#Kaua’i: The Kaua’i Coastal Path Through Kapaa

The path passes by Kapa'a Beach Park and Waipouli Beach Park on its way south. Lots of windsurfers were out the day of our walk.

The following is a reprint of a previously published post.

The Ke Ala Hele Makalae, the “path that goes by the coast,” runs for eight miles along Kauai’s east side, from just south of Lydgate Park all the way up through the eastside’s “Coconut Coast” past Donkey Beach in the north (and it’s currently being extended all the way north to Anahola Beach Park). The wide and mostly flat path is shared daily by walkers, runners and bike riders, and provides beautiful shoreline views almost the entire length. While the stretch from Kealia Beach to the old Pineapple Dump is our favorite, Brett and I also enjoy the walk along the Kapaa shoreline.

There are frequent signs along the path letting you know where you are.

A couple of weeks ago, while the girls went for a run heading north, Brett and I set off in the other direction on the path, a flat 3/4-mile stretch that runs from the Kapaa Community Center south to Keaka Road, where the path turns to go through town for a while before coming back to the shore. The day was quite breezy, and we could see storm clouds out to sea as well as coming over the mountains from the other side, but we felt we had enough time to get to Keaka Road and back before any rain arrived. We packed a few beach towels just in case we got our timing wrong.

And get it wrong we did! A squall came sailing in from the northeast and drenched Brett & me just before we reached our car. The girls were also on their way back to the car and got soaked as well, but we all toweled off and headed for home, admitting that we were actually thankful for the rain because it had cooled us off.

The path crosses over an old stream channel as it heads out to sea. The low bridge in front of the highway used to carry the sugar cane and pineapple trains.

The main Kapa'i boat channel is used by local fishers.

A windsurfer speeds by at Fuji Beach. Lots of locals like to get together at this beach after work to relax.

Just down from Fuji Beach is Baby Beach. The rock wall is naturally occurring, and creates a safe swimming spot in front for keiki (kids), so the beach is popular with local families.

Just down from Fuji Beach is Baby Beach. The rock "wall" in the back is naturally occurring, and creates a safe bathing area for keiki, so the beach is popular with local families.

Sunrise Cottage, located across the road from Baby Beach, offers front row seat for each day's sunrise.

The Hotel Coral Reef always makes me want to walk over and book a room! (the rain arrived just as I snapped this picture)

Although it’s a great walk any time of day, sunrises are a speciality on the eastside coastal path. I’m not an early riser, but an early-morning walk along the Kapaa stretch to experience one of Kauai’s spectacular sunrises is high on my bucket list!

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10 Easy Ways To Save More for Travel

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The following is a reprint of a previously published post.

There are those people who, when they decide they want to travel, can whip out their checkbooks and cover any trip they want.

Brett and I are not those people. We have big travel dreams, but a small income, so any trips we want to take have to be planned and then saved for. Over the years we’ve come up with a variety of ways to add to our travel savings so that when we do go off somewhere, everything we need and want to do is covered and we don’t end up with a balance on our credit card.

Here are our favorite tips for how to save for travel:

  1. Set up a dedicated travel savings account, and start a monthly allotment to that account. How much you can deposit into your travel account each month will depend on your regular operating budget, but even a small monthly amount can add up quickly.
  2. See if you can save on regular budget categories, and then put the difference into your travel savings. For example, if your monthly food budget is $700, see if you can find ways to save and get it down to $650, or $600. At the end of the month, put the difference into  your savings. This is one of our favorite ways to add to our travel account – it’s almost like a game, and keeps us on our toes when it comes to saving in all areas of our budget.
  3. Do a “no-spend” week, or month, and deposit all usual discretionary spending amounts into your savings. If you stop and pick up a coffee every morning, don’t for one week. Same for going out for lunch while you’re at work, or eating out or picking up dinner. Plan ahead, keep track of what you would have spent on those things, and then at the end of the week, or month, deposit that amount into your savings. This isn’t to make yourself miserable while you save, but rather to see how much you can add to your savings.
  4. Save your change and $1 bills. Brett and I put away around $700 – $800 per year doing this, although one year we saved over $1000. We try to use cash as much as possible, and when we get coins back we immediately put them aside. Same for $1 bills. When we use our debit card, we always round up to the nearest $5 if possible (i.e. if the amount owed is $11.17, we round up to $15, and $3.83 goes into savings). This might require some effort at first to remember to do it, but after a while it becomes a habit. Once we have $25 in $1 bills, or are able to roll our change, off it goes to the travel savings account. This year we are also occasionally setting aside $5 bills – it’s not as easy to do as with $1 bills, but once in a while we feel we can set one aside. Twenty of those though and we’ve got another $100 saved.
  5. Recognize needs versus wants. This also takes some training and effort, but start asking yourself if you really need that new t-shirt, or burrito from Chipotle, or whatever from IKEA, or whether you’d rather enjoy coffee and a croissant in Paris or a week on the beach in Hawai’i. Same for your food shopping – go with a list and stick to it. There’s nothing wrong with looking, but visualizing your saving goals while you look can help keep you more focused on what you need versus what you merely want. This practice might not immediately put money into your savings account, except that you’ll probably have more money left at the end of the month that can be saved for travel.
  6. Dedicate all refunds, rebates and gifts to your travel savings. We get a nice rebate every year from Costco and from our insurance company – both of those go right into our travel savings. Same for our annual tax refund. Unfortunately, no one sends us money for our birthdays any more :-(.
  7. Get a travel rewards credit card. If you’re good about paying off your credit card every month, this is a great way to earn either miles that will help reduce the cost of air travel, or cash back that can go into your travel account. Brett and I use our credit card to pay recurring monthly expenses like our cable bill and phone bill, and then pay it off every month. Our card rewards can be used to either book travel or receive a check – we always take the check. We don’t use the card to pay for groceries because we’ve found that using cash and setting aside the change and $1 bills we get back is more than would be generated in rewards from the card. Warning: use reward cards carefully. Be sure pay off your credit card balance every month. You don’t want to end up with a huge credit card bill that you have to pay versus putting away money for your travel dreams.
  8. Sell things you don’t need or use any more. Take an inventory of your stuff every once in and while, and use Craigslist, eBay, Facebook or other sites to sell unused and unneeded items around your home, with the money you earn going straight to your travel savings. You can also become a savvy shopper at thrift stores or yard sales and find items that can be refurbished and resold online. Someone I know carefully bought high-end clothing brands at thrift and consignment stores and resold them for a profit on eBay, earning enough in a year to finance a trip to Europe. Someone else I know resold books that she picked up for a song at yard sales. Katy over at The Non-Consumer Advocate is in a master class when it comes to the resale game.
  9. Get a part-time job. I’m retired now, and have absolutely no interest in doing any part-time work, nor does Brett, but we’ve done this in the past. For example, the extra I made working as a substitute went into our savings that got us here to Hawai’i. Depending on how much time you have, or how motivated you are, a second gig can be anything from a couple of hours a week to a regular part-time position. Dedicate those earnings to your travel savings.
  10. Be creative. Pick up change off the ground. Return bottles and cans for the deposit, if you can in your state. Clip coupons and put the money saved into your travel account. Use Swagbucks and earn $$ through PayPal. There are all sorts of small ways out there to add to your travel savings. It might not seem like a lot, but it all adds up.

Just like nickel-and-dime items can drain your bank account in a hurry, what might seem like nickel-and-dime savings can also pump up your account in a hurry as well! It’s surprising how much you can save in a year toward your travel dreams once you set your mind to it!

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Sunday Afternoon 6/25/2017

Tropical fruit still life: bananas, mango and papaya

First, an announcement: I will be taking next week off from blogging. I have been posting five times a week (with some occasional help from Brett) since the beginning of the year, and feel like I need a short break to recharge my batteries. I plan to re-post a couple of popular articles next week, but will be back to regular posting again beginning July 3.

A friend joined our son for a lap around the Imperial Palace

Yesterday (in Japan) our son walked the second annual Imperial Challenge, an event he created to raise funds for a charity that provides support to children with severe and sometimes incurable diseases and their families. The challenge involves walking around the Japanese Imperial Palace pathway as many times as possible. The distance around the palace is 3.1 miles, and although yesterday was beastly hot and humid he walked nine laps for a total of almost 30 miles, and with some assistance from friends and colleagues raised nearly $4200 for his charity. We are so incredibly proud of our son!

We got a frantic call from Meiling on Thursday evening – she had received a letter telling her she would not be receiving her scholarship this year because she did not qualify for a Pell Grant. What??? WenYu received one, no problem, but Meiling wouldn’t? After some checking we discovered that someone at her university financial aid office had mistakenly added back in an IRA rollover we did in 2015 as income (2015 tax filings are being used for both last year and this year). We were a bit worried as this financial aid office has been unwilling to correct errors in the past, but Brett talked with them on Friday morning, they admitted the mistake (it’s a non-subjective error, so not much they could argue with) and Meiling will receive her Pell Grant and scholarship.

