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 Cleve’s. 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?

Sunday Afternoon 5/28/2017

Summer break is finally here – yeah!

Boy, did this month fly by!

YaYu is officially a senior – her last day of this school year was Friday. She has a busy year coming up though, and lots on her plate academically. The high school has a partnership with the local community college, and she can take courses for free, so instead of taking AP Calculus and AP English, she will be taking those courses through the college and receiving college credit (and saving us $$$ on the testing fees). It will also officially be Brett’s and my last year of full-time parenting. Other than a six-month break between sending our son off to college and Meiling’s arrival into our family, we’ve been raising children for 40 years. We’re (finally) ready for an empty nest!

I mentioned in the comments to my “Clues” post this past week that I am no longer studying Portuguese. I am still using Memrise, but a few weeks ago started learning another language that we can use on our BIG Mystery Adventure™ (yes, another possible clue). I enjoyed learning Portuguese – it was a challenge without being too challenging, and I plan to go back to it some day. The new language is the same level of difficulty for me, maybe a little bit more. I wish I could learn two languages at once, but I am not that person – one is enough for now.

Rick Best, age 53, was a city employee, a 23-year Army veteran, and father to three teenage sons and a pre-teen daughter. He was on his way home from work when he was killed.

I was horrified by the news from Portland on Friday about the murder on the TriMet streetcar of two good Samaritans, who, along with a third man, came to the defense of two Muslim teens who were being harangued and verbally abused by a white supremacist who then turned on the men and stabbed them. These heroes did the right thing for the right reason, and paid for it with their lives (the third man, Micah Fletcher, age 21, a student a Portland State University was also stabbed, and remains in the hospital with critical injuries). I weep not only for these men and their families, but for my country, and the coarseness and violence that is becoming more open and prevalent these days.

