Ready For Christmas at Casa Aloha!

Meiling hung almost all the ornaments this year by herself – a beautiful job! Every ornament is a memory.

The tree is up, the presents have been wrapped, the food purchased, and WenYu arrives home this week – we are ready for Christmas here at Casa Aloha! I love this time of year, and am again looking forward to us all being together for the holiday. Our son and family had thought they might come, but the grandkids are at a stage where jet lag is a difficult, long-lasting issue, so they’ve decided to postpone a visit until next summer.

We set up a Christmas savings account this past year, and between what we put into that each month and some Swagbucks I earned, we ended up with $1200 to use for gifts this year. We sent $100 to Japan for our grandchildren (although our son would prefer we sent nothing) and they will use the money to either do an activity together or get the kids something they want. The rest was divided so that there was $210 per person – $150 for gifts under the tree and $60 for each stocking. Brett and I typically don’t exchange gifts, but we are this year.

I can’t say what I got for Brett for obvious reasons, and I haven’t a clue what I’m getting, but here’s what the girls will be receiving:

GoToob travel bottles

Each girl’s stocking will contain a travel set of Mālie bath products (we get a kamaaina discount for these), a set of GoToob silicone travel bottles, a cute phone stand (either a dog or a cat), a bath scrubby, a set of decorated paperclips from Japan, and some candy, which will include Lindor truffles, Dove dark chocolate hearts, and Japanese mochi.

Meiling, who loves to bake, is getting a red KitchenAid hand mixer, a set of cute cat-shaped measuring cups, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, and a $50 Trader Joe’s gift card. We got WenYu a pair of gold earrings from Bali (via Novica), a professional set of 132 colored pencils, and a $40 gift card to her favorite clothing store. YaYu will be receiving a sports watch with a timer, a FitBit with a set of changeable bands, and a “party box” filled with her favorite Korean spicy noodles. Each girl is also receiving a “food bag,” filled with their favorite treats and things they like to make, or in the case of WenYu, things she can fix in the dorm, like macaroni and cheese. We tucked these items into our regular grocery shopping the past few months, so have no idea of the value of what’s in them, but it’s balanced between each girl.

Meiling also set up a family Secret Santa exchange, where we’re not allowed to know who got what for whom and have a $30 limit for the gift. My recipient will be receiving a Regal Cinemas gift card.

We’ve had our little wooden advent tree for 30 years – we bought it when our son was nine years old. After Christmas is over this year, we’re packing it up and sending it to him so our grandchildren can enjoy it in the coming years.

Christmas morning we’ll follow tradition, and early-riser Brett will have coffee and hot chocolate made when the rest of us get up. Everyone gets to unpack their stocking first. Then I’ll serve our traditional Christmas breakfast of bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon, along with fresh fruit (this year it will be fresh berries), and we’ll eat while we open gifts. For something new this year we’re serving POG mimosas with breakfast (or POG with club soda, for those that don’t drink alcohol). Gifts are opened one at a time so we can admire and appreciate what each person receives, and we will once again go in order from oldest to youngest, with Brett starting things off. Meiling will serve as our “elf” and distribute the gifts.

We’ve traditionally had appetizers for our Christmas Eve dinner, and this year will be no different although we are sticking to an Asian theme and having pad thai, lumpia, potstickers, sushi, and homemade wontons along with rice and a cucumber salad. Dessert will be Japanese cakes and mochi ice cream. For our Christmas dinner we’ll be having ham, macaroni and cheese, roasted brussels sprouts, biscuits, and cream puffs topped with chocolate sauce for dessert. Guess what I’m not having!

If weather permits, we plan to head down to the beach on Christmas Day, but if it’s a less than beach-worthy day we’re going to take a family hike out to the Pineapple Dump. We also plan to watch a movie together, but we’re waiting until WenYu is home to decide what that will be.

This will be our last Christmas in Hawai’i, maybe for a long while (next year we’ll be in Portland), so we’re making this a special one. I almost can’t believe Christmas Day will be here in just a week, but we are ready!

