Sunday Afternoon 10/22/2017

The view to the south from the Hanalei overlook

YaYu was not selected as a Questbridge finalist. After an initial bit of disappointment, by evening she was actually feeling somewhat relieved that she had not been chosen. While she would have welcomed the prestige that came with being named a finalist, all of us would have been scrambling to get things off to all her ranked schools in the coming 11 days, and even with that she knew there was almost zero chance for her to receive a match scholarship to one of those schools (there were over 15,600 Questbridge applicants this year; approximately 5,700 were chosen as finalists, and somewhere less than 800 will receive a match scholarship.). YaYu is planning to apply early decision to the top school on her list (application due November 15), then regular decision to several others that waive the application fee – those applications won’t be due until January 15. The toughest part of the application – the essay – is finished, so it will just be a matter of filling out the rest of the online application. Her “safe” school is the University of Hawaii, and she said she will be happy to go there if she’s not accepted at one of the other schools ahead of it on her list.

It’s been a busy week here at Casa Aloha. Brett and I had our lunch date in Hanalei on Tuesday, and on Wednesday and Thursday we did our monthly Big Shop.  YaYu has been as busy as ever with all her activities, and we’ve been doing extra cleaning around the house this past week. Our landlord is coming over this coming Thursday to do a “walk-through” before we sign a lease for next year. We’re not sure what that “walk-through” entails, or what he’s going to be looking for or at, if anything. We keep the house clean and well-maintained (well, the girls’ room is usually a dump), but we’ve been going over things carefully in the past few days to make sure everything is as perfect as can be. Our landlord’s been very hands off up to now and he gets his rent on time every month, so we’re also not sure why he wants to check on things now other than we had a plumbing issue last month and the problem with the oven the month before, so maybe he just wants to make sure we’re not trashing the place or something.

While last weekend’s humidity was brutal, we’ve had lots of lovely cool, breezy weather this week, and a couple of days have been downright blustery. It’s rained every night too, which means we haven’t had to turn on the sprinklers, and the dust has been tamped down (a bit). Everything is greening up again and looking fresh. Fall is here!

Yesterday YaYu ran her last HS cross country race, and she and other senior runners got were given lei and gifts afterwards Most of hers are candy lei, but she also received a couple of beautiful handmade maile lei as well (so fragrant!). The brown paper bag contains ramen – they know her so well!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: Because I was so busy this past week I got very little reading done, even at night. The second Inspector Rebus book, Hide and Seek, came off of hold though, so I’m going to have to step up my game to get them both it and Lilli de Jong done in time.
  • Listening to: We’re having a lovely day here so far: sunny but cool-ish and with a nice breeze. LOTS of people are out working in their yards, so we can hear plenty of weed trimmers and an a lawn mower. The roosters seem to be enjoying the weather as well. We sorted all our laundry last night and Brett got up early and started the washing machine, so we’ve also got that to listen to as well!
  • Watching: We didn’t watch a whole lot of TV this past week, but the past couple of nights we’ve started watching Travels With My Father, on Netflix, and are enjoying it immensely.
  • Cooking/baking: Costco had Kirkland semi-sweet chocolate chips in stock again (yeah! – they are so much better than the Nestle ones), so we bought a bag this past week and I’m going to make and freeze chocolate chip cookie dough for Brett and YaYu. We’ll be having the Shakshuka and couscous tonight that we missed having last week (although no couscous for me).
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I cleaned all the window blinds last week, a BIG chore because of all the dust we get here, and because the windows are big. Because our house is secluded enough, we’re keeping all the blinds raised to hopefully keep them from accumulating more dust for a while because I’m sick and tired of trying to keep them clean. I also got started on shoveling out the girls’ room with YaYu’s help. I don’t think either she or WenYu throws anything away, ever. Brett also washed off the outside of the house – another big chore. We got the college girls’ Halloween candy boxed up and sent off (and I didn’t sneak any!), and we put away a bag to give to YaYu. Brett and I walked for three miles on the beach path every day except for Wednesday, but after shopping at Costco and working in the girls’ room for a while I felt too tired to do much of anything that evening. I drank at least 64 ounces of water a day this week, and did my language study every day.
  • Looking forward to this week: There will be a big surprise in the blog tomorrow! Otherwise there’s nothing special on our calendars. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the walk-through with the landlord, although I’m very glad he’s feeling better and recovering.

