Sunday Afternoon 3/5/2017

Brett and YaYu each got a treat from the bakery in Hanapepe: a chocolate croissant for YaYu, and a macadamia nut swirl for Brett
Treats from the bakery in Hanapepe: a chocolate croissant for YaYu, and a macadamia nut swirl for Brett.

Brett and I had plans to drive down to Hanapepe this past Tuesday, but the weather here had other ideas. The forecast on Monday called for rain, with even more rain on Tuesday, all over the island. They were not kidding. It rained non-stop all day on Tuesday, but that was just an appetizer for the rain that arrived that night. Brett and YaYu had already gone to bed when it started, but I was still up when the worst of it arrived. It’s the first time in my life I can ever remember being frightened by rain, but it was coming down so hard I thought we might wash away. It didn’t let up all night, and when the wind picked up rain was actually blowing through the window over our bed, the first time that’s ever happened as the house has wide eaves. The storm blew away mid-morning, the key word being blew as the strong winds hung around all day Wednesday. But, the rain was back with a vengeance again Wednesday evening and it rained again all night. Thursday was surprisingly gorgeous, and Friday was lovely, but the rain came back on Saturday. The island is soaked. The storms that blew through the state this past week were apparently strong enough to cause blizzard conditions on the top of Mauna Kea on the Big Island – they got more snow than both Denver or Chicago! Never a dull moment here!

On Monday, YaYu said she felt like she was coming down with a cold, and on Tuesday she felt worse, but got herself up and off to school to take the ACT test, although she said her brain gave out about half way through. Track practice was cancelled because of the rain, and YaYu came home and climbed into bed, where she stayed for the next two days, coughing and burning up with fever. She missed Thursday’s track meet, and we had to reschedule her pulmonary function test to next week. YaYu is one of those kids who rarely gets sick, so it just breaks our hearts to see her so miserable. She’s feeling a bit better now, but we may have to schedule (and pay for) her to take the ACT test again in the fall, depending on how she did this time.

Can't wait to see these guys (although hopefully our grandson won't have drawn another mask on his face). The display in the back is for Girls' Day, which was March 3.
Can’t wait to see these guys and meet this cute little girl (although hopefully our grandson won’t have drawn another mask on his face). The display in the back is for Girls’ Day, which was March 3.

Brett and I are in grandparent heaven – our son and D-I-L have asked us to babysit for them not once, but twice while we’re there! We’ll be watching our granddaughter while the rest of them go to our grandson’s ‘graduation’ ceremony, and then both the kids the next day when our son and D-I-L have an interview with our grandson’s potential elementary school. Our son will be taking vacation days while we’re there, and our grandson will be out of school, so they are planning to go out with us on a few of our excursions – yeah!

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading Nobody’s Fool, but have realized I’m not going to finish it before my download expires. Darn! I have some other things on my Kindle that I can read/finish until I can check it out again.
  • Listening to: A quiet morning here – the sky is blue and it’s not raining! Brett is reading, YaYu is enjoying her weekly bowl of ramen, and the birds are singing outside. No one is working outside, but I think that’s because it’s still too wet. Laundry will be starting up in a few minutes though which will be the end of quiet for a while.
  • Watching: We finished all the episodes of the Great British Baking Show, and again enjoyed it immensely. The things they make all look so good (and tempting). We’re going to watch Moonlight, this year’s winner for best film, tonight and then will go back to watching Ripper Street.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m not sure if I’m going to bake today or not – I might make a chocolate cake but it can probably wait until tomorrow. Tonight we’re having zucchini frittata and salami, and Brett and YaYu will also get some garlic toast. The recipe I use for the frittata comes from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book, originally published in January 1980 – it remains one of my all-time favorite cook books. Brody pushes a high carbohydrate diet, but there are plenty of low-carb recipes in the book as well.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I’ve been watching airfares to get WenYu home for the summer for a few weeks now, and found a good fare and great schedule this past week and snapped it up. I am so glad to have that taken care of. I turned up the resistance another notch on the exercise bike on March 1, and got in my three rides every day as well as drank all my glasses of water (and then some). Switching the Japanese to 20 minutes has made that more enjoyable, but I’m not sure 20 minutes of Portuguese is the way to go just yet as I’m having a harder time remembering new vocabulary. I also got my gastro-endoscopy appointment set up for early April.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m looking forward to a somewhat relaxing week as we have nothing pressing on the calendar other than the usual YaYu stuff.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu is feeling a bit more like her old self again, and went back to her Mandarin tutoring sessions this weekend (between Chinese New Years and YaYu’s commitments she lost a couple of weeks of lessons). After the really wacky weather we had at the beginning of the week, Brett and I had a lovely day visiting Hanapepe Old Town on Friday. We put $12.03 in the change/$1 bill jar.

    What a wet week it's been . . . but everything is so very green, my favorite color.
    What a wet week it’s been . . . but everything is so very, very green. Well, except for our lawn – it struggles to stay green. We think the landlord planted the wrong kind of grass for the weather here.
  • Grateful for: I am actually thankful for all the rain we’ve been getting because a) it means we don’t have to run the sprinklers in the yard which helps keep our water bill low; b) it makes the island so very, very green and lush; and c) it keeps the dust down.
  • Bonus question: Have you ever had your fortune told by a psychic or a Tarot card reader and if so, what did you learn? I had a Tarot reading when I was 18, just for fun. All that I remember from that was that I was going to meet and fall in love with a dark man on a ship. Well, I met Brett, who has olive skin and (had) dark hair, and he was in the navy, so who knows? Maybe the cards were accurate. Actually, when I was in college a supposedly very famous psychic came and gave a lecture. His ‘gift’ was that he could look at you and ‘read’ you and your aura, and claimed to see your whole life appear in front of him like a panorama. I went up to him after the presentation and asked a simple question about my future and he answered quickly and dismissed me. I’ve had quite a life since then, including some downright dangerous and frightening incidents that I wished someone could have warned me might be coming down the path. I’ve also had many, many good things in my life as well, but this guy acted like he saw nothing of interest. The person he was fascinated with was my boyfriend at the time. The psychic said he ‘saw something’ and invited the boyfriend to come study with him, but the boyfriend didn’t go. He instead became an insurance agent, got married and had two kids, and has absolutely no psychic talent whatsoever. Hmmmm.

That’s our week! How was yours? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 2/26/2017

dsc0329512211111111111Well guess what? After a month of very limited carbohydrates, increased exercise and lots of water (and possibly a round of food poisoning), I’ve lost some weight! I did an “official” monthly weigh-in yesterday morning, and this past month I lost eight pounds! Eight pounds!! I could tell I was losing something because my clothes have felt different, but it was a nice surprise to see so much come off. I sure don’t expect to lose this much every month, but it’s a good start, and I sure haven’t felt deprived in the least.

