Singing the Curly-Hair Blues

I have curly hair. Very, very curly hair actually, with my curls rated somewhere between 3B and 3C. That rating means I have corkscrew curls loose enough to put my finger through but a few tighter ones in places.

My naturally curly hair used to be the bane of my existence, or at least it was from middle school onward, when long, straight hair was the fashion. However, my hair grew curlier and curlier with each year. I chemically straightened my hair, ironed it, or used other heating tools to try and get the straight look I craved (it’s a miracle I still have hair). For years I slept with giant 3- or 4-inch rollers on my head at night or made a big braid if I wanted waves, but no matter what I did, a few minutes after I stepped outside all was lost and I would usually end up with a fuzzy puffball on my head. When others said (and still say) they wished they had curly hair like mine I would laugh and say “no you don’t.” Curly hair is always the boss and does whatever it wants in spite of all your dreams, plans, and efforts. Every day with curly hair has the potential to be a very bad hair day.

Curly hair also brings along with it an issue of finding someone who knows how to cut it properly. I won’t go into how many bad haircuts I’ve had over the years except that they are legion. I wore my hair short-short for many years just because it was the easiest style to explain to a stylist and not have to worry about getting a bad cut. It’s been very daring of me to grow my hair out here on Kaua’i because of the humidity, but with the help of some good curl cream it’s been going pretty well.

One of my big headaches when we traveled before was finding a stylist who specialized in cutting/styling curly hair. In the U.S. I look for Deva Curl salons, where stylists are trained to work with curly hair. But overseas? And with the language issue? Let’s just say I never got a haircut while we were out of the U.S.

However, through the miracle of Google I have found curly hair specialists in Strasbourg, Oxford. and Edinburgh, and even one in Tokyo, although cuts at the salon there start at around $150, an amount I would honestly be happy to pay if I need a cut. I haven’t checked Mexico yet, but I’m sure I can find a stylist there as well. I also haven’t researched other places around the world as we’ve only planned our travels through a Tokyo stay at the end of the year, but I now know salons and stylists for curly hair are out there. I plan to get my hair cut before we leave Pennsylvania (have already located a stylist), probably let it grow out in Strasbourg, and then get it cut again after we arrive in Oxford.

I’m taking along plenty of curl product in my suitcase this time too, enough to last until I can find products for curly hair locally. I will say that styling my curly hair these days is a piece of cake compared to earlier efforts: a quarter-sized dab of curl cream rubbed through my wet hair and finger styled and I’m good to go.

The curly-haired blues is definitely a first-world problem, but it is a problem. Thankfully my days of craving straight hair are over, and there are products out there to make life with curly hair easier, as well as trained stylists who know what they’re dealing with when they see a head of curls. I just need to put in the effort to find them, and so far I’m off to a good start.

So What’s Plan B?

We always travel with a back-up plan and with COVID’s presence in the planning this time we’ve felt we needed more than one plan depending on which way the wind might blow. Which plan would be B and which one would be C went back and forth for several months and we have never really decided on an order – both have multiple pros and cons. And, during all our deliberations and discussions we stayed patient, things calmed down with COVID, and we will be flying to France as planned in May following YaYu’s graduation.

Now, with the invasion of Ukraine and potential threats posed for Europe, we once again have had to come up with an alternative plan if travel to France becomes untenable or there are too many unknowns.

Our first Plan B way back when had us moving to Seattle and renting an apartment there. We picked Seattle for several reasons: it’s located halfway between Japan, where our son is, and New England, where the girls are, with direct flights to both locations. There are good healthcare resources in Seattle, good public transportation (no car purchase would be needed; we would use Zipcar like we did during our summer in Portland), and lots of other things we need and want in a permanent location. On the negative side, and these were big negatives for us, the cost of living is very high and we were not sure about living again with the gloomy winter weather. We decided it might be best to have another option.

Another one of the big downsides to settling in Seattle was that we would be settled. It would mean buying furniture again, and building a life there, and we were not sure we’re ready to do that right now, especially after planning and getting ready to travel full time again. So, we began to think that maybe we could travel full time around the U.S. We could buy a car (a Prius) and drive around to different locations and stay in Airbnbs like we do elsewhere in the world, or we could get an RV of some sort, either a camper van or a trailer and travel that way. We got very excited about Boho camper vans for a while, but eventually realized a camper van was just too small for full-time travel and also a big commitment. So, we looked at several trailers but they were too much of a commitment at this stage of our lives as well. Also, RV living is really not our style so we went back to the Prius/Airbnb option.

Both the above plans have been moved down the list. Our current Plan B has us going to Mexico for a few months instead of France as the airline we’re flying to France also flies to Mexico, and we could change our destination without too much disruption and no loss of funds (no change fees and the Mexico flights are less than the ones to Paris). We will lose what we paid for our first month in France, but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make to stay safe.

We hope to follow our original plan and head to Strasbourg for three months followed by stays in Oxford and Edinburgh, and then hopefully heading back over to Tokyo. We have until April 18 to make a decision. Frankly, if we had to decide now we would be going to Mexico.

By the way, working through these plans, evaluating all the plusses and minuses, greatly helped us organize our thoughts about where we’ll eventually settle when our traveling days are over. New England (Massachusetts or Maine) has landed at the top of our list. Winters are brutal there but WenYu reminded us at Christmas that, “the sun comes out a lot. It isn’t gloomy and overcast for weeks on end” like the Pacific Northwest, and she and Meiling have come to love the winter season. We have no plans to settle there any time soon, but we’ve decided that’s where we’ll go.

Tanned, Rested, and Ready to Write Again

Our happy place

After a month away I’m ready to write again. I did a lot of thinking about whether I wanted to return to the blog, and if I wanted to start up the Sunday morning post again if I did. It’s always been the most popular post each week, but had grown to the point that it took a lot of time to write. I had also grown very tired of taking pictures of our meals every evening. But, Sunday Morning will be back, with a few small changes, and Monday’s Staying Healthy post will be back as well. Otherwise, I’ve decided to write only when I feel like it and have something to say. That could mean several posts in a week, or maybe none other than the Sunday post, but I want to enjoy the process again and not have it become a chore.

So what did we do for the last month?

