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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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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Sunday Afternoon 7/30/2017

Hawaiian Tropical Fruit Still Life #2: Dragonfruit, mangoes, lychee fruit, and papaya.

Our lazy summer here at Casa Aloha continues. WenYu’s job is keeping her busy, as are YaYu’s volunteer commitments, and they both go for a run every evening (when WenYu isn’t working) but there have been few demands on Brett’s and my time. I prepare dinner, we share house-maintenance chores, and otherwise spend our time at the beach, taking care of the occasional errand, or reading, watching TV or getting some exercise. It’s everything we thought retirement would be and it’s wonderful.

It’s almost hard to believe that YaYu will be back at school a week from tomorrow. This year will be the last year for Brett and I when it comes to full-time child rearing, so we’re looking forward to it both with anticipation and dread (i.e. the whole college/scholarship application process). By the time YaYu leaves for college next year we will have been raising children for 40 years, and are finally ready to enjoy an empty nest (unlike when our son graduated from high school in 1996, when we were not ready – Meiling joined our family the following spring).

The weather continues to be hot and sticky, but the mornings and nights are thankfully still cool and comfortable. The remnants of a hurricane passed by this last week, and they tend to drag along hot, HUMID air as they go by. The last time I checked there were three other storms moving across the Pacific, so we’ve got our fingers crossed that once again they all miss Hawai’i.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finish up Evicted and am currently reading Rich People Problems, by Kevin Kwan. It’s a fun, fluffy book, which I needed after Evicted. What an eye-opening book that was! I was frankly shocked at how the poor were exploited when it comes to housing. Only 33% of the poor in our country receive any sort of housing subsidies (vouchers or public housing); the rest are at the mercy of predatory landlords, and there is no other way to describe it than that they exploit these renters, and suck whatever they can from them. The unsubsidized poor are often paying 70 – 80% of their income in rent for substandard or downright unsafe and unsuitable housing, but it’s what’s available, and where they are forced to turn to for housing. One emergency, or foul-up with their income and these renters are evicted, which creates a further downward spiral of poverty.
  • Listening to: It’s relatively quiet now, but there was a lot of noise earlier this morning, both from neighbors taking care of lawn maintenance, and one very loud rooster. There’s a lovely breeze right now, so I can hear the palm trees rustling outside, and birds are singing. The girls are still asleep, and Brett is reading, so for now it’s also quiet inside.
  • Watching: Brett and I started and finished a documentary on Netflix this past week, The Keepers, about a small group of people who started out trying to solve the mystery of who killed one of their high school teachers, Sister Catherine, back in 1969, and ended up exposing a whole web of abuse and cover-up within the Baltimore Archdiocese (and possibly the Baltimore police). It was fascinating. We’ve got one last episode of Granchester to watch tonight, but are going to start another documentary, Room 237, about the real Overlook Hotel and Stanley Kubrik’s film of The Shining. I’ve almost finished all the available episodes House Hunters: International – I’ve been watching it when I work on Swagbucks. It’s addicting, and I wish there were more episodes available!
  • Cooking/baking: We’re having grilled teriyaki chicken and zaru soba tonight – we had the Caprese skillet eggs on Thursday evening because the fresh basil we got at the farmers’ market had to be used quickly.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I bought Meiling’s and WenYu’s plane tickets to come home at Christmas, getting a good price and good itinerary for both of them. I managed to get in at least one bike ride every day – some days it was just too hot and humid in the afternoon, even with two fans blowing on me. I drank all of my glasses of water every day, studied my language, and made my first goal on Swagbucks every day. Actually, I’ve ended up doing better than the personal goal that I set for myself on Swagbucks this month.
  • Looking forward to next week: Getting our oven fixed – the repairman came this past week, but had to order the igniter. Of course, it worked for him, but he agreed it was “failing.” We don’t use it all that much, but it has been missed.

    The best place to spend a hot, sticky summer afternoon!

