Sunday, March 31, 2019

My 2019 Goals. Quarter year grades.

Do you set goals for yourself? My husband is a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) goal aficionado. He's much better at this than I am. When our children were all living at home, we had family camp every summer, where we would set goals as a family and as individuals. Since we've become empty nesters, we've been more on our own.

Goals are very helpful to me, but as with anything in life, you have to want to do it, to actually do it.  So profound, ha.  I do find that if I read through my goals weekly, it helps me stay on track. I won't post about these often, but I love reading what other people set for goals, and it helps me stay accountable when it's all "out there."

I would love to hear some of your goals! Please feel free to share in the comments.

1) More intentionality regarding ____________________.

This is a very personal goal, and I will not share the particulars. I would give myself a C+ at this point in the year, which is sad, because it's my number one goal for a reason. I think I need to come up with smaller, more measurable steps.

2) Read entire Bible through.

I'm using the One Year Bible Plan, which provides daily readings in the Old and New Testament as well as Psalms and Proverbs. It's a nice mix. Solid A on this one. I rarely miss a day, and when I do, I catch up the next day, or sometimes I read ahead if I know a particularly busy day is coming up. Currently reading Deuteronomy in the OT and Luke in the NT.

3) Read 40 books.

40 a year averages out to about 3.5 books a month. I'm doing well, and on track. A.

What I've read so far:

You Were Warned
Women at the Well
Deception Point
The House by the River
Hope They Like Rice
The Address
First Aid Manual
Broken Grace
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Currently Reading (I almost always have one than one book going at any given time):

Your Money or Your Life
China Rich Girlfriend
Manual of School Health (so incredibly boring)
Anna Karenina

Generous Justice

4) Spend at least 20 minutes daily in prayer/prayer journaling. (In addition to Bible reading and gratefulness journal.)

I would say a C on this. Prayer is an area of struggle for me. It's not that I don't sit down to do this almost every day, it's that my mind wanders far too frequently. And we all know that thinking about (translate: over-analyzing/worrying about) an area of concern is NOT the same thing as praying about it. I believe Satan likes to keep us here. This is why I wanted to try using a journal, and this has helped, but I need to figure out a better system.

5) Take Cantonese classes.

Ongoing, yeah me!! I've been wanting to do this for 6 years. Thankfully, a group of students at our school have volunteered to teach weekly lessons this year.  It's been fun....I just need to be a better student.  Study, study, practice, practice. Aiyah! (The Cantonese catch-all expression for everything from excitement to disgust.) P. S. Cantonese is SO hard! B-

6) Weigh ______ by Will's wedding, July 20. 
 (Daily: 10K steps, at least 60 active minutes-per fit bit, 1100 calories or less, 2L water)

I have 5 pounds to go to reach my goal. After 50 years, you would think I'd have this down, but it always feels like an uphill battle. I gain, I lose; I gain again, I lose again. I suppose the good news is that I am very aware and work at it constantly. My goal this year is figuring out a sustainable plan rather than quick fixes. It is a surprisingly small number of calories that my body needs to maintain its current weight, and a VERY small number to lose. Slow and steady. B-.
A pretty average day. I walk to work and back daily. 

7) Hike Mt. Katahdin before I turn 51 (on July 29).

Katahdin is the highest peak in Maine, and the end (or beginning) of the Appalachian Trail. Some of you may remember that I was thwarted in this goal last year on my birthday weekend. Baxter State Park only takes so many summit hikers a day, and we did not make the cut off.  Jolly Little Park Ranger Man was not at all moved by my "but it's my 50th birthday and I've been planning to climb Katahdin when I turn 50 for over 3 years" spiel. I'm sure he was wondering why I didn't plan well enough to reserve a spot. I was wondering that myself. So, we climbed the nearby North and South Brothers instead. I will succeed this summer.  Plan: sign up online in May for a June day summit.

On top of South Brother, pointing to Katahdin. 

It looks deceptively easy, this slope. But it's steep, and slippery, and I wiped out dramatically. 

8) Pay off faith promise to our church by the end of the year. 

Our church here in Hong Kong is in the beginning stages of a building campaign. We are making steady progress on our promised donation. Original goal was pay off by December 2020.

9) Save $________ by the end of the year.

I honestly am not sure if we will make our projected goal, but in the savings department, SOME is always better than NONE. C-

10) Provide 30 meals for others.

On track. I do this in a variety of ways: having guests stay in our home, having friends over for a meal, taking someone out to eat, providing meals for others in need (after a baby, an illness, etc), sending gift cards for meals when I cannot provide a hands on dinner.  Come to our house---have chicken feet! A+

11) Volunteer 3 hours a month on average and 1 week at Living Waters.

I am a doing well on this goal. A+. I normally teach Sunday School two times a month, and I also volunteer every other month at the Ronald McDonald House. I've participated in a couple of other events. Today, I tried to donate blood at our school blood drive. But alas, I was rejected because I vomited last week. Really? (Not before they got my hemoglobin...)

