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?

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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This Week’s Menu: A Glimpse Into the Future

Our Hunan “chili girls” all love spicy mapo tofu

With YaYu gone to China for the next two weeks, and WenYu working almost every day (they feed her at work), it will be just Brett and I at the dinner table most evenings. This will be our first look at what it will be like to cook for just the two of us, and we’re interested in seeing not only how many leftovers there are, but how quickly they get eaten.

I have repeatedly told Brett that once the girls are out on their own that I’d like to take a break, that even though I enjoy cooking I want some time off. I’m hoping though that I’ll be able to find a happy medium between cooking some things at home and supplementing our menu with prepared foods from the market or deli, all while still staying within our budget.

My spiralizer arrived! I am eager to try it out, and there was a tasty recipe for a cold noodles salad in the little book that came with the gadget, so we’re going to try that this week. Brett told me he wants to swap out spaghetti for zoodles right along with me, but I’ll still have to fix pasta for the girls. Our egg dinner is getting switched to Monday so that we can have one of Brett’s favorites for Father’s Day: burgers and fries.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Pad Thai with chicken; cucumbers (just chicken and cucumbers for me)
  • Wednesday: Cold vegetable noodle salad with sesame-peanut sauce
  • Thursday: Grilled beef Polish sausages; sauerkraut; coleslaw
  • Friday: Mapo tofu; steamed rice; cucumbers
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday (Father’s Day): Grilled hamburgers; French fries; wilted cucumber pickles
  • Monday: Baked chili rellenos; yellow rice; grilled zucchini

We’ll be picking up lots of zucchini at the farmers’ market this week, as well as cucumbers, daikon radish, tomatoes, mint (for mojitos), mangoes and papaya. Locally grown pineapples are showing up now, so we may get one of those if we can find an affordable one.

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Book Review: Your Keys Our Home: The Senior Nomads’ Incredible Airbnb Journey

Back in 2013, Seattle residents Debbie and Michael Campbell were ready to retire, but Debbie felt they had one more ‘big adventure’ left in them before they settled down. After hearing about Airbnb from their daughter they decided they could travel around Europe while staying in Airbnb rentals to keep it affordable. They sold almost all of their possessions (including their cars and beloved sailboat), rented their house, packed their bags and in July 2013 they hit the road.

Four years later, the Campbells, AKA the Senior Nomads, are still traveling. In the past four years they’ve visited more than 60 different countries, over 200 cities, and stayed in over 130 Airbnb rentals. They’ve been featured in the New York Times, the Huffington Post and other publications and interviewed on Rick Steves’ radio program. Most importantly, they’ve made friends all over the world.

Somewhere along the way they connected with the staff at Airbnb, shared their experiences, and were eventually invited to speak at the Airbnb Open in Paris in December 2015. Following that they were encouraged to write a book about their experiences, primarily for Airbnb hosts all over the world, but for others interested in a different way of traveling as well, and Your Keys Our Home: The Senior Nomads’ Incredible Airbnb Journey was the result.

The Senior Nomads in the kitchen of their Paris Airbnb rental (photo credit: The New York Times)

The book is an easy and very enjoyable read – I couldn’t put it down, and ended up reading it all in one sitting. Debbie and Michael tell about how their adventure got started; their evolution as Airbnb guests, including how they choose their Airbnb rentals and get themselves to each destination. They include lots of good advice on how to search for and nail down an Airbnb rental that will be a great fit for one’s budget and with the desired amenities, as well as tips on how to be a great host and a great guest. They describe how much they pack (not a lot – they each carry one large rolling duffel and a backpack), their rules for staying within weight regulations, and who handles what as they travel. Woven through the book are fun and interesting stories from their travels.

Debbie and Michael get ready to hit the road again (photo credit: The Huffington Post)

After four years of traveling together, the Campbell’s are still in love and still enjoying each other’s company. For now, they have no idea when they’ll stop – in 2016 they sold their house in Seattle and became true nomads.