  • I don’t really tan, but Brett and I got in a LOT of beach days, going at least two, sometimes three times a week up until the last week of February, when it became cool and windy again. The weather was glorious and we made the most of it. We spent around three to four hours at the beach each time – it was wonderful.
  • We continued to hike at least four days each week at a minimum, mainly on the Maha’ulepu Trail in Poipu. We thought about going back up to the park one day, but looked at each other and said, “nope” and headed to the trail. Kukuiolono Park was a fantastic walking venue for us, but we realized that we were finally too bored with it to go back. The ocean views from the Maha’ulepu have yet to disappoint and we’ve gotten in a LOT of whale watching during our hikes. We’ve also spotted turtles and large manta rays off shore a few times, and once saw a ray in a fight with a shark!
The pantry is pretty empty these days.
  • We’ve been doing a good job of cleaning out our pantry, and our shopping trips have become very minimal as well. We only have three more Not-So-Big shops left on the island before we depart and they will get smaller each time. I’ve only had a large frying pan and one saucepan to cook with and have done fine with just those two pieces. The condo we’ll be staying in before we depart only has a microwave, a toaster, and a coffee maker so our meals there will be very simple, and we’re starting to plan and put things away to take along for that stay.
  • I had to have major dental work done in February when an old bridge (22 years old) collapsed and needed to be replaced. While I was waiting for the new bridge, one of the teeth holding a temporary bridge began causing a lot of pain after the temporary broke not once but twice. I was afraid I was going to need a root canal on top of everything else, but thankfully that wasn’t necessary. The new bridge was very expensive all on its own (thank goodness for dental insurance!). In spite of the cost, I feel fortunate to have had the replacement happen here instead of outside the country. We are really good to go medical-wise now. Brett got his new glasses, all our prescriptions have been refilled and emergency 90-day supplies ordered, and all OTC meds we’re taking along have been acquired.
  • I closed my Etsy shop the second week of February. I had just one sale in the three weeks preceding, and decided this was as good a time as any to shut it down. The remaining hashioki (less than 50) will go out at our yard sale and anything left over after that will be donated to the thrift store. My Etsy venture was far more successful than anything I imagined and I accomplished more and made more than I imagined as well.
The first round of packages
  • Everything we’re keeping has been packed and the first 14 packages are on their way to Massachusetts. Postage has been expensive, but still far, far, far less than what we would have paid otherwise to have it all professionally shipped to the east coast. Most of our furniture has been sold or will be listed next week. The car will be listed for sale in early April, and we’ll have a yard sale for our remaining things the last full weekend in April.
  • Our flight to Paris has now changed four times (!!) since we purchased tickets, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it get changed at least once more before we depart, especially with all that’s going on right now in Eastern Europe. We’re watching the situation carefully there and will decide sometime next month whether it’s safe for us to go to France or whether it’s time to activate Plan B.

We stayed busy these past weeks, got a lot done, but best of all I feel rested, relaxed and ready to get back to writing once again!

Sunday Morning 12/26/2021: The Day After

There were no sunset views this past week, but the weather brought us lots of rainbows.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

New travel bags for the Occasional Nomads!

Meiling and WenYu departed yesterday morning with heavy bags filled with things we had been storing for them and Christmas goodies. We had a wonderful Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve, opening presents in the early afternoon followed by a Zoom call with our son and family. There were lots of gifts exchanged this year but all are useful and wanted. Brett got his beloved t-shirt, ball cap, and socks, but also some other clothing for travel and a back-up voltage adapter. I received a new Kindle and case from Meiling (a happy surprise!), and three pairs of silver earrings and some other travel goodies – both of us are now fully provisioned and ready to go. The girls also gave Brett and me two large personalized Occasional Nomads canvas bags from L.L. Bean, perfect for food shopping and as an under-seat bag on flights. YaYu will be getting her (early) graduation and birthday gifts from us next week, and along with the cash and gift cards she received for Christmas will have enough to purchase the new phone of her dreams (her old one is barely hanging on) so she is a happy girl, and Meiling and WenYu got several items off their lists and went home happily supplied as well. We gave each girl a big box of Hawaii/Kaua’i treats and will mail WenYu and Meiling’s to them this week, and YaYu’s right before she heads back to school.

The clutter grew as the week went along – the table looks surprisingly empty to me in this picture!

The apartment feels empty now with Meiling and YaYu gone. We were very crowded in our small space, and there were bags, boxes, and constant clutter everywhere, but it felt so good to be together again. We fell back into our old rhythms easily and got along well the entire time. Somehow everyone got to use the bathroom when necessary, got a shower every day, had a place to sit and eat, and everything went smoothly. YaYu is back on the sofa now and has put away her stuff so things once again feel a bit more normal, but I miss our crowd (probably another week of those conditions though and we all would have snapped).

Although we never got to the beach because of the weather and cool temperatures, the girls said they got to see and do everything else they wanted on the island, and eat all the local specialities they had craved including Spam musubi, Pono market fried chicken, Puka dogs, poke bowls, and breakfast at the Tip Top. They also enjoyed mom’s cooking every evening and eating some favorite meals again, and appreciated having mom and dad do their laundry, and taking care of other tasks for them, if only for a few days. We were happy to do it all for the time they were here but admit to being grateful we don’t have to do it full time any more.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Death of Mrs. Westaway, and thought that would be the end of my year of mystery and suspense, but I still have a few on hold that will be showing up very soon, so last year’s theme will be continuing for a few weeks more. In the meantime, I am getting started on Thoreau’s Walden to be followed by Civil Disobedience.
  • Listening to: I’m enjoying a very quiet morning after all the hustle and bustle of the past week. YaYu is still asleep on the sofa so Brett and I have been tiptoeing around – I’ve never heard him put away the dishes so quietly! It’s quiet outside as well with only a soft breeze blowing, but still quite cool with (more) rain expected later today.
  • Watching: We watched lots of random stuff with the girls last week including the new-ish Disney movie, Luca (loved it!); almost all of the new Dexter series (the final two episodes will be released in the next two weeks); a game show that involves sword making (weird but interesting); Love Hard, a cute Christmas movie on Netflix; Love, Actually with WenYu – last year was the first time we both missed it because we always watch together; and Home Alone and Elf. I watched White Christmas last night to finish off the season, and also started watching a new (creepy) series on Netflix with YaYu, You.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: 1) The girls’ sorting continued and several bags were taken to the thrift store. 2) We all somehow managed to live together in our tiny apartment for more than a week without any arguments or hard feelings, with all of us chilling about the stuff that normally makes us nuts (in my case, clutter). 3) Brett and I firmed up a schedule for what will be sold and/or shipped to WenYu for storage next year. Up first, toward the end of January, will be the market umbrella, the sake jug lamp (it turned out to be too heavy to ship), my All-Clad cookware, and our teak table and chairs (Brett and I have been eating at the coffee table and that’s worked out fine for us). The first things being sent to WenYu for storage will be our Christmas things, the art work we’re keeping, and three boxes of pottery. 4) I had one small Etsy sale, a pleasant surprise. 5) Allie the cat was reunited with her favorite girl!
  • Looking forward to next week: Hopefully there will be better weather so we can get back to walking regularly. I’m looking forward to having less stuff/clutter all over the place, and letting YaYu do more of the cooking.

Breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe

  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) We had an absolutely marvelous Christmas week with the girls. Every minute of their stay was perfect and WenYu and Meiling are already missed more than I thought possible. 2) We had an amazing breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe last Thursday; the girls ordered their favorites of oxtail soup, fried rice, and a big bento plate, and Brett and I had yummy banana pancakes. 3) The Zoom call with our son and family on Christmas Eve (Christmas Day in Japan) was also wonderful. We couldn’t get over how grown up and big our grandkids are now! They spent their grandparent gift money on Legos and a Paw Patrol set and were excited to show them off to us later that day.

Together for Christmas this year, one way or another.

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We bought what we thought was a heavy, full-size suitcase for WenYu at the thrift store for $12 and discovered a matching carry-on bag inside (which she didn’t need). We’ll use it to take some of YaYu’s things to her when we go to Pennsylvania in May. 2) With the full-size suitcase from the thrift store Brett was able to get all of WenYu’s things, including her mini-Strat guitar and amplifier, into two suitcases for her flight home. Meiling and WenYu upgraded their seats on their return flight for $40 (each) so WenYu only had to pay $40 to check her second bag. The total for getting all her stuff back to Massachusetts, including the cost of the suitcase, ended up at $92 versus the hundreds it would have been to mail them or ship via UPS. Meiling was able to get all the things she kept into her one big suitcase and carry-on. 3) We bought three tomatoes (that we had forgotten to buy the week before), one can of tomato paste (which thought we had it but didn’t), a box of oranges at Costco, a tank of gas; breakfast at the Tip Top, a lilikoi pie, and WenYu’s suitcase and that was all! 4) We put $2.43 into the change/$1 bill bag. 5) There were very few leftovers this past week and those were always eaten the next day, with no food wasted or thrown away.
  • Adding up the things we sold: I sold one hashioki on Christmas Eve. The total going into my travel account next week will be $3.32.
  • Grateful for: Brett and I are beyond thankful for the 10 days we got to spend with WenYu and Meiling, and eight days with all three of the girls together – we have missed them so much and it was fun to see them interacting with each other again. We’re grateful that all three girls are healthy, vaccinated (and either boosted or getting it done next week), have good jobs or in YaYu’s case, working toward educational goals, and that Meiling and WenYu are in happy, supportive, long-term relationships. We couldn’t ask for more and feel very blessed.
One of our favorite scenes from Love, Actually: “I hate Uncle Jamie!”
  • Bonus question: What’s your favorite holiday movie? I have three favorites: White Christmas, Love Actually, and Home Alone which still makes me laugh out loud. Love, Actually is at the top of my list although I know many think it’s an absolutely awful movie. WenYu and I have always loved it and the ensemble cast, but Meiling and YaYu left the room when we put it on. I finally got around to watching Elf for the first time last year and it’s another must watch for me now. Die Hard is NOT a Christmas movie in my opinion, and I’ve only watched It’s A Wonderful Life twice in my life (good but twice was enough) and I’ve never seen A Christmas Story.

The girls and I had a conversation last week about marriage when Meiling asked why their dad and I had gotten married so young (I was 25 and Brett was 27!). WenYu and Meiling are in that age range now, and are in long-term, serious relationships, but see no need to get married and feel that they’re too young (YaYu says she doesn’t want to get married). I explained that for their dad and me, besides being in love, it was also about getting me/us qualified for military benefits, including health insurance, commissary privileges, housing, etc. We didn’t think of ourselves as “too young,” and both of us had been previously married and knew what we were getting into. To them though it still seemed like I was marrying “to get benefits,” which was a poor reason in their minds. However, when I mentioned I knew women that had gotten married and had children in their teens and that felt too young to me I was told I was being judgmental! The whole thing was a great adult conversation, and although the generational gap between us is large, and yes, times have changed, it was interesting and important to hear their thoughts on the topic (for the record, I am in absolutely no hurry to see any of our daughters get married).

That’s a wrap for what was a wonderful week at Chez Aloha. I hope everyone (who celebrates Christmas) had a wonderful week and holiday celebration as well. We turn now to the end of the year and the month coming up as well as spending time with YaYu, who will be with us until near the end of January. Wishing all a great post-holiday week!

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (12/12 – 12/18)

The meat-a-thon has begun! It hasn’t been as bad as I thought it might be, and Brett and I have watched our portions carefully, but after only a few days of including meat we’ve decided we like our meat-free ways better and will be returning once the girls have returned to their homes/school. We continue to be careful about portion sizes, etc. but everything just feels heavier (to us). Eggs have also been added back into the mix, but with two of our three daughters lactose intolerant, dairy other than small amounts of cheese hasn’t been making much of an appearance. The big exception was macaroni and cheese, which we all love, but precautions are taken before it’s eaten, and our portions were small.

We’ve been bingeing TV shows with the girls, and I’ve been making snacks to enjoy while we watch. So far we’ve had chips & salsa, chips & guacamole, charcuterie, and apples with cream cheese dip (8 ounces cream cheese, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1 bag of Heath toffee chips. Blend and let sit for 1/2 hour before serving with chilled apple slices – delicious!). I have indulged a little, but most of it is stuff I can pass on – a bite or two and I’m done. The girls could still eat us out of house and home though – oh to be young again, eat what I want, and not gain weight!

Brett and I finished cleaning out the freezer and refrigerator at the beginning of last week and then I went back on serious kitchen duty cooking favorites for the girls. It wasn’t always easy in our tiny kitchen with our tiny stove, but I went in each time with a plan and everything turned out okay.

Sunday: Lentil soup; toasted cheese sandwiches

Monday: Spaghetti with plant-based ‘meat’ sauce; roasted peppers

Tuesday: Mini pizzas with roasted vegetables

Wednesday: Broccoli & tofu stir fry with spicy peanut sauce

Thursday: Italian sausage & pasta in garlic wine sauce

Friday: Ham; macaroni & cheese; sautéed green beans

Saturday: Chinese 3-color salad

Other than s’mores made over a fire in our fire pit last Thursday, we’ve each been enjoying a thin slice of Costco’s chocolate mousse-filled cake for dessert every evening.

We’re enjoying more family favorites next week, and will finish up next Friday evening with Mississippi pot roast, mashed potatoes, and green beans for our Christmas Eve dinner. We will continue to finish off any leftovers each day (if there are any), and use up what we have on hand.

