Sunday Morning 5/15/2022: Graduation!

Taking a moment to brag: YaYu graduated summa cum laude with departmental honors.

And then there were four . . . college graduates, that is! What a great day we had yesterday, even though it rained all day. The graduation ceremony was lovely, and afterwards we enjoyed tea sandwiches and cookies back at YaYu’s dorm along with her friends/roommates and their parents. With YaYu’s commencement, all four of our children are now college graduates and have officially flown out of our nest. We are so very proud of ALL of them.

Meiling and WenYu arrived in Philadelphia on Friday afternoon and we spent a fun evening with YaYu beginning with a celebratory dinner at the White Dog Cafe (which serves local, sustainable foods) and then went for some house-made ice cream from a nearby shop – the available flavors were creative and incredibly tasty. Afterwards we walked over to a combination Japanese restaurant and small grocery store and found prices lower than what we paid in Kaua’i! Brett got me another reusable shopping bag for my birthday, this one with a Japan theme (the bags are turning into my favorite souvenir – they’re low cost and very useful). We dropped YaYu back at her dorm with a box of Covid self-tests, and she texted us back shortly with a picture of her negative test: she had cleared the virus in time for graduation!

We enjoyed a fabulous celebration meal on Friday with some very yummy food followed by artisanal ice cream, and a small birthday gift for me – a lovely evening! (we were not actually seated in a parking lot at dinner)

The day after our arrival in Pennsylvania Brett and I headed over to Whole Foods, the closest market to our hotel, to pick up food for the week. We have been committed to eating as many meals as possible in our room, so we shopped with that in mind. We were stunned when our bill for a cart full of food came to a full $65 (and some change) less than expected, at Whole Foods of all places, but I guess our brains were still figuring everything according to what it would cost on Kaua’i. We took YaYu out for pizza on Thursday, celebrated YaYu’s graduation and my birthday at our dinner on Friday but otherwise we’ve eaten in our room. I sure hope food prices in Nashville are similar to those we’ve experienced here – so very much lower than what we’re accustomed to.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Getting to Philadelphia from Hawaii was THE major accomplishment, but we survived (even though we continue are still suffering a bit from jet lag). 2) On Thursday we took YaYu to IKEA to find a bed for her new living quarters, and on Friday we picked up Meiling and WenYu and have been having a grand time together. Meiling left early this morning; WenYu is heading to NYC later this afternoon for a short reunion there with Wellesley and Portland friends. 3) Brett got our admission forms completed for our entry into Canada, including proof of vaccination and other information. We are ready to go!
We were able to watch YaYu ring the Bryn Mawr’s Taylor Bell to announce she had finished her coursework and was ready to graduate
  • Good things that happened: We have had a wonderful time with the girls, and YaYu’s graduation was great from start to finish.
  • Ways we saved: 1) We have somehow miraculously stayed close to our budget for our time in Pennsylvania. Our car rental is paid in full, our hotel is paid in full (and we were not charged extra to have Meiling and WenYu stay with us in our room), and we did not go crazy on our food spending. I hope Nashville is as affordable as Philadelphia has been (compared to Hawaii). 2) I was able to chose another billing plan for my new direct loan and my monthly payment will now be one-third less than what I’ve been paying for the past 22+ years, and I will save nearly $14K in interest over what I would have with the old loan.
  • What we’re looking forward to: This time next week we’ll be in Mexico! I’m actually looking forward to our flights as I had forgotten we’ll be in business class this time. We booked a direct shuttle service to San Miguel de Allende from the Mexico City airport, recommended by our Airbnb host, when Brett received a very unexpected refund from the dentist he saw three years ago in Portland. The amount of the refund exactly covers the cost of the shuttle, and it will deliver us directly to the door of our apartment in SMA.

We head back to Baltimore early tomorrow morning (using toll roads this time!) to turn in our rental car and head first to Toronto. We’ll spend the night there and then catch an early morning flight down to Mexico City. We’re looking forward to getting together with long-time reader Natalie in Toronto at our hotel tomorrow evening. It’s hard for us to believe that we left Kaua’i a week ago tomorrow, but even harder to accept sometimes that we’re not going back after this trip is over. Our time so far on the mainland has almost seemed at times like we’re visiting a foreign country because it’s so different in so many ways, from prices to traffic to the weather to the stores and shops available. We’re a bit sad we were not able to visit either Gettysburg or Valley Forge, but there wasn’t enough time and we were honestly much too tired to do any sightseeing. Those visits will be a good excuse to return to Pennsylvania in the future.

Our baby graduated! We’ll have one more graduation to attend for YaYu (her goal is a Ph.D.), but that won’t be for a few more years.

We’ve had a great, busy, but tiring week in Philadelphia but wouldn’t have had it any other way (other than that horrid trip up from Baltimore). We’re looking forward to the week coming up, with hopefully a more relaxing travel experience than the one last week, and starting our long stay in San Miguel de Allende. Wishing all a very good week filled with lots of good things!

Sunday Morning 5/8/2022: Mother’s Day/Last Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! Wishing you all a day of peace, calm, and getting a bit spoiled.

Today is also Brett’s and my last day on Kaua’i, and our day will be spent finishing up our packing and cleaning out the refrigerator so we’re ready to go tomorrow. Brett already spoils me every day but I know he’ll put in a little extra effort today.

We’ll be up bright and early tomorrow morning to start our journey back to the mainland. Our flight leaves Kaua’i at 1:30 in the afternoon but we want to be at the airport by 11:30 to turn in the rental car and get all our bags checked (two for us and two full of YaYu’s stuff). Traffic heading south can be bottlenecked in Kapaa in the mornings, especially on Mondays, so we want to give ourselves plenty of time to get through that mess as well.

We made a last visit to the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Lighthouse on Wednesday. The views never disappoint. Brett got a new lighthouse t-shirt to take back to the mainland (he’s worn out two others).

We’ve enjoyed a quiet week in Princeville. We were thoroughly exhausted when we arrived last Sunday, more than we realized, and then had to turn around on Monday and head back down to Lihue to run a bunch of errands. We felt as if we were bleeding money at every stop: fees to get our wills witnessed and notarized; postage costs to send said wills to our son in Japan and the inflatable mattress back to YaYu; another lock for one of YaYu’s suitcases purchased from Target; gas at $4.99/gallon at Costco (cheapest on the island); food for the week from Walmart; and lunch from Konohiki Seafood. On Wednesday we headed back down the road to Kilauea to pick up my prescription from our doctor and visit the lighthouse once more, and on Thursday we did laundry, but other than going out for a walk most days we rested and read in our little condo. It’s been gloomy and rained a great deal this past week and we never got a chance to go to the pool.

