Five Frugal Things 8/18/2017

As usual, we did most of our big shop at Costco.

This week it’s mostly felt like all we did was hold the line . . .

  1. WenYu received an email on Tuesday from Hotmail letting her know that a scheduling problem had come up with her winter break itinerary. It took five tries and five different agents, but we finally got a new itinerary that worked for WenYu and did not involve any extra cost or inconvenience.
  2. There was a container of chicken broth in the refrigerator that needed to be used, so I put it in the slow cooker along with odds and ends of vegetables I found in the crisper and some chicken I found in the freezer, and we ended up with a delicious chicken soup instead of leftovers for our dinner this past weekend. No waste, and the fridge got a good clean out!
  3. We skated right up to the edge of our budget with the big shop, and were only able to get two of our planned stock-up items. We realize this is going to take a bit more work to get right. Still, we are well set for the rest of the month.
  4. We drank loads of filtered tap water and made pitchers of sun tea this past week. Both are refreshing, and don’t cost anything to make or enjoy.
  5. We put $7.29 into the change/$1 bill jar this week: $3.00 left over from the farmers’ market, $3.70 left after the big shop, and 59¢ that WenYu donated to the cause.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

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#Kaua’i: A Not-So-Pretty Parakeet

The rose-ringed parakeet

After enjoying a bumper crop of lychees two years ago, when farmers were practically giving them away, we thought last year’s crops were anemic. We figured it was just an off year, but this year’s lychee crop was even more pitiful. Same for lilikoi (passionfruit). We’ve learned recently though about an invasive species on Kaua’i that’s been attacking crops all over the island – the pretty little rose-ringed parakeet! These little birds now numbers in the thousands and are causing environmental and economic damage all around the Garden Island.

Normally not considered a nuisance bird, the parakeet population on Kaua’i has exploded in the past few years, becoming more than just a nuisance to farmers, gardeners and others in the neighborhoods where they roost. Kaua’i is not alone either – they’re also causing problems on Oahu.

A flock of parakeets flies over the island at dusk.

The parakeet population is estimated to be around 5,000 on Kaua’i, and is growing exponentially. Believe it or not, the current horde started when two of the pretty birds were imported to the island by the owner of a B&B in Lawai, on the south side of the island, and escaped into the wild in 1968 and started a family. They’ve been a “slow invader,” and up until recently the birds were considered an entertaining novelty, especially when the bright green flocks would swoop into the trees at dusk. In the past couple of years however the population has reached what is called “critical mass” and unless steps are taken the number of parakeets will continue to expand at an increasingly faster and faster rate.

All these parakeets need to eat, and they have been going after fruit crops around the island with a vengeance, particularly lychee and longan trees. However, no fruit is safe from them. Although the birds are small, a flock of them, armed with their sharp, hooked beaks, can strip a large fruit tree in a day or overnight, whether that’s lychees or tangerines or bananas. They have also gone after the seed corn crops grown on the west side, and have been eating unripe lilikoi on the vine, damaging that crop. They primarily tend to flock at the tops of trees though, and besides eating the best fruit at the top they defecate on fruit below, contaminating it so that it’s unable to be sold or eaten. It’s the same for other fruits and vegetables in any area where they flock. Farmers have reported losing as much as a 30% of their fruit crops last year because of the parakeets.

The birds have also become a nuisance to condo and home owners. Once thought to be pretty, intelligent and interesting, the increasingly larger flocks of parakeets leave a mess in their wake, sometimes covering an entire property in droppings overnight. The flocks can also be incredibly noisy. The parakeets also have the potential to cause disturbing environmental damage. For now they are eating and roosting in the island lowlands, but as their population grows it’s feared they will begin moving to higher elevations, driving out native species of birds and other animals.

Kaua’i farmers are having to cover crops with netting to protect them from the marauding parakeets.

