Sunday Morning 1/6/2019 On the Road Again

The suitcases look stuffed, but still weigh less than 44 pounds! No discount flights for a while though so we’re in good shape.

Our suitcases are packed, the house is clean, and in a very short while WenYu, YaYu, Brett and I will be heading out the door of our Portland Airbnb. Meiling returned to Eugene yesterday afternoon, but this morning we’ll take YaYu over to her friend’s house, and then the remaining three of us will head to the airport to drop off the rental car and check in for our flights. WenYu departs about 45 minutes ahead of us, on a non-stop back to Boston. We’re both flying the same airline though, so we’ll be able to hang out with WenYu until she boards.

We have had a wonderful month in Portland even though we arrived with bad colds and dental issues, almost everyone picked up a stomach bug for a while, and the weather was hard to take at times. We enjoyed extended quality time with the girls, had a marvelous Christmas, ate lots of tasty food, and reconnected with friends. Brett and I are already looking forward to being back here during the summer. We’re not sure if anyone will be joining us although WenYu said she will come to Portland if she can’t find work in Boston. YaYu is talking about spending the summer back on Kaua’i as she can make so much more money there. She would stay with a friend, and have to find a job there, so we’ll see if she can get it all worked out.

As always before any travel day, I have butterflies in my stomach from both anticipation and nerves. I’m so excited about visiting India, a long-time dream for me, but also worried again about the very long flight over, jet lag, and all the luggage wrangling (or our luggage getting lost). And, I dread saying goodbye to the YaYu and WenYu.

I wrote some of this yesterday, but this morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished Ian Rankin’s House of Lies on Friday and I’ve picked up Barbara Kingsolver’s Unsheltered again. I started it when we were in Florence, but set it aside when I couldn’t concentrate.
  • Listening to: Everyone is sort of moving around quietly this morning, eating breakfast or tucking last-minute items into their suitcases. There were some very strong winds (sounded like a freight train roaring past at times) and heavy rain last night but it’s very quiet outside this morning (although still gloomy).
  • Watching: I watched several episodes of “Weeds” with YaYu this past week, and also watched most of the episodes from the new Marie Kondo show on Netflix about tidying. Other than being a bit younger than I thought, she is just how I imagined she would be – delightful! I especially love it when she hugs Americans because hugging is definitely something not done in Japan! She throws herself into it though.
  • Cooking/baking: I baked up the last of some frozen almond and chocolate croissants we bought at Trader Joe’s for our breakfast this morning, but obviously no other cooking or baking will be happening today. It will be two weeks before I step into a kitchen again.

    Gifts for our Airbnb hosts – everything is lightweight and easy to pack
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I went to Made in Oregon at the mall and bought small gifts for our upcoming Airbnb hosts: each will receive a Portland tea towel, small jar of Oregon-made jam, and a small package of roasted hazelnuts. The store also sold small reusable tote bags for less than any paper gift bag we could have found (49¢ each) so that’s what the gifts will go into. Getting packed again was a big accomplishment after a month of pretty much not looking at or thinking about our suitcases. Both Brett and I took some things out of them this past month, but we each got a new piece of clothing for Christmas and I also bought three new (lightweight but warm) tops the other day at J. Jill so had to make room for those. We still have a lot of cold/cool weather still to come in India and when we get to Japan.
  • Looking forward to next week: Being in India! By this time next week, if all goes well, we will have toured Delhi, seen the Taj Mahal at both sunset and sunrise, and will be in Jaipur. I am also very much looking forward to eating Indian food. I am not looking forward to the long flight over to India – we’ll be spending nearly 20 hours in the air (two flights), the longest stretch of flying in the entire adventure.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a great birthday celebration with the girls on Friday evening. We went out for pizza then came back to the house for cake and presents – we gave each of the girls some more cash (their favorite present these days). I also had wonderful reunions and catch-ups with three long-time friends this past week – I’m was so happy we were able to get together.

    There is nothing better than getting together with old friends to catch-up! Joan (upper photo) and I have known each other for 25 years; Elaine (lower left) for 14 years: and Sylvia for 16. Sylvia will arrive in Hong Kong the day after we do, and we’ve already planned a meet-up there! I also got together for coffee with friends Judy (16 years) and Pat (18 years) earlier in our stay, but forgot to take photos!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We sent lots of leftover food back to Eugene with Meiling and ate the rest so nothing was thrown away. There was nothing left to eat this morning except for the croissants. I got everyone else’s miles transferred over to my Hawaiian miles account, and now have enough to at least get YaYu over to Kaua’i if she decides that’s what she wants to do this summer. I shopped the sale rack at J. Jill and received an additional 40% off the marked down sale prices on the tops I bought. The price for all three ended up being just slightly over the starting price for one of them (my motto with J. Jill is never, ever pay full price for anything – everything eventually goes on sale).
  • Grateful for: I am so thankful for the time we have had with our daughters this past month. I’ve loved cooking, eating, shopping, and playing games with them, and also seeing them reconnect with their Portland friends. Best of all has been hearing them interact with each other every day – it’s been like listening in on a super fun slumber party. Brett and I have also appreciated their thoughts and input about what and where we should settle after we’ve finished traveling later this year.

    Black cards are fill-in-the-blank, and white cards are answers submitted by players in Cards Against Humanity. The goal is either to either have the sentence make sense or make it as silly as possible. This pair is actually quite tame compared to some of the options!
  • Bonus question: Do you like to play board games? The girls love them but I don’t care for games all that much. Other than Scrabble, Yahtzee, and a couple of others I’m not much of a game player because I can get too competitive. However, Meiling brought her set of Cards Against Humanity (“a party game for horrible people”) from Eugene this past week and we all played on New Year’s Eve. Oh. My. Goodness. It is a very risqué and un-PC game, and nothing I ever thought we could do with our daughters, but we all had so much fun and practically laughed our heads off the entire time (we tended to go with silly answers). In fact, we were having such a good time that we didn’t even notice when midnight rolled around and the new year started! Brett and I plan to buy our own set of cards when we get back to Portland next summer and then figure out who won’t be offended when we ask them to play (which would be pretty much all of our friends).

I hope everyone had a very good start to the new year, and had a good week. I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to write again – we are arriving in Delhi a day ahead of our tour in hopes of getting a head start on combatting jet lag, and the tour will be keeping us busy every day after that. We are ready though!

Sunday Morning 12/30/2018 Last Sunday in Portland

One of our most important tasks here in Portland was getting the “travel bible” updated, with new or changed reservations printed out and put in order – mission accomplished!

This time next week Brett and I will be getting ready to check out of our Portland Airbnb to begin our journey to India for a seven-day tour of the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra and Jaipur). In the late morning we’ll move YaYu over to one of her friend’s home for a week’s stay (followed by a stay with a second friend for a few days before heading back to Pennsylvania), and then WenYu, Brett and I will go to the airport to turn in our car and get ready for our flights out of Portland: to Boston for WenYu, and Vancouver, B.C. for Brett and me. Meiling will head back to Eugene next Saturday, to get ready to start her final term of college on Monday morning.

Brett and I had originally planned to drive up to Vancouver from Portland and be there in time to catch our late-night flight, but ended up deciding to fly because 1) we really didn’t want to drive that distance (5+ hours); 2) we were worried about possible delays at the border when driving (sometimes they happen which could throw off everything); and 3) the paperwork for taking a rental car across the border was more detailed than we imagined – one wrong thing and we wouldn’t cross the border. The flight from Portland will put us in Vancouver a little less than six hours before the flight to Delhi (through Taiwan), but we are pros these days at managing long airport layovers. The layover will give us plenty of time to pick up our bags from the first flight, exit customs in Vancouver and then re-enter the airport to check the bags with the airline that will be carrying us to India. We’ll have dinner in the airport as well during our wait. One good thing this time too is that our suitcases should be a little lighter.

We had a good time meeting Meiling’s boyfriend this past week and give him two thumbs up. We all got together for Chinese food on Thursday evening and let Meiling and K order. Everything they chose was delicious, especially since they had the good sense not to order the duck’s tongue entrée (they are more adventurous eaters than the rest of us). We feel K is a very good fit for her. He currently lives and works in New York City (as a software engineer at a very well-known tech company) so for now they only see each other every couple of months, but she is planning on moving to NYC to work after she graduates next June. They will be spending a week with us in Japan at the end of March.