YaYu saw the doctor this past week for some breathing difficulties she’s been experiencing, and like her two sisters before her has for the time being been diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma and prescribed an inhaler. The doctor has also ordered a pulmonary function test to rule out general asthma, and until that happens she can’t participate in any running events for track, although she can still compete in both the long jump and triple jump events. Exercise-induced asthma for teen athletes is more common here than one might imagine, possibly caused by a combination of heat, humidity and dust in the air.

We received the invoice for the Key Club convention that YaYu will be attending in April: $325 per person. However, after all the fundraising she has done the past few months, her balance due was just $12.20! She is still continuing to sell candy bars, although the money going forward will go toward reducing her airfare to Oahu and back.

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: It’s been slow going with Nobody’s Fool so far, although I am enjoying it. I’m finding myself overly distracted by the news once again, so am going to have to knock that back some and focus more on reading.
  • Listening to: It’s a very quiet morning here. The sun is out, but the only sound outside is birds singing (and the occasional rooster). YaYu is still asleep – she had a long day yesterday – and Brett is reading. the-talented-mr-ripley-knitwear
  • Watching: Brett and I just started Season 3 of Ripper Street, still watching just one episode an evening. On Friday evening we all watched The Talented Mr. Ripley, courtesy of Amazon Prime. Still a great story, and terrific acting from everyone in the film (and a reminder once again of the talent lost when Philip Seymour Hoffman died). We noticed that there are new episodes available of the Great British Baking Show on Amazon Prime, so we’re going to take a break from Ripper Street starting tonight to watch that for a few days.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m making an orange cake this afternoon for Brett and YaYu (Brett’s choice), and tonight we’re having Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs again. We raved over it when I first made it a couple of weeks ago and are excited to have it again along with sautéed bok choy. Besides being delicious, the egg dish is also a snap to prepare.

    The stadium market on Fridays is very low key compared to our local market.
    The stadium market on Fridays is very low-key compared to our local market.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: I didn’t think we’d be going to a farmers’ market this week, but Brett and I headed down to the Friday afternoon one at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue, and bought enough to get us through until the Kapaa market next Wednesday. I cranked up my bike riding to three 15-minute sessions a day, and rode over 105 miles, and burned over 3,880 calories! I also drank all my water (and then some), and did all my Japanese and Portuguese study sessions. As of tomorrow though I’m changing the time spent on each language: I’m cutting back the Japanese to 20 minutes, and increasing Portuguese to 20 minutes each day. It’s not my accomplishment, but Brett got WenYu’s taxes done – they were complicated because she worked in both Hawaii and Massachusetts last year. She’ll be getting back a nice refund this year from both states as well as from the federal return.
  • Looking forward to next week: Brett and I plan to head down to the south side of the island either Tuesday or Wednesday to visit Hanapepe. There’s lots to see and do in Old Town, and we’ll have lunch while we’re there. We’re also planning to finish up gift shopping this week for our upcoming Japan trip.

    Tiger girls
    Tiger girls
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Seeing that tiny amount due for YaYu’s convention payment just about blew us away – we thought, if we were lucky, that she might have raised maybe $200 or so. I had a very fun time chatting with Meiling and WenYu on a conference call yesterday – they showed me how to add filters while we talked which kept us laughing the whole time. We put $4.52 in the change/$1 bill jar this week. It was going to be nothing because we were heading for a no-spend week, but then ended up going to the farmers’ market on Friday and got some change back.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are so very thankful that YaYu has put so much effort into fundraising so that we don’t have to pay so much for all these activities she’s involved in. She is a “joiner,” and every thing seems to required some sort of payment these days, but she always tries to find a way to keep the cost down to zero, or as near to that as possible.
  • Bonus question: Are you a risk taker or someone who’s more risk averse? I think I’m someone who falls right into the middle of those two things. I definitely not afraid to try something new or somewhat risky, but before I do I try to find out as much about what I’m getting myself into. This goes for everything, whether it’s bungee jumping, skydiving, or  some major life decisions. There are loads of people who would find moving to Hawai’i with three teenagers while living on a fixed income a very risky proposition, but we investigated our move thoroughly before we committed, and knew what we were taking on before making the move. Same for adopting three children in our mid- to late-40s and early 50s. We were risking our retirement when we did, but we weighed all the plusses and minuses, and knew it was the right thing for us to do. If I do think that something is too risky, or I learn of possible future pitfalls that I won’t be able to avoid, then I have no trouble pulling back or backing out from something.

That’s what’s been going on this week at Casa Aloha. How was your week? What have you been up to? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 2/19/2017

The view looking south from Kilauea Point, where big swells were breaking against the rocks. You can't see them, but the hill is covered with birds.
The view looking south from Kilauea Point, where big swells were breaking against the rocks. You can’t see them, but the hill is actually covered with white red-footed boobys.

We had another lovely week here at Casa Aloha, with Valentine’s Day turning into something special. I gave Brett and YaYu each a box of See’s chocolates (the best!), and Brett gave me a small bouquet of roses – very unexpected and sweet. We usually don’t do anything celebrate or mark the day, so this year turned out to be a nice surprise for all of us. The day itself was glorious, so Brett and I headed back up to Kilauea to visit the National Wildlife Sanctuary (admission free with our senior lifetime National Park pass). We almost didn’t get in because there were so many visitors, but we decided to wait and see what happened and within a few minutes a few cars came out and we were allowed to drive in. We saw more wildlife than we thought we might, including several whales, nene (Hawaiian geese), and other shorebirds. The views were nothing short of spectacular.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse
Historic Kilauea Point Lighthouse

We found out this past week that YaYu has to attend a mandatory four-day orientation on Oahu in June for her China trip this summer. We called the organization to say that we couldn’t afford the additional expense of four days on Oahu, but a homestay will be arranged for YaYu with another student who will be going on the trip. So, we will have to buy her a round-trip ticket over to Oahu and back, and pay a very small stipend to the family for breakfast and dinner, but we can fit those things into our budget by June.