This last Sunday morning on Kaua’i I am thinking about:

  • Things we accomplished this past week: All of our last minute moving stuff got done: we used up things, donated things, threw away things, and got all of our last minute business taken care of, including address changes and picking up my prescription from our doctor. We’ve done everything we ever wanted to do on Kaua’i, eaten at every place we ever wanted to dine, and we’re in good shape to go tomorrow. I’m thankful that between downpours Brett and I were able to get some walks in this week.
  • Good things that happened: We had a call from YaYu on Tuesday evening that she had been hired for a research position at Drexel University! She had been worried she wouldn’t find a job but then got three good offers this past week and picked the best fit. Along with finding a great place to live with her best friends, and having amassed a tidy amount of savings, she is in a very good place to begin her post-college life. On the not-so-good side of things though she caught COVID this past week from a visitor to her dorm floor who was sick and came up unmasked. YaYu is currently quarantined and missing out on several special activities for seniors, but she should be able to march in her graduation ceremony on the 14th. Brett and I are not sure how much time we’ll be able to spend with her, although we’ll all be masked the entire time.
Hawaii is the most isolated inhabited place on Earth. When you spot Hawaii in the picture above, the cost of living and supply chain issues here make a little more sense.
  • How we saved: All of our Monday expenses were necessary and planned for, and other than getting Brett a new Kilauea Lighthouse t-shirt, a reusable lighthouse shopping bag and another one for me from Foodland (they make the best reusable bags) we had a no-spend week. Our food for the week cost $109 (from Walmart and Konohiki Seafood), not bad for a bunch of (mostly) microwavable convenience foods that kept us out of restaurants. Every last bit will be gone by tomorrow morning with nothing wasted.

We didn’t eat the healthiest of foods last week, but we measured everything, kept our portions small, and were able to stay out of restaurants. The dinner plates in the condo are HUGE, so sometimes we put everything on one plate and shared.

  • Looking forward to next week: We thought we’d be helping YaYu get settled in her new place in Philadelphia, but it turns out she’ll be staying on campus until June 1 so we’ll be doing some other things for/with her instead. Meiling and WenYu arrive in PA on Friday morning and we’ll all be going out for a celebratory family meal that evening to celebrate YaYu’s graduation and my 70th birthday which both happen on Saturday. Brett and I are looking forward to visiting the Gettysburg battlefield on Thursday and we may try to also visit the Valley Forge historical site. We are not looking forward to our long flights tomorrow and will stay double masked the entire time.

Nene grazing on the golf course and Princeville’s mountain view. The pale white streaks on the face of the mountains are waterfalls, which form whenever it rains.

Princeville is a very lovely, manicured community filled with big, beautiful houses and condominiums situated around two championship golf courses (one of which hasn’t been open since 2015!). We enjoyed walking on paths around the golf course closest to our condo, seeing the all the nene, and waterfalls coming down the mountains, but will remain forever thankful for our funky little apartment with its beautiful yard in such a great neighborhood and location on the other side of the island. Princeville is just not our style.

Here’s to the wonderful additional two years we’ve spent on Kaua’i and to new adventures beginning this coming week! So lucky and thankful we got to live Kaua’i, not once but twice.

Sunday Morning 4/10/2022: Temporarily Grounded

Wednesday’s break in the rain provided the only sunset of the week.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

I joke that we live in a vortex, but last Sunday afternoon the wind was blowing into yard from different directions and swirling through the middle (which is why the ti plants in back are standing up straight versus bent by the wind)

We have had an absolutely crappy week weather wise. Rain, rain, wind, rain, more rain, more wind . . . along with one beautiful day that didn’t last long enough. Thankfully we’ve had loads to do to keep busy, especially with the yard sale coming up in just a couple of weeks. We’re in the process of getting everything out into the living room right now, and will then spend the next couple of weeks getting things organized, arranged, and priced. We’re going to hold the sale in our living room and kitchen rather than move everything up and down the stairs to and from the back yard every day. We’ll close off the back of the apartment to keep things we’re not selling off limits.

We found more rolls of paper towels and bags of hand soap in the back than we thought we had. Hopefully there’ll be a buyer at the yard sale looking for a bargain.

We spent last Wednesday getting our car cleaned up and ready to sell, and listed it for sale late that afternoon. We figured it might take a week or so to sell, but the ad got over 300 views in less than 24 hours. There were the usual ghosts, and although the price was at the low end for the model, age, and condition, two people immediately asked if we would lower it by one-third for them; soon after another asked if we would discount the price by 20%. Anyway, in no time we had four people ready to test drive the car on Friday, and the first person who came offered the full asking price in cash. The papers were signed, the money deposited in the bank, and the car was gone by noon, but the buyer was nice enough to take us to Big Save before bringing us home so we could top off our groceries for the next couple of weeks. We are now pretty much stuck in the apartment until the 22nd, when we’ll pick up the rental car for the rest of our time on the island. If we absolutely have to go anywhere between now and then we’ll use Uber or take the bus.

Brett and I joke that we keep getting signs that it’s time for us to go. The latest was the arrival of some new, noisy neighbors this past week. If the weather is good, even for a moment, or the rain stops, they are outside and having a party. For just two people they are incredibly loud – we can clearly hear everything they are saying, and sometimes it feels like they are standing right out in our yard. They stay up late too – on some nights they’ve been outside whooping it up until midnight. One of the things we’ve loved about our apartment and its location is how very quiet it’s been but between our clompy upstairs neighbor (who has become increasingly annoying in other ways as well) and these new additions to the neighborhood we’re feeling much better about moving on.

This morning I am thinking about:

Our Honda Civic still looked pretty good for its age (11 years) and ran well too – we’ll miss it. It was the perfect island car.

  • What we accomplished: 1) Getting the car detailed for sale took some effort, but sold it in less than 36 hours for the full asking price. 2) We cleaned out the back storage area of the apartment and got the stainless steel shelves moved into the living room for the yard sale (the shelves will be for sale too). 3) We took a big bag of food to the Kaua’i Food Bank with things we had in the pantry that we won’t be able to use before we go. It was a crazy mix of stuff, from canned beans to arborio rice to dried apple chips, but we were glad we could pass it on to those who can use the items.
I can’t get over how curly my hair is these days. Or how much I take after my dad.
  • Good things that happened: 1) I got a great hair cut last Tuesday and feel so, so much better. 2) Selling our car so quickly and getting the full asking price was a very good thing, even if we are going to be stuck at home for the next couple of weeks.
  • How we saved: 1) We had the car exterior professionally washed and waxed, but detailed the interior car ourselves for a total of $31, the price of a bottle of ArmorAll for the interior and cost of the wash and wax. 2) We put $3 more dollars into the sandwich fund. 3) We haven’t thrown out any food (yet) and we managed to use up several condiments and odds and ends of other things from the refrigerator and pantry.
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: 1) Better weather! 2) We’re going to start packing our suitcases this week. We’ll be washing all of the clothes that have been stored for the past two years and then both of us will begin the process of filling our suitcases. 3) We’re hoping to get almost all the yard sale items sorted and arranged in the living room for the yard sale, and maybe get started on pricing.

