  • Listening to: I got the laundry sorted and started last night, so I’ve been listening to the washer and dryer all morning to the exclusion of everything else. I’m longing for some peace and quiet (but will be glad to have the laundry finished earlier in the day).
  • Watching: After finishing up the second season of The Crown I haven’t been watching much of anything in the evenings. Mostly I’ve been reading (and falling asleep). I’ve been watching episodes of The Great British Baking Show again while I work on Swagbucks at night – they’re just as enjoyable the third time around as they were the first!
  • Cooking/baking: Brett is making scotch eggs tonight, which he and the girls will have with toast. I’m going to slice up some apples to round out the meal. I may make a pan of brownies today but I plan to bake a triple chocolate bundt cake the day before WenYu arrives – it’s her favorite.

    I’m making slow progress on this page in my coloring book. It’s fun to do, but requires a LOT of concentration.

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Getting the Big Shop done and coming in just under our regular budget was quite the accomplishment, and I’m still not sure how we did it. And, getting dinner on the table every night this week was an accomplishment, but it happened (and everything turned out well). Hopefully next week will be easier! Because it’s been cold again this week I’ve had a harder time drinking all eight glasses of water every day because I’m just not as thirsty, but I managed to do that too. I’ve also done my daily French lesson, and Brett and I have walked every day except for yesterday, when it rained, I’ve started back coloring in the book Meiling gave me last year, but it’s been hard to find the time to sit quietly and work at it because the designs are quite delicate and difficult. I’m happy with what I did get done.
  • Looking forward to next week:  I’m looking forward to having all our girls at home, and (most of) our family together again. I can’t wait!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had quite the wonderful week! We got together with friends Alan and Cheryl not once, but twice, (the second time we talked for over three hours, and realized that we could have talked the whole evening except they had dinner reservations!). They also bought several pieces of furniture from us, in preparation for their move over here next summer. On Friday morning we had breakfast with Portland friends Julie and Ken, who were visiting the island, and we could have talked with them all day, but they had a plane for home to catch. And, we’ve been loving every minute of having Meiling with us, and enjoyed having lunch with her on Tuesday at the Charburger. My daughter-in-law sent us a bucketload of pictures this week, which we always enjoy – I can’t even count how many times I’ve looked at them. We’re talking now about them coming next summer, for one more visit to Kaua’i before we take off on our adventure.

    Bowdoin College

  • Grateful for: For quite some time, YaYu’s first college choice has been Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. She applied Early Decision, and learned on Friday that she had been deferred to the regular decision. While of course being accepted would have been ideal, she knew it was a bit of a long shot as her high school does not provide mid-term grades; their report only notes satisfactory progress during the term, and Bowdoin requires grades. But, everything else in her application was good enough that she’s still in the running, and for that I am currently feeling very thankful. Her grades for the term will go off right after the first of next year along with a letter stating her continuing interest in attending Bowdoin, and we will keep our fingers crossed for good news next March. In the meantime she will continue finishing up the applications for the other schools she is applying to.
  • Bonus question: What’s the best thing you ever got for Christmas? We were very, very fortunate that for all the years Brett was in the navy, he was only not home for Christmas just once. His ship, and the airwing, were sent to the Persian Gulf in 1990 in support of Operation Desert Storm, leaving our son and me back in Japan. It was a very scary time, because that’s when Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons. The previous summer though we had moved from our off-base house out in town into base housing, and had gotten back our cleaning deposit and rent deposit from our landlord, and Brett encouraged our son and me to use the money and go somewhere for Christmas rather than staying home that year and feeling sad. So, I booked a tour to Hong Kong, and M and I spent seven days there, including Christmas, and had a wonderful time. There was another year where the airwing went on high alert because of troop movements in North Korea, and Brett spent the three days before Christmas at the hangar with his seabag packed, expecting to deploy to some base in Korea, but on Christmas Eve the alert was called off and he came home. Brett somehow managing to be home for every Christmas except that one was almost a miracle, and better than any present I could have ever received.

That’s all for this week! How was your week? What good things happened for you? Are you ready for the holidays?

 

Sunday Afternoon 12/10/2017

Clouds, cold and drizzle showed up 45 minutes after we arrived on Friday afternoon. Oh well – it was nice while it lasted.

The first of our little birds is coming home for the holiday – Meiling arrives tomorrow! Although we talk almost daily via video messaging, it’s been a full year since we’ve seen her because she has been working three jobs back in Oregon to help pay her college expenses and she stayed and worked through last summer. We’re eager to have her here and give her a chance to relax and recharge her batteries. Our first order of business will be to get her to Duane’s Ono CharBurger for lunch on Tuesday – she says she dreams about their burgers all year while she’s away.

Brett and I had planned to go down to the south shore for lunch this past Thursday, but our social calendar suddenly filled up so we decided to skip that outing. Friends from Seattle, Alan and Cheryl, are visiting and we had lunch with them on Saturday at Street Burger, in Wailua. Alan and Cheryl own a house here, just up the road from us, and one of these days plan to move over here. And, this coming week friends from Portland will be on the island for a three-day visit, and we’re planning to get together and go out for breakfast at the Kountry Kitchen on Thursday.

