Our Fierce Girl

One of only a few pictures we received of YaYu before we met her. She looks so big and robust in this picture, but in reality she was very tiny, and still is quite petite today.

Brett and I thought we were done after we brought WenYu home in 1999. But, in 2004, we were eating banana splits with Meiling and WenYu at the Ghirardelli factory in San Francisco (on what was our 25th wedding anniversary!), and began teasing the girls that we were going to adopt again. Brett and I glanced at each other, and knew immediately we weren’t joking – he and I really did want to add one more child to our family.

So, we came home and filled out the application paperwork again, this time asking for an older child. The only request we made was that we would like the child to come from the same province as our other girls (Hunan). Around two weeks later I received a phone call from our agency, asking if we would consider a little four year-old girl who was waiting for a family. She had some burn injuries, but was otherwise in good health. I listened to the information about her, and then asked one question: Where was she from? When the person from the agency said “Hunan” I knew this was a sign this little girl was meant to be ours. I shared everything with Brett that evening, and he agreed. That was in April 2004; in August we were officially matched with YaYu, and we traveled to China in late February 2005, along with Meiling and WenYu, to bring our new daughter/sister home.

YaYu with her new family, not long after meeting us for the first time. The day after we met her she requested a purse because her sisters each had one, and new shoes like theirs!

Right from the start we knew we had a real pistol on our hands. Before meeting her we couldn’t figure out how she got dressed or fed herself with just two fingers, but she did everything easily (no one is more skilled with chopsticks!), and we learned there was nothing she couldn’t figure out how to do given time and effort. YaYu was initially terrified when placed with us, but with her sisters’ help she began to relax (they could speak to her in Mandarin), and within a few days YaYu told our facilitator that she was ready to go to America with her new family. She started kindergarten in September and the rest, as they say, is history. She is our fierce girl, always moving forward, facing head-on whatever comes her way, always trying harder.

But that’s my story. Below is YaYu’s, the essay she wrote for her college application:

Almost like a warning label was a note my parents received when they adopted me at the age of five: “She can be quite stubborn at times.”

I resented the associations that came with the word stubborn: Obstinate. Headstrong. Pigheaded. I wasn’t any of those things. I was persistent. I was determined. I was creative. I had to be to do what anyone else could.

When I was a toddler I was burned, and left with scars on the left side of my face and only two fingers on each hand. I don’t remember what happened, but doctors believed I had likely pulled a hot pan from a stove. What I do remember is discovering I was different, and that I often had to try harder, or figure out a different way to accomplish what seemed so effortless for others.

Once, in elementary school, a teacher taught our class a neat little technique of using our fingers to make adding and subtracting easier. She started with the equation two plus eight. She held two fingers up and then began to fan her fingers out one by one until magically she was holding up all ten fingers! But when I put my hands up and attempted the trick, the only equation I could do was two plus two.

At first embarrassed, I realized I didn’t have to accept the situation, and tried to think of a different way to do the problem. My eyes settled on the little basket of crayons that sat in front of me. I dumped all of them onto my desk and tried the trick again. My solution proved to be just as effective as everyone else’s fingers!

As I progressed through school I continued to adjust in little ways to fit in, and my life was comfortable. Friends and teachers hardly noticed my hands and scars, if at all, and I believed nothing could hold me back. Then my whole world changed when my family moved to Kaua’i the summer before my first year of high school. More than just a “new kid,” I was again the girl with scars on her face, the girl with missing fingers. Each day at school I faced stares and questions about my abilities.

My greatest challenge came when I joined the school’s swim team. Would I be able to swim quickly enough with only a few fingers to help propel me forward? Competitive swimming was difficult beyond anything I had done before, but I loved to swim and believed I could succeed. One day at practice the coach asked the rest of the team to swim laps with their fists closed, to help them understand what swimming was like for me. Watching the entire team slow down to a crawl was crushing. I felt angry and wanted to quit. This wasn’t fair – I tried so hard! Later though I overheard a teammate tell someone that I inspired her because I worked so hard, and I didn’t give up. Her words were a revelation to me, and pushed me to work even harder to improve my technique and increase my speed. I will never be the team’s fastest swimmer, but I have become a better, more successful racer.

When I was a little girl I used to wish my hands could be restored, and my scars erased. Over time though I’ve come to see that my scars and missing fingers were never limitations, but invitations to challenge myself, to look at things differently, and to persist in order to accomplish my goals. I have applied those lessons to everything I undertake, whether it’s making my own pasta or learning another language or mentoring a young student.

I am not stubborn. I am creative. I am persistent. I am determined, and I am eager to embrace all the challenges that are yet to come.

We are so immensely proud, and humbled as well, by this amazing girl that we have been privileged to parent. What a ride it’s been, but she is ready to fly on her own. Look out world, here she comes!


The Big Adventure: Status Report

A couple of weeks ago I created a month-by-month financial outline for our Big Adventure. Brett maintains a spreadsheet tracking spending, etc. but I realized I needed to see it all laid out on paper, where I could look at each month as a whole.  I totaled up all known expenses for each month including our fixed payments, transportation, museum passes, etc., subtracted that amount from our income, and then divided that amount by the number of days between Social Security payments to give us a daily amount for food, transportation, and other miscellaneous expenses. We will have at least $60/day (around $1800/month or more) to cover our meals, tips for tour guides, daily transportation and other miscellaneous expenses, and since we’ll fix and eat the majority of meals in our Airbnb rentals versus eating out, this should be sufficient. We’ve budgeted a bit extra for our time in Hong Kong, where we’ll be staying in a hotel versus an Airbnb rental, but we know how to get around and eat cheaply but well while we there. High tea at the Peninsula Hotel is still on our must do list though!

