Road Tripping

I don’t think there’s any half-way about road trips. You either love them, or you don’t. Brett and I love them. Our children, not so much.

There are three ways to approach taking a road trip:

  1. Fill your gas tank, fill your wallet, hop in your car and see where the road takes you. I have friends who do this regularly and have had some pretty terrific trips.
  2. Do your research, make a plan, fill your gas tank, and go.
  3. A blend of #1 and #2.

You might think that with my love of planning we’d go with the second method, but Brett and my road trips were mostly a combination of #1 and #2. We had a destination, a deadline and a budget, but then we’d get in the car and go, stopping when we felt like it, and adjusting our route along the way.

“To hell with the plan, Margaret!”

Here are some tips for making your road trip a success:

  • Plan your route: One of the following three things will pretty much have the most effect on which direction your plans will take: destination, distance or budget. Once that’s figured out, then you can start thinking about what you want to see along the way. Are you a fan of historical site (says the girl whose parents stopped at every historical marker along our route)? Do you want to experience nature? Are there friends along the way you’d like to stop and see? After you decide what or who you want to visit, then it’s time to see if there is a logical route that can be taken, and how that route can be broken down into manageable driving segments. Knowing your route and stops along the way can help you plan how much gas you’ll need, and how much that will cost.
  • Find your lodging: Once you know the location where you’ll be stopping for the night, then you can figure out the place where you want to spend the night. This is where Google can be your friend – search for a place + lodging, and voilà! Some locations might be worth the splurge for a fancy hotel or famous lodge, while others might warrant nothing fancier than a Motel 6. Besides the cost for the room, other things you might consider are whether the hotel or motel offers a free breakfast, if there is a swimming pool where you can cool off and unwind after a long day’s drive, or what nearby dining options are available. Camping, whether that’s pitching a tent or sleeping in your car, is one way to keep travel costs down if you’re on a tight budget. Don’t forget to check out AirBNB as well for a more unique lodging experience, depending on where you’re going and how long you might like to stay there while you’re on your way.
  • Download some apps: There are loads of terrific travel apps available now that can help make your road trip easier and more enjoyable, as well as save you money. TripIt can actually create a route for you – just plug in your preferred lodging and the attractions you’d like to see and they’ll do the rest. The Along The Way app for iPhones can find bathrooms, coffee stops, shopping locations, etc. wherever you are on your route. Gasbuddy will help you find the cheapest gasoline prices, and sites like OpenTable, tripadvisor and Yelp provide restaurant reviews, menus, photos and other helpful information about where to eat. Music apps, like Pandora or Spotify are also great to have along on your road trip. Most smartphones these days also come equipped with GPS, if you like or need that sort of thing.
  • Be flexible. Even the best-made plans sometimes have to change. Stuff happens. Be sure you are able to adjust and adapt to changes that might occur, whether than means having emergency funds set aside, being able to shorten or lengthen your trip, or taking a different route if necessary.
  • Make sure your car is in tip-top shape before you go. There is nothing worse than having car trouble when your hundreds of miles away from home, or out in the middle of nowhere (I say this from experience). Get your tires checked and take care of other maintenance issues that you’ve been putting off before you go.
road-trip-nationals_1
The Western National Park Loop

While there are no road trips happening for us these days – the highway that circles Kaua’i is just over 56 miles – Brett and I still talk about possibly making a road trip back on the mainland some day, after the girls are all off at college (that’s not what we’re planning for 2018 though). Road trips were the only way either of us traveled when we were young, and we love being out on the open road. Our dream trip is to see all the western national parks in one trip. We’ve priced it out though, and it would cost us at least $15,000 to do it from here, if not more. It would take approximate two-months to make the loop, and once we started figuring out our costs for air fare, car rental, lodging, gas, food, etc. the price just kept climbing. So, for now it remains nothing more than a dream. One of these days though . . . .

Jesus, take the wheel . . .
Somebody loves a road trip . . .

Sunday Afternoon 3/5/2017

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

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

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

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

Five Frugal Things: 3/3/2017

One contestant used tea-flavored cookies to create a showstopper pagoda tower on The Great British Baking Show, which we've been watching this week on Netflix.
One contestant used tea-flavored cookies to create a showstopper pagoda tower on The Great British Baking Show, which we’ve been watching this week on Netflix.