Amazon Prime has been a lifeline for us here since we arrived, and has provided superb service, but in the past few weeks things seems to have gone wrong with them. An order that was shipped and supposed to have arrived last Monday never showed up, and when I checked with them they had no idea where it was, and the shipping service didn’t either. I was asked to wait until this past Friday to see if it arrived, but it didn’t, and no one knows what happened to the order (Amazon used some third-rate delivery service I’d never heard of before that is apparently rife with problems). On top of that, three other orders that were made toward the end of November didn’t ship until last Friday (December 8) and are scheduled to somehow arrive tomorrow. I’m not really sure how that’s going to happen. Amazon has no answer other than to say “sorry” but they did re-ship the lost item and sent it via USPS instead of the sketchy shipper.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Leavers on Friday (a very moving book which deals with the issues of abandonment and transracial adoption, among other things), and I’m now reading Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee. It’s one of this year’s National Book Award Finalists, and I’m enjoying it so far. I still have one library book to finish after this, so I’ve put myself on a reading schedule – I have to read at least 17% of the book each day. So far though I’ve been able to do better than that because I don’t want to put the book down.
  • Listening to: The washer and dryer have been going since I got up this morning – I sorted all the laundry before I went to bed last night and we got an early start on that. Otherwise it’s very quiet. Brett has been reading, YaYu still isn’t awake yet and there isn’t a whole lot of noise outside either.
  • Watching: Brett has been watching Peaky Blinders every evening, but I just sort of been checking in once in a while – it hasn’t really grabbed me. I’ve been watching old or preciously seen movies at night for the past few days while I work on Swagbucks – Moonrise Kingdom, Forrest Gump, and Inglorious Basterds are some of the ones I’ve seen. On Friday evening I began (binge) watching the second season of The Crown. I’m loving it of course.

    Pecan pie bars, one of the most dangerous foods around (for me anyway).

  • Cooking/baking: I’m making pecan pie bars this afternoon for Meiling – they’re her favorite cookie. It’s going to take a superhuman effort on my part to stay out of them because I love them too, and if I take one bite I don’t think I can stop myself from eating more. We’re having breakfast for dinner tonight: scrambled eggs, sausage, toast for Brett and YaYu, and fruit.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got Meiling’s and WenYu’s round-trip tickets from Honolulu over to Kaua’i booked this week, and can’t believe I almost forgot to take care of this! I bought the last two Christmas gifts on my list, so I’m all finished now. Brett and I searched and searched and finally booked a vacation rental for our last month here before we begin the Big Adventure. It seems early to do it now, but we were very surprised (and often disappointed) by how many places were already booked for the dates we want. Brett and I walked three miles on the beach path every day except yesterday, I drank at least eight glasses of water a day and studied French for at least 10 minutes every evening. One of the things I’m waiting on from Amazon is a French textbook, but have no idea when that will arrive or even if it will arrive now, but I’m to a point where I need something beyond what I’m getting online.
  • Looking forward to next week: Besides Meiling coming home? What can top that? I’m looking forward to going to the CharBurger with her, cooking for her, and just being able to sit and chat with her in person. We’re doing our Big Shop this week, and she’s going to help with that, and says she wants to help/watch me in the kitchen. She’s also going to help me get the ornaments on the tree.  I’m also excited about meeting up with our Portland friends for breakfast this week – besides catching up, they were in Portugal a couple of months ago and we’re eager to hear about their experiences there since it’s one of the places we’re visiting on the Big Adventure.

    Freshly picked cauliflower at the farmers’ market.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Even though we didn’t get very much time there, getting down to the beach for even a little while on Friday was wonderful. We had a great catch-up with friends Alan and Cheryl (and a delicious lunch) on Saturday – I love getting together with them and wish they were able to get over here more often (or were living in their house here). One of our favorite farmers had big, crispy heads of cauliflower for sale this past week. It’s a difficult crop to grow here, but she’s been taking advantage of the cooler weather and her cauliflower was beautiful (and affordable). Finally, I received word that my mom’s estate will finally be settled week after next.
  • Grateful for: I got a huge surprise when I received notice for the upcoming settlement of my Mom’s estate which will be finalized next week. Mom was frugal (sometimes uncomfortably frugal – see below) and saved her whole life. She was able to travel all over the world, and pay for her own care for nearly 14 years, from independent living through assisted living and finally memory care. I was expecting to receive very little, if anything, from her estate because I knew most of her savings had been used up, but Mom surprised us – an unknown life insurance policy surfaced that Mom had paid for in full years ago and that had been sitting around accruing interest. The bequest is not a huge amount, but we’re putting some of what I will receive away for YaYu’s college expenses; each girl will get a small amount (our son doesn’t want anything – he said his grandmother was already very generous to him earlier, which we didn’t know about); and some will go to our niece as a thank you for managing Mom’s financial affairs the last few years of her life. The rest will go into our travel savings. Mom loved to travel, and I think it would make her happy that some of her bequest will be going toward our upcoming Big Adventure. Thank you, Mom!
  • Bonus question: What was the worst Christmas or holiday gift you ever received? My parents did not like Christmas. Both of them were very frugal, and Christmas for them meant having to spend money they could have otherwise saved. We always had a small, sad tree (almost, but not quite Charlie Brown Christmas-sad), and presents were typically minimal and always “useful” things. How my siblings and I kept up hope all those years I’ll never know, but we did and kept wondering if each year was the one where all our Christmas dreams would come true. Anyway, when I was eight years old, my Christmas present was two books from the Time-Life series my parents subscribed to. My mom had put the October and November issues aside when they arrived and then wrapped and put them under the tree for me for my presents that year. I normally loved reading the books but was crushed because I knew they were actually meant for the whole family to use versus just for me, and that afternoon they went on the family bookshelf. It was the most miserable Christmas I can remember, but it has made me be more careful and thoughtful about my own gift choices for others, even when being frugal, so I guess some good came from it after all.