And, just to keep things interesting, WenYu had planned a day hike with a friend on Friday, but when she got ready to early Friday morning our car wouldn’t start. We had to call a tow service to come and charge the battery (which was purchased new a year and a half ago at Costco), but they thankfully gave us the kamaaina discount, so it wasn’t as bad of an expense as we thought it might be. Afterwards, Brett took the car down to the mechanic for further charging and to check out the battery and other systems, and there were indeed problems with the battery (everything else is fine). When the battery was pulled out to look it over though there was a sticker saying “free replacement within 36 months” so Brett went back to Costco and got a new battery for free! The mechanic didn’t charge us anything either, so total cost ended up being less than $100, which we covered out of our emergency fund. By the way, when the car wouldn’t start, WenYu called her friend to see if she could drive . . . but their car wouldn’t start either. Both girls feel that for some reason they were being told that it was not a good day for them to go hiking.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Raven Black and am reading Cold Earth by the same author, Ann Cleeves. I had two more books come off of hold: A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, and News of the World by Paulette Jiles – I’ve been waiting for them to be available for several months, so am going to have to step up my reading game to get them both finished before the downloads expire.
  • Listening to: It’s all very quiet here right now. WenYu and her friend are out for a day at the beach, and Brett is out on his daily walk/run. It’s quiet out in the neighborhood too, so there’s just the sound of the fans turning, a gentle breeze through the trees, and birds singing. I can hear one chicken scratching through the brush next door, but that’s it for chicken noise (thank goodness). I’ll start the washing machine in a few minutes though, and that will be the end of the peace and quiet.
  • Watching: Reader Nancy recommended in the comments last week that we try the French version of The Returned (Les Revenants), which has two seasons versus one, and it’s been great (and creepy). On Friday evening we watched Moana on Netflix – we saw it in the theater last December and enjoyed it so were happy to watch it again. Of course, that meant we missed The Great British Baking Show, but I streamed it yesterday online so I am caught up. I just started Season 7 of Top Chef – I am loving this show!
  • Cooking baking: We’re having pancakes for dinner tonight, along with sausage and fruit. WenYu loves pancakes, but YaYu doesn’t, so with her still in China it’s a good time to make them. I’ll just be having sausages and fruit. Brett cooks our sausages out on the grill now – less mess and it helps keep the house cool. No baking today as we don’t want to heat up the kitchen, but we bought a bag of lemons at Costco so I’m planning to make lemon bars sometime this week, before YaYu gets home – they’re one of her favorites.
  • Happy I accomplished this last week: So happy we got our big shop done before the battery needed replacing or before WenYu went hiking – it would have been a real mess if it had died in the Costco parking lot when we had frozen and cold food to get home, or if WenYu and her friend were up at the end of the highway on the north side of the island. I got in all my bike rides this week except for Thursday, when I only did the evening ride – it was just too hot in the afternoon. I did walk around Costco for nearly 45 minutes though, pushing a heavy cart – does that count? I drank all my water, and did my language study every day. I’m into the second level, but it’s slow going. I earned all my Swagbucks’ first goals, and the second goal on three days, which will really bump up my end-of-the-month bonus.
  • Looking forward to next week: YaYu arrives home from her China trip on Thursday, and we’re all excited to have her home and hear about her experiences. She has been having a great time, but says one girl in the group has been causing a lot of drama, whatever that means.
  • Reporting Gains and Losses: Since it’s the end of the month I tallied up our travel savings for the month: We put away $666.31, and our savings total is now $3781.23. We’re at the halfway point for the year, and are $281.23 over where we need to be to reach our goal. Yeah us! I lost another pound this month, and am thrilled because I’m not getting as much exercise because of the heat, and the humidity is causing quite a bit of water retention as well.