    Whale season is starting!

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett and I had a wonderful time on our lunch date up in Hanalei this past week. For the first time since we’ve been here, it didn’t rain while I was there! YaYu ran a terrific cross country race yesterday, her last as a high school harrier. After the meet she and other seniors were showered with lei and gifts from other teammates (team tradition). I was so excited to find a pair of shoes I wanted for our upcoming travels (gray slip-ons) and they were both in my size and on sale! The freezer has been working fine all week, so apparently the humidity was affecting the outlet. And the whales are back – a few have been spotted off of Maui, which means it won’t be long before we can see them here!
  • Grateful for: There’s nothing in particular today, but I’m feeling very blessed for our entire family’s good health, that we don’t have to worry about having enough to eat, that two of our girls are attending the college of their choice and that YaYu still has many opportunities awaiting her.
  • Bonus question: What’s the scariest story you’ve ever heard? Last Monday, the wind was very strong during Brett’s and my walk down by the beach. It was at our back the first half of the walk, but on the way back to the car it was blowing very hard against us. Brett said at one point, “Well, now you know what it feels like up on the deck of an aircraft carrier during flight ops!” We started talking about his navy days, and I told him that nothing in my life had scared me as much as some of the things he told me he did up on the flight deck. For example, running up to jets that had just caught and released the arresting cable and were still rolling, sending hand signals to the pilot, and then climbing up on the jet while it was still hot to get into the cockpit and start pulling gear for maintenance. Or, being blown down the flight deck on his back by hot jet blast, and only avoiding being blown overboard because he was able to grab one of the padeyes on the deck. Or, standing on the edge of the deck leaning backwards as far as he could go without falling over. BRETT!! It got to the point I told him I did not want to hear any more stories, that when I thought about him out at sea the only images I wanted in my mind were the opening scenes in Top Gun, where everything on the flight deck looks very controlled and smooth and safe (which the flight deck is not – there’s a reason it’s often referred to as “controlled chaos,” and people who work the flight deck get hazardous duty pay). The opening credits and scenes in the video above (action starts at 1:00) are still the best example I know though of what Brett did for a living for 22 years. The separations when he deployed were miserable, but he loved his job, and was very, very good at it.

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

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Five Frugal Things 10/20/2017

Traveling shoes from Sketchers!

  1. I found a great pair of traveling shoes on Zappos, exactly the color and look I have been wanting. The Zappos sale price was $57, and with tax the order came to $59.37 (shipping is free). My one concern was that Zappos only had them in medium width, and I have more of a wide foot. Later that day though I was canoodling around on the internet and found the same shoes on sale at Overstock.com, for just $44.21! Even with shipping the total came to just $49.16, ten dollars less than Zappos. And, best of all, the shoes from Overstock are wides – score!
  2. Thanks to some low-hanging, moist clouds that didn’t want to move, last weekend was particularly humid, and after our early evening walk on Saturday I really didn’t feel like cooking. Anything. We decided to get take-out, but then checked the fridge once more and decided we could eat leftovers after all, saving us $$.
  3. Brett and I went up to Hanalei for a planned lunch date on Tuesday, and although there is something like a zillion shops in town, most of them are geared toward tourists so we only spent our $$ on lunch, coffee, and a biscotti for Brett. Our meal provided leftovers that we brought home and Brett and YaYu enjoyed for lunch the next day.
  4. We don’t use coupons, but because we primarily shop at Costco we pay close attention to their monthly sale flyers and always find things on our list among their offerings (although we won’t buy something just because it’s on sale). This week we saved $3 on (another) bag of LingLing potstickers – they are eaten regularly here, and we’ll need plenty at Christmas when all the girls are home – and we also got  $3 off Brett’s favorite Dare crackers. We also saved $8 on a box of Brita filters for our water pitcher.  We signed up in the store to receive alerts on recalls, and received a $2 off coupon on any fruit we bought that day (pears!). YaYu is almost out of vitamins, but rather than buy them this week, we’ll do it next week when they go on sale, saving an additional $3.50 on those. It’s not a huge amount of savings, but every bit helps.
  5. We put $31.20 in the change/$1 bill jar this week: $1.73 change from the electric bill, $2.60 from recycling, $2.00 from the farmers’ market, $24.56 left over from the Big Shop, and we found 31¢ on the ground.