We now have less than a month left to go on Kaua’i. I am finding myself feeling a little verklempt when I think about leaving, or go through my pictures. Although it’s time to move on we have made so many wonderful memories during our time here and it’s going to take a while for it not to feel like home. Our decision in 2012 to move here was a good one and we all thrived here. We have much to look forward to in the coming days, but we know we’ll always be looking back as well to our time on Kaua’i.

I still pinch myself when I think about our time on Kaua’i.

That’s a wrap for this week. Other than being stuck at home, next week should be another good, productive week. I hope everyone had a good week as well and that you’re looking forward to one that’s coming up.

Sunday Morning 4/3/2022: One More Month To Go

Monday’s sunset built slowly but put on a beautiful show. The clouds were actually a deeper red than they appear in the photos.

Time is moving along quickly, and just four weeks from today we’ll leave our beloved apartment. There will be a new renter moving in on May 1, so we’ll pack up the car that morning, meet our landlord at around 10:00 or so for a walkthrough, hand over the keys and get our deposit back before leaving to head for the north shore for our final eight days on Kaua’i. We’re expecting an entirely different experience with this landlord than the one we had moving out of our house in 2018.

Thank you for all the lovely comments about our upcoming move to Nashville. We are excited about the transition, which will truly be another Big Adventure, and know what a blessing it will be to have M and K so close to us for a couple of years. We’ll also be seeing our son and grandson more as well versus just once a year in Japan. Brett and I met at the naval air station in Millington, just north of Memphis, forty-five years ago (he was my instructor for a two-week course on transistor theory). We were married in Memphis, and our son was born in Millington, so we’ve spent some time in Tennessee and are familiar with the western part of the state. However, we’ve only driven through Nashville, to stop and see The Hermitage, so we’re looking forward to experiencing and learning about the city and the surrounding area as well.

Our top choice for a new car is the Subaru Outback, perfect for either an extended road trip after Nashville or surviving New England winters.

So many things remain to be figured out for our move. The biggest issue we will face is finding housing but our daughter-in-law doesn’t think she’ll know more for another month or so, or maybe not even until she arrives in Nashville. The consulate apparently contracts with certain apartments, and if M takes one of those, her housing stipend is a tax free benefit. We’re of course encouraging her to go that route. Which apartment buildings are on their list remains a mystery for now, and whether we could possibly share an apartment with her also remains unknown. We think at this point though the best solution may be for Brett and me to rent our own, separate apartment but in the same building/complex as hers, if possible. We’re going to purchase a car online before we arrive but otherwise we have no idea about anything else. We plan to arrive in Nashville mid-July and hopefully by then will know enough to secure an apartment and get started settling in.

This morning I am thinking about:

Scrubbed and clean, oiled and buffed. I wish I had taken a before shot – the table was a mess but cleaned up nicely!

  • What we accomplished last week: 1) We did our last Big Shop here last Tuesday, and ended up pretty much shopping for the rest of the month. Our usual mid-month shop will be very, very small, which is as it should be. 2) I stopped procrastinating and cleaned up a teak bathroom table we’ve been using in our shower so it’s ready for the yard sale. Lots of elbow grease was involved but it looks almost new again and I can double the asking price. I learned how to clean and restore natural (unfinished) wood pieces years ago rejuvenating old tansu in Japan. 3) We took two more bags of stuff to the thrift store, bought another suitcase there for $12, and finished packing YaYu’s things to take back with us to Pennsylvania. 4) We survived our first week living with patio furniture and an inflatable mattress and it wasn’t as awful as we thought it would be – the mattress is more comfortable than we had anticipated. 5) Brett and I moved up to Level II with our Spanish lessons. My high school Spanish and Brett’s background with Latin has helped us understand and acquire things far more quickly than we did with French. Also, Spanish pronunciation is far easier.
Besides all the delicious food we enjoyed on Wednesday, I had fun experiencing some new-to-me locations on our hike. This is Nawiliwili Harbor in Lihue, where the big cruise ships dock. The dark mountain in the the middle background is Haupu (Black Mountain) – we usually only see the other side of it.
  • Good things that happened: 1) We had a wonderful anniversary celebration this year even though we had to make changes to our original dining plans and ended up going a bit over budget. 2) Brett’s sister asked if she could join us for a week or two when we are in Mexico – yes! 3) We watched the Academy Award winning movie Coda on Thursday evening – it was sublime. 4) Brett and I both got our second COVID boosters on Friday, so along with masks and plenty of hand sanitizer we’re as prepared as we can possibly be for avoiding the virus during our upcoming travels.
We treated ourselves with one last trip to Lappert’s Ice Cream after getting our second COVID booster.
  • Ways we saved: 1) Even though we bought food for the entire month, we stayed under our bi-monthly food budget. We just don’t need much these days. 2) We added an additional $5.39 to our sandwich fund and are about set for meals during our final week in the apartment. 3) Although we went over budget a bit on Wednesday, we felt we got very good value (food and experience) for what we spent so no regrets.
The sunset views alone made our meal at The Beach House worth the expense
  • Looking forward to next week: 1) I have an appointment to get my hair cut on Thursday morning with a stylist who specializes in curly hair! My hair’s getting long enough to drive me crazy so I’m excited to get it shortened and shaped up. 2) The weather didn’t cooperate for any beach days this past week, so we’re once again hoping for better weather this coming week.

Other than selling our car, we are finally done with our local Buy & Sell. We listed our last item this past week, a rug, and got several requests for it over the span of three days . . . but not one person followed up, including a woman who said she was coming right over to get it and then never showed up. We were just going to roll up the rug and donate it to the Habitat for Humanity thrift store on Friday rather than deal further with Buy & Sell, but just before I took the ad down another woman contacted me, asked if the rug was still available, and she did come right over and buy it! The car will be listed for sale toward the end of this week, and the yard sale will be held the weekend before we move out.

That’s all for this week! Good things happened, much was accomplished, books were read, and good food was eaten. I hope it was as good for everyone else as it was for us and that you all are looking forward to the week coming up as much as we are.

Sunday Morning 3/27/2022: Whatever Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger

Sunsets were all over the place this past week.

We had a return trip to airline hell once again this past week, this time with our Delta flights back to the mainland. I had just checked our itinerary at end of the week before and all was well, and then last Sunday afternoon Brett received a notification that changes had been made (I made the reservation but he got the notification . . . hmmm). While the route hadn’t changed, long layovers had been added and we would now be arriving in Baltimore eight hours later then planned, in the middle of the night! Also, all of our seating had been changed – we had booked and paid for Comfort+ seats, but on two of the three legs of the journey we had been moved to Economy with all Comfort+ seats on those flights sold out. Finally, beyond the time and seating changes made, we had scheduled a rental car pickup for the short drive to Philadelphia but now the car rental agency would be closed and not open for several hours later, and we’d lose the first night of our hotel reservation. Grrrrrrr.