Farmers have tried to protect their crops but their efforts have either been ineffective against the parakeet hoards, or cumbersome and difficult, such as covering trees or plants with netting. Condo owners have butchered palm trees in an effort to keep the parakeet swarms away from their property. The rose-ringed parakeet has been labeled as an invasive species, and farmers and other stakeholders are now collaborating with county, state and federal agencies to try to stop their spread. The fear is that left unchecked, the parakeet population on Kaua’i could reach 10,000 in the next five years, causing widespread crop destruction as well as other economic and environmental disasters.

I first heard about the parakeets from other residents shortly after we arrived, but until recently had never seen them. I’ve now seen flocks roost in the palm trees across the way several times, although they don’t stay for long – they’re apparently on their way to somewhere else. They are pretty to look at, and I hope a solution can be found soon that protects both the birds and farmers.

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This Week’s Menu: Stocking Up

Baked chili rellenos casserole, our Sunday egg dish.

Brett and I want to kick up our savings even more next year, and one budget area we’ve decided we’re comfortable cutting back a bit is food and toiletries. Although the budget seems tight at times now, and saving on food can be a challenge in Hawaii (to say the least), we believe that by being more strategic in our menu planning and with our shopping we can cut back our monthly spending by around another $100 (we currently budget $500/month for food and toiletries.

To that end, we’re going to begin stocking up on certain pantry and freezer items until the end of the year, things that get used or eaten (more) frequently and that we know will keep for a while. I don’t say that lightly because the humidity here can be pervasive – things like potato chips or crackers or cereal that are sealed in bags can lose their crisp in a couple of months if exposed to the humidity. We don’t have a lot of extra space for storage inside, but enough that we can put a few things away, and items in jars or plastic containers can be kept outside in the garage.

Buying extras now with our current budget will mean that we can spend less next year. It won’t be a lot, but every little bit will help make it easier to save. To that end, items on our Costco stock-up list this month include but are not limited to a case of ramen, extra peanut butter, an extra container or two of nuts, and we’ll get a second container of fabric softener, and extra shampoo from Walmart. We’ll see how things total up this month, and decide if we can maybe get more. During our November and December shops is when we’ll get the things we can keep in the freezer.

Here’s to saving more next year!

Here’s our menu for this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Slow cooker stuffing with chicken;  (I am going to have 1/4 cup of stuffing, but mostly chicken); grilled zucchini
  • Wednesday: Ginger pork sandwiches; coleslaw (no bread for me)
  • Thursday: Teriyaki chicken meatball skewers with peppers; steamed rice; cucumbers (no rice for me)
  • Friday: Leftovers
  • Saturday: Grilled beef Polish sausages; sauerkraut; pilaf (I’m skipping the pilaf)
  • Sunday: Baked chili rellenos; yellow rice; cucumber salad (no rice for me)
  • Monday: Panzanella with beans and cheese (bumped from last week – I’m substituting zucchini for the bread in my portion)

We’ll be getting more cucumbers from the farmers’ market, and zucchini if we can find it. Farmer’s are apparently having a hard time with zucchini right now – the flowers are rotting before the squash can set. I also hope we can get some corn, but otherwise we’ll be buying fruit.

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One Year To Go!

Just a little over a year from now YaYu will be going off to college, and after we have her settled Brett and I will be setting out on our Big Mystery Adventure™.

One year to go! While we’re on track financially and otherwise right now, there is still much to be done, and as we have learned from past experience time is going to fly by, not just because we are going somewhere, but because we have goals to accomplish and a deadline to meet, along with so much going on around us.

As exciting as the thought upcoming travel is, getting YaYu through her senior year, helping her get her college and scholarship applications finished and sent off in time, getting her to practices, meets and testing on time, and guiding her to the eventual soft landing of graduation next May is our main priority, and is going to keep us very involved and busy.

We also have to get through the holidays, and next year’s birthdays, which come right after Christmas. We’ve already met our savings goal for Christmas, and bought our college girls their tickets home, but whether our son and family will be joining us this year remains up in the air. Our son has said if they don’t come for Christmas, then they should be here for spring break next year. It’s always busy and crazy and expensive when the whole family is together, but we wouldn’t have it any other way!