  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu’s new running shoes arrived – she says they’re comfortable and fit well. Yeah Zappos! WenYu had more HawaiianMiles in her account than we realized, and she transferred them over to my account – there were enough to cover her flight over to Honolulu when she heads back to school at the end of next month. We went to the beach on Thursday, when WenYu had the day off – it was breezy, cool(er) and wonderful. And, the waves were big so the surfers were out – they are so much fun to watch! Prices were excellent this week on locally-grown tropical fruit, and we stocked up. The girls also deep-cleaned their room yesterday evening – it was a mess, but looks really lovely now.
  • Reporting gains and losses for July: I lost another two pounds this past month, and 23 total since last February. Since I had to cut back on some of my daily bike rides because of the hot weather, I’ve been eating less, and measuring everything. Brett is within two pounds of his goal weight, but will keep up with his walking/hiking to stay in shape. And, we put $808.54 into our travel savings this past month!! Our total is now at $4589.76, so we’re well ahead of where we need to be at this point.
  • Grateful for: I really don’t think about it much, but was made aware again of the benefits of living below our means when I totaled up this month’s savings. I’m very thankful for the simple, but comfortable lifestyle we enjoy these days in such a beautiful place, and that we are able to save enough for future dreams and travels.

    The Tatsuzawa Fudo waterfall near Fukushima – it was gorgeous!

  • Bonus question: Do you have a story of a time something went wrong but turned out for the best? Brett and I arranged to go on a tour of the Fukushima prefecture during our first tour in Japan (the prefecture extends far inland, and we were not anywhere near the coast or the infamous nuclear reactors). We woke up the morning of our tour and realized we had overslept by two hours! We called the navy recreation office, explained what had happened, and they told us where and how we could meet up with the tour that evening. So, we took our son to the babysitter, and headed for the train station – we would have a long ride to get to where the tour was staying that evening. The train ride was wonderful! Although it cost us extra, we saw so many places along the way that we’d never seen, including a ride through a grove of plum trees in bloom (breathtaking!), had some tasty ekibento (station bentos) and snacks, and met kind and helpful people along the way. When we arrived at our destination it was very late, but we took a taxi to the inn where everyone was staying, and were put into a large traditional Japanese room, where we were given warm robes, our futons were made up for us, and someone brought us hot tea and snacks. We met up with our group in the morning for breakfast, and quickly realized that they had all slept dormitory style, with all the women in one room, men in the other, so we kept quiet about our luxurious accommodations. After breakfast (during which there was a fairly strong earthquake) we boarded the tour bus with our tour group, and enjoyed the second day of the tour, which included visiting a temple and some beautiful waterfalls, and returned home that evening. We still say that our mistake of oversleeping ended up providing us with one of the nicest getaways we’ve ever enjoyed!

How has your week gone? What did your accomplish? What good things happened for you?

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Sunday Afternoon 7/23/2017

Dragonfruit season is back!

It’s been another lazy, summer week here at Casa Aloha. I am beginning to feel a bit like my entire existence these days consists of trying to stay cool and somewhat comfortable. Brett and I did our Costco Big Shop on Friday, and it about did me in. The weather that day couldn’t have been more hot and humid, and because we bought more than usual it required extra effort to get everything loaded into the car, then out of the car when we got home, photographed and put away. Just as soon as we got that done it was time to head out again to the farmers’ market, but thankfully that errand didn’t take too long. By the time we got done though both Brett and I were ready to melt into puddles. The rest of the week wasn’t as bad, and mornings and late evenings have been very pleasant and breezy, and we also didn’t have as much to do on those days.

I feel like all I do lately is complain about the heat, but then I remember the summer we arrived, and what we are going through this summer is nothing as bad as it was that year, when the trade winds died and there was absolutely no breeze for several months. Plus, we lived upstairs where it was naturally hotter, and we had no place to escape the heat outside other than getting in our car and driving somewhere else. Now we have a nice shady lanai, we’re on the ground floor, and the trade winds blow every day. I try to remind myself as much as possible that things could be worse.

Our oven quit on us this week – it seems the igniter failed. The stovetop works as does the broiler, but the other day the oven just wouldn’t light even though the gas feed was OK. We called the landlord and he immediately arranged for the repair which will be happening on Wednesday. I’m frankly thankful right now that we can’t use the oven – one less way to heat up the kitchen!