Sunday Afternoon 12/17/2017

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

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

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

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

This afternoon I am:

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

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

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

    Bowdoin College

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

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


Five Frugal Things: 12/15/2017

Our 100+ year-old mizuya (kitchen tansu) will be going to a new home. It’s been a very functional and beautiful storage piece over the years, and we’re so happy it will continue to be useful (and enjoyed) in someone else’s home.

  1. We received a rebate on our car insurance this year of $29.46 (and it went right into our travel savings).
  2. We sold our three antique Japanese tansu, two stainless storage shelves, our dining table and chairs, the girls’ bunk bed set and a few other pieces! We’ll still continue to use them though until the buyers arrive on the island next summer.
  3. Meiling used her savings and purchased a new iPhone 8 at Costco this week saving $50 off the cost of buying it elsewhere. It wasn’t as big of a discount as Brett got over Thanksgiving for his phone, but still better than paying full price, and there were no additional charges for activation, etc. We are now a 100% Apple family!
  4. We added an additional $200 to our monthly food budget to cover holiday meals and the addition of two (big) eaters here at Casa Aloha this month, but we finished our shopping and came in just under our regular budget amount! All we have left to purchase is fresh fruit for our Christmas morning breakfast.
  5. We put $19.43 into the change/$1 bill jar: $2.72 change from Safeway shopping, $4.50 left over from the farmers’ market, $9.76 back from the cable bill, and $2.45 change from our lunch with Meiling at the Ono Charburger on Tuesday.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

#Kaua’i: Street Burger

The Napa Burger: Point Reyes blue cheese, cabernet onions, port reduction and spinach, served on a freshly baked roll along with hand-cut sea salt fries and homemade ketchup.

The idea of a gourmet burger has always sort of struck me as an oxymoron. By nature, a hamburger is a humble sandwich, just a ground beef patty set inside a soft roll, often served with a few condiments or maybe a slice of cheese. It doesn’t exactly fit with the idea of “gourmet.”

Street Burger however, located in Wailua on the east side of Kaua’i, takes the humble hamburger to a level that is definitely gourmet. The restaurant has become one of our favorite places to eat on the island, and our go-to restaurant when we want to enjoy a meal with friends.

Brett’s half of the bacon-barbecue burger we shared (plus all the fries).

The burgers at Street Burger are HUGE. Half of one is plenty for me these days, and Brett and I usually share (although he gets all the fries). Each burger is a virtual tower of hamburger goodness. There are 17 different burger versions to choose from, from a classic hamburger, cheeseburger or bacon-barbecue burger (my favorite!) to a Greek burger with olive tapenade, feta cheese, tzatziki, cucumber and spinach. Other creative burger examples include the Wailua, (crispy spam, jalapeño-pineapple marmelade, kabayaki glaze and spinach) or the Southern burger (fried green tomato, pimento cheese, greens and buttermilk-chive dressing) or the Italian (prosciutto, bufala mozzarella, arugula pesto, marinara and spinach). A vegan burger is available for those who don’t eat meat, and is just as glorious as their other offerings. Each burger is cooked to order on a big wood-fired grill, served with hand-cut sea salt fries and house-made ketchup, and is a masterpiece from start to finish. Street Burger also offers exciting and interesting salads and sides, including to-die-for onion rings, or one of Brett’s favorites, Texas Poutine: Texas-style chili over fries, with sharp cheddar cheese, a fried egg and fizzled onions.

Beginning with the burger, everything is as local as can be achieved here. The hamburger patties are made from Kauai-raised grass-fed beef, and the produce comes from local farmers. The rolls are made on site. The ice cream is made on Kaua’i (Lapperts) and the coffee served at the restaurant comes from Java Kai in Kapaa. Even the ketchup is made from scratch.

Sitting at the counter and watching these guys work the grill is a great place to enjoy your meal at Street Burger.