Taliesin Namkai-Meche, age 23, graduated from Reed College in 2016 with a degree in Economics, and was interning in Portland.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished My Name Is Lucy Barton, and because I was waiting for other library holds to become available I downloaded American Heiress, by Jeffrey Toobin, about the Patty Hearst kidnapping in 1974. It was pre-Internet, pre-Twitter, etc. back then but I remember being completely involved in the news of what had happened and how it played out. We were glued to our TVs every evening to catch the latest updates on the nightly news, and the day the house burned in L.A. the event broke into regular programming. It was heady stuff for those times. Anyway, the book is very readable and I’ve learned several new things.
  • Listening to: I was awakened early by the sound of weed trimmers in the neighborhood, and they haven’t let up. It seems as if everyone is working on their lawn this mornings. After several overcast and rainy days which always make lawns and other plants grow like crazy it’s lovely today, so I can understand why everyone is out working. Inside it’s nice and quiet though – Brett is out on a hike, and the girls are working in their room.
  • Watching: We’re still working our way through Better Call Saul and loving it. We are intrigued with the shows premise, always asking ourselves, “when and how does Jimmy McGill turn into Saul Goodman?” The show is well written, and the actor playing Jimmy/Saul is excellent, and fun to watch. I’m almost done with watching all the available Househunters and need to find something other show that I can watch while I do Swagbucks at night. Brett and I watched an older film that I wanted to see again, Road to Perdition, with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, and an otherwise all-star cast, on Friday evening. I thought Brett had seen it before, but it was new to him.
  • Cooking/baking: Brett is making Scotch eggs again for our dinner tonight, and we’ll have those along with some fresh fruit (and everyone but me will get toast as well). I was going to bake a pan of brownies later this afternoon but WenYu made some a couple of days ago so no baking today. Breakfast was the usual ‘you’re on your own.’
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: There wasn’t a whole lot that needed accomplishing last week, so mainly it was just been the basic stuff getting done around here. It’s been hard to keep up with all my daily bike rides because of the heat, but I have gotten the evening rides in, and the daytime rides when it’s been cool enough because of rain and such. I’ve substituted stretching and yoga inside, under a fan, when I don’t get out on the bike. I have kept up with my daily allotment of water, and with my language study. Brett has walked every day this past week, some days in between rain storms – he’s up to around five miles per day! I made at least my small goal every day with Swagbucks – it’s important to reach that goal in order to earn bonus points at the end of the month.
  • Looking forward to next week: It’s a small thing, but I have one last half loaf left of the wonderful raisin bread we brought home from Japan, and I’m going to get a slice out of the freezer tomorrow morning and have it for my breakfast – it’s my one carb indulgence. Brett and I are hoping to get to the beach at least one day this week, but otherwise our calendar is pretty empty.
  • Reporting gains and losses: I lost two more pounds this month, bringing my total weight loss so far this year to 20 pounds. I still have more to go, but am very happy with my progress so far. I will be satisfied from here on out with a monthly loss of one or two pounds, but know it’s going to be slow(er) going from now on. We put $630.58 into our travel savings this month – our total is now $3114.92. We’re actually a little ahead of where we need to be in order to make our goal of $7000 for the year, which makes me very happy.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: WenYu was hired at a local restaurant as a busser (which she says she prefers to server), both lunch and dinner shifts, so she should do pretty well this summer, income-wise, as it’s a popular, busy place. On top of her salary she gets a percentage of tips from each of the servers. My daughter-in-law sent us three videos of the grandchildren this last week – they always make Brett and I very happy. Our grandson is reading English now, and our granddaughter is growing so fast – she’s pulling herself up to stand. YaYu’s phone gave up the ghost at the beginning of this past week – not a good thing as she depends her phone to keep up with her many activities. She has often told us she wants a new, better phone for her graduation present next year, so we asked her if she would be OK getting her present early. She said yes, and we gave her the amount we had budgeted for her gift ($300, same as her two sisters), and she paid the balance for the phone of her dreams. It arrived from T-Mobile in just three days 🙂 and she is a happy girl although she is still waiting on the case and screen protector from Amazon. All we have left to do now for her graduation will be to buy a whole stack of lei, but family members will provide some of the funds for those.
  • Grateful for: Both my mother and grandmother were incredibly frugal women. Growing up, I did not appreciate many of the frugal choices they made, or understand why they made those choices. but these days I’m very thankful that many of their frugal ways somehow got implanted into me. I’m following in their footsteps and using many of their techniques both large and small.
  • Bonus question: What’s the worst job you ever had? What was the best? I don’t think I ever had a bad job, although I did have some bad employers who could make my life miserable from time to time. The worst was the publisher at the small newspaper I worked at as a receptionist – she was demanding, autocratic, and loved to find humiliating things for me to do just because she could. Everyone else at the paper was lovely and I enjoyed working with them, so the job wasn’t a total write-off. Another awful job was working as a teacher’s assistant for one of our local school’s kindergarten teachers. She was an awful teacher (I would have pulled my child from her classroom) and it was very hard to work with her. One day, out of nowhere, she filed a complaint against me with the principal saying I had lied on my employment application. The principal had to come and speak with me about it – he was humiliated, because it wasn’t true – but I left after that, and I learned the teacher was not offered a position at the school the following year. My best jobs were those teaching beginning ESL – I had wonderful students, from all over the world, and was constantly awed and humbled by their efforts to make a life in the U.S. and learn English (I still thank my lucky stars every day that English is my native language and that I didn’t have to learn it). It’s a cliché that teachers learn as much from their students as their students learn from them, but in my case it was absolutely true. They still inspire me.

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

Sunday Afternoon 5/21/2017

The view from my beach chair on Saturday

This weekend is all about the beach. We spent a couple of hours there yesterday – blue skies, light breeze, warm water and beautiful views – perfect! WenYu and I spent a nice amount of time in the water while we were there, jumping through and diving under the waves and swimming. Today is just as lovely as yesterday, so as soon as this is posted we’re heading back down the hill for another couple of hours, maybe longer. Both Brett and I really look like tourists right now though – I’m pale as a ghost, and Brett has tan lines around his neck and on his arms from wearing a t-shirt when he walks every day. We also carry a ton of stuff with us when we go: umbrella, chairs, towels, beach mat, and a big bag of drinks and snacks.

Another view from my chair

I had an absolutely wonderful, perfect day last Sunday – Brett and YaYu took care of absolutely everything, all day long, and Brett made Scotch eggs (hard-cooked eggs coated in sausage and cooked) for our dinner – they were amazing! They were so good in fact that we plan to have them again next weekend, and will put them into regular rotation on the menu. Anyway, Brett and YaYu knocked my joint birthday-Mother’s Day celebration out of the park!

And, WenYu is home! I am in my happy place getting to see and talk with her every day. She’ll be hitting the pavement tomorrow though to see if she can find a job. I don’t have any doubts that she’ll find something soon – she has restaurant (wait staff) experience, good recommendations, and interviews well.