  • Mississippi pot roast
  • Cheesy black bean bake nachos
  • Chili shrimp, lumpia, and potstickers
  • Mabo tofu
  • Italian sausages; risotto
  • One pot pasta with ham & broccoli
  • Ham fried rice

We got off to a good start this week with our exercise. Monday’s weather was perfect for walking – clear skies and a stiff, cool breeze – and we did four and half miles at the park. Tuesday was our Big Shop and between Costco, Walmart, and Times Market we walked two and a half miles (and it was as exhausting as ever). We got a surprise on Wednesday though when we woke up to a message from Meiling that their flight from Phoenix to Lihue was arriving three hours earlier than expected (schedule changed at the last minute in their favor), right when we had planned to be walking! We figured we could skip a day of walking to pick up our daughters. Late Thursday Brett and I did a perimeter walk with WenYu and found 56 golf balls! WenYu found a lot of them, but she was mostly impressed with the scenery up at the park. We were all feeling very tired on Friday after lots of sorting, etc. at home and decided to skip our walk, and then on Saturday the girls got back later than expected from a hike and along with rain threatening we decided once again to stay home. So, only three day of walking this week – we need to pick it up next week!

Sunset walk at Kukuiolono Park on Thursday and our golf ball finds (they looked much better after being washed)

The girls Keep telling me I am tiny. I don’t feel tiny but Meiling says that’s because I suffer from dysmorphia and a poor body image (true). It’s a bittersweet assessment for me though. I’m happy that my diet and exercise efforts are noticeable, but at the same time I remember that each time I saw my mom as she aged she grew smaller and tinier in my eyes. However, when I think about my mom at my age she was still alert, active, and traveling the world, so I’m going with that image instead of her shrinking.

Sunday Morning 12/19/2021: Having a Simply Wonderful Time

We caught a beautiful sunset up at Kukuiolono Park on Thursday evening.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

Current chaos in the living room (we had it somewhat organized a couple of hours later).

Brett and I are two happy parents right now, with all three of our girls here. We’ve been having a great time together whether it’s watching TV, going on walks, or sorting through their things. The house is in a crazy state right now, with stuff all over the place, but I refuse to freak out because I know it’s only for a short time and not worth worrying about. We rearranged some of the furniture in the living room before they arrived which helped give us a bit more space, and there have been no complaints from Meiling and WenYu about sleeping on the sofa (YaYu won the draw and got the inflatable queen-size mattress for her bed). YaYu is still decompressing after a stressful finals week and then the long flight home, but she’s glad to be home and spending time with her sisters again.

Experience has taught us that when it comes to travel plans, we can almost always count on things changing. The girls’ flight on Wednesday arrived three hours ahead of the original schedule, the one we were still working off of. If Meiling had not messaged us that morning with the new flight schedule we would not have been at the airport to meet them! YaYu’s flight also arrived over a half hour early. On Thursday morning I woke up to a message from Air Canada telling us that instead of leaving for Paris in the late afternoon as planned, our flight has been re-scheduled and will be departing at 10:00 am, meaning we have to change our plans and spend the night before somewhere near the Baltimore airport. The new schedule also has us arriving in Paris the day before our Airbnb reservation, so that’s something else we’re going to have to figure out, whether to stay overnight in Paris, or go out to Strasbourg and spend one night in a hotel there. We’re not doing anything now because we know things will probably change again before we go, but we’re definitely going to have to stay on our toes.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I am still slowly reading The Death of Mrs. Westaway and am about two-thirds of the way through. I’m pretty busy these days with other things and don’t get to read until late at night before falling asleep, so sometimes all I get through is one chapter. I wasn’t sure at first whether I was going to like this book or not but it’s grown on me the further into it I get, and more addicting.
  • Listening to: Brett’s making chocolate chip mini waffles in the kitchen, the girls are listening to a podcast and chatting, and the wind is blowing strongly outside (and it’s cold!). I’ve got a hot cup of coffee though and am in my happy place.
  • Watching: Brett and I were watching Home Before Dark, and another series, Chestnut Man, (I read the book earlier this year) before the girls arrived but those are now on hold. Last Sunday we watched The Elephant Queen, a beautifully filmed documentary about a group of female African elephants and their leader. If you have Apple+ streaming, I highly recommend it! We’re now watching random stuff with the girls but we started bingeing the new Dexter series last night (on Showtime).
Post-shopping, our little refrigerator is stuffed! Getting things in and out is like doing a jigsaw puzzle.
  • Happy we accomplished last week: We had two big things that needed to get done last week: a BIG shop, and picking up the girls – mission accomplished for both! The shopping trip was positively exhausting this time though. The piles of the girls’ things we had kept for them are growing smaller because of their efforts but there’s still quite a bit to get through. Meiling and WenYu have each already filled one giant suitcase with their stuff. We visited Old Town Koloa this past week, and Meiling brought foot masks for the two of us to do together. Those were weird.
  • Looking forward to next week: 1) We’re hoping for some good weather so we can get out to hike, and hopefully go to the beach at least once with the girls. 2) We also plan to go to the Tip Top Cafe one morning this week for breakfast (probably Tuesday). Otherwise, we’re all happy spending time together at home and always can find plenty to do to stay busy. 3) We’ll be doing a Zoom call with our son and family on Friday afternoon, before our Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas celebration.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) I had seven sales on Etsy (small ones), every one a complete surprise as I didn’t expect to have any sales last week. 2) None of the stores during our Big Shop were overcrowded, nor was Old Koloa Town or the Kukui’ula Market last Thursday, which was also surprising – we expected to have to deal with hoards of people. Kukui’ula felt like a ghost town it was so empty. Everything will probably get crazy this week though. 3) The wind was mild enough on Thursday evening that Meiling, WenYu, Brett, and I could enjoy a fire outside and make s’mores. 4) Our orange tree is loaded this year, maybe with three times as many oranges as there were last year. The tree produces super sweet oranges, and they should be ready to start picking by the end of January.
So many oranges this year!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) Our Big Shop was a BIG one this week but we somehow managed to keep it under control and actually finished under what we budgeted. We stuck to our list like glue, and found everything except a box of graham crackers and some carrots, and I forgot to get a box of pasta and 3-4 apples which I picked up later at Big Save. Every inch of our little refrigerator and freezer has been filled to overflowing with food. 2) I used three of my Delta gift cards to purchase tickets for our flights (exit row Comfort+ seating) to Baltimore next May. The price for the tickets was low enough that I still have enough Swagbucks left over to purchase a $500 PayPal deposit into our travel account. 3) We put $6.06 into the change/$1 bill bag, leftover from the Big Shop and lunch out on Thursday. 4) We ate all of our leftovers and didn’t throw out any food.
  • Adding up what we sold last week: I sold 15 hashioki from the Etsy shop and $75.99 will be going into our travel account, $75.99 more than I expected this past week. My profit margin is somewhat low right now though as everything is on sale, but I’m glad to get more hashioki out of the apartment and on to new owners. WenYu said she will take over the shop if I want to keep it going but we’re trying to decide if that’s possible or worthwhile.
  • Grateful for: One of the greatest gifts I have ever received has been the opportunity to parent our three girls. For reasons we will never know, their birth parents were unable to keep these girls with them, but instead chose to place them where they would be given a chance at a new life. And through what we consider nothing less than a miracle, we were matched with these girls, each of them a perfect fit. Raising them hasn’t always been easy, but I’ve never felt anything less than profound gratitude that three times some unknown bureaucrat in China chose these threel to be placed with us. We cannot imagine our lives without them.
  • Bonus question: Do you have a favorite coffee drink? I’m pretty much a “black coffee is perfect” gal, but occasionally I enjoy a nonfat latte. I love, love, love Starbuck’s peppermint mochas this time of year but haven’t had one for the past two years. I also love their nonfat green tea lattes as long as they’re unsweetened. I do not like pumpkin spice lattes or any other flavored drinks, and prefer to keep things simple.