This week I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading Evicted, but the latest Kevin Kwan book, Rich People Problems just came off of hold so I’ve got that to look forward to later this week. His two previous books, Crazy Rich Asians, and China Rich Girlfriend, were fun to read so I’m looking forward to this book as well.
  • Listening to: It’s been a quiet morning for the most part. I can hear the sound of weed trimmers and saws in the distance, but everything’s quiet in our neighborhood. We haven’t had any chickens around us for a while – not sure why – but I sure don’t miss their noise. Brett is reading, WenYu is eating her breakfast, and YaYu is still sleeping so it’s quiet inside the house as well.
  • Watching: Two of our PBS shows, My Mother and Other Strangers (cannot wait for the next season!) and The Story of China, finished this last week, but we’ve still got episodes of the Great British Baking Show and Granchester to watch, and we started a new and very creepy three-part series on PBS, Remember Me, starring Michael Palin. We found ourselves yelling “Get out of the house!” at the TV last week as we watched – it was that scary! Brett and I started another new mystery series (on Hulu) this week, The Top of the Lake, set in New Zealand, and starring Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men, The Handmaid’s Tale). You would think from listening to her that she’s from New Zealand, her accent is that good. Not sure though what we’re going to watch next week though. I’m a little over half-way through Top Chef Masters – wish there were more seasons.
  • Cooking/baking: I’ve got my eggs boiled and cooling already for deviled eggs this evening. We’re also going to cook up the rest of some bacon to go with those, and will also have some fresh vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, daikon radish), pickled beets, and cut up watermelon – a nice, cool dinner. Baking is out of course for the time being, not that I feel like baking anything in this heat.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Getting Wednesday’s shop at Costco done felt like a major accomplishment, much more than usual. We went a little over budget (barely) on our monthly shop, and will have to go back to Costco mid-month for some fruit, probably peaches and maybe another watermelon. I am quite proud of myself for getting almost all of my bike rides done in spite of the heat/humidity, as well as drinking my water rations (and then some) every day and doing my language study. I finally moved up to the next level!
  • Looking forward to next week: There’s nothing special coming up, so I’m looking forward to sleeping in every morning, a hot cup of coffee or two in the morning, a good book, two exercise sessions a day, and otherwise relaxing and staying cool.

    New suitcases mean travel!

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our new big suitcases arrived! They are just what we hoped for, so Brett and I are very happy (and thrilled that we got them for such a good price). Dragonfruit is back at the market – it has become one of my favorite summer fruits and I’ve been looking forward to it. And, our daughter-in-law sent LOTS of photos and videos this week, always a good and happy thing. One of the pictures was of our grandson immediately after he lost his first tooth, and it really felt like we got to share that experience. Our son and family are all heading to Seattle in a couple of weeks to visit friends, get out of the Tokyo heat, and let our grandson attend a couple of summer camps so he can keep up his English skills. Our granddaughter is standing now, and growing leaps and bounds!
  • Grateful for: I’m so thankful that in spite of all the heat and humidity, the mornings and evenings have stayed cool and breezy, and that sleeping is comfortable at night.

    A mojito is very refreshing on a hot day

  • Bonus question: What are your favorite beverages? I have probably answered this before, but hands down, coffee wins the favorite beverage contest every time. I ♥♥♥♥♥ coffee, and it is through sheer effort of will that I don’t drink more than I do. I begin drinking coffee when I was five – my grandmother had a little coffee pot and coffee cup for me, and I would drink with her in the afternoon when she had her afternoon coffee (mine was more cream and sugar than coffee though). By the time I was in high school I was drinking my coffee black, which is how I still prefer it.  I usually have two cups in the morning, one in the afternoon, and another after dinner. Both Brett and I drink our coffee half-caff: we buy both dark roast regular beans and decaffeinated beans (which, believe it or not, are nearly impossible to find on this island) and Brett blends them, and grinds our coffee fresh for brewing every morning. After coffee I would rank water, then iced tea and Diet Coke – I have just one every day – as my next three favorites. I don’t like other sodas except for root beer and ginger ale occasionally, and although I’ll drink hot tea it’s not a favorite. I really don’t care for juices either, although I do like lemonade now and then. Brett and I drink alcohol just twice a week, mainly because we’re watching our calories and carbohydrates. We each have either a glass of wine (red for Brett, white for me) or a cocktail (mojitos or gin and tonics) on Friday and Saturday evenings. It’s enough.

