Sunday Afternoon 4/23/2017

It was overcast when we arrived, but still lovely – this is one of the views from our balcony.

Brett and I enjoyed a wonderful, romantic getaway yesterday, at a little hotel right down the hill from our house. The hotel was lovely, dinner was fabulous, and the views were sublime. More details will be coming up later this week!

The view while we had coffee on the balcony this morning

This past week we had to once again deal with someone who knows nothing about adoption and what it means. We submitted the paperwork for YaYu’s China visa earlier in the week – it was easy, but in YaYu’s case, because she was a Chinese citizen until age five she has to put her former Chinese name on the form and submit the Chinese passport she was given for immigration to the U.S. (YaYu immediately became a U.S. citizen when we arrived back on U.S. soil). Again, no problem – we’ve had to do this each time we’ve applied for a Chinese visa for the girls. The Chinese passport clearly states her birth date as does her U.S. passport. Two days after we sent off the application, Brett got a call from the travel agent who is handling the visas: “We need copies of your and your wife’s passports. And a copy of your daughter’s birth certificate. China has a new policy this year.” Um, no they don’t – we have read all the regulations, especially for minors – the birth certificate and parents’ passports are required for children 16 and younger, but YaYu is 17. But, we scanned them and sent them off. Brett said after he hung up that the next thing would be the agent calling and asking for YaYu’s adoption paperwork, and sure enough, a couple of hours later we got another call from the agent telling us that we needed to submit all of YaYu’s adoption paperwork. I took the phone and informed the agent that no, we did NOT have to submit that paperwork, that our three adopted daughters have gone to China on more than five occasions and we have never needed to submit adoption paperwork. “Oh, it’s a new regulation.” No, it’s not – you just don’t get adoption. YaYu got a Chinese visa two years ago – check her passport – and she did not have to submit adoption paperwork. China knows all about adoption. “Oh. I see, she did already get a visa. Sorry.” I wanted to reach through the phone and grab this woman by the throat and tell her that’s what adoption is all about – it’s done. We don’t have to “prove” to anyone anymore that YaYu is our daughter. YaYu has a valid U.S. passport, the same last name as us, etc. – that’s all you need to know. We had to go through something similar back in Portland, when we applied to renew Meiling’s and WenYu’s passports. According to the clerk that handled their applications, their previous U.S. passports were apparently not proof of their citizenship like they are for everyone else; we had to re-submit their certificates of citizenship. If they had been white and adopted (or not), no problem, no questions asked. Asian and adopted? Please prove again that they’re really citizens. Grrrrrr.

On a more upbeat note, my clothes have been feeling much looser lately, so this last week I tried on several pairs of the size small pants that I have been holding on to for the past 3+ years and I got most of them on, more easily than I imagined in some cases. They’re still tight, but the fact that I could pull them up and button them is a BIG deal and I’m more motivated than ever be able to wear them again.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading My Year of Meats. Such a good book – I’m glad I decided to reread it. I’ve been reading while I ride my bike every day all this past week – why I didn’t think of this earlier I don’t know.
  • Listening to: The wind was howling this morning down at the beach, the remnant of a big storm that passed over us last night, but there’s only a light breeze up here at our house, and it’s very quiet. There are still baby chicks peeping out in the yard, songbirds are singing, and the washing machine is already going.
  • Watching: Brett and I finished Season 1 of This is Us last week, and are already excited about next season. We’re going to start a three-part documentary on Netflix tonight: Five Came Back, about the movie makers and producers, including John Huston, Frank Capra and William Wilder, who filmed World War II, often at great danger to themselves. Up on deck after that is Escape To the Country, about country homes in England. We’ve heard a lot about it and it sounds like something we’ll enjoy. For our Friday night movie we watched Hidden Figures, which was excellent.
  • Cooking/baking: Brett and I had the complementary continental breakfast at our hotel this morning – I had fruit, and Brett enjoyed yogurt, granola, and a pastry. YaYu won’t get home from Oahu until this evening, but Asian week continues with a late dinner of Chinese scrambled eggs and tomatoes. We bought some beautiful tomatoes at the market this past week, so we’re looking forward to it: Chinese comfort food!
  • Happy I accomplished last week: Brett and I finished up the itinerary for next year’s BIG Mystery Adventure™, and I’ve been working on a basic idea of prices, so we’re starting to get an idea of how much we have to save, which is what we’ll be focusing on for the next several months. I earned the second goal on Swagbucks every day this past week which will add at least an additional 150 bucks to add to my bonus total for the month. The last Japan Giveaway prize was sent off on Friday morning. I did all of my daily bike rides (and increased the tension this past week, so it’s a little harder) except for yesterday evening, but Brett and I took a 30 minute walk on the beach path at dusk yesterday. I drank all of my daily glasses of water and then some, and studied Portuguese every day.
  • Looking forward to next week: It’s not especially exciting, but Brett and I will be doing our big monthly Costco shop on Thursday, and will go to Big Save on Wednesday. We usually do the shop on a Wednesday, but Costco’s sale prices begin on Thursday this month so we swapped the days. I’m going to take another small loaf of the raisin bread we brought home from Japan out of the freezer later today, and will have a toasted slice with a little butter, along with some fruit, tomorrow morning for breakfast. The bread is so good, and it’s my one carb indulgence.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu is having a great time at her convention, which makes me happy because she worked so hard to get herself there. She had her last track meet last week, and although she didn’t make the finals (they’ll be held this coming Friday) she had a good solid season, and improved from last year. She also did very well at tennis, especially since it was her first time to ever play the game. We put $8.00 into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Grateful for: A few months ago Brett took over the chore of washing the evening dishes. I have been feeling very thankful lately that he does this now. The job never took me very long, and yet it was the chore that dragged on me the most. I had no idea that such a little change would make such a big difference to me, but sometimes it really is the little things.

    The Helms bakery truck – the big wooden drawers in back were filled with donuts, cookies and fresh-baked breads and rolls. A big glazed or jelly-filled donut was just five cents.

  • Bonus question: What catches your eye at a bakery? It really depends on what time of day I go. I love lemon pie or lemon tarts, so that’s always the first thing I look for if I’m at a bakery in the afternoon. In the morning I prefer something like a scone (cranberry-orange is my favorite) or a fruit-filled danish, or anything not too sweet. One thing I don’t really care for with bakery items is chocolate. Not sure why, because I like chocolate, but it just doesn’t appeal to me as much as something with fruit. I also love a good donut, especially a raspberry jelly-filled one. I’m pretty particular though – I grew up eating the absolute best glazed and jelly-filled donuts ever, from the Helms bakery, whose truck came to our street once a week, and were also parked behind the school one other day. Krispy Kreme doesn’t even come close. Unfortunately, bakeries aren’t really happening for me these days – can’t have the carbs. Sad!

That’s a wrap for this week. How was your week? What did you accomplish, and what are you looking forward to? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 4/16/2017

Aren’t these Easter eggs gorgeous? They’re blown eggs covered in Japanese washi paper!

To those of my readers that observe the holiday, I hope you are having a happy and glorious Easter!

I have been sleeping better this week, Brett’s been waking me up every morning (although I did sleep in later on Friday morning), and yesterday I got up before 9:00 on my own. I still think it’s going to take another week or so for things to really get back to normal, but at least things are moving in the right direction, sleep-wise. What a royal pain though.

Nothing but blue skies . . . and heat and humidity

Although today’s weather is sort of cool, it’s been quite hot and humid here all week and has felt more like summer than spring. While I love the sunshine and warm temperatures, I’ve never adjusted to the humidity here. A few of the farmers and some shoppers were commenting on Wednesday, as we waited for the market to open, that with temperatures this hot right now we can probably expect a long, hot (and possibly miserable) summer this year. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it won’t happen, but I’m not feeling very optimistic at this point.