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m nearly half-way through My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, and greatly enjoying it. It was rated one of the best books of 2016, and I can see why – it’s beautifully written.
  • Listening to: It’s been very quiet here so far today, with nothing going on outside in the neighborhood other than lots of birds are singing. The chickens aren’t even making any noise today. I can hear the girls chatting and laughing back in their room, but Brett is out on his daily walk so it’s quiet out here in the front of the house. We did the laundry yesterday afternoon, so that isn’t spoiling the quiet today either.
  • Watching: Brett and I watched the most recent episodes of Midsomer Murders, and are now watching Better Call Saul – we loved the character on Breaking Bad, and the show is great. I finished up all the Great British Bake Off Masterclass episodes, so WenYu and I are now watching old episodes of Househunters on Hulu. Why and how any of these couples managed to get and stay married almost puts this show into the mystery genre as well – nobody likes the same thing, and they bicker quite a bit. Brett and I watched Manchester By the Sea on Friday evening (free via Amazon Prime) – such a beautiful, bittersweet film. I saw it on the plane on the way over to Japan and was happy to watch it again, but Brett hadn’t seen it before.
  • Cooking/baking:  It was everyone for themselves this morning when it came to breakfast: ramen with bok choy and ham for the girls, oatmeal for Brett and I had my usual yogurt with berries along with a sprinkle of Anahola Granola. I’m fixing Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs for dinner tonight – WenYu has never had them, and we all think she will love this egg dish. Everyone but me will have steamed rice, and we’ll all enjoy some crisp, cool cucumbers to go with our eggs. No baking today – I made an orange bundt cake yesterday evening, after it had cooled off.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I’m glad we got our food shopping done for the next month (six weeks actually this time) – we had run out of so much. Our big shops are always a  chore, but so nice to have a full fridge, pantry and freezer again. I made my Swagbucks small goal every day this week, and the large goal twice even though Swagbucks has raised that to a nearly-impossible amount. I have pretty much had to give up my afternoon bike ride because of the heat, and the morning ride on a couple of days as well – it’s just too humid, and I know if I push myself to do it there’s a good chance I will end up stopping riding all together (which is what has happened in the past). But, if I skipped a ride I added a bit more time in the evening, drank my eight glasses of water a day and then some, and did my language study every day.
  • Looking forward to this week: Friday is YaYu’s last day of school for this year, and she will finally get to stand down for a while – it’s been an intense year. No more school lunches, wacky schedules, etc. for us as well for a couple of months – yeah! Otherwise, there’s nothing on the calendar for us – our time is our own. Maybe we’ll get to go to the beach again!

    YaYu’s sports letter with yearly pins

  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu lettered in four sports this past year (cross country, swimming, track & field and tennis) and this past week not only was awarded the pins for her letter, but also earned an official windbreaker from the school. WenYu brought home a few of the KitKats we sent to her (in limited flavors), so I’ve been once again enjoying a single KitKat with a cup of coffee after dinner – yum! Although it’s been hot and humid, for the most part we’ve had absolutely gorgeous weather this past week, and other than for one short period in the middle of the week the trade winds have consistently been  blowing.
  • Grateful for: My daughter-in-law has been sending regular videos and photos of our grandson and granddaughter, and this week I got to watch them play together (adorable!) and see our granddaughter just about take off crawling – she’s almost there. I am so thankful for all the photos and the little films, for my daughter-in-law sending them and for the technology that makes them possible.

    Enjoying each other’s company

  • Bonus question: If you were told you could keep just one of your possessions, what would you choose? After some discussion, both Brett and I agreed we would keep our cell phones – we can talk with, message and email each other, our children, and friends; take and keep photos; surf the Internet; manage our money; play games; keep blogging; and take care of lots of other tasks on these little devices as long as we continue to pay our phone bill every month. Before smartphones were around though my choice would have been the coffeemaker. “I get up in the morning because I know there will be coffee” was my motto for a long time.

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?

Sunday Afternoon 5/14/2017

Happy 65th birthday to me (and call the fire department)!

Happy Mother’s Day! Today is my official “Day of Doing Nothing,” where Brett and the girl(s) take care of every chore and activity around the house, and let me completely and totally relax. As it’s also my birthday, Brett and YaYu are going overboard. I just finished a long call with WenYu, and Meiling has messaged that she’ll be calling later this afternoon. My son wrote from Japan late last night. Life is good!