We have made a huge amount of progress getting the girls’ items organized. Their suitcases are already stuffed, boxes are being packed for mailing, and other items sorted for the thrift store, trash, or recycling. I’m not quite sure where or how they’re going to squeeze in their Christmas gifts. They have had fun looking at the things they kept or we kept for them, remembering when they got an item or made something or when a picture was taken. Many things have puzzled them though: Why did I want to keep this? Meiling and WenYu plan to take almost all their stuff back with them on the plane, including WenYu’s electric guitar and amplifier. We going to buy a big suitcase at the thrift store this week for the guitar and amp, and she’ll check it as additional luggage, much cheaper than mailing or shipping UPS. We’ll do the same with YaYu’s stuff and take it along when we head to Pennsylvania next May.

I hope everyone had a great week and are looking forward to the one coming up. Less than a week to go until Christmas! I’ll have my regular Monday food and exercise post up tomorrow, and then will be back next Sunday, post-holiday. Wishing all a wonderful week of good food, family and friends, good books, things accomplished, and lots of good things happening!

Sunday Morning 12/5/2021: Nearly Ready

We though the best (and only) sunset of the week might have happened last Sunday evening. It didn’t last long.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

I was chatting with Meiling this past week, and she said she was glad we were leaving Hawaii, so that she never had to fly here again. I reminded her that less than two years ago she and her sisters had sat her dad and me down and told us that they all hoped we would move back to Kaua’i some day so they had a good reason to come here! I said she must be feeling this way now after learning what it costs to buy her own ticket as well as having the very long flight coming up, and she admitted that’s what had happened. We love it here, everyone loves it when they’re actually here, but the reality for everyone else of what it takes to get here (and for us to travel from here and back) is one of the reasons we’re ready to move on.

Why didn’t we do this earlier? When I think of the years and effort we spent decorating our giant Christmas trees and then taking it down later . . . .

We purchased the last of the things needed for the girls’ gifts last week and then finished up the wrapping. Everything is stacked under our bed until Christmas Eve as there is no room to put things out in the living room, and there will be even less so after the girls arrive. Less than two weeks to go until they arrive! We also put out our holiday decorations this past week, with the twig tree decorated (took all of ten minutes) and fairly lights strung through the big silk palm tree. We have one more big shopping trip the day before Meiling and WenYu arrive but everything is starting to come together nicely! Can you guess how excited I already am?

Knowledge is power, and I’ve been reading everything about the Omicron variant I can find every day. I still believe it is, as President Biden says, a cause for concern but not panic . . . yet. I always keep in mind as I read that the “goal” of a virus is not to kill off all its hosts because then it has no place to survive, so I’m hoping this is truly a milder version even though it seems to be much more transmissible than the Delta variant. Just like the flu has done over the years, I believe the COVID virus is going to continue to mutate and produce new variants, with some more virulent than others, but as more people get vaccinated it will become easier to control and less deadly. Brett believes we’ll be wearing masks until the end of our days, along with getting boosters and/or annual vaccines and I agree. We still plan to go about living our best lives possible, no matter what comes and remain careful. We are going to follow Rick Steves when it comes to delays or pulling the plug on our upcoming travels. If he cancels or delays his tours then that will be our cue to move to Plan B.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’ve almost finished I’m Traveling Alone. It got quite complicated in the middle, with maybe too many storylines competing, but eventually things started to weave together and the denouement is coming. My place in line for library holds is still far enough down for any to become available any time soon, so I plan to look for something else later today to fill in until a hold becomes available.
  • Listening to: I thought we’d be waking up to another very chilly un-Hawaiian morning, but it’s actually quite pleasant outside today. Yesterday started off very cold, below 60 degrees in the morning and it didn’t warm up much during the day. There’s a light breeze blowing this morning, and nearby residents are doing some sort of work as there are saws being used off and on in the distance, but overall it’s a very pleasant, quiet morning.
  • Watching: We’ve been watching a couple of episodes of The Morning Show each evening so we’ll finish it up maybe by the end of this week (we’re into the second season). It’s been very good and a sobering watch. We’ve watched The Tower on Britbox, a new three-part crime drama, and are still watching the latest episode of Shetland every Friday evening. I miss the Great British Bake Off.
Stringing lights through an 8-foot silk palm tree is not as easy or fun as one might expect. The result is very pretty though.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: 1) Brett and I went through more of the girls’ things and got them organized. There is an awful lot of stuff for them to take back – I hope we can figure it out. We also worked on the logistics of getting some of our things shipped back to be stored with WenYu. 2) Our little twig tree and ornaments and our wooden Santas were set up on December 1. Brett also strung some lights through our thrift-store palm tree so we’re ready as far as it goes for holiday decorations. 3) We had a successful end-of-the-month semi-Big Shop last Tuesday, and 4) studied French every day. 5) I made another six-week set of activity cards yesterday that will see me into the new year. Those cards have made sure that everything I need to do daily has gotten done, even when I didn’t feel like doing them. Next year however I will be segueing into a bullet journal format that will be easier to carry along on our travels.
  • Looking forward to next week: We have a quiet week coming up, with no shopping, appointments, etc. It will be the calm before the storm and we plan to relax and enjoy it.
We love these mugs – perfect size, perfect weight, perfect for Christmas.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) Our 31-year-old Christmas mugs made their appearance again on December 1. They were purchased at the kitchenware store I worked at the year Brett retired from the navy. We are experiencing mixed feelings about letting them go after all these years, but know if we hold on to even just two of them something else is going to have to come off our “keep” list. 2) Etsy orders are always a good thing, especially big ones, and after a somewhat busy week (well, busy for my little shop) I decided to go ahead and order more of the small boxes and keep the shop going a little while longer. As of yesterday I only have 130 hashioki left to sell out of the nearly 500 I had when I opened the shop. The more I can sell before we depart, the better. 3) My Duckfeet boots arrived in three days and I love them! I ordered a different color (slate) that the one I wanted (black), so was a little frightened of what I might get, but the color is lovely and quite close to black. I’ve been wearing the boots inside every day for a little while, softening up the leather, and they are the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn right out of the box. I love the nice, thick cushiony sole. I still need to get insoles, but those can come later. 4) Our neighbor across the street surprised us with a beautiful bouquet of flowers on Thursday! And, 5) the avocado tree left its jar and was transplanted and is thriving in its new pot.
Good things: my Duckfeet boots arrived quickly . . .
. . . and our neighbor brought flowers from their garden.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) Our Big Shop went well although we went over budget by around $50. We bought a few things that were not on the current list but will be needed when the girls are here and would be gone by our next shopping trip in another week. The stores all seemed to be well-stocked once again. 2) Other than food shopping we bought two Christmas cards at Target to send to our grandchildren (which will include some yen inside), and two more strings of lights for the palm tree for a total of $15 enabling us to use a $5 off $15 purchase coupon. 3) We’ve stayed within our budget for holiday shopping and we are done! 4) We put $6.65 change into the change/$1 bill bag, ate all of our leftovers, and didn’t throw away any food.
  • Adding up what we sold last week: I had seven Etsy sales this week: 20 hashioki and an antique tea ceremony basket left the apartment. The woman who bought the basket initially asked if I would lower the price even though it was already on sale! I gently explained that the selling price included free shipping, and because of the size of the basket the shipping was going to eat up a chunk of that price so I wasn’t willing to go any lower. I wasn’t sure if I would hear back from her, but her order arrived the next morning! A total of $142.66 will go into our travel account tomorrow.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are very grateful to have options for our future if our original travel plans can’t happen for some reason. We’re also thankful to have time now to see how things shake out for next year, and are staying optimistic and patient.
  • Bonus question: Have you selected a location to eventually settle down in? After a LOT of research, deliberation, and give and take, we have decided on the location where we want to permanently settle after traveling or if full-time travel is not possible. We carefully evaluated the cost of living, weather, taxes, proximity to our children, healthcare, housing, transportation, medical care, and more, in many locations around the U.S. and eventually settled on a location that has almost everything we want and will need as we age further. We may end up settling there sooner rather than later depending on what happens with COVID and how that affects our upcoming travels, but we’re happy and satisfied with our decision. I’ll reveal the location if and when it happens but for the time being we still plan to leave Kaua’i in May to attend YaYu’s graduation, and after that we’ll either be heading to Europe or the new location. We also have come up with a Plan C that’s looking good, so we’ve tucked that into our pockets as well. We wish we could stay on Kaua’i, but it’s no longer the best location for us for several reasons, cost of living being just one of them.