Our suitcases may be lighter leaving Portland, but I’m not sure that Brett or I are leaving lighter than when we arrived. Unlike other locations during our travels we have had a car here, and combined with the rain and the gloom, and the distances between our Airbnb and places we’ve needed to be, we have made good use of it and done little to no walking. We have been eating more than we usually do because of the family being together and the holiday, and that combined with a lack of exercise has meant we’ve both gained weight, even with Brett being sick for a few days. So, we are looking forward to eating less and doing more walking again in the next several months. I’m more than a little bit worried though that I might be too big for my warm weather clothes that I’ll need in Australia and New Zealand.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I still haven’t been reading anything, or at least not any books. There’s too much activity in the house during the day, and at night I fall asleep quickly. Although I’ve found it hard to read when I’m traveling because my mind is so full of all that I’m seeing and doing, I’m still giving myself a goal to read 30 books next year. First book of the year will be the new Ian Ranking thriller!
  • Listening to: The girls are still asleep and Brett is reading something so it’s very, very quiet here this morning. And I mean quiet. There are no chickens or roosters, no lawn equipment, no birds singing and no dogs barking – all the things we used to live with as constant background noise on Kaua’i, where we lived with the windows open 7/24/365 (I still miss Kaua’i though).
  • Watching: We haven’t been watching a whole lot of TV here, but we watched a wonderful film, Lion, last night. It’s the true story of an Indian boy who became accidentally lost and separated from his family at age five and was eventually adopted by a family in Australia. With the little he remembered he searched for years and eventually found his home village in India and was reunited with his birth mother and sister 25 years later. It was an amazing story and film – I can’t recommend it enough. YaYu also loves to watch cooking shows so I joined her to watch a few of those, but mostly I’ve stayed busy with things around the house and/or running errands.
  • Cooking/baking: We are working diligently now to eat up everything we bought before we depart at the end of the week. Our Christmas ham is almost finished, and tonight we’re finishing up the big chicken pot pie we bought at Costco. I sent some things back to Eugene with Meiling the other day but we’ve still got several things to finish up and then whatever’s left over after that will go to Eugene with her when she goes back on 1/5 (she’s coming back to Portland tomorrow).

    To say I needed a pedicure would have been an understatement – after four months of travel my feet were a mess!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We had a lovely Christmas and everything came together perfectly. Brett and I had sort of forgotten how much more work we used to do when the girls were around, but we’ve managed to keep up with all of the cleaning, laundry, cooking, recycling and composting. I got a much-needed pedicure and can once again stand to look at my feet. We have a busy week coming up with lots of small tasks that need to be taken care of, but we’ve made a list of everything so hopefully nothing gets forgotten before we set off again.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am getting together with two more friends for coffee next week and can’t wait to see them and set the world straight again. I’m also excited about the release of the new Ian Rankin book tomorrow and looking forward to diving into it, no matter how tired I am! We are going out for pizza on the 4th to celebrate the girls’ birthdays since we’ll be on the road when those happen, and then will come home to have cake and open presents. I have to admit I am also somewhat looking forward to getting packed up again (well, not the actual packing part) and getting back on the road, although I feel sad when I think about saying goodbye to the girls, especially since it will be a while since we see them all again.

    A friend said it looked like road kill, but we almost had a fight over who got the last spicy, savory PokPok chicken wing – they were that good!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: I somehow never caught the stomach bug that took everyone else down last week (or should I say it never caught me). Usually I am the first to get sick, so I feel very lucky to have been spared this time, and it was a good thing to have one healthy person operating in the house. Everyone is well again though. One of the Portland restaurants on my bucket list before we left in 2014 was Andy Ricker’s PokPok (Thai food), but time got away from us and I never ended up getting to eat there. However, just up the street from our Airbnb here is the PokPok wing shop which sells the most popular item from the PokPok menu, and this past week I got my first taste when WenYu brought home a box. They were hands down the most delicious chicken wings I have ever had – we are going back again before we leave!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had several no-spend days this past week other than going out to eat, and otherwise spent very little money. Both of our meals out cost less than we budgeted too so we were able to bring our daily spending average down.

    Nothing better on a cold, rainy Portland afternoon but coffee and conversation with a good friend at Papachino’s!
  • Grateful for: YaYu has a long winter break from Bryn Mawr and doesn’t go back for nearly two weeks after we depart, but her two best Portland friends also have long breaks from their schools, and their families stepped up to host her and will get her on the plane back to Philadelphia later in the month. We’re so thankful because we know they will take good care of her, and she and her friends will have a great time catching up and being together. I am also very thankful for the time to get together with friends while we’re here – I have missed them so much! Finally, I have been thinking lately about our four years on Kaua’i, and how lucky we were to live there, and grateful we had that opportunity.
  • Bonus question: Do you have plans for New Year’s Eve? We are probably the dullest couple/family when it comes to New Years, and as always, we don’t have anything special planned for this year. The girls will all be here with us, but I’m still not sure if any of them have plans to get together with friends and do something (probably not as they would have said something by now). So, I have no idea what we’ll do other than we’ll all stay up and welcome in the new year together. Brett and I have never gone out on New Year’s Eve – we’ve always preferred having a quiet celebration at home. Anyway, I’m thinking of cooking a nice dinner, we’ll watch a movie together and play games together, greet the new year and then head for bed. It’s not very exciting, but it works for us!

From the bottom of my heart, a big THANK YOU to all my readers for coming along for the ride in 2018. Wishing all good things for all of you in 2019. I’ll see you next year!

Sunday Morning 12/23/2018 The Band Is Back Together

Settled in to watch “Mulan,” although two out of the three don’t feel very well. “Mulan” was a favorite childhood movie (along with the “High School Musical” series), and they know the words to every song and sing along.

We picked up our last little bird at the airport on Thursday afternoon, so the house is full and we are ready for Christmas! Or at least I hope we will be ready for Christmas – four of the five of us have been struggling with a stomach bug. WenYu suddenly became very sick on Thursday when we were at the airport to pick up Meiling. By Friday night Brett and YaYu had caught it, and Meiling finally succumbed last night. As of this morning I am still OK, WenYu is feeling well and eating again, and Brett and YaYu say they feel better although neither has an appetite. We are all hoping we’ll be OK by Christmas morning.

In spite of all this sickness, Brett and I are loving the sounds of the girls chattering with each other, and enjoying the chances we’ve had to talk with them, sit down to meals together and watch TV together. Mostly though we’re just happy being together again, even if it’s only going to be for a short while. Poor Brett – he had to adjust pretty quickly to being the lone man in a house of women once again (and there’s only one bathroom). Both of us also had to adjust quickly to a lot more dishes and laundry.

Otherwise, all seems to be going well. Our spending had been a little on the high end, but that’s from all the food shopping we did right after we arrived. Our daily average has been dropping every day though now that the shopping is over so hopefully we’ll end the month right where we need to be. I am just hoping now that we’ll be able to eat all of the food we bought before we have to leave!

This morning I am:

  • Reading: Still nothing. However, the new Ian Rankin book, In a House of Lies, arrives on December 31, and I am looking forward to digging into that.
  • Listening to: It’s a very quiet morning here again. WenYu, Brett and I are up, and eating (just crackers for Brett) but Meiling and YaYu are still sleeping. Immense amounts of sleep have been one of the curious side-effects of this bug.
  • Watching: I watched my two must-see Christmas films last week: White Christmas and Love, Actually, which WenYu and I always watch together. It was especially fun this year to see the final scene with Colin Firth in Lisbon – I recognized those hills and steps! I am probably the only person in the U.S. though who has not seen Elf, so I’m trying to see it this year but so far it’s not available on one of our streaming sites. WenYu and I are also binge watching the new Twin Peaks series – it’s very weird, and not as cohesive as the original series.

    Well, at least most of us got to enjoy sitting down together for our turkey dinner (WenYu missed it) on Thursday.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m not doing a whole lot of cooking right now. We were supposed to go to our friend Joan’s house yesterday morning for brunch but with three out of five of us sick that sadly didn’t happen. Tonight I’m going to make a pot of turkey noodle soup to use up the turkey, and will make some biscuits to go with that. We’ll see who makes it to the table.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I finished all of our travel re-provisioning this past week, and the only thing we have left to get now are some small gifts for the next round of Airbnb hosts. We’ll do that a couple of days before we leave – we’re planning on taking small boxes of smoked salmon and some Portland tea towels as both will be lightweight and easy to pack. I researched airfares and schedules and helped WenYu book her flight to Cyprus in January – she will be doing her spring term at the University of Nicosia, attending film school and studying animation. Brett drove Meiling down to Eugene and back on Saturday to bring her things back up to Portland for Christmas.
  • Looking forward to next week: Hopefully all of us will be feeling better again, and of course we are all looking forward to Christmas! Everyone’s gifts are wrapped and ready, we have everything for our meals on hand, so I am just looking forward to us being together, feeling better, and enjoying the holiday. We are planning to go out for dim sum on Wednesday morning, and then on Thursday we will meet and go out to dinner with Meiling’s boyfriend. She and I are talking about maybe doing a re-design of the blog this week, so we’ll see if that happens. It’s just the sort of thing she loves to do and is very, very good at, but both of us always seem to get wrapped up in other stuff.

