Noho'ana Hau'ole: Life is Good

reducing, retiring & relocating to Hawai'i

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Friday Odds and Ends

odds_and_ends4An assortment of small stuff:

  • And then there were five: YaYu arrived home yesterday from a fantastic two-week trip to China with her Mandarin Immersion class. It was worth every penny we saved, and all the volunteer hours we have put into fundraising over the past nine years. We are all happy she is home, but once again we are crowded into our tiny cottage. It really is a good fit for four, but five people truly stretch the space’s caring capacity. Same for the new car. It fits four of us just fine; for five the Civic is a tight fit. We will manage though – we always do.
  • Can we do it? Menus have been planned out to the end of the month, which is when TBK and I leave for our house-hunting trip to Kaua’i. The menus are planned to use up as much of everything here as we possibly can. Some items (like cooking oil) will be kept by friends while we’re gone, but pretty much everything else must go. The biggest issue we’ve been having lately is Meiling deciding at the last minute to have dinner over at her boyfriend’s home, but we have told her that these last couple of weeks she is limited to eating over there to just once a week, and she has to let us know well in advance so that I can adjust what I’m cooking here. This is one of the things about moving that I really don’t like – trying to use up every last bit of food so as not to waste it, and having to eat out more than usual when you do use everything up.
  • A confession, since we’re talking about food: My weight has been creeping up again, and not just by a few pounds. It’s all my fault too and I accept full responsibility for my back-sliding. I’ve been eating a lot since last fall, when the stress of selling our home started me down the path of overeating. I wish I were one of those who didn’t eat when they get stressed, but I am unfortunately just the opposite. I instead become constantly hungry and crave all sorts of the wrong stuff, like gooey sticky buns and other high-fat and/or sweet dishes. Combined with my usual “winter funk” (as TBK calls it), the pounds started coming right back on, and faster than usual this time. I’m nowhere near where I was when I started my last weight loss journey, but I have some work to do to get back in shape again.
  • Finally, the most dreaded task of the entire move has been completed: In spite of my weight gain, I bought a bathing suit. Actually, I bought two of them! The Big Kahuna and I headed up to Popina earlier this week and each tried on a variety of suits. Every one of suits the sales person helped me pick out was a winner and I could have gone with any of them, but in the end I chose a simple maillot, which was also affordable enough that I could buy two. So, I now have a purple suit and a turquoise suit, both look great with my pareo/sarong (that I picked up at a yard sale a few years ago for a couple of dollars), and all should last me a good long while. TBK enjoyed a complimentary glass of one of his favorite beers while he shopped, and got a very Hawai’i-appropriate suit as well. We’re all suited up now except for YaYu, but I am taking her shopping this weekend.


I’m a Bit Worried

00303_kPCcsncsx4b_600x450The rental market on Kaua’i is currently tight. Very tight, as a matter of fact. I have to admit to being a bit worried about whether we will be able to find a suitable rental during The Big Kahuna and my upcoming house-hunting trip.

The 500 square-foot, one-bedroom house in the picture was posted on Kaua’i Craigslist a couple of days ago. It’s clean and cute, and in a nice location in the southern part of the island. The owners received 60 responses to the ad in one day (they nicely posted a note to Craigslist that the house had been rented and they mentioned the demand)!! Not only did I note how many people were interested in renting this tiny house, but also realized that 59 parties were still out there looking for a place to rent. Yikes!

“Good” rentals appear on Craigslist for no more than a day, sometimes no more than a few hours. In fact, after following the Kaua’i listings on Craigslist for nearly two years now, I know that if a house does appear more than once there’s most likely something quite undesirable about it, something that might not be apparent from the either the pictures (if there even are pictures) or write-up. Maybe the pictures are old and the house is now dirty or in disrepair; the neighborhood might be “iffy;” the rent might be way out of line for the property in question; or the landlord could be a real kook. One beautiful, newly remodeled place, a second floor duplex unit with drop-dead views, sat in the listings for a few weeks, and I could not figure out what could possibly be wrong with the place. It looked to have everything one could want in a rental, and the price was right, so what could be so wrong that no one snapped up the place? It was not until I did a bit more investigation that I found that the tenant would be required to pay 60% of the utility bills for the entire building!! No wonder no one had jumped at the “opportunity” to rent the place (although it has since been rented).