I received the best Mother’s Day gift of my life though when I read YaYu’s prize-winning essay on Thursday. Her ‘essay’ was actually two letters, one from me to her about meeting her for the first time, bringing her into our family and getting to know her, and the other was from her to me, about what I have meant to her. YaYu can seem distant, and keeps her emotions close, so it was so very, very special to hear her express her feelings. She got my emotions and feelings for her perfectly too.

I am also officially “old” today, 65 years. I don’t feel particularly old, other than having a head of gray hair (but my hair has been turning gray since I was in my 30s). I’m healthy, in fairly decent physical shape and getting better, and living a happy, comfortable retired life with Brett. You’ll hear few to no complaints from me.

With Marji at the Kalaheo Cafe

Brett and I had a delightful meet-up with blog reader Marji and her husband, Art, last Monday. We took over a table at the Kalaheo Cafe and stayed there for nearly three hours, without ever running out of things to talk about. As I wrote last week, every reader I’ve met has been a delight, and with Marji and Art the streak continues! And, yesterday I got together with someone I haven’t seen in over 40 years – the niece of my former boyfriend. Even though things didn’t work out between the boyfriend and me (we both went on to long, happy marriages with someone else), I always had a great relationship with his family, one of the nicest, most close-knit group of people I’ve ever had the privilege to know. I reconnected with my old boyfriend’s older sister on Facebook a few years ago, and this week her daughter has been visiting Kaua’i, so we got together for a catch-up and lunch. And yes, Brett has met them all, including the old boyfriend, and likes everyone as much as I do.

Brett and I with Renee at Street Burger, in Wailua

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: The day before I finished reading The Snowman, one of my hold became available for download: Band of Brothers: E Company, 506 Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, by Stephen E. Ambrose. “Easy” Company fought on D-Day, in the Battle of the Bulge, and were the first to reach Hitler’s retreat in Berchtesgaden at the end of the war. I’ve watched the mini-series twice on Amazon (it’s excellent), so the names and experiences in the book are very meaningful and easy to follow. The book is extremely well written, and I’ve found myself a couple of times going much further than usual on my bike because I’ve gotten so caught up in the story.
  • Listening to: It’s semi-quiet around here right now; YaYu is talking with WenYu, Brett is reading, and I’m writing.  A few people are mowing lawns as it’s a beautiful day, and there’s a pretty strong breeze outside. I’ve heard on rooster off in the distance – I don’t know if I’ve finally gotten used to them, or if they’re just not around all that much these days, but they don’t seem to be as noisy as they were in the past.
  • Watching: Brett and I are almost done with Shetland (love it, and I’ve got a couple of the books that inspired the series on hold at the library), and last night we finished watching the latest episodes of Death in Paradise. I’ve left before the ending several evenings to do my last bike ride of the day, but have correctly guessed the murderer 100% of the time. I’ve finished re-watching all of the Great British Baking Show episodes which were actually more interesting to watch the second time around, and am now watching the accompanying Masterclass shows while I work on Swagbucks.
  • Cooking/baking: I am doing absolutely NO cooking, baking or dishwashing today. Brett and YaYu have a zero-carb surprise up his sleeve for dinner tonight, and made me a lovely bowl of yogurt with fruit for my breakfast this morning.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Not my accomplishment, but YaYu somehow got through all her tests last week – she had one every day! Now we just have to wait and see how she did. I got in all my bike rides, even though there were days I really didn’t feel like it because of the heat and humidity, drank all my water and then some, and did my language study every day.
  • Looking forward to next week: WenYu is coming home on Tuesday!!! We’re all super excited about having her here again. She had a terrific first year at Wellesley, and will spend her summer here working and building up her savings account. Brett and I will be doing our monthly big shop this week rather than the week after. I can’t believe how much we’ve run out of in just three weeks, and I’m hoping, hoping,  hoping that we can stay within our budget. I’m pretty sure WenYu is going to want to go to the beach, so we may actually finally get there this week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: As I said above, our visit with Marji and Art was wonderful – they are delightful! We also hadn’t been to the Kalaheo Cafe in a while, so that was a treat as well (Brett had eggs Benedict, and I had a big, delicious smoothie). And, I loved seeing Renee again and finding out what everyone in her family has been up to all these years. We put $4.00 into our change/$1 bill jar – $1.50 left over from the farmers’ market, and $2.50 from recycling bottles and cans. All those little bits add up!
  • Grateful for: I’m exceedingly thankful these days for my good health. I occasionally have aches and pains that I didn’t have before, but for the most part I’m in very good shape. I’m eating well and losing weight again. Nothing is perfect, but for all the abuse I’ve heaped on my body over the years I think I’m doing very well.
  • Bonus question: What’s the best thing about growing older? What’s the worst? I think for me the best thing is that I worry far, far less about what other people think of me. I wasted an awful lot of time in my life trying to please people, meet unrealistic standards, or be something I wasn’t but these days I’m happy and content with who I am. I don’t worry about pleasing others so much and am comfortable in my own skin. I also have a much better sense of what’s truly important and what’s not, and am proud of what I’ve accomplished. The worst part of getting older? Chin hairs and flabby arms. They are the bane of my existence these days.