I wrote in Friday’s Five Frugal Things post that we had found a better deal on a graphing calculator with Amazon, and cancelled the first order. Well, there turned out to be problems with the second order as well – after two days I checked on it to see what was happening and Amazon hadn’t even charged us for the calculator, let alone shipped it, even though their website claimed it was in stock. This is the first time we have ever had an issue with Amazon, so I was feeling quite angry and discouraged and wondered if the calculator was something we could even find on the island. But, I found it in stock at our local Walmart at the same low price, placed the order and it was ready for pick-up the same day! I never thought I would be happy with Walmart, but here we are.

Don’t forget to keep entering Japan Giveaway #3, for the KitKat tasting experience! The giveaway is open through Wednesday.

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Burglar’s Guide To the City – a very interesting and enjoyable read – and just downloaded My Year of Meats, by Ruth Ozeki. I read and enjoyed it when it first came out in 1998, but it was mentioned again somewhere a week ago or so, and I decided to reread it.
  • Listening to: Little chicks peeping away outside! It’s like all the neighborhood hens had eggs hatch at the same time.
  • Watching: Brett and I are still watching This Is Us – such a good show! It does an exceptional job of tackling adoption issues (like usually there aren’t any), and especially trans-racial adoption. On Friday night we watched Cool Runnings as it was YaYu’s turn to pick the movie and it’s one of her favorites, about the Jamaican bobsled team. I finished the Band of Brothers series (and now have the book on hold at the library), watched the whole Ken Burns National Parks series and have started watching The War, about WWII, at night while I earn Swagbucks.
  • Cooking/baking: It’s Sunday, so that means eggs for dinner! If all the girls were all home we’d have had Eggs a la Goldenrod for breakfast, which was our traditional Easter breakfast, but it was just Brett and I this morning because YaYu attended a sleepover last night – we had our usual oatmeal and yogurt and fruit. Tonight we’re having a zucchini frittata, and fruit. Still no baking: we have plenty of the snacks yet to go that we brought back from Japan.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We’re almost ready to send YaYu’s visa application for her summer trip to China. We have applied for a Chinese visa for either us or the girls five different times now, and each time it’s been different! Brett and I roughed out some more details for our Big Mystery Adventure™ this past week – we’re still a l-o-n-g way from finalizing anything, and are still in major saving mode, but it’s nice to be putting things down on paper and seeing things start to gel. There’s still lots of work to do, but what we got done was pretty exciting! Even though it was very uncomfortable at times because of the weather, I got in all of my daily bike rides (three times a day, for five miles each time), and Brett got in his daily one-hour walk. I also drank all of my water every day and did my 10 minutes of Portuguese study (this past week I learned vocabulary for measurement, both distance and weight, and prepositions).
  • Looking forward to next week: YaYu heads over to Oahu on Friday evening for her big Key Club convention, and on Saturday Brett and I are going on our overnight anniversary getaway! Otherwise it’s a pretty normal week – I’m still hoping we can get to the beach, but YaYu’s schedule has been brutal!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: I’m very happy that we were able to find YaYu a calculator locally, and at a good price. I have been so happy with the response to my Japan Giveaways! I had fun coming up with them, and fun finding items while we were in Japan. I truly mean it when I say I wish I could give something to everyone that entered/enters. My friend Denise sent YaYu two beautiful formal dresses that had belonged to her daughter – one dress fits her perfectly, so she is set for prom (the other would require alterations, so we’re going to try to find someone else who can use it). We put $6.48 into our change/$1 bill jar this week.
  • Grateful for: I am frankly very thankful right now that we are not at war, although it seems to be on the horizon with us dropping big bombs in Afghanistan, playing chicken with North Korea (which threatens South Korea and Japan), and troops in the pipeline for Syria and Somalia. We’re a military family, and we know what going to war means, and it frankly makes me sick to see or hear about pundits and others on TV cheering for or getting excited about bombs and war. It also makes me sick and angry that the current occupant of the White House is still taking golfing trips most weekends down in Florida while all of this is brewing.
  • Bonus question: What’s your favorite thing to have for breakfast? I don’t think I’ve met a breakfast I didn’t like, whether eaten in a restaurant or at home (well, except for ‘restaurant’ pancakes when I was little – they were too sweet and I hated them and the whipped butter that came with them). Breakfast really is my favorite meal of the day. When I lived in San Diego in the early 1970s, there used to be a restaurant in the Mission Bay area that made a sort of Eggs Benedict dish, with an amazing cheese sauce replacing the hollandaise sauce . . . and the cheese sauce contained loads of crab meat. It still is the best breakfast dish I’ve ever had. I doubt the restaurant is even still around, and I don’t even remember the name, but I remember those eggs. Eggs Benedict, in almost any permutation, from classic to made with smoked salmon to other additions is my favorite breakfast. If I see it on a breakfast menu, that’s what I’m having for breakfast in spite of all the carbs and fat!

That’s it for this week! Hope you all had a wonderful week and are looking forward to the one coming up!

Sunday Afternoon 4/9/2017

 

I thought I was finally getting over my jet lag, but no, my internal clock is still w-a-y off. This past week was crazy when it came to sleep. I had a good day last Saturday, and went to bed at a normal time and woke up at a decent hour last Sunday morning. I thought that maybe I had licked the jet lag and was back to my normal schedule. Nope. Last Sunday night I didn’t go to sleep at all – I was awake all night, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, finally falling asleep at 6:00 a.m. Monday morning. I slept until noon, woke up feeling refreshed, and the rest of the day was great. I went to bed at around midnight on Monday, but didn’t wake up on Tuesday until nearly noon, and then was awake all night again! Friday night I went to bed at a somewhat normal time for me (1:00 a.m.), but I didn’t wake up yesterday until after 1:00 in the afternoon! Suffice it to say I am miserable right now. I’m getting enough sleep, but at all the wrong times. I told Brett to wake me up no later than 10:00 this morning, no matter what, but I was up on my own before that. Tomorrow and all this week I’m asking for a no-later-than 9:00 a.m. wake-up, and will hopefully be back to a normal sleep schedule by the end of the week.

I had a fretful week as well tracking a package we sent to Meiling a week ago last Friday. We sent both Meiling and WenYu ‘care packages’ filled with goodies and gifts from Japan, using flat-rate boxes, and were given an arrival date of this past Monday. WenYu’s package arrived in Boston and was delivered on Monday, and when we checked Meiling’s tracking number it said it was “out for delivery.” Except it was never delivered on Monday, and the next day it was sent to a different facility with a different zip code. Hmmm. From there it went to another facility, and on Wednesday morning it was sent to yet another postal facility! A package we had sent to her last fall had gotten lost, so at this point I was panicking. I called the post office in Oregon, and it turned out the fourth facility was the right one – different zip code, but it was the one that actually handled deliveries to her neighborhood, and she received her package that afternoon! Both girls were thrilled with their things – we got them each a mug from their favorite anime, a set of drawing pens, a sketchbook, and loads of KitKats and other Japanese snacks. Nothing in the boxes could have been replaced so I’m happy they both arrived safely.