12) Post on my blog weekly. 

I didn't start until Feb 22, and this is only my 6th post. That's 6 out of 12 weeks, or 50%. Which is failing. Solid F. But that percentage will go up as the year goes on, if I stay the course.  Maybe I can end up with a B.

13) Write a real letter or card weekly.

Don't you love it when you get a real letter in the mail? It's a rarity these days. I've done pretty well on this. I think I may have missed a week, but overall, I try to write a note to someone over the weekend.  B+ or A-

14) Buy one new piece of "investment" clothing for Mike or myself monthly.

Complete Fail. F-. I have not purchased anything at all in this category. I really hate to shop anyway, so this was a stretch for me. The goal here, at our ages, was to buy some clothing and shoes that will potentially last us many, many years, or even the rest of our lives. I'm thinking boots, jackets, classic dress clothes, "Darn Tough" socks, which purportedly have a lifetime guarantee.  So, so hard for me.  Maybe when we are home this summer....

15) Finish up and notarize our will. Talk to the funeral home.

Finishing our will has literally been on my to do list for 20+ years. I downloaded software eons ago and just could never seem to prioritize this. I finally worked on it last fall, and basically just have to have it notarized, put it in the safe deposit box, and talk to all the kids about it. I'm going to make that happen this summer.

I also want to talk to our local funeral home this summer about planning ahead. I'm not sure what that looks like, but that's exactly why I want to start the conversation. We already purchased cemetery lots in my family cemetery a couple of years ago. That's a start!

16) Change over old 401Ks to IRAs, or at least talk to financial planner.

Another summer goal.

17) _______a ________ for _________. 

A personal gift. You'll find out about it when the recipient does. But I haven't started, and I should have.  So F right now.

18) Get nursing CEUs finished by summer.

This should not be a problem. Ongoing, but C+ right now.

19) Get some sort of travel certification. 

I have been looking into what this takes. I passed the national TAP (travel agent proficiency) exam two years ago. But I'm not sure what the next step is. Apparently, it varies by state. 

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Weekend in Taichung, Taiwan--4 ways we saved--1 way we spent

If it wasn't already abundantly clear, we really love to travel. (Oddly enough, I'm also a homebody, who can happily go weeks without leaving the house.) While we are living in Hong Kong, we are taking every opportunity to check out this part of the world. We had never been to Taiwan for more than a layover, so we took advantage of a 3-day weekend and flew to the city of Taichung, which was only an hour and 15 minute flight from HK. It was a little rainy, and cooler, but we still had a nice get away. Here's how we saved and what we spent.

1) I used the to pick the cheapest flight for the dates we had, and Taiching won this round! I have used this website for several vacations now, and have ended up in some locations that I never would have thought about. This flight was right around $100 USD round trip on Hong Kong Express, a discount airline based in HK. I can't even fly from Bangor to Boston for that price. 

2) I used points with IHG rewards to score 2 free nights at the Holiday Inn Express. The hotel was perfect for us. The beds were comfy (sometimes hard beds are an issue in Asia), the rooms clean, and the staff were all super friendly and spoke English very well. We arrived quite early, around 10 am, and they allowed us to store our luggage while we explored the city for a few hours and then we checked in early at 1:30 pm.

We were given some welcome snacks and drinks, courtesy of my Platinum Elite status with IHG, which I maintain simply by keeping their credit card; at $49 a year, is well worth the price considering we get a free night at any IHG hotel every year. 

3) We took advantage of the free hotel breakfast, which had a good variety of hot and cold, Asian and Western choices. We also didn't go to any fancy restaurants, choosing instead to eat at local noodle shops and street food vendors. 

These noodles were homemade, and so delicious. Mike got add-ons; I had plain curry noodles. About $3 for Mike's and $1.50 for mine. 

These are little baby waffles. They are sold plain, of with filling. They were about $1 US for a 4 pack.

Bubble tea (tea with little gelatin/tapioca type "bubbles" in it) originated in Taiwan and there are hundreds of shops selling it. This was Brown Sugar Milk Tea, and was so creamy and fresh. It was around $1 to $1.5 US everywhere. 

4) As usual, we took advantage of our Priority Pass membership (a benefit of the Citi Prestige Card) to check into the lounges before both flights. The More Lounge in Taichung was quite empty, and had a decent variety of food and beverages. We had already had breakfast, but I couldn't pass up the Mango Haagen Dazs ice cream! 

I chose to spend money on a day tour to Sun Moon Lake, which was about 1.5 hours from Taichung. They picked us up at our hotel at about 8 am, and delivered us back there at 6 pm, so it was a full day, and included a family style Chinese lunch. 

We rode the cable cars. 

It was a little foggy at the top, haha!

And we also rode bikes around one end of the lake, took a boat ride, did a little shopping, and visited a Confucian Temple. 