I fortunately found a new flight schedule that works for us. The original flight was Lihue-Seattle-Minneapolis-Baltimore; the new itinerary is Lihue-Honolulu-Atlanta-Baltimore. We’ll leave Kaua’i earlier in the day and arrive in Baltimore several hours earlier as well. While making the change I received repeated invitations to upgrade to first class, and we had the miles to do so, but every time I tried . . . nothing. I ended up spending 80 minutes on hold to message with a representative only to learn first class was sold out (then why are you offering me an upgrade?). We were able to get the last two seats in Comfort+ for the Honolulu to Atlanta to Baltimore parts of our trip, but for that long flight to Atlanta those are possibly the least ideal seats in the section (in the middle of a row). Funny thing though – when I checked our reservation again a couple of days later there was another invitation to upgrade to first class, but this time for more than twice the amount of miles that were required earlier, and now only for the Atlanta-Baltimore leg of the flight, a less than two hour flight. No thanks.

We are of course worried because our odds for catching COVID are going to go way up, especially with the new sub-variant making the rounds. We’re vaccinated, boosted, will be wearing masks the entire time, but it’s going to be a crap shoot whether or not we can remain virus free by the time we’re due to depart for Mexico. Canada has dropped their testing requirement for entry but we’re in the process of working up a plan for what to do if one or both of us tests positive before then.

Anyway, this morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) The last box for storage was sent on Friday. It was the largest box we shipped (not the heaviest though) and is due to arrive in Massachusetts this Wednesday. All our other boxes have arrived safely and been put away. 2) The buyers picked up all the furniture yesterday so the apartment is empty. Getting everything out of the apartment was a chore, but Brett and the other guy somehow got it done. We of course miss our sofa and bed but are glad to have them sold. All that’s left to go now are one rug, the car, and the yard sale stuff. 3) With YaYu’s input I made dining reservations for her graduation and my 70th birthday. We’ll be eating earlier in the evening than we had hoped for because reservation times are already full due to all the graduation celebrations in the area that will be going on. I’m looking forward to eating at the restaurant we decided on together.
Our living room decor for the next month
  • Good things that happened: 1) A BIG family issue that was up in the air has been settled. Stay tuned for exciting news! 2) The weather was pretty awful on some days this past week with high winds and lots of rain. Even when the sun came out it’s still been very windy. However, we got a treat on Thursday when we woke up to a rainbow on one side of the apartment and then saw another giant rainbow on the other side of the building as the sun started to go down (with rain in between all day)! We are going to miss Kauai’s rainbows.
  • What we saved: 1) We needed another roll of packing tape and more rice from Walmart last week, but returned an unused roll of bubble wrap which covered the cost of those items, so we ended up with a completely no-spend week. 2) We were invited to again participate in a one-week Nielsen survey – they sent us two crisp $1 bills to join the survey (which went right into the sandwich fund), and we’ll each receive $10 when the survey is over. When we received our survey kits five days later there were six more crisp $1 bills for us! 3) The large box we just sent to Massachusetts had enough extra room in it for our comforter, comforter cover, and pillow shams. We’re glad we won’t have to buy those items again later.
  • What we’re looking forward to: 1) Brett and I will celebrate our 43rd anniversary on Wednesday, and we’ve scheduled another Day of No Cooking. We have three great dining locations planned, and will be getting together with friends for one of our meals. The challenge will be to stay at or under our budget! 2) We’re doing another Not-So-Big Shop on Tuesday which will be our penultimate trip to the Kaua’i Costco. That store has been a lifesaver for us. 3) We’re hoping good weather shows up again and that we can get back to the beach at least one day this coming week.

There’s been some family stuff going on the past couple of weeks or so, burbling under the surface, and a decision was made this past week! It’s something unexpected but good . . . and change is coming. Everyone is healthy and doing well, and everything else is moving along as it should so there are no complaints, and all of us are excited about what’s going to happen. In the meantime Brett and I are still in a holding pattern here although things will be picking up again in the next couple of weeks. I have a feeling we’re going to go through April very quickly.

That wraps up another week! In spite of being under the weather one day, and having some bad weather on other days, it was a good week and what needed to be done got done. We segue into April this week, our last full month on Kaua’i, and are looking forward to getting more done to get us ready for our next Big Adventure. I hope it was a good week for everyone, and that you’re looking forward to the one coming up as much as we are!

Sunday Morning 3/20/2022: Like A Couple of Ducks

A few pastel wisps last Monday were the only evening color all week.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

It’s almost hard for me to believe that this week it’s been two years since Brett and I found ourselves scrambling to leave Japan to return to Kaua’i. The State Department had asked Americans who were overseas to return home because of the pandemic, and in the matter of a couple of days we changed our plane tickets, found an Airbnb rental on the north shore, and flew back to Kaua’i with absolutely nothing but the clothes in our suitcases and a bag with 31 different flavors of KitKats. While Japan hadn’t yet been put into shutdown, the circle around our lives and where we could go there had tightened considerably. There were no masks, hand sanitizers, or toilet paper to be found anywhere. We arrived on Kaua’i to a complete shutdown and again no masks, toilet paper, or hand sanitizer to be found anywhere, and no tourists either. Slowly, with the help of friends and others on the island, we found a place to live, bought a car and basic necessities, and began a second round of island life. We will always treasure the quiet life we experienced back then, but after two years of lying low, it’s time again to spread our wings and see the world.

One year ago: out to see the cherry blossoms on our last day in Japan; an eerily deserted Narita Airport; an empty plane from Honolulu to Kaua’i; all the KitKats

Brett discovered this past week that I had gotten our departure date from San Miguel de Allende wrong leaving us with a full week before we’re scheduled to be in England (oops). So, we booked a week in Mexico City! I found a great apartment in a great location, and we’ll spend our last week in Mexico touring and experiencing the capital city. I’d also been watching prices carefully on flights between Mexico City and London and this past week I got the notification that this was the time to buy so we now have that flight reserved.

We’ve entered what feels like a pause in our departure activity: stored items have been sent and have arrived in Massachusetts, we’re waiting for the furniture to be picked up but it’s too early to sell the car or start cleaning the apartment, and so forth. The apartment is finally starting to feel empty, although we appreciate having our furniture for a bit longer than expected versus having to use our patio furniture. The pantry and refrigerator continue to empty out as well. When our neighbors on the other side of the building left last year they filled two trash cans with their leftover condiments and such. We’ll barely fill a small trash bag. We still feel like a couple of ducks at times these days, appearing to be calmly floating around on the surface but underneath we’re paddling like mad!

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished last week: Besides booking our flights to the UK and finding an Airbnb in Mexico City, 1) we did a Not-So-Big Shop on Monday and found everything we needed/wanted. 2) Six more packages were mailed to Massachusetts. We have just one (big) package left to send but it won’t go for another week or so as it will contain a couple of things we want/need to use before then. 3) We informed our landlord of our departure and set up our move-out walkthrough for May 1. It’s almost hard to accept we have just six weeks left here.