That’s it for this week at Casa Aloha. How is your weekend going? What good things happened for you this week? I hope you are all staying cool!

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Sunday Afternoon 7/16/2017

Oxtail soup and rice is the girls’ favorite breakfast at the Tip Top Cafe – so Hawaiian!

It’s been a busy, but quiet week here at Casa Aloha, if that makes sense. The girls’ schedules have kept us hopping, and as well we had to fit in our celebratory breakfast at the Tip Top, get to the farmers’ market, take care of dental appointments and all sorts of other little things. But, nothing was too crazy, we made it to the beach, everything got accomplished, so overall it was a good week and passed quickly.

YaYu has started on her first big college-related application: the Questbridge Scholarship. WenYu was a finalist two years ago, and it opened lots of doors for her, so we’re hoping lightening will strike twice with YaYu. The Questbridge app is fairly intense, so YaYu wanted to get as early a start as possible so that she makes sure everything gets done and gets done well. Applications are due September 27, college rankings are due on October 12, finalists are notified on October 19, extra documents for ranked colleges are due November 1, and match scholarships are awarded December 1. Earning a match scholarship guarantees four fully-funded years at one of the Questbridge partner colleges on your match list, but finalists also have the potential to receive very, very good financial aid packages at Questbridge partner schools if they are accepted at one of them. YaYu will also be applying at a few colleges that are not Questbridge partners, so she has to develop a second essay for the Common Application as well for Questbridge. Once again, both Brett and I will be so glad when this is all over – this whole college application process is very intense!

I did some more in-depth research for next year’s Big Mystery Adventure™ this past week, and discovered that pulling off what we had last settled on would actually cost quite a bit more than we thought – yikes! So Brett and I put our heads together and started tweaking, adjusting, or outright deleting some things and got ourselves back to where we need to be budget-wise. Thankfully we have time to do this. We agreed that we still need to work more on finding ways to cut costs, look for the best prices we can find, and step up our savings game in the meantime.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I started a new book this week, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond. It’s a sociological study of the economic exploitation of low-income and poor families in the United States over housing. The author also provides new ideas for solving a crisis that has become a devastating national problem (it’s a big problem right here on Kaua’i). The book won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, as well as many other awards.
  • Listening to: It’s been a lovely, breezy morning here – I hope it lasts! The winds through the trees sound lovely, and are keeping things cool (and the humidity level is lower than it has been for a while). The girls are chattering away and getting ready to head up to Hanalei on the north side for one of YaYu’s volunteer activities, and some time at the beach there. Brett and I will be stuck here doing the laundry 😦 – the washing machine is already going.
  • Watching: Brett and I finished Bordertown this past week, and started watching 11.22.63 (on Hulu), based on the book by Stephen King. We both think it’s great. We still have plenty to watch on PBS (Great British Baking Show, The Story of China, My Mother and Other Strangers, and Granchester), but some of those sadly end this week. I gave up on Top Chef – too much drama but love cooking shows so started watching Top Chef Masters, where already established chefs compete, and am enjoying it a bit more.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re having one of our favorite egg dishes tonight: Chinese stir-fried tomatoes with scrambled eggs. It’s a very simple dish, but sooooo tasty. It’s of course hot today, so the girls will be doing the actually cooking after I do the prep. We’ll have rice and cucumbers with the eggs, and fruit (peaches or melon) for dessert. I baked a chocolate cake last week, and there’s some left, so no baking today.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: The weather this week on our side of the island was once again particularly hot and humid on a few days, so I feel very good that I got in my bike rides every day. Sometimes I wore a chilled, wet tenugui around my neck (like Japanese cooks or laborers sometimes do) in order to stay somewhat more comfortable and get my miles in. I did my language study every day, drank gallons of water every day, and made my Swagbucks first goal every day. The second goal they’ve given me so far this month has been ridiculously high – I don’t even try to make it.
  • Looking forward to this coming week: Brett and I will be doing our monthly Big Shop on Wednesday. We seem to be in a good spot right now as far as supplies on hand, and won’t need to buy as much as usual (famous last words). Other than making it to the beach once or twice, there’s really nothing else on the horizon this week. WenYu will start work tomorrow as a fill-in hostess at the restaurant, but most of the time she’ll still be the busser.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We were thrilled with the terrific discount on the suitcases we want for our travels next year – we saved over $162. Otherwise it’s been a very quiet, good, but busy week with everything happening as it should – nothing really stands out.
  • Grateful for: I’ve written this before, but again I’m feeling so thankful our girls get along so well. I love watching and listening to them spend time together, laugh together, and support each other, even if it’s just over the phone. Growing up, I had quite a competitive relationship with my sister (not of my choosing), so it’s a joy and a blessing to me that our girls’ have developed such close and supportive relationships.
  • Bonus question: What movies have made you cry? I can only think of two right now: Charlotte’s Web, which I watched with our son when he was seven or eight years old had us both sobbing at the end; and Terms of Endearment (with Shirley McClain, Jack Nicholson and Debra Winger). Two scenes bring on tears every time I watch: when a dying Debra Winger says good-bye to her oldest son saying, “well that went well, don’t you think?” and the scene when Shirley McClain realizes that her daughter has died while they were looking at each other – both of those bring on tears. I’m sure I’ve cried during other films, or at least choked up, but I don’t remember them as well as the two above. I don’t cry easily or get emotional, although there are a couple of exceptions: weddings – I always cry – and soldiers’ and sailors’ homecomings after a long deployment. I experienced the latter many times while Brett was in the navy, and it’s an intensely emotional event, so when I see military families reunited all those memories come flooding back, as well as the tears.