The only “unknown” right now is if we’ll be able to renew our lease this fall. Our landlord has told Brett several times that we are welcome to stay in this house as long as we like, and so Brett’s not worried about this at all. However, our landlord is terminally ill, and depending on how that plays out things could change, so I admit to being a tiny bit nervous. We’re going to ask at the beginning of next month about renewal (our current one expires at the end of October) because if there is going to be a change we need a couple of months notice to start looking for a new place and all that entails.

During this coming year there is going to be a lot more saving to do, as well as plans to finalize, reservations to be made, clothes and other necessary items to buy, and so forth. The schedule for all of this will pick up after the first of the year, but time will be moving even faster at that point. We can’t start making actual reservations until we know where YaYu will be going to school, and when she has to be there, but we should have that information no later than the end of March next year.

At the end of all of this though Brett and I will be taking a BIG, wonderful trip. Just one year to go – I almost can’t believe it!

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Sunday Afternoon 8/13/2017

It’s been a nice week here at Casa Aloha, in spite of the weather. It has been hot, hot, hot and HUMID. I had my teeth cleaned this past week, and the hygienist, who has lived on Kaua’i for nearly 40 years, said she too is afraid that next month we’re going to get a repeat of what we experienced three years ago, where the humidity settled in and the trade winds stopped. She said it’s the first year she’s finally thought about getting an air conditioner. It does feel a bit like the whole island is holding its breath, and willing the trades to continue. One reason it’s been so hot for us is that our house really is not situated well to catch the breezes. We’re blocked on two sides by a hill and the windows are on the wrong sides of the house, so unless the breezes are quite strong they don’t flow through like they might otherwise. We are so thankful though for the lanai, where we can escape when it gets uncomfortably warm inside.

Although I whine about the weather all the time, one upside this year is that it’s greatly tamped down my appetite. I’m having no trouble at all keeping my intake between 1000 – 1200 calories per day. And, I’m eating a LOT more fruit and vegetables these days, another good thing.

WenYu told us this week she has a boyfriend! We learned about him when she revealed he would be picking her up from the airport when she goes back to Massachusetts at the end of the month. I asked her why she had never mentioned him before, and apparently somewhere along the way she had gotten an idea that we wanted her to “live like a nun” while she was at college. LOL! Nope – our only “rules” for our kids when they are at college are 1) don’t get pregnant (or get someone pregnant); and 2) graduate. Otherwise, they’re adults, they’re paying their own way, and we have to let them make their own decisions and live with them. We have no expectations that this is the romance of the century or anything, but for now she’s happy and that’s enough for us.

The last “first day” – YaYu is a senior!

YaYu’s first week of school went well and she’s already settled in. Her first day of school was bittersweet for us – it was her last “first day,” but the last one for Brett and I as well. We’ve had “first days” with the girls for the past 17 years, and I can close my eyes and remember what each of them was wearing for their first day of kindergarten! Where did the time go, and how did it go so fast?

Today I am:

  • Reading: I just started Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin. It’s the first of the John Rebus series, and I’ve decided to read them all again. Of all the mysteries/procedurals I’ve read over the years, Rebus remains my favorite detective. I also love that Rankin puts the city of Edinburgh on equal footing with any of the main characters.
  • Listening to: Nothing right now – it’s very quiet. The girls are back in their room, and Brett is out on his daily walk/hike. There are a few birds singing outside, and the breeze is blowing through the trees, but otherwise it’s very still. I’m going to start the washing machine in a few minutes, but for now the peace and quiet is lovely.
  • Watching: We’re into Season 3 now of American Crime, which is the last. It’s been a provocative show, and the character development superb. There’s a new season of Hinterland available so we’ll watch that next, and then we plan to dip our toes into Game of Thrones. I will finish up all the available episodes of Lewis this week, so am going to have to find something new to watch at night. Because of that show I am now more determined than ever to visit Oxford (also known as the Murder Capital of the Western World).
  • Cooking/baking: Because of the girls’ crazy schedules this week, we had our scrambled eggs and bacon dinner on Friday, and tonight we’re having cheeseburgers along with some fried okra. Their schedule also got in the way of the barbecue pulled pork, so we’ll be having it tomorrow. I may try and bake an orange cake today now that the oven is working again.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I got through my semi-annual dental exam with no cavities or problems. I greatly dislike going to the dentist (previous trauma) even though I like the hygienists, staff and doctor here, I’m always glad when that’s over for at least another six months. In spite of the heat and humidity I still was able to get in my daily bike ride, and I drank my daily water allotment and studied my language every day for at least 10 minutes. I also made my first goal with Swagbucks every day this past week, the key to earning bonus points at the end of each month.
  • Looking forward to next week: It’s big shop week again – an event I both look forward to and dread – Brett and I will be doing that on Thursday and Friday. This month there’s a lot less on our list than last month, so hopefully we’ll see some savings.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: After Thursday’s post about my shabby, too-big pants, I tried on the smaller sized ones again and three more pairs now fit! So, the shabby pants are being set aside. I loved finding out about WenYu’s boyfriend – I’m really, really happy for her. The oven repairs were finished on Friday so we can bake once again, although that will be limited for a while because of the heat.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I saw the dentist this week, and I’m so grateful we have dental insurance that keeps our care affordable, especially since Brett is getting a new crown and some other issues taken care of. Dental health is an important component of all-over health, and we’re lucky to be able to get affordable (but not free) insurance through the military healthcare system. The girls also remain covered as long as they’re in college.
  • Bonus question: Have you ever broken any bones or had surgery? OMG, yes. I was the kid in our family that was always getting messed up and having to go to the emergency room. I can’t remember how many stitches I had by the time I went to high school, but it was a LOT. I’ve actually only broken bones twice though, and both times involved stairs. I fell down once and broke a toe (very painful), and in 1999 I tripped over the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs and shattered my kneecap into five pieces. I am very, very grateful today that I can walk and don’t need a knee repair, but there are still things I cannot do (like run), and going down stairs or hills will always be difficult – it’s the main reason I don’t hike with Brett these days. I also fell down the stairs once and tore the ligaments in my ankle – the doctor told me my ankle would have healed faster if I’d broken it, but I’m glad I didn’t. As for surgeries, I’ve had six, beginning with having my tonsils removed at age three, and I’ve also had an appendectomy (16), a hysterectomy (28), and my knee repaired in 1999. My last surgeries were in 2013, when I had both feet operated on to remove bunions. I sincerely hope those were the last I ever have to have!

That’s a wrap for this week at Casa Aloha. How was your week? How’s the weather where you are? What good things happened for you?

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Five Frugal Things 8/11/2017

Fried okra

  1. Eddie Bauer had a 40% off sale last weekend, so we went ahead and bought YaYu her suitcases for college next year. She already has a small rolling duffel, so we bought the extra large and medium size duffles to complete the set. Full price for the two additional pieces was $478, but with the discount we paid $286.80, a savings of $191.20. Shipping was free.
  2. Our favorite farmer gave us a bundle of okra this week when we bought our other produce – I’m going to make fried okra tomorrow to go with our cheeseburgers, and will save the onion rings for later.
  3. I realized we did not have cashews for Thursday’s chicken dish, or cornmeal for tomorrow’s fried okra. Rather than change the menu, buy a package of cornmeal that might spoil before we used it again, or buy an expensive container of cashews, Brett stopped at the natural foods store when he was running errands on Thursday and bought just the amount needed of each from the bulk bins – total cost: $2.16.
  4. Three days this past week WenYu was given burritos from the restaurant where she works to bring home, each a $14.95 value. They had been made for someone else but not needed, and were offered to her at the end of her shift. YaYu took one for lunch on Wednesday, and has another one in her lunch today. Brett ate the third one for lunch over the past two days.
  5. We put $21.02 into the change/$1 bill jar. Although we got back $23.18 total – $7.09 from a return we did at Costco, $9.76 change from our cable bill, $2.73 from recycling, $3.50 from the farmers’ market, and 10¢ found on the ground – Brett spent $2.16 of the change on the cornmeal and cashews.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

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Coming Apart At the Seams

That would be my clothes, not me. They are quite literally starting to fall apart on me.