Don’t forget you can still enter Japan Giveaway #2 for the Japanese kitchen set! The giveaway is open until Wednesday at midnight, HST.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading A Burglar’s Guide To the City because even though I have been awake at night, I have not been able to read for more than a few minutes. Although I’m awake at night, I seem to only be able to concentrate on a few sentences at a time, reading the same paragraph over and over because I can’t remember what it said or what it was about. Usually reading relaxes me and helps me fall asleep, but it has had no effect this past week. I could be reading in the afternoon, but that’s when I know I will fall asleep which will make it even more difficult to sleep at night.
  • Listening to: Lots of action going on in the neighborhood today – hammering, leaf blowers, lawn mowers, etc. And of course roosters are making loads of noise. Inside it’s quiet though. YaYu is still sleeping, and Brett is out for his daily walk. The washing machine will be starting up shortly too for our weekly Sunday laundry fest.
  • Watching: Brett and I have watched one episode of This Is Us every evening this past week and we love it! We watched the movie version of A Man Called Ove on Friday evening – a lovely film, although we had to pay close attention to the subtitles so we didn’t miss anything. Now I can’t wait to read the book, because I think I’m going to enjoy it even more. I’ve also started re-watching Band of Brothers while I earn Swagbucks before I go to bed.
  • Cooking/baking: Everyone was on their own for breakfast again this morning. Yogurt and fruit for me, with a sprinkle of granola, oatmeal with banana and honey for Brett, and noodles for YaYu. I am going to stand at the stove tonight and make omelets for our dinner – they were going to be ham & cheese, but we have lots of chili pork sauce left over from last night so will top the omelets with that. Omelets are easy to make (I once had a boyfriend that was a chef, and he showed me how to make and flip perfect omelets), but it’s been hot and I have been trying to avoid being at the stove. I wish there was a way to make an omelet in a slow cooker!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got the bird cookies for the first giveaway packaged up and sent off to the winner, Laurel. I rode my bike every day, but only two times a day versus the three I had been riding before our trip. It’s gotten quite hot and humid, which makes it unpleasant to ride, even with two fans blowing on me. And, my current sleep schedule has also made it difficult to fit in a third ride. I studied Portuguese for at least 10 minutes every day, and drank at least eight glass of water a day. I got three items listed for sale on Craigslist and Facebook. But, mostly I didn’t accomplish much of anything.
  • Looking forward to next week: Maybe this will be the week we get to go to the beach. The weather’s really been lovely, but we’ve either been too busy or I’ve been dragging. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to feel tired on the beach instead of at home.

    Japanese elementary students all carry randosaru

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our grandson started the first grade this past week (the Japanese school year starts in April) – I can hardly believe how fast the time has flown! The elementary school he attends is literally right across the street from their house – my daughter-in-law can stand on their balcony and watch him walk over there by himself. I cried a little when I saw the picture of him wearing his randoseru, the ubiquitous stiff leather backpack that all Japanese elementary students carry – it’s quite a milestone. I was shocked to learn that the backpack can cost between $350 – $600, a big investment for a family, but they are hand-stitched and made to last. Sometimes the grandparents give the backpack as a gift when a grandchild starts school but our son bought our grandson’s. We put another $22.46 in our change/$1 jar this week.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling very thankful that Brett and YaYu were able to get back to a normal sleep schedule as quickly as they did because they are the ones keeping things going around here, at least the things that need to be done in the morning. Hopefully I can get things back to normal this week.
  • Bonus question: What are your favorite websites for browsing? I don’t ‘browse’ the web very often, but I love any website that has to do with travel, so I sometimes look at Kayak or Expedia or such and put in imaginary destinations just to see how much the airfare would cost from here to there and back. I also love to check out different places on Airbnb, and see what it would cost to stay in different cities around the world. And sometimes I combine the two, and see what a whole trip to a particular destination would cost us! I rarely look at shopping sites, although I probably check out J. Jill every three weeks or so, to see what’s gone on sale. It’s my favorite clothing website, but I don’t think I’ve ever paid full price for anything from them (and even their sale prices can be kind of high, but their clothing lasts). I do read several blogs, but don’t consider that browsing – I have a pretty regular reading schedule for those.

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

Sunday Afternoon 4/2/2017

Besides all the KitKats, this trip’s souvenirs were five pairs of chopsticks, a small Inu Hariko, and amulets for Brett and I for good luck (red) and good fortune (gold). The pink amulet and the one below are YaYu’s, for academic testing success (she has her SAT and AP exams coming up in a month).

There are four more days to enter Japan Giveaway #1, for a gift package with five tasty Hato Sabure, or bird cookies, from Kamakura. All you have to do is leave a comment on the post (click the link above) to enter. Remember, you can comment once every day to increase your chances of winning.

Room service at the New Sanno on our last night for our grandson and YaYu. Brett and I were still full from brunch (but waste not, want not – I brought home the little jars of mayonnaise and dijon mustard!).

I almost can’t believe that a week ago we were still in Japan. We took our son and family to the fabulous brunch at the New Sanno Hotel, and then our son and grandson stayed on for a swim in the pool. Our grandson ended up staying with us for dinner as well, and for fun we ordered from room service – he was amazed when they brought our dinner to our room. The cost for room service was actually very affordable, and prices were no more than we would have paid downstairs in the restaurant.

ALL the KitKats!

It was a bit of a shock coming home to Kauai’s warm weather, especially since it was still kind of cool-ish when we left. On Monday morning in Japan I woke up to a greeting on Facebook letting me know snow was expected that day in Minato-ku, the area of Tokyo where we were staying. The snow never arrived, at least not before we left, but it was very cold and rainy, and snow was definitely a possibility. Our son bought us lunch that day from a nearby hamburger restaurant (I had a bowl of minestrone), and we left for the airport at around 3:30 in the afternoon. We found six more flavors of KitKits at the airport – melon, sakura-green tea, Japanese strawberry, roasted tea, apple, and Okinawan sweet potato – bringing our total number of flavors for this trip to 17, a new record. We have all our KitKits in a big bowl, and Brett and I are allowing ourselves one a day, after dinner each evening.

My back bothered me a bit after we got back, but nothing like last fall and it’s fine now. I’m being very careful though, and trying not to overdo things until I’m sure it’s OK. I actually think that dragging around my heavy carry-on bag is what causes the back issues (because I dragged around a heavy bag last summer too).

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I never even started A Man Called Ove and my free library download ended, so I put myself on the hold list again and in the meantime I’ve downloaded A Burglar’s Guide To the City, by Geoff Manaugh. It’s a non-fiction, architectural look at how burglars think about breaking into every type of building. It’s very interesting and entertaining – I’m learning all sorts of things (not that I plan to go out and break in anywhere).
  • Listening to: It’s currently very quiet in the house – YaYu is in her room, and Brett just left for his daily walk on the beach path. Today he’s walking from Donkey Beach south to Kealia Beach (the one closest to our house) and back before driving home. It’s warm and sunny outside, but with a nice breeze blowing that I can hear rustling the trees. Loads of birds are singing (and I hear some roosters in the distance) – it’s a beautiful day!
  • Watching: Brett and I finished up all the available episodes of Ripper Street, and are getting ready to start This Is Us on Hulu tonight. Last night we watched the movie Loving – such a beautiful film. We’ve also discovered that all seasons of The Great British Bake-Off are available on YouTube, and since we have a smart TV we’re going to try to slip in a few of those as well this week.
  • Cooking/Baking: Everyone was on their own for breakfast this morning: YaYu had one of the specialty cup noodles she brought back from Japan, I had yogurt with strawberries and blueberries, and Brett had oatmeal with blueberries and soy milk. Tonight I’m making the baked chili rellenos topped with green chili sauce that I didn’t get to make before we left along with some yellow rice and coleslaw. No baking today – we brought home more than enough treats from Japan that I doubt I’ll need to bake this entire month.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I recovered from jet lag pretty quickly this time, although the first couple of days after we got home were rough. Brett and I got all of our “big shop” for the month accomplished, and came in under budget. It was difficult getting back on the exercise bike again, mainly because my feet and legs hurt so much after all the walking we did in Japan, but I’ve gotten back up to three rides a day, and am incorporating a HITS in each ride. I’ve picked up Portuguese again, for 10 minutes a day now, but I sure did forget a lot while we were gone. I found though that 10 minutes helps me retain what I learn – more than that and I start forgetting things – so I’ve backed that down from 20 minutes. I’ve given up with Rosetta Stone Japanese even though I only have one more lesson to go – all that work, and what they taught was pretty much worthless in Japan. I could barely understand anything or say anything. Hopefully I can find something else that’s more effective.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m hoping Brett and I can get to the beach at least once. I’m of course looking forward to my daily KitKat – I close my eyes when I reach into the bowl and never know what flavor I’ll be having. But, they’ve all been good and I’ve been happy with every choice (I had sake last night – yowza!). I’m not sure I’m looking forward to having a gastrointestinal endoscopy (GUI) done on Tuesday, but hopefully it will all be good news.