On one level, Debbie and Michael’s wonderful little book shows how it’s possible to affordably travel the world by staying in other people’s homes as if they were your own. But, the book is also an inspiring guide for re-imagining retirement. Whether you have dreamed of paring down possessions to the essentials and getting out to see more of the world, or just finding a more affordable and interesting way to travel, Your Keys Our Home is a terrific starting point for creating your own “big adventure.”

(Debbie and Michael have been blogging about their travels from the beginning of their adventure. You can follow along and learn more at their blog, The Senior Nomads. As of this writing they are in Amman, Jordan, following visits to Beirut, and before that, several locations in Africa.)

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Sunday Afternoon 6/11/2017

Were did this beautiful weather go? And when can we have it back?

We woke up to clearer skies and a bit of a breeze today, thank goodness, although it’s still very humid. It’s been a difficult week weather-wise here on the east side of the Garden Island. This past week started out alright, but by Thursday the humidity had set in with a vengeance while the trade winds disappeared completely. It’s felt at times like we’ve been living inside a soggy ball of cotton. The humidity was at 100% all day Friday (raining), and with no breeze to help keep things cooler. We picked up YaYu at the airport early Friday evening, and as we drove home instead of seeing the usual rolling surf the ocean instead looked like a lake – there was no wind, and therefore no swells. Things are thankfully supposed to continue to improve next week. YaYu said the weather was gorgeous the whole week long over on Oahu.

The issue of the missing Hawaiian miles was resolved this past week. After a contentious call with the bank’s customer service department last Monday I filed an official complaint with the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) and included a copy of the card member agreement. That got the bank’s attention very quickly because the very next day I received a call from the office of the president of the bank with an apology, and the miles were in my account on Wednesday afternoon. I also received an email on Friday from Hawaiian Airlines customer service with an apology for the poor service I had experienced, and to let me know the bonus miles were in my account.

YaYu will spend several days in Beijing, then go to Xian, and will finish the trip in Shanghai.

YaYu leaves this week on her two-week trip to China! She had a great time last week at the orientation, and bonded with several of the others in her group. I’m not looking forward to her being gone, but am so happy and grateful that she has this opportunity to visit the country of her birth, and use the language she has studied/maintained for so many years.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished American Heiress last night, but took a break during the week to read Your Keys Our Home by Debbie and Michael Campbell, the Senior Nomads. I’ll be posting a review tomorrow! Raven Black, the first in the Shetland mystery series by Ann Cleeves became available from the library on Friday, so I’ve got it downloaded and will start it today.
  • Watching: We finished up Season 2 of Fargo yesterday evening and wished Season 3 was already available for streaming. That show was good. We’re going to start watching The Returned tonight on Netflix. It comes highly recommended, combining mystery and the supernatural, and sounds like something we’ll enjoy. I’m into Season 3 of Top Chef, my show for when I’m Swagbuck-ing at night. I wasn’t so sure at first that I liked cooking combined with personal drama, but the show has grown on me and I look forward to watching it now. And, there are 10 more seasons available to watch!
  • Listening to: For now it is blissfully quiet both inside and out. Outside is the sound of the breeze through the trees, a couple of birds singing but no yard work or other noise. Brett is on his daily hike, YaYu is at a meeting (I know, on Sunday), and WenYu is back in her room so peace reigns for now.
  • Cooking/baking: I will do the prep, but the girls are going to make tonight’s egg drop soup and egg foo yung because I know I will die from the heat otherwise.

    It must be after 9:00 p.m. because I’m doing Swagbucks!