We had hoped to go to Hanapepe this week, but the week started off with heavy rain, and then YaYu got very sick, so we’ve stayed home and had a good, frugal week here at Casa Aloha:

  1. Even though we have a small budget category for movie rentals, this past week we chose to watch free offerings through Amazon Prime and Netflix. The money we don’t spend at the end of the month goes into our savings account.
  2. I made my goal every day last month with Swagbucks, and earned a 612 point bonus. That’s at least an additional $5 in Amazon credit. I’ve earned $100 in Amazon credit since the beginning of the year.
  3. We had $11.59 credit remaining this month on our electric bill. We rounded that up to $15 and put that in our savings account.
  4. We cooked every meal at home, ate up all the leftovers, and spent just $20 at the farmers’ market for this week’s necessary fruits and vegetables.
  5. We received $200 off of our rent this month for a rental tax rebate we were supposed to get. The money went straight to our savings account.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

 

Laura & Brett’s Big Adventure

mystery-signBrett and I are planning something BIG for 2018, but that’s really all the detail I can give right now. We are currently in the research and saving stage, and have set some goals to achieve by the end of the year:

  • Save at least $7000 this year for our adventure next year. If it were just the two of us, this would be easy; in fact, we could probably save a whole lot more. But, we still have three children we’re responsible for, two of whom need plane tickets to and from the mainland a couple of times each year ($$$$), and one still at home that has numerous expenses related to high school and college admission and who still needs to be fed and clothed ($$$$). This is going to be a difficult goal for us to reach, but we’re going to give it our best shot. I will try to update our saving goal each quarter.
  • Research, research, research. You know this is fun for me, and I’m going to get to do a whole year and more of it! The first thing will be to find and reserve lodging, but there are other smaller tasks that I’ll be doing as well along the way.

I’m sorry this is all I can reveal at this time, but I just wanted to let you know that something is on the horizon. Something BIG!

Maybe I should call it Laura & Brett’s Big Mystery Adventure™?

This Week’s Menu: Starting the Clean-Out

Fried panko tofu cubes. I make mine about half the size of these ones.
Fried panko tofu cubes. I make mine about half the size of these ones.

We’re starting the segue into “cleaning out the fridge” mode this week, trying to use up everything we have on hand before we leave for Japan. A few things can be put into the freezer while we’re gone, but most everything else that’s in the refrigerator now, other than condiments, will have to be eaten. The goal is to leave the refrigerator as empty as possible when we leave mid March.

We have one package of tofu left, and I’m looking forward to having the fried panko tofu cubes again this week. They were a big hit the last time we had them – the outside is nice and crispy, and the tofu inside becomes very creamy when cooked. Our dipping sauces will include teriyaki, barbecue, Thai spicy mango, Bulldog (Japanese-style Worchester sauce) and one of YaYu’s hot sauces. I might put out some catsup too.

By the way, the creamy red pepper alfredo sauce that YaYu made last week was AMAZING. Thank goodness we doubled the recipe, because I could sit and eat it with a spoon right out of the pan. I’ve been enjoying it on eggs, over leftover meatloaf, and with roasted vegetables. YUM!

Here’s what’s on our dinner menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled beef Polish sausages; sauerkraut; roasted carrots
  • Wednesday: Leftover steak and zucchini stir fry; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Thursday: Leftovers (first track meet of the season; B & Y won’t get home until after 8:00 p.m.)
  • Friday: Fried panko tofu cubes with assorted dipping sauces; sweet & sour cole slaw
  • Saturday: Thai-style pork stew; steamed jasmine rice; cucumber salad
  • Sunday: Zucchini frittata; salami; garlic bread (no bread for me)
  • Monday: Grill ahi tacos with fresh mango salsa; yellow rice (no tortillas or rice for me)

Purchases at the farmers’ market this week will be minimal, even if there are still tempting things to be found, like cauliflower and broccoli. Looking at the list all I can see that we have to buy is zucchini,but we will also probably also buy some papayas, bananas and bok choy as those will definitely get eaten before we go.

To Souvenir or Not To Souvenir

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A corner of our travel wall collection includes a small watercolor of the Hong Kong harbor; a tiny print of the Seattle skyline; a postcard from Walt Disney World; a traditional Chinese landscape from the Forbidden City; a photo of the Oregon coast; and the Tokyo train and subway map I carried everywhere for 3 1/2 years during our last tour in Japan. The Chinese picture was created by a man using just the side of his hand – no fingers or brushes.