I am still wearing, for the most part, the clothes that I brought over with me to Kaua’i in 2014, and some of the pieces are more than five years old. They have been worn day in and day out for all these years – they don’t get put away here for a few months like they did back on the mainland in exchange for a fall/winter wardrobe. The elastic is wearing out or worn out on a couple of pairs of the linen capris I wear, the fabric is getting thin, and even outright disintegrated in one case. To tell the truth, I am beginning to look somewhat shabby, although that’s not a big deal here on the island. Thankfully no one here really cares what you’re wearing.

I do have several pairs of smaller-sized pants waiting for me, if I can somehow get rid of a few more extra pounds. I’m getting close, but am not quite there yet. In the meantime my current everyday linen pants that are still wearable have become very baggy and look more and more like something a clown would wear (although they are very comfortable).

So, why not buy some new things? Why not go to a thrift store and see if I can find some pants to tide me over until I can get into my smaller-sized wardrobe?

Money isn’t the issue, but there are things I have to get before we travel next year, like walking shoes and such, and I’d rather save my money to purchase those items. And, because we’re trying to save as much as possible anyway this year, I’m having a hard time justifying an expenditure on what would be for the most part “temporary” clothing.

So, I’m currently in a frustrating in-between spot where I know there are nicer thing waiting for me if I can hold out another two or three more months, and where I hope that what I have left to wear now doesn’t completely fall to pieces before I can get into those smaller items. It’s very much a first-world problem, but I do feel like things are (literally) falling apart around me.

An added note: My smaller pants are just one size smaller than I am wearing now! I can get most of them on but they are tight. I just want my current pants to last until I can comfortably wear the smaller size (all eight pairs of them). I’m willing to be a bit shabby at times rather than buy pants that I won’t need in two or three more months!

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This Week’s Menu: School Lunches & Leftovers

There will be leftovers: Black pepper chicken with mango, rum and cashews

All of my children have always taken lunch from home rather than buy it at their school cafeteria. We’ve always offered the option of purchasing meals at school at least once a week, but they’ve all said that what they bring from home is far better than what they could ever get from school (which was not always true – I worked in a school kitchen for over a year when we lived in Portland, and plenty of the food was very tasty and nutritious, especially from the salad bar).

So, with YaYu heading back to school this week, we’re back to not only figuring out what’s for dinner, but what to put into her lunch each day, because she absolutely refuses to eat the food they put out at her school. She is a big eater too, especially because of her involvement in sports, so menu planning now has to go beyond “what’s for dinner.”

All our kids have thankfully always been willing to take leftovers for lunch, so with that in mind our dinners going forward will be ones that will either create leftovers, or make enough to set some aside for YaYu’s lunch. If we don’t have leftovers, we have things like chicken flautas, or macaroni and cheese that we can fix for her. She has a Thermos to carry hot food, so Brett heats the leftovers in the morning and along with some fruit and a snack, she’s good to go.

We keep things as green as possible too when it comes to lunches: YaYu has a stainless steel container for the occasional sandwich, carries stainless steel cutlery from Goodwill or reusable bamboo chopsticks, we tuck in a cloth napkin, and she’ll get a third year of use out of her lunch bag this year. She also carries a 32-oz Hydroflask water bottle (that she won in a contest!) along with her for water throughout the school day, and that she refills at school for after school hydration.

We actually didn’t use leftovers for her lunch today – I made inari zushi (seasoned rice in fried tofu pouches), a special treat, and we included a fresh peach, a Choco-Pie for something sweet, and a Lara bar for her afternoon snack.