And that’s a wrap for this week at Casa Aloha! How was your week? What good things happened for you?

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Sunday Afternoon 7/9/2017

That’s our girl!

We are back at “full strength” here again at Casa Aloha with YaYu back from her trip to China. She had a fantastic time and an amazing experience, took over 1,000 pictures, and got to speak LOTS of Chinese! She got over her jet lag in less than a week and is already back into her usual routine of volunteer activities and community service. She also learned this past week that she passed all of her AP exams (yeah!), with a top score on the Chinese exam, so the tutoring expense this past year was well worth it. It’s almost hard to believe that she’ll be back at school in less than a month, and that this will be her final year of high school. Of course this also means the college application process will be beginning soon, with all that entails. I am so glad this is the last time we have to go through this.

I could sit and look at this all day and never grow tired of it.

The crazy, hot, humid weather continues, but there’s really only been a couple of days where the humidity has been overly oppressive and unbearable, and thankfully it cools off every night so sleeping has been comfortable. We try to get to the beach when we can fit it in with the girls’ schedules, but that doesn’t happen all that often, and will happen less this month as we juggle the two girls’ schedules. Otherwise, things are pretty calm around here, and we’re enjoying the summer break.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I have been a reading a lot these past couple of weeks as four books came off hold at the library at the same time! I read The Long Way Home and News of the World in less than three days, and just finished Michael Chabon’s Moonglow yesterday and started A Man Called Ove. The first three were all excellent, and great reads – I hated putting them down. I had A Man Called Ove checked out last March, while we were in Japan, but never had the time to read it then, and it’s taken this long for it to become available again!
  • Listening to: We’re enjoying a lovely, sunny, breezy morning so I can hear lots of birds chirping and the wind blowing through the trees outside. Of course the sound of the washer and dryer covers most of that – we got an early start on the laundry today as we’re heading to the beach for a while and wanted as much of that chore out of the way as possible.
  • Watching: Brett and I finished a show called The Break (on Netflix) this past week. What a wild ride that was! It was filmed in Belgium, and was subtitled so we had to watch closely, and just when we’d think we’d figured things out there’d be another twist, with the ending a complete surprise. We’ve started another mystery/procedural on Netflix, Bordertown, and so far, so good. It was filmed in Finland, which means subtitles again, but it’s manageable although we can’t pick even one word out of Finnish that we understand. We’re also watching quite a bit on PBS right now: The Great British Baking Show on Friday evenings, My Mother and Other Strangers and Granchester on Sunday evenings, and The Story of China on Tuesday evenings. I’m into Season 9 on Top Chef – the drama continues.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m pretty much staying out of the kitchen today, except for fixing my breakfast (yogurt with fruit). Brett is making Scotch eggs for dinner tonight, which the others will have with toast & jam, and we’ll all have watermelon. We make our own breakfast sausage with ground pork and Penzey’s breakfast sausage seasoning.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: Brett defrosted the freezer on Friday, always a somewhat dreaded, but necessary task. I got in almost all of my bike rides (missed a couple of the afternoon ones because of the heat), drank all of my daily water allotment and then some, and did my language study every day. I think I’m almost ready to move into the next level!