    Our granddaughter is getting lots of sparkly fairy princess dress-ups!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The fact that I am not sick is a very good thing – usually I am the first to come down with something like this and then pass it along to everyone else. It’s also a good thing that whatever this bug is it doesn’t seem to last long. Also, the last pieces of our granddaughter’s gifts arrived this week so that is taken care of. The gift for our grandson also arrived – a custom-made fingerboard (skateboard) – so along with all the different currency we have saved along the way for him we are good to go!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We stopped spending money on groceries. We have enough now. Anything that’s left over when we move out will go home with Meiling. 2) The grandchildren’s gifts came with free shipping, and there’s no sales tax in Oregon. 4) We got WenYu’s round-trip airfare to Cyprus for less than $750. She is thrilled as she thought she would be paying more than $1200. 5) Sick or not, we have been doing a good job of making sure leftovers get eaten, although at a slower pace than usual. No food has been thrown out.
  • Grateful for: I am so grateful that all the girls arrived safely and we are able to be together for a while. I am always a bundle of nerves when they travel, and have to change flights, etc. but they all managed well. So many of us being sick in this small house has been difficult but everyone is getting better, and I am so glad it did not catch me (knock on wood).
  • Bonus question: Do you prefer receiving or giving gifts? I have always enjoyed giving gifts more than receiving them, even when I was little. I am always thankful for the gifts I receive but I have far more fun thinking about the people I am giving to, and what they would like, appreciate and use. I love hunting for just the right thing. Brett and I had a plan for the girls’ gifts before we begin traveling, and we had a good time not only finding those things but choosing the right ones for each girl’s taste. Everything we’re giving the girls this year, from stocking stuffers to gifts, comes from some place we visited this past fall. We enjoyed choosing gifts for our son and daughter-in-law too and will deliver them when we get to Japan in February.

I’m not sure when I’ll post again this week, but want to wish all who celebrate a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Sunday Morning 12/16/2018: Portland Edition

We checked out the wreaths at Trader Joe’s but they were too heavy to hang in the house so we got a fresh pine swag instead.

I haven’t done one of these posts for a long time, but it’s a good fit for now, for catching up and keeping track of what we’re doing and where we’re going.

Brett and I have settled in nicely here and are almost well – our colds are now hanging on to the ledge by their fingernails.. One thing I had forgotten about living in Portland was how often I used to get sinus headaches when we lived here, and have had to deal with them a few times since we arrived – not fun. The air here seems very dry to us too, but we’ve set bowls of water out on the heat registers around the house and that is helping somewhat. We are feeling well enough though to get together with friends again beginning this week – up until now we still just felt too awful to see anyone.

I love Trader Joe’s, but am staying away now until after Christmas!

Most of our errands have been taken care of, thank goodness because I am sick to death of spending and shopping! We will be going to Fubonn Asian Supermarket on Tuesday to get YaYu all her noodles, and to Safeway on Wednesday or Thursday for a few odds and ends that can’t be found elsewhere, but otherwise we are pretty much done and ready for our girls. We have everything we need for all meals during the rest of our stay here. No matter where we’ve stayed on our adventure, we’ve shopped for a while but then comes the point where we start working on making sure everything we’ve bought gets eaten or used up before we leave. We’ve done a pretty good job so far during our travels, so hoping it goes as well here. My goal is that we have to go out to eat our last night in Portland because the fridge and cupboards are empty.

The dining hall at Bryn Mawr was transformed into the one at Hogwarts, including the floating candles! Love the candelabras on the tables as well!

Bryn Mawr held their annual winter end-of-term dinner this past week, where they dress up their dining hall like Hogwarts, faculty and students come in costume, and students are assigned to different schools (I think YaYu is a Hufflepuff?). I’m so glad she and WenYu have settled in so well at their colleges, and are having such memorable experiences (and doing well in their courses). Meiling is currently in New York City with her boyfriend. He moved there earlier this year to work for a big tech company, and they seem to be doing a good job of managing their long-distance relationship. We’re going to meet him when he’s in Portland later this month, and he’s also going to come along with Meiling when she visits us in Japan next spring!

Our Bryn Mawr wizard!

Anyway, this morning I am:

  • Reading: Nothing! Or at least not a book right now. I have had a terrible time trying to read these past few months – nothing seems to hold my interest for very long, and I’ve also had problems staying awake.
  • Listening to: It’s a typical quiet morning for Brett and I. He’s reading and I’ve been working on this! We’re looking forward though to all the noise and hubbub that will come along with the girls this week.
  • Watching: Brett and I were all set to watch Season 4 of Better Call Saul, but that turned out to be a one-day binge opportunity so we missed out on it. There are things on Netflix and Amazon Prime (Man in the High Castle) we want to see, but those can wait until Meiling arrives with her stick and tech abilities next week. The other day Brett and I clicked through all the many, many cable channels we have here and could not find even one thing that interested us, a pretty good indication we will not be signing up for cable later.
  • Cooking/baking: Tonight we’re having leftover tacos, along with some refried beans. We had them night before last but there was lots left over so we’ll finish that off tonight. We picked up a frozen cherry pie this past week and I’m going to bake that later today – I have been craving pie.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I am glad we’ve gotten most of our shopping done, but it turned into a chore. We’re just not very enthusiastic spenders these days. Also, we’re so glad we got hair cuts – that was something that definitely needed doing. I ordered some gifts for our granddaughter from Amazon (after looking all over town and not finding what I wanted) that will tuck nicely into my suitcase, and weigh next to nothing. Not my accomplishment, but Brett took care of our visa applications for both India and Australia and we are set to enter those countries. Finally, I got all the Christmas presents wrapped and ready to put out on Christmas morning!
  • Looking forward to next week: Well, besides all the girls arriving in Portland and all of us being together again, I am looking forward to us having brunch at a good friend’s home next Sunday morning and I know that it will be delightful. Our sons were friends in high school, and Joan was a big help to us during Meiling’s and WenYu’s adoptions, and I can’t wait for her to see how beautifully the girls have grown up. I’m also looking forward to getting together with another good friend for coffee later this morning at one of our old haunts.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Being able to get a temporary crown on my broken tooth, and finding out that I won’t need multiple procedures to fix it was the best news this week.

    The pine swag smells wonderful!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) I got a very good deal on a new phone from T-Mobile. The price was lower than I expected and with the trade-in of my old phone I ended up paying several hundreds of dollars less than I thought I would. 2) Although we’ve done a lot of shopping here in Portland we haven’t gone crazy, which is something I worried about before we arrived. We’ve stuck strictly to necessities for the most part or pre-planned purchases, like my phone. 3) We saw a little live tabletop Christmas tree the other day that smelled wonderful and would have been adorable on the coffee table, but it was $25 so we passed. The cheap ornaments we bought at Target along with a string of lights for around the door cost us just $5, the poinsettia was $6, and our pine swag was $8, so we saved $6 over the tree and the house looks (and smells) ready for Christmas! Meiling is going to take the lights and ornaments with her when we move on. 4) Brett and I have done a good job of eating leftovers so that no food has been wasted. 5) He and I also decided not to give each other any gifts this year because neither of us needs or wants anything right now. Instead, we’ll save our money and do something special and spontaneous together later when we’re back on the road again.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are exceedingly thankful that our dentist here was able to fit us in so quickly and repair our broken teeth. We are also very, very thankful for our good dental insurance – we will have a co-pay, but most of the cost will be picked up by our insurance. We are also thankful for the great haircuts we got from the stylist recommended by our friend. Finally, we’re feeling very grateful that we were able to find an affordable and nice Airbnb for our month in Portland. So many of the places in town were way, way over what we could afford.

    Requests from the girls that will be long gone before Christmas!
  • Bonus question: What Christmas traditions are you maintaining this year? On Christmas morning we will enjoy our traditional breakfast of toasted bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon, fresh fruit (berries?), and orange juice. The girls took their Christmas stockings and little sequined boxes with them to college this year and are bringing them along when they come “home.” They will be able to open the gifts in their stockings before breakfast, and we always tuck a little something into the little boxes (that I found for around $1 each, I think, at WinCo one year). After breakfast we’ll open our presents, one at a time from oldest to youngest. We’ll enjoy a relaxing day together, and I’m preparing a favorite meal of ham, macaroni and cheese, broccoli and cornbread, and we’ll have cheesecake for dessert.

That catches us up here at the Nomad’s Portland home for this week.Although we love the holiday season,  I know it’s not always a happy time for everyone, but I hope the days are going well for you nonetheless, and that you’re able to enjoy time with family and friends. Thank you for sticking with us Nomads as we travel around – there’ll be more coming up after the first of next year!

Sunday Afternoon 8/12/2017

The calm before the storm yesterday morning. We had a steady stream of voters in all day, and Hawai’i had its highest voter turnout in recent years. The entire state of Hawaii is moving to mail-in ballots in 2020, and scenes like this will be relegated to history.

Brett and I spent a very L-O-N-G day yesterday serving as poll workers for the Hawai’i primary election. It wasn’t exactly a volunteer position – we’ll both get paid a small stipend – but it was exhausting nonetheless because we had to be up so early (at the site at 5:30 a.m. to set up) and couldn’t leave until all the voting was over at 6:00. It was an interesting experience though, and the people we interacted with were very nice. The voters represented a real slice of Kaua’i life and its diversity, all the way from some in bathing suits (it was a gorgeous day) to one guy who looked like as soon as he took care of voting he was taking his yacht out for a cruise! Brett and I have decided we’re going to use our stipends to go out for a fabulous meal on Election Day (November 6) while we’re in Florence.

The sun was just coming up when Brett and I arrived at our polling station. Yesterday’s weather, while we were stuck inside all day, was gorgeous, but it’s been raining off and on today.

All the sitting at middle school cafeteria benches took a big toll on my back though (no support), so I am once again dealing with pain that has got to be gone before we leave next week. I spent some time in the hot tub as soon as we got home last night which helped a lot, and will be there every day this week, and hopefully I can get this taken care of once and for all. Just to keep things even more interesting, YaYu has apparently developed a case of allergic pinkeye. Fingers are crossed we can get her in to see the doctor this week and get that taken care of. Brett is fine and looking out for us all.