I should have a couple of posts up next week, but after the Sunday post on 12/12 I will be taking a couple of weeks off, at least for mid-week postings. I’m going to try to get a Sunday post done every week, and I may take pictures of some of our meals, but otherwise I’m setting my laptop aside while our daughters are here. I’ve been feeling the need for some time off as it is, and having extra family members around is the best excuse for doing just that.

That’s all for this week, another good one that just went speeding by. We got a lot accomplished though, enjoyed some good books and good food, and we love having the house decorated and ready for the girls’ arrival in ten more days. Ten more days! We’re looking forward to another week of getting things done and ready, and hope everyone is as well. Cheers!

Side Trip Ideas

Clockwise from top left: Colmar, France; London; Glasgow; Bacharach, Germany; Loch Ness, Scotland.

One of the things we enjoy most about doing a long stay in a particular place is that it gives us the time to to make shorter side trips to other nearby places we want to see without all the hassle of repacking our big bags, etc. We stayed in Florence for a month in 2018, and did an overnight getaway to the Cinque Terre and a day trip to Sienna. During our three month stay in Blockley in 2018 we did three-day getaways to Bath, London, and Edinburgh.

We learned a lot from those trips about how to plan and use time efficiently as well as how to save. We rode trains on all those earlier trips, but this next go round we will be using buses for some of our side trips. While not quite at fast as a train they cost much less and are big, comfortable, and come with WiFi and other amenities. We also booked Airbnb rentals for our stays before; this time we’ll be looking more closely at B&Bs and hotels and employing other strategies to save on dining out.

We’ve come up with some ideas for side trips and getaways we’d like to do during our stays in Strasbourg, Oxford, and Edinburgh. Our finances will be the ultimate decision maker on whether they happen or not, but all can be adjusted according to our situations at the time

  • Strasbourg: Because we’ll be located so close to the German border and the Rhine River, at the top of our list is a two or three day trip of day cruises on the Rhine to see the castles. We’ll definitely be making a day trip to Baden-Baden and visiting the Black Forest, but we’re also planning rent a car for a couple of days and driving the Alsatian wine route or at least part of it, and visiting Colmar, located to the south of Strasbourg.
  • Oxford: While the city of Oxford itself will most likely keep us plenty occupied during our time there, we want to go back to London for four or five days, and also spend a couple of nights back in the Cotswolds if possible, either in or near Blockley. The Oxford-Heathrow bus is an affordable way of getting to London, but the train isn’t all that much extra. We’d probably rent a private room in someone’s home versus springing for a hotel or private Airbnb lodging. We did this when we traveled through New Zealand and enjoyed the experience and the people we met along the way, and saved quite a bit as well.
  • Edinburgh: We hope we can pull off a “big” 4-day side trip to Inverness and Skye while we’re in Edinburgh, taking the train both ways as the trips are said to be among the most scenic in Scotland. We’d spend two days in Inverness then to Kyle of Lochalsh and pick up a rental car to cross over to and explore the island of Skye for a couple of days. We also plan to spend a couple of days exploring in Glasgow, and if we have the energy and funds, head up to Aberdeen as well.

One of our favorite things to do whenever we first visit any city is start with a walking tour, a free one if possible, so we’re already researching those. Besides teaching us about the city and its history, the tours help ground us, and guides always have great tips about other places to visit as well as good, affordable places to eat.

For now, we’re at a “we’ll see what happens” for each of these places we’re staying, and decided once we’re there if these side trips are financially feasible. We’re not contemplating any side trips while we’re in Japan. It’s too far out for now time-wise, and in our opinion will be too cold for sightseeing when we’re there. We’ll enjoy being with family and happy exploring the neighborhood where we live.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (10/10 – 10/16)

On our last shopping trip shredded mozzarella was on our list; we use it for our mini pizzas and occasionally other dishes. I have been buying the Walmart brand because of the price but the other day decided to splurge and instead picked up the bag of Tillamook. What a difference! The Tillamook cheese cost nearly $2 more per bag, but the quality and flavor were just light years ahead of the Walmart brand. The same happened a few weeks ago when we decided to buy a jar of Rao’s pizza sauce instead of the Great Value brand. The GV sauce was OK, but the Rao’s has been wow!

