Five Frugal Things 8/4/2017

YaYu tees off at the 18th hole

  1. Last Sunday was “Kama’aina Day” at Kaua’i mini golf, up in Kilauea on the north shore. Locals are invited to play for free on the last Sunday of each month, and our schedules finally aligned so we could all go for a family outing. Money saved: $42.30.
  2. I bought a huge bunch of fresh basil at the farmer’s market last week, and used some when we had Caprese skillet eggs last week. Fresh basil spoils quickly in this heat, but I had everything on hand to make a double batch of California herbed butter. Half went in the fridge and half to the freezer for future use. We didn’t throw away any other food this past week either.
  3. I earned 708 bonus Swagbucks in July – not as much as the previous two months, but still a good haul.
  4. Brett and I both continue to take advantage of the free Kindle downloads offered through the public library. Another book came off my hold list this week, and I’ll get started on it this weekend. I honestly can’t remember the last time either of us bought a book.
  5. We put $7.35 into the change/$1 bill jar: $7.25 left over from the farmers’ market, and 10¢ we found in the car.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

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#Kauai: Secret Beach

To new arrivals the official name of this beach, Kauapea (“the fair rain”), is certainly more secret than what most call it, Secret Beach. That’s because it’s located at the end of a dirt road, coincidentally named Secret Beach Road, which is to the right off the first Kalihiwai Road (which was split into two parts by a bridge outage back in 1957) just north of Kilauea off Kuhio Highway. One should proceed slowly onto the dirt road as it is usually washboarded at the start (by cars and trucks operated by people afflicted with the hurry sickness), and occasionally deeply rutted toward the end by heavy rains.

Secret Beach Road Parking Lot

Parking lot and trailhead (between the stone gateposts)

Parking may be crowded on any sunny afternoon as it’s only adequate for about a dozen vehicles, and there are several driveways not to be blocked. Between the stone gateposts, by the bamboo, is the trail to the beach, a little over a quarter-mile and mostly STEEP and very slippery when it’s raining.

At the bottom of the trail lies the most beautiful stretch of sand I’ve seen on Kauai, and the sand stretches eastward all the way to Kilauea Point. To the west, alternating expanses of lava rock and sandy beach.

Secret Beach to the west

By the way, that small island off Kilauea Point is called Moku‘ae‘ae, Hawaiian for “small island.”

Obviously, the greatest extent of Secret Beach lies between the bottom of the trail and Kilauea Point. Nevertheless, the expanse of sandy beach beyond the first lava ‘finger’ is difficult to appreciate in the panoramic shot, so here’s a better glimpse of that western extent of Secret Beach, viewed from atop the rocks.

Western expanse of Secret Beach

Perhaps this view is inaccurate in the opposite extreme, appearing more vast than it really is, but suffice it to say, it is not crowded. …and give a listen to the surf on this side of the rocks.

Breakers at Secret Beach

Rumors abound concerning both the location and the activities and sights at this beach, often touted as a nude beach. Admittedly, the location is obscured from view, but easily located via Google Maps, and the only sights I’ve seen are pictured in this post, so evidence that hedonist scofflaws are cavorting anywhere on Kauai is thin. In fact I’ve rarely seen more than a handful of people here—students doing beach cleanup, families large and small hiking up/down the trail, one or two modestly dressed couples, and half a dozen surfers.

Since this post is more about the destination than the journey, I’ll throw up some farewell shots from the beach, along with a few from the climb.

Finally, as a hiker, I rather enjoy the trail more than the beach, so here are a few shots heading out to the car.

As a reminder, if it was raining or had just rained this would be an extremely slippery, if not outright dangerous trek. On the other hand, why go to the beach when it’s raining?

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This Week’s Menu: The Stolen Recipe

Loco moco: a Hawaiian favorite

One adage that I often heard when I was teaching was, “if you come across a good idea, steal it . . . but then pass it on.” It was good advice then, and I think it applies just as much to recipes and cooking. If you find a good recipe, use it . . . but then pass it on. I try to link to recipes whenever I can, but sometimes our meals are just things I put together, no recipe required.

I once shared a recipe though that I felt that someone “stole,” because the woman I shared it with entered it into a contest as her own, and actually won first place! One day at Trader Joe’s, I was picking up a bag of their frozen potstickers, and a woman standing next to me asked, “how do you eat those?” I told her that we usually just fried/steamed them and ate them plain with some dipping sauce, but that sometimes I used them to make dumpling soup. It was a simple recipe: combine chicken stock, grated ginger, and a little soy sauce for the broth, and then add a bag of baby spinach and a bag of the frozen dumplings and heat through. She thanked me and took a bag of the dumplings with her.