Hot and humid on Wednesday, breezy and warm yesterday – two great beach days!

  • Good things that happened: 1) Our upstairs neighbor shocked us by paying for his Internet share on Monday after only one reminder. Previous payments have required four to five reminders over several weeks. 2) Tuesday was hot, humid, and hazy, the worst sort of day for a hike, so we headed to the beach for a few hours instead. While we were there we spotted a shark in the waves, fairly close to the beach but in a rocky area where people don’t go in to swim. The shark was about four feet long so not a monster but still eerie to watch (there were people in the water but not anywhere near the shark). I’m not sure the shark was a good thing, but it was still interesting. 3) Yesterday was somewhat overcast and windy at our place, but we still thought we’d give the beach a try. It was the right choice and we enjoyed a near-perfect afternoon. 4) WenYu let us know she is going to come for a visit when we’re in Oxford!
  • The ways we saved: 1) We shopped at Costco, Walmart, and Times market last Monday, stuck to our list, and came in right on budget. 2) We filled the gas tank (@$5/gallon – ouch!) but otherwise didn’t spend on anything else this past week. 3) We’re continuing to save $1 bills and change (and $5 bills as well) into what we call “the sandwich fund,” to cover a few takeout meals toward the end of our last week in the apartment. So far we have about three days covered.
  • What I’m looking forward to this week: We have another (outwardly) quiet week coming up but I hope the weather will provide a beach day or two. Some might think it’s boring not having much of anything planned or scheduled, but I dreamed of this back when my days were over-full with the girls’ comings and goings and I almost lived in our car, let alone dealing with all there was to do at home. Having nothing on the calendar is every bit as wonderful as I imagined it would be.

Since the middle of February I’ve been using the 1SE (1 Second Everyday) app on my phone to take a short video of something I’m doing or experiencing that day. At the end of a year the short videos can be combined into a larger film showing your life for the year. I found out about the app because a friend’s daughter (and a friend of WenYu’s) died suddenly last month, and her mom shared her 1SE compilation from the year preceding her death. It was a wonderful, moving film, showing the beauty of life that can be found in the everyday and even mundane. It’s become a great little project for me and I’m having fun deciding what to film each day.

That’s a wrap for another week! Outwardly it didn’t seem very busy, but there’s been some family things going on in the background that have been keeping Brett and I on our toes (nothing bad). We still got a lot done, but mainly relaxed and enjoyed ourselves. We’re looking forward to the week coming up and hope you all are as well!

Sunday Morning 3/13/2022: Down Mexico Way

Colorful skies appeared out our front door once again this past week!

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

As if things weren’t already complicated enough, our flight to Paris changed once again this past week, this time to an absolute nightmare of a schedule. What had started as a simple flight from Baltimore to Montreal and then on to Paris when we bought the tickets last October had now morphed into impossibility: fly to Toronto from Baltimore, then take another flight to Montreal to catch a flight to Paris . . . except the Paris flight departs 15 minutes before the flight from Toronto lands in Montreal! The notice from the airline added a sentence at the bottom saying there might be problems with our schedule and we were welcome to choose another from four schedule options located further down the page. Each of those options were just as awful: all included 12-14 hour layovers in both Toronto and Montreal before finally departing for France nearly two days later than originally scheduled. Insanity! Ticket prices seemed to have gone mad as well as we noticed our affordable seats were now priced at over $3990 per person!

San Miguel de Allende (photo credit: Miranda Garside/Unsplash)

We took this as a sign we maybe shouldn’t go to France at this time. We’d been feeling somewhat uncomfortable about it as it were, and Tuesday we made a decision to go to Mexico instead. We changed our flight destination to Mexico City at no cost, and I cancelled our Strasbourg Airbnb reservation and booked a place in San Miguel de Allende. If all goes according to plan we’ll fly to Toronto, spend the night at a hotel near the airport, then depart the next morning for Mexico City where we’ll catch a bus for San Miguel de Allende after arriving around noon. What we’d paid for tickets to Paris covered business class seats (!!) on our flights to Mexico (two days later prices for the seats had increased to where this wouldn’t have been possible), and we’ll also receive a gift card from the airline for $290, the refund of taxes we paid from the Paris flight. Heaven knows what we’ll do if this new flight gets changed, but I guess we’ll just cross that bridge if and when we get to it.

Our lodgings in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

We’re going to come out ahead by going to Mexico. The cost of living is much, much, much less than Strasbourg (especially with costs expected to rise on everything, everywhere in Europe this summer). Our flight to London from Mexico City in August will be more than it would be from Strasbourg, but we won’t be paying for two expensive train tickets (another surprise) to get to Strasbourg from Paris, so the difference hopefully won’t be too horrible. We’re feeling sad about not going to France but think for now it’s best to wait and try again later. We’re quite excited that we’ll finally get to experience Mexico and spend time in San Miguel de Allende.

Anyway, this morning I am:

  • Thinking of what we accomplished: 1) I had to wait on hold for over 45 minutes to talk with an airline representative (in the middle of their night), but the ticket change was accomplished easily once we finally connected. Likewise, it was easy to make the lodging change with Airbnb, and a hotel reservation in Toronto for the night. 2) Seven more packages were mailed back to Massachusetts and we have just seven left to go. Eleven of the original fourteen sent have been received and put away. The remaining three are larger boxes and aren’t expected to arrive until the end of the month. 3) I listed our TV, sake jug lamp, and hibachi table on Buy & Sell last Sunday afternoon. The lamp and TV sold in less then two hours, and when the couple came to pick up the lamp, they also bought the hibachi table on the spot! I was so worried it wouldn’t get sold, but they were thrilled to get it and we were thrilled to get what we wanted for it. We got a good feeling from them as well, that the hibachi and lamp will be appreciated and with them for a very long time. Everything now has pretty much been sold except for the car and smaller things that will go out at the yard sale next month. 4) Brett and I switched our language study to Spanish last Thursday.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) The airline representative I spoke with was extremely patient and helpful. Her reaction to our last flight schedule was priceless: “What? You mean you can’t transcend time and space?” She was actually horrified we had been sent that schedule and was very apologetic. 2) Wednesday’s weather was predicted to be somewhat gloomy, but we woke to beautiful blue skies so we headed out for a perfect afternoon at the beach. Thursday was almost as nice so back we went for another lovely afternoon of sunshine and relaxation. 3) The woman who has been staying in the apartment above us while our neighbor’s been away has very curly hair like mine, and she gave me the name of the woman on the island who cuts her hair. I am so happy that I can get my hair cut by someone who knows curly hair before we leave the island rather than have to find a stylist back in Pennsylvania.
$13.17 for blueberries and bananas was the extent of our spending last week.
  • Thinking of ways we saved: 1) We bought a bag of frozen blueberries and organic bananas at Costco on Monday; otherwise we had a no-spend week (postage was again paid from our travel account). 2) We had to forfeit what we’d paid for the first 30 days of our Strasbourg rental and the accompanying Airbnb service fee (ouch!), but the apartment we’ve reserved in Mexico costs so much less that including the forfeiture we’ll still end up paying $1500+ less than we would have for the same time period in Strasbourg.
  • Looking forward to next week: Once again there’s nothing scheduled on the calendar for next week. We plan to mail six more packages to Massachusetts, and do a Not-So-Big Shop on Tuesday, but otherwise the week is ours to do as we please (fingers crossed there will be good beach weather!).