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

Sunday Afternoon 12/3/2017

Our Christmas mugs were out for use on December 1 – we’ve had them for 25 years.

I am finally out of my splint and don’t have to buddy tape my fingers any more – yeah! It’s taken a few days to adjust, my hand is still a bit sore, and I still have some problem typing with my left hand, but overall it’s feeling pretty good. I very carefully watch where my feet are going these days – I do not want a repeat!

We’ve made it through another cool, windy and sometimes rainy week here on the Garden Island. The weather at the beginning of the week was downright crazy, but Brett and I and some of the other hardcore walkers still managed to get out on the beach path almost every day. There is a middle-aged man who walks every day with his mother, who must be in her late 80s to early 90s, and uses a walker. Plus, the man distance swims in the ocean every day before he goes and picks up his mom for her walk. They’re both very inspirational. We used to just wave to each other as we passed, but now stop and chat from time to time and check up on how the other pair is doing, and we’ve established the same relationship with some other walkers who are usually out the same time we are.

I have been reflecting for the past few days on what to do with the blog next year. I’ve been posting five days a week this year for the most part (with some help from Brett), and I would like to step back from that and maybe go back to posting three days a week as we gear up for big changes next year. But what to give up? What to blog about? I’ve enjoyed having a schedule of sorts, but there are downsides to that as well. Anyway, lots to think about over the next few weeks.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’ve almost finished The Namesake, and am eager to start on The Leavers. It’s another immigrant story, but with a (sad) twist. And of course two other books I had on hold, Pachinko (National Book Award finalist) and This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Family Farm, also came off hold right afterwards. Fingers are crossed I can get all three of the new downloads finished before they have to go back.
  • Listening to: It’s quite breezy outside (although not as bad as it’s been), but otherwise it’s quiet, both inside and out. There are LOTS of birds out (and one annoying rooster), chattering and chirping away. Brett is reading, and YaYu is sleeping in, but once she gets up she’ll be making noise in the kitchen, and we’ll start the laundry.
  • Watching: Brett and I finished all of Longmire, and then accidentally discovered that a new season of Broadchurch was available and binge-watched that. Can I just say how much I love this show? It’s the British detective/police procedural at its very best, and Season 3 was as good or better than the first two. We’re still working our way through Auntie Duohe, but I think it’s coming to an end soon. I watched the HBO mini-series Mildred Pierce for a few nights last week (it was excellent) while I worked on Swagbucks, and last night I watched the movie The Prestige, but haven’t found anything new I want to watch otherwise. Yesterday evening Brett and I watched a very interesting documentary called Obit, about the obituary section of the New York Times.
  • Cooking/baking: There’s still plenty of cookie dough in the freezer, but yesterday I baked a POG bundt cake. Word from my tasters is that it’s delicious. Dinner tonight is one of our favorites: Chinese stir-fried tomatoes with eggs, rice for Brett and YaYu, and cucumber for all of us.

    It’s starting to look a lot like Christmas, even in Hawai’i . . . .

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: It feels like just a whole lot of nothing got accomplished! Actually, it was a very relaxing week and I’m caught up with everything around the house, and actually enjoyed being able to do a few chores again now that my hand has been released from its trappings. Brett and I walked the beach path every day except Friday when it rained; I drank eight glasses of water every day; and studied French for at least 10 minutes every day. I wish there was a French class offered around here because I’m to a point where I need more than just interacting with an Internet site, but alas, I’m on the wrong island for that. Brett got our Christmas tree up yesterday, but the ornaments won’t get hung until next week, after Meiling is home (she’ll probably hang about 5-10, then claim she is bored and I’ll finish up the rest, just like every other year).
  • Looking forward to next week: Once again, we’ve got nothing specific on our calendar, but Brett and I are thinking we might head down to the south shore or the west side one day to check things out, and maybe go out to lunch or at least for coffee.  We keep hoping to get to the beach one day, but so far the weather still hasn’t been cooperating.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: My new Skechers walking shoes arrived and they are wonderful. The shoes I was wearing were so uncomfortable, but I feel like I’m walking on clouds now. I had a very good month for Swagbucks in November, and got a very big bonus! I can only hope December will be as good for earnings – I’m saving again for another Southwest Airlines gift card. I weighed all of my cold weather clothes that I’m taking on the Big Adventure, and they were less than a quarter of the total weight limit we have assigned ourselves, which was a relief as they’re the heaviest of what I plan to take. My hot weather clothing weighs a whole lot less and all my shoes are very lightweight.
  • Grateful for: I am very thankful these days that I didn’t get rid of my size small pants, and brought them along when we moved over here. After losing 30 pounds, having those pants has saved me from having to find and buy new ones (my size M pants were baggy enough for a clown). I can get into almost all of the pants I have now, but will have to lose a bit more to fit into a couple of them. What I can wear now provides plenty of variety though.