    Loved, loved, loved getting to spend so much time with this little one!

  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had an absolutely fabulous time in Japan – everything about the trip went right from start to finish. We loved meeting our new granddaughter and getting to spend time with her – she is such a happy, calm baby. Our grandson is a bundle of energy (he’s six!), but so smart and funny, and so much fun to be around. Our son and daughter-in-law spoiled us rotten, taking us out to eat several times, buying our train tickets, offering us advice and directions, and so forth. I was able to bring home three small loaves of the best raisin bread ever from the bakery near my son’s condo – it went into the freezer here, and I’m allowing myself one slice every Monday for breakfast to make it last. On top of the $87.43 we set aside during our stay, this past week we put an additional $14.21 into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Reporting losses and gains for the quarter: I lost another six pounds last month, bringing my total weight loss so far to 14 pounds! All that walking in Japan sure made a difference. We have so far saved $1801.71 toward our goal of saving $7000 this year for next year’s Big Mystery Adventure™. If we can keep up the pace we will make it, but it’s not going to be easy . . . we have lots coming up for the girls this year, and Brett needs to get new glasses, among other things.
  • Grateful for: I am thankful every day for my wonderful husband of 38 years. Brett and I had our anniversary this past week, but won’t “officially” celebrate until later this month. When I joined the navy back in 1977, as I headed off to my first duty station my mother’s parting words were, “for heaven’s sake, whatever you do, don’t marry a sailor!” Others told me that our marriage would never last. But here we are, still in love, still best friends, and still enjoying each other’s company. Brett’s sister thought it was awful at one point that I didn’t want to participate in all of Brett’s hobbies and activities, but that’s one of the things that I love about our relationship, that each of us appreciates that the other is a different, whole person, with different likes and interests. We do share the “important” stuff though, about money, child rearing, politics, and such. Every day with Brett has been a blessing. My mother, by the way, thought Brett was wonderful from the moment she met him, and totally approved of my marrying a sailor!
  • Bonus question: What new things did you learn in Japan this time? I learned a new word, mamonaku, which I kept hearing over and over whenever we rode the train and subway (something I never heard on Rosetta Stone). It means “shortly,” like “shortly, the train will be arriving at xxx station.” Our son also pointed out that ticket machines in Japan will accept and make change from what is the equivalent of a $100 bill (10,000¥). I had never noticed that before, but you can buy a ticket for around $1.40, and get around $98.60 back in change if all you have is a 10,000¥ bill! Kind of nuts, but very convenient.

That’s it from Casa Aloha this afternoon! How was your week? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Evening 3/26/2017

The view from our son’s apartment – we’re going to miss this busy, vibrant city!

It’s Sunday evening here in Tokyo. I almost can’t believe that this time tomorrow we’ll be on our way home to Kaua’i. What a great time we’ve had! We’ve thoroughly enjoyed each and every day, and seen and done everything we wanted to see and do. The only thing we could want more of is time with our son, daughter-in-law and beautiful grandchildren.

The view from our room at the New Sanno has been the French Embassy

The New Sanno Hotel has been an absolutely fantastic place to stay. Our room has been exceedingly comfortable, with every amenity imaginable, and we’ve loved being able to have our son and grandson come over to swim a few times this week. Having a Navy Exchange on the property has also helped us save, and let us indulge our son’s love of Diet Coke!

I’m ending our vacation with a trip to the local police station. It was raining this morning when we were walking to our grandson’s soccer practice, and as we walked along the street I saw something shining on the sidewalk and bent down to pick it up. It was a thin silver ring, like a wedding band, but as Brett and YaYu had gotten far ahead of me at that point I put the ring in my pocket and kept going. I thought about putting it back, but then couldn’t remember where on the street I had found it. But, as the day went on I was feeling badly about having it, and this evening looked inside and saw a very tiny ‘Chanel’ marked inside as well as some numbers. I plugged it all into Google and voilà – there was the ring on the Chanel site! It is made of platinum, and has a retail value of more than $1530!!! Yikes! So, after we check out of the hotel tomorrow morning my son and I are going over to the local police station to turn the ring into lost and found because I know someone here would do the same if I lost something, even if it was just a cheap plastic umbrella. You just don’t take things you find here and keep them.

There will be absolutely nothing to eat in our house when we get home to Kaua’i, so we plan to stop at Pono Market in Kapaa on the way home from the airport to pick up a few things to eat, as well as find something to put in YaYu’s lunch on Tuesday when she heads back to school. Brett and I will be heading to Costco, Walmart and Big Save on Tuesday to do our monthly ‘big shop’ and replenish our fridge, freezer and pantry for the month.

YaYu and our grandson enjoy Angel Heart crepes in Harajuku. Our daughter-in-law thought she would get to share with our grandson, but he ate the whole thing all by himself.

This evening I am:

  • Reading: I’m ashamed to say I haven’t picked up my book even once this week. We’ve come back to our room every evening and collapsed.
  • Listening to: We had our grandson here at the hotel with us this evening, but he’s gone home to bed because he has to be up early to go on a field trip tomorrow, and the room seems quiet and empty without him. Brett and YaYu have fallen asleep, and I’m about to drop off.
  • Watching: We haven’t watched very much TV here, although there are plenty of channels available. I’ve actually missed seeing any Japanese TV – it can be very wacky (along with completely unintelligible).

    You can take the girl out of China, but you can’t take the China out of the girl. YaYu was in heaven getting to have a huge bowl of spicy ramen and some fried rice. Chinese food in Japan is popular, delicious and very affordable.

  • Eating: Since last week’s visit to the curry restaurant, we’ve enjoyed tonkatsu (pork cutlets), Chinese food in Chinatown, shrimp & vegetable tempura for dinner one evening, as well as those only-in-Japan treats. YaYu was determined to have ramen here, and finally got to enjoy a big bowl of the stuff at a stand/restaurant when we visited Asakusa to see the Sensoji temple.

    Me and my guy at the Meiji Shrine

  • Happy I accomplished last week: We got to babysit our grandchildren not once, but twice, this past week, and we got to take our grandson out to lunch one day. He also spent this evening with us at the hotel, which was a delight. For fun we ordered from room service (very affordable at the hotel) which he thought was a lot of fun. This week we got to walk the Ginza in Tokyo and shop at Ito-Ya, the famous paper store; visit Tokyo Station and the surrounding area; spend a full day in Yokohama and tour the Cup Noodle Museum as well as visit Chinatown and the Takashimaya department store at Yokohama Station; visit the Meiji Shrine and Harajuku; and go to Nakamise and the Sensoji temple in Asakusa. In other words, we did everything on our list except visit Kamakura, which we decided would just be too much this time. We have one more task tomorrow morning besides the visit to the police station – a trip to the bakery to pick up some raisin bread to bring home. Otherwise we’re packed and ready to go. Our plane leaves at 7:00 p.m., so we will catch the express train at 3:30-ish to be out to Narita by 5:00.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m feeling very sad about leaving Japan because I know it will be a couple of years before we can get back, and our grandchildren will grow and change so much before we can see them again, but at the same time I’m looking forward to being home on Kaua’i again, enjoying the memories we’ve made and some of the treats we’re bringing home with us. I’ll also be announcing the first of three Japan-related giveaways on the blog later this week!