What frugal  wins did you have this week?

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#Kauai: Hidden in Plain Sight

After hiking most of the shoreline from Hanamaulu Bay to Anahola Bay it dawned on me that an interesting geologic feature that nearly escapes notice was a constant companion most the way. Though discontinuous in places, and often only visible at low tide, a naturally formed limestone shelf, a barrier between reef and shore, surrounds the island of Kaua‘i.

For commercial reasons, the shelf was obliterated at Hanamaulu Bay, to provide a sheltered harbor and pier at Ahukini Landing. By contrast, the limestone formation appears to extend forever northward from the south end of Nukoli‘i Beach. In reality, it vanishes briefly adjacent to the Wailua Municipal Golf Course, and is only visible intermittently near the mouth of Wailua River.

“Baby” Beach exists because of the tidal trough between an extent of the limestone formation and the seawall along Moanakai Road In Kapa‘a Town. Google Maps calls this Fuji Beach, but everyone in town knows it’s Baby Beach.

Fuji Beach, Moanakai Rd, Kapaa 96746

Low tide at Baby Beach

An appreciable portion of the limestone formation rings the second embayment north of Donkey beach. This beach is popular with monk seals because it’s nicely sheltered and the fishing is good, but if you see them on the beach, just move it along because they absolutely need their rest, AND it is against the law to approach or disturb them. You can see an isolated chunk of limestone submerged in the first photo, and the remainder of the formation at water’s edge in the background.

As the old right of way veers inland beyond Donkey Beach, each of the little bays onward to Anahola  Beach State Park are only accessible via dedicated dirt roads and recent motocross trails, or at low tide by rock-hopping along the shore. The next photos show isolated hunks of the bar overlain with younger volcanic debris or thrust up along the shore nearer to Anahola.

Just south of Anahola Bay lies another little ring, tilted up somewhat like the formation at Baby Beach. Coincidentally, that similarity is what awakened me to the fact that I had “seen this somewhere before.”

While this formation certainly is not all there is to see between Nukoli‘i Beach and Anahola Beach, it’s been more of a companion. Running, hiking, and rock-hopping Kauai‘i’s eastern shore is never boring.

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This Week’s Menu: Strategic Shopping

Japanese golden curry with chicken & vegetables

Chili pork sauce with rice is back on the menu again this week because we didn’t have it last week. Why? Because when I went out the freezer to get the pork chops . . . there were no pork chops (so we had noodles with pork sauce instead). We also didn’t get to have the Shakshuka last week (fried rice got bumped to Sunday) so will have it on Sunday.

This week’s Big Shop will be strategic, not just because we are out of so much, but because the small freezer we keep out in the garage started shutting down this past weekend. We have no idea why, but something seemed to be tripping the GFCI plug – our hypothesis is that it was the higher than normal humidity we experienced last week, but until we know for sure if it’s a temporary problem with the outlet, or something going haywire with the freezer, we’re going to buy less this week and store it in the limited freezer space we have inside.

So, this week’s menu will use up as much as possible of the little we have leftover from last month’s shopping and our Big Shop won’t be so big this time. If the freezer is shot, we’ll most likely be doing Small Shops at Costco once a week instead of our usual once a month trip.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Spaghetti w/marinara and meatballs; roasted mixed vegetables
  • Wednesday: Grilled fish tacos with mango salsa; yellow rice
  • Thursday: Chili pork sauce; steamed rice; coleslaw
  • Friday: Grilled chicken wings; onion rings; wilted cucumber salad
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Shakshuka; couscous; cucumbers
  • Monday: Chicken & vegetable curry; steamed basmati rice

We’ll be shopping for zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes this week at the farmers’ market, as well as bananas and a papaya. We’ll be picking up other fresh vegetables when we’re at Costco.