Our upstairs neighbor, J, returned this past week after a long absence and once again he’s noisily thumping around his apartment. We had almost forgotten how much noise he makes, but it’s possible K, who’s been staying in the apartment while he was away, may have spoken to him because for the past few days he’s been much quieter up there, at least when she’s there (we had mentioned to her how quiet she was and how clumpy he was). If it’s just J though he makes a lot of noise. K will apparently be staying with him for a little while longer while she looks for a more permanent place to live. We believe she’d love to move into our apartment after we leave but isn’t sure she can wait that long living with J. Brett has been put in charge of collecting what J owes us for his share of the Internet because it’s always an effort to collect from him (he’s a check’s in the mail kind of guy).

We had a delightful week here, busy but not too busy. Books were read, tasks completed, hikes were taken and the beach was visited. Time is moving along at a nice pace: quickly, but not too quickly, giving us time to enjoy our remaining days on Kaua’i and reflect on our time here. I hope everyone is looking forward to the week coming up as much as we are!

Sunday Morning: 3/6/2022: Getting It Done

No clouds, no sunset. They have been very few and far between since the beginning of the year. Usually all we’ve been seeing is a soft glow along the horizon and a darkening sky above.

The Sunday Morning post is back! I’ve dropped a few things to streamline it a bit which I hope will keep it from becoming overwhelming, which was what was happening back in January. Most of the news will still be here, but in a more compact format.

Things are moving along as we get closer to our departure. We’ve sold almost all of our furniture . . . to one family! They are moving to Kaua’i at the end of this month (the house they bought is currently being refurbished) and it will basically be furnished with our stuff – the buyers’ and our style match up pretty well and it’s a win-win situation for both of us. We’re also happy to be able to keep our furniture a little longer than we expected before having to live with our patio furniture and sleep on the inflatable mattress. There are only three items left to list on Buy & Sell (which will get done this coming week), and we’ll hold a yard sale at the end of April to get rid of the rest of our stuff. The car will be listed for sale the second week of April, giving us a month to get it sold. Used car prices on the island are high right now, and we’ll be able to ask what we paid for it two years ago! We have rented a car beginning April 22 to use until we leave in May. Rentals are crazy expensive here now and we got the best deal we could using our military discount with Budget, but we’re still paying around five times what we paid before we left in 2018. Friends have offered to loan us a car to get through to the 22nd if we need it, but hopefully we can work out the timing with a buyer.

We’re closely following the situation in Ukraine and will make a call on whether we should to go to France or to Mexico around the end of this month. We very much want to go to France, but also are feeling a bit uncomfortable, and that this may not be the best time to travel to Europe. For now we’re more concerned about the people in Ukraine and all their suffering than our travels. What’s going on there makes whining about wearing a mask or inflation seem very petty. The destruction of the nuclear power plant this past Thursday is especially concerning as are the citizens fleeing, and the destruction of Mariupol. The entire situation in Ukraine is heartbreaking and tension-inducing, and like most of the world, we hope it can be resolved but for now it’s hard to know the direction things will go. We continue to pray for an end to conflict and for peace.

Thinking about this past week, this morning I am:

  • Thinking of what we accomplished: 1) We sold our barbecue in less than an hour after it was listed last Sunday. Used barbecue grills typically take a while to sell here but we had nine full price offers in less than 30 minutes! I spent all day last Saturday cleaning the grill so it looked almost new (a truly awful, messy chore) and we included the gas we had left in our tank as well as our barbecue tools so maybe that’s what did the trick. 2) At our suggestion, the woman who bought the grill also bought our fire pit as well! 3) I’ve been reading like a house afire every day, and am currently having to read two books thanks to the library sending them out at the same time. 4) I play Wordle every day, and Brett and I continue to study French every day as well. 5) We dumped Duolingo last month and are now working with Memrise every day, which is providing some good listening practice. Neither program is really very good, but they’re what’s available to us here.
We spent two days in a row at the Shipwreck Beach last week. The whales put on a show each day.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) Learning I didn’t have to get a root canal last week was the best news of all. The pain I had been having turned out to be from the temporary crown and once the permanent crown was attached the pain disappeared. 2) Selling the grill and fire pit was also a good thing – we’re glad to see things go these days as it means less of a scramble as we prepare to move out. 3) We enjoyed two long days in a row at the beach, and saw whales breaching and then got to watch one whale roll and whack the water with its fin 10 times in a row! These animals are absolutely magnificent – watching a Hawaiian humpback whale breach is like watching a bus come up out of the ocean; they’re that big.
Round 1 of our storage items are on their way to Massachusetts, for slightly less than we estimated.
  • Thinking of ways we saved: 1) We kept our food spending at $48 under budget this past week and have enough food to get us through until the middle of the month when it will be time to shop again. 2) We’re on a quest to use up as much of the food as possible out of the pantry and freezer, and especially as many condiments as possible before we leave and we’re making good progress which is also saving us $. 3) Once the grill was cleaned (so. much. work!) I raised the asking price by $50. 4) Other than our food shopping trip and a tank of gas for the car we had a no-spend week. 5) Using funds from our travel savings, the first round of packages (14 of them) were sent to Massachusetts for a little less than estimated and another seven are ready to go this coming week. 6) We received a surprise $20 gift card from Costco – apparently they had renegotiated the price of the laptop Brett bought and sent him the difference between what he paid and the new price. Sweet!
Condiments-B-Gone: I made a dipping sauce for our potstickers from chili crisp & soy sauce from the fridge, and sesame oil & mirin from the pantry. It was delicious with just the right amount of heat.
  • Looking forward to next week: We don’t have any appointments on the calendar for next week and are hopeful for more good beach weather although the forecast is not looking good. I’m going to list the TV, the hibachi table, and our sake jug lamp for sale on Buy & Sell and see what happens, and we’ll get a few more packages mailed off to the mainland. Otherwise there’s nothing much exciting happening next week.
  • Sharing family news: All is well or better than well. Meiling is getting ready to move out of her tiny studio in downtown Boston and into a lovely apartment in Cambridge with her long-time boyfriend. After a year+ stretch apart they are ready to live together again. I believe marriage is also being discussed. WenYu and her partner both caught COVID last month (both vaxxed and boosted) but they recovered quickly. She said she’s had worse colds, but COVID left them feeling very, very tired. YaYu is feeling somewhat overwhelmed as she finishes things up before graduation. She has a job interview for a research position at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital coming up, so we’ve all got our fingers crossed for her. And, our son and family are all well, and the grandkids thriving. Brett and our grandson had a Zoom conference yesterday – C is writing a paper for school about aircraft carriers and he wanted to get some information from Grandpa. Hopes are high that we’ll be able to see them all in Japan at the end of the year.
My favorite baby photo of all time: our grandson at age one. He looks like he’s just finished plotting world domination.