(Adapted from an October 2015 post)

It’s fun, and almost expected when you travel to find something to remind you of the good times you enjoyed, or to share a little of your experience with those back home.

Souvenirs don’t always need to be purchased though:

  • The best souvenirs can’t be seen or touched or heard. They’re the memories created during the journey, and the experiences shared with others.
  • Your own photos make absolutely fabulous souvenirs.
More travel wall photos: Flamingos from our time in Key West; and old photo of Opaekaa Falls on Kaua'i; and "Rainbow Row" in Charleston, South Carolina.
More of our travel collection: Flamingo print from our time in Key West; a vintage photo of Opaekaa Falls on Kaua’i; and “Rainbow Row” in Charleston, South Carolina.

Although I always take lots of pictures and create memories when I travel, I still often enjoying buying things from the places I visit. Over the years, and through trial and error, I have developed a set of personal rules for my souvenir purchases:

  • We always have a budgeted amount for souvenirs and we stick to it. I know I’ve felt disappointed that I couldn’t buy something because it would either blow up the budget or put us over or mean I couldn’t get something else I had my eye on, but in hindsight I have absolutely no regrets about anything I didn’t get to buy. I don’t even remember what those things were.
  • A useful souvenir is always best. So, no totchkes or knickknacks for us. Brett and I have often bought coffee cups from cities we’ve visited (yeah Starbucks!) that we use for our daily coffee. On my most recent trips to Japan I bought several tenugui, cotton hand towels that are printed with amazing designs, from traditional Japanese themes to the avant-garde. These towels get used daily in our kitchen, and seeing them provides wonderful reminders of when and where I bought them. I also look for things I can use in the kitchen – these items are usually affordable and connect me to a place and time whenever I use them. I’m still using the spoon rest I bought 36+ years ago when we were in Coronado for Brett to attend training, and I love the handmade bamboo spatulas I scored when we visited Kyoto two years ago.
  • Local food makes a fabulous souvenir. Food items are not as permanent a souvenir as a coffee mug or kitchen towel, but they can help draw out the experience and memories as long as they last. And, food items are usually very affordable. We brought home an amazing selection of sauces and snacks from our last trip to Japan, including all those interesting flavors of KitKats, and Brett brought back a bucket of delicious and much appreciated Danish butter cookies from his visit to Solvang in 2015 (those did not last long at all). We’re planning to send WenYu and Meiling each a box of their favorite Japanese snacks following our upcoming trip.
  • Clothing items, carefully chosen, are also good souvenirs. I don’t do the t-shirt thing, but Brett came home from his 2015 California trip with a nice collection of shirts from places he visited – they get a lot of wear. Sweatshirts we purchased on Disney World visits when the girls were little were were worn by all three girls before they wore out – we more than got our money’s worth out of them.
  • Finally, we used to always look for a picture to add to our travel wall. We started our collection back when Brett was in the navy, for reminders of places we were stationed or visited. We continued the tradition after he retired, and bought a few more, although these days we’re trying not to add to our possessions. We treasure every piece of our collection and every memory they recall. For example, the worn and broken creases in the folds of my Japanese train map remind me of the many times I pulled that map out and poured over it to find my way around Tokyo. The little watercolor of Hong Kong was purchased one evening from a street vendor in Kowloon, as Brett and I walked back to our hotel after dinner. The picture of the Golden Gate Bridge was from our trip to San Francisco for our 25th wedding anniversary, purchased on the day we decided to adopt one more time (to add YaYu to our family). Every one of the pictures is uniquely special to us.
Cross section of the Golden Gate bridge.
Cross section of the Golden Gate bridge.

The combination of kids and souvenirs can be both tricky and trying. Kids love stuff, and sometimes it seems they want you to buy them everything they set their eyes on. Our solution has been to give each child a set amount of spending money the first day of travel (to be added to whatever they have saved on their own and want to bring along). They can do whatever they want with the money we give them, buy whatever they want whenever they want. But . . . they are not allowed to ask for any more money during the trip nor can they ask us to buy something for them, including snacks. We started all of them out with this at a fairly young age, around five years old. Typically there was a quick, impulsive purchase that was almost instantly regretted when they saw how quickly their money dwindled, but for the rest of that vacation and future ones every purchase was carefully considered, even when they were just five or six years old. This system even worked at Disney World, where there’s a souvenir store every couple of feet and more temptation than can be counted. More often than not, all four of our children usually have/had money left over at the end of each trip. On our trip to Japan in 2015, YaYu bought very little, then saved up a bit more after she got home and bought herself a new (inexpensive) computer – totally her choice of what to do with the money we gave her for the trip. With this system, Brett and I have found ourselves able to enjoy our time with the kids and not feel like cash registers or pressured to buy, buy, buy when we travel. The kids like the system too, and the control they have over their purchases.