Today’s post will be my last Sunday Afternoon post for a while – we’ll be packing all day next Sunday and getting ready to go, and I don’t think I’m going to have a whole lot going on this coming week to write about anyway. After we depart on the 20th I won’t be following a regular posting schedule, at least not for a while, because I don’t know how often I’ll have time to write. I am going to aim for posting once or twice a week while we’re on the road though. I will be pictures up more frequently on the Occasional Nomads Instagram site while we’re traveling, so I hope you’ll follow us or check in from time to time.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I still have two books going: I read Our Towns during the day (but it’s due back at the library tomorrow!), and The Great Influenza by John Berry at night. Sluggy over at Don’t Read This; It’s Boring recommended it, and I thought it sounded like something I’d like to read. My grandmother occasionally talked about the flu epidemic (she was born in 1890, so was 28/29 when it was going on) and how terrifying it was. I’ve also been reading our Buenos Aires travel guide to get ready for the first stop on our adventure.
  • Listening to: Another blissful day of peace and quiet. I’m listening to nothing right now but the sounds of my own thoughts (and they are happy ones for the most part).
  • Watching: I watched last week’s episode of The Great British Baking Show and a repeat episode from Season 4 of Sherlock on PBS, but also started a 10-episode series on Netflix, The Five (which I’m watching on my computer). It’s really good. Commercial/cable TV drives me nuts to the point that I can’t stand watching any of it.

    No cooking required – my favorite breakfast these days is nonfat Greek yogurt with fresh peach and a sprinkle of granola.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re eating lunch out a few time this week (Ono Char-Burger, Hamura’s, Kauai Pho); are going out to breakfast at the Tip Top on Friday morning; and having dinner at the 1849 Eating House next Saturday evening, but otherwise our task here will be to finish up as much as we can of the food we have in the condo, which isn’t a whole lot at this point. I have a two-pound pork tenderloin that I’m going to cut up – we’ll have grilled pork one evening, and use the rest to make pork yakisoba and pork curry on other evenings.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: We took care of a few more address changes that we had somehow missed, and we also got rid of a few more things that we brought over with us to the condo that we thought we might need but don’t. We also signed up for a free walking tour of Paris through Paris Greeters.
  • Looking forward to this week: Besides getting to eat at some of our favorite places on the island, I am also getting my hair trimmed up on Wednesday (Brett is getting a haircut too), and having a mani-pedi at the resort spa on Saturday morning so I’m ready to go! I’m also looking forward to getting all of our travel things packed, and as much time at the pool as possible. The weather was very gloomy last Thursday and Friday and more rain is predicted this week.

    YaYu’s right cheek was still a bit swollen two days after her wisdom teeth came out but everything else is going well (that’s her beloved kamaboko – Japanese steamed fish cake – that she’s getting ready to break into).
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu’s oral surgery went well and she’s healed quickly, although she was quite swollen for a couple of day. She had her surgery on Monday and was back to eating regular food by Wednesday. Brett stopped at Costco for some fruit last week and discovered key lime pie. We lived in Key West for a while, so know good key lime pie when I taste it and this pie was good! 

    A BIG piece of key lime pie and coffee for dessert out on the lanai
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: The condo provides the nicest 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner, and I stopped by the office the other day to get another tube and they gave me three of them, so I now have everything I need for my carry-on toiletries. We were surprised to get refunds from both our water bill and our gas bill – we had thought we would owe on each of those, but had forgotten about the deposits we put down when we opened the accounts and those covered everything with money left over. The refunds will go into our first month’s travel budget. We have spent very little at the grocery store this week, just picking up things as we need them, like fruit or bread or yogurt. We have no plans to buy anything this week.

    My favorite Kaua’i-made product will forever be Monkeypod Jam’s lilikoi curd. It is a taste of the island right out of the jar.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling very blessed and thankful for all the wonderful local foods we’ve gotten to eat over the past four years, from restaurant meals to fresh produce from the farmers’ markets to locally produced food products. This little island produces a lot! I am especially going to miss all the tropical fruit and the cucumbers – the ones grown here are the best I’ve ever tasted.

    I have fallen in love with this pool!
  • Bonus question: Which do you prefer, the beach or the pool? When we arrived here four years ago I couldn’t tell you how long it had been since I’d been to the beach, but I quickly fell in love with it all over again, sitting in my beach chair, swimming in the warm water and diving through the waves. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago which I preferred it would have been easy to answer. Going to the beach is the quintessential Kaua’i experience and a great way to spend anywhere from a couple of hours to the whole day.  But I have fallen completely in love with the pool here at the resort and now if asked to choose between heading down to the pool here or going to the beach I would choose the pool. There are plenty of chairs, chaises, and umbrellas to choose from, there’s a variety of things to do from hot tubs to slides to the lazy river, and it’s big enough that it never feels crowded. Towels are provided and the sandy bottom of the hot tubs is pure luxury. As one commenter on Instagram wrote the other day, the beach is for sitting and a pool is for swimming. I agree, but at this pool I can sit and look out at the ocean without having to deal with sand or carrying all our beach accoutrement to and from the car. So, for now I’m feeling somewhat torn – I will forever love the beach, but I’m also enjoying being spoiled rotten by the experience of this pool.

Less than 10 days to go, and just one more week to go from tomorrow until our departure!

I’ve always enjoyed writing the Sunday Afternoon posts these last few years – they’ve been fun to do – and hopefully I will be able to pick them up again in the future. Sunday Afternoons have been a great format for writing about our family and lives, and connecting with so many readers over the past few years. I hope you will continue to check in and comment while we’re traveling, and I promise to keep answering your comments. Thank you for being the best readers a blogger has ever had!

Sunday Afternoon 8/5/2018

Sixty-six years old and this is what my life has come to.

Most of our time these days is like the picture above, but the high drama continued with our former landlord who was in full loon mode on Friday. Brett messaged him on Friday to ask the status of our deposit. The landlord (LL) texted back that we had broken the freezer basket tracks and the freezer was “unusable” until it was fixed, and we would be charged for those repairs. The freezer basket worked fine when we left the house, the same way it worked the entire time we lived in the house – we told him we had a witness to its condition. Suddenly the refrigerator was still  under warranty and there would be no charges for repairs. I had told Brett ahead of this that I was sure LL was going to claim we broke the oven and damaged the floors, and sure enough he did not disappoint. When we mentioned that the oven had been “unusable” for nearly two months before we moved out and he had not seemed in any particular hurry to get that fixed he outright lied and said he had had three “licensed experts” look at the oven door, and they had concluded it was impact damage that we had caused. He could have stopped there, but no, he went on to say they had saved the shattered glass as proof. Uh no – Brett had helped the one repairman who ever showed up throw the piece of broken glass away! So LL backed down to two “experts,” but we said if they had ever come and looked at the glass they did so when we weren’t in the house, which was a major violation of our lease, so the whole oven argument was also quickly dropped. Then he started in on the floors, saying they were a mess and we hadn’t stripped or re-waxed them or gotten rid of the salt damage. We reminded him for about the fourth time that we had it in writing from him not to do the floors before we moved out! It took some back and forth, but he finally backed off that as well. The arguments and accusations went for on for a couple of hours, with almost every text from him containing a new (supposed) violation or some personal wrong we had done to him. He told Brett at one point that he was just a poor, sick old man, an honorable man and a former Marine, and we were disrespecting and dishonoring him (he’s only two years older than Brett, who spent 22 years in the navy versus getting kicked out after a couple of years so you can guess how that went over with us). He said we hadn’t cleaned the house while we lived there according to his directions or methods so therefore the house was not clean! Also, apropos of nothing, he told us he thought we were friends because we had discussed doing a house swap with him between Texas and Hawaii!  WHAT??? Anyway, at the end of all this he said we had been his best tenants ever and he had planned to give us back our whole deposit without even looking at the house (first time we heard this), but we screwed it up because we got angry when he stood us up last Sunday for the walk-through inspection. Everything, absolutely everything, according to him has been all our fault and we turned out to be nothing but a big disappointment. He said he is only going to mail a part of the deposit along with a list of all our transgressions, which we’ll believe if and when we ever see it. I have a strong feeling we’re going to be back on Kaua’i and in small claims court next year. The tax man will be coming for him in the interim though.

The landlord said he is going to have to charge us for the brown spot in the tub, but where is it??? I think he forgot we took LOTS of pictures, and had witnesses with us.

We continue to enjoy all that the resort and our condo have to offer. My favorite daily activity has been to soak in one of the hot tubs every morning for about 20 minutes, and then get some exercise in the pool. The hot tubs have a sandy bottom which feels great on my feet, and the temperature is wonderful – just at the point of being too hot when I get in but that I adjust to quickly. I love that I usually get the opportunity to chat with other visitors while I soak – I’ve met some very nice people this past week. And, I try to go down the pool slides every day. I keep telling myself I’m doing it for my grandson but the truth is I do it for myself because I LOVE pool slides and the ones here are awesome! The lazy river feature provides maybe too good of a workout – it feels like I’m carrying 50-pound weights on each leg as I walk back and forth.