The sections I took out from the old Sunday posts were mostly ones that were either boring, difficult, or a chore to write (i.e. the bonus question). We’re not watching much TV these days, the books I’m reading can be found in the 2022 Reading List at the top of the page, and it seems all we’re listening to now are the feral chickens who have made a home in the far back corner of the yard, under the orange tree. They’re obnoxious, and I told Brett that once we had noisy chickens in the yard again I knew it was time to go. The most difficult section to let go of was Grateful For, but it always felt sort of strange to pull one thing out each week as we feel thankful for so many things. Anyway, for now it will be a shorter post overall, but all the news will still be there!

It was a great week here and we’re looking forward to the one coming up. We hope to get more accomplished, more packages mailed, more things sold, and more reading done. I hope everyone had a great week as well!

A Different Sunday Morning Post 1/30/2022

Sunset in Poipu

Today will be the final post on The Occasional Nomads . . . for a while.

I have been blogging nonstop, at least three times a week, for the last 13 years, and lately I have not been enjoying the process as I once did. Writing had become a chore, and I had been making loads of mistakes that I wasn’t catching. I felt sometimes as if I was writing the same posts over and over. I have loved sharing our lives and talking about travel and other topics these past years, but right now I am feeling very tired and uninspired. I need a break, a longer one than the week or two I usually take off.

So, I am going to step away from the blog for a while, to rest and get my thoughts back in order so I can return feeling fresh, energized, and positive about writing again. I plan to stay away for at least a couple of months, maybe longer, and come back just before or when it’s time for us to hit the road again.

There are not enough words to express my gratitude to everyone who has read this and my earlier blogs over the years. Some of you have been along for the ride since the beginning, but I appreciate just as much the others who have only found The Occasional Nomads in the past few months or even days. Over the years I have had the great joy of meeting several readers in person, some becoming great friends for life. I can count the number of negative comments I have received over the years on one hand, a pretty good record for 13 years. I appreciate all that I have learned from the comments and the give and take they have provided. I have the BEST readers.

I have always hoped for nothing more than those who come to the blog enjoyed what they read here. Maybe they learned something or got a new idea or thought a bit differently about something, but that was never the main point. An English teacher predicted back in high school that I would someday write the Great American Novel. Instead, I ended up writing what I jokingly call The Great American Blog about me and my family’s everyday lives. I hope my writing has shown in a positive way how we dream big, set goals, turn our goals into achievements, and do it all on a (lower) middle class income. Brett and I have been exceedingly fortunate, and we know it, but it’s required a good deal of work on our part, lots of prudent and creative saving, and careful stewardship of what we have. We are grateful for everything we have been given and allowed to do and accomplish.

Although I won’t be writing for a while, I will continue to maintain The Occasional Nomads Instagram site (@theoccasionalnomads), and will be working more on that, with more content and more information (about us and otherwise) instead of just an occasional photo now and again. You can follow our remaining time on Kaua’i there, our efforts as we get ready to leave Hawaii, and segue into our travels once they kick off in May. The blog will not be closed so if you’re looking for some information or maybe a recipe it will remain available. I will also continue to add to this year’s reading list.

Thank you all for everything you bring and have brought to the blog(s) over the years. When I taught, I always learned and received back as much from my students as I ever gave them, and it’s been the same with blogging. I will be back.

Until later,

Laura (and Brett)

Sunday Morning 1/23/2022: Ups & Downs, Good & Bad

There were either too many clouds or no clouds this week, so no sunsets . . . usually just a lovely glow.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

As if we needed another big expense before we go, last weekend I was eating something soft, and bit into something hard and discovered the top of a crown had broken off! The crown goes over a back tooth that is anchoring a bridge I had done back in 2000, but thankfully the bridge is holding firm. I am already seeing the dentist next week and they’ve added some time to my appointment to see if it can be fixed. Best case scenario, although expensive, will be to have a new crown made before we leave. Worst case scenario is that the whole tooth, bridge, etc. will need to be removed and replaced with implants, and there’s currently no time for that. We know that it’s possible to get high-quality dental work done overseas for a fraction of the cost here (and our dental insurance can be used overseas) so however this turns out I’m going to be investigating dental tourism in the coming days and possibly weeks.

The “mailing center” is beginning to take over the living room.

Otherwise, things are moving along as they should. Packages are getting packed, things are being sold, and so forth. It’s almost hard to believe that next weekend marks the end of January leaving us with only three more months to get everything finished up.