It was well worth the $45 US each that I paid. I'm a softy for easy pick up and drop offs. 

I can see the current appeal for Taiwan. The people are friendly, prices are great, and it's very safe (recently voted second safest country in the world--Japan is #1) I never felt like people were trying to take advantage of us, and that is pretty rare these days. 

Double thumbs up, Taiwan. Maybe we'll be back! 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Parents, St. Patrick's Day, Saying Goodbye, and Springtime Walks

Both my parents would have celebrated their birthdays on March 15th. Mom would have been 97, dad 103. It's as hard for me to imagine them that old as it is for me to imagine what they were like when this photo was taken. (Thanks to my sister for posting this.) They were older when I was born, and I never knew their younger selves. As is the way when one gets older, thinking about our parents inevitably causes us to think about ourselves...what we learned from them and what we are passing on to the next generation. It's a worthy subject to ponder, I think. 

Robert and Juanita Moores, circa 1939, or thereabout. 

On Saturday, our adult Sunday School class had a farewell party for Aby and Calvin, a dear couple who are striking out on a grand adventure with their two daughters. They are originally from India, but have French and British ancestry and have lived in Australia and Hong Kong. Now they are moving to jobs, just a dream and a brother there. They inspire me to think big, trust God, and explore this wonderful be willing to try new things and remember that in spite of all the evil we see, there is still so much good and God has such a beautiful plan for us! God Speed on your journey, DeCosta family!

  Some things are the same at Hong Kong parties... (men love to grill..)

But you can usually count on noodles, sushi and/or rice and weird desserts like Durian Cheese Tarts.😜😜

Today is St. Patrick's Day. My husband and I went for a walk around our neighborhood. Hong Kong is an interesting mix of the old and the new, the mountains and the city. But always, there is beauty everywhere if we stop to look. 

Where we live....

I even found shamrocks!! 

But I didn't find Corned Beef Brisket, just cooked a little ham with my cabbage and taters and carrots. 

Happy St. Patrick's Day! 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

EasiYo, good friends, expensive cheese and free lunches...

February was such a great month. We were able to host 2 couples--friends from different eras of our lives. We love Hong Kong, having guests, showing off our city, and doing the "touristy" things we only do when people visit, so it's a win for everyone!

Ron and Mike have been friends since their college days. I don't know if the guys were especially keen on going for Tea at the Peninsula Hotel, but they made the best of it. 

One of my favorite things to do is take a ride on the Aqua Luna, the iconic red-sailed junk boat.  The Sheffields are friends from our NC days. Their son, Richard, is studying for a semester here, so it was a great time for them to visit...and take a little sail around the island. 

One of the many blessings of hosting is the great "hostess" (thank you) gifts one receives. This cheese platter was one such gift...and since cheese is so expensive here, we really enjoyed it.  Thanks, Gayle!

The Sheffields brought us a North Carolina favorite: Moravian Cookies, along with a some candy-- they didn't know that caramels are hard to find here, or Reese's, which didn't make it to the picture. How fun is that? The pumpkin and cheese were by request. Both couples treated us to many meals and other goodies. So thoughtful!

On the frugal front, I have been experimenting with a yogurt maker I bought second hand a couple of years ago. Along with cheese, yogurt is expensive here (all dairy, truth be told). We're talking $10 US for a large container of yogurt. EasiYo is a brand from New Zealand. Basically, the maker itself is a big thermos, with a plastic insert. You can buy dry cultured products from the company, and in many stores abroad, that are mixed with water, but I found these directions on You Tube on how to use the system using real milk and starter.  There were other videos on using powdered milk but I haven't tried this yet. I have used different types of milk, and as much as I would love to use UHT milk, which is cheaper here, I found that fresh milk works better. I cook one quart of milk over medium heat until just before boiling (bubbles start to form on edge) and then let it cool until I can touch it without burning my finger (easier than a thermometer...ha!) Mix the milk well with a small container of plain yogurt (or as little as 2 tablespoons) in the smaller EasiYo container.  You can also use 2 tablespoons of your homemade yogurt once you have it. Pour boiling water to the bottom of the plastic insert in the outside container, add the yogurt and put on the top. Leave at least 8 hours or overnight at room temperature. That's it! I found this makes a good creamy mix. The UHT milk was little too "slimy" for me, although it tasted fine.  Using real milk and homemade starter, a liter container costs about $2.70 US, which sure beats $10! 

Our school just finished a rigorous accreditation week. I think everyone is ready for the weekend. Parents here are very generous, and Friday, our kindergarten parents brought in a meal for us. So many delicious treats. See that meat at the bottom of the picture? Pork Jowl Thai Style. Wow! Flavor was fabulous. 

I love my place of employment, and am very thankful that I am able to be here, but that doesn't change the fact that I count down the days until I am here again: 

Maine, T-96. 
We are officially below 100.