Two weeks later, our local paper, The Oregonian, published the winners of their “five ingredients or less” recipe contest, and the first place winner was . . . my dumpling soup, right down to exact amounts of soy sauce and ginger I recommended, the bag of baby spinach, and the bag of Trader Joe’s dumplings! This woman submitted it under her name, and got bragging rights for MY recipe! I was very angry at the time, both for this woman’s nerve, but also because I could have been the winner (although I hadn’t seen the announcement for the contest). I thought about calling the paper, but in the end realized it didn’t really matter . . . I was happy to share the recipe with the woman in the store, and happy to share it with others, even if someone else had become the vehicle.

There is only one recipe to link to this week, but I will share another family recipe that I made this last weekend, a family favorite when I was young. I have no idea where my mom got the recipe – I don’t even know if it was ever written down:

California Herbed Butter

Melt one stick of butter. To this add: chopped fresh garlic, chopped basil (either fresh or dried), chopped green onions (including green tops), and fresh lemon juice. Add however much of these ingredients fit the flavors you prefer, i.e. you might like more garlic, or more lemon flavor, or have a lot of fresh basil to use up. The butter makes a wonderful topping for toasted bread, or can be put under the skin of a chicken before roasting. Unused butter can be kept in the refrigerator, or frozen, and then softened and spread later.

Hopefully this recipe will be a winner for someone, whether it’s entered in a contest or not!

Here’s what we’re having this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled teriyaki chicken; zaru soba; cole slaw (This was bumped from last week. I’ll be dipping zoodles instead of soba)
  • Wednesday: Pad Thai with chicken; cucumber salad (not sure what I’m having)
  • Thursday: Grilled jalapeño-cheddar bratwurst; sauerkraut; grilled zucchini
  • Friday: Leftovers (WenYu works Friday evenings, so it’s become our leftover night)
  • Saturday: Mabo dofu; steamed rice; cucumbers
  • Sunday: Loco Moco; fruit (no rice for me)
  • Monday: Slow cooker balsamic pork roast; pilaf; green beans (I’m skipping the pilaf)

We’ll be getting lots of cucumbers, zucchini, bok choy, mung bean sprouts, and fruit at the farmers’ market this week. Otherwise, everything is on hand, so no other trips to the store will be needed.

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Addicted To Travel

I love to travel. As the saying goes, “If traveling were free, you’d never see me.” But, could there be such a thing as too much travel? Could someone actually “overdose” on travel?

I was very surprised to learn the answer is yes. While not a physical addiction, travel “addiction” is real, and although it’s been called by some “the healthiest addiction,” an obsessive need to travel actually has a name: Dromomania, or “vagabond neurosis.”  Some psychologists argue that dromomania does not meet the criteria for a true addiction because it does not cause “an urge to engage in a particular behavior, denial of the harmful consequences, and failure to modify the behavior.” However, in some cases excessive travel does meet those conditions, with sufferers having an abnormal impulse to travel, being prepared to spend beyond their means, and willing to sacrifice marriages, family, jobs and financial security in a “lust for new experiences.”

According to this article in Conde Nast Traveler, the first recorded travel addict was Jean-Aldert Dadas, who left the French army in 1881, and wandered into a Bordeaux hospital after walking around Europe for more than five years. He had visited various European countries and cities, and yet when he arrived at the hospital had no memories of those places other than he had been there.

Travel addiction (or obsession) is closely intertwined these days with competitive traveling. made up of people who dedicate their lives to going, quite literally, everywhere. Known as “country collectors,” or “tickers,” these travelers collect places like others collect stamps or coins. Spending time and money, and driven by compulsion, they not only want to see the world, but keep score while they’re doing it. Blogs such as Most Traveled People, Nomad Mania, and Shea’s ISO List indicate that there are tens of thousands of people competing to be the most widely traveled.

True travel addicts/obsessives can’t stop themselves, and are willing to risk everything to go somewhere. Some of these travelers have lost spouses (one travel addict has reportedly lost six wives because of his need to keep traveling!), their homes, their fortunes, all in the quest to experience the high of seeing and experiencing someplace new, and the emotional fulfillment travel provides.

Humans have always wanted to travel, to see what lies beyond, whether that’s the next town over or what’s over the horizon. Travel has the potential to make us all smarter, happier, and more creative, but the high it provides can also become too much of a good thing for some. While travel provides a bounty of new experiences and memories, as well as an escape from the humdrum of daily life, too much of it, whether for the thrill or in an effort to be competitive, seems to create a risks. Instead of becoming closer to knowing a place, with obsessive travel one might actually grow further away, as there’s always a next destination to get to, someone else’s score to beat. In these cases, the escape becomes the desired experience, not the destination.

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Sunday Afternoon 7/30/2017

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

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

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

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

This afternoon I am:

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

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

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

    The Tatsuzawa Fudo waterfall near Fukushima – it was gorgeous!

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

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

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Five Frugal Things 7/28/2017

Home for Christmas . . . and earning miles!