    Kuhn Rikon paring knives are sharp, have a protective cover, come in lots of fun colors  and are affordably priced.

  • Bonus question: Did you make a wish list for the holidays? This year was the first time in a long, long while that I made a wish list. Brett and I usually don’t exchange gifts, and otherwise I’m happy and thrilled with whatever I receive because it’s a gift, right? But, this year the girls asked me to give them some ideas, and Brett and I are going to exchange gifts this year. Meiling set up a family ‘Secret Santa’ exchange again (we’re randomly assigned a name, can’t reveal who the gift is from, and gifts can cost no more than $30). Brett wanted a list from me as well. So, I gave Brett a catalog from J. Jill with a few items circled, but also put a Zappos gift card, an Amazon gift card, a pair of silver hoop earrings, a warm scarf or two, some Lush lip balm, and a couple of Kuhn Rikon paring knives (to carry when we travel) on my list.

That’s all from Chez Aloha for this week! How did your week go? What are you reading? Did you accomplish a lot? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 11/26/2017

Thanksgiving Day at the Pineapple Dump with my baby girl (and my crazy hair)

How was your Thanksgiving? We had a relaxing, wonderful day here at Casa Aloha. We timed our hike out to the Pineapple Dump perfectly – less than half an hour after we got home it began to pour. Our dinner was delicious too, and we relaxed afterwards with our annual viewing of The Descendants.  The day started off kind of weird though –  I was awakened at 6:00 in the morning by a strong smell of smoke. I was out of bed in a flash, but it turned out (thankfully) that one of our nearby neighbors was smoking their Thanksgiving turkey and had just gotten their fire going. Whew!

Brett’s turn for crazy hair! It was VERY windy on Thanksgiving

The surf was fierce too – this is what was going on under the old Pineapple Dump jetty

We learned this week that YaYu was elected one of the co-captains of her swim team! I think of all her achievements this one is the most meaningful for her. She loves to swim, but because of her disability it’s been a challenge (imagine swimming with your fists closed and you’ll have an idea of what she is up against). She has worked hard though over the past years and although she’ll never be the fastest swimmer, she’s not the slowest either, and her technique is impeccable. It’s especially heartwarming and satisfying that her coaches and teammates recognized all her effort and teamwork and named her one of the captains.

Our TV fried itself the day before yesterday. I was watching late Friday night when it just shut off. When I went over to check the entire right side was so hot I couldn’t touch it. Brett worked on it on Saturday, but we could not get it to come back on. This was NOT an expense we needed or wanted right now, but we ended up buying a new TV yesterday, and were pleasantly surprised by how much lower prices were than five years ago (like $300 less), and for a better TV.

Finally, I want to get it out there that because the blog now has its own domain, I am no longer able to comment on blogs that use Blogger as their platform unless the Name/URL option is available. I’ve tried to comment several times recently on different blogs but have been unable because they no longer accept my old WordPress address.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished The People Are Going to Rise this past week with minutes to spare, but since nothing else had come off of hold I decided to download and re-read The Namesake. Big thanks to Laurel for the reminder! It’s a terrific book about the Indian immigrant experience in the U.S. Of course, once I started that The Leavers, one of the new books I had put on hold, became available.
  • Listening to: We woke up to a rainy, windy and cool (for us) morning here and have been listening to the wind whip through the palm trees all morning. Otherwise all is quiet around here. YaYu is still sleeping, Brett is reading, and we haven’t started the laundry yet (which will have to go through the dryer today versus being hung outside – there’s no sun).
  • Watching: New episodes of Longmire are available on Netflix! Brett and I have been watching that every evening, trying to stretch it out because it’s the final season. Once we’re finished with that we’ll go back to Auntie Duohe. Brett and I watched the movie The Right Stuff yesterday via Amazon Prime – it’s still a terrific movie. We should have known something was going wrong with the old TV because the last couple of weeks we were having trouble connecting to anything on Amazon Prime, but that problem has thankfully been solved.
  • Cooking/baking: I baked a pan of brownies this morning, and I’m going to make and freeze chocolate chip cookie dough later this afternoon. Dinner tonight is western omelets, grilled breakfast sausage, toast for Brett and YaYu, and sautéed apples with cinnamon and a little agave syrup for sweetness.

    My low-tech, old-school method of keeping track of water, walks and French – works for me!

  • Happy I accomplished this week: Last week was a very low-key one, and other than a trip to Costco for a few sale items (and a new TV and phone for Brett), I don’t think I accomplished much of anything special. I did get the last Christmas gift ordered (for WenYu) – all that’s left to do now is pick up a couple of gift cards at Safeway. I drank eight glasses of water every day, studied French for 10 minutes, and Brett and I took a walk every day except yesterday, when it rained. Hopefully the rain will have let up by this afternoon so we can walk today.
  • Looking forward to next week: We don’t have anything on the calendar so it should be another nice, relaxing week. I am supposed to be able to remove the buddy taping on my fingers sometime this coming week, but my hand is still quite sore so I may hold off on that. I am looking forward though to finally being able to take a shower without having to wear a plastic bag over my hand. I’d also be able to pick back up some of the chores Brett has been doing for me the past couple of weeks. While we’ve been enjoying the cooler weather lately, we’d love it to warm up enough so we could go to the beach.