The total for all that beautiful produce we bought at last week’s farmers’ market was . . . $32! The most expensive item was the little jar of honey, which cost $5. The big head of broccoli was $4; the tomatoes and bunch of bananas were $3 each; the small head of cauliflower, bok choy, Swiss chard, zucchini and cilantro were $2 each; and the cucumber was $1. The two papayas cost $4, and all the oranges and tangelos together were just $2. We won’t be going to the market this week as YaYu has a doctor’s appointment up in Kilauea at the same time, but we’ve got enough to get us through next week. That head of broccoli is big enough for three meals!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Life As We Knew It on Friday, and am now reading Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo. I’ve enjoyed everything he’s written, so am greatly looking forward to this book.
  • Listening to: It’s very breezy outside today – the trees are making lots of noise. But, otherwise no outside noises, including roosters (yeah!). Inside it’s quiet except for the washer and dryer doing their thing. 
  • Watching: Brett and I continue to work our way through Ripper Street. In the past we’ve watched more than one episode of shows at a time, but are only allowing ourselves one an evening now, to stretch things out a bit. Friday evening we watched The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary about famed animator Hiyao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. As we are all major Studio Ghibli fans here, this was especially interesting to us. Once again though, I could barely understand a word of Japanese – thank goodness for subtitles.
  • Cooking/baking: We usually have eggs of some kind on Sunday evening, but because there’s no school tomorrow (President’s Day) YaYu is having a friend over this evening for dinner and a sleepover, and I’ve got the slow cooker carnitas going today and we’ll have tacos and rice this evening. I’m going to make a pan of brownies this afternoon for the girls to nosh on later. I made ginger sugar cookie dough yesterday evening, and baked the cookies this morning (the dough needs to be chilled before baking, the longer the better).
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I got all our food shopping done for the next month, and came in $20+ dollars under budget, so that’s money into the savings account. We lowered our food budget this year from $600 per month to $500, so to come in under is some serious saving. Hopefully we will get most of the food used up by the time we leave for Japan. I didn’t make it to the pool for a swim this past week, but on the days I couldn’t go I added in an additional session on the exercise bike. Otherwise I got in all my bike rides, even though were a couple of times I didn’t feel like it, drank all my water, and did my language studies. I am really disliking Rosetta Stone at this point, but just have four more lessons to go and I am done!
  • Looking forward to next week: We really don’t have anything on the calendar next week other than YaYu’s doctor’s appointment, but the trade winds are supposed to be quite brisk, so not sure if Brett and I can make it to the beach or not.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu had to attend a Kiwanis Dinner on Valentine’s Day, and she and a partner decided to take along some more of the chocolate bars they’ve been selling as a fundraiser. She and her partner sold 90 of them! YaYu has now almost completely covered the cost of her April trip through fundraising. She also worked yesterday afternoon to distribute the malasadas the swim team sold, and she a bag for all of us to share – I admit to having one (and it was divine). I must be losing weight though because a pair of pants I couldn’t put on at the end of last year went on easily when I tried this past week (but I’m holding off on officially weighing myself until the end of the month).We put $24.73 in our change/$1 bill jar this week.
  • Grateful for: I am feeling very thankful that the staff at PAAC (Pacific and Asian Affairs Council) is working to make sure we can afford to send YaYu to the orientation in June by finding a homestay for her so that she can go on the planned trip to China. I can’t explain it in words, but I could really sense the spirit of aloha coming from the woman in Honolulu that I spoke with, that they will do everything they can for YaYu, and will look out for her as well.eleanorroosevelt_640x400
  • Bonus question: Which famous person, dead or alive, would you like most like to know? This required a bit of thought, but I honestly would love to have had the chance to know Eleanor Roosevelt. She overcame a very difficult childhood, infidelity in her marriage, the loss of a child, and jokes and taunts about her appearance to become a powerful, insightful First Lady who championed the rights of the underprivileged, and who later became a respected representative for our country to the United Nations. She also became “her own person,” secure in who she was and what she could accomplish, and did this in a time when women of her class were (other than during WWII) expected to stay home and tend to their house and family. She’s always been an inspiration and role model for me.

That’s a wrap from Casa Aloha! How was your week? What good things happened for you? What are you doing this afternoon?

Sunday Afternoon 2/12/2017

The view from the community pool where I swim. On Wednesday the water in the pool was warmer than the outside air.
The view from the community pool. It looks warm out there, but it wasn’t on Wednesday when I went to swim – the water in the pool was warmer than the outside air. Friday was even colder, so I didn’t go.

This past week sure started off on the wrong foot, but in the end turned out to be pretty nice. Is there any experience more miserable than food poisoning? Last Sunday evening at dinner, Brett and YaYu finished the roast beef slices from one package we had bought, and I had a couple of slices from a new package. Otherwise, everything we ate was the same. By 1:00 a.m. Monday morning I was one very sick girl. I’ve had food poisoning before, but this round was particularly nasty, and even after I stopped being sick I was still weak, dizzy and headache-y the rest of Monday, and barely able to put anything in my stomach, even a sip of tea or a cracker, until the evening. But, on Tuesday I woke up feeling more like myself again, and was able to head up to the north shore with Brett to do some gift shopping for our granddaughter, and get a frostie at Banana Joe’s. By Wednesday I was back to normal again.

YaYu got a scholarship for the China trip this summer! It’s close enough to full that Brett and I can easily cover the rest. The trip will include visits to Beijing, Xian (to see the terracotta warriors) and Shanghai. Brett, Meiling, WenYu and I have all been to Beijing but this will be the first time for YaYu, and she’ll be the first in our family to visit Xian. We are so proud of our girl!

I almost can’t believe it, but it looks like Meiling is going to be moving into her own place this summer. She’s 21, and certainly old enough and earns enough to pay for it, but it still kind of takes my breath away. She’s planning to rent a studio apartment that’s just a few blocks from the campus, and the rent is less than she’s paying now in her shared apartment. She’ll have to pay utility deposits upfront, and get a few things like some dishes and cookware (she already has a rice cooker and slow cooker though), but she’s a good saver and has a fund to cover these expenses, and she has no problems with shopping at Goodwill. The new apartment will also allow her to keep a cat, which makes her very happy.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m very much enjoying Tana French’s latest book, The Trespasser. It’s a real page turner. I’ve downloaded Life As We Knew It from the library to read next. It’s actually Young Adult fiction, about a world-wide catastrophe that occurs when the moon gets knocked out of its orbit and moves closer to earth. The book revolves around how the catastrophe affects one family and the town they live in. I used to read it annually, to help me think about how our family might manage after a major catastrophe.
  • Listening to: Lots of outside action going on this morning (mowers, blowers, weed trimmers, etc.) because the sun is out! Yeah! Inside it’s quiet – YaYu is finishing up her bowl of ramen, and Brett is reading. The laundry is sorted, so the sound of the washing machine will be starting soon.
  • Watching: Brett and I started watching Ripper Street on Nexflix this past week. It’s just the sort of show we like (murder, police, etc.). When we’re not looking at that, we’ve been watching Criminal Minds with YaYu.