YaYu will have her wisdom teeth removed early tomorrow morning. We know that everyone’s procedure goes differently – I was laid up for a couple of days eating nothing but applesauce, ice cream and mashed potatoes while Brett was eating pork chops for dinner the same evening he had his removed – so we’re just going to play it by ear afterwards. We can easily get over to Safeway for whatever she needs or wants to eat.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I am almost done with The Child Catchers. It’s been very thought-provoking, and at times has challenged some of my own thinking on adoption. I am still working my way through Our Towns. It’s very interesting, and my biggest take-away so far is that many people and places in the U.S. are not doing as badly as what gets reported. It’s reminded me of the old adage that a good story will only be repeated once while a bad one will be shared at least fifteen times.
  • Listening to: Again, I am loving the peace and quiet here.  I honestly had no idea how noisy our former neighborhoods were until we left: the chickens and roosters, loud cars, noisy neighbors, loud music, weed trimmers, saws and lawnmowers, and dogs barking were almost constantly making some kind of noise, even in the middle of the night. Yes, there were times when I could hear the breeze through the trees, and birds singing, and I sort of got used to the noise after a while, but it didn’t take long for me to appreciate how much I enjoy true peace and quiet.
  • Watching: Although we have cable TV here, the only things I’ve been able to bring myself to occasionally watch are the Food Channel or HGTV, and only in very small doses. After only Netflix or Amazon or PBS for the past several years, the commercials drive me nuts now. I did enjoy watching Endeavour and the Great British Baking Show on a regular TV screen this past week versus my computer.
  • Cooking/baking: I baked a cake yesterday! The condo came equipped with a cake pan, mixing bowls, and measuring spoons and cups, so I made a butter cake with a chocolate glaze (which used up the last of our expensive chocolate powder and confectioners sugar). We’re having grilled steak for dinner tonight, and I plan to make chili-pork burritos and Chinese stir-fired tomatoes with eggs some time this week. Otherwise I’m not sure what else we’ll be having.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We took care of the last bit of banking we had to do here on the island, and will be ready to shut down our local account a few days before we go. We also got our VPN account set up – we needed one here at the condo and will need to have one as while we’re traveling. I otherwise accomplished nothing other than getting myself out to the pool every day because there was nothing else that needed to be accomplished! We officially transferred the Civic over to Alan and Cheryl this week, and are in the process of assembling a few things more to go to the thrift store but that’s the extent of our busy-ness these days.
  • Looking forward to: Brett and I are going to look at our travel calendars, pick dates and start making museum reservations for Paris, Florence and Rome. Otherwise, I’m not looking forward to anything more than spending time by the pool. The weather wasn’t ideal last week (warm, but always a bit overcast) so hopefully we’ll have some more sunny days this week. Hurricane Hector is currently passing by and has brought wind and some rain, off and on, but the past couple of days have been lovely most of the time.

    YaYu’s future dormitory at Bryn Mawr!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu got her dorm assignment this past week and will be sharing what appears to be a quite small room with a girl from the Los Angeles area. They’re already chatting and getting to know each other, and we’re all anxious to see what the room looks like inside. The dorm itself is in a great location on campus though and reputed to be one of the most desirable. Although dealing with our former landlord this past week was aggravating (which is putting it mildly), we did get all of his lying, bullying, inconsistencies, etc. on the record because his whole tirade was done through texts (Brett has messages from him going back to early May). Brett has taken screen shots of everything and stored them, making it much easier for us if we do have to go to court. Otherwise, just being here at the resort has been a very good thing!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Other than buying the few things we need from the grocery store we’ve been using up what we brought with us from the house, trying not to waste anything.

    In my happy place
  • Grateful for: I hurt my back the day before we moved out of the house doing who knows what, and am very thankful I can sit on the bench in one of the hot tubs, have the jets massage my back, and voilà! any residual morning pain is gone. I climb out of the hot tub feeling terrific and my back doesn’t bother me the rest of the day!
  • Bonus question: What’s your favorite type of chocolate: dark, milk or white? Although I like dark chocolate (in particular, dark chocolate with orange) and it’s pretty much all I eat now, my favorite type of chocolate will always be milk chocolate. I don’t eat much of any type of chocolate these days, and when I do it’s almost always dark chocolate now, but I still prefer milk chocolate. I’m pretty particular about it too – my favorite milk chocolate comes from See’s Candy, but I also like Lindt and authentic Cadbury chocolate from Great Britain (and I adore Cadbury Creme Eggs). Godiva is only so-so in my opinion. Hershey’s used to make a thick milk chocolate bar with almonds that was fabulous, but they discontinued it several years ago for some reason and I still miss it. I don’t care for white chocolate at all, or even consider it chocolate.

That’s a wrap for this week! How was your week? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you? And most important, what’s your favorite type of chocolate?

Sunday Afternoon 7/29/2018

Sunset was approaching when we finally finished cleaning and arrived at the condo.

We are out of the house!

The landlord was a no-show for the inspection this morning. We arrived at the house with Cheryl and Alan at 7:15, and waited around until 8:30. Brett texted the landlord at 7:45 and he started out with “I forgot.” Then he began listing all the other appointments he had set up and had to get to (????), that his workers were no-shows, etc. At 8:30 we messaged him that we were leaving the keys and garage door openers on the kitchen counter (we took pictures of all of us at the house, the keys on the counter, etc.) and that we would see him in small claims court. Then the excuses started, each one contradicting the one before – he kept trying out different reasons for not showing up, I guess trying to find one he thought we might accept. He said we were “panicking” and that he didn’t need us there to do the inspection (Hawai’i law would beg to differ on that), and that he would have our check tonight – he was the one panicking! We sent him our forwarding address and told him to mail our check because we were done with him and all his excuses at that point. Anyway, the house was SPOTLESS and we took TONS of photos. We’re pretty sure the landlord knows at this point that his goose is cooked, and we doubt we’ll ever see our deposit, but the Hawai’i tax department is definitely going to be getting a message from us before we leave the island. I’m normally not a vindictive person, but after all the work we put into cleaning the house, his no-show and subsequent messaging is going to end up costing him a whole lot more than our deposit.

Pound cake french toast with Nutella, fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

On a brighter note, we had a wonderful breakfast with Cheryl and Alan at the Kountry Kitchen. Alan and I had more traditional breakfasts, but because it is Cheryl’s birthday today she and Brett decided to have the completely decadent (and delicious) pound cake french toast. How they finished it I don’t know, but they both managed to clean their plates. After breakfast Brett and I did a little grocery shopping so we’re set for the next couple of weeks.

I can’t express enough how nice it is to finally be at the condo. It’s air-conditioned, and we slept like babies last night although the bed is a little soft for our liking. It’s very quiet here – we can sleep with the windows closed and not have to listen to loud neighbors, screaming roosters, fans, etc. In fact, last night was the first I’ve been able to sleep since we arrived in Kaua’i without having to wear earplugs. The condo has a garbage disposal and best of all a dishwasher, something we’ve done without for the past four years. And of course there’s the pool! Brett and I are heading down there in a short while to walk some laps in the lazy river and lay out in the sun and RELAX!

We found out this last week that YaYu has to have her wisdom teeth removed ASAP – one of had become infected. She saw the oral surgeon last Monday, but they didn’t have any open appointments until September. Then we got a call on Wednesday that there was a cancellation on August 6, so she will be going in that morning to have three wisdom teeth removed. Hopefully it will go easily and she’ll only miss one day of work. Both Meiling’s and WenYu’s wisdom teeth came in without any issues, but they of course had to endure years of braces which YaYu didn’t need, so I guess the universe decided that things needed to be evened out.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Standard Deviation (loved it!), am still reading The Child Catchers, and just downloaded a new book by James Fallows and his wife, Deborah: Our Towns: A 100,000 Mile Journey Into the Heart of America. In 2012 they splurged and bought a small plane and then spent five years flying around the United States, visiting small(er) towns and cities all over to try to understand the country at a more local level.
  • Listening to: Nothing – it is blissfully quiet here. Even the appliances are super quiet.
  • Watching: No one has been watching much of anything this week, although I did catch a few episodes of the new Netflix show, Sugar Rush. I’ll just say the show has potential, and I also now want to stop by Adriano Zumbo’s patisserie when we’re in Sydney. I also watched the latest episode of The Great British Baking Show on Friday. Tonight we’re going to watch Endeavour on an actual TV!
  • Cooking/baking: Although it was fun eating out for a while we are all glad to be where we can cook our own food again. I’m especially looking forward to eating more healthy foods again – restaurant meals and processed food were not my friends, and I gave up trying to avoid carbs. We’re having mabo dofu tonight (I brought our wok from the house), but I’ve put yakisoba, spaghetti with marinara and grilled Italian sausages (the resort has several grills available for guests to use), a soba salad with chicken, and noodles with pork sauce on the menu for this week. Even if YaYu is not home for dinner she said she will enjoy the leftovers.