    Rambutan look weird, but the fruit inside is sweet, juicy and delicious, like lychee.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our lovely Thanksgiving, and YaYu being elected one of the swim co-captains were the two best things that happened this week. We’re so proud of that girl! Brett finally got a new phone (his old one was almost six years old and on its last legs) at a terrific price. The iPhone7 is not Apple’s latest model, but fits his needs perfectly. The cool weather has been a blessing, and has made our walks very pleasant. Rambutan is at the farmers’ market again, and this past week we found some affordable bags of it for sale.
  • Reporting gains and losses: I lost another pound this month, making it a nice even 30 pounds gone since February. I’m very satisfied with where I am right now, but am going to keep going with what I’ve been doing and see what happens. We put $777.47 into our travel savings in November, for a total of $8331.65 saved so far this year. We took some out to make the deposit on our India tour and pay for the Australia train trip, but that’s what the savings is for!
  • Grateful for: I’m thankful that we were able to purchase both a new TV and a new phone for Brett without worrying about exploding our budget. This would not have been true a few years ago.
  • Bonus question: If you celebrate Christmas, when do you start decorating? I used to go crazy with decorating for the holidays, and always started on December 1, but these days I keep it much, much more simple. We’ve always put up our tree the first weekend in December, but Meiling said she wanted to help hang the ornaments this year, so we’re going to wait to decorate until after she’s home on December 11. We have to move a few things around to fit our tree into the house, but we’ll do that the day before she arrives. I love putting up the ornaments – we have been collecting them for over 40 years and each one is a memory. I also put out a few wooden Santas that I saved from my once-huge collection on the windowsill, and we break out our big holiday coffee mugs, but that’s it these days for decorations around here. Lots of houses in our neighborhood already have their lights up.

That’s a wrap for this week from Chez Aloha. How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 11/19/2017

Between preparing for the holidays and getting ready for the girls to come home, this month’s Big Shop was BIG (and exhausting)!

The doctor released me from my splint on Friday, which means I can sort of type normally again. I say ‘sort of’ because my broken finger is buddy-taped to the fourth finger, and the two together get in the way of typing cleanly. I still have to wear the splint from time to time because of pain, and when I go out, more as a warning to others to be careful around my hand and not bump it. The bruised rib is (slowly) healing as well and although it still hurts it’s nothing like it was at the beginning of last week. So, huzzah for getting better! I am an impatient sick person, and having to slow down as much as I have has been difficult at times. Brett has been magnificent, as always, in picking up the slack. Also, a BIG thank you again to all who sent get well greetings.

With the confirmation of our India tour dates, and the booking of the cross-continent train trip in Australia, the rest of the 2019 part of our Big Adventure is firming up, and we now know for sure where we’ll be when and for how long. This past week I also came across lovely Airbnb rentals in Tokyo and Portland that are not only in great locations for us, but come in well under budget, something that we had pretty much given up on for both places. It’s too early to book the rentals now, but we’ve been in communication with the owners and they are tentatively holding the dates for us, so we’ve got our fingers crossed those work out in the end.

YaYu got her first college acceptance, from the University of Hawaii! It’s not her first choice of schools, but she says she will be happy to go there if she doesn’t get accepted at any of her other preferred colleges.

Finally, it’s normally a rare occurrence here to see a Hawaiian monk seal sleeping on the beach – their numbers are dwindling, and they’re on the endangered list – but over the past two weeks Brett and I have seen four of them when we’ve been out for our evening walk! Unbelievable! Apparently for the seals, Baby Beach is THE beach to head to right now when a rest is needed.  When a seal is spotted on the beach a volunteer is called, and he or she comes and sets up a perimeter around the sleeping seal with cones and such, and hangs signs letting people know not to bother the seal. The volunteer (or volunteers, depending on how long the seal is there) stands watch to make sure the seal is not disturbed. The seals are greatly loved here, and we feel incredibly fortunate to have had the chance to see four of them in such a short time frame. One of them was positively huge, and found his spot under one of the picnic tables that are along  the beach.