The Big Kahuna and I have already contacted a few property management offices to let them know we will be arriving in early May and to let them know what our needs are and what our price range is. We’ve heard back from a couple of them that have encouraged us to stop in once we’re on the island and they will see if they can help. We’ve decided not to limit ourselves to just one high school boundary area so that we have a larger area to find a potential home. We are thinking of posting a small ad about our family and what we are looking for to the Craigslist “Housing Wanted” section right before we go – we have heard both positives and negatives on doing this, but we don’t want to leave any stone unturned in our search for a house. We have assembled loads of paperwork and references to show what kind of tenants we will be (our task will be a bit more difficult because we are new to the island and therefore an unknown quantity).

In the end though, I think the best TBK and I can do is relax about it (for now) and just let the process unfold. I used to get very uptight whenever I entered a crowded parking lot, thinking it was going to be a struggle to find a parking space, and my negative attitude usually defeated me. I have learned however, that if I just relax, take a deep breath and tell myself I will find a place to park, somehow a parking spot shows up pretty quickly, and usually without too much effort. We need to apply the same mindset to finding a rental. There is a place for us on Kaua’i, and we will find a place to live, someplace that will work for us and that we can call home.

So yes, I am a bit worried right now about finding a rental. But, I keep reminding myself that even if TBK and I don’t find oneduring our May trip, we will at least have gotten a lovely Kaua’i vacation out of the deal!


Sunday Night Chit Chat

Our Portland view this morning!

Our Portland view this morning!

It’s been a perfectly lovely day today here in Portland, almost like summer. I know this gorgeous weather is not supposed to last (it will be cold and rainy again by mid-week), but it gives me hope that I did not act hastily in putting my winter coat into the Goodwill box this past week. I was so sick of that coat I could have screamed (it’s nearly 12 years old!), but once we made up our mind to move to Hawai’i I decided I would see it through until the bitter end and I did. If it gets too cold from here on out I will just double up with the two hoodies that I am keeping and taking along to Hawai’i.

The Big Kahuna and I enjoyed a belated 35th anniversary brunch at the Portland City Grill this morning, and boy, was it worth waiting for! We had a spectacular view of Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown from our window-side table, as well as Mt. St. Helens and a couple of the other Cascade peaks in the distance. The food was wonderful too, and it all came courtesy of our former neighbors, who gave us gift cards last Christmas.

Since Carla hasn’t posted the Chit-Chat questions at the time I sat down to write tonight, I’m just going to revert back to the old questions. Tonight I am:

  • Reading: Nothing, really. I have the new Amy Tan book sitting by my bedside, but haven’t started it yet. Maybe tonight’s the night!
  • Listening to: The wind chimes gently playing outside. Meiling is over at her boyfriend’s for dinner, YaYu is still in China, so it’s just TBK, WenYu and me around right now, and we’re all either reading, doing homework or blogging. So, it’s pretty quiet here right now. No laundry today either!
  • Watching: WenYu and I have been watching Dexter: Season 8, and we’ll watch another episode this evening. One episode at a time is about all we can stand – it’s been pretty intense so far.
  • Cooking/baking: I was still full from this morning’s brunch and didn’t feel much like cooking, so TBK made dinner: Thai red curry chicken, rice and coleslaw. Yum!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Getting the minivan finally sold and off to its new owners. And, getting that winter coat into the Goodwill box! The whole family has also done a great job eating up the food we brought along with us – there will be very little left when we head over to Kaua’i at the end of the month.
  • Looking forward to: YaYu coming home this week! I know she is having a wonderful time on the trip of a lifetime, but I sure miss that girl and can’t wait until she’s back home with us. No matter the reason any  of my kids (or TBK) go away for – whether it’s an afternoon, a day, a week, a month – there always comes a point where I’ve had enough of them being gone and want them back right now!
  • Thankful for: That we were able to find and rent this cottage as a temporary place to stay until we permanently depart Portland. It’s very cozy and has been a great fit for our family. Our other option would have been some sterile, executive extended-stay apartment which would not only have been more expensive, but in a terrible location for us and with none of the charm of where we are now.