One of the first things I noticed when I made the outline was how much was going toward “touristy experiences.” While all the wine tastings and cooking experiences and private tours sounded like a lot of fun a couple of months ago, seeing them all on paper made me realize how much we were depending on those kinds things for entertainment, and how much they were eating into our monthly budget. That wasn’t what we envisioned at all when we came up with the idea of the Big Adventure, so all of those types of planned activities have been dropped. We will instead take advantage of the free walking tours in the cities we visit, and will otherwise get out and make our experiences our own. There are still things we will have to pay for along the way, such as museum admissions, but we’ve already figured out many things we can see and do that won’t drain our bank account, and will hopefully provide more interesting and meaningful experiences for us along the way. Plus, the planning for these many activities was starting to get out of hand.

We still plan to visit the Cinque Terre during our stay in Florence, but because part of the hiking path will be closed we’re just going to go for one night and two days – we’ll take the train up to Monterosso al Mare from Florence, hike down to Corniglia, then take the train from there to Manarola to spend the night. The next day we’ll either take the train or boat to Riomaggiore and from there board the train back to Florence. And, instead of visiting the Alps in Switzerland as we originally planned we’re going to rent a car in Strasbourg and instead drive to Lucerne. Trying to work out the train schedule to Interlaken from Strasbourg was proving to be beyond difficult (and expensive as well), but it’s only a 1 1/2 hour drive to Lucerne from Strasbourg on good roads, and the car rental costs less than train tickets. We’ll stay for three nights in Lucerne – one day will be spent visiting the city, and the next we’ll visit the transportation museum (Brett is very excited about this!) – and then we’ll drive back to Strasbourg the third day to return the car.

Here’s where we are with everything else right now:


  • We have 12 plane flights booked so far: Hawaii to Portland, Portland to Dallas, and Dallas to Philadelphia with YaYu, then on our own with Philadelphia to Miami, Miami to Buenos Aires, Montevideo to Paris, Lisbon to Madrid, Madrid to Boston (with a long stopover in Gatwick), Boston to Portland, Portland to New Delhi via Taipei, Sydney to Auckland, and Auckland to Tokyo. Other than noted, all of the flights are non-stop.
  • I still have to arrange flights from Bordeaux to Bologna, Rome to Lisbon, New Delhi to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Perth, and Tokyo to Portland. Some of those will be made at the end of the summer, but we won’t start thinking about the Tokyo to Portland flight until late fall or December – it has to be in place though before we enter Japan. So far it’s looking like the cost for all these flight will fall within our budget.
  • Train transportation also has to be reserved. We will be traveling by train from Paris to Caen, Caen to Strasbourg, Strasbourg to Bordeaux, Bologna to Florence, Florence to the Cinque Terre and back, and Florence to Rome. Most reservations can be made online before we go, which will save us a little and guarantee our seats (unless there’s a strike). Our Australian cross-continent train journey has already been booked and paid for.
  • Car rentals for when we’re on the mainland have all been reserved, but we still need to reserve a car for our three days in Normandy, for the drive from Strasbourg to Lucerne and back, and for ten days in New Zealand.
  • We’ll book the ferry trip across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires to Montevideo when we’re in Buenos Aires.


  • All of our lodging has been reserved and paid for except for one night in Napier, New Zealand, three nights in Lucerne, and our one night in Manarola. We’ve reserved Airbnb rentals in Portland, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Paris, Balleroy (Normandy), Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Florence, Rome, Lisbon, Perth, Sydney, Rotorua, Wellington, Mangorei, Auckland, and back again in Portland. Other than our tour in India, the only long-ish hotel stay will be six nights in Hong Kong (at the New World Millennium in Kowloon – we got a much better deal there than the Salisbury, where we had originally planned to stay). We have overnight hotel stays reserved in King of Prussia, PA (two nights), Miami, and Madrid. I still have to reserve a hotel for our overnight stay in Boston on our way to Portland.
  • With our daughter-in-law and son’s help, we worked out a satisfactory agreement for our three-month Tokyo rental. We will be staying in the same building but in a different but equally nice apartment on the second floor versus the third. The total cost will be divided into three equal monthly payments, with the first payment not due until we arrive.


  • We will be pre-purchasing museum tickets for the D’Orsay and L’Orangerie museums in Paris (we’re not planning to visit the Louvre on this trip), the Uffizi and Accademia museums in Florence, and the Vatican for when we’re in Rome. We should be able to get into the other museums we want to visit without having to stand in long lines.
  • We will need visas for just two countries: India and Australia. Both can be applied for online a couple of months ahead of time. All other countries we can enter with just our U.S. passport.
  • Purchasing travel insurance is on the docket for next month.

So, that’s where things are right now. For the most part we don’t have big plans made for the places we’re visiting. Other than being bound by our museum reservations we want to talk together each evening and decide what to do the next day. There are of course places and sights we want to see in each place, but the goal has never been to do or see everything, but to travel slow, observe and experience daily life in the places we visit, rest when we need to, and create memories.

Sunday Afternoon 5/20/2019

YaYu will graduate this coming Friday evening! She finished up the last of her academic work last Wednesday and is now busy with her class preparing for their ceremony. But, there are no more sports, homework, conferences, meetings, crazy schedules, tests, etc., and only a couple more days of school lunches to go. Brett and I have had a child in school somewhere for the last 35 years, so this is going to be a BIG change for us, but one we’re looking forward to.

YaYu also got a job! She started work last Thursday as a hostess and busser at a popular and busy nearby restaurant. This restaurant was her first choice of places to work so she was thrilled to be hired. She’s come home tired every night, but loves it. WenYu worked as a busser at another restaurant last summer and made a LOT of money, so fingers are crossed that YaYu does as well this summer. Both Brett and I have noticed that just the two of us being home feels a little bit different because our “baby” is at work versus hanging out with friends or at some school activity. It’s another sign that the times they are a’changin!