Those two items have gotten me thinking a lot about saving versus quality. When does it make sense to stick with a cheaper or store brand versus choosing a more expensive name brand? While our goal is to make healthy food choices and to keep our food budget in line, we are still figuring out where and when we can and should splurge, and the times when buying the store brand is an equally good and healthy choice (canned beans come to mind). Kauai’i is a unique laboratory for this because of overall prices on the island and a limited amount of shopping options and choices, We’re learning lots that we can and will carry along with us in the future and that will inform our shopping while we travel.

We had some great meals last week, and some tasty leftovers as well. I had forgotten how quickly yakisoba goes together and how satisfying it is, even without any meat or other protein included. The chicken pot pie was from Marie Callender, found in the vegan section at Walmart – it was very good and we’ll be buying it again. The spicy bean dip also went together quickly and we enjoyed the leftovers for lunch for a few days. I’m planning to make it when the girls are here for Christmas, and will use it as a base for nachos. I swapped some leftover peanut stew from the freezer for the basil b’ef stir fry that was planned as there was no basil available at the farm stand this past week, and we didn’t want to pay the (super expensive) local supermarket price.

Sunday: Vegetable yakisoba

Monday: Vegan chick’n pot pie; steamed broccoli

Tuesday: Spicy black bean bake; Fritos; grape tomatoes

Wednesday: Vegan chick’n tenders; onion rings; coleslaw; barbecue sauce for dipping

Thursday: Mini pizzas with barbecue sauce; leftover chick’n, and onion

Friday: Cheese board (Manchego, Irish cheddar, and Boursin with shallots)

Saturday: Vegan peanut stew with sweet potato & kale; steamed rice

We’ll be Big Shopping on Tuesday, but still have a few things to use up in our pantry and freezer next week. Still, our meals will be uncomplicated and easy to prepare. I’ve got my fingers crossed that we can find the meatless meatballs again at Walmart, and that Costco still has the vegetable egg rolls in stock. You never know here though.

  • Risotto with peas
  • Vegan sloppy Joes
  • Vegetable egg rolls & fried rice
  • Mini Pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Spaghetti with marinara (and hopefully meatless meatballs)
  • Grilled fish tacos

Walking has once again been hit or miss this week. After missing two days at the end of last week because of bad weather, we were able to walk on Sunday, then again on Monday, but had to stay home on Tuesday due to rain. We walked again on Wednesday but then had to stay home on Thursday for the plumber (a beautiful day outside, of course), and because of rain again on Friday. Saturday we tried to walk earlier than usual, and got a mile in before the rain started. We typically walk a little over 80 miles each month; this month we walked only slightly over 30. We’re still aiming for 1,000 miles of walking this year but this winter’s weather may shoot down our chances for accomplishing that goal. It’s supposed to rain all next week except for Friday, and we fear this is what much of the winter here is going to be like going forward.

A beautiful double rainbow at the park last Wednesday, but there’s a somewhat faint bank of clouds behind it, and it was raining up at the park not too long afterward this picture was taken.

Brett and I are trying to wean ourselves from the golf ball finding and to that end have sort of slacked off, but golf balls seem to keep finding us! After all the crazy weather week before last we figured there wouldn’t be many lost balls to find when we walked last Sunday, but we somehow came home with 17, and this was after watching one of the groundskeepers drive his cart around the perimeter to pick up balls and seeing the haul (30+ balls) two young guys had also made that day. On Monday, we were thinking we’d be lucky to find one or two lost balls, but ended up coming home with another 10! All these were easy finds too – no “hunting” involved. We found another 21 (!!!) on Wednesday, ending our short walking week (just 3 days) with 48 lost balls. We have decided to “officially” stop looking by the end of November so we can get everything organized and listed on Buy & Sell, and hopefully have all of the golf balls out of the house by the time the girls arrive for Christmas. We’re going change our route again in the next couple of weeks (weather permitting) and start walking through the woods again versus out on the golf course at the park.

Sunday Morning 10/17/2021: Earth, Wind, and Thankfully No Fire

There were no beautiful sunsets this week, so for something different here’s moonrise over a palm tree taken from Hole 6 at the Kukuiolono golf course.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

The wind this past week was in Surrender Dorothy territory every single day. It has blown hard, strong, and LOUD almost all week long and I was honestly tired of waking up to it, having it as background all day, and having to listen to it at night while I am trying to fall sleep (it could be heard though earplugs). Thankfully things quieted down a bit yesterday. Unfortunately it looks like it may be around for a while as we’re now officially in La Niña conditions, which means cooler temperatures (air and water), more wind, and stronger storms for the next few months. Reduced humidity (if it isn’t raining) has been a nice side effect of the weird weather although I’m not particularly crazy about how cool it’s been. We’d love to go to the beach, but there hasn’t been any beach weather for a while. I honestly feel sorry for the people who have been coming on vacation recently (and there have been a LOT of them) as the weather has been less than ideal.

And, there was an earthquake last Sunday! We have been though several of them in Japan – 6.4 was the worst, strong but mercifully short – and recognized immediately what was happening (versus it being our upstairs neighbor’s washing machine off balance again). Apparently somewhere south west of the Big Island the ocean floor “bent,” whatever that means. Kilauea had erupted again recently, but the two events were not connected this time. I think this earthquake was somewhere in the 4-point range, but it was also over quickly, thank goodness. Still, it was strange to feel things shaking here, if only for a few moments.