Happy Sunday everyone – I hope you have all had a lovely, relaxing day!


Time To Execute Plan B

school_photo_PortlandStateUniversity-1000000027_1-48_original_resized1Meiling has always known that she would be paying for the majority of her college costs, through her own savings, scholarships and other financial aid. She has worked hard these past four years in high school including pursuing a full International Baccalaureate diploma, has saved some, and earned a scholarship. But, as she discovered this past week, it still won’t be enough to go to the college of her choice.

The annual cost for attending the University of Oregon for the 2014-2015 year is estimated to be a little more than $24,000. Yes, it’s less than it would be to attend a private college, but honestly still way more than any of us were expecting. According to our FAFSA, The Big Kahuna and I are expected to come up with 67% of that amount. The rest has to come from scholarships and Meiling taking out both subsidized and unsubsidized loans; she was not awarded any work-study or any grants. Yes, she could work off campus while she went to college, but it’s not something we wanted her to have to do her first year while she is adjusting to college coursework, a new social life, a new environment as well as living so far from home.

Neither TBK nor I can afford nor are willing to take out a parent loan, so that source of funds (which the university recommended) is out of the question. And, we have drilled into Meiling that if she borrows money it should only be from subsidized loans, and she should borrow no more over her entire college career than $10,000, a reasonable figure to pay back after she graduates.

Meiling has applied for loads of scholarships, but has so far only received one, and it was from the university. She will receive no extra benefit from earning the IB diploma other than some college credit. Friends of hers in the IB program received not only the scholarship Meiling did but an additional one that she did not receive even though she has the same or higher GPA (nearly 4.0), same coursework, etc. When we asked the financial aid office about it they seemed surprised Meiling did not received the second scholarship, but then said sorry, there will be no review of her status. She has not heard back on any of the other scholarships she has applied for, but realizes at this point that she would have to “run the table” and earn them all in order to make attendance at UO affordable.

The financial aid representative said we could file an appeal based on the reduction of our income due to retirement, but added that the FAFSA powers-that-be does not look favorably on retirees when it comes to awarding aid “since we are no longer paying any FICA tax.” So, that’s a long shot as well.

However, Meiling has always had a Plan B, and she is now putting that plan into action. She has applied to Portland State University, where she only needs to take eight credit hours to qualify for housing and a meal plan, which is affordable. She will receive 45 hours of credit for her IB diploma, and enter as a second-year student. The PSU dorm is much more affordable as is the meal plan. Taking only eight credits means she can afford to get a part-time job. Plus, she knows Portland like the back of her hand and how to get around by bus, tram, train and bike. We also have loads of friends in the city for support if she needs it. The only thing PSU doesn’t have is the exact major she wants, but she said she is willing to change and adapt.

It still isn’t going to be cheap, but it is doable if she works hard this summer and saves every dime that comes to her. She still may earn more scholarships too, but she’s planning as if she won’t. Eight credits per term this coming year will allow her to “catch her breath,” adjust to college life in a familiar place and eventually transfer to UO if that’s what she still wants in the future.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed.



Into the Doldrums

doldrums-400-300x250We here at Chez Aloha have now entered what I have named “the doldrums” of our move. Everything we can have done up to this point for our move has been done, so now it’s just a question of marking time until the next phase, or until some other task can be accomplished. The house has been sold, the car sold and our “Hawai’i car” purchased, plane tickets bought, and so forth.