A Hawaiian monk seal pup naps on Baby Beach. If you look closely there are a couple of sticks in the background, stuck into the sand as part of a protective perimeter around the seal.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I have been dragging out finishing The People Are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore because I am waiting for a couple of other books to come off of hold, but I’m going to have to pick it up because the download ends in three days. I have nothing else on deck so hopefully the other books will show up sooner rather than later.
  • Listening to: We enjoyed another cool (cold?), breezy morning here. Thankfully the sun is out today though because it poured rain all day yesterday. I’m listening to the washing machine and dryer inside on top of the sound of the winds through the trees outside. Otherwise it’s pretty quiet around here.
  • Watching: Brett and I re-watched Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts while I was on my healing break, but that finished and we’re all back to watching the Chinese soap opera with YaYu, Auntie Duohe. It’s so dramatic, with lots of crying (and lots of running too for some reason). I discovered the Big Family Cooking Showdown, sort of Great British Baking Show-like contest for Britain’s best home cooks, and watched that while I worked on Swagbucks at night. It was a fun show and I loved it (Nadiyah Hussein, who won the bake-off one season, is one of the hosts), and can’t wait for the next season.
  • Cooking/baking: I made more chocolate chip cookie dough last week (which was an interesting and somewhat challenging experience), so no baking going on right now. Dinner tonight is baked chili relleno casserole, cucumbers, and yellow rice for Brett and YaYu, .
  • Happy I accomplished: Brett and I did our Big Shop last week, and it was a particularly BIG one because of Thanksgiving and Meiling’s coming home before next month’s shop. We also finished up our Christmas shopping except for two gift cards, and got most of the wrapping done. It was not my accomplishment other than to be Reminder Mom, but YaYu sent her Early Decision application off this past week, so we’ve all got our fingers crossed once again. This college is a long shot, but it’s her #1 choice so she wanted to try for early decision and know one way or another whether it’s a yeah or nay. Brett and I walked every day down on the beach path except for Tuesday and yesterday because of rain. I moved up to Level 5 in French, et encore une fois, j’ai étudié le français pendent dix minutes et j’ai bu huit verres d’eau tous les jours.
  • Looking forward to: Thanksgiving! It’s my all-time favorite holiday because it’s all about family and food, with no pressure to decorate or find gifts. We’ve gone out to eat the past couple of years but will be staying at home this year, and I’ll be serving a traditional turkey dinner with help from Costco. We’ll watch The Descendants again, and take a family hike out to the Pineapple Dump to check out the view.

    Coffee for me, and a coconut brownie (and coffee) for Brett, and a jar of cranberry-orange relish at the Monkeypod Jam store.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: The discounts on the India tour, the Australian dollar price for train journey versus U.S. dollars, and finding affordable rentals in Tokyo and Portland were all absolutely the #1 good things to happen last week. If we get the rentals, the total for those four things will be a savings of over $3600 from what we had budgeted for that part of the trip. I had a clean skin check at the dermatologist’s – not one thing that looked troublesome or to watch out for. And, I was told I had beautiful skin for someone my age, especially for someone who experienced as much sun exposure as I did when I was young (I think I’m pretty wrinkled though). Our daughter-in-law sent lots of videos and photos of the grands over the last two weeks – we can’t get enough of those two! And, Brett and I had a lovely time down on the south side this past week, including coffee and a pastry at the Monkeypod Jam shop when we stopped in to pick up a jar of their scrumptious cranberry-orange relish for our Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling very, very thankful that I am continuing to heal, and for all the support I’ve gotten at home these past couple of weeks. YaYu and Brett really stepped up, especially when on top of everything else going on they had to listen to me moan constantly for several days from the pain caused by the bruised rib.
  • Bonus question: What are your best and worst Thanksgiving memories? The worst was getting food poisoning one year when I was around 10 years old – my mom had cooked a stuffed turkey and then let it sit too long and I got food poisoning (the only one in the family too). It was miserable, and it was several years before I would eat turkey and stuffing again (my Thanksgiving meal for years was just mashed potatoes, no gravy, and vegetables). I have happy Thanksgiving memories otherwise – no arguments, rude guests, etc. – just good times with family and friends. My funniest memory is the first time our daughter-in-law came for Thanksgiving. She had never seen a whole turkey before (and our turkey that year was a big one), and when she came in the kitchen I was in the process of cleaning out the cavity and had my hand shoved up the turkey’s rear. M screamed and was absolutely terrified by the turkey. Since then she’s learned to cook one, but that was a true clash of cultures at the time. Both of us can thankfully laugh about it now..

That’s it for this past week or so at Chez Aloha. How was your week? What good things happened for you? Are you looking forward to Thanksgiving?

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Sunday Afternoon 11/5/2017

The Hanalei Bridge was closed for a while on Tuesday due to flooding. Shelters were opened for those trapped in Hanalei (Photo credit: The Garden Island)

We’ve had a very wacky, difficult week of weather here on Kaua’i but we’re slowly edging back to our regular fall loveliness. There were huge thunderstorms and heavy, heavy rains last Tuesday and Wednesday, with severe flooding up on the north side of the island. As the storms pulled away though on Thursday they dragged in vog (volcanic smog) from the Big Island to the southern half of our island, so we got to deal with that for a couple of days as well until it blew away. On the plus side, the massive amounts of rain produced multiple gorgeous waterfalls which could be seen cascading down the sides of the mountains all around the island. The sight of all those waterfalls is spectacular!