    Sweet, juicy lychee

  • Thinking of good things that happened: My 50,000 bonus miles are now in my Hawaiian Miles account, thanks to some special help from the Hawaiian Airlines finance center – yeah! So glad that ordeal is over, and I have only good things to say about Hawaiian’s customer service. California peaches have arrived at Costco! We look forward to them every year, and they are juicy and delicious (and ripe). We also bought melons and lots of other fruit, and mangoes, papayas and sweet, juicy lychees at the farmers’ market. I adore summer fruits, and love that I can eat my fill right now.
  • Grateful for: This last week I’ve been reflecting on how much I love to read. My grandmother read with me when I was little, before I even learned to read, and I had teachers all through K-12 and college who encouraged and rewarded reading, whether fiction or non-fiction. Reading has and continues to expose me to the human condition and experience in all its many forms and permutations. A love of reading can never be taken away. And, as I told my students and my children, good readers make good writers. I’m so thankful for all the many people who fostered and encouraged my love for the written word, in any form!
  • Bonus question: Do you ever read the end of book first so you know how it all turns out? I’ve never read the end of a book first, but I do sometimes look to see how TV shows or series end – it depends on the show. For example, I like to see ahead of time who wins the title of “Top Chef” when I begin a new season and then follow their progress throughout the season (without knowing how they do in each episode or challenge). For me, it just makes the show more interesting, and doesn’t detract from the other contestants’ efforts. But, I can’t imagine ever looking ahead in a book.

That’s a wrap for this week! I hope all my readers had a great week as well, and I’ll be back in a few days!

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Five Frugal Things 6/23/2017

It was a good week for the change/$1 bill jar!

  1. Even though we’ve added WenYu back into the household, and have had to water the lawn a few days this month, we’ve all been careful about our water use, and there was no increase in this month’s bill.
  2. Our  propane tank gets a fill-up every three months. Previous refills have been over $300, but we’ve also been watching our gas usage, and this month’s refill was only $175. We use gas for our (on demand) hot water, stove/oven, and dryer.
  3. Rather than throw it out, we combined the seasonings that were left in the bottom of the otherwise empty yellow rice container with regular rice – no waste, and we almost couldn’t tell the difference.
  4. We had to buy a 12-pack of paper towels at Costco this week but it should last for a while – the last package we bought lasted for over 18 months. We mostly use rags and old towels instead of paper.
  5. We put $31.67 in our change/$1 bill jar: $18.48 after purchasing Brett’s Father’s Day treats; $1.40 was the change from Monday’s lunch; we had $7.00 left over from the farmers’ market; and $4.79 in change from our monthly big shop. Three $5 bills were set aside this week.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

#Kauai: The Moalepe Trail (Part 1)

 

The Moalepe (chicken comb) Trail, located on Kauai’s east side, follows the old Moalepe Road from the continuation of Olohena Road beyond Waipouli (dark water) Road. The trail goes across Moalepe Ridge to a footbridge over the headwaters of Ōpaekaʻa (rolling shrimp) Stream, which serves as the dividing line between Moalepe and Kuilau Trails.

The first half of the trail is more of a road through fields, but eventually transitions to a true trail as it gains elevation. Wildflowers bloom almost year-round along this trail. The six- to eight-foot yellow giants below (which have long defied my limited ability to identify them) stand behind the parking area across from the trailhead.

Unidentified yellow flowers, 6-8 feet tall

Flowers gone wild

Smaller flowers that lie along both sides of the trail, as well as up the center strip, fall into the weed category, but are nonetheless quite pretty in bloom. If anyone can identify these two ankle-high weeds, or the giant yellow flowers above, I and maybe many others would be delighted.

 

Orchids are chief among the easily identifiable delights in the first mile of this little hike. First, within a quarter-mile of the trailhead is the Bamboo Orchid, Arundina graminifolia.

 

In late spring/early summer, strawberry guava (psidium cattleianum) blooms, and the first fruits appear in mid to late summer. Strawberry guava are edible, but hikers are asked not to spit seeds on the ground as it’s an invasive species that consumes one-third of the rainfall and upland mists on which Kaua’i depends for drinking water.

Strawberry Guava

Strawberry Guava

At about the half-mile marker, there’s a less problematic, and sweeter fruit growing low to the ground. This little briar was introduced to the island, but is not as invasive as the strawberry guava or Malaysian blackberry, and the fruit is more scarce.

 

Hikers may also encounter a second orchid variety between half-mile and three-quarter-mile markers, the Philippine ground orchid (Spathoglottis plicata).

 

On one hike I blundered onto this gorgeous specimen of the hau (hibiscus tiliaceus), The blossoms of the hau tree transition daily from yellow in daylight to crimson by night. This flower below obviously missed the roosters’ call.