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

Sunday Afternoon 5/7/2017

Blue skies, a few clouds and a soft breeze blowing – what you can’t see is the heat and humidity.

We had a quiet week here at Casa Aloha, mainly because YaYu took the car to school almost every day as Brett and I really didn’t have anyplace we needed to go. She has had so many places to be this week, and it was frankly just easier to let her take herself. Both she and WenYu got their driver’s licenses here on Kaua’i, but YaYu is the only one of them who actually enjoys driving (Meiling has never gotten hers, and still is not sure if she wants one). YaYu is a very good driver too, very conscientious. As a rule, teaching the kids to drive has been Brett’s responsibility, and I’ve stayed out of the car with them (I get too nervous), but I drove with YaYu a couple of times and it was almost relaxing because she drove so well.

The weather has had its ups and downs as well, from positively gorgeous to positively miserable. There was lots of conversation this week at the farmers’ market, as several us waited for the opening whistle to blow, about how hot and humid we fear this summer is going to be, based on conditions we’re already experiencing this year. Our ceiling fans have already been getting a workout, I’m drinking more water than usual, and I’ve told Brett that I’m putting the stove and oven on moratorium – pretty much if it can’t be grilled, fixed in the slow cooker, or eaten cold, I’m not making it!

We brought home enough KitKats that the three of us each had one every evening for 41 days!

Every evening since our return home from Japan, Brett, YaYu and I have randomly chosen and eaten one KitKat after dinner, but tonight is our last night – there’s just three left. It’s really been fun trying all the different flavors (rum raisin is still my favorite). I guess we’re just going to have to go back to Japan sooner rather than later!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I gave up waiting for Faceless Killers to become available (it turned out to not actually be available as an eBook), and instead downloaded another Scandinavian mystery, The Snowman, by Jo Nesbø. It’s very good, and delightfully creepy. Actually, just the title made my skin crawl (in a good way) for some reason. I read when I’m out on the exercise bike, and have been squeezing it as much as I can otherwise. I also put several other books on hold at the library, but I think it will be a while for most of them.
  • Listening to: It’s pretty quiet right now, although the songbirds sound like they’re in competition with each other for who can be the loudest. It’s a beautiful day, so I’m sort of surprised no one is out with their noisy lawn equipment. Brett already has most of the laundry sorted, so that noisy task will be starting up soon, but in the meantime I’m enjoying the peace and quiet.
  • Watching: Brett and I finished up Season 3 of Endeavour, and realized after we started that we had seen before. But, we had forgotten most of it so it was still enjoyed. Mavis over at 100 Dollars a Month has had some good movie/TV recommendations lately, and we just started one of her most recent, Shetland. She wasn’t kidding when she said you needed the subtitles to keep up with it, even though they’re technically speaking English! The scenery is gorgeous though, and we’ve already been hooked by the story. I’ve been watching re-runs of The Great British Baking Show while I work on Swagbucks at night – Netflix now also has the Masterclass series with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, so I’ve been watching those as well.
  • Cooking/baking: I had omelets on the menu for tonight, but I don’t feel like standing at the stove, so I boiled some eggs this morning and am making deviled eggs instead, which we’ll have with cheese, cold cuts, vegetables and fruit. There will be absolutely no baking today either, but we still have brownies left over from last week.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Nothing much other than the usual chores around the house. It’s actually been a very relaxing week, other than the day two guys were cutting back everything on the lot next door – saws and weedtrimmers were going all day. It was loud and miserable😖. Brett and I reserved YaYu’s flights over to Oahu, for her pre-trip orientation in early June, and to and from the Honolulu airport for the main trip to China mid-June. I got in all my daily bike rides, drank way more than eight glasses of water each day, and studied Portuguese every day.
  • Looking forward to next week: Tomorrow morning Brett and I are getting together with Occasional Nomads reader, Marji and her husband, in Kalaheo for breakfast! I’ve had positively wonderful experiences meeting my readers and I don’t think this will be any different. YaYu’s award-winning essay will be published this coming Thursday – we still have no clue what she wrote, so I’m looking forward to finally getting to read it.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu thinks she did OK on her AP Mandarin exam, and managed to make it through the SAT yesterday morning. I don’t believe in letting these standardized tests define your life, but with the Mandarin test it’s the culmination of over a year of independent study for YaYu, something she was very motivated to do, so fingers are crossed that she does well enough to receive the credit. We put $8.95 into the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Grateful for: We have a lovely lanai at this house, something we didn’t have at our first house, and it’s a wonderful place to be able to go in the evening when temperatures start to cool off. The house also has big ceiling fans, and big windows to let in the breezes, so we’re as ready as can be for the summer weather and heat. Brett’s and my bedroom is the coolest in the house too, almost always comfortable for sleeping.
  • Bonus question: What’s your blood type? Do you believe your blood type influences your personality? My blood type is AB, the “universal recipient” (I can accept blood from either Type A or Type B). My blood type is pretty rare – I remember being in a large college auditorium once, with over 300 people in attendance for a biology lecture, and I was the only one that raised their hand for Type AB. My dad was also AB, but he also carried a distinctive antigen or something, and was sometimes called in special cases to donate blood, once in the middle of the night. I don’t believe your blood type affects your personality, but this is a big thing in Japan and other east Asian countries – kids have been grouped in school according to their blood type, work teams made up of those with the same blood type, and it’s a question that couples often ask of each other. Actually, some of the characteristics for Type AB fit me pretty well: ABs are very rational and level-headed, and are excellent at planning and organizing. Our moods can be pretty intense at times, but we excel at managerial and educational positions. ABs get along with all other blood types, but can be critical, unforgiving and aloof at times.