For all the amazing deliciousness of their creations, Street Burger is an affordable dining choice. The burgers range in price from $10 to $17, and for that you get a LOT of food. Even when Brett and I share an order, there are still usually leftovers to bring home.

The restaurant also offers a large selection of craft-brewed beers, and has an interesting wine list. Dining is available inside the restaurant or out on the patio, where guests can enjoy a stunning view of the Sleeping Giant. Another fun seating option is at the counter that surrounds the grill. We did that on one trip and had a fun time throughout our meal watching the burgers being made and chatting with the cooks. It’s also worth it to save some room (if you can) for one of Street Burger’s desserts. They are divine, and well worth the extra calories!

One of the most popular desserts is the Street Burger S’more: Chocolate mousse, peanut butter crunch, and toasted Swiss meringue

Street Burger is located at 4-369 Kuhio Hwy, in Wailua, just north of the old Coco Palms hotel on the mauka (mountain) side of the highway. They’re open Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.


This Week’s Menu: Let the Favorites Begin!

Turkey divan casserole is Meiling’s favorite recipe, or at least in the top three. I add noodles to the casserole when I make it.

Beginning this week, and for the next month or so the menu will revolve around the girls’ favorite meals. There will be no new recipes, no experimenting, etc. – just dishes that they enjoy and either can’t make or can’t get wherever they are.

Coming up with a menu of favorites though was more difficult than I thought it would be. The biggest problem is that I don’t want to fix certain things upfront for Meiling when WenYu will be arriving home the week after and have to repeat them. It was a bit of a juggling act trying to think of what to make early and what to save for later.

We’re picking up a pizza at Costco on Wednesday – that’s the day of the Big Shop and along with the farmers’ market trip I know it’s going to be an exhausting day and I’m not going to feel much like cooking that evening. We’ll let Meiling choose which kind of pizza she wants, and then Brett will fix it out on the grill. Brett is going to make Scotch Eggs on Sunday – Meiling hasn’t had them yet, but we’re pretty sure she’s going to love them.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Oyakodon; cucumber salad (I’m skipping the rice)
  • Wednesday: Pizza; sliced apples
  • Thursday: Turkey divan casserole; roasted mixed vegetables; French bread (I’m having sliced turkey and steamed broccoli instead of casserole)
  • Friday: Meatloaf; mashed potatoes and gravy; steamed green beans (no mashed potatoes for me)
  • Saturday: Mabo nasu; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Sunday: Scotch eggs; onion rings; fruit (I’m not having onion rings)
  • Monday: Spaghetti with marinara and meatballs; grilled zucchini; garlic bread (no bread for me, and I’ll have my marinara and meatballs over the zucchini instead of pasta)

Cucumbers, bok choy and green beans are the only “must buys” at the farmers’ market, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to find broccoli (if not, we’ll have to make a run to the store). I also want to get a papaya, some limes and we’ll let Meiling pick out some fruit she wants (like starfruit).

Will It Stay or Will It Go?

The jubako will be stored; the chest they sit on will be sold

A big topic of current conversation between Brett and I these days is over which of our things we are going to store while we travel next year, and which ones we will sell or otherwise get rid of. We mostly agree, but there are few items we’re still haggling over (with Brett usually saying “let it go”). We plan to start the downsizing process fairly soon after Christmas, with our tree the first thing we’ll put up for sale. We’ll start gradually, but end with a big moving sale right before we leave.

Will it go? is the easy part because the answer is: almost everything. We have to no plans to store any furniture other than our big hibachi table, so our dining table and chairs, all bedroom furniture, our remaining antique Japanese tansu, living room furniture, etc. will all go up for sale. Everything except the tansu is replaceable, but after some discussion we decided to let them go as well – they will fetch a good price, and our goal is to eventually live even more streamlined than we do now.

We’ll be storing the KitchenAid mixer, the slow cooker, our set of All-Clad pots and pans, most of the pottery collection, one cake stand (a gift from the girls), less than five Japanese cooking utensils, and a few of our coffee cups; otherwise, everything in the kitchen will be sold as well. We’re going to let Meiling go through the things we’re not keeping (i.e. bakeware) while she’s home and will send what she wants back with her.

