Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Products for Living better in Hawaii - June

Living in Hawaii for over half a decade, we have discovered unusual products that help us live more comfortably in the tropics, save money, and keep healthy. We bought these products from Amazon Prime, which provides us free shipping to Hawaii for many products.  We find it easiest to order on Prime using our Kindle Fire Tablet.  We got a free month of Amazon Prime when we bought our Kindle Fire and quickly became comfortable buying products regularly that are very expensive or impossible to find in Hawaii.  For us, the free shipping to Hawaii has made it worth the $79 yearly Amazon Prime membership fee.  

Here is a list of our favorite products this month we have used to make our life more comfortable and low cost in Hawaii:

Temperature and Humidity meter
We recently purchased a AcuRite Home Comfort Monitor which measures temperature and humidity.  We had a monitor, but it was analog and we found it hard to tell how much the humidity had increased. We have noticed that when we suddenly feel uncomfortably hot that the humidity has increased more so than the temperature risen.  This monitor has a 24 hour maximum and minimum reading for temperature and humidity which helps us to track sudden changes during the day.  Knowing that the humidity has spiked helps us figure out the best way to get cooler by taking a swim in the ocean or a shower.  Just opening a window on the side of the house in the shade keeps the inside cooler all day by at least a degree or two.  We have had a lot of rain this season and the monitor has shown that the increase in humidity lasts about 7 hours after which it dries out and we start to cool off.

Altimeter/Barometer Watch 
This product is more about winning arguments than saving money, but it has made my life more fun.  With the constant threat of a Tsunami evacuation in Hawaii, knowing the elevation of a place has become surprisingly important and a constant topic of conversation at parties with my friends.  It is often hard to judge your elevation just by looking at the ocean.  For my birthday I got a Casio Men's SGW400H-1B Sport Multi-Function Watch which I wanted because of it has an altimeter and barometer.  Now I can tell the elevation where ever I am and I am finding it interesting to know just how high I have to drive to find a “leaving Tsunami zone” sign.  No more arguments about whether a particular apartment or house is above the evacuation zone now.

Lasko Fans 
Since we do not use Air Conditioning, we have become very particular about our Fans.  Lasko Stand Fans are made of plastic and are incredibly light. They move a lot of air for a lower amount of electricity compared to other fans we have measured and they only cost about $30.  We have bought two different sizes and have them located around our home. These fans are available from Amazon and we have also bought them at Home Depot in Kona.  On hot days, we each have our own fan blowing on us as we sit on the couch and write.

Plastic Scrubby pads 
The humid ocean air in Hawaii causes sponges to get moldy and metal scrubbing pads to rust.  Only plastic scrubby pads stay usable for long periods of time.  For whatever reason, they seem to always be short of them in the local stores so we now order SOS Tuffy Dishwashing Pads in packs of 24  from Amazon and save money.

Insulated Sippy cups
An icy glass of water will not stay cold long in Hawaii’s climate and as the water warms up in the glass, it leaves an annoying puddle of water under it next to our computers or important papers.  We have come to depend on large insulated cups like the Smart Planet 16-Ounce Double-Wall Plastic Cold-Drink Cups with a reusable straw to keep us hydrated with cold water that does not leave a puddle on our tables. We have purchased these types of cups at several retail stores and the Smart Planet cup on Amazon.  They are  more expensive at retail stores running about $12 to $18 but we use them all day, every day.

Ice cube trays 
Ice cube trays probably seem like a trivial thing, but keeping our insulated cups filled with ice has been a challenge.  The ice maker in our refrigerator cannot come close to keeping up with our ice cube demand so we make ice using trays which we regularly dump into an ice holder.  We have discovered that all ice cube trays are not the same.  We have tried numerous brands and they break or are impossible to get out. These Sterilite Stacking Ice Cube Trays have been wonderful.   The cubes come out  easily and the trays nest well together so we can stack them in the freezer. We also bought their ice holder which holds ice from 4 ice cube trays.

Noise blocking Headset.
The Sync Noise Blocking Stereo Earmuff has been a great solution to our constant noise distractions.  In Hawaii, landscaping is an endless task and the loud mowers, weed eaters, and blowers are one of the biggest noise generators that we have to deal with at home. Our windows are always open and we can hear  conversations and TVs blaring when the wind is blowing just right.   These headsets were a Father's Day gift and they are helping me concentrate and shut out distracting noises so effectively that I am coming to rely on them.