    We had a fun visit to the Owl Cafe in Harajuku. After having some tea we got to interact with several owls, which ranged in size from huge to tiny.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: We enjoyed treating our son and family to the fabulous Sunday champagne brunch at the New Sanno this morning, and then having them stay for a swim this afternoon. We will actually be leaving Japan this time with money in our travel account. The only souvenirs we’ve bought for ourselves have been edible except for the omikuji (amulets) Brett and I bought ourselves for good fortune and luck at the Meiji Shrine, and a small Inu Hariko, my favorite Japanese folk character, that I found at a folk craft shop near Sensoji. He’ll go on my bedside table when we get home. We also found two more flavors of KitKats yesterday, raspberry and green tea, when we stopped in a couple of convenience stores on our way back to the hotel to look for something else – we’re now up to eleven different flavors this trip! Other than a couple of rainy days we’ve enjoyed great weather all week, although it’s been quite cold at times (for us).
  • Grateful for: Once again we have been so thankful for our son’s and daughter-in-law’s help with translations and getting us around all this past week. We could have managed on our own, but not as smoothly or easily as it’s been with their assistance. They’ve also bought many of our train/subway tickets, taken us out for several meals, and helped us experience things we would have otherwise missed.

    This vending machine sits outside a small cafe & bakery (which sells coffee and tea), and has a selection of water, hot and cold teas, and hot and cold coffee drinks – most cost around $1.20. The man wearing the sunglasses, in the picture with Tommy Lee Jones at the top of the machine, is Tamori. He’s a comedian and has been a star here since I first came to Japan in 1971 – the sunglasses have always been his trademark.

  • It’s so Japanese-y: Vending machines (jidō hanbaiki) are everywhere in Japan. Everywhere. You will find them on street corners in residential areas, in busy train or subway stations, outside convenience stores and supermarkets, inside department stores – everywhere. Most sell drinks such as hot or cold coffee, juices, energy drinks, or water and tea, but you can also find machines selling beer, whiskey, sake, magazines, cigarettes, umbrellas, neckties, hot noodles, books, ice cream (including ice cream cones), crepes, fruits and vegetables, eggs and well, just about anything you can think of. It’s just part of life in Japan. Many vending machines that sell drinks in plastic bottles and cans have a recycling center either built in, or right next to the machines. You’ll never see a bottle or can just thrown into the street.

That’s all for this week! It’s back to our regular routine next week, but even though we’ve had a wonderful trip I’m sort of looking forward to regular again (whatever that means). How was your week? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Evening 3/19/2017

We had a nearly 4-hour layover in Honolulu before heading to Japan.

We’re here!

The flight over was long, but comfortable – we were all very happy we had upgraded to the premium economy level. Brett said it felt like there was almost too much legroom! We were fed well, including a mid-flight snack of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – that was a first. Delta provided a large selection of movies to choose from, and I was able to see La La Land (meh), Manchester By the Sea (excellent), and Florence Foster Jenkins (very enjoyable and fun) as well as fit in a short nap. Clearing immigration and customs was easy once we arrived at Narita, and our son and grandson were waiting for us when we came out. After that it was a short walk to catch the express train into Tokyo, with the ride to our station just slightly over an hour.

We took taxis from the station over to the New Sanno and got checked in, then unpacked all the gifts out of our suitcases and got them into the appropriate gift bags and headed over to our son’s condo to meet our granddaughter and have a celebratory dinner of sushi and some other goodies. At that point Brett, YaYu and I though were about to drop dead – we had been up for nearly 22 hours! Our room is very comfortable, and we all had a good night’s sleep.

Our sweet baby girl!

Our new granddaughter is a delight! She’s a very happy and easy-going baby, and lets each of us pick her up and hold her without any fussing. Our grandson is a bundle of energy and a load of fun to be around. He’s a fantastic big brother too – very loving and tender with his little sister.

We had an enjoyable, and relaxing day today beginning with breakfast at the hotel followed by a walk to a nearby supermarket and bakery to purchase breakfast items we can have in the room starting tomorrow. Then we headed over to our son’s and all of us went to the train-themed curry restaurant for lunch. It’s a small place that seats only around 15 people maximum, with the whole place covered in Japanese train and station memorabilia. Meals are delivered to the table via a large model train that runs around the restaurant! The owner and chef came out after we had finished and talked with Brett (who loves trains), and told him about many of the pieces he had collected over the years while our son translated. Then it was back to the hotel with our son and grandson for a swim followed by dinner at the hotel restaurant. Brett and YaYu have collapsed, but here I am wide awake!

The Niagara curry restaurant sports loads of train memorabilia inside and out. Our grandson is checking out a vending machine in front that sells miniature train cars. (Yes, grandma bought him one.)

Menu choices are posted on a board outside the restaurant. In the upper left corner is the kid’s meal – it arrives on a train plate. Inside the restaurant, you actually order using a trai ticket machine!

The seats for each booth are from old trains, with the original blue velvet upholstery. Track can be seen on the ledge beside the table – a model trains delivers each dish from the kitchen to your table – fun!

An employee of the restaurant makes balloon sculptures for children because usually everyone has to wait for a table. He made our grandson Super Mario this time.

This evening I am:

  • Reading: I brought along my Kindle but have not had time yet to start A Man Called Ove. Maybe tomorrow.
  • Listening to: The room is perfectly quiet – both Brett and YaYu are sleeping.
  • Watching: Nothing so far, although I want to check out Japanese TV while we’re here to see if I can understand any of it. One thing that’s quite different these days from when we lived here is that every U.S. cable channel is available for the military. Back then we had just one English channel (Far East Network) which mostly carried old or dated shows and loads of public service announcements.

    I had vegetable curry with green pepper, carrots, eggplant, and kabocha pumpkin – so delicious!

  • Eating: We had American breakfasts in the hotel this morning – very good, very filling and very reasonable. Then lunch at the curry restaurant, and dinner again with our son and grandson at the hotel following their swim. Tomorrow we’re hoping to eat either tonkatsu (pork cutlet) or ramen while we’re out.
  • Happy I accomplished this last week: We’re in Japan!
  • Looking forward to next week: Tomorrow and the day after we’re babysitting our grandchildren, and tomorrow after we’re done Brett, YaYu and I plan to go to the Ginza to check out Ito-ya, a very old and famous paper store with 12 stories of all things related to paper, including one whole floor dedicated to pens and pencils. We’ll also hopefully have a chance to check out the Tokyo Kabuki theater, which is nearby. As for the rest of the week, we’re just going to play it by ear.

    Three of our favorite KitKat flavors: Rum raisin, wasabi, and strawberry cheesecake. We’ve already found a new flavor this trip: sake!

  • Thinking of good things that happened: The KitKat hunt is off to a good start! The small Navy Exchange in the hotel now carries KitKats, and we were able to get four different flavors, including a new one: sake, which contains real alcohol. Although I’ve been feeling like I haven’t been getting all that much from my Japanese lessons with Rosetta Stone, I’m surprised by how much I can understand now that I’m here, and how much I can read. I’m still incapable of putting a sentence together though. And, it turns out I don’t need to buy a pre-paid SIM card for my phone here. Our very affordable phone plan in the U.S. turned out to include free data and texting in Japan, and reasonable prices if we decide to call while we’re in country (which we would do only in case of emergency). $$ saved!
  • Grateful for: We’re all so thankful (and fortunate) our son speaks Japanese – in just the time we’ve been here he’s been hugely helpful making sure we understand what’s going on, that we buy the right ticket, that taxi drivers get us to the right place and so forth. And, we have the most wonderful daughter-in-law in the world. I’m not sure what we did to deserve her.

    Two treats: ohagi and sakura mochi. The ohagi looks black, but the sweet beans are actually a very deep purple.