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Telling Tourists To Stay Away

Tourism is the #1 industry in Hawai’i. We love having tourists come to the islands to relax and experience the beauty and culture here, and spend their money even if they do make traffic a bit more congested at times, or cause other problems. Still, it’s often unsettling to discover damage, or unwanted changes caused by increased tourism, no matter how much income it brings.

There are no plans to curtail tourists coming to Hawai’i. Other locations around the world though have become or are becoming victims of their own outreach or desirability. Tourism, or the number of tourists invading these places has gotten bad enough, or is causing so many problems, that some popular travel destinations have placed restrictions on visitors or are thinking about it.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, here are a few popular tourist destinations around the world that are either already limiting the effects of too much tourism or trying to, including actively encouraging people not to come. Some of them may surprise you!

  • Norway: Not only because of the number of tourists showing up at popular spots, but because of the rising cost of tourist rescues, accidents and injuries, Norway is considering limiting the number of visitors at popular spots, like Pulpit Rock (seen above) and other  natural sites.
  • Zion National Park, Utah: Zion saw over four million visitors in 2015. This huge amount of visitors has caused land erosion and overwhelmed facilities throughout the park, and the numbers haven’t dropped since then. In order to mitigate the damage that’s happening, the National Park Service is considering a cap on the number of visitors allowed into the park. A strategy for this has been put in place and is still accepting public comments. A plan is expected to be released in 2019.
  • Barcelona, Spain: This Spanish city is nearing its “saturation limit” of tourists, and wants to limit the number of visitors before that limit is breached. The plan includes freezing hotel development and putting a new tourist tax in place, one geared for day trippers and cruise visitors.
  • Iceland: This island country has become a victim of its own success in drawing visitors. From May 2014 to May 2015, the number of visitors increased by 75% over the same period of time from 2013-2014. There is now believed to be more American tourists coming each year than there are residents in the country. Currently research is being done on how “full” sites can get before the experience is degraded, and based on that research limits may be set.
  • The Galápagos Islands: The number of tourists coming to these special islands over the years put a huge burden on the nearly 9,000 different species that reside there. In 2007 The Galápagos were named an endangered heritage site. These days nearly 97% of the islands is a national park, and tourism is carefully monitored. Strict rules limit visitors to particular places, and they must travel with a licensed guide. These changes meant that The Galápagos were able to be removed from the endangered list in 2010.
  • Santorini, Greece: One of the most picturesque and popular spots in Greece, last year this small town hosted an average of 10,000 tourists per day during the peak season (Santorini’s population is only 15,500). Visitors from cruise ships have now been limited to 8,000 per day which has helped some. (There are no restrictions on the number of visitors who fly in, as they are considerably less than those from cruise ships.)
  • Venice, Italy: The rising water levels are not the only thing having an impact on La Serenissima. There have been so many tourists in recent years that it’s predicted the native population will be reduced to zero by 2030, primarily because of rising rents as more space is needed to house visitors. Many residents want cruise ships banned from the harbor, and also want large tourist groups to have to book ahead of time. There are no official plans yet, but apparently strolling around the city visitors can find posters letting them know how sick the residents are of tourists.
  • Machu Pichu, Peru: The number of visitors to this site high in the Andes is now limited by UNESCO. Foreign visitors must have a guide, follow one of three designated routes through the site, and have time limits on their visit so groups don’t become backed up. Still, even with these steps Machu Pichu was placed on the Endangered Heritage Site list in 2016. Approximately 1.2 million visitors arrive every year (average of 3300 per day), but officials want to limit the number of visitors to 2500 per day.
  • The Cinque Terre, Italy: This collection of five villages on the Ligurian coast of Italy has already had the number of visitors allowed capped by the Italian government. In 2015, the Cinque Terre hosted 2.5 million visitors; in 2016 the number allowed was reduced to 1.5 million (much of the area lies in a national park, so numbers can be monitored).
  • Antarctica: Several restrictions have been placed on visitors to this pristine area: No cruise ship with more than 500 passengers can go to a landing site, and only one ship at a time can dock. Only 100 visitors at a time are allowed onshore. In order to visit this frozen continent tourists much use a designated operator, and visitors are carefully monitored while they are ashore.
  • Mt. Everest: In order to curb more ecological danger to the area, Tibet has already started placing restrictions on who can climb the world’s highest mountain. Among the changes are an increased fee for foreign climbers (now $11,000), novice climbers are banned, and there are both minimum and maximum age restrictions for all climbers. Also, only small climbing teams are allowed now in order to protect against bottlenecks or logjams on the mountain.
  • Other popular tourist destinations either already limiting or considering limits on tourism are The Seychelles, the country of Bhutan, Lord Howe Island off of Australia, or Koh Tachai island in Thailand.