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re going out to breakfast on Thursday at the Tip Top Cafe, our favorite spot for that meal. I am also looking forward to Amazon’s Prime Day on Tuesday – I have my fingers crossed that the suitcase I’ve finally decided on will be on sale. If not, I have no plans to buy anything else. I guess I could look for Christmas gifts, but it seems to early for that (although I have funds set aside).
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We’re all still sharing in YaYu’s glow over her testing success, especially the Chinese. It’s very gratifying to see all of her hard work pay off. WenYu has been making some good money at her job, especially since she is only working as a busser, and not wait staff. They pay her out of their tips every day and have been very generous. The manager is now thinking about assigning her hostess duties as well, so she can pick up more hours.
  • Grateful for: I told YaYu before she left that I did not want her to bring me anything from China, but I am currently so thankful she didn’t listen and brought me a fantastic three-speed, rechargeable, adjustable bunny fan! It has been a lifesaver on more than one occasion this past week and has helped to keep me cool (and sane). I had no idea I needed a bunny fan, but now can’t imagine this summer without it!
  • Bonus question: Do you have a favorite historical period? I remember once a woman I knew saying that learning history was the biggest waste of time she could imagine. Au contraire! I’ve been most especially interested in the WWII era for as long as I can remember, both historically and socially. I grew up knowing and hearing the stories of many people who served in the war, from both my parents and other neighbors who served, a neighbor who spent time in a German prisoner-of-war camp, to a friend of my Dad’s who was on the USS Oklahoma when Pearl Harbor was bombed, and was trapped for days until rescued. I was also fortunate to be able to speak with several Japanese people about their war experience, both in Tokyo and Hiroshima, and developed an appreciation for how the war affected both sides, especially those that had no say in the matter, or who were otherwise uninvolved. I’m always interested to find books, articles, films, and TV shows about the war, both fiction and non-fiction, and think if I could turn back time and do it over again I might major in history, and then do a Master’s (and maybe a Ph.D.) with a focus on some aspect of the war. To that woman who said learning history was a waste of time, I give you Santayana: Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.

And that’s what’s been going on at Casa Aloha. How was your week? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you?

And we are off to the beach . . . .

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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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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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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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Sunday Afternoon 6/4/2017

Summer and hot weather means mojitos – we make ours with agave syrup (hence the light brown color)

Summer vacation! Other than WenYu going to work almost every day (and sometimes to different jobs on the same day) it’s been nice not to have to dance to our usual crazy schedule. It’s been hot, hot, hot though and we’re thinking that this summer is going to be a doozy when it comes to the weather.

YaYu leaves later this afternoon for a week on Oahu, to attend the orientation for her upcoming trip to China which is coming up in just a couple of weeks. She will be staying with a family in Honolulu whose daughter will be also be going on the trip. The students will all be learning some basic Mandarin (YaYu could probably teach the class), learning more about their trip and the places they’re going, and will each make a presentation on some aspect of Chinese culture. YaYu is presenting on Chinese folktales – she created an amazing pop-up book as her visual aid.