  • Happy I accomplished this week: I set up a series of cards listing different aspects of the BIG Mystery Adventure,™ of what we will need to accomplish before we go. The cards will help us stay organized, and check things off as they get done. I’m getting antsy to start tying things down, but Brett and I agree that we need to meet our savings goal first. In spite of the humidity this week I still managed to get in two daily bike rides. The evening rides though were worse than the afternoon ones because the humidity has been worse at night. Brett has done his walks/hikes every day, but has probably lost several pounds from sweating so much. I’ve moved up to the next level in my language study, so that’s going well. I can actually construct sentences in the language now, although they’re pretty basic. I made my small goal every day with Swagbucks, and the second goal on a couple of days. I have a two particular personal goals in mind for the Swagbucks, and have almost completed the first one, which is to add to our Christmas savings. The second one is connected to next year’s travels.
  • Looking forward to next week: Once again we really have nothing lined up or planned other than getting YaYu packed and to the airport for her trip. It should be an easy, relaxing week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Getting those bonus miles into my account so quickly once I contacted the CFPB was a happy and satisfying surprise – I thought it would take much longer. Until they got involved the bank was not going to budge, no matter what I sent them. Even though the woman who called from the president’s office apologized, she was still making excuses though for the initial problem. We finally heard from our landlord after several months of radio silence, and he said he is doing well. Apparently he was away getting treatment for his cancer. He’s a good guy, so we were happy to hear that he’s feeling OK for now. I was able to comfortably wear one of my size small pair of pants this week. I am feeling much smaller these days, and wish I could wear the other pairs I have put away but they’re still a bit too tight – maybe in another month or so.
  • Grateful for: As YaYu gets ready to set out on her journey, I’m feeling thankful for the scholarship she earned that made it possible for her to go, and that we were able to find a way for her to continue her Mandarin studies this past year here on the island.
  • Bonus question: Most people can easily remember their favorite teachers, but did you ever have one that made your life miserable? I was very fortunate and had wonderful teachers all through K-12 and in college, but I did have one truly awful teacher, for 8th grade Home Economics. My mother taught math at the middle school, and did not get along with Mrs. White for who knows what reason, and all through my year in her classroom this teacher made catty, mean remarks about my mom in front of my class (and several of the students had my mom for a teacher!). I could do nothing right for Mrs. White either, apparently because I was related to my mom. The worst though was when she created a “dress code board” for girls. If someone thought your skirt was too short or you were committing some other dress code infraction they could anonymously submit your name to the board, and you were then ordered to appear before the board and be judged. If the charge was that your skirt was too short you were made to kneel before them so the distance from the hem to the floor could be measured. The girls Mrs. White selected for the board were of course the ‘mean girls,’ and the experience was meant to be humiliating. I got called in front of the board once for wearing a supposedly too-short skirt, and had to kneel even though my skirt turned out to be regulation length (back then girls didn’t/couldn’t wear jeans or pants to school). I so remember Mrs. White though, sitting in the back of the girls on the board with her smug face, reveling in what was going on. I was never so glad for a year to be over and to be out of that class and away from her. She was so unprofessional, but could get away with it in those days – students weren’t supposed to or allowed to complain about teachers.

That’s it for this week at Casa Aloha. How was your week? What good things happened for you?

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Five Frugal Things 6/9/2017

I roasted a mixture of vegetables in order to use up odds and ends in the fridge.

  1. I earned 1,038 bonus Swagbucks last month! I was very, very surprised (and pleased) that I did so well because that’s an additional $10 in Amazon credit on top of the other points I earned last month.
  2. A couple of months ago I submitted records of the past two years of my student loan payments to Wellesley’s financial aid office, and they adjusted WenYu’s aid award by several hundred dollars, reducing the balance she has to pay.
  3. We cooked every meal at home, used up leftovers and other odds and ends of produce so there was no food waste, and drank lots of filtered water and sun tea.
  4. We put $23.06 into our change/$1 bill jar. $15.56 was the change from another trip to Costco, and $7.50 was left from our farmers’ market shop.
  5. We suffered a frugal fail this week: We had to make a second return trip to Costco for more things that we had run out of, although we still managed to leave the store with just three items (peanut butter, nuts, and fruit). This is the second time we’ve run out of things, most likely from poor planning on my part when I made last month’s shopping list. Fingers are crossed now that we don’t have to step foot in Costco or Big Save until our regular big shop toward the end of the month.

Hopefully none of you had any spending fails this week!

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