    Lots of places in the girls’ shower for mildew to hide and grow, especially under that bottom ledge. Definitely NOT the best shower surround design for a house with no A/C in a very humid climate. The white stuff coming down from the bottom is a bleach paste I used to get rid of the mildew.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: The house was spotless when we were supposed to meet the landlord for the inspection this morning, all except for the floor being stripped and waxed, but that’s because he had told us he wanted to do it (we did thoroughly mop the floors though). The cleaning took a LOT of work, especially at the end, but we kept at it and got it done. You might think the house was filthy because of all the work we put into it, but it really wasn’t – things just get dirty here very fast. For example, I deep cleaned the girls’ bathroom nearly two weeks ago, and got rid of all the mildew that grows underneath the edge of the shower wall and other nooks and crannies. From then to now, the shower has not been used, and the windows in the bathroom and bedroom have been closed. Still, the caulking ended up covered again in mildew because of the humidity we’ve been experiencing, so I had to go in with the bleach again and get it off – ugh! Brett washed the house and cleaned all the screens last Tuesday, but our next door neighbor mowed his lawn on Wednesday and our lawn care guy came on Thursday, both of which filled the screens again with dust and dirt so Brett had to stop and wash them again. That’s the kind of stuff we found ourselves up against again and again, and along with packing and sorting, trips to the thrift shop, and the heat and crazy humidity it caused the cleaning to take longer and be more difficult than we imagined. Anyway, we also sold the last few things that needed to go last week (microwave, fan, folding table) and took more stuff to the thrift store on Friday (but we still have a couple more bags of stuff to go).
  • Looking forward to next week: Both Brett and I are so looking forward to doing nothing but sleeping in (in air-conditioned luxury), and relaxing out by the pool or swimming every day. It’s been too hot and way too humid to walk (and we’ve been too busy), but I’m going to walk several laps in the pool’s lazy river a couple of times every day.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We sold the car! Alan and Cheryl decided it was a great island car for them at a great price and they are buying it from us! Neither Brett nor I are interested in owning a car again, but I have to admit I’m going to miss our little Civic. It it was also very convenient having two cars this weekend to get us moved over to the condo (our rental car is tiny!). I met some more wonderful Kaua’i people this past week and got to talk story with them for a while when they came to pick up the things they bought. These interactions will forever be one of my favorite Kaua’i memories. There are definitely some very strange/weird people here on Kaua’i but there are also the friendliest, warmest, and kindest people I have ever met or had the privilege to interact with and get to know.

    Smoked salmon board at Sam’s Ocean View – there was enough salmon left over for our bagels next morning! We also had a grilled cheese board (brie with fig jam), crispy cauliflower, and a small but yummy pizza.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I used my last Southwest gift card that I had earned through Swagbucks when I purchased WenYu’s ticket to come to Portland for Christmas and saved $50. We still have to get her return flight to Boston but she doesn’t have a date yet (she wants to spend time in Oregon with her best friend and with Meiling before she goes back). We also kept to our budget while eating out this week, and enjoyed some very tasty meals.
  • Reporting gains and losses for July: We no longer have a scale so I have no idea if I’ve lost or gained weight. I’ve probably gained a few pounds though because we’ve been eating out so much and we haven’t been walking. I’m not really tracking our travel savings for the time being as we’re currently using the savings!
  • Grateful for: We thought it would be amazing if YaYu could earn a couple of thousand dollars or so this summer, but she will put more than double that amount into her savings account by the time we leave Kaua’i. Restaurant work here can be very lucrative, but YaYu is also a hustler, and has been proactive about picking up extra shifts, always willing to substitute for others when they need time off. We’re all very thankful that the restaurant manager took a chance on her (she literally had no job experience before she started) and that she’s been able to work and save so much toward her college expenses. Her scholarships covered most of her out-of-pocket costs this year, but she should have enough saved by the end of summer here to cover next year’s costs as well.

    My brown linen pants after cleaning blinds – lovely, aren’t they? The blue pants I was going to take along with me on our travels were also ruined.
  • Bonus question: What was the most difficult thing to clean for the move-out? Poor Brett put in a LOT of work this last week cleaning off the tops of the kitchen cabinets. What should have been a couple hours’ work took nearly four days because our wonderful landlord had apparently sprayed the tops of the cabinets with a ton of Pledge or some other kind of wax, and even though we regularly vacuumed up there, the heat and humidity had turned whatever he used into a thick, black sludge that had to be scraped off by hand. There was less dirt/grease on the tops of the cabinets in our Portland kitchen where we lived and cooked daily for nine years than what was on top of these cabinets – it was nasty. The landlord had also insisted that the tops of the ceiling fan blades should be sprayed with Pledge because “then the dust just flies fight off.” Uh no – Brett had been scraping off Pledge sludge for over two years because of all the dust that had stuck to the melting Pledge on the fans (which of course all had a grooved design in the blades). He put a very light coat of Pledge on the tops of the fan blades for the inspection but did not put any on the top of the cabinets – he said he just could not do that to the next tenants. My toughest cleaning job was getting the fabric tapes on the blinds clean and white again. It took several days of work and I ruined two pair of pants because of bleach splatters and stains. The smell was awful too, but that’s gone now and the tapes were clean and white and ready for inspection.

That’s it for this week. I am still exhausted from the cleaning and inspection, but the worst of this move is over and we are moving forward again. How did your week go? What good things happened for you? What did you accomplish?

Sunday Afternoon 7/22/2018

After a long absence, Pensive Cat was back in the yard again this week.

Less than a week to go until we move to condo, and less than a month to go before we begin the Big Adventure! Time is really starting to fly now, almost too fast at times. We will be ready for both happenings, but we know we’ve got to stay focused so that everything that needs to be done gets done and we don’t forget anything.

One very clean stove

We’ve been steadily plugging along with the house cleaning and are closing in on finishing it up. The inspection with the landlord will be next Sunday morning between 7:00 & 7:30 a.m. He was upset with us the other day because in spite of what we’d told him, in his mind he had decided he was going to get the keys the morning of the 28th, that we were going to give him back four days! Nope – we don’t move over to the condo until the evening of the 28th and will be working that whole day to finish up.  For all the work we’ve already put into cleaning this place, I still have a bad feeling about the final meeting with him and am expecting him to be a total jerk, but once it’s done we can move on, no matter the outcome. To strengthen our hand we are going to have a friend with us during the inspection as a witness so the landlord cannot claim damages/dirt later. We finished cleaning the stove this past week, and I’m working on the refrigerator and freezer today. One of the biggest challenges this past week was cleaning the white fabric tapes on the blinds. Because half of each blind sits in front of an open window, and because of the amount of dust, dirt and moisture that comes through the windows, the tapes in those areas of the blinds developed stains that I wasn’t sure we could get out. I discovered though that some judiciously applied bleach and some time out in the sun got them looking like new. The beautiful, clean blinds are now lying across the floor in the girls’ former room and will be hung up again right before we leave the house on the 28th to go to the condo. Another thing Brett and I have both noticed this past week is that there are absolutely no smooth surfaces anywhere in this house (except maybe the mirrors in the bathrooms). From the baseboards to the doors to the window blinds to floors to the faucets, every piece of this house has grooves or ledges or borders or some design feature which invites dirt or mildew to accumulate. It’s a lovely house, but has required a lot of extra work to keep it clean these past 33 months and now we know why.

It’s been the perfect island car

The auto detailer came over to the house last Monday and did a superb job on getting out all of the red dirt stains we had accumulated in the past four years. The result was worth every penny we paid and the car looks fantastic. We began advertising it last Tuesday but have only had one person ask questions so far. The detailer told us Civics are a popular car here, and ours is in very good condition and is priced right so we’ll see. We pick up our rental car this coming Friday – I can’t believe that date is arriving so quickly. I also admit to being a bit hopeful the car doesn’t sell before Saturday so we have two cars to take our things over to the condo – otherwise it will mean at least two trips.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m almost done with Standard Deviation, and have also started The Child Catchers:  Rescue, Trafficking, and the New Gospel of Adoption by Kathryn Joyce. The book is about how international and domestic adoption by evangelical Christians has become “a new front” in the culture wars. I’m just getting started and it’s already a very interesting read.
  • Listening to: It’s been quiet here all morning – YaYu left for work early, and Brett has been quietly plugging away at cleaning the tops of the kitchen cabinets. The washing machine is doing its thing though, but this is the last Sunday we’ll do laundry here!
  • Watching: None of us is really watching much of anything now. I watched the latest episode of Great British Baking Show on Friday, will watch Endeavour tomorrow (I think the last episode for this season is tonight), but that’s all.