At the beginning of the year I signed up for a Hawaiian Airlines credit card. I’m a Hawaiian Miles member, and the offer I signed up for was “spend $1000 in the first 90 days and receive 50,000 bonus miles” which we accomplished on our trip to Japan in March (and have paid in full). When I checked my account in early May though there were no miles awarded. I called and was told, “no you had to spend $2000.” When I informed them that was not the offer I signed up under, I was told they would look into it and I would hear back in ten days. Nope. I called again on May 28 and was told I had been given a case number, but that they were “still looking into it.” I wrote the bank a letter this week and enclosed a copy of their cardmember agreement where it clearly states “spend $1000 and receive 50,000 miles.” A copy of the letter also went to Hawaiian Airlines customer service. It’s all very frustrating, but hopefully the letter will do the trick. Brett and I have received numerous solicitations over the years for a Hawaiian card, and every single one has been “spend $1000 and receive 50,000 miles.” Shoot, even their offer to those not already enrolled in Hawaiian Miles is “spend $1000 and receive 35,000 miles.” Once again, fingers are crossed, but I absolutely HATE dealing with stuff like this.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst has turned out to be a pretty terrific read, a real page-turner even though lots is stuff I already knew and still remember. The story is very well-written and the details fascinating, especially when he digs into the personalities, and the culture (counter and otherwise) of the time. I’m very glad I downloaded it, even though it wasn’t what I initially wanted to read.
  • Watching: Brett and I started watching Fargo this week on Hulu – wow! SO good. We are purposefully pacing ourselves even though we want to binge watch so that it lasts for a while. We’re still going through withdrawal from Better Call Saul and wish it wasn’t go to be so long until new episodes become available. I’m watching Top Chef while I work on Swagbucks at night – lots of drama!
  • Listening to: Brett is out for his daily walk – it’s cooler than usual, and has been raining off and on, but he’s on his way home now because YaYu has to go into work. The girls are chatting back in their room, but the washing machine is going so that YaYu will have clean clothes in time to pack. WenYu is lamenting that she has to go into work – she thought she had the day off from both jobs.

    Blondies from Cook’s Illustrated

  • Cooking/baking: Really looking forward to fixing the Caprese-style eggs for dinner tonight – we haven’t had them in a while, and they’re one of our favorite dishes. I think I might make some blondies later this afternoon too (also known as ‘haole brownies’ here) so that Brett and WenYu have a little something sweet to enjoy. It’s cool enough to bake today.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We really haven’t had much lately that has to be accomplished other than our regular chores and duties – I guess it’s one of the rewards of being retired. I managed to get in at least one bike ride a day, but accomplished two on most days and even got in three on one day. It just was too hot and humid though for the most part, but I keep at it. Brett has gotten in his daily walk every day. I also drank all my glasses of water every day and did my language study too. I am beginning to get the hang of it so it’s becoming more enjoyable.
  • Looking forward to next week: Once again there’s nothing on the calendar (another benefit of being retired) – what we do or don’t do will be up to us. YaYu won’t be around, WenYu will be busy working her two jobs, so Brett and I would really like to get back to the beach, but it’s supposed to rain for several days so we’ll see. The cooler weather that’s supposed to happen will be much appreciated.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: When YaYu went to pick up her prize for winning the essay contest, she not only got a check for $100 but a whole (reusable) shopping bag of goodies including a stainless steel thermos in a carrying case, a book, a framed copy of her essay and a ukulele worth $50. She gave me the framed essay, and is going to give WenYu the ukulele for Christmas. I think it’s just a half-good thing that my pants are starting to fall off because I haven’t lost enough weight to fit into the smaller sized ones except for one pair.
  • Grateful for: Brett and I are very thankful that such a wonderful family in Honolulu volunteered to host YaYu this week – we’ve been communicating with them for several weeks, and they are looking forward to adding our girl to their family for a few days. We know she will be safe, and well looked after.
  • Bonus question: Have you ever gone to any of your school reunions? I haven’t, and have no desire to go to one. My situation is somewhat different in that I grew up in a small-ish city, and went to school with the same people from kindergarten through my junior year of high school. In my senior year my dad was transferred and I ended up graduating from a different high school. I don’t know anyone from the high school I attended in my senior year, but via Facebook I have been back in touch with several former classmates from my hometown, and re-integrated with my class to a degree, but have found I’m not all that interested in getting together with most of them again. I communicate with some via email and Facebook, but really don’t want to go beyond that. What surprised me the most when I reconnected with my class is that while I remember names, I don’t remember anything else about them at all, and there are even a few names I don’t recall! I’m sure the reverse is true as well – just as many people don’t remember me.

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