I got an email from the owner of our Tokyo Airbnb rental this past week, that as of next month she will no longer be listing her apartment(s) with Airbnb and our reservation will most likely be cancelled. Oh no! Apparently Japan is not banning temporary rentals (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.), but all of these rentals must be registered with the government by June 15, and Airbnb will require registration before continuing to list rentals. The Tokyo office doing the registration is completely backlogged, and the owner wrote  there’s no way her registrations will get done in time so her listings will be coming down. We still want to rent the apartment though, and she still wants to rent to us at the same price, so our son and daughter-in-law have agreed to serve as go-betweens for us so that we can hopefully keep our reservation. If this was happening in any other country we would give up the rental and start over, but Japanese people are very honest and we feel it’s safe to deal directly with the owner, especially since she lives so close to our son (and because he’s an attorney). Temporary rentals (minpaku) are a necessary part of lodging offerings in Japan as there are not enough hotel rooms and inns for tourists, especially with tourist numbers sky high and the Olympics coming in 2020, and there is also an overabundance of empty rental properties. Tokyo apartment and condo residents however want better regulation of who owns these rentals and who is staying in their buildings.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished I’ll Be Gone in the Dark last Thursday. It was a terrific read, and I highly recommend it if you are at all into true crime stories. I felt sad the entire time I was reading knowing that the author died before the suspect was arrested, but the book was also creepy to read at times because the rapist/murderer was active in the area where we lived for a few months while Brett was going to school for the navy. I’ve just started The Heart Is a Shifting Sea: Love and Marriage in Mumbai, and am looking forward to it – besides the topic, it’s said to be one of the best books in recent years set in Mumbai (Bombay). My fascination with Indian history and culture continues . . . .
  • Listening to: Birds are singing outside, and there’s a nice breeze moving through the trees (which is also helping to keep the house cool). Brett is studying Italian, and the washing machine is doing its thing so it’s fairly noisy inside, although YaYu still hasn’t come out of her room. We started the laundry earlier than we did in the past in order to wash YaYu’s uniform – it looks like she’ll be working most Sunday evenings.
  • Watching: Although I did stay up late on Friday night to watch the royal wedding (and loved all of it), Brett and I are otherwise still watching the Footloose series on Amazon Prime. Yesterday we watched the episode on Madeira, and now we want to go there! We’re almost done with the series though, and saving the Tuscany episode for the last. We did watch an episode about Rome in their city break series, and another about hiking the Cinque Terre, and gleaned quite a bit of useful information from those. We’ve checked to see if there was anything else interesting to watch when we’re done but haven’t found anything that catches our attention. I would love your recommendations!
  • Cooking/baking: We’re going to be having fried rice on Sunday evenings for the next few weeks because we have to use up a lot of rice in the next couple of months, and without YaYu being at home for dinner as much as before we need to find ways to use it. YaYu is working tonight though and I will be manning the wok (my portion will be made with riced cauliflower vs. regular rice). It will pretty much be just Brett and me at home for dinner most evenings going forward, so I’ve had to recalibrate what and how much to fix and currently have no idea how that’s going to go – hopefully I’ll have a better idea by next week so I can come up with a menu. YaYu has asked though that I still cook enough for leftovers for her to have for lunch, or when she gets home at night. I baked a pan of chocolate-glazed brownies yesterday, so no baking until those are finished.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: Although it feels like many things were left hanging this week, Brett and I did get our Big Shop done, and also bought cleaning and other supplies from Home Depot that we need for the big move-out cleaning. He and I also signed up to be poll workers on the day of the Hawaiian primary election in August. YaYu usually worked at our local polling place, but because she has a job she can’t commit this year, so we’re taking her place. Brett stopped by the local car rental agency and got a price for a month’s rental beginning in July, while we sell our car.  We missed two days of walking this week because of scheduling difficulties, but I drank lots of water once again. I still haven’t picked back up my French.
  • Looking forward to next week: Besides YaYu’s graduation ceremony, I also excited about attending the Senior Awards assembly at the high school on Tuesday morning, where all students receiving scholarships and grants are recognized. Our meeting with the moving estimator got bumped until this week, so I’m once again looking forward to finding out what that part of our journey is going to cost us (and also a bit afraid). No beach for us last week (busy schedules and not-so-great weather) but fingers are crossed for this week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I had a wonderful time at our meet-up with Laura and her husband Mike last Tuesday. We talked for over two hours and probably could have gone a couple more. I am batting 1.000 with reader meet-ups, and I’ve had the privilege of meeting and making friends with some very lovely people! I had a very nice birthday – lots of birthday greetings from friends and family, and Brett and YaYu stopped by the Kilauea bakery and got lilikoi cream puffs and a lemon-lilikoi bar for a treat (I had the bar!). YaYu getting hired by her first choice for a job was also very good news. Fresh pineapples from Maui were only $1.99 each this week so we bought a couple of those to enjoy.

    Yummy birthday treats!

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We spent $130 under our food budget this month even though we bought house-cleaning and other non-food supplies from Home Depot with our grocery money. We put $17.76 into the change/$1 bill jar this week: $5.01 change from our cable bill, $4.69 change from coffee at Java Kai, $3.22 from recycling,$1.50 left over from the farmers’ market, $3.48 change from Safeway, and 6¢ found change.
  • Grateful for: All four of my children have always loved going to school, and I am so thankful that through all these years that it’s never been a chore to get them up in the morning or interested in their studies. All four attended an array of diverse public schools K-12, had amazing and dedicated teachers for the most part, and were challenged academically. They also all hung out with great kids and made wonderful long-term friends. With all the bad you sometimes hear about public schools, we are thankful for the education all our children received and their positive experiences.

    Current lava flow from one of the fissures on the Big Island. The volcanoes there were a big reason we chose to live on Kaua’i – all of the volcanoes here are extinct!