    Brett and I shared this deliciously monstrous slice of Kauai Pie for dessert when we ate at the Olympic Cafe in Kapaa. We were shocked at the size of this “dessert for two” but we somehow finished it (and then didn’t feel like eating for another 24 hours).
  • Cooking/baking: Once we got the stove cleaned we decided that we’d also had enough of processed microwave-heated meals and are now getting take-out or going out for meals. The refrigerator/freezer is currently turned off so I can clean it, but once that’s done we’ll turn it back on so we can keep cold drinks and YaYu’s hot sauces in there (but nothing more). We still have our toaster and are having bagels and fruit for breakfast now, but otherwise we’ve been trying out affordable eateries in Kapaa for lunch and dinner. Thankfully YaYu gets most of her meals at work, so we haven’t been spending a fortune on eating out. Once we’re in the condo I will start cooking again.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I reserved all of our train tickets for the France part of our journey (Paris to Caen; Caen to Strasbourg; and Strasbourg to Bordeaux) and reserved cars for our four days in Normandy and to drive down to Lucerne, Switzerland in October. Other than pre-booking some museum visits, everything we planned to get done ahead of time has now been taken care of. Brett and I are going to make the museum reservations after we’re at the condo and have time to sit and talk about what we definitely want to see. I got the rice cooker and a few goodies packed up and sent off to YaYu, and a box of odds and ends that didn’t get into our shipment sent off to our friend on the mainland to go in with our other stuff. It has been much too humid, and we’ve been too busy, to walk this past week, but we’ve been getting LOTS of exercise in the house and will go back to walking again next week.
  • Looking forward to next week: Finishing up this damn house and moving over to the condo!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Pensive Cat, so called because he comes to our yard to sit and think, was back this week after a somewhat long absence. He’s a stray, and has been visiting us ever since we moved to this house in 2015. The tip of his left ear has been snipped which indicates he was caught and spayed at one point. Brett ordered and received the leather chukka boots he’s been wanting (Red Wings) this week and has been wearing them around the house to break them in a bit. They look good, are comfortable, and will be great for hiking around on our travels. Otherwise, nothing else really stands out this week – we’ve gotten a lot done but it’s been nothing but work, work, work.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We got a rebate of $28 from the electric company which will be enough to cover a couple more lunches out this week. Other than our meals, the only things we bought were bagels, cream cheese and ice cream – Safeway has been running a BOGO sale on ice cream this month: 2 Safeway Select 1/2 gallons for $5.99, and 2 Breyer containers for $6.99. But with the freezer off that pleasure will disappear for a while.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are very thankful that our friend Alan has agreed be here during our inspection next Sunday. The landlord has been giving off vibes that he is going to try to use double talk, intimidation, or maybe even threats with us but we think he may be less likely to do so when he sees we have a witness with us. We don’t want him able to say one thing to us and then something else later if we have to take him to court, and it will be harder for him to complain that something is not clean when there’s another person who can see that it obviously is.

    My secret cleaning weapons!
  • Bonus question: Do you have any special tools that you’ve used for cleaning? I’m not sure if these are unusual or secret, but the Sharpie pen, some felt-tipped pens, a pedicure sponge and baby wipes have all been proving useful. For example, I was stumped about how to get the metal burner ports on the stove cleaned but discovered that a disposable pedicure sponge, along with a little elbow grease, made the ports look like they’re brand new! The abrasive side of the sponge is handy because it’s small and flexible enough to get into tight places, and with just enough abrasion to get things clean without scratching them. Unscented baby wipes have been another great cleaning tool. We are running out of rags, but the wipes don’t contain lotion and have made cleaning dirty window blinds and other surfaces easy. The black Sharpie pen and the colored felt-tipped pen have been useful for small touch-ups in the kitchen (small nicks on the cabinets, a scratch on the stove top).

That’s a wrap for this week! What good things happened for you? What did you accomplish? What are you reading these days? Do you use any unusual items for cleaning?

I’m thinking next Sunday’s post will probably be short, and really not more than a check-in, but I should be back to regular posting after that. Keep your fingers crossed for us that we get our deposit back and our car sells!

Sunday Afternoon 7/15/2018

This is pretty close to the view we’ll have from our condo – we’ll be a couple of floors down though, looking out over the roofs of the pavilions at the pool and the beach.

Less than two weeks to go before condo time! Sometimes the thought of being there in another couple of weeks seems like the only thing keeping me sane.

Yesterday when we were out on our walk we ran into a woman who we met back in April when the landlord first advertised the house. She was interested then, but he just contacted her this past Friday and told her she had been “chosen” (while at the same time renewing the ad on Craigslist). We have heard him say some very unkind and untrue things about her over the past few months, and while we were talking with her we also learned he has been sort of trash-talking us. He was also hinting to her that we won’t be getting our deposit back because of all the “damage” we’ve done to the house. The reality is the house will be as clean as (or cleaner than) it was when we moved in, and I think he’s going to be quite surprised when he discovers he’s dealing with me over the inspection and the security deposit. He’s going to find out pretty quickly that I know Hawai’i law and our rights as tenants, I’m not a pushover, and that he can either deal honestly with us or see us in small claims court – we have up to a year to file against him. No matter what happens though, we’ll still be out on the 28th, and I can’t wait.

The girls’ room is clean and ready for inspection (minus the last of our hanging clothes)

Things are moving along with the cleaning though. The girls’ room and bathroom have both been deep cleaned and except for cleaning the ceiling fan both are ready for inspection. Brett’s going to do all the fans in the house a couple of days before we leave so they are super clean for the walk-through inspection (dust accumulates quickly in this weather). I got our bedroom closet cleaned out and freshened up this past week, and we’ve started cleaning our bedroom and in the kitchen – all the cabinets have been emptied and the insides wiped down. The oven was supposed to be repaired this past week but that didn’t happen and it’s looking more and more like it won’t be done before we move out. I’m going to go ahead and finish cleaning the stove this week (we’re not really cooking on it any more) so it’s ready whether the oven is or not. We’ll be emptying out the refrigerator and freezer this week so that I can turn them off for a while next weekend to deep clean it as well. After it’s empty (or nearly empty) and clean we’ll be getting take-out for our meals.

On top of all this turmoil though we got a surprising piece of good fortune dropped into our laps this past week. On Wednesday evening I received an email from Airbnb suggesting that we cancel our 2019 Tokyo reservation because our host still had not obtained licensing for the rental. We communicated with the host, and will be working directly with her versus booking another Airbnb rental, staying in the same apartment at the same price. However,  Airbnb gave us a gift certificate for the entire amount of our three-month stay even though we had only paid for the first month (which was refunded in full). The certificate is worth several thousands of dollars, and can be used for any Airbnb rental anywhere in the world if we book before July of next year. They also gave us a gift certificate for $100 to use toward any Airbnb experience! We’ll have to think about that one, but right now it looks like we’ll be traveling again after we finish up next summer’s stay in Portland – stay tuned!

I won’t be posting this week until next Sunday – there is so much to do around here and I need to focus on that. It’s been busy enough that even if we don’t get out for a walk both Brett and I usually get all our steps/miles just from working in the house!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’ve tried to read more of Standard Deviation this week but haven’t gotten through much – a few pages and I’m ready to fall asleep.
  • Listening to: Apparently a whole lot of babies hatched at the same time this past week because the yard is filled with the sound of peeping baby chicks! They are making enough noise to drown out just about everything else. The washer and dryer are doing their thing too – we have to get YaYu’s uniforms ready before she goes to work this afternoon. So far the neighbors are quiet, but we’re expecting the neighbor above us to turn on his wood chipper or whatever other noisy piece of equipment he’s using any moment now.
  • Watching: I caught up with another episode of the Great British Baking Show, and we’ll watch another episode of Endeavour tomorrow after it posts online. Otherwise, I’ve been watching an episode or two at a time of Victory at Sea (Amazon Prime) and the Ken Burns’ documentary about World War II (The War, on Netflix) when I can find time to squeeze them in. I’ve watched both series before (a couple of times actually), but the second world war era is my favorite historical period to study (followed by the Civil War) and the film clips, photos and stories from then still fascinate me even though I’ve seen most of them before. The narration for Victory at Sea is a bit over the top now, to the point where it can make me laugh out loud at times, but I get that it was a different time when the series was made (1952), and the war and the Allied victory were still fresh in everyone’s minds.

    Nothing says fine dining like eating a microwaved chicken pot pie on a paper plate.
  • Cooking/baking: With the oven still not repaired, the party pan of Stouffer’s chicken enchiladas I had planned to fix tonight won’t be happening – it will instead be going over to the condo with us. Brett and I are having steak sandwiches tonight, and chicken pot pies, quiche, macaroni & cheese, and pork tacos this week in our effort to completely clean out the fridge and freezer. I’m actually looking forward to doing some cooking and eating “real” food – all this processed food is starting to wear me down.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I finally got all of the touch-up painting done. It was nothing that particularly needed to be done, but I’m not giving this landlord an inch (and he did leave paint for us if we ever needed it). Getting the girls’ room finished was a big accomplishment, especially getting the blinds cleaned, and the closet freshened up. The room was not really dirty, more like cluttered, but it looks really, really good now and is move-in ready. Brett took a full carload of items to the thrift store last week – we should only have a bag or two left to go, if that, when we leave the house. I finally remembered to order locks for our luggage and luggage tags from Amazon – they should arrive next week. Brett and I got in a few walks last week, but usually we were too busy in the house and/or the weather was awful (rain or oppressive humidity). I booked the last two flights inside Europe with RyanAir, and reserved our hotel stay in the Cinque Terre.
  • Looking forward to next week: The car detailer is coming to the house tomorrow to get that job done, and once the car is spiffed up we will get it listed for sale. Fingers are crossed that sale goes quickly. I am also going to begin researching and reserving our train travel in France, reserve our rental cars, and Brett and I are going to discuss what museums we want to visit and pre-book those.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Because of the humidity, mildew is a constant issue here. We had some in the showers that was very stubborn but I researched online and found two ways to treat it and both methods worked perfectly (although the whole house smelled strongly of bleach for a couple of days). YaYu paid for her first semester at Bryn Mawr – no loans! She has enough in the bank now to cover the rest of this year’s expenses and most of next year, and she’ll be working right up until we leave so she can fatten her bank account even more. The generous gifts from Airbnb were a complete surprise, and are a game changer as far as future plans are concerned.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We sold a few more small things and I’m setting all that money aside for now for our final week in the house when we’ll be going out or getting take-out for our meals most of the time. So far though our monthly food bill has been less than half of what we usually spend, even it if it mostly prepared foods. Including fees for our luggage, reserved seats, and carry-ons, the total for the two RyanAir flights for both of us were less than $300.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling more and more grateful each day for the time we have to clean and get ready to move out of our house, especially with the summer heat and humidity we’re having to deal with now. I cannot imagine only having a week or less to get this house ready for our crazy landlord. We may end up getting screwed over by him, but we know we will be leaving the house in superb condition.