Blushing hau blossom

Another of the dazzling, low growing weeds that often fills in between and beneath others is variously called whiteweed or flossflower (Ageratum spp). As shown below, it’s white in the bud and varies from blue to lavender after it opens. Similar to the story of the ugly duckling, what begins as a common weed becomes a flower in maturity.

 

Owing to a rapid change in the weather, I was only able to complete half a hike on my last trip to Moalepe, but captured the change just beyond the one mile marker. This is approximately where the road truly becomes trail as one leaves pastureland behind and enters the Kealia Forest Reserve.

 

Stay tuned for Moalepe Trail (Part 2) which will show off the other half of this gentle hike.

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This Week’s Menu: Zoodles & Snacks

Oodles of zoodles roasted, cut, cooled and ready for our salad!

First, a quick review of the spiralizer I bought: I love it! After researching many spiralizers, I chose the Oxo Goodgrips handheld tool for both cost ($14.95) and packability – it can fit right into our suitcase whenever we travel and have the opportunity to prepare some of our own meals. The blades are very sharp, so it made quick work of several zucchini, a carrot and a cucumber. It was also very easy to clean, and takes up almost no room in the cupboard. I’m looking forward to spiralizing again and again with my simple little green machine!

The Oxo Good Grips handheld spiralizer

While Brett is more of a “grazer,” throughout the day, with small bites of a variety of things, I am not all that big on snacking. Still, I do get hungry in between meals and once I went low-carb I had to completely rethink what I could have for snacks. It was initially a bit difficult to come up with ideas as I didn’t want to load up on cheese or other high fat/high cholesterol foods, and I knew if I also didn’t develop some sort of variety I would be doomed. Also, lots of low carb, healthy alternatives, like nuts, were expensive, and because I already eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, more of those as snacks didn’t seem very appetizing or satisfying. Initially snacks consisted of two, sometimes three, spoonfuls of peanut butter every day, just because I love it. Through some trial and error, these days I’m enjoying a better variety of snacks while keeping costs down:

  • Nuts: Unsalted cashews are my favorite, but I also like mixed nuts and macadamias. I have a couple of tablespoons of nuts every afternoon even though they’re expensive. Just a few though are very satisfying.
  • Peanut butter: I still love the stuff, but am down to one spoonful a day, usually before my evening exercise, for some energy.
  • Beef jerky: I eat the organic, plain variety from Costco – it’s chewy and even a small amount takes a while to eat so it’s satisfying. One bag lasts for almost a month.
  • Fruit: I eat fruit at both breakfast and lunch, and often for dessert in the evening, but my favorite “snack fruit” right now are frozen sweet dark cherries from Costco – they’re very satisfying, healthy (lots of antioxidants) and refreshing when it’s hot. I have between a half cup to a cup every day.

What are your favorite low-carb, low-starch snacks? I would love any and all suggestions!

In the meantime, here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Leftovers (it’s just Brett and me)
  • Wednesday: Club sandwiches with chicken; potato chips (I’ll have a salad with the chicken, tomatoes, cheese and bacon) – it’s just Brett and me at dinner
  • Thursday: Grilled lemon chicken; grilled vegetable skewers
  • Friday: Leftovers (just the two of us again)
  • Saturday: Chinese 3-color salad with chicken and zoodles (I can finally eat the whole salad!)
  • Sunday: Breakfast for dinner: pancakes; sausages; fruit (just sausage and fruit for me)
  • Monday: Slow cooker barbecue pulled pork sandwiches; coleslaw (no bread for me)

We’ll be getting lots of zucchini again at the farmers’ market, along with tomatoes, cucumbers, bananas, papayas, and mangoes. Broccoli has still been showing up, so I’d like to get some more of that as well.

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The Best Trip I Ever Took

One of the Bright Angel Lodge rim cabins at the Grand Canyon

Of all the trips I’ve taken in my life, one journey still stands out as the best ever: a family vacation to the Grand Canyon in the summer of 1964, when I was 12 years old.

The Super Chief

Instead of one of our family’s typical road trips, we instead took the Santa Fe Super Chief from Pasadena to Williams, Arizona and then changed to a local train to ride to Grand Canyon Village. We stayed at the park for five full days, in a cabin at the Bright Angel Lodge (The cabins are still there! It brought a rush of memories when I saw them last year). We hiked all over the park, together or in small groups, and went to all the ranger talks and other presentations. I saw my first elk and my first skunk, which crossed right in front of me one night as we walked back to our cabin (and scared the living daylights out of me). The highlight of the trip was the one-day ride to the bottom of the canyon and back along with my mom and older brother – an awe-inspiring and amazing (painful too – can you say saddle sore?) experience. We ate all our meals at the Bright Angel Lodge coffee shop or at another cafeteria in the park, which was heaven for me and my siblings.