A couple of these places are on my bucket list. But, living in a place that welcomes loads of tourists, and sometimes seeing the not-always-positive impact of so many visitors, I completely understand why action has been taken, or is at least being considered, in the above locations. Reading about the issues these places face and their desire to allow tourism but not let it overtake them or change their ways too much should make all of us think more about being a better visitor when and wherever we travel.

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Sunday Afternoon 10/15/2017

This horse came out to greet Brett and YaYu when they hiked past on the Wai Koa Plantation trail last Thursday. The trail is flat, so when it cools off and the humidity diminishes a bit, I’m going to give it a try! While they enjoyed good weather as they hiked it was pouring rain here, just 15 miles away!

All of us here at Casa Aloha are biting our fingernails right now because YaYu will learn on Thursday whether she’s a finalist or not for a Questbridge scholarship. Brett and I are going to pick up cookies & cream ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream (YaYu’s request) on Thursday morning so we can either celebrate  or drown our sorrows with her that evening. Brett and I feel she has around a 50-50 chance to be selected: she wrote a terrific biographic essay and her other essays are very good as well; she’s taken rigorous courses all through high school and maintained a high GPA; she’s taken and passed several AP exams; and she has a strong slate of extracurriculars, several with leadership positions. Coming from a small, rural high school in Hawai’i is also a plus. On the down side, her standardized test scores aren’t as good as they should be, and we have no idea how much those will count. Questbridge applicants as a whole are a very sharp bunch of students, and we realize YaYu just might not make the cut.

I’m thinking positively though, and being proactive. When WenYu was named a Questbridge finalist two years ago we were woefully unprepared and had to scramble to get all her paperwork together to send off to the colleges she had ranked. Every school wants something different, so this last week I checked each school’s application requirements and make a chart so we can quickly check off each item as we get it sent. The chart may end up in the recycling if she’s not a finalist, but if she is we only have 12 days to get everything sent off, and we want to be ready, especially since it can take up to 10 days for mail to reach several of the schools.

The Questbridge application process has been long and hard, and even if YaYu does not make finalist or receive a match scholarship in the end, she has learned a lot and is well-prepared to move forward. IF she makes finalist but doesn’t get a match it will carry a lot of weight in the regular college application process and can still provide a BIG financial aid package. (WenYu’s scholarship from Wellesley is a Questbridge regular decision one). She can re-use her Questbridge essays for the common application, and several of the schools she wants to attend will still waive the application fee for her. She is prepared no matter the outcome.

Anyway, we hope you’ll keep your fingers crossed and think good thoughts for her this week.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished A Legacy of Spies on Friday night, and started LILLI de Jong, by Janet Benton, yesterday (per Reader Laurel’s recommendation!).
  • Listening to: There’s a strong breeze blowing this morning and it’s making a lot of noise in the trees around us. I hope it hangs around and keeps the humidity at bay, because the last few days here have been awful – we’ve had big, heavy, moist clouds hovering overhead. There are a few roosters doing their thing outside, but otherwise no outside noise. Brett is reading, and YaYu is fixing herself breakfast – it’s the last day of fall break, so she slept in.

    Stranger Things 2 is coming soon!