The underside of the US 101 bridge in Florence, Oregon. We camped with other adoptive families in Florence every summer for over 10 years.
The underside of the US 101 bridge in Florence, Oregon. We camped with other adoptive families in Florence every summer for over 10 years.

Souvenirs are an intensely personal and usually fun part of any travel experience, and whether they’re a planned purchase or a spontaneous find, you don’t have to break your travel budget in order to bring home something special from a memorable journey.

What do you like to buy when you travel? How do you handle souvenir shopping? What’s your most treasured souvenir?

Sunday Afternoon 2/26/2017

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

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

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

Anyway, this afternoon I am:

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

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

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

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

Five Frugal Habits 2/24/2017

Costco's $4.99 rotisserie chickens are the best deal in the store, and they're delicious!
Costco’s $4.99 rotisserie chickens are the best deal in the store, and they’re delicious!

Frugal habits are those things we do almost without thinking about them. Here at Casa Aloha we started doing them to save money, but after a while they became regular, and remain now as ways to help us stick to our budget and save. Here are five frugal things we do every week or month:

  1. Brett packs YaYu’s lunch every day in her washable lunch bag, along with a cloth napkin and stainless utensils (if needed) we bought at Goodwill. She takes a stainless steel Thermos for hot foods, and everything else in stainless steel or Pyrex containers. Zero waste.
  2. We buy a $4.99 Costco chicken every month, and get at least four meals from it. Last week we had a roast chicken dinner, Asian chopped salad with chicken, leftover cold chicken for dinner on leftovers night, and chicken salad (sandwiches for Brett and YaYu, just salad for me). The bones went into the freezer and will be used to make chicken noodle soup later.
  3. We do all of our weekly laundry on Sunday, three loads of it, and hang approximately a third to half of it to dry outside. Two of the three loads are done in cold water; the whites get washed in warm. Otherwise during the week the washer and dryer are not used.
  4. Brett (and WenYu, when she’s home) always takes ‘navy’ showers: get wet, turn off water, lather up, then turn on the water again to rinse off. YaYu and I, on the other hand, are masters of efficient five-minute showers. Both techniques help keep our water bill down each month, especially when we have to run the sprinklers.
  5. We wash out, dry and reuse all Ziploc bags (unless they contained meat or cheese – the bags get greasy), and the plastic bags from the farmers’ market, Costco and Big Save.

What frugal habits have you developed to help you save? I am always open to learning new ways!

#Kauai: Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge and Kilauea Lighthouse

About two miles, six or seven minutes, off Kuhio Highway (56) at Kilauea lies Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to the Kilauea Point Lighthouse, as well as sea birds and marine life. When Laura and I arrived at around 11:00 a.m. on Valentine’s Day we were greeted by the sign below and two people directing traffic suggesting we come back in the afternoon because there was no parking (you cannot enter the refuge on foot). However, after about a five minute wait, several cars came out and we were able to enter the Refuge.

Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge sign
Greetings

While we waited, we wandered over to the fence and watched nesting red-footed boobies, soaring Laysan Albatross, some lolling sea turtles, and even a couple of humpback whales. However, neither of us have the sort of camera that allows us to capture credible shots of turtles and whales—all we get are brownish gray spots. The only good photos from the fence were of pounding surf the and the red-footed booby community (those white spots in the brush) above the cliffs.

Pounding Surf, Cliffs, Red-footed Boobies, Nests
Red-footed booby nests on the cliffs

One of the first and most important signs before you even enter the refuge is this one: Do Not Feed Wildlife! No, the wildlife here won’t rip off the top of your car to get at your stuff, but if you are inclined to toss them a treat, you shouldn’t.