Mules head down the Bright Angel trail into the canyon (mule rides no longer use this trail)

Whenever I think about that vacation, these are the things that make it stand out, and why it continues to be the most memorable and my favorite:

  • The destination was a surprise – we knew we were going on a vacation, but my Mom and Dad kept the location to themselves.
  • The train ride to the canyon and back was another surprise, and a very special treat for four kids who were used to (and sort of tired of) long road trips.
  • While our vacation was not what anyone would call “upscale,” it was very comfortable, and my parents made sure we never had to hear about meals, experiences, and even souvenirs being too expensive (which we often heard on other trips).

    The Bright Angel Lodge coffee shop in the 1960s.

  • My parents made sure we had unique experiences intrinsic to the Grand Canyon (such as the mule ride for me and my brother, and horseback riding for my younger sister and brother).
  • Unburdened from the constant need to organize us all, get us into the car and get from here to there, etc. both my mom and dad were more relaxed than on other trips. One of my favorite memories is my mom, who had studied under an expert in Southwest Indian jewelry while she was in graduate school, spending one-on-one time with me, showing me how to identify techniques and styles used by different tribes in their jewelry.

That vacation to the Grand Canyon, a place we had visited before and were to visit again, continues to influence how I plan our family’s travels now. Besides making sure the funds are in place so we can have the experiences we want (like staying at the El Tovar on our trip to the Grand Canyon last year, or taking the mule ride), I love to plan surprises and/or something unexpected during each trip, find interesting and memorable activities, and make sure Brett and I have as little “administrative duties” to do as possible so we can concentrate on family and the place we’re visiting. It’s those things that help make a trip great versus just good.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for that wonderful vacation – it’s still the best trip I’ve ever taken.

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Sunday Afternoon 6/18/2017

All dads deserve a break (this dad can sleep anywhere!)

Happy Father’s Day! WenYu and I got a special breakfast treat for Brett this morning, and tonight we’re fixing hamburgers and french fries, one of his favorite meals.

Believe it or not, the HawaiianMiles credit card saga still continues. Last week the 50,000 miles showed up in my credit card account along with the miles earned when I booked YaYu’s ticket to Oahu, but when I checked my HawaiianMiles account at the end of the week just the Oahu ticket purchase miles were transferred, and not the bonus miles. Le sigh. I went back and looked at my credit card statement to make sure they were there, and the statement said I was supposed to get 100,000 miles! I’m not counting on that many, but as soon as those miles show up in my account, I am done with the card. What a nightmare it’s been.

Both Brett and I are grieving for the sailors, and the families of those sailors, who died this past week on the USS Fitzgerald, when it was struck by another ship off of Japan. As a former navy spouse, I can tell you there is nothing worse than getting a call that there has been an accident (the navy has an incredible call tree that gets the word out to families very quickly). The navy is a a big, tight-knit family, and when any sailor is injured or killed it affects us all, whether we’re on active duty, retired, in the reserves, or just a family member. The families and shipmates of those killed will be enveloped in care, and looked after long after the incident has been forgotten by most. We’re also thinking good thoughts for the sailors who were injured, but saved and evacuated, and who are recovering in the Yokosuka Naval Hospital.

The wacky, hot weather continued into this past week but by the end of the week sanity had returned. We had not one, but two BIG thunderstorms pass over us – they’re very rare here – and of course, as the storms were approaching, the humidity built up to near intolerable levels. But, after the storms the trade winds returned along with cooler temperatures and we’ve had normal June temperatures for the past few days. I’m still concerned that we might be in for a very unpleasant late summer/early fall – some of the weather we’ve been having so far this summer is more usual for later, and to get it so early in the summer is somewhat unsettling.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I am still working my way through Raven Black, and enjoying it immensely. The book was turned into one of the episodes on the TV series, Shetland, but while I remember the names in the story I don’t remember how it turned out or who committed the murder. A second book by the same author just came off of hold, so I’ll be right on to that after I finish Raven Black.
  • Listening to: It’s a pretty quiet morning around here. WenYu is getting ready to go to work, Brett it doing something outside, but otherwise there’s nothing going on. There are a few birds singing (and no chickens screaming, thank you!) but it’s slightly overcast and cool so they may all be elsewhere. The laundry will be starting shortly though, and there goes the peace and quiet!
  • Watching: Brett and I finished watching The Returned – there was only one season (10 episodes) and unfortunately there was no resolution to the story. It was as creepy as we imagined, so we were disappointed there wasn’t more. This past weekend we paid homage to Queen Elizabeth: on Friday we watched The Queen at 90, a wonderful documentary on Netflix, and on Saturday we watched Helen Mirren’s award-winning performance of Queen Elizabeth in The Queen, one of my favorite movies (also on Netflix. The Great British Baking Show is back with a new season on PBS, and Granchester, with its “dishy vicar,” is back as well!
  • Cooking/baking: We’re having grilled hamburgers tonight, along with french fries for Brett and WenYu. WenYu and I got Brett some pastries and sausages for breakfast, and a special treat for dessert (I’ll be having fruit).