  • Watching: We finally got around to starting the new season of This is Us (love this show!), but otherwise we feel like we’ve seen just about everything we want for now on Netflix, Amazon and Hulu. We’re pretty much just waiting for new episodes/seasons of our favorite shows to become available again. The second season of Stranger Things will be arriving on the 27th. Because of Mavis’s recommendation, we watched Dead Poet’s Society yesterday evening – still a wonderful film.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m probably not going to bake anything today because there’s still plenty of cookie dough in the freezer if Brett or YaYu want cookies. Last night’s fried rice didn’t get made because we were all too hot and tired, so we’re having that tonight instead of shakshuka (I’m having leftover steak pizzaiola).
  • Happy I accomplished last week: Besides getting a Questbridge paperwork chart set up (heavens, I hope we need it), I also made my shopping list for this coming week’s Big Shop. I did some more Christmas shopping (and saved some money!) – I’m about 3/4 of the way done now. Brett and I have walked several evenings down on the beach path – rain is the only thing that has kept us from doing that. I’ve ridden my bike in the evening a few days as well – when I haven’t it’s been because it’s just been too humid. I drank at least 64 ounces of water and did my language study every day. Finally, I had one silly accomplishment: I finally won the Neko Atsume (cat collecting) game! I have been playing for over two years now, but every time I would get close to having all the cats and all the mementos, the game would add new ones. Well, this past week I added the last available ones (for now) to my collection, so I am done for a while.

    Hanalei

  • Looking forward to this week: Besides looking forward to the Questbridge announcement, Brett and I are planning to head up to Hanalei on the north shore on Tuesday (weather permitting), to go out to lunch and just poke around for a while. On Wednesday we’ll be doing our monthly Big Shop, although it won’t be very big this time. Our freezer is being temperamental, and we’re just not comfortable with loading it full of stuff only to have it shut off again in the middle of the night.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Sluggy of Don’t Read This; It’s Boring fame has put up another great giveaway. The prize includes several things that would make great stocking stuffers here at Casa Aloha. Even though the weather has been beastly the past few days, the early evening walks with Brett down on the beach path have been wonderful. I’ve lost enough weight that the bursitis in my hip doesn’t bother me, my old shoes are working out OK, and the views as we walk are always breathtaking. The conversation has also been great! Brett’s new running shoes arrived this week, so he’s got a bit more spring in his step too. YaYu bought me socks! I was planning to buy some next week when we shopped, but for the first couple of walks I had to borrow some of her (many pairs of) ankle socks. When she was out shopping for a friend’s birthday gift she picked me up my own bundle, just because, so I am set!

    One of the many gorgeous views we get to see on our walks.

  • Grateful for: I’m so thankful for all the beauty of this island. I complain bitterly about the humidity, but walking on the beach path, or seeing the pictures from Brett and YaYu’s hike, or driving past the ocean all remind me of how fortunate I am to live in such a beautiful place.
  • Bonus question: Is there one place you’ve visited more than any other? Would you go back again? For me, that would be Hong Kong – I’ve visited eight times (stayed in different hotel every time) and would go back in a heartbeat! The city has grown and changed so much since we were last there, and I would love to see what’s new and what hasn’t changed. When we were stationed in Japan, and Brett was with the air wing on the USS Midway, the ship always stopped in Hong Kong on its way back from a long cruise and  I and other wives would fly down and meet the ship. The wives would gather at Fenwick Pier and wait as the launches arrived one by one with our spouses. The most exciting visit was when the ship was on its way home from Desert Storm because that’s the longest the ship had ever been away. I thought I’d have to wait for several launches to see Brett, but he was on the first one (still not sure how he managed it)! Anyway, we had four wonderful, romantic reunions in Hong Kong, I went on a shopping trip with a friend once, and our son and I went for Christmas in 1991, when the Midway was deployed to the Persian Gulf for Desert Storm (the only Christmas Brett wasn’t home). We also did two of our three adoption orientations in Hong Kong – Brett and I went in 1997 for Meiling’s adoption (Brett had broken his leg and was in a cast!), and my good friend Kris accompanied me in 1999 to get WenYu while Brett stayed home with Meiling. All of those eight trips were shopping extravaganzas (it’s what you did), but we also had a great time eating our way through Hong Kong. One reason I want to go back because I still haven’t had afternoon tea at the Peninsula Hotel!