  • It’s so Japanese-y: I love Japanese sweets even though they’re not very sweet by American standards. Today my daughter-in-law stopped at a wagashi (traditional Japanese sweets) shop on our way back to the station from the curry restaurant, and bought me a sakura mochi, my all-time favorite, made of sweet beans inside a thin layer of mochi, and then wrapped in a pickled cherry tree leaf. The briny leaf perfectly compliments the sweet mochi and bean filling. Sakura mochi is only available for a short time every year, around cherry blossom season which is coming up soon. Brett got an ohagi: a layer of sweet beens over a mochi filling.

That’s it for this Sunday from Japan. How was your week? What have you been doing? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 3/12/2017

It’s been too long since we’ve enjoyed this view! We’re hoping, if the weather cooperates, for a chance to go this week in between trip prep activities.

It’s very exciting to think that a week from now we will be in Japan! We’ve entered trip prep mode, and are taking care of things like making sure all our bills are paid and other household chores are done before we go. Packing will commence next Wednesday – we’ve got our fingers crossed we can fit everything into our bags. Our suitcases are definitely going to be a lot lighter coming home than going over!

In spite of all her fundraising, we still have been spending a lot for YaYu’s activities recently. There seems to always be something she needs, and Brett and I have felt like money has been flying out of our accounts the past few months. Next month we have to buy a graphing calculator and earphones ($$$) for her AP/SAT testing in May and for calculus next year. However, next month will be the last for Chinese tutoring, so that will help, and we’ll hopefully get a break over the summer before her senior year starts up. We used to think Meiling was the expensive one, but YaYu has broken all records. She’s not a demanding kid, and a good fundraiser, but when the heck did high school get so expensive?

I am probably the only person around who welcomed the arrival of Daylight Savings today. Why? Because a) Hawai’i doesn’t do daylight savings, and b) it means I can start a new day of Swagbucks at 9:00 p.m. versus waiting until 10:00 p.m. The new Swagbucks day starts at 12:00 a.m. PST, and with DST that means 9:00 p.m. here. I try to earn my daily goal before I go to bed at night, and starting at 10:00 has meant sometimes staying up later than I wanted. I will be taking a break from SB while we’re in Japan, mainly because I can’t access the site from there, but plan to be right back at it as soon as we return.

One more thing: For some unknown reason I have been having a difficult time commenting on some blogs hosted by Blogger. I write a comment, hit publish and the comment vanishes into the ether. But, on other Blogger blogs, no problem. I don’t know what’s going on or why, but I have tried to comment on several blogs recently with no success. I’m still faithfully reading though!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I tried a tip from Barbara at Living Richly in Retirement and set my Kindle to airplane mode (i.e. shut off the WiFi connection) which means that I can continue reading Nobody’s Fool even though the download has expired. I just downloaded A Man Called Ove from the library this morning, so as soon as I finish Nobody’s Fool I will be digging into that.
  • Listening to: I woke up this morning to the sound of the washing machine – Brett’s getting an early start on today’s laundry. It’s beautiful outside today, and the birds are singing like crazy. It almost sounds like we’re in the middle of a nature documentary! We’ve heard some of our neighbors outside, but otherwise it’s pretty quiet around here.
  • Watching: Brett and I are still watching Ripper Street, but are now in the last season available on Netflix. We’ll have to find something new after we get home.
  • Cooking/baking: We were supposed to have baked chilis rellenos for dinner tonight, but I had to postpone  them and a couple of other meals from last week’s menu to fit in some things that needed using up quickly. So, tonight we’ll be having the pork noodles that we were supposed to have this past Thursday. I’ll probably bake another cake this afternoon or tomorrow – any leftovers can go in the freezer before we leave.

    I made this chain to remind me how many months we have to save until our Mystery Big Adventure™ next year!

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I worked out our budget for the next six months to see if it was possible to kick up the amount we put into savings. My income is going to change mid-way through though because I go on Medicare in May, so we will lose the amount for that payment every month, and working around that was tricky, but doable. The family that YaYu will be staying with in Honolulu during the orientation for her summer trip to China will be on Kaua’i the day we return from Japan, and we set up a lunch date with them so they could meet YaYu and she won’t feel like she’s staying with total strangers. I got in all my bike rides (105+ miles ridden, 3885+ calories burned), drank all my water, and studied Japanese and Portuguese every day.
  • Looking forward to next week: Japan! Our flight from Lihue over to Honolulu leaves before 7:00 in the morning, which means we will have a nearly four-hour layover at the Honolulu airport before our departure for Japan. We’re planning to have breakfast once we get to the Honolulu airport, probably coffee and breakfast sandwiches from Starbucks for Brett and YaYu, and fruit for me. Although it’s going to be a busy week, Brett and I are hoping that the weather and our schedule will align so we can go to the beach for a couple of hours.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Both Meiling and WenYu have received their financial aid awards for next year, and they’re pretty much a repeat of this year’s so we’re all happy. They each got a generous award directly from their respective colleges and each got a small Pell Grant. WenYu was offered a small Federal loan but won’t take it because she’s saved enough to cover the rest of her costs, and plans to work this summer to begin earning for the following year. Meiling will continue to earn enough from her job to cover her own room and board. WenYu and her roommate applied to room together again next year, in the same dorm, so that’s taken care of as well. Meiling just interviewed for a summer job at the college that will provide room and board, and she’s already found a roommate for apartment sharing next year, so that’s settled as well. We put $8.53 into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Grateful for: I am feeling very thankful right now that YaYu’s high school requires students to wear a uniform – it has saved us a great deal of money. All she needs to be outfitted properly are shorts, a school related t-shirt, and flip flops, and she’s good to go. We will have to buy her new running shoes this fall, and probably a couple of team tank tops, but otherwise she is set for her senior year.
  • Bonus question: What do you think would surprise your parents most about you now? I think both would be surprised by what a good money manager I am. They both saw me as flighty and unserious as well as a spendthrift, even though growing up I used to save my babysitting money to buy things I wanted that they didn’t want to buy (i.e. clothes or shoes). I also think they might be surprised as well by how organized I am, and how I set goals and achieve them. My dad especially loved to say  that I never stuck with anything (although I did) – what he didn’t see was that I knew when to bail out of something that wasn’t working or never would. I know both my parents would be very proud of how Brett and I have raised our children. My Mom told me toward the end of her life that one of her greatest joys was meeting our girls and getting to know them, that we had done a great job raising them (all three girls joined our family after my dad had died). No one on either side of my family had ever adopted before, and my parents unfortunately had all sorts of preconceived beliefs about how adoption just never worked out.

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

Sunday Afternoon 3/5/2017

Brett and YaYu each got a treat from the bakery in Hanapepe: a chocolate croissant for YaYu, and a macadamia nut swirl for Brett

Treats from the bakery in Hanapepe: a chocolate croissant for YaYu, and a macadamia nut swirl for Brett.

Brett and I had plans to drive down to Hanapepe this past Tuesday, but the weather here had other ideas. The forecast on Monday called for rain, with even more rain on Tuesday, all over the island. They were not kidding. It rained non-stop all day on Tuesday, but that was just an appetizer for the rain that arrived that night. Brett and YaYu had already gone to bed when it started, but I was still up when the worst of it arrived. It’s the first time in my life I can ever remember being frightened by rain, but it was coming down so hard I thought we might wash away. It didn’t let up all night, and when the wind picked up rain was actually blowing through the window over our bed, the first time that’s ever happened as the house has wide eaves. The storm blew away mid-morning, the key word being blew as the strong winds hung around all day Wednesday. But, the rain was back with a vengeance again Wednesday evening and it rained again all night. Thursday was surprisingly gorgeous, and Friday was lovely, but the rain came back on Saturday. The island is soaked. The storms that blew through the state this past week were apparently strong enough to cause blizzard conditions on the top of Mauna Kea on the Big Island – they got more snow than both Denver or Chicago! Never a dull moment here!