    Lots of stuff to check off before we can go . . .

  • Happy I accomplished this last week: We used the spiralizer for the first time, and all of us loved our first dish, a cold salad with a peanut-sesame dressing. I see lots of zoodles in our future! Brett and I collaborated on a set of cards with all of the things (for now) that we need to take care of for the BIG Mystery Adventure™ – they’re hanging in the hallway so we’ll see them every day. We’re both looking forward to getting started with checking things off, but that will start later. With the heat and humidity it’s been hard to keep up with the housework and cleaning, but I’ve gotten it all done even when I really didn’t feel like it. I got in two bike rides a day except for last Sunday (which was unbearably hot and humid), drank all my water, and did 10 minutes of language study every day. I made my first goal on Swagbucks every day except for three where I also made the second higher goal. There are days I log on to Swagbucks and say to myself, “I don’t know if I can do this again” and yet a couple of episodes of Top Chef later I’ve made my goal.
  • Looking forward to next week: Brett and I will be doing our monthly big shop on Thursday, but once again, our calendar is pretty much empty (which I have to admit is fine with me). WenYu is working every day but Monday, but she is really making some money. I see a beach trip or two in our future if the weather stays nice.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The weather returning to normal was a very good thing. We got YaYu packed and off on her trip to China – the group arrived safely and she has texted to let us know she’s having a wonderful time. Yeah!

    Where did the time go, and how did it go so fast?

  • Grateful for: I am so happy and thankful that WenYu is here with us this summer, and that she’s found a great job and is making good money (she dropped the second job – it was just too much). Meiling and YaYu have similar temperaments and clash quite a bit, but WenYu is very calm and even tempered and gets along with both of them – her nickname is “Her Serene Highness.” She’s always good company and willing to try something new. Even when she goes back to her room she entertains us with beautiful music on her guitar. She rarely gets to be the “only” so Brett and I are taking her out to lunch tomorrow as a treat.
  • Bonus question: What’s the best road food you’ve ever had? I’ve had lots of good meals on the road, but back when both Brett and I were in the navy, he was stationed as an instructor at NAS Memphis (in Millington, TN), and I was stationed at NAS Pensacola, operating a flight trainer for upcoming naval flight officers. We were considered to be in the same geographical location (less than 500 miles apart), so we did a lot of driving between our two duty stations, through Mississippi, Alabama and into Pensacola. Neither of us can remember now where it was, but we stopped once at a small diner in a small town in Mississippi, and I had the most unbelievably delicious meal of chicken-fried steak with mashed potatoes, gravy, greens, and biscuits. It was heaven on a plate. We never had a chance to stop there again, but that meal was the stuff of legends. I’d actually never had chicken-fried steak before that, and it quickly became one of my all-time favorite dishes, although nothing I’ve had since has matched that meal. I wish I could remember the name of the little town, and wonder if that restaurant is still there.

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

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Five Frugal Things 6/16/2016

Costco is calling us once again . . .