We enjoyed another beautiful week, but appointments, errands, and other tasks kept us from getting to the beach. Still, we got in lots of walking, sold some things, and kept moving forward on our departure from Kaua’i. Brett and I continue to make progress with French even though Duolingo is less than ideal (let me count the ways). We’re into Level 3 now, and can read most sentences easily and make only a few mistakes. However, we struggle with understanding spoken French and can only create the most basic of sentences when we try to speak, and our pronunciation is awful. I remember feeling the same way before we traveled in 2018, and yet I was able to understand more than I thought I could and even made a couple of appropriate comments in French toward the end of our time, so I’m hopeful the same will be true for Brett and me this year. We plan to continue studying while we’re in Strasbourg.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Girls In the Garden last Monday, another good mystery, although I sort of had things figured out before I finished. I’d like to read more of Lisa Jewell’s books though. I’m now almost done with The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee, the third in his detective series set in 1920s India. This past week I cashed in some Swagbucks for a $50 Amazon gift card, gave Brett half, and I am going to buy two books this coming week, Crying In H Mart and Dial A For Aunties. I put off reading them last year as neither fit with the mystery theme, but the current wait from the library is too long for both books and I’m dying to read them. In the meantime, as soon as the Mukherjee book is finished I’m going to read 1979, by Val McDermid, then Bury Your Dead, by Louise Penny, the next book in the Inspector Gamache series – they both finally came off of hold from the library on Friday.
  • Listening to: We’re enjoying a very quiet morning. There’s only a very light breeze outside and other than some birds singing nothing is going on out there. Even the chickens have quieted down. Inside Brett is reading and finishing his breakfast, so I’m in my happy quiet morning place with a hot cup of coffee in front of me.
  • Watching: We finished all available episodes of You this past week, but there will apparently be another season coming up! Such a creepy show, but well done. We’re still enjoying Kim’s Convenience, but started rewatching Call My Agent this past week to hear spoken French and hopefully improve our listening skills a tiny bit. They all talk very fast but we usually can understand at least one expression and a few words here and there. I guess that’s progress.
I would have kept the All-Clad cookware except it weighed too much and was too awkward to mail.
  • Happy I accomplished: 1) I ordered our free home COVID tests for Brett and me. We plan to use them when we’re in Pennsylvania in May as that’s when we’ll be around and involved with the most people. 2) We dropped off another load of stuff at the the Habitat for Humanity thrift store yesterday and I filled four more boxes to be mailed for storage; I’m close to getting finished with packing everything for storage although some things will have to wait until nearly the end of next month (i.e. the rice cooker). 3) Brett and I cleaned and polished the entire set of All-Clad cookware and listed it on Buy & Sell at the beginning of the week; it sold in less than half an hour (with several back-up requests), pretty good for a 30-year-old set of cookware! We are now using the nice big skillet and saucepan from when we arrived back in 2020 – they will be sufficient until we leave. The cookware buyer also made a deposit on our sofa, dining table and chairs, and market umbrella, but won’t be picking them up until after the first of March. 4) We took our big suitcases out of the closet to air out before we depart, as well as Brett’s sports coat and my leather tote bag (which somehow thankfully did not mould).
I hope the rest of the furniture sells as easily and quickly as the table & chairs and sofa.
  • Looking forward to next week: 1) I’m not sure I can say I’m looking forward to going to the dentist this week, especially with this current issue looming over me, but at the same time I would like it all resolved, or at least know what my options are. 2) I booked a surprise brunch date for Brett and me next weekend. We haven’t gone out for a very long time and where we’re going should be fun (and delicious)! 3) We also have our fingers crossed that we can get to the beach again one day.
We took advantage of the weather and hiked the Maha’ulepu Trail this past week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) This past week, our son received the package we sent with his baby book, a few pieces of his earliest baby clothes, his first pair of shoes, and some other paraphernalia and paperwork. He and his family had fun going through everything, but his message to Brett and me at after finishing his baby book was, In all seriousness, I could feel the love. 2) Our daughter-in-law sent us another big bunch of photos and videos of the grandkids. They continue to get older and bigger and we miss them terribly. 3) I met a long-time reader, TexKauai, at Kukuiolono park one afternoon this past week when Brett and I were walking!! She usually walks there in the mornings, and we walk in the late afternoon, but the other day she and her husband were there in the afternoon – lucky me! They are also moving off island about the same time we are, so we had some stories to share. So very happy to have met her before we left. 4) I had two Etsy sales, always a good thing. 5) My final skin check went well; one small spot on the side of my temple (from sun exposure as a child!) was burned off but otherwise the dermatologist said I have beautiful skin for my age. My lab results from last week’s blood draw were also great in spite of my forgetting I was supposed to have been fasting. 6) We had lovely weather almost all week.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We have been thinking several clothing items were going to have to be dry cleaned ($$$) before we left, things that had gotten musty in the closet they’ve been stored in these past two years. Brett’s sports coat is now getting lots of fresh air and will be fine before we go. I tumbled our Edinburgh cashmere scarves in the dryer on low heat with a Bounce sheet and they smell fresh again, and washed a couple of sweaters by hand and all the musty odors are gone from them as well, so that’s money saved. Everything else that’s been in our storage closet the past two years can and will be washed before we pack. 2) We returned a pair of flannel pajama pants I had ordered for Brett that (finally) arrived this past week but he didn’t need any longer because Meiling gave him a pair for Christmas! 3) Brett ordered himself a pair of Duckfeet boots and saved $40 using a discount I had received for answering a survey for Duckfeet. We both now have all the clothing we need for travel. 3) We had a very low-spend week: just some spinach, a bunch of green onions, a can of beans, and nigiri tofu from Big Save. 4) We put $5.48 into the change/$1 bill bag, ate all our leftovers, but sadly had to throw away a block of firm tofu that had gotten pushed to the back of the fridge when the girls were here and was well past its prime.
  • Adding up what we sold: Besides selling the cookware this past week, I had two Etsy orders and $266.26 will go into our travel fund this week.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are feeling very thankful at this point in our lives for the good health we currently enjoy. Our teeth have been problematic, but we’re grateful to have good dental insurance.
Brett and the birthday girls at Epcot
  • Bonus question: What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever pulled off? In early 2006, Brett and I decided to take the girls for a week’s vacation to Walt Disney World in January of 2007 for their birthdays (which all fall together within a period of about one month). We wanted to surprise the girls, so while we saved and saved (we paid cash for the entire trip) and plotted all year we never let them know what was coming up. We used a travel agency that specialized in Disney vacations; they helped us get lodging, meal reservations (including breakfast with the princesses in Cinderella Castle), and other treats for the girls at bargain prices. We gave each girl a carry-on bag for Christmas, supposedly for “sleepovers,” and after the new year I began to secretly pack them. We contacted the girls’ teachers to let them know; they kept the secret and set up a fun assignment for each girl to do while they were there (journaling, etc.) The travel agency had sent Disney identification tags for our luggage along with big birthday buttons for each of the girls to wear, and after they fell asleep the night before our departure, still having no idea what was going to happen, Brett and I finished packing their carry-on bags, attached the Disney tags, and set all the bags at the foot of our bed. The next morning, Brett surprised the girls when he woke them up – he would have usually already been on his way to work – and told them to go wake me up for a change. When they came into our bedroom and saw those bags and tags . . . oh WOW!! At first, all three girls burst into tears! “Are we really going to Disney World?” “Today?” Then the laughing, screaming, and jumping began, and there was absolutely no hesitation that morning getting them dressed, down to breakfast, and in the car to go to the airport. We had an absolutely wonderful trip to WDW from start to finish. Just turned six-year-old YaYu cried the day we left – she had never imagined such a place existed – and she still has her luggage tag and button from that trip. The girls’ reaction that morning though was something I’ll never forget for as long as I live. Best surprise ever, even if it took nearly a year to pull it off!

I was very scared the other day when the doctor’s office called to tell me he wanted to speak with me personally. Usually after lab work is done someone calls and says everything is fine and within normal range and that’s that. However, this time I thought something awful had been discovered in the results and he wanted to tell me in person. I was so nervous when he called, so you can imagine my relief to hear that not only were the results of my lab work okay but that the numbers were better than ever and all the efforts Brett and I have made to improve our health through exercise and eating better had made a discernible difference! Of course I still have this major dental issue to resolve, but now I remain hopeful the news won’t be as bad as it could be.

And that’s a wrap for another week at Chez Aloha! Shows watched, good food eaten, good books read, good news received (along with a bit of not-so-good news), and tasks accomplished. We’re hoping for the good things to continue into next week, and I hope everyone out there is looking forward to the week coming up as much as we are!