    Fresh papaya for breakfast this morning - yum!
    Fresh papaya for breakfast this morning – yum!
  • Cooking/baking: I’m really looking forward to tonight’s dinner of Chinese scrambled eggs and tomatoes. Several of the girls’ classmates’ moms back in Portland used to say this was one of their children’s favorite comfort foods, and the flavor profiles are right in our family’s wheelhouse. I made a chocolate cake with white chocolate buttercream on Thursday and there’s plenty of that left yet, so no baking today.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: Brett and I had a lovely trip up to Kilauea on Tuesday and got almost all of our baby gift shopping done – we found some very cute, fun things for our baby girl and a gift for our daughter-in-law. All we have yet to buy are a couple of little summer sundresses or sunsuits in Hawaiian prints, and something small for our grandson (we’re taking him birthday shopping while we’re there for his “big” present from Grandma and Grandpa). I’m very proud of myself for getting right back in the saddle and doing my bike riding this past week after being so sick on Monday. I also got in one swim session at the pool on Wednesday, and was ready to go on Friday but it was just too cold (and rainy). I really didn’t feel much like exercising after Monday, but once I got back at it everything was OK. Brett also got our annual car maintenance taken care of this past week.
  • Looking forward to next week: We don’t really have anything on the calendar, although we may go back up to Kilauea and visit the lighthouse – we haven’t been in a while. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting in my three days of swimming. Otherwise I plan to do my regular stuff, plus read and relax. Maybe the weather will warm enough for us to go to the beach one day (haha).
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu receiving the China trip scholarship is at the top of our list, but otherwise some other good things happened as well. I had a great check-up at the dentist on Wednesday. I thought I might have a cavity, but it was just a very tiny chip on the edge of a tooth, too small to do anything about (although my tongue makes it feel like the Grand Canyon). After selling all her malasada tickets in record time, YaYu took on selling 45 candy bars as a fundraiser to help lower her costs to the Key Club convention in April on Oahu – she sold them all in three days and then sold five more! As I’ve said, she could sell a cage to a lion, but I think now she could convince it to clean the cage as well. She also tried out and was selected for the school tennis team. 🙂 We put $19.42 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Grateful for: I’m so very thankful for all Brett did for me when I was so sick on Sunday night and all day Monday. He took care of me and everything else around the house, as well as calling and rearranging a doctor’s appointment I had to miss, and returning the tainted roast beef.
  • Bonus question: What is your least-favorite personal non-physical attribute? I drive myself (and my family) crazy sometimes because I like things to be just so. I think I developed my perfectionism as a defense against growing up in an environment where everything seemed chaotic, and as a way to (hopefully) be noticed and rewarded. I’m getting much better as I get older about letting things go, but I’m not where I want to be yet. My perfectionism is at its worst when I write – I’m never satisfied, and have to keep reminding myself what my thesis advisor once told me: finished is better than perfect.

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

Sunday Afternoon 2/5/2017

There's been an amazing variety of produce at the farmers' market the past few weeks.
There’s been an amazing variety of produce at the farmers’ market the past few weeks.

It’s been another crazy, cold week here on Kaua’i. We spent all last Monday in sweatshirts, and the ceiling fans haven’t been on all week. I had planned to go swimming on Monday and Wednesday, but it was too darn cold. It finally warmed up on Friday, but was still cool enough we didn’t need to turn on the fans. The surf has been high all week as well – beautiful to look at, but not so good for swimming. One good side effect of the cooler weather has been that vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are available – usually it’s too hot for them here.

We got the sad news this week that our landlord has been diagnosed with malignant melanoma. He and Brett chatted for a while after he called to let us know that he (and his family) may be returning to the mainland shortly for treatment. He doesn’t currently know what the prognosis is (he’s still waiting on more test results), although he did say the cancer has spread to his blood. He wanted to let us know that our lease would be honored and that we were already OK’d to stay for another year, at the same rate, no matter how things turn out. We shall see, but so very sad nonetheless – he’s a nice guy and a good landlord.

I’m also feeling a little bit of hope after a federal judge in Washington ordered a temporary restraining order against the travel ban. It doesn’t help those who had visas or were permanent residents who were already turned back, but now the executive order will get its day in court. It’s not over, but for now though all visas and green cards must be honored. We are a nation of laws, and for now the rule of law, and the separation of powers, stands.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I started the new Ian Rankin book, Rather Be the Devil in the middle of the week and am 2360006934ripping through it. Rankin is one of my favorite writers, definitely in my Top Five, and his Inspector Rebus procedurals are always a good read. I always enjoy that the city of Edinburgh is as much a character as any human in his stories. The Girl Before was also a good, tight read – I definitely recommend it if you like mysteries/psychological thrillers. I’ve got the new Tana French mystery, The Trespasser, coming up next.
  • Listening to: It’s a beautiful sunny day, but the wind is howling! There’s lots of noise outside because of it, although it’s keeping the roosters quiet. The washing machine is doing its thing, but otherwise it’s quiet inside – YaYu is studying and Brett is reading.
  • Watching: Neither Brett nor I watched any TV at all last week – we read instead, although YaYu “made” us watch Finding Dory yesterday afternoon, and I’m glad she did – it was a sweet movie. We’ve got nothing on deck this week coming up, but tonight Brett and I are going to watch Minimalism.
  • Cooking/baking: Everyone did their own thing for breakfast this morning – I had a papaya. There’s still a little bit left of the yellow butter cake I made a few days ago, so no baking today. I’ve boiled the eggs for tonight’s deviled eggs and will be making those in a while for our dinner tonight. I didn’t even think until this morning that tonight’s snack-y menu makes it look like we’ll be watching the Super Bowl – we’re not.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: The sun finally came out and warmed things up on Friday, so YaYu and I went to the pool and I got my first swim in. Boy, am I out of shape! Not as bad as I thought I would be, but there’s still lots of room for progress. I did my research and booked a one-night Kaua’i staycation for Brett and I while YaYu is at her Key Club conference in April. I got all my bike rides done (with the tension turned up a notch beginning this week), drank all my water, and studied Japanese and Portuguese every day.
  • Looking forward to next week: Brett and I are heading up to Kilauea on Wednesday to buy a gift or two for our granddaughter, and then plan to treat ourselves to a couple of banana frosties from Banana Joe’s. They’re pure fruit, so something I can eat without guilt. Plus, I love chatting with Joe whenever I go – he and I both share a love of Japan.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu sold all her malasada tickets in two days, so her swim team banquet cost is covered and then some. She thought sellers would keep only $5 of the $10 for each ticket, but it turns out they get to keep $7 so YaYu will receive an additional $18 over the cost of the banquet. This week was another great one for produce at the farmers’ market – such variety, and so much to choose from!  We put $18.05 into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Grateful for: Frugal and tasty peanut butter! I allow myself two tablespoons a day, and those two spoonfuls have saved me again and again from eating something I shouldn’t, either between meals or at night. I eat my serving slowly, and by the time I’m done the hunger pangs have completely disappeared (and stay disappeared).

    This makes me swoon . . .
    This makes me swoon . . .
  • Bonus question: Do you have a favorite flower? Peonies have been my favorite for more years than I can remember. I never saw them growing up, but the first time I came across them in Japan I fell in love and that love has never waned. Whether they’re on the bush, in a vase or expressed in art, peonies always make my heart beat a little faster. My second favorite flower is the iris, with the petite, deep purple Japanese irises prefered over the larger, fluffier standard iris blossoms (although they’re all beautiful). I’ve added some other flowers to my list since we’ve been in Hawai’i: bird of paradise, Hawaiian ginger, plumeria and heliconia are favorites here.
Heliconia, or as locals call it, “sexy pink”

That’s a wrap for this afternoon at Casa Aloha. How was your week? What have you been up to? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 1/29/2017

Stormy days ahead . . .