  1. Although we won’t be doing our monthly big shop until next week, we’ve already made our list, so that we have plenty of time to get it right, and not forget anything (like we did last month) or buy something we really don’t need.
  2. I had a moment of panic on Monday evening when Brett couldn’t get the newly-filled propane tank for our barbecue to open (the valve on the tank was broken), and we couldn’t grill the chicken and vegetable skewers I had made. All of us were feeling very hot, tired and frazzled, and my first thought was that we were just going to have to go out for dinner because there were no leftovers and we had nothing ready for back up. But, I took a deep breath, went through the fridge and pantry to see what I could find, and the girls ended up making the pad thai that was scheduled for Tuesday. We enjoyed the chicken skewers the next day.
  3. Rather than throw away a pair of linen slacks in otherwise good condition because the elastic in the waistband is shot (and not able to be repaired – I tried), I decided to pin the waistband to fit with a safety pin so I can hopefully squeeze several more weeks of wear from them.
  4. We did “everyday frugal” all week: dried the laundry in the sun, didn’t throw away any food, cooked and ate all our meals at home, drank filtered tap water, made homemade sun tea, washed out and reused plastic bags, recycled, etc.
  5. We put $23.76 in the change/$1 bill jar this week: $9.41 was left over from filling the barbecue’s propane tank, $3.35 from recycling, and we had $11.00 left over from the farmers’ market.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

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Nine Tourist “Tells”

Kaua’i welcomes tourists with open arms and aloha. We know we live in a very special, very beautiful place, and that people spend lots of money to come here to experience the island, even if it’s just for a week. We want all our visitors to have a positive experience, and make wonderful memories.

After three years here, I’m still taken for a tourist now and then. I’m pale and pretty much look like I just stepped off the plane from the mainland (I don’t tan, and also have to watch how much time I spend in the sun). Brett has a nice tan, but we’re still occasionally asked where we’re visiting from, or how long we’re staying. However, more often than not these days we’re recognized as kamaaina (residents).

Being a pale haole (white) is not something that automatically marks someone as a tourist though as whites make up over 30% of the island’s population, and not all have a tan. What does make visitors stand out from locals are their actions and behavior, which are often markedly in contrast to local culture and customs, and are the equivalent of carrying a sign saying “I am a tourist.”

Here are the tourist “tells” our family came up with. The hardest part was admitting that we did some of these things too once upon a time:

  1. In a hurry. The island pace of life is slower than it is on the mainland, so when someone’s in a hurry, there’s a better than good chance he or she is a tourist. We get that people are only here for a week or so and want to see and do it all, but slowing down lets you experience one of the things that makes life in Hawai’i so special.
  2. Traveling in packs, and being loud. Visitors almost always come here with family and friends, and we understand that they want to spend time together, but moving in a pack on the sidewalk or through stores and making everyone else move is not cool. Also, people in Hawai’i generally talk softly, so loud voices really stands out.
  3. Pronouncing the name of the island “Kow-ee.” It’s Kah-wah-ee. We’ve been genuinely shocked by how many times we’ve heard the first pronunciation.
  4. Too dressed up or matchy-matchy. Kaua’i is casual. When we see someone with lots of jewelry, or a perfectly coordinated outfit, chances are very good they’re a tourist.
  5. Wearing expensive sport sandals: Slippahs (flip flops) are the name of the game here, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wearing cheap slippahs either.
  6. Not using the crosswalks. Year-round, we typically have to stop two or three times on every trip through Kapaa for tourists who can’t be bothered to walk a few feet down to the crosswalk, where we and every other local driver would stop when they see them waiting to cross (see “In a hurry”).
  7. Not slowing down to let people turn into the highway or make a left turn. We have one mostly two-lane highway around the island, and in cities like Kapaa or Lihue it can be hard at times to turn into the highway from businesses along the road, or to make a left turn, depending on the traffic. There aren’t many stoplights or stop signs on the highway either. Local drivers will often slow down or stop to let someone make a turn or come onto the highway. Maybe visitors don’t know that letting someone in might earn them a shaka!
  8. Costco carts loaded with big bottles of liquor, wine and/or beer. We understand that visitors don’t want to have to drive to Costco from Princeville or Poipu more than once while they’re here, but having enough liquor in their cart to open their own store is a dead giveaway they’re not from around here, even if they are wearing a DejaVu surf shirt and already have a tan.
  9. Driving a convertible or a shiny new Jeep. This is probably the number one indicator that someone is a tourist. Locals don’t drive convertibles, and very, very few drive new Jeeps. There’s a reason these two cars are broken into more often than any other type of car on the island.

We were guilty of a few of these on our first trip to the island, although we’ve never mispronounced Kaua’i, always use a crosswalk, and don’t buy tons of liquor. I’m not sure we’ve ever been accused of dressing too nicely either. We did drive a Jeep on our first trip though.

Again, we enjoy having tourists visit Kaua’i, and want them to have a wonderful time while they’re here, spend lots of money, and make wonderful memories. We’re not judging them either – honestly. But after being here for a while we have noticed that they self-identify pretty easily.

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