We have only four items left to sell on eBay (an antique tea ceremony basket, an antique iron teakettle, a coffee mug, and a group of vintage navy cloth patches), and only the remaining hashioki and a few other vintage items are left on Etsy. The items on eBay have been getting lots of extra looks and have picked up some watchers, so we’re hopeful they will sell before the end of the year as we’d like to close that account. I may close the Etsy shop then as well (for tax purposes). We’ll see what happens in the next couple of months. There is a man who keeps messaging me (politely) on Etsy asking me to sell him the antique iron tea kettle at a price that, after postage, would leave me with around $15. I keep explaining to him why I won’t sell at the price he wants, he says okay, but every few weeks he’s back and tries again. I’ll keep the teakettle before I let it go at his price – it’s valuable. After a lot of thought about the cost to send our wool area rug back to Massachusetts, we decided to sell it here before we go. Although we deeply love the rug, the shipping cost is just too high and too complicated, even sending it back on the plane with WenYu and Meiling. I read a great article the other day on moving overseas (which is sort of what we’re doing), and the main message was “get rid of everything and minimize as much as you possibly can” and we’re determined to do that this time. We’re going to store a very few small but meaningful items with WenYu, but otherwise everything else will be sold this time. Downsizing remains a process – so many things we thought we’d keep we no longer will. Some things are more difficult to let go of than others, but we’re getting it done, and as always, once the stuff is gone I never miss it.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished John Banville’s Snow on Monday, and started Life As We Knew It just because I wanted to reread it again. The book is the first in a dystopian trilogy for YA readers written by Susan Reid Pfeffer, about what happens to a family and community in eastern Pennsylvania after a world-wide, catastrophic natural disaster. I love the book for not only its great story (written in the style of a teen’s diary), but for also showing how the family survives (albeit barely) and the steps they take to overcome the many hardships that arise – there’s lots of food for thought. It’s not really a mystery as such, but since I otherwise do not care for dystopian fiction, I figured I could fit it in this year. Anyway, it was finished on Friday and I am now reading The Perfect Nanny, a thriller by Leila Slimani. It is a sort of Columbo-style mystery: you know what happened and who did it right from the start, but have to read to find out the why and the how.
  • Listening to: The wind isn’t as loud as it has been this week, but it’s still having its moments this morning where things pick up. There are lots of clouds in the sky as well, so who knows what the afternoon will bring? Inside it’s quiet – Brett got up early this morning and has already left to run some errands up in Lihue and Kapaa.
  • Watching: This week was almost the same as last week: Only Murders In the Building on Tuesday, Great British Bake Off on Friday, and Billions every other evening. Billions has become more interesting since the main characters seem to reacting less to each other and instead dealing with other characters and plot lines in Season 3. I finished all the available Father Brown episodes this past week, but we discovered that BritBox has the entire Inspector Morse series, so we began watching those, and will follow up with the Lewis series, and finally catch up with Endeavour so that we will be very ready to take a Morse/Lewis/Endeavor walking tour when we’re in Oxford. I’m looking forward to hooking up with Apple TV next month and watching Ted Lasso – I’ve heard nothing but good things about it for months.
  • Happy we accomplished: We try to do at least one task each day that moves us closer to our goal of selling (almost) or getting rid of everything before we go, and did several things this past week toward that end, including packing up some things to take back to YaYu next year, getting other items ready to list on our local Buy & Sell, and sorting other things that will sell better at a yard sale. Otherwise it was pretty much just taking care of regular chores around here. We did get our shopping list made for Tuesday’s Big Shop – that’s always an accomplishment.
  • Looking forward to next week: Same as always these days: good/better weather, possible a beach day, and hopefully selling something on eBay or Etsy. I am looking forward to our Big Shop on Tuesday as we’ve done a good job this last month of using things up.
We miss these people so much!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) Our daughter-in-law sent us a load of pictures from this summer and fall – I think I must have gone through them about 20 times already! I miss them all so much, but seeing so many pictures helps. 2) The pottery plate I sold on Etsy arrived safely at its destination – what a relief! 3) We found something other than golf balls on one of our walks last week: a ripe lilikoi! We have been walking past a vine that has been flowering like mad for the past few weeks, but has only produced a couple of fruits. We watched one of those ripen and then picked it on Wednesday, and it was delicious. 4) Not the most exciting thing in the world, but we got a new toilet on Thursday. The previous one had been slightly problematic since we moved in, maintenance and repairs had nursed it along, but it finally gave up for good on Thursday (not the toilet itself but all the seals, gaskets, etc.). Our landlord got a plumber in right away, and by early evening we had a brand new toilet. The only not-good part was having to go without for a few hours during the day – not fun, but we survived. And, the repairs/labor didn’t cost us a dime!

From blossom to fresh picked to wrinkled and ripe to yum! on top of coconut cake

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had a boring, but frugal week: it was completely no-spend and we had two no-drive days as well. We didn’t put anything into the change/$1 bill bag but we ate and enjoyed all of our leftovers and we didn’t throw away any food. My sandal purchase from Duckfeet earned me enough points that I will get a discount when I make my next purchase (the boots). It won’t be much, but every bit helps. In other good financial news, there will officially be a 5.9% increase in our Social Security payments next year, and in Brett’s military retirement pay as well. It couldn’t come at a better time.
  • Adding up what we sold: I sold four hashioki, my Japanese bamboo shopping basket to a local woman from Japan, and a box of 60 golf balls. $74.35 went into our travel account.
I wanted to keep this basket, but it’s impractical for full-time travel, and I know where to get another one in Japan before we eventually settle down.
  • Grateful for: We were very thankful once again this week to have such a great landlord. We were also grateful to be renting last Thursday and not shouldering the expense of several hours for a plumber, including his having to drive back and forth to Home Depot a couple of times for parts and eventually a whole new toilet.
  • Bonus question: What streaming services do you use? We dumped cable and switched to full-time streaming back in 2016 and have never looked back. One of the best things about streaming, in my opinion, is that you can share accounts with others which can give you more for less. Currently we stream Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu (without ads), Showtime, and Britbox. Netflix is free with our phone plan and we share it with the girls: Amazon Prime is necessary for survival on Kaua’i (IMO) so we pay for that and use the streaming service (the girls share their own Prime account); Hulu and Showtime are free courtesy of our daughters’ accounts (we also used to have access to Disney+ but our daughter dropped the account that provided that service for free); and we pay for Britbox. Total out of pocket for us is $16.91 per month, very affordable for all we get. When I purchase a new phone next month we will pick up Apple+ for free as well. We have been known to sign up for free trials for a week or month in order to binge-stream a particular show, but that doesn’t happen often. Some of these streaming services will travel along with us but there are often barriers in place in many countries that means we can’t use them. Japan has more streaming services than we have in the U.S. though, so we always have plenty to watch there!

A very affordable price for premium economy seats on a flight over to Paris showed up this past week, and after some checking around to be sure this was a good time to buy, we went ahead and purchased them. We will be using the Delta gift cards earned through Swagbucks to cover our flights to YaYu’s graduation – we’re going to fly into Baltimore-Washington (BWI) because it’s nearly $500 less than flights into Philadelphia – but even using what’s left over on our gift cards Delta could not match the other airline’s price (or good schedule) for our two seats. While it was quite exciting to make our Airbnb reservations last month, it’s almost more exciting to book our first flight – we have just seven months until our departure!

That’s a wrap for this week! Other than our plumbing issues it was a pretty good week and lots got done to move us closer to our departure, even if it was only a decision to make some changes. We were sort of surprised to realize we have less than seven months to go, but time seems to be moving along quickly these days and there’s lots to do. Here’s hoping it was a good week for all, and that next week is as good or better!