Shocked. Horrified. Ashamed. Those are just the tip of the emotions I’ve felt over what’s come from the new administration this past week, especially the immigration ban which began on Friday evening. If you know anything about history (and I do), this is how things started out in Germany in 1933, although it’s happening much more quickly here and now. I am not being hyperbolic.

I said I would never discuss politics on this blog, but this is not who we are. If you care about not seeing our democracy lessoned or destroyed, the ideals of our country shattered, I urge you to to stay alert, and not let yourself be overwhelmed by the waves of change and outrage that seem to be appearing every day. Resistance will mean everything if we want to stay true to who and what we are as Americans, and what we believe our country stands for.

On a more personal note, there has been trouble brewing over my mom’s will and the small amount left in her estate. The will is extremely clear about the division of any remaining funds in the estate, but my siblings have decided it’s “unfair.” There have already been some heated exchanges, with them threatening lawyers and courts, etc. One lawyer has already told them the will is valid and must be followed as it is, and any changes have to come from an agreement between us, but I’m not biting. I have documents that expressly refute what’s being claimed – I don’t think they figured I’d held on to them. I’ve been estranged from my siblings for several years, and have been biting my tongue not to say, “Well, maybe you should have said and done things a bit differently in the past.” Maybe I will once this is all over.

It turned out YaYu didn’t swim at yesterday’s final meet, although she went to support her teammates and Brett once again served as a timer. Yesterday was the conference finals, and only the top three swimmers in each event are allowed to participate. YaYu is not the slowest swimmer on her team, but she’s definitely not in the top three. It was also the last day for the team’s three coaches who are all retiring. YaYu brought each of them a lei to say thank you, and we will all miss them greatly next year. They were all terrific, both as coaches and people, and focused on team-building and technique first – very Hawaiian – rather than winning. The team has still won the county championship for as long as anyone can remember.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I started a new book yesterday, The Girl Before, by J.P. Delaney. I had to put down Truevine because I could no longer deal with the author’s convoluted writing – she would start on one topic, but introduce a name or something else and then veer off for pages on that, with the same thing happening again and again, like branches on a tree, before finally returning to what she had started off with. Reading even a few pages had my head spinning because I never knew where I was going. I can deal with it when I’m reading fiction, but not non-fiction. Anyway, the new book is a mystery, my favorite genre, so the story should stay pretty tight.
  • Listening to: There’s a very strong wind blowing from the northwest this morning, making lots of noise as is blows through the trees and bushes. It’s loud enough I can hear it over the sound of the washer and dryer. The sun is still shining though and the wind is keeping things cool, for now anyway. It also not keeping several roosters from screaming their heads off. I would miss the chickens if we ever left Kaua’i, but not the roosters! They’re beautiful to look at, but otherwise a pain.
  • Watching: Brett and I are having trouble finding a new show to settle into. Everything we’ve looked at recently hasn’t grabbed us. Any and all suggestions are welcome! I had intended to watch Victoria last Sunday, but when the time came I couldn’t get myself excited enough to turn it on. We watched a lovely movie on Friday evening, from Japan: Our Little Sister, and last night we watched Downfall, about the last days of Nazi Germany. It seemed appropriate somehow.
  • Cooking/baking: I never got those brownies baked last week, so I’m doing that this afternoon. Dinner tonight is omelets filled with sautéed greens and bacon, and Brett and YaYu will have sourdough bread to go with theirs, while I’ll have an apple.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: We did all our grocery shopping for the month and came in under budget, but barely. We really were out of a lot of things, and still have to buy coffee beans from Costco. Not my accomplishment, but Brett did one of our bi-annual exterior house washes this past week (required in our lease, but the landlord gives us the supplies). It’s an all-day job, but the salt and dust that have accumulated over the past six months are gone and the house and windows look great! He also got our taxes done and sent off – we will be receiving a nice refund this year! I did all my daily bike rides (70+ miles, 2590+ calories burned), drank at least eight glasses of water a day, and studied Japanese and Portuguese every day. Japanese is till impossible, but Portuguese is starting to make a little bit of sense.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m going to try swimming again – the community pool is close by, and my doctor suggested a second form of exercise on top of the bike riding. Swimming won’t aggravate the bursitis in my hip. I would have started last week except for injuring myself (and I’m still a bit sore). Otherwise, I am so ready for a new month to begin – don’t know how much more of this one I can take, but am also very afraid what’s coming will be worse.
  • Thinking of good things that happened:  There was an especially good variety of produce at the farmers’ market this past week, including broccoli AND cauliflower, something we almost never see here. I made a big pot of Weight Watcher’s Zero Point Soup yesterday – I substituted broccoli for the green beans and also added some cauliflower. Meiling is taking a metalsmithing class this term, and this week made two absolutely beautiful pieces of art. WenYu sent us the amazingly beautiful video story she created for her anthropology/writing class on the subject of home. It was so wonderful to see these talents blossoming in the girls and to be able to share in their work. We put $30.04 in the change/$1 bill jar this week.
  • Grateful for: I am feeling very thankful that I held on to documents sent by my Mom many years ago. I don’t think my siblings kept theirs, or have assumed I didn’t, and they have been trying to gaslight me about facts and figures. One thing I learned when I earned my certificate in Conflict Management years ago is don’t argue from emotion, argue from the facts.

    Boot camp photo
    Boot camp photo
  • Bonus Question: Did you serve in the military? Yes, both Brett and I served in the U.S. Navy. Brett served for 22 years with a speciality in radar and avionics, and achieved the rank of E-8 (Senior Chief Petty Officer). I served 18 months, as a training device specialist (i.e. flight trainers) and made it to E-4 (Petty Officer Third Class). I met Brett when he was my instructor for two weeks, but after I finished my six months of training I was sent to another duty station nearly 500 miles away. Brett drove down almost every weekend to visit. I was given the option of staying or leaving the navy when I became pregnant with our son. I asked for a transfer to be stationed with Brett, but was turned down, and learned there was a real likelihood we might never be stationed together. So, I chose to be discharged (honorable). Both sides of my family have served in the United States military since the Revolutionary War. What is happening now is against everything we served for.

That’s what’s been happening here at Casa Aloha. How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 1/22/2017

Ready to go to the airport . . .
Ready to go to the airport . . . sob!

I’m feeling a bit blue today – WenYu left to go back school yesterday morning, and the house once again seems so empty without her. I keep reminding myself that she’ll be back again in less than four months, and in the meantime I will be going to Japan with Brett and YaYu and meeting my new granddaughter! I can’t wait to also spend time with my grandson again, and with my son and daughter-in-law. I know the time we’re on that trip will fly by.

I am so excited to meet this little girl!
I am so excited to meet this little girl!