On Monday, YaYu said she felt like she was coming down with a cold, and on Tuesday she felt worse, but got herself up and off to school to take the ACT test, although she said her brain gave out about half way through. Track practice was cancelled because of the rain, and YaYu came home and climbed into bed, where she stayed for the next two days, coughing and burning up with fever. She missed Thursday’s track meet, and we had to reschedule her pulmonary function test to next week. YaYu is one of those kids who rarely gets sick, so it just breaks our hearts to see her so miserable. She’s feeling a bit better now, but we may have to schedule (and pay for) her to take the ACT test again in the fall, depending on how she did this time.

Can't wait to see these guys (although hopefully our grandson won't have drawn another mask on his face). The display in the back is for Girls' Day, which was March 3.

Can’t wait to see these guys and meet this cute little girl (although hopefully our grandson won’t have drawn another mask on his face). The display in the back is for Girls’ Day, which was March 3.

Brett and I are in grandparent heaven – our son and D-I-L have asked us to babysit for them not once, but twice while we’re there! We’ll be watching our granddaughter while the rest of them go to our grandson’s ‘graduation’ ceremony, and then both the kids the next day when our son and D-I-L have an interview with our grandson’s potential elementary school. Our son will be taking vacation days while we’re there, and our grandson will be out of school, so they are planning to go out with us on a few of our excursions – yeah!

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading Nobody’s Fool, but have realized I’m not going to finish it before my download expires. Darn! I have some other things on my Kindle that I can read/finish until I can check it out again.
  • Listening to: A quiet morning here – the sky is blue and it’s not raining! Brett is reading, YaYu is enjoying her weekly bowl of ramen, and the birds are singing outside. No one is working outside, but I think that’s because it’s still too wet. Laundry will be starting up in a few minutes though which will be the end of quiet for a while.
  • Watching: We finished all the episodes of the Great British Baking Show, and again enjoyed it immensely. The things they make all look so good (and tempting). We’re going to watch Moonlight, this year’s winner for best film, tonight and then will go back to watching Ripper Street.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m not sure if I’m going to bake today or not – I might make a chocolate cake but it can probably wait until tomorrow. Tonight we’re having zucchini frittata and salami, and Brett and YaYu will also get some garlic toast. The recipe I use for the frittata comes from Jane Brody’s Good Food Book, originally published in January 1980 – it remains one of my all-time favorite cook books. Brody pushes a high carbohydrate diet, but there are plenty of low-carb recipes in the book as well.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I’ve been watching airfares to get WenYu home for the summer for a few weeks now, and found a good fare and great schedule this past week and snapped it up. I am so glad to have that taken care of. I turned up the resistance another notch on the exercise bike on March 1, and got in my three rides every day as well as drank all my glasses of water (and then some). Switching the Japanese to 20 minutes has made that more enjoyable, but I’m not sure 20 minutes of Portuguese is the way to go just yet as I’m having a harder time remembering new vocabulary. I also got my gastro-endoscopy appointment set up for early April.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m looking forward to a somewhat relaxing week as we have nothing pressing on the calendar other than the usual YaYu stuff.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu is feeling a bit more like her old self again, and went back to her Mandarin tutoring sessions this weekend (between Chinese New Years and YaYu’s commitments she lost a couple of weeks of lessons). After the really wacky weather we had at the beginning of the week, Brett and I had a lovely day visiting Hanapepe Old Town on Friday. We put $12.03 in the change/$1 bill jar.

    What a wet week it's been . . . but everything is so very green, my favorite color.

    What a wet week it’s been . . . but everything is so very, very green. Well, except for our lawn – it struggles to stay green. We think the landlord planted the wrong kind of grass for the weather here.

  • Grateful for: I am actually thankful for all the rain we’ve been getting because a) it means we don’t have to run the sprinklers in the yard which helps keep our water bill low; b) it makes the island so very, very green and lush; and c) it keeps the dust down.
  • Bonus question: Have you ever had your fortune told by a psychic or a Tarot card reader and if so, what did you learn? I had a Tarot reading when I was 18, just for fun. All that I remember from that was that I was going to meet and fall in love with a dark man on a ship. Well, I met Brett, who has olive skin and (had) dark hair, and he was in the navy, so who knows? Maybe the cards were accurate. Actually, when I was in college a supposedly very famous psychic came and gave a lecture. His ‘gift’ was that he could look at you and ‘read’ you and your aura, and claimed to see your whole life appear in front of him like a panorama. I went up to him after the presentation and asked a simple question about my future and he answered quickly and dismissed me. I’ve had quite a life since then, including some downright dangerous and frightening incidents that I wished someone could have warned me might be coming down the path. I’ve also had many, many good things in my life as well, but this guy acted like he saw nothing of interest. The person he was fascinated with was my boyfriend at the time. The psychic said he ‘saw something’ and invited the boyfriend to come study with him, but the boyfriend didn’t go. He instead became an insurance agent, got married and had two kids, and has absolutely no psychic talent whatsoever. Hmmmm.

That’s our week! How was yours? What did you accomplish? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 2/26/2017

dsc0329512211111111111Well guess what? After a month of very limited carbohydrates, increased exercise and lots of water (and possibly a round of food poisoning), I’ve lost some weight! I did an “official” monthly weigh-in yesterday morning, and this past month I lost eight pounds! Eight pounds!! I could tell I was losing something because my clothes have felt different, but it was a nice surprise to see so much come off. I sure don’t expect to lose this much every month, but it’s a good start, and I sure haven’t felt deprived in the least.

YaYu saw the doctor this past week for some breathing difficulties she’s been experiencing, and like her two sisters before her has for the time being been diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma and prescribed an inhaler. The doctor has also ordered a pulmonary function test to rule out general asthma, and until that happens she can’t participate in any running events for track, although she can still compete in both the long jump and triple jump events. Exercise-induced asthma for teen athletes is more common here than one might imagine, possibly caused by a combination of heat, humidity and dust in the air.

We received the invoice for the Key Club convention that YaYu will be attending in April: $325 per person. However, after all the fundraising she has done the past few months, her balance due was just $12.20! She is still continuing to sell candy bars, although the money going forward will go toward reducing her airfare to Oahu and back.

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: It’s been slow going with Nobody’s Fool so far, although I am enjoying it. I’m finding myself overly distracted by the news once again, so am going to have to knock that back some and focus more on reading.
  • Listening to: It’s a very quiet morning here. The sun is out, but the only sound outside is birds singing (and the occasional rooster). YaYu is still asleep – she had a long day yesterday – and Brett is reading. the-talented-mr-ripley-knitwear
  • Watching: Brett and I just started Season 3 of Ripper Street, still watching just one episode an evening. On Friday evening we all watched The Talented Mr. Ripley, courtesy of Amazon Prime. Still a great story, and terrific acting from everyone in the film (and a reminder once again of the talent lost when Philip Seymour Hoffman died). We noticed that there are new episodes available of the Great British Baking Show on Amazon Prime, so we’re going to take a break from Ripper Street starting tonight to watch that for a few days.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m making an orange cake this afternoon for Brett and YaYu (Brett’s choice), and tonight we’re having Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs again. We raved over it when I first made it a couple of weeks ago and are excited to have it again along with sautéed bok choy. Besides being delicious, the egg dish is also a snap to prepare.

    The stadium market on Fridays is very low key compared to our local market.

    The stadium market on Fridays is very low-key compared to our local market.