    Clean and tidy has a different meaning now that we’re sharing our bathroom with YaYu.
  • Bonus question: Which would you rather clean, the kitchen or the bathroom? Neither really – sometimes I wish we could afford someone to come in and do it for us. But, since that’s not happening, the bathroom is actually the easier of the two in my opinion. Although it sometimes seems like it takes a bit more elbow grease (the tub and shower stalls), kitchens actually have a whole lot more places for dirt to hide and require near constant upkeep. We learned lots of cleaning tricks back in the day when we had to clean our navy housing for inspection, and learned quickly that keeping up with the cleaning in both the bathroom or kitchen and not let it slide (however, it turned out that every house we lived in had either the bathroom or kitchen remodeled when we moved out). Here’s one cleaning trick we learned: to clean oven racks or a cast iron grill, double-bag two large trash bags. Place the racks or grill in the bag, set outside (on a patio, or rocks – just not on grass or near plants) and add a generous amount of ammonia. Tie up the bags and let them sit overnight. You will see some ammonia leaking from the bottom of the bags, but it’s the fumes inside that are doing all the work. The next day wash racks or grill with steel wool, or even just a magic sponge. The grease and dirt will come right off with light to no scrubbing, and the racks will look good as new! If your oven is not too dirty, you can also set a glass measuring cup of ammonia inside the oven overnight with the door shut. Grease and dirt in the oven should easily wash out with little to no scrubbing. A magic sponge works great to clean and keep your oven glass door clean and grease free between oven cleanings.

That’s all for this week – hope you all had a good one. What did you accomplish this last week? What good things happened for you? What is your least favorite room to clean?

I’ll be back next Sunday!

Sunday Afternoon 7/8/2018

The living room is now YaYu’s room until we move out. I like a clean and orderly house so this is keeping me on edge a bit, but we’ll be out of here before we know it.

We are “living rough” around here these days. We’ve still got the Aerobed and our queen-size bed until right before we move out which is helping us stay more comfortable than we imagined we would be at this point. Also, because the landlord bought our washer and dryer and they’re staying in the house we don’t have to deal with the using or paying for the laundromat. But otherwise things have gotten somewhat basic around here. We’re eating on paper plates with plastic utensils these day, and have few to no cooking tools. I will say that living this simply really helps to focus the mind on efforts to get stuff done and moving along.

The pantry these days (baking soda and vinegar are for cleaning)

As I wrote last week we ended up not having to hold our garage sale this weekend because everyone who came to pick up the items we had listed on the Buy & Sell “shopped” all the stuff we were going to put out at the sale and pretty much all of it got snapped up. We put the last few big items on Buy & Sell on Thursday and all sold in a day. Brett will take the few remaining items to the thrift store this week. Next up on our to-do list will be getting the car detailed and listed for sale.

I had a bit of a dental scare this past week when some of the glue on the bridge I have on my lower front teeth fell out. Our dentist was on vacation, and I had visions of needing to have the whole bridge replaced before we leave, costing us $$$, maybe $$$$. But I called the dentist the day he got back and he said it just needs re-gluing, everything else is fine. He said if it comes unglued while we’re traveling that I should see a local dentist about it. I guess that could end up being an interesting “cultural experience” if it happens. Our dental insurance covers us worldwide, and thankfully we’re visiting countries where good dental care is offered but fingers are crossed that after the re-glue this week I’ll be good to go for a while.

YaYu’s final scholarship check arrived in the mail yesterday . . . and was $500 more than she was expecting! The organization first emailed her last April that she was being awarded a $1000 scholarship. A couple of days later though she received a second email from them with an apology and note that she would only be getting $500. Oh well. But, when she opened the envelope today the check was for $1000 after all, bringing her total scholarship amount from local Kaua’i organizations to $5500. She continues to earn lots from her job, and will be leaving the island with a very healthy bank account.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished both the Donna Leon and Elizabeth George mysteries, and have started Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny. It’s a fun read – perfect for now when everything around us is craziness. I am also #1 on the waitlist for another book at the library, and hoping it becomes available this week.
  • Listening to: We’ve had a cool morning, with heavy rain at times. But now the neighborhood roosters are screaming, and dogs are barking, so maybe all we’re going to be stuck with for the rest of the day is overcast. We’ve got the laundry going right now but otherwise it’s quiet inside – I’m writing and Brett and YaYu are reading.
  • Watching: Without a TV, Brett and I haven’t been really watching much of anything. I did catch another episode of The Great British Baking Show online, and we’re going to watch Endeavour tonight on my computer.
  • Cooking/baking: Alan & Cheryl bought our grill, and another person who came to pick up something asked about and ended up buying our slow cooker (!) so all we have now is a rice cooker, microwave oven and the stovetop for cooking – the oven still isn’t fixed and no word when that’s happening. So, it’s been interesting, to put it mildly, trying to come up with things to fix for meals. Stouffer’s entrees have helped us fill in some gaps. but tonight for dinner I’m making Chinese stir-fried tomatoes with eggs. The pantry is empty except for some rice, a jar of peanut butter and some Diet Snapples.

    When teenagers move out of their room . . . sigh. We eventually got everything out and are ready to begin deep cleaning the room beginning tomorrow.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I am thrilled with how much we sold this past week, and that it has gone to people who were so happy to get it. YaYu got her stuff packed and we cleaned everything out of her room so the deep clean in there can begin next week. We didn’t get to walk much last week because of the humidity, rain, and because we were sometimes busy with customers. Somehow though we still managed to get in our steps and miles most days. I’ve been keeping up with my liquid intake – the humidity earlier in the week was brutal and staying hydrated has been a necessity.

    Friday afternoon was cooler and quite breezy for a change so we finally got out for a walk. Lots of heavy wave action was going on.
  • Looking forward to next week:  I’m not exactly looking forward to it but we’ll get YaYu’s room AND bathroom deep cleaned next week, and then move into the kitchen and get started in there as the cabinets are all empty now. Getting these two areas done will take us that much closer to getting out of here and moving over to the condo.

    Costco’s haupia cake . . . so good it should be illegal.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Both Brett and I are so, so happy that  friends Alan and Cheryl are finally here on Kaua’i (but sad too that we’ll only be able to see them for a couple of months before we take off). Costco had haupia (Hawaiian coconut custard) cakes again so we are enjoying one of those – they’re big so they last for a little over a week between the three of us. For the past couple of years I have had a terrible time getting anyone to cut my hair as short as I want it (like super short), but yesterday I finally got a great cut and I love it! Along with the humidity there has been rain every day, a good thing because it means we don’t have to water the lawn and run up our final water bill. And of course, the amount of YaYu’s scholarship check was a very good thing!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We “stocked up” on frozen meals (as much as our little freezer would hold), fruit, and produce from the farmers’ market, but otherwise we didn’t spend anything else this week. We made a nice bit of money from selling our stuff, half again what we thought we’d make! Most of it went into the bank but we’re holding on to some to cover the car being detailed.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling very grateful the fix on my bridge will be an easy and inexpensive one versus having to spend a big amount right now on having a new bridge made. I’m also thankful and blessed that I was able to meet and talk with so many wonderful people this week when they came to buy stuff from us. The aloha is so strong here.
  • Bonus question: What’s the best thing you’ve ever found at a garage sale? What’s the best free thing you’ve ever found? Brett and I talked about this and agreed that our best garage sale find was the Cassette Feu butane cookstove that we found at Portland yard sale a few years ago. We already had one that we bought in Japan when we lived there (with all the instructions, labels, etc. in Japanese), and had been wanting to buy a second one so we were beyond thrilled to find a brand new, never-opened one at the sale for just $10. The price was amazing considering that retail price for the cooker model we got is anywhere from $70 to $90. These cookstoves are great for camping, for tabletop cooking, or to use if power is lost and the stove and appliances won’t work. The best free thing we ever found was a white KitchenAid stand mixer, complete with all the attachments. We were walking home from Trader Joe’s in Portland one day, and spotted the mixer in a free pile in front of a house. We took it home, cleaned it up, and sold it on Craigslist – the money we made went toward our move over here to Kaua’i!

That’s it for this week – I hope you had a great week too. What good things happened for you? What are you cooking or baking? What are you looking forward to next week?