An overhead look at some of the flooding in the taro fields in Hanalei Valley on Tuesday and Wednesday. The road through the valley is completely unusable (photo credit: Joel Guy)

Hanalei Bay turned brown and muddy from runoff from the Hanalei River. The bay was temporarily closed on Friday due to a shark sighting (sharks like to swim in murky water). The Hanalei Pier can be seen on the right side of the bay. (Photo credit: Joel Guy)

Swim season kicks off this week for YaYu, with practices at the pool five afternoons a week. YaYu has a love/hate relationship with swimming – it’s an intense and exhausting sport, and yet she loves the exercise and how toned she is by the end of the season. Swimming has always been a bit of a challenge for her because of her hands, but her technique is beautiful and she is a joy to watch. She has become a much better and much speedier swimmer these past four years, and no one leaves the starting block faster than she does! Brett and I always park at the community pool anyway when we go for our walks, and her upcoming practice schedule will fit perfectly with ours.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I gave up on trying to finish Lilli deJong and the Rebus mystery before they had to go back, but just in time, Jared Yate Sexton’s The People Are Going To Rise Up Like Water: A Story of American Rage came off of hold. It’s very well written, and an interesting (and somewhat scary) read.
  • Listening to: We had a bit of a rainy (off and on) morning, and it’s still cool and breezy day here – I’m enjoying the sound of the wind through the palm trees across the street, and in the trees up on the hill behind me. But, the washing machine is also doing its thing, so there’s that noise as well. Without that it would be quiet inside – Brett has his earplugs in and is studying Italian, and YaYu is back in her room studying something (most likely calculus).
  • Watching: Brett and I finished Stranger Things (and thought the second season was better than the first), and then started watching Auntie Duohe, a Chinese soap opera that’s on Netflix. We are really enjoying it. Brett and I of course need subtitles to understand what’s going on, but YaYu’s been watching along with us and can understand everything they’re saying without them. However, beginning this evening, Brett and I are starting “Movie Week.” Amazon Prime has LOTS of favorite films that we can watch for free, ones that we haven’t seen for a while. We’re starting our little film festival tonight with The Big Chill. Legends of the Fall and A River Runs Through It are coming up next.
  • Cooking: I baked a pan of brownies this morning for YaYu and Brett to enjoy this week. Brett is making Scotch eggs for dinner tonight, which we’ll have along with fruit (and toast for Y & B).
  • Happy I accomplished this week: Brett and I didn’t get to walk either Tuesday or Wednesday because of all the rain, and missed last night too because YaYu had the car from dawn to dusk for multiple volunteer gigs, but we walked all the other days. I’m thinking that by the end of this month we’ll be ready to change directions on the beach path. The way we go now is flat, but the other way has several hills both coming and going, and I think I’ll be ready for them. J’ai étudié le français pendent dix minutes et j’ai bu huit verres d’eau tous les jours. I can read, write and understand (simple) sentences in French now, but still cannot speak it. It will come though.
  • Looking forward to next week: The weather and YaYu’s schedule never cooperated for us to get to the beach last week, so we’ll try again this week. I have my rescheduled appointment with the dermatologist on Wednesday morning, and Brett and I are also planning to go down to Poipu on Thursday to pick up something for the girls’ Christmas stockings. We’ll go out for coffee while we’re there.

    At the starting point for our evening walk on Friday – there are mountains off in the distance that could barely be seen because of the vog.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: In spite of the changing weather this week, cooler temperatures still prevailed and the humidity has been kept to a minimum. We often run into a couple walking their adorable French bulldog when we walk in the evenings, and on Friday we stopped to ask the dog’s name. It turned out the couple is retired, had moved to Kaua’i just a few months ago, and had bought a house right up the street from us (my favorite house on the street as it turned out)! We had a lovely chat, and Brett and I learned that the current housing market here is even crazier than we imagined. We’re looking forward to getting together soon.
  • Grateful for: I am so thankful this week for my many wonderful readers. I enjoy writing immensely, but never thought in a million years when I started blogging that anyone would actually enjoy reading what I have to say and stick around. I’ve made some wonderful online friendships, and have had the very good fortune to meet several readers here on Kaua’i. I can’t ask for more than that!

    There is NO freakin’ way you’d get me to eat, or even try, any of this . . .

  • Bonus Question: Do you consider yourself an adventurous eater? I think I was more willing in the past to try strange things, but these days . . . not so much. With the advent of so many travel shows, cooking shows, and shows about eating around the world, I’ve learned that there’s a whole lot of things out there I just won’t go near, let alone eat. Number one would be bugs or grubs, in any shape or form, or with any sauce or seasoning. It makes me queasy just to look at them, let alone watch other people eat them. Many claim though that they are tasty and very nutritious. Reptiles, especially snake or alligator, hold no appeal for me either, and I have to turn away or close my eyes when others eat or prepare them. I have eaten some things that others might consider strange: jellyfish, grilled baby birds, snails (escargot), almost all parts of a chicken (except the feet – can’t go there). Some I enjoyed and others I didn’t, but at least I tried them. On the whole though I would say no, I’m not very adventurous. I love lots of different flavors, different ways of preparation, and variety, but I guess there’s a place where I draw a line.

That’s all for this week from Casa Aloha. What good things happened for you this past week? What did you accomplish? Are you an adventurous eater?  I hope everyone enjoyed a great week and is looking forward to the one that’s coming up.

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Sunday Afternoon 10/29/2017

Happy Halloween!