  • Bonus question: Have you ever experienced any big weather events or natural disasters? I have experienced three hurricanes: a Category 1 when we lived in Key West, and two Category 3 typhoons when we lived in Japan. Even though we didn’t personally experience any issues, I don’t care to go through one of those again. A tornado touched down nearby our house when our son was a baby, less than three months old. I was taking a class (the classroom was actually a tornado shelter) and never knew it happened, but Brett had to go into the closet under the stairs in our apartment, and he thought the whole place was going to come down because it shook so much. I can’t count how many earthquakes I experienced when we lived in Japan. One night we went through four of them, from a 6.0 to 6.4 (the strongest I’ve ever experienced), one right after the other for a period of around four hours. Thankfully none of them lasted very long, and no damage was done, but the experience was disconcerting to say the least. The current volcanic eruptions happening on the Big Island are very upsetting, and the possibility of a tsunami genuinely frightens me (thankfully that possibility is low, but still).

That’s all the news for now from Chez Aloha! How was your week? What good things happened for you? Did you save any money this week? What are you reading?

#Kauai: Bucket List Progress Report


The view of Kipu Kai beach, the last stop on the ATV tour, did not disappoint!

With just three months left to go before we set off on our Big Adventure, I figured this was a good time to check our Kaua’i bucket list and see how we’re doing.


  • Rent a beach cottage for a couple of nights at the Pacific Missile Range Facility, to enjoy the beach and experience the gorgeous sunsets. We have reservations for a two-night stay in early July. We have a two-bedroom cottage, so YaYu is going to bring a friend along.
  • Hike Waimea Canyon. Brett, YaYu and her friend will hike somewhere in the canyon while we’re staying at the PMRF cottages.

    Brett, YaYu and her friend will have several trails to choose from for a hike in Waimea Canyon.

  • Hike the Wai Koa Loop/Stone Dam trail. The trail and the dam were destroyed during the April flooding, and are currently still closed. I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to do this or not, but I’ve heard rumors the trail may be open again later this summer, but I doubt it will be as beautiful as it once was. Even if I don’t get to go, I’m grateful that Brett and the girls had the opportunity.
  • Take an ATV tour out to Kipu Kai Ranch This was so much fun – Brett and I did it in April with our friend Denise, and it lived up to the hype.
  • Get up early and hike out to watch the sunrise from the Pineapple Dump. We’re going to do this after we move over to the condo in late July.
  • Take the tubing adventure tour. I did this with my grandson and daughter-in-law, and it was very fun and total worth going. I highly recommend!
  • Visit the Kaua’i Museum in Lihue. Another activity we plan to do after we’re staying at the condo.
  • Tour the Limahuli Gardens & Preserve. The garden, located on the north shore, was severely damaged during the April floods and remains closed. Actually, I don’t even think anyone can even get there any more because of damage to the roads.

    Flood damage at Limahuli Garden


  • Celebrate our anniversary this year at Duke’s Kaua’i. Brett and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner here: great food, a terrific view and a HUGE complementary slice of their famous Hula Pie!


    We were seated at the table on the left and enjoyed this same stunning view.

  • Have a lunch date at Brenneke’s Beach Broiler. Another nice outing earlier this spring, and we enjoyed our lunch.
  • Have dinner at The Eating House 1849. We are planning to take YaYu with us to eat here the night before we depart Kaua’i – we think it will be a great ending to our time on the island –  and at Bar Acuda in Hanalei. We’re currently undecided about this. Not that it isn’t good, but will we have the time and $$$?
  • Try breadfruit. Glad we got to do this with WenYu – she loved breadfruit! We all thought it was delicious. WenYu ate hers with butter and syrup.


  • Make an overnight visit to the Big Island to visit Volcanoes National Park. We have flight reservations over to the Big Island for late June, and a reservation at the Kilauea Military Camp, but the camp is closed indefinitely due to volcanic eruptions, and the whole trip could end up being cancelled depending on what’s going on with the volcano at the time of our trip. If we go but can’t visit the park, we’ll drive from Hilo up the east side of the island and around the top and down to Kailua-Kona for the night, making stops along the way, and then go back the same way the next day.

This doesn’t make me eager to visit the Big Island.

Out of fourteen items on our list, we’ve accomplished five of them, have reservations and/or dates for six, one has had to be cancelled because of the floods, one is an unknown, and we’re undecided about one. Not bad!

Using It Up

Liquor and chocolate . . . but not at the same time.

We’ve got less than two months left to go in our house, and less than three on the island, so one of our major goals now, besides downsizing our possessions, is using up the food we have on hand, especially things in the pantry like sugar, flour, cereals, spices and such.

Back when the navy was moving us around, pantry items made the move with us as long as they were in Tupperware containers. I had an immense collection of those as I probably attended at least one Tupperware party a month (one month I went to five!) and was always adding to my storage collection. Those containers segued to European glass  jars once we settled in Portland, most of which I picked up at yard sales and thrift stores. We moved the glass jars over with us, many of them filled with pantry items, but almost all them have been emptied now and were all sold last week. The jars were a lifesaver here, keeping things dry and fresh in spite of the humidity.

The (expensive) bag of Valhrona dark cocoa power in the picture above is a good example though of some of what we’re up against now. I bought the chocolate around a year ago, and am now trying to use it up by putting a chocolate glaze on just about everything I bake. Brett has been enjoying it in his coffee now and again, but it’s not disappearing as quickly as we hoped. I’m determined though and plan to have it all gone by the time we move out of the house – it was too expensive a purchase to throw any of it away. Same for my matcha powder.

We are also a bit dismayed by the amount of alcohol we still have to use up before we go. Brett and I only drink on Friday and Saturday evenings, one drink each (either wine or a cocktail), so when we buy those big bottles from Costco they last for a long while. The bottles of gin and rum in the picture were purchased well over a year ago and were stored in the freezer. However, I think it was easier to get rid of the freezer than it will be the alcohol. We’ll be enjoying gin & tonics, mai tais, mojitos, and Cuba Libres every weekend from now until we leave – thank goodness limes are cheap and plentiful here on Kaua’i!