Do NOT Feed Wildlife, Mahalo
First and most important sign within the refuge

We  first visited the refuge while vacationing here in 2012, but since moving to Hawaii Laura and I seem to have found a thousand reasons (excuses) not to go beyond Kong Lung Market in Kilauea, which is only a mile-and-a-half from Kilauea Point. However, since our first visit the lighthouse has undergone renovations, and reopened with the name of late Senator Daniel K. Inouye appended to its name. Shortly before moving to Hawai’i, we had purchased a lifetime Access Pass for U.S. National Parks and Recreation Lands which turned out to be valid for our admission to the refuge (otherwise $5 each), and since the Valentine’s Day weather was positively gorgeous, off we went.

Kilauea Point Lighthouse
Daniel K. Inouye Kilauea Point Lighthouse

Following restoration, the lighthouse’s lens still can cast a beam but does not rotate because the bearing that allowed rotation consisted of an open trough containing 260 gallons of mercury. Nevertheless, the 8,000-pound fresnel lens is impressive.

Among the endangered species, the nēnē (Hawaiian goose, and state bird) was the first to greet us on the lawn in front of the lighthouse. The number of nēnē was once down to 40 throughout the Hawaiian Islands and within the refuge, but the numbers now grow every year. This cunning nēnē totally ignored all the visitors and continued grubbing for insects and shoots throughout our entire visit.

Nēnē, Hawaiian Goose, grazing
Nēnē, the Hawaiian goose

There is an island, Moku‘ae‘ae (‘fine small island’), just off the end of Kilauea Point that supports its own colony of sea birds, which you can see dotting the rim in the photo below. To a certain extent, this rocky outcrop protects the point itself from the punishing waves. Although we witnessed it twice, we weren’t fortunate enough to capture a video of the islet’s impressive water spout. It’s well worth the wait for a look and listen of the spout.

Small Island North of the Point
Small island off of Kilauea Point

Looking to the west (your right as you exit), you get a splendid view of Kauai’s entire North Shore, from Secret Beach to Makana (‘the gift’), aka ‘Bali Hai,’ and Ke‘e Beach.

Kauai's North Shore
Kauai’s north shore

Before returning to our car, we stopped into the gift shop to refresh my wardrobe because my 2012 lighthouse shirt is no more – I wore it out. Just like that archival moment when a child gets their first driver’s license, my new Kilauea Point Lighthouse shirt is preserved for posterity.

New Winter T-Shirt-Kilauea Lighthouse
New winter shirt–Kilauea Point Lighthouse

This Week’s Menu: So Many Choices

Fettucini with creamy red pepper alfredo sauce
Fettucini with creamy red pepper alfredo sauce

This week’s menu was slightly more difficult than it typically is for the unusual reason that right now our fridge, freezer and pantry contain an embarrassment of riches, almost like we have too much food, and therefore too many choices. I go through this every month right after we do our Costco shop – there is almost too much to choose from, or at least it seems that way. Definitely a first world problem, I know.

Creating a menu when there are so many choices uses a somewhat different thought process than when supplies and choices are more limited. First of all, it requires less creativity. But still, there are questions such as: What should be used first? Will this or that be more useful later in the month?

YaYu asked if she could make dinner on Friday – she found the recipe for vegetarian red pepper alfredo sauce online and wants to try it. She doesn’t know yet if she’ll be able make the fettucine from scratch – it will depend on how late track and tennis practice finish.

Here’s what we’re having this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Grilled Italian sausages with sautéed peppers and onion; ciabatta rolls (no bread for me)
  • Wednesday: Mapo dofu; steamed rice; sliced cucumber (no rice for me)
  • Thursday: Meatloaf; roasted potatoes; gravy; steamed broccoli (no potatoes for me)
  • Friday: Fettucini with creamy red pepper alfredo sauce; grilled zucchini; bread (I’ll have the alfredo sauce over zucchini)
  • Saturday: Leftovers (YaYu will be at her swim team banquet)
  • Sunday: Chinese stir-fried tomatoes and eggs (we’ve all been craving this again); steamed rice; cucumbers (no rice for me)
  • Monday: Grilled flank steak; onion rings; coleslaw (no onion rings for me)

We have everything we need on hand, so no trips to the store this week. We won’t be able to go to the Kapaa market on Wednesday, but Brett and I have decided we will try to head down to the Friday farmers’ market at the stadium. It’s a small market, but they have good prices and we should be able to get papayas and bananas there, and maybe find a few other things.