  • Happy I accomplished this week: I didn’t think we’d be going to a farmers’ market this week, but Brett and I headed down to the Friday afternoon one at Vidinha Stadium in Lihue, and bought enough to get us through until the Kapaa market next Wednesday. I cranked up my bike riding to three 15-minute sessions a day, and rode over 105 miles, and burned over 3,880 calories! I also drank all my water (and then some), and did all my Japanese and Portuguese study sessions. As of tomorrow though I’m changing the time spent on each language: I’m cutting back the Japanese to 20 minutes, and increasing Portuguese to 20 minutes each day. It’s not my accomplishment, but Brett got WenYu’s taxes done – they were complicated because she worked in both Hawaii and Massachusetts last year. She’ll be getting back a nice refund this year from both states as well as from the federal return.
  • Looking forward to next week: Brett and I plan to head down to the south side of the island either Tuesday or Wednesday to visit Hanapepe. There’s lots to see and do in Old Town, and we’ll have lunch while we’re there. We’re also planning to finish up gift shopping this week for our upcoming Japan trip.

    Tiger girls

    Tiger girls

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Seeing that tiny amount due for YaYu’s convention payment just about blew us away – we thought, if we were lucky, that she might have raised maybe $200 or so. I had a very fun time chatting with Meiling and WenYu on a conference call yesterday – they showed me how to add filters while we talked which kept us laughing the whole time. We put $4.52 in the change/$1 bill jar this week. It was going to be nothing because we were heading for a no-spend week, but then ended up going to the farmers’ market on Friday and got some change back.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are so very thankful that YaYu has put so much effort into fundraising so that we don’t have to pay so much for all these activities she’s involved in. She is a “joiner,” and every thing seems to required some sort of payment these days, but she always tries to find a way to keep the cost down to zero, or as near to that as possible.
  • Bonus question: Are you a risk taker or someone who’s more risk averse? I think I’m someone who falls right into the middle of those two things. I definitely not afraid to try something new or somewhat risky, but before I do I try to find out as much about what I’m getting myself into. This goes for everything, whether it’s bungee jumping, skydiving, or  some major life decisions. There are loads of people who would find moving to Hawai’i with three teenagers while living on a fixed income a very risky proposition, but we investigated our move thoroughly before we committed, and knew what we were taking on before making the move. Same for adopting three children in our mid- to late-40s and early 50s. We were risking our retirement when we did, but we weighed all the plusses and minuses, and knew it was the right thing for us to do. If I do think that something is too risky, or I learn of possible future pitfalls that I won’t be able to avoid, then I have no trouble pulling back or backing out from something.

That’s what’s been going on this week at Casa Aloha. How was your week? What have you been up to? What good things happened for you?

Sunday Afternoon 2/19/2017

The view looking south from Kilauea Point, where big swells were breaking against the rocks. You can't see them, but the hill is covered with birds.

The view looking south from Kilauea Point, where big swells were breaking against the rocks. You can’t see them, but the hill is actually covered with white red-footed boobys.

We had another lovely week here at Casa Aloha, with Valentine’s Day turning into something special. I gave Brett and YaYu each a box of See’s chocolates (the best!), and Brett gave me a small bouquet of roses – very unexpected and sweet. We usually don’t do anything celebrate or mark the day, so this year turned out to be a nice surprise for all of us. The day itself was glorious, so Brett and I headed back up to Kilauea to visit the National Wildlife Sanctuary (admission free with our senior lifetime National Park pass). We almost didn’t get in because there were so many visitors, but we decided to wait and see what happened and within a few minutes a few cars came out and we were allowed to drive in. We saw more wildlife than we thought we might, including several whales, nene (Hawaiian geese), and other shorebirds. The views were nothing short of spectacular.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Historic Kilauea Point Lighthouse

We found out this past week that YaYu has to attend a mandatory four-day orientation on Oahu in June for her China trip this summer. We called the organization to say that we couldn’t afford the additional expense of four days on Oahu, but a homestay will be arranged for YaYu with another student who will be going on the trip. So, we will have to buy her a round-trip ticket over to Oahu and back, and pay a very small stipend to the family for breakfast and dinner, but we can fit those things into our budget by June.

The total for all that beautiful produce we bought at last week’s farmers’ market was . . . $32! The most expensive item was the little jar of honey, which cost $5. The big head of broccoli was $4; the tomatoes and bunch of bananas were $3 each; the small head of cauliflower, bok choy, Swiss chard, zucchini and cilantro were $2 each; and the cucumber was $1. The two papayas cost $4, and all the oranges and tangelos together were just $2. We won’t be going to the market this week as YaYu has a doctor’s appointment up in Kilauea at the same time, but we’ve got enough to get us through next week. That head of broccoli is big enough for three meals!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished Life As We Knew It on Friday, and am now reading Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo. I’ve enjoyed everything he’s written, so am greatly looking forward to this book.
  • Listening to: It’s very breezy outside today – the trees are making lots of noise. But, otherwise no outside noises, including roosters (yeah!). Inside it’s quiet except for the washer and dryer doing their thing. 
  • Watching: Brett and I continue to work our way through Ripper Street. In the past we’ve watched more than one episode of shows at a time, but are only allowing ourselves one an evening now, to stretch things out a bit. Friday evening we watched The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, a documentary about famed animator Hiyao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. As we are all major Studio Ghibli fans here, this was especially interesting to us. Once again though, I could barely understand a word of Japanese – thank goodness for subtitles.
  • Cooking/baking: We usually have eggs of some kind on Sunday evening, but because there’s no school tomorrow (President’s Day) YaYu is having a friend over this evening for dinner and a sleepover, and I’ve got the slow cooker carnitas going today and we’ll have tacos and rice this evening. I’m going to make a pan of brownies this afternoon for the girls to nosh on later. I made ginger sugar cookie dough yesterday evening, and baked the cookies this morning (the dough needs to be chilled before baking, the longer the better).
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett and I got all our food shopping done for the next month, and came in $20+ dollars under budget, so that’s money into the savings account. We lowered our food budget this year from $600 per month to $500, so to come in under is some serious saving. Hopefully we will get most of the food used up by the time we leave for Japan. I didn’t make it to the pool for a swim this past week, but on the days I couldn’t go I added in an additional session on the exercise bike. Otherwise I got in all my bike rides, even though were a couple of times I didn’t feel like it, drank all my water, and did my language studies. I am really disliking Rosetta Stone at this point, but just have four more lessons to go and I am done!
  • Looking forward to next week: We really don’t have anything on the calendar next week other than YaYu’s doctor’s appointment, but the trade winds are supposed to be quite brisk, so not sure if Brett and I can make it to the beach or not.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu had to attend a Kiwanis Dinner on Valentine’s Day, and she and a partner decided to take along some more of the chocolate bars they’ve been selling as a fundraiser. She and her partner sold 90 of them! YaYu has now almost completely covered the cost of her April trip through fundraising. She also worked yesterday afternoon to distribute the malasadas the swim team sold, and she a bag for all of us to share – I admit to having one (and it was divine). I must be losing weight though because a pair of pants I couldn’t put on at the end of last year went on easily when I tried this past week (but I’m holding off on officially weighing myself until the end of the month).We put $24.73 in our change/$1 bill jar this week.
  • Grateful for: I am feeling very thankful that the staff at PAAC (Pacific and Asian Affairs Council) is working to make sure we can afford to send YaYu to the orientation in June by finding a homestay for her so that she can go on the planned trip to China. I can’t explain it in words, but I could really sense the spirit of aloha coming from the woman in Honolulu that I spoke with, that they will do everything they can for YaYu, and will look out for her as well.eleanorroosevelt_640x400
  • Bonus question: Which famous person, dead or alive, would you like most like to know? This required a bit of thought, but I honestly would love to have had the chance to know Eleanor Roosevelt. She overcame a very difficult childhood, infidelity in her marriage, the loss of a child, and jokes and taunts about her appearance to become a powerful, insightful First Lady who championed the rights of the underprivileged, and who later became a respected representative for our country to the United Nations. She also became “her own person,” secure in who she was and what she could accomplish, and did this in a time when women of her class were (other than during WWII) expected to stay home and tend to their house and family. She’s always been an inspiration and role model for me.

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