  1. This past week I bought WenYu’s and Meiling’s tickets to come home for Christmas. I found the same itinerary for WenYu as the one she flew last year but for nearly $200 less. Meiling’s ticket was around $60 more than we spent last year, but for a much better flight itinerary (she almost ended up having to spend the night at the Honolulu airport last year). Plus, both girls will add miles to their Hawaiian airlines accounts, and the mileage they earn will be almost enough to cover one of the girl’s RT flights between Honolulu and Lihue.
  2. I initially found WenYu’s flight(s) on Kayak, but the offer was actually through Expedia. However, when I went there to check the offer and itinerary. Expedia said there were no seats left at that price, and wanted $134 more! When I went back to Kayak the offer had also gone up by $134! Hmmm. As I suspected, Kayak and Expedia had installed cookies because I been checking out flights between Boston and Honolulu, and figured I might be willing to pay more for that flight. But, I used WenYu’s computer (no cookies) and found the same itinerary on Hotwire for the original low price.
  3. WenYu was able to switch a prescription over to mail order, which means she will get it at no cost versus paying $30 every time from the pharmacy. The girls stay on our military medical insurance until they graduate from college, and not having to purchase the college plan at Wellesley saved WenYu over $2000 this year.
  4. We have an amount set aside for monthly movie rentals (from Amazon), but have not used it for over a month now, and have put that savings into our travel fund. We’ve been enjoying lots of “free” stuff we can stream otherwise.
  5. We put $11.21 into our change/$1 bill jar: $3.20 from recycling, $3.50 change from the farmers’ market, and $4.51 change from the post office.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

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Our Monthly Big Shop, Part 2 (Big Save, Cost U Less & Walmart)

Brett and I went to Big Save and Cost U Less on Friday and spent $55.24. Brett went to Walmart on Saturday and spent $7.34, for a total of $62.58, so we ended up $1.04 over budget for the month with the Big Shop. We’re in very good shape for the coming month (and beyond) though, except for a fruit run in a couple of weeks, which will put us even more over budget this month, but probably only around $25 or so at the most.

Cost U Less is a funky warehouse store that predates the arrival of Costco. Lots of locals still like to shop there though because there’s no membership fee. They have some of the best produce on the island outside of the farmers’ markets, and also have a huge selection of natural and organic foods, with better prices than the local natural food stores. When we were there we discovered why there was no organic peanut butter at Costco the other day – Cost U Less bought it all and was selling it for $3 more per twin-pack!

Big Save: $31.56

  • 2 boxes rice pilaf: $6.58
  • Salsa: $2.00
  • Chinese chicken salad dressing: $4.98
  • Refried beans: $1.50 (these used to be 88¢ a can back in Portland – sob!)
  • Diced green chilis: $2.00
  • 2 CookDo stir-fry sauce: $7.96 (A big splurge, but we all love it. We bought this in Japan for around $1/box, but have used up all we brought home with us)
  • Onion rings: $4.78 (these will last for 2 meals)

Cost U Less: $23.68

  • 2 cartons roasted red pepper & tomato soup: $7.98
  • 1 carton carrot ginger soup: $3.99
  • 36-oz crunchy peanut butter: $6.98
  • 2-lbs sweet onions: $2.49
  • 1 large green bell pepper: $1.29

Walmart: $7.34

  • 1 gallon bleach (we need to keep bleach in the toilets year round to combat algae): $2.86
  • 16-oz soba tsuyu (soup base for Japanese noodles): $4.48

I’m hoping you can see from the above prices the reason we do most of our shopping at Costco, where prices are the same or only slightly above prices on the mainland. Unfortunately, we can can’t get everything we need there, so we have to shop elsewhere, but we try to keep our purchases at the above three stores to a minimum.

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This Week’s Menu: Convenience

Caprese-skillet eggs

I used to pride myself on cooking almost everything I served my family from scratch. These days though I’m not averse to buying and using foods that help me spend less time in the kitchen, and have no problem purchasing things like frozen meatballs, pre-made potstickers, jars of marinara sauce, cookies from the bakery, or using a mix as the foundation for a cake.

I still enjoy cooking and baking, but I don’t enjoy getting overheated in the kitchen, a big issue here for me. So, meal preparation has meant including more ready-made items that help me put dinner on the table faster and keep me from becoming a hot, wilted mess. Convenience items have also helped me better adapt to our family’s busy and ever-changing schedule these days.

Before purchasing any frozen or convenience foods I carefully read the labels – with a couple of exceptions (i.e cake mixes, which I used maybe every other month) we don’t buy anything with preservatives, or other ingredients we can’t pronounce. Convenience foods can cost more, but surprisingly not by all that much or at all if we buy them at Costco. For example, we cannot buy quality, grass-fed ground beef here and make hamburger patties for any less than the frozen ones we buy at Costco. It’s the same for other items. I will buy convenience items out in town that I don’t want in bulk, like salad dressings and such, but the cost is high so we keep those at a minimum.