We’re keeping all or most of our blue and white Japanese porcelain although there are a couple of pieces I don’t have any strong feelings about and can let go. All of our artwork will be stored as well. Our collection was curated before we moved over here and we don’t want to part with the pieces we kept. A couple of the pictures will go back with the girls this year, but that’s all. We’re keeping both of our wool rugs.

Things like our collection of Christmas ornaments, lovingly collected over the past 40 years, and the few other sentimental items we brought with us will also go into storage. We debated dividing up the Christmas ornaments among the kids this year, but then realized the girls don’t want to have to worry about storing Christmas ornaments while they’re in school, and the cost of shipping our son’s bunch over to Japan would be prohibitive. We still plan to get together for Christmas every year no matter where we are, so Brett and I will remain the ornament keepers for the time being.

We’ll also store our new TV, mainly because it will be less than a year old, and we see no sense in replacing it so soon. However, our washer and dryer set and our freezer will be sold.

The car will be sold too, hopefully around a month before we depart on our Big Adventure. I’m amazed at what people get for used cars here on the island, even ones with high mileage, so we’re hoping our little Honda Civic will bring a decent price with its fairly low mileage. It’s a terrific island car, in pretty good shape, and gets good mileage (34-36 MPG) so we’ve got our fingers crossed that it sells quickly. Both Brett and I are looking forward to not owning a car for a while.

The items we are keeping will be stored here on the island – whether we’ll do that independently or work with a local moving company is something we’re still investigating. Doing it independently will most likely cost less, but the moving company would offer packaging and protection for the items being stored (especially the art work).

Can I admit to being a little bit excited again about downsizing even more? Brett and I grow less and less  sentimental over our things as more time goes on, and feel like we have a lot of stuff we just don’t need anymore, especially because of our upcoming travels and because we won’t have any children living with us full time. But, we also recognize we’re not ready to part with everything just yet. I’ll think we’ll be keeping enough to make wherever we eventually settle, whether that’s back here on Kaua’i or somewhere else, feel familiar and like home, but not enough to tie us down. That’s just where we want to end up.


Sunday Afternoon 12/10/2017

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

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

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

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

This afternoon I am:

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

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

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

    Freshly picked cauliflower at the farmers’ market.

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

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

Five Frugal Things 12/8/2017

  1. I had a very lucrative month with Swagbucks in November, and earned 1,094 bonus SBs! I also purchased a $25 Zappos gift card this week for 2200 SB versus the regular price of 2,500 (the offer is available just once a month). The Zappos card will go toward another pair of travel shoes for Brett.
  2. I didn’t really think about it earlier, but other than our trips to the farmers’ market, the two weeks before this last one were no-spend. I did buy a couple of things from Amazon, but used some of my Swagbucks-earned gift card balance to pay for those, so there was nothing out-of-pocket.
  3. I purchased round trip tickets from Honolulu to Kaua’i for both Meiling’s and WenYu’s upcoming trips home. I found a lower-than-usual price for Meiling’s tickets, so paid cash for them, but because WenYu is coming home closer to Christmas prices were higher, so I used Hawaiian miles from my stash for her tickets. Both girls are flying Hawaiian over from the mainland this year, and the mileage they earn will replenish most of the miles I used.
  4. I am almost done putting together my travel wardrobe for next year, and have been looking for a long-ish skirt to take along, to wear when visiting cathedrals or participating in other activities where I might need to dress up a bit. This past week I found the three-season knit skirt pictured above on the J. Jill sale page: The regular price was $89, but it was on sale for $34.99 with an additional 30% off. The final price, including shipping, was $30.45.
  5. We put $9.32 into the change/$1 bill jar: $8.32 left over from the gas bill, and $1 left from the farmers’ market.

What frugal wins did you have this week?