Have you ever had a fight with yourself and lost? Last Wednesday evening, as I was getting dressed for bed, I caught my foot on my pants as I was stepping out of them and tripped, falling sideways into the door. As my right arm hit the door handle, it popped back and I punched myself in the rib. The punch was so hard and so painful that I literally fell to my knees, gasping for breath. I have broken bones before, and know the pain feels different, and this pain felt just like a fracture. I had a doctor’s appointment scheduled on Thursday at noon for my annual cholesterol check, and while I was there he checked out my ribs thoroughly because it was not out the range of possibility that I could have broken one. However, the only result of the punch turned out to be a bruised rib. Four days later it’s still quite sore and painful, and some movement remains difficult. It’s going to take a while to heal. In the meantime though I think I’m going to start sitting down when I either take off or put on my pants!

This coming week will be the final swim meet of the season, and then YaYu segues right into track and field. While I enjoy watching YaYu swim, the end of the season always comes as somewhat of a relief as there is no more big load of beach towels to wash every week, and I no longer have to prepare garlic bread for the team every week!

This week I am:

  • Reading: I’m reading Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping, and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the Jim Crow South again – I had set it aside last year when books from the library became available. It’s an interesting story, but the author tends to ramble a bit (in my opinion) before she gets to her point or comes back to it.
  • Listening to: It’s another blustery day here today so the wind is blowing quite briskly through the trees. It’s not raining though like it was yesterday so several people in the neighborhood are out doing yard work and I can hear several weed trimmers going at it. The laundry is already started – I’m so glad we’re able to go back to doing all just once a week.
  • Watching: WenYu and I finally gave up on American Horror Story: Hotel (Season 5) – we just couldn’t get into the story, and both realized we had little interest in how the story was going to unfold. Brett and I started watching The OA, which is OK, but we’re shopping around again for something else. I plan to watch another episode of Victoria tonight.
  • Cooking/baking: We’ll be having breakfast for dinner tonight with scrambled eggs, bacon, English muffins and fruit. I’m going to make a pan of brownies this afternoon so there’s something sweet for Brett and YaYu.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: In spite of my stupid accident, I managed to get in most of my daily bike rides – having a recumbent bike really helps. I also completed all of my language study goals for the week, and drank at least eight glasses of water every day. Otherwise it’s been a pretty low-key week with not a whole lot going on.
  • Looking forward to this week: Brett and I will be doing our big monthly Costco shop on Wednesday, and I’m excited to see if we can stay under our budget as well as we did this past month. YaYu’s final swim meet of the season is on Saturday. Her disability makes swimming a more difficult endeavor for her than most, but she is a fighter, and doesn’t quit. Her race times all season have improved from last year. And of course, Brett and I are hoping we can get to the beach, at least one.

    It was a cool, stormy day for a protest, but lots showed up. This is about 1/4 of the total.
    It was a cool, often wet, stormy day for a protest, but over 1,000 showed up with their signs, pretty good for a rainy, blustery day.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: There was a well-attended “Women’s Sign Protest” on Kaua’i on Saturday. There really isn’t any place to march on our little island, so participants gathered at the airport intersection with their signs instead. My cholesterol and other test numbers were very good again this year. I’m also very proud that we have been able to use what we have on hand to prepare meals, and did not have to go shopping except to buy bread for the spaghetti dinner (and some eggs). This is one of my major goals this year, to get our food spending down, and so far this we’ve been successful (although we’re not always going to have leftover ham and turkey to use like we did this month). YaYu had a great meet yesterday, and bested all her times by several seconds.
  • Thankful for: I am truly thankful that I did not break my rib the other evening because it sure felt like I did. The pain after I hit myself was just as intense as that when I fractured bones before. As sore as I still am, I know a cracked or broken rib would have been far, far worse to deal with. I’m also thankful that the injury is improving – every morning I wake up in a little less pain.
  • Bonus question: If you received a surprise windfall of $500, and were told you had to spend it (no saving or bill paying allowed), what would you buy? In the past, I could have easily come up with a list of things I wanted, but these days I think I’d rather spend it on a special experience. $500 would cover a full spa day (massage, facial and pedicure), and dinner with Brett in the evening. Brett and I could also take a Kaua’i mini staycation: a night away at one of the resorts with dinner and breakfast out. Or, we could take a helicopter ride around the island. There are other things we can do here, but whatever we choose I would want to spend the money on the island. I wonder if I it would count though if I spent the money on groceries, and then put $500 of our grocery money into savings ;-).

That’s what’s going on here. How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 1/15/2017

The view from my beach chair on Tuesday
The view from my beach chair on Tuesday – nothing but blue skies. The surf looks inviting, but there were signs up everywhere warning about dangerous riptides.

We’ve had a lovely week here at Casa Aloha. The weather has improved – it’s been warmer and sunnier during the day, but still cool at night, perfect for sleeping. We actually got to the beach not once, but TWICE this past week! It was wonderful to sit out in the sun (well, under the umbrella for me) and watch and listen to the surf, although signs were posted up and down the beach warning not to go in the water. We saw plenty of whale action on both days, with several full breaches, and lots of tail and flipper slapping going on. Seeing the whales always does my heart and soul good – they really are magnificent.

The view on Thursday. The surf is rougher, and the sky is gray from VOG
The view on Thursday. The surf is rougher than Tuesday, and the sky is gray from vog. Also, if you look very hard there’s a very little bit of white on the horizon to the left of the middle of the picture – that’s a whale splashing around.

We’ve had a pretty heavy vog (volcanic emissions + fog) invasion from the Big Island since Wednesday because of winds coming up from the south. We rarely get it here, so when it comes it’s miserable. It was bad enough yesterday that I didn’t ride my exercise bicycle because my breathing was affected. Usually vog doesn’t hang around too long, but this round seems determined to stay for a while.

WenYu will be home for just a few more days – she returns to Massachusetts next weekend. Brett and I are going to miss her terribly when she goes, but we know she’ll be back in a few months. YaYu is going to miss her the most though, I think – she has loved having her sister around again.

Wednesday's sunset view. Our house faces the southeast, so we don't often get such gorgeous views. It looks like a bird of paradise!
Wednesday’s sunset view. Our house faces the southeast, so we don’t often get such gorgeous views. It looks like a bird of paradise!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Full Dark House, and am back to reading Strawberry Days, which I had to set aside when the last two books became available from the library. Full Dark House was kind of an odd book, but interesting – it got off to a slow start, but picked up at the end. I thought I had guessed the murderer about half-way through, but was totally wrong, and surprised by who it turned out to be.
  • Listening to: Right now I’m listening to this week’s load of beach towels tumble in the dryer. The roosters in the neighborhood were on a rampage last night and very noisy, but so far today it’s quiet outside. BTW, I had a wonderful listening experience this past week – I was up late, past midnight, and it was very quiet  . . . and I could hear the roar of the ocean down the hill!
  • Watching: Brett and I finished The Killing; it ended on a high note, thank goodness. WenYu and I started back in to Season 5 of American Horror Story, but tonight we’re going to watch Sherlock and Victoria on PBS. WenYu and I are having a hard time connecting with AHS this time, but are going to stick it out and see where it goes.
  • Cooking/baking: Tonight we’re having the baked chili rellenos casserole, yellow rice and iceberg wedge salads. The casserole will use up the last of our eggs. I’m going to make a blueberry cobbler later this afternoon (it doesn’t require eggs).
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I finished Full Dark House just the day before it was due, thanks to some intense reading for a couple of days – I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. The library deadlines for downloads can be both motivating, but also a pain in the neck at times! Other than a trip to the farmers’ market, and a stop for a head of iceberg lettuce, we didn’t spend any money. I got in most of my bike rides (125+ miles, 2200+ calories burned), and drank eight or more glasses of water and studied Japanese and Portuguese every day.
  • Looking forward to next week: YaYu turns 17 on this week! We already gave her her birthday gift, but I’m going to fix one of her favorite dishes for dinner and bake her a chocolate cake. We’ve got our fingers crossed that we’ll get to the beach at least one more time before WenYu leaves on Saturday – she wants to go back to school with a good tan!