Next up on our “to do” list will be booking the shipment of our car over to Kaua’i. Currently the Matson shipping schedules only go out to May 25, with Kaua’i arrival on June 8, four days before we arrive on the island. So, our car will go on the next shipment after May 25, either the very end of May, or first week of June. Once we have a date we can reserve a rental car for our last couple of weeks here in Portland.

After that will be The Big Kahuna and my trip to Kaua’i to hopefully find a rental. We’re greatly looking forward to it, but it will be a major production getting us moved out of the cottage and the girls placed into the different homes where they’ll be staying (as well as moving back into the cottage when we get back).

But otherwise we don’t have much to do these days. The girls go to school, The Big Kahuna and I walk around the neighborhood, and we try to keep life as “normal” as possible during our stay in the cottage. We continue to downsize and get rid of things – I happily put my winter coat into the Goodwill box yesterday – and use up the food we brought along with us. It’s actually quite relaxing, come to think of it, compared to our crazy days in the past.

In other words, nothing very exciting is going on for the time being. We’re in the doldrums . . . glassy seas, no breeze, nothing happening for the time being. But this too shall pass, and I’m sure some time in the not too distant future I will be looking back at the calm of these days and wishing it back again.

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Sunday Night Chit Chat

Shipwreck Beach, Kaua'i

Shipwrecks Beach, Kaua’i

I almost forgot it was Sunday night! I’m not sure why, but am guessing it’s because it’s not really the same as our former Sunday routine or set-up. We have done laundry today, the girls (that are here) did their chores and are now doing homework, but it still all seems like we’re living in a different world, and truth be told, I guess we are.

We did end up having a very good week though, and today turned into a very nice day. We woke up to clouds and gloom, but this evening it’s warm and the sun is still out. Tomorrow is supposed to be gorgeous. And, we continue to get rid of things, either finishing up food we brought along with us, or setting aside items for Goodwill that we don’t need any more.

Best of all is that YaYu is apparently having a very good time in China. This is her first trip back, so we are all happy it’s going well for her and that she’s making memories with her friends (and speaking lots and lots of Mandarin).

This evening I am

  • Watching: The Big Kahuna and I are eventually going to watch another episode of Dalziel & Pascoe (that we checked out from the library). I love a good British mystery! We’re currently waiting on Meiling to finish her math homework.
  • Looking forward to this week: First barbecue of the year! Tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful, and we’re going to grill some chicken for our dinner.
  • Planning for this summer: Our move. We’ve accomplished a lot, but there’s still stuff to be done (and do once we get there). We’re going to have a very short summer break this year. We leave for Kaua’i mid-June, but the girls will start school the first of August.
  • Thinking about my best moment over the last week: Getting YaYu packed and off on her school trip to China. After years of fundraising and saving, our last girl is finally off to the land of her birth.
  • Obsessive about: As always, keeping things picked up around the cottage. I like a clean house, no matter where we are.
  • Thinking about my #1 goal for next week: Getting the Odyssey off to its new home. I came to love that minivan, but it’s time to say goodbye.
  • Thinking about my Best/Worst Financial decision over the last week? Best financial decision was purchasing tickets to leave Portland two days earlier than planned – we saved a huge amount over what we would have paid to leave on the original planned date. Worst decision? We’re spending too much on food, but have to shop frequently as there is little to no room for food storage right now.
  • Most happy with what I accomplished this weekend: Getting Meiling and WenYu bathing suits, especially Meiling. She is very picky, and has a difficult figure – tall and very thin. But, we found her something that she likes and that looks great on her and that was affordable too! Both girls immediately headed over to the sale racks at the store (Popina) and were able to put together some very cute suits! I’ll take YaYu shopping when she gets back, and TBK and I both need bathing suits, so Popina hasn’t seen the last of us yet!

Thanks as always to Carla for hosting Sunday Night Chit Chat!


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