As things we’ve bought get used up we are not replacing them, especially not with the big packages from Costco, and are learning to go without some things. I’m downsizing the items we keep in the freezer, and using more prepared foods, things like pizzas and such from Costco, versus keeping the freezer full of meat and other ingredients. It’s not as frugal as preparing meals from scratch in the long run, but for now we are buying less and therefore spending less. With just the three of us a Costco prepared dish provides a meal and a couple days of leftovers, and keeps us from spending on restaurant meals. The farmers’ market will continue to provide us with our weekly allotment of fresh fruits and vegetables right up until we go.

Brett and I are determined to throw as little as possible away when we leave, and get the most out of what we have left. It’s going to be quite the challenge though, but through creativity and persistance, I think we’ll be successful in having very little food waste and be able to use almost everything.

Sunday Afternoon 05/13/2018

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I hope you are enjoying your day and being spoiled by your loved ones. Today is my annual Day of Doing Nothing: Brett and YaYu are taking care of all the chores, cooking, etc. while I relax and read all day.

We didn’t want to lose our reservation at this beautiful resort, especially with the ocean view. The whole property is amazing – our son and family just stayed here.

We almost cancelled our condo reservation this past week, the one for our last three weeks on the island, but heard back from the owner yesterday and thankfully got everything straightened out. Earlier this month I could no longer find the listing online, so did a bit of sleuthing and discovered the unit is for sale! I wrote the owner and told her we did not want to have to deal with showings, etc. but she got back to me and reassured us that the condo was now professionally managed by an on-site company; is only shown between bookings; there have been no offers; and even if they got an offer next week escrow here takes so long that the sale wouldn’t be complete until after our reservation is over (this is true – escrow here takes several months).  I’m glad it’s been straightened out, but we spent a couple of very anxious days wondering if we were going to have to find someplace else, especially now when there is very little available for our dates.

This week a representative from Royal Hawaiian Movers will be coming over to see what we’re shipping/storing and to give an estimate. We moved 4,500 pounds over here, but are hopefully moving less than 1,000 back so fingers are crossed that the shipping fits our budget. Royal Hawaiian did a superb job with our move over here, and I don’t think I’d trust anyone else to handle our stuff at this point. A good friend in Portland has offered to store our things in her basement for while we’re on the road and until we’re ready to move to our new location, a huge savings for us. This past week I listed a bunch of stuff on our local Facebook group, and all but five items sold in less than an hour – it was crazy! I had to create waiting lists for a few items because I got so many requests. Most buyers came and picked up their stuff quickly (and sometimes bought other items we planned to sell later!), but as always happens some didn’t show up or kept changing when they would be coming. Sigh. More stuff will get listed in early July, after our shipment goes and before we hold our big moving sale.

I thought we might be able to leave Kaua’i without any centipede interactions, but Brett got bit on his heel on Friday. It was very, very, very painful, but the swelling isn’t too bad and the pain was gone in a day. Besides the toads here, nothing frightens me more than centipedes. They’re the reason I will put up with the chickens and roosters in the yard – centipedes are a favorite treat!

Also, the Blogger platform continues to eat almost all of my comments. I keep trying though – occasionally one sneaks through.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Little Fires Everywhere the middle of last week, and re-started I’ll Be Gone In the Dark again. I’m especially excited to read it now as the alleged Golden State Killer was captured between now and when the book was released. However, I may have to put it down again as it looks as if another book from the library may be coming off hold soon.
  • Listening to: I’ve enjoyed a nice, quiet morning and it’s very quiet outside except for the sound of the breeze moving through the trees. Brett and YaYu have the laundry sorted but thankfully haven’t started it yet – that’s going to change in a few minutes though and things will get noisy.
  • Watching: Brett and I have been watching the Footloose travelogue series on Amazon Prime and enjoying those. We’ve watched episodes on the Cotswalds, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, southern Italy and we’re getting ready to watch one about Tuscany and Rome – we’ll be paying close attention to that one! I find the host’s voice almost hypnotic, in a good way, but one evening it actually lulled me to sleep.
  • Cooking/baking: No cooking or baking for me today, and I have absolutely no idea what YaYu and Brett are fixing for dinner tonight. Brett and I will be doing our Big Shop this week although it’s actually not going to be very big this time. On the menu will be another CookDo pork dish with rice; pepperoni pizza; stuffed peppers; and hot turkey sandwiches with gravy and stuffing. YaYu has finally completed all of her evening events/meetings/celebrations and is home every evening for dinner.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got my travel notebook caught up to date, and so we’re clear on what’s done and what we still need to take care of. Getting pictures of everything we wanted to sell and getting it posted on Facebook took a bit of effort, but I was thrilled by how quickly most everything I posted sold. Brett and I walked every day last week except for Friday – it felt great even though we got caught in a downpour yesterday and got soaked. I went over or closely approached 10,000 steps on several days, and am generally walking 3/12 to 4 miles per day. I drank lots of water, but still haven’t gotten back into my French. I can read lots and understand some, but cannot speak it for the life of me and still have lots of trouble with pronunciation. Nothing is sinking in any more – I need to be in a classroom.
  • Looking forward to next week: I don’t know if I’m exactly looking forward to it, but my birthday is tomorrow. For my present this year (birthday and Mother’s Day) I ordered a pair of capri leggings from J. Jill. There’s nothing special planned for my birthday, which is fine by me. YaYu baked a chocolate-glazed matcha cake this morning, but mainly she and Brett will be eating it. I’m greatly looking forward to meeting ON reader Laura on Tuesday. She and her husband moved to Kaua’i a while ago, and live on the north side of the island. Everyone I’ve met so far through the blog has been delightful, and I treasure the friendships I’ve made. The other Laura, her husband, Brett and I will be meeting at Java Kai in Kapaa, my favorite coffee spot on the island. The weather has been improving and we are hoping for the chance to go to the beach this week.

    So proud of our girl!