I’ve been feeling very nostalgic the past few days, thinking about Halloween and our kids, and the costumes they wore, the pumpkins we carved, and all the nights Brett and I took them around trick-or-treating. So many good memories, and YaYu and I have had fun trying to remember all the costumes! We’re still not sure though about what we’re going to do about Halloween candy here this year. We had a few kids from the neighborhood come to the house last year to trick-or-treat, but not enough to finish the bag of candy we bought. We got a giant bag of mixed candy from Costco and divided it up for the girls, and we’re hoping maybe we can get YaYu to part with a few pieces from her stash when kids come to the door since she still has so many pieces of candy left from last week’s lei gifts. Maybe though we’ll just run out and grab a last-minute bag and Brett can deal with the leftovers (which he wouldn’t mind doing).

Thursday’s walk-through with the landlord was great. We told him about next year’s travel plans, and that we want to move out at the end of July, so instead of a year’s lease we signed a month-to-month one. And, although we were expecting our rent to go up he’s keeping it the same, so that was a nice surprise as well. He told us he’d take us back as tenants any time when and if we come back to Kaua’i after we’re done traveling. The day after he texted Brett and told him he would like to help us sell the stuff we’re not storing (he’s been here a l-o-n-g time, and has a LOT of connections on the island), and that before we go he and his wife want to take us out to dinner! He seems to be in good condition right now health-wise, and said he’s “winning the battles” against his cancer but still doesn’t know yet if he’s going to “win the war.”

The weather has been absolutely glorious here this week! It rained all day last Monday, sometimes so hard we could barely see the house across the street, but the rest of the week has been lovely during the day with sunshine, breezes, and very low humidity. It’s been cool enough that we’ve been able to keep our ceiling fans off most of the time. On Thursday night the temperature dropped to 66º, which is pull-out-the-parka-and-boots weather here.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I confess to getting absolutely no reading done this week. Between our walks, working on the house and other chores, there’s been no time during the day, and at night I’ve fallen asleep the moment my head has hit the pillow. Both books I have checked out from the library will be going back without my getting them finished – sad.
  • Listening to: It’s pretty quiet outside, although a few nearby roosters are doing their thing now and again. It’s a sunny, but cool, day and there are LOTS of birds singing. We all got up early here this morning for some reason, and then Meiling called and we did a group chat with her for a while – fun! Brett went for a run, YaYu is reading and the laundry hasn’t gotten started yet, and I’ve been enjoying the quiet. Wait – someone just started up their weed trimmer, so there goes the quiet.
  • Watching: We didn’t watch much TV until Friday, when Stranger Things started! We want to binge watch all the episodes, but are pacing ourselves so the series lasts a little longer. I also started rewatching The Crown at night to review and get ready for the second season which will start on December 8.
  • Cooking/baking: I baked a fresh orange bundt cake on Thursday, so there won’t be a need to bake anything else for a while. Dinner tonight is one of our favorites: Chinese stir-fried tomatoes with eggs. Brett and YaYu will have rice with theirs, and we’ll have some cucumbers as well.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: We were really happy with how the house looked before the landlord came on Thursday, as good as it did when we moved in (the landlord was impressed). We took last Sunday off from walking, and got rained out on Monday (I rode my bike instead), but otherwise Brett and I did our 3-mile walk every evening. I drank all of my water every day, even though I didn’t feel like it some days because of the cooler temperatures. J’ai étudié le français pendant 10 minutes tous les jours et I moved up to Level 4!
  • Looking forward to next week: I hope we see a few trick-or-treaters on Tuesday! We still get a big kick out of seeing the kids in their costumes and handing out candy. Weather permitting, both Brett and I would like to get down to the beach at least one day this week. Otherwise, there’s nothing urgent on the calendar.

    Friday’s view at the half-way point of our walk.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our rent not going up is a very good thing, especially since we were expecting and had planned for an increase this coming year. We learned that both our Social Security benefits and Brett’s military retirement will get a 2% cost-of-living increase next year. It’s not a lot, but we’ll take it! The cooler fall weather and low humidity this past week has been wonderful, and it’s made our walks down by the beach in the evenings very pleasant. My new gray shoes arrived and they’re better than I imagined – they fit great and are very comfortable and lightweight.
  • Reporting gains and losses: We put $752.63 into our travel fund this month! Our total savings are now $7554.18, so we’re well ahead of where we thought we would be at this time. I lost another pound this month as well, for a total of 29 lost so far. I still have a few more pounds to go, but I’m really happy with how I’ve done so far.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling very thankful right now for all the events that conspired along the way to get Brett and me to this place in our lives right now, and for all the family and friends (and loyal readers!) that are part of it.  We know life can change in a moment of course, but for now life is very, very good, and we are blessed.
  • Bonus question: Fall brings soup weather (even to Hawai’i!). What’s your favorite soup? My all-time favorite, since I was little, is tomato, and right now I am especially in love with Pacific Foods roasted red pepper and tomato soup. Yum! Costco recently got in their fall shipment, and we bought two cases when we shopped last week, and hope there will still be some left next month so we can buy two more. I also recently discovered Costco’s cheddar cheese and broccoli soup and have fallen in love with that as well. Both soups are surprisingly low carb, and I could eat them every day, but limit myself to a couple of times a week. I also love a good, homemade clam chowder or seafood bisque, potsticker soup (of the infamous stolen recipe), and pretty much any kind of vegetable soup. I’m OK with some chicken soups, but don’t care for soups with beef. I’ll eat them, but won’t go out of my way to make them or order them in a restaurant.

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

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