Here’s what we’re having this week (only one convenience item being used, the sauce for the pork & pepper stir fry):

  • Tuesday (this evening): Chili pork burritos; grilled zucchini (no rice for me) – this got bumped from yesterday
  • Wednesday: Grilled fish tacos with fresh mango salsa; yellow rice; cucumbers (no rice or tortillas for me)
  • Thursday: Barbecued teriyaki chicken; zaru soba; cucumbers (I’m going to try dipping zoodles instead of soba!)
  • Friday: Chinese 3-color salad (hiyashi chuka) with chicken (zoodles for me vs. rice noodles)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Caprese skillet eggs; grilled zucchini; toast; fruit (I’m skipping the toast)
  • Monday: Pork & pepper stir-fry; steamed rice (no rice for me)

We’ll need cucumbers, cilantro, basil, and a jalapeno pepper (if we can find one) from the farmers’ market this week. Otherwise, we’ll be buying lots of lovely summer fruit!

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Creating SMART Travel Goals

Both Brett and I have always been big fans of setting goals and then working to achieve them, whether that’s downsizing or moving to Hawai’i or saving for travel.

We create our goals using the SMART criteria, and it’s worked especially well for travel planning. The SMART acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Long before we ever travel, Brett and I sit down, talk about what we want to do, what we can afford, and then make our travel goal the SMART way. We’ve been using this method for many years, and it’s led us to success over and over again, no matter what we want to achieve.

Here’s how we use the SMART criteria when creating a travel goal:

  • Specific: Being specific means knowing exactly what we want to do. Instead of saying We want to travel or We’d like to visit xxx, both of which are vague, we spell out exactly where we want to go, when we want to go, and who will be going. We want to visit Japan with our daughter for a week in March during her spring break is very specific while We’d like to go to Japan is not. The first example has a where, when and who will be traveling, while the second example is just an idea.
  • Measurable: This means creating a precise way to quantify our goal. A travel goal contains both time- and money-related aspects, and both require some research. Instead of We want to stay 10 days and spend less than $10,000, a measurable goal is We want to spend 10 days and nine nights. We want to pay less than $700 each for airline tickets, no more than $xxx for lodging and our total budget can be no more than $8,000 (or whatever we decide our top limit is). The top limit of our budget is the number we will be working toward, and the time aspect is making sure we can take vacation at that time or that there’s nothing else that might make it difficult to travel.
  • Achievable: The travel goal needs to be what we know we can attain and complete in a specific amount of time. Giving ourselves a goal of saving $8,000 in a year for our trip is not achievable if we know that will be impossible, or that we’ll need to raid our savings or use credit cards or borrow money (and we don’t want to do those things). A specific SMART goal would be: We need to save $8,000 in the next 12 months (~$670/month) in order to make this trip during spring break. We’ll set up a monthly savings allotment, save all our refunds and gifts, save all change and $1 bills, and find other ways to save as much as possible. If we are sure we can achieve our goal, then we go for it; otherwise, we start over or reset our parameters with what we know we can achieve.
  • Realistic: This part of the goal is tied very closely to achievable, and allows us to visualize the results of our efforts. Besides just getting to our destination and knowing where we’ll stay, we also need to think about what we can afford or will have time to do when we’re at our destination. Realistic means that while we may dream of flying first class or staying at the Four Seasons, there’s no point in doing so if it will consume all or most of our budget, and not allow us to do anything else at our destination. However, if flying first class and staying at the Four Seasons is our dream, then we’ll have to reset our original time parameters or figure out a way  to earn or save more within our original time constraints.
  • Time-bound: We make sure we have a timeline for achievement. Setting a SMART goal for travel not only requires that we set the actual date for travel that we work toward, but that we also research and set specific time-goals along the way. So, while we’ve figured out that we can save $8000 in a year to cover all our expenses, we also need to know time-sensitive issues that will arise while we’re saving. For example, We will need to have $2500 of our $8000 by such-and-such date to purchase airfare and reserve our lodging (because we don’t want to leave these until the last minute). Besides air fare and lodging, our trip may also involve several other time-related issues that arise before actually traveling, things like booking tours, or getting restaurant reservations, so those may need specific time deadlines as well. Once again, research is our friend.

Because Brett and I can’t just whip our checkbook and cover any trip whenever we feel like it, using the SMART criteria has meant we’ve been able to make most of our travel dreams a reality without using credit cards or dipping into our regular savings, or putting ourselves into debt. Setting up a SMART goal can take a little more time, but almost always ups the chances for success.

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Sunday Afternoon 7/23/2017

Dragonfruit season is back!

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

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

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

This week I am:

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

    New suitcases mean travel!

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

    A mojito is very refreshing on a hot day

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

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

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