That’s a wrap for this week! How was your week? What did you accomplish? What are you looking forward to next week?

Sunday Afternoon 4/30/2017

Looking out to the island of Niihau (the “forbidden island”) from the beach at Barking Sands PMRF. Nothing but blue skies.

I can’t remember the last time I had a cold, but one found me this past week, dug in and just about knocked me out for a couple of days! Because the weather has been so warm, it’s been the equivalent of having a summer cold, which always seem to be nastier than ones that you get in the colder months. I felt fine over last weekend, and into Monday and Tuesday, but on Tuesday evening my throat started to feel a little sore and by 10:00 p.m. it was on, complete with a head that felt like a concrete bowling ball, fever, sore throat, etc. It’s almost done now, thank goodness, and all I can say is “good riddance!”

Brett and I drove down to the far west side of the island last Thursday morning to the Barking Sands PMRF (Pacific Missile Range Facility) so I could get my military dependent ID renewed. It rained the entire way drive there until the last mile or two when suddenly it was gorgeous! After I finished getting my card, we drove to the beach area on the base to look out at Niihau. The base has fully-furnished beach cottages that we are eligible to rent, and there’s a very good restaurant on the base, so Brett and I think that’s where we may try to go next year for our anniversary/birthday getaway, if we can get a reservation. Being back on base is always a very nostalgic experience for both of us – it was our life for so many years.

Looking to the east from the same spot on the beach, and the storm we passed through on the way down and back. It rained all the back until to Lihue.