Here’s what we’re having for dinner this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Spaghetti w/meatballs & marinara; garlic toast; grilled zucchini (I’ll have my meatballs and sauce over the zucchini)
  • Wednesday: Slow cooker barbecue pulled pork sandwiches; coleslaw (no bread for me)
  • Thursday:  Black pepper chicken thighs with mango, rum and cashews; steamed rice; cucumbers (I’m skipping the rice)
  • Friday: Leftovers
  • Saturday: Cheeseburgers; onion rings; wilted cucumber salad (so sad – no onion rings for me!)
  • Sunday: Scrambled eggs; bacon; toast; fruit (no toast for me)
  • Monday: Panzanella (bread salad) with garbanzo beans & feta cheese (I’m substituting lightly steamed zucchini for the bread)

We’ll need lots of cucumbers from the farmer’s market this week, as well as tomatoes, but otherwise we’ll be getting fruit as we have everything else on hand.

(photo credit: Andrew Scrivani at the New York Times)

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To Disney or Not To Disney

The mere mention of the word “Disney” can set many travel aficionados’ teeth on edge, but I confess to being a Disney fan, and our family has made several trips over the years to the parks, and had a wonderful visit each time. I grew up approximately 45 minutes away from Disneyland in California, went for the first time just three months after it opened in 1955, and visited many, many other times with my family, with friends when I was a teenager, and with Brett and our son when he was a toddler. Brett and I have also visited Disney World with our son and the girls several times – it was often easier to find cheaper round-trip airfares to Orlando from Portland than to Los Angeles. And, Brett and I have been to Tokyo Disneyland as well, which was an interesting experience. It was Disney with many similar rides, etc. and yet it was still so different. We’ve never taken a Disney cruise, nor have we visited the Disney parks in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Paris, so I can’t (and won’t) speak to those experiences.

Admission to Disneyland plus 10 “E” tickets was only $4.50 in 1967.

I personally don’t understand all the animosity towards the Disney parks. I’ve heard many complain that a day at a Disney park is too expensive (the price for a one-day ticket currently ranges from $99 to $119 per person at Walt Disney World, depending on the time of year or day of the visit, but goes down the more days you visit), and a week’s vacation has the potential to cost several thousands of dollars. The parks’ intense focus on all things Disney, and the gift shops at the end of every ride can seem excessive and cloying. The food is expensive. It costs to park your car, etc. The biggest complaint I’ve heard though is that it’s just all so . . . fake.

What seems to often be forgotten is that the Disney parks are first and foremost amusement parks. They are amusement parks taken to the highest level, and ones where it may take more than a day to experience all that is offered, but like any other park anywhere there are rides, attractions, shops, places to eat, and so forth. Those country pavilions in Epcot are just areas offering a glimpse of a country, and not intended to substitute for and actual visit. Of course they’re fake. They’re in an amusement park.

Park visitors, especially those who try to drop in for a day’s visit, are often disappointed by the experience, starting with the expense. Especially if it’s their first visit (and it’s hot), the long lines for rides can be disconcerting or exasperating. The cost of food for a family can be exhorbitant, or there’s no seating to be had at restaurants. Many leave feeling discouraged and full of animosity toward Disney, claiming it’s a rip-off, and that they’re never returning.

What’s forgotten is the high cost of actually operating a park on the level and size of the Disney ones, the cost of paying the friendly employees, the cost of keeping the parks sparkling clean, the cost of all that electricity (did you know though that Disney World burns most of its trash to help provide much of its own power?), of paying vendors, etc. Quality costs, and if nothing else, Disney provides quality. And lots and lots of people want to have that experience.