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I enjoyed attending YaYu’s Kiwanis award banquet last Tuesday, and were surprised to find she was the only senior to receive the scholarship award this year. Usually it’s divided between three or four students – we don’t know if she got it all because no one else applied this year or because they thought YaYu deserved all of it. YaYu was also awarded another $1000 scholarship from the Zonta Club of Hanalei – her scholarships now total $5000! On a different note, we got a lot of stuff out of the house last week because of the sale.

    The most popular item I listed was this blue & white garden stool from Thailand. SO MANY people asked to buy it.

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We raised $450 from our sale. Hopefully the last few things will sell in the next week or so. 2) Our landlord bought two more pieces of furniture from us and we will be able to take the amount of what he’s bought off our rent this and next month. 3) I cashed in the $495.89 we’ve earing in credit card rewards and had it applied toward the balance. 4) Other than buying produce at the farmers’ market and one stop at the store for eggs, we had a no-spend week. 5) We put $8.00 into the change/$1 bill jar this week.
  • Grateful for: I’m glad we’ve been able to get so many parts of the Big Adventure taken care of already. Things are starting to get a bit crazy now, and it sometimes feels like I’ve got too many balls up in the air. I know it will all come together though. The travel notebook has already proved to be an immense help. I’m also grateful for all the people who responded to our sale on Facebook, and were so pleasant to deal with, whether they bought something or interacted with me online. Brett and I got to “talk story” with some very interesting people from around the island when they came to pick up their stuff.
  • Bonus question: What’s your earliest birthday memory? It’s interesting what memories stand out as we get older. My family did not make a big deal over birthdays, so most of what I remember is that because my birthday always falls on or right after Mother’s Day, that occasion always got all the attention when I was young. My parents did throw me one big party on my sixth birthday which fell toward the end of my year in kindergarten, and invited all the girls from my class. I don’t remember what we all did at that party, but there is a photograph showing all of us standing around our backyard swings with the girls all wearing lovely white dresses (except for me – my dress was a pastel color). Mom served us tea sandwiches (with the crusts cut off) for lunch, but the most special thing that day were the individual little square packages of ice cream in assorted flavors that my parents served with cake following lunch – I remember all of us being very excited about the ice cream because we could choose the flavor we wanted (I remember the assortment included pistachio because my Dad was happy no one else wanted it). I also distinctly remember all the girls arriving to the party with presents, but don’t remember any of what I received other than a much-desired set of Colorforms. My siblings had their way with my gifts shortly after the party though and few if anything I received survived for very long. Also, in kindergarten we brought treats to school on our birthday to share with our classmates during snack time. I had the same birthday as another boy in the class so we were given two days to bring our treats. I got the first day, and my mom baked chocolate chip cookies for the class (cookies were the usual treat) but the next day the boy, whose family owned the LA Times newspaper, brought cake and ice cream and a clown to entertain everyone! Even at age six I felt glad I had gotten the first day and didn’t have to follow that fabulous experience with just cookies.

That’s all for this week from Casa Aloha! Again, happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who are checking in – wishing you all a wonderful day. How did your week go? What are you reading? What good things happened for you? What frugal things did you do this past week?

We Come Bearing Gifts

We’re bringing along Monkeypod Jam, Koloa Rum (and coasters), Kauai Kookies, and Anahola Granola as small thank you gifts for our Airbnb hosts on the first part of our trip.

Local businesses here on Kaua’i produce some very, very delicious edibles and beverages, some of them using only locally-sourced ingredients, and we’ve had the great privilege of enjoying most of them.

Among our favorite Kaua’i products are:

  • Monkeypod Jam: Produced in Lawai, on the south side of the island, owner Aletha Thomas uses locally grown fruits (and vegetables) to produce amazingly creative and delicious jams, curds, sauces and pickles.
  • Kauai Kookie: Baked in Hanapepe, Kauai Kookie offers a selection of different shortbreads and cookies, including Guava Shortbread, Macadamia Shortbread, and Cornflake Crunch.
  • Kauai Nut Roasters: This company offers several unique nut mixtures and flavors, including Hawaiian Snowballs, Monkey Nuts and Holy Cacao! (all their flavors and mixes are pretty amazing though).
  • Anahola Granola: Also produce in Hanapepe, Anahola Granola was started in 1986 by a single mom as a way to support her family. The company produces three types of granola as well as granola bars and trail mix.
  • Lappert’s Ice Cream: Yet another Hanapepe product, Lappert’s ice cream is famous for their local and Hawaiian flavors. They also sell their own (delicious) coffee.
  • Kauai Coffee: Grown on the south side of the island, they offer a variety of roasts and flavored coffees.
  • Koloa Rum Company: The award-winning rum (which comes in several flavors) is distilled on Kauai and made from locally grown sugar and other ingredients.
  • Ko Bakery: This bakery produces Hula Baby Biscotti, addictive little cookies featuring island flavors and containing mainly locally raised products. They also offer 19 decadent cake varieties and cheesecakes here on the island.

Each of our hosts on the first part of our journey will receive a small Hawaiian-themed gift bag containing a two-ounce jar of Monkeypod Jam (assorted flavors), a miniature bottle of Koloa Spiced Rum and two coasters (given to us by Koloa Rum), a box of Kauai Kookies (assorted flavors again), and a four-ounce bag of original Anahola Granola (the one in the picture is a 16-ounce bag – the small bags are only available online and we haven’t ordered them yet). The items were selected based on size, weight, and price. We would have liked to also give small bags of nuts from Kauai Nut Roasters, but at nearly $10 a bag now, and there was no way we could afford 10 of those. All the above items were affordably priced and we received kamaaina discounts, making them even more affordable. The other issue in choosing what to take was weight, but the total for all the above comes in at around seven and a half pounds, which will be divided between Brett’s and my suitcases, and dwindle as we pass the gifts along.