    Thursday's sunset view
    Thursday’s sunset view
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Being able to get to the beach not once, but twice, was rejuvenating, as was seeing the whales again. While having to deal with vog was not fun, we did get some lovely sunsets because of it. Other than the trip to the farmers’ market, and stops for a head of lettuce and bread for YaYu’s dinner, we didn’t spend on anything else. Meiling had a wonderful 21st birthday celebration back in Oregon – I almost can’t believe that little baby we brought home 20 years ago is all grown up! We had no food waste this past week, and put $12.05 in our change/$1 bill jar.
  • Grateful for: My official Medicare enrollment notice arrived this past week, and I am set to go on May 1. Combined with our military insurance it works very well. With the changes that are already in the works for the ACA (i.e. elimination), and probably Medicare down the line, I am very thankful that we currently have good medical insurance, at least for the time being.
  • Bonus question: Do you have any vices? Well, I don’t gamble – I’m more of a sure thing kind of gal when it comes to money. I try to be honest. I used to be a pack-and-a-half-a-day smoker, but I quit exactly 33 years ago today (January 15, 1984). It was not easy, and it was one day at a time for months afterwards, but every payday (twice a month) for a year, instead of buying cigarettes I bought myself something else that I couldn’t before because I was buying cigarettes (which were only $5/carton back then). It was very motivating, and showed how much I had been wasting on cigarettes. I still drink alcohol, but I’m back to having either one glass of wine or one cocktail on Friday and Saturdays only. Nothing makes me gain weight faster than having a drink every evening. Otherwise, my only other vices are an occasional Diet Coke (just one a day if I have one) and books for my Kindle if I can’t get them through the library.

That’s a wrap for this week from Casa Aloha! How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 1/8/2017

The view from my exercise bicycle

It’s been cold here, although the sun has thankfully been out the past couple of days. Temperature is a relative thing, so while on the mainland 63° right now might seem downright balmy in places, when it gets down that far here we’re ready to break out the parkas. Cooler weather here though also means less humidity, which I have to admit is a treat.

We learned this week that there will be an additional $1000 coming to each of our girls from my mom. All of her 12 grandchildren will be receiving this amount, so our son will be getting a check as well. It’s not very much in the grand scheme of things, but it will help the girls’ college savings. We haven’t told them about it yet; we want it to be a(nother) surprise. There is apparently also a very small amount left over in Mom’s other accounts to divide between me, my older brother and my younger brother’s two sons. I’ve never thought I would receive anything, so whatever amount it turns out to be will be appreciated.

YaYu gets ready for her first race of the day. The sun is shining, but it’s cold. All the girls in this picture are shivering, and they’re not wet yet. Unless you were standing out in the direct sun for a while, it was quite uncomfortable yesterday morning (for here).

Winter break is almost over, although swim season has picked back up again – we spent all yesterday morning at our local pool for a meet. WenYu will be here for another couple of weeks, but YaYu goes back to school tomorrow. This next semester is going to be a hard one for her – she’s taking two AP classes and a college math course (for which we have to buy a graphing calculator – this is why we excluded her expenses from our no-spend year) and will also be studying for her SAT, ACT and three AP exams (Biology, English Composition, and Chinese). On top of this she’ll also be keeping up with sports, Key Club (she’s the president this year), NHS, and her weekly Big Brother/Big Sister commitment. It’s going to be rough, but if anyone can pull it off it’s her – she is one determined girl, with big dreams!

This afternoon, I am:

  • Reading: I finished A Tale For the Time Being, my first book of the new year, and have started Full Dark House, by Christopher Fowler, which I downloaded from the library at the same time. It’s a mystery, set in London, and will be a quicker and less heavy read that For the Time Being, which was a great book to start the year.
  • Listening to: We’ve had a very quiet morning. The sun is out, but it’s still cool (although not as cold as yesterday). Brett got up early and started the beach towels in the washer, and they’re drying now. YaYu uses them all week, so we always have a full load on the weekend. There are a few roosters making themselves heard outside, but they’re further away than usual so more background than anything.
  • Watching: Brett and I started Season 3 of The Killing last week, but aren’t enjoying it quite as much as we did the first two seasons. The killing of the title actually took the first two seasons to solve, and the ending was a genuine surprise. We used Amazon’s current 99¢ movie offer to watch Sully this past week. This coming week WenYu and I plan to get back to American Horror Story.
  • Cooking/baking: We still had a little bit of ham left over this morning, so we had fried ham along with blueberry pancakes for breakfast this morning. YaYu and WenYu are making pasta for tonight’s dinner, and I’m going to make fresh marinara. We’ll have those with grilled Italian sausages, grilled zucchini, and garlic bread. I’m also planning to make a pan of pumpkin bars this afternoon to use up some leftover cream cheese, and the last can of pumpkin in the pantry.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I got a fasting blood draw done on Friday for my annual cholesterol check, and am very glad that’s over for another year. Not only did I have to get up early, but I also could not have anything to drink other than coffee and water, and I was starving by the time we got home! I finished my first book of the year, drank at least eight glasses of water every day this past week, got in all my bike rides except for one day, when I was under the weather (60+ miles ridden; 2100+ calories burned), and did my Japanese and Portuguese study every day. Portuguese prepositions are kicking my behind right now.
  • Looking forward to next week: WenYu and I are going to go shopping one day for her birthday present: a new bikini! All of us have our fingers crossed on both hands that we can get to the beach. It’s been too, too long since the last time we were there. Brett and I are very pale.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We all enjoyed seeing Moana last weekend. I got a nice surprise when I discovered one of my former high school classmates standing right in front of us in line at the theater! He’s lived here on the island for more than 20 years, and still looks just like he did in high school – no gray hair! WenYu got her first set of college grades, and she did very well. Wellesley has no grade inflation, so her good grades represent some very solid work on her part. I went over 37,000 followers on Pinterest this past week. We had no food waste, and put $24.09 in our change/$1 bill jar. We have decided to put away $5 bills away this year if we can, to bump up the amount we save.
  • Grateful for: My niece took care of my mom’s financial affairs for the past five or so years, and was the co-owner of my mother’s bank accounts. Under Colorado law all of Mom’s financial assets therefore went automatically to her. However, she is following Mom’s wishes even though she technically doesn’t have to. Both my older brother and I will give back a percentage of whatever we receive as a thank you for her efforts over these past few years.