One more gratuitous photo of my granddaughter, from her first birthday photo session. I love this girl! (and the poor thing got my ears)

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

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Five Frugal Things 10/13/2017

The blue pair is cute but very uncomfortable, but the gray pair are OK for our daily three-mile walk.

  1. Although we budget $10/month for rental movies, we realized this week we haven’t spent any of that for a few months now. It’s been very easy to find free offerings on either Netflix, Amazon or Hulu instead.
  2. I got an email from L.L. Bean on Monday that they were having a 20% off fall sale on Tuesday. I had a $10 gift card from them that was expiring soon, so decided to do some Christmas shopping. My spending limit was $85. The items I ordered came to $109.85, but with the 20% discount of $21.97 and the $10 gift card, the total came to just $77.88. And, I earned another $10 gift card!
  3. Early in the week I was feeling like we had run out of things for fixing meals and that Brett and I would have to do our monthly shopping earlier than usual. But, I went through the pantry, fridge and freezer and came up with a pretty nice menu for the week using what we had on hand. Other than our weekly visit to the farmers’ market, and stopping at Big Save for some bean sprouts, we had another no-spend week.
  4. Brett and I started taking a daily walk this week, and rather than buy something new as I had intended, I decided instead to save and use a pair of shoes I already have. They aren’t great for extended walking (as I learned in Japan), but for the three-mile walks we’re doing now they’ve been just fine.
  5. We put $16.28 into our change/$1 bill jar: $2.86 left after our Big Save shop, $4.25 from the farmers’ market, and $9.76 left from our cable bill.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

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Laura vs. Humidity

Spoiler alert: Humidity is winning.

To say I don’t deal well with humidity would be a gross understatement. In fact, after three-plus years here on Kaua’i, the humidity here has become more of a problem than the cold and wet ever were in Portland. It’s really the one and only thing I truly dislike about living on Kaua’i.

We were expecting to deal with some humidity when we moved here, but all our pre-move sources told us that it wasn’t really that bad, and that the near-constant breeze from the trade winds erased most of the effects of humidity.

What we’ve experienced over the past three summers has been anything but comfortable though; in fact, it’s been downright miserable, mainly because each summer we’ve gone through long spells each day with no trade winds blowing  . . . at all. During the first and second summers here the breezes seemed to stop in the late afternoon, just when it was time to prepare dinner, but pick up again in the evening. This past summer, the breezes have been stopping in the early evening, around 8:00 p.m. The temperature does cool off a bit, but when there’s no air moving slightly cooler temperatures don’t mean all that much. The air still pretty much feels like a warm, moist towel has been laid on your back.

Part of my problem with the humidity here is physical: I am post-menopausal, and my body now operates at a higher temperature than it did when I was younger. Remember the old saying, “Horses sweat, men perspire, and women glow”? Well, I sweat these days . . . a lot. I am perspiring constantly. Even though we have a powerful ceiling fan in our bathroom to mitigate the humidity, when I get out of the shower I start sweating. I haven’t taken a hot shower since we moved here – lukewarm to swimming pool cool is more my style these days. I can break out in a sweat just walking across the room, or washing the dishes, or sweeping the floor. I often feel like I’m drowning when I cook dinner on the stove, and I’m completely drenched after a five-mile ride on my exercise bike, even though I have two fans on high speed blowing directly on me, and I’m sitting right in front of the open garage door. It takes a long time to get my body cooled off as well, even with the help of cool towels or ice packs. I wish I could blame it all on something like my thyroid or some other hormonal issue, but I’ve been completely checked out by my doctor and everything is well within normal ranges. I drink more than enough including at least 64 ounces of water each day as well as other beverages, but I still retain a lot of liquid – during the summer I often feel like an over-wet sponge. I will admit my skin love the moisture – no lotion needed these days, unlike when we lived in Portland and I had to drench myself in it every day.