We’re going to pack a few jars of Monkeypod’s Lilikoi Curd (pure heaven in a jar in my opinion) into our storage shipment, and will probably take along a 16-ounce bag or two of Anahola Granola to eat as we travel. It’s the best granola I’ve ever eaten, and I love a little of it sprinkled over yogurt. YaYu will be taking a few boxes of Kauai Kookies along with her when she goes to Bryn Mawr to share with others in her dorm.

In the meantime we’re enjoying as many of the other local products as we can before we go as it may be a while before we get to have them again!

Forever Nomads (Well, Occasionally)

Illustration by Davide Bonazzi

The other day our son commented that while he thought we were crazy to come here four years ago he was happy things had turned out so well, especially for his sisters. He went on to let us know where he thought we should consider living once the Big Adventure ends, and why.

His comments and suggestions got us thinking about moving once again to a place we’ve never lived before and starting over. Brett and I have been asking ourselves for a while if we’re really willing to do that again, or would it just be safer/easier to come back to Kaua’i at the end of the Big Adventure. It’s been the hot topic of conversation between the two of us for several days now, and a more difficult question to answer than we imagined. But, we know our son has a unique perspective – he’s known us longer than anyone – and is watching us grow older in a different way than his sisters are, mainly because he’s older and at a different place in life than they are. We have been listening carefully to what he has to say this time and what he suggests and why.

Our experience on Kaua’i has been overwhelmingly positive, especially for our children. Both WenYu and YaYu blossomed here, and had many more opportunities to shine than they would have in their school back on the mainland. Their life back on the mainland would have also been far more competitive and materialistic than it’s been here, and life on Kaua’i has given each of them the opportunity to experience and absorb the concepts and ethics of aloha and ohana, which will stay with them always. Moving with the girls has made our experience here a better one for us.

Going forward though it’s pretty much just going to be Brett and me. Like everywhere else, Kaua’i is growing more expensive with the cost of living here climbing higher and higher. In the four years we’ve been here the changes are noticeable, and unfortunately more negative than not. We know the girls would visit us here over the holidays no matter what, but we realize those visits are going to be happening with less frequency as they each segue from college to working, marriage and perhaps children. Our son and family would also still visit, but those trips will be harder to make as their children grow older. We know that it will be easier for us to see the girls if we settle on the mainland, and it will be just as easy, and more likely, for our son and family to fly to the mainland as well.

After thinking about and discussing the points our son has made, and talking with each other about what we want going forward, Brett and I have decided we are willing to move somewhere new once again. We did it over and over when Brett was in the navy, we successfully made the move over here, and we feel we can do it once again. We’re still vagabonds at heart, and will forever be nomads of some sort, even if that’s only occasionally.

This past March I wrote about the things we would be looking for if we choose to settle in a new location including cost of living, taxes, walkability, culture, health care, travel & transportation, and weather. We’ve been looking at that list again this past week and have found that our priorities have changed a bit from when we first made the list. For example, walkability has moved up to the top of the list. We very much don’t want to own a car again if at all possible. In the four years we’ve lived here we’ve had to get in our car to go or do anything, and it’s gotten old. Although we love the slower lifestyle here on the island, we also frankly miss urban living. We ‘d like to be able to walk to buy groceries, visit parks, coffee shops or restaurants, and have access to more cultural events. Staying as mobile and active as possible is very important to both of us as we age further.

We have absolutely no regrets about coming to Kaua’i, and the past four years have been more wonderful than we dreamed. But, as much as we love our life here we realize it’s time again to try something different. We’ve sort of decided where we’ll go, and are at the beginning of planning for that. Travel will definitely remain part of the picture. Nothing is far enough along right now to announce anything, but you’ll all be some of the first to know when the time is right!

Sunday Afternoon 5/6/2018

It’s been a very busy but fun week (which is why I didn’t get a post up on Thursday). I’ve had the best time with my grandchildren, my son and daughter-in-law, but they are on their way back to Japan today. Normally I’d be feeling very down in the dumps over their leaving because I wouldn’t know when I’m going to see them again, but while I’m sad now and will miss them all, I know that this time next year we’ll be in Japan finishing up our three-month stay there. In fact, I booked our flight from Auckland to Tokyo this past week (found an amazing nonstop fare)!

Enjoying birthday ice cream at Lappert’s in Poipu. Our grandson’s cone was originally twice the size of what’s in the picture, dipped in chocolate and with sprinkles – impressive!

This past week I went on the tubing tour with my daughter-in-law and grandson and we had the best time! So. Much. Fun! It was also special for me because once again I got to see a place on the island that I never would have seen otherwise because of its location on private land. This past week we gathered for several meals, spent time swimming over at their resort, had our grandson over for a couple more sleepovers, had ice cream to celebrate his birthday and took him shopping for a new Lego set. Our granddaughter began letting me hold her, and I got to watch the two of them for an afternoon so M & M could go out on a lunch date and have some time together without the kids in tow. The sun finally came out yesterday and they finally made it to the beach, and last night we got together one last time for a Hawaiian-style dinner: kalua pork, chicken, macaroni salad, rice, and a delicious cucumber salad made by our D-I-L. We had a fabulous week – the only thing better would have been more sunshine and less overcast and rain (although that didn’t slow any of us down)!

She doesn’t want to forget “Hawai’i pono ‘i”

Brett and I also attended two events with YaYu this past Wednesday: a luncheon at Gaylord’s restaurant for the Shinseki Foundation scholarship winners, and her National Honor Society banquet that evening. In between the two events we got together with everyone at the Kukuiula Market for ice cream, and YaYu picked out a piece of “Hawai’i decor” for her dorm room from one of our favorite shops there. Two years ago WenYu chose a plaque that said “Stay Calm and Think Aloha,” but YaYu chose a pillow cover with the words of the Hawaiian state anthem. She said it had taken her nearly four years to learn it, and she doesn’t want to forget. The big surprise of the evening came when we got home that evening, opened the envelope from the Shinseki Foundation and discovered her scholarship was for $2000, not $1000!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading Little Fires Everywhere, but again didn’t get a lot of reading done this past week. Every night my head would hit the pillow and I was asleep in a couple of minutes.
  • Listening to: Brett’s cousin is visiting the island today – his cruise ship makes a stop in Kaua’i – so Brett is showing him and his wife around for a few hours. I stayed home because our grandson was here for one last sleepover last night, and I had to get him ready to go after Brett had gone. YaYu is studying (just one more week of academics left to go!), and the laundry is almost done. It’s quiet outside for a change – just a few birds but no roosters, no weed trimmers.
  • Watching: We didn’t watch anything this week. We’re going to watch another episode Unforgotten tonight on PBS. We’ve been calling the show “Soft Talkers” though because we have to turn the volume way up to understand what anyone is saying.