    Yubaba (‘old hot water woman’) is the witchy madame who runs the bathhouse in Spirited Away. She’s one of my all-time favorite film characters – a little figure of her sits by my bed.
  • Bonus question: Are there any movies you’ve watched more than five times? I can’t even count how many times I’ve watched Merchant & Ivory’s Room With a View, and When Harry Met Sally, my two favorite films of all times. They never get old for me. Carrie Fisher is in When Harry Met Sally, so I know the next time I watch it’s going to feel different though. I’ve watched them enough that I can quote dialog from both of the films, but it seems I always find something new to appreciate each time I watch them. I’ve also watched Miyazaki’s Spirited Away more than five times, in both Japanese and English, and it remains fresh for me as well. Miyazaki’s animation is pure genius.

I hope you are enjoying your Sunday afternoon? What good things happened for you this week?

Sunday Afternoon 1/1/2017: Happy New Year!

good-bye-2016-quotes-imagesHappy New Year!

We were expecting a long, crazy night last night with lots of noise and fireworks, but it actually wasn’t too bad this year. Rain arriving at around 10:30 quieted things down quickly, and it never really picked up again until midnight. New Years is the BIG holiday here on the islands, and fireworks start as soon as it starts to get dark, and go on until a little after midnight, ending with lots and lots of very loud stuff. Our neighbors set off I don’t know how many strings of firecrackers at the same time right after midnight – the noise was, shall we say, impressive. Here at Casa Aloha, we stayed inside, watched TV, and waited up until midnight to greet the new year. This year was Brett’s and my 40th time to ring in the new year – we’ve been together for every New Year’s Eve since 1977 except for 1991, when he was deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Desert Storm.

The girls got a wonderful surprise this past week from their grandmother. My mom always gave each of her grandchildren the choice of $1000 cash or an international trip with her (worth more than $1K) when they graduated from high school. However, by the time our girls, her three youngest grandchildren, were ready to graduate, Mom’s memory had deteriorated and there were no gifts for either Meiling or WenYu. When my brother went through Mom’s safe deposit box week before last he discovered three envelopes with $1000 in each that had been set aside for the girls when they were adopted but had been forgotten. So, each girl received their graduation gift this past week (YaYu got hers early) from their grandmother! There are no constraints on how the money has to be used, but all three girls put the money into savings and plan use it to help with college expenses next year.

The weather here on the island remains cool and rainy. It’s actually quite nice today for a change, with blue skies and fluffy clouds, but still cool and breezy. The whole last month was one of those where I’ve been glad we live here rather than having spent a whole lot of money to come and visit. It’s definitely not been beach weather, and there have been days we’ve been stuck inside because of the rain.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki and enjoying it. The biggest problem I’ve having with reading now is that I’m tired at night and fall asleep sooner than I’d like. Up on deck is a mystery by a new author (for me).
  • Listening to: The roosters have been exceptionally loud this morning; I guess now that all of last night’s noise is over they figure it’s their turn. The washer and dryer are also doing their thing across the room.
  • Watching: Brett and I have been watching The Killing on Netflix, another police procedural. With most shows we watch a couple of episodes, but with this one we’ve been watching three at a time because we have to know what happens next, and the story is quite convoluted. Tonight we’ll be watching the first episode of Sherlock for the season, and then next week will get back into American Horror Story, Season Five.
  • Cooking/baking: The days on this week’s menu have gotten switched around for a variety of reasons, so tonight we’re having the butternut squash ravioli with Alfredo sauce that was going to be for tomorrow. I’m going to make an olive oil orange cake later this afternoon for our dessert.

    First page finished in my coloring book - it took me several days to complete it.
    First page finished in my coloring book!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We got all of our Christmas things packed up and put away for next year. It now takes us longer to set it all up than it does to put it all away, which sure didn’t use to be the case. We follow the Japanese tradition for the new year, so the house was cleaned from top to bottom and all bills paid so we could start 2017 with a “clean slate.” I did all of my bike rides (same stats as last week), and drank at least eight glasses of water and studied Portuguese and Japanese every day this past week. I also worked in my coloring book almost every day, and finished my first page. Brett and I got all our food shopping done for the month except for three things and our weekly trips to the farmers’ market.
  • Looking forward to next week: In a few minutes we’re heading out to see Moana, a gift from WenYu. Otherwise, I’m pretty much looking forward to just relaxing and hanging out with Brett, WenYu and YaYu for most of the week. There’s nothing on the calendar for any of us other than swim practice for YaYu in the afternoons. She has a meet next Saturday morning followed by a potluck that we’ll all attend – we’re bringing a fruit platter.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Besides the surprise gifts for the girls, Brett and I were able to put $38.87 into our change/$1 bill jar this week. The girls owed us some money and paid us in $1 bills, so of course it has to be saved! We spent $60 less than we budgeted on our food/toiletry/cleaning supply spending this past week, and only have to get some locally grown ground beef and ground pork. I got a much-needed hair cut on Tuesday, always nice because the week before my appointment my curly hair becomes “poofy,” as the girls call it, and I’m miserable.
  • Grateful for: My mom paid for all of her assisted living and memory care expenses, and her travels, out of her savings, and after over 11 years of care there is apparently almost nothing left in her accounts, so I’m especially thankful (and was surprised) that she had put something aside specifically for the girls’ graduation presents.

    Wishing the Emperor and royal family of Japan a happy new year!
    Wishing the Emperor and Royal Family of Japan a happy new year! They make several appearances throughout the day.
  • Bonus question: What are your favorite New Year’s Day memories? Last year I wrote about growing up in Southern California and seeing the Rose Parade every year, but celebrating the New Year in Japan also provided lots of special memories. It’s the biggest holiday of the year there, and like our Christmas holiday a time for families to gather. When we lived in Yokohama all the ships in the harbor would start blowing their horns at midnight on January 1 which was very exciting – they would go on for over an hour. Twice we went into Tokyo to the Imperial Palace on New Year’s Day to see Emperor Hirohito and the royal family (Banzai! Banzai! Banzai!), and we tried going to the Meiji Shrine one year but had to leave because of the crowds – I’ve never experienced anything like it before or since. Almost all businesses in Japan shut down for around five days starting January 1, but the roads were always clear of traffic which was a treat for us foreigners (who hated the usual traffic). Traditionally there is no cooking for the first few days of the new year; all cooking of osechi-ryori (traditional New Year’s foods) is done ahead of the date. Most people these days though order their osechi from department stores rather than cook all the different foods themselves. One year our neighbors ordered osechi-ryori for us – very special, and very tasty!

What are you doing today to welcome the new year?

Here’s to a happy and prosperous new year, no matter what it brings!