Here are some things we learned over time to ensure that even a one-day visit to any of the parks is fun and memorable;

  • Do some research before you go!! I can’t emphasize this enough, even if you’re only planning to go for a day. There are whole guides devoted to visiting Disneyland or Disney World, and websites like AllEars.net or MouseSavers.com (among others) are full of good information and tips for how to get the most out of your visit. There’s a lot to see and do, and unless you’re planning to stay for longer than week, there’s no way to see it all, but with planning you can see and do more than you thought you could.
  • If you’re planning to visit for more than a day (and you really should, if you’re going to Walt Disney World), use a Disney-specific travel agent to arrange your stay. You can book your own visit on the Disney websites, but there’s no charge for the Disney-specific agents’ services, and they will make sure your entire vacation is special. They can help get you reservations at a Disney resort without busting your budget, get reservations at the extremely popular character meals or high-end restaurants, as well as arranging other perks. We used Small World Vacations more than once – their service was superb. I highly recommend staying on resort property if you can – there are many, many benefits that include free transportation to and from the airport, free luggage transport, free delivery of items purchased in the parks to your room, and best of all, early admission and late stays at different parks each day. You also have a convenient location to return to during the day for breaks (especially nice if you’re visiting with small children).
  • The portion sizes at the park counter-service restaurants are huge. We found that sharing three meals versus each person having their own provided more than enough food for our family of five, and saved us quite a bit of money. We always also brought in our own granola bars and bottled water to save on snacks (you’re allowed to bring in any food that does not require heating). We found that purchasing the meal plans at Disney World – available if you’re staying at a Disney hotel – also saved us quite a bit, and allowed us to eat at some places we might not have been able to enjoy otherwise (Tip: dinner on the outside patio at the British pub in Epcot was the best place to be for the evening firework show). There are healthy choices available at almost all restaurants, whether sit-down or counter service.
  • Become familiar with how fast passes work, and have a plan to get them as soon as you enter the park in the morning. If you are traveling with with teenagers or other adults, you can assign each person to a particular ride for passes, and then reconnect afterwards to get started on your day.
  • If you can’t get passes, take advantage of single rider lanes if they’re available – they move more quickly than the regular line. We used this feature as much as possible when the girls were older, but they were still almost always seated in pairs, and we always had a designated meeting spot outside for when everyone finished the ride. One time YaYu had to sit alone with another family, but agreed to go after the family promised us they would watch over her. They did, and got her safely to our meeting spot.
  • Be ready to go early in the morning, when the parks open. It takes a while for the crowds to build, but if you can be there when the parks open, and head straight toward your favorite ride(s) you’ll practically have the ride to yourself, sometimes two or three times, before the line begins to build.
  • The best Disney souvenirs are your own photos. Neither Brett nor I care for Disney-branded items, so we never really bought anything more than maybe a sweatshirt for the girls, but our solution for all the tempting gift shops was to give each child their own money at the beginning of the visit – they could spend it however they wished, on whatever they wished, but when it was gone, it was gone. They were not allowed to ask us to buy them anything. It was amazing how less tempting all those items in the shops became when they had to spend their “own” money.

None of us here at Casa Aloha has a desire to go to any of the Disney parks any more – that itch has been scratched. However, we had a more than wonderful time on each the trips we made to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, made memories that we still talk about now, and Brett and I feel the expense was well worth it, and my parents apparently did as well. If I had it to do over, I’d still take each of those vacations again – they were magical, for me when I was young, and for our own kids. My most precious Disney memory is of five year-old YaYu crying from happiness as we waited for the bus to take us to the airport to go home. She had been with our family, and home in the United States, for less than a year, and her early years in the orphanage had not allowed her to imagine that there was a place in the world that was so amazing and so much fun.

In my opinion, the key to enjoying and getting the most from any visit to a Disney park is remembering that it’s Disney, and that you’re visiting a very popular, high-end amusement park. If you can keep this in mind, and prepare yourself before you go, you won’t be disappointed, and you might be able to enjoy some of the fabulous features and special effects to be found throughout the parks. However, if you don’t like amusement parks, don’t like crowds, and haven’t prepared yourself for the expense or the experience, then you’ll probably end up very disappointed.

How do you feel about visiting the Disney Parks?

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Sunday Afternoon 8/6/2017

One of the water hazards at the mini golf course

And, another lazy summer week comes to a close. It’s been an OK week, with just one day of nearly unbearable humidity. Otherwise the trade winds have been blowing, and it although it’s been hot it’s been bearable. The mornings have all be especially lovely. Last Wednesday though the winds stopped for the day up here on the hill, and it felt like we were stuck inside a hot, wet blanket for the day. We spent a couple of lovely hours on the beach, which helped immensely.