The high humidity here also affects us in other ways: glasses and bottles start sweating the instant you set them down. Our freezer cakes over with frost in less than a couple of weeks as warm, moist air rushes in every time we open it. Food can lose its crispness quickly, even in sealed jars or plastic bags. Clothes take longer to dry outside, even in the sun. We’ve discovered the humidity also has affected some man-made fabrics. We’ve had a couple of shopping bags disintegrate on us, same with the fabric on the bottom of our chair and sofa.

Yes, we could get an air-conditioner. But, electricity is expensive here – very expensive – and the cost of running even one air-conditioner would mean there would be much, much less left in our budget for other things. We want to travel, we want to be able to afford to bring our children home for the holidays, and so forth. On our income we can either pay to stay cool but stay on Kaua’i, or suffer a bit but go out and see the world and see our college-age children once in a while.

It’s also been suggested that we move to the north side of the island where it’s cooler by a few degrees, but YaYu is still in high school and none of us wants to deal with a daily 40 minute or more commute (each way) to school or her other activities. We like our little house and where we live now.

Most people in Hawai’i live without air-conditioning. And, I know that the humidity has been or could be far worse in other locations either in the U.S. or otherwise. Fall is coming, and then winter, and both will bring cooler temperatures and lower levels of humidity. The sun will continue to shine, and for a few months I will be able to forget my daily battles with humidity and its effects. Still, I know my nemesis will be returning next summer, and I’ve got to figure out ways of better dealing with it.

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This Week’s Menu: An International Week

Shakshuka (no olives or cheese for us though)

This week our menu features dishes from around the world, or at least from several different cultures. I didn’t start out planning any such thing, and was surprised when I realized what I had done.

Mabo dofu and fried rice are both Chinese dishes, but we make the mabo dofu Japanese-style, using Cook Do sauce, from Japan. The fried rice, which YaYu makes, is more authentically Chinese, and contains minced vegetables, diced ham, and scrambled eggs and is flavored with oyster sauce. The Polish sausages and cabbage are eastern European, but our dinner is probably more American style, with the sausages grilled and the cabbage roasted. The Spicy Steak Pizzaiola is Italian, although the recipe I use actually comes from Weight Watchers. I usually make the Mexican chili-pork sauce for burritos, but since we don’t have tortillas right now I’ve decided to serve it over rice instead. Shakshuka is a north African egg dish, with the eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. Finally, we’ll finish the week with all-American sloppy joes!

It’s going to be a very tasty week! And, with YaYu home all week, I’ll have help in the kitchen, and most likely no leftovers.

Here’s this week’s menu:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled beef Polish sausages; roasted cabbage; country bread (no bread for me)
  • Wednesday: Mabo dofu; steamed rice; cucumbers (I’ll just have the sauce and cucumbers)
  • Thursday: Spicy steak pizzaiola; garlic bread; grilled zucchini (I’m skipping the bread)
  • Friday: Chili pork sauce; yellow rice; cole slaw (no rice for me)
  • Saturday: Fried rice with vegetables and ham (not sure what I’m having)
  • Sunday: Shakshuka; couscous (no couscous for me)
  • Monday: Sloppy Joes; chips; coleslaw (just sloppy joe and coleslaw for me, no bread or chips)

We’ll hopefully be able to get zucchini this week at the farmers’ market, along with cucumbers, parsley, jalapeños (for the Shakshuka), and a papaya.

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Where Do You Want To Go?

It’s always been me, me, me around here, but today I’d like to turn things over to you, my wonderful readers, and ask: “What’s on your travel bucket list? Where do you want to go?”

I’d love to hear from you about three to five places you’d like to visit, domestic or international, and a couple of sentences of why you’d like to travel there. If you like, instead of a place you could list an experience that you’d travel for, versus just a place (for example: dinner on a rooftop in Paris with a sunset view of the Eiffel Tower). You can of course list somewhere you’ve been before if you want to go back, but again, I’d love to hear why – what was so wonderful or memorable about it that you want to go back? What did you miss the first time?

I’m looking forward to hearing from you, and being inspired!

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