YaYu got a call on Friday informing her that the essay she had submitted to the island newspaper’s Everyday Heroes contest had been selected as the winning entry! When I asked who she had written about she told me I’d just have to read her essay in the paper – hmmm. She will meet with staff from the paper this week for photos and to pick up a $100 dollar prize!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I finished My Year of Meats on Thursday, and I’m now waiting to read Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell. I was ready for another mystery/procedural, and greatly enjoy the Scandanavian genre, so decided to start in on Mankell’s Wallender series (Faceless Killers is the first in the series). Once again though the library is taking its time releasing the download. In the meantime I’m catching up on some magazine reading.
  • Listening to: Loads of songbirds are out and about this morning – they’re actually quite loud. I can also hear lawnmowers, etc. in the distance, and kids are out playing in the street. Surprisingly, I haven’t heard a single chicken or rooster.  Inside it’s quiet – YaYu is studying, and Brett is out on his daily walk/hike/run. The washing machine will be doing its thing though in a few minutes.
  • Watching: Brett and I enjoyed the documentary, Five Came Back, but then started right in on Escape to the Country, or as I call it, “English Country Househunters.” It’s a fun show to watch, but other than a couple of them none of the houses have really appealed to me.  I guess English Country style is just not my thing, but I like seeing what interests people and why they choose the house they do, and reject the others. The countryside is gorgeous though, and really the star of the show. Last night we watched Jackie. I had watched some on the plane on the way home from Japan, but fell asleep before I finished so wanted to see the whole thing. Both Brett and I thought it was very good.
  • Cooking/baking: As seems to be our habit these days, everyone fixed their own breakfast this morning: oatmeal and berries for Brett, leftover pad thai for YaYu, and yogurt and berries for me. The farmer that sells sprouts at the market did not have any mung bean sprouts this last week so the menu plan got switched around a bit. We had the Chinese three-color salad on Thursday, and after a return to Big Save yesterday for sprouts we are having egg drop soup and egg foo yung for dinner tonight (eggs on Sunday!). We are just about out of all the treats we brought home from Japan for YaYu’s lunches, so I’m going to bake a pan of brownies this afternoon. Just one more month of school lunches to go before we get a break!
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I almost cannot believe that I was able to get out and do the food shopping, let alone do anything last week because I felt so miserable, especially on Wednesday and Thursday. But, we needed food, and I had to be up early and out on Thursday to get my ID card renewed (because the old one would have expired today), so we stopped at Costco on the way home from that trip and I did OK. Except for Wednesday and Thursday, I still got in all of my bike rides, drank all my water and studied Portuguese. It’s been a rough week though, and yesterday’s bike rides about did me in as the cold had moved down into my lungs.
  • Looking forward to next week: Afterschool sports practices are over! YaYu has segued from one sport right into another from the beginning the year with no breaks, but will be coming home right after school from now until the end of the school year and we can hopefully enjoy a more normal daily schedule. It also means less laundry as there won’t be all the running shorts, t-shirts, swimsuits, towels, etc. that have been added all year. She’s also finished her Chinese tutoring, which means our weekends will be free once more. YaYu’s AP exams begin this week, and she takes the SAT exam on Saturday. I’m not sure she’s looking forward to this, but I’m glad to be getting them out of the way. She’s currently spending most of her time at home in her room studying, only coming out to go to school or eat dinner.
  • Reporting gains and losses: I lost four more pounds this month, bringing my total weight loss so far to 18 pounds. When I lose another five or so pounds I plan to replace my afternoon bike ride with a walk with Brett (after getting a good pair of walking shoes). We put $682.63 into our travel savings account this month toward this year’s goal of $7000. The total amount we’ve saved so far is $2484.34 so we’re right where we need to be.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Learning that YaYu won the essay contest was the highlight of the week! Also, I guess it’s a good thing that all I caught was a head cold versus something more serious. Colds are miserable, but they have a regular progression and I’m almost done with this one. We stayed within our food budget, although it was tight this month, even after cutting back – we had run out of a lot of things. We put $19.29 in the change/$1 bill jar.
  • Grateful for: I am very thankful that as of tomorrow I am officially on Medicare! Between it and our military health insurance we should see no or very small co-pays from here on out, which is a very good thing, especially since a whole bunch of medical billing finally showed up this past week (like from last year’s physical therapy) – ugh. Brett has been on Medicare for two years now and it’s worked very well – I don’t think we’ve had to pay anything out-of-pocket for him since he enrolled. We really don’t get sick very often, or use our insurance much, but I feel very blessed to have the insurance we do.
  • Bonus question: What is something that you currently want that you really don’t need? For me, that would be an iPad. Between my MacBook Air, iPhone and Kindle, I have everything I need right now, technology-wise, but I’ve been thinking a tablet would be nice. I’m honestly not sure though why I need an iPad at this stage of my life (although I can think of several instances in the past where it would have been great to have one). I’m not a gamer, I don’t watch TV shows or movies other than on TV, etc. But, I still would like one. I’d love to hear from those of you who have an iPad or tablet about how you use it and what it does better than other technology you own.

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

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?