Today is also the last day of this year’s summer break. YaYu heads back to school tomorrow, although her actual classes don’t begin until Tuesday. Tomorrow she’ll be volunteering and helping the incoming first-year students find their classrooms, etc. She got the schedule and classes she wants for this year, and is closing in on getting her main college application and essays done.

WenYu doesn’t head back to Massachusetts until the end of the month, but as the summer tourist season is still in full swing, she is staying busy at her job. She’s been happily surprised by how much money she is making this summer – she’ll leave the island in very good financial shape. The restaurant has already let her know that they should have hours for her when she’s home for winter break, and that they would like to train her as a server next summer!

The beach was perfect last Wednesday – we didn’t want to leave. Sometimes I still can’t believe we live less than five minutes away from this!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I just started Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedalia on Friday and of course have already caught myself laughing out loud several times. I’ve read many of his other books, but had somehow missed this one.
  • Listening to: The dryer is going across the room, but otherwise it’s lovely and quiet inside. As I’m writing this the neighbor across the street is having their septic tank emptied and the truck is VERY loud (and smelly). Hopefully this process won’t take too long.
  • Watching: Brett and I started Season 1 of American Crime this last week – yowza! The acting is superb, and the storyline has sparked some interesting discussions at the dinner table (the girls have already watched it – they were the ones to recommend we did too). I’m watching Inspector Lewis episodes while I work on Swagbucks at night, except last night WenYu and I watched Titanic. We got a good laugh over Netflix’s description of the film: “Distraught over her engagement to a cruel millionaire, a young woman falls for a struggling artist as they set sail across the Atlantic,” like they didn’t want to give away the ending or something.
  • Cooking/baking: Still no baking, but hopefully by the end of the week – the oven part is in and final repairs are scheduled for Friday. We’re all looking forward to having loco moco tonight. I know I will get critiques from both girls if my version doesn’t meet their high standards 😉, but I’m going to do my best. I won’t be having rice with mine – just the burger patty, egg and gravy.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We got YaYu’s luggage for next year ordered from Eddie Bauer – they were having a 40% off sale, so it was time to buy. She already has a carry-on bag, so we bought her the extra-large- and a medium-size suitcases. Other than riding the exercise bike every day, drinking eight glasses or more of water every day, and doing at least 10 minutes of language study, I don’t think I accomplished much of anything. When it’s as hot as it is now, I’m thrilled to get dinner on the table every evening, and the housework done.
  • Looking forward to next week: Both Brett and I want to get back to the beach at least one day. With the breeze it’s the perfect place to escape the heat and read and relax (especially if you’re under the umbrella like I am). With the kids all back in school I’m also looking forward to the neighborhood quieting down again. It’s been a noisy summer – the girl who lives across the street acquired a boyfriend with a very noisy truck, and he and his friends, who also all have noisy trucks, have been visiting all summer.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We all had such a good time playing mini golf last weekend, and it was free! The course looked deceptively simple, but it turned out to be rather difficult. Brett and YaYu turned out to be skilled mini-golfers; WenYu and I, not so much. We also were able to spend  a lovely afternoon at the beach on Thursday – one of the nicest days there I can remember.
  • Grateful for: I’ve been feeling very thankful lately for the people who not only continue to find what I have to say on this blog mildly interesting, but also take the time to comment. I love interacting with my readers, and I’ve been blessed to meet and become friends with a few over the past couple of years.

    The Tower of Terror

  • Bonus question: Do you like roller coasters or other “thrill rides? It depends. I do like roller coasters, but I don’t like going upside down, so that rules out some. I also don’t like rides that spin around – I’ve never gotten sick, but don’t like the way I feel for a while afterwards. I absolutely love The Tower of Terror at Disney World, but the rest of the family thinks I’m nuts. I haven’t done it, but I could see myself bungee jumping, or sky diving.

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

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