    Old favorites and new CookDo cooking sauces from Japan, to make Chinese-style dishes.

  • Cooking/baking: We’re having a simple “breakfast for dinner” tonight: scrambled eggs, grilled breakfast sausages, fruit, and toast for Brett and YaYu. A few things I intended to make last week didn’t happen, so this week we’ll be having grilled apple & chicken sausages (finally), grilled Korean chicken, and chicken & vegetable curry, plus I’m going to make a couple of pork dishes using the sauces my D-I-L brought from Japan.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: My daughter-in-law and I got all of YaYu’s graduation lei ordered – so happy that task is completed! I also finished booking our stays in Perth, Australia, and Rotorua, New Zealand, as well as our flight to Tokyo. All of our lodging for the Big Adventure is now reserved (and paid for) except for one night in Napier, New Zealand, but the B&B where we want to stay there isn’t open for booking yet. We have just five more flights left to book now (Bordeaux to Bologna, Rome to Lisbon, New Delhi to Hong Kong, Hong Kong to Perth, and Tokyo to Portland). I drank lots of water this week, but didn’t study French even once. Brett and I were able to take three walks – we had really been missing them.
  • Looking forward to next week: We will be attending the Kiwanis awards banquet on Tuesday evening, where YaYu will receive her scholarship. I’m mainly looking forward though to returning to some semblence of normalcy so that Brett and I can get out and walk almost every afternoon, and I can get our eating and sleeping schedule back on track.

    Suited up for the tubing tour with helmets, gloves, and lights (I’m wearing a bathing suit under my clothes). I love my grandson’s “not another picture” expression.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Both my granddaughter letting me pick her up and the unexpected amount on YaYu’s scholarship check were the highlights of my week. The tubing tour was a lot of fun as well, and the view we were able to see of Mt. Wai’ale’ale and the Blue Hole were beyond stunning. We learned our landlord chose the single professional woman as the next renter, and she wrote to let us know she wants to buy our living room furniture (sofa, chair and coffee table) and will also buy the stainless worktable in the kitchen! Our moving sale keeps getting smaller and smaller, a good thing!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This was not the most frugal of weeks for us – we were out and about a lot with family and spent some $$ on our grandson for his birthday. They did bring over all the travel-size toiletries that were provided in their condo, so we are set now for our travels. The nonstop fare I booked from Auckland to Tokyo saved us nearly $400 from what we thought we’d be paying for that flight.  We put $12.56 into the change/$1 bill jar this week, odds and ends from several places we spent money this week and $5.19 from recycling.
  • Grateful for: So, so very thankful for the past 11 days we got to spend with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. Every day was wonderful, and I can’t wait to see them again next year!

    Our beautiful girls – adoption was a win-win for all of us.

  • Bonus Question: What’s a path you took in life that’s very different from what you imagined? The most surprising one for me is motherhood. Raising children was something I never saw myself doing or really wanted to do when I was young. However, when I met Brett I felt he would be a good dad (and he is) and that changed my mind. Who knew though that parenting would be the thing I’ve enjoyed doing most of all? After our son was born I learned I could not have more children, but he was an easy child to raise and we wanted to adopt. It seemed impossible for us because we moved so frequently with the navy, but in 1994 I learned about adopting from China from one of my college professors, and Brett and I decided to go for it even though our son was almost out of high school at that point. We intended to adopt just once, but life happens and we ended up with our three wonderful daughters. My children are my greatest joy, and the part of my life I am most proud of.

One more gratuitous photo of my adorable grandchildren enjoying a BIG shave ice together.

That’s all this week from Casa Aloha! How did your week go? What frugal things did you do? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you?

Goodbye April, Hello May

Here’s hoping we will be able to go to the beach in May!

Here’s how we did with last month’s goals:

  1. Put at least $900 into our travel savings account. We saved $1005 last month; it all went toward the balance on our credit card.
  2. Continue to look for and possibly book air travel down to Buenos Aires. I found a great non-stop fare from Miami, so these tickets are booked.
  3. Clean out and shut down the garage freezer. Done!
  4. Use up as many condiments as possible in the refrigerator. We made good progress with this; there are just a few more things to use up.
  5. Move my IRA from the local bank to our primary bank; help YaYu open an account at our primary bank. We decided to leave my IRA in the local bank for now to maintain Hawai’i as our state of domicile, but got YaYu’s new account opened.
  6. Order lei and a haku for YaYu’s graduation. We still have to do this, but my daughter-in-law wants to go with me to the flower shop. YaYu will be getting five different lei: one from her brother and each of her sisters, one from Brett’s sister and brother-in-law, and one in memory of her grandparents. Brett and I will give her a floral haku (head wreath).
  7. Take at least one bag of stuff to the thrift store. We could not find enough stuff to fill a bag this past month! We did take some other stuff though.

Here are our goals for May:

  1. Pay at least $900 on our credit card balance.
  2. Clean out paper files.
  3. Strip, sand and oil table top.
  4. Reserve window cleaners and house cleaners for move out in July (we’ll need help with the windows and floors).
  5. Clean out bookshelves in YaYu’s room and help YaYu fill at least one bag of stuff for the thrift store.

Once again, we’ll see how we do!