The Kill A Watt Electricity Monitor 
We have written about the  KillA Watt EZ Electricity Usage Monitor device in the past.  It has saved us a lot of money over the years by convincing  us to invest in more energy efficient appliances and use far less electricity.  Measuring the wattage used by our appliances resulted in us unplugging appliances with a ghost load and throwing out older appliances that used excessive electricity.  We save $20 a month since replacing an older fan. This device also convinced us to replace our LCD TV with an LED TV and switch out all our light bulbs with LED lights.
We enjoy the pursuit of an affordable, healthier, happier life in Hawaii. These are some products have helped us cut our cost of living and increased our quality of life at the same time.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Accidental Tourist in Kailua Kona

Last week I found myself in Kailua-Kona without a car during an all day wait for a brake repair job.  I had a leisurely breakfast at Island Naturals buffet and walked over to the Kona Coast Shopping Center to wait for the stores to open.  When I saw the olive colored Keauhou Honu Trolley arrive, I pulled out $2 and got on the bus to see what it was like.  Though I have seen the Trolley on Ali’i Drive providing visitors a way to get to Kailua pier, beaches, vacation rentals, hotels, restaurants, and businesses in Kailua Kona without needing a rental car or dealing with the parking shortage or walking in the hot sun, I have never before had the time to ride it.

The Honu Trolley starts at the Sheraton in Keauhou at 9AM and drives the route until 9:15PM  where it stops at the Sheraton. The route from the Sheraton to Kailua Pier takes approximately 40 minutes with stops at the Kona Country Club, Keauhou Shopping Center (at Longs), Kahalu’u Beach (Bus Kiosk at the crosswalk), Magic Sands Beach, Kona Bali Kai, Aston Kona By The Sea, Royal Sea Cliff, Royal Kona Resort (across the street), Coconut Grove Marketplace, St. Michael’s Church (Water Front Row), and Kona Market Place.  From there, the Trolley drives another route to shopping centers and businesses in Kailua including Hilo Hatties,  Walmart, Macy’s, Kona Commons Shopping Center, Kona International Marketplace, Kona Brewing Company, and Kona Coast Shopping Center which takes it approximately 40 minutes before returning to Kailua Pier.  The Trolley then returns the Sheraton in Keauhou, again stopping all along Ali’i Drive.

After I boarded, the Trolley stopped at Kailua Pier where I was entertained by all the activity along the seawall  while parked in front of the King Kamehameha Hotel.  It then proceeded slowly down Ali’i Drive. My seat was up much higher than a car so I could see over the sea walls and bushes and enjoy the sweeping views of the turquoise water and coastline. I got off at Keauhou Shopping Center and enjoyed sitting in a tree shaded area with cool ocean breezes,   The Kona Stories bookstore, which I love partially because they sell our books, was very fun to browse. I walked up the hill to have lunch at Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai and check out the panoramic view that our friends have raved about.  

After lunch, I walked down to where the Trolley had dropped me off in front of Longs Drug store and waited for it to return. I found a comfortable bench and enjoyed conversations with visitors also waiting for the Trolley about how much fun they were having in Hawaii.

When the Trolley arrived, I paid my $2 and it proceeded to the Sheraton Hotel where it  turned around and headed back to Kailua Pier stopping all along the way. The day was sunny without VOG and I marveled at the great views.  I never realized how much I was missing by being a driver and always having to look at the road and the other cars. Having a day off in Kona and riding the Honu Trolley turned out to be quite a treat!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

An unexpected Hawaii night visitor

We had a surprise visitor this week.  Late one night something chewed through our upstairs screen door and entered into our bedroom.  Perhaps it was trying to get out of a sudden rainstorm, a rarity in the South Kohala desert on the Big Island.  The loud rain woke us up, but when it stopped, we quickly went to sleep again. Suddenly, we heard a strange rattling noise and we got out of bed to investigate.  The noise stopped, but it started again when we tried to go back to sleep.  

During our second investigation around the room, we noticed a hole chewed through the screen in the sliding glass door big enough for a mouse, a lizard, or a rat.   We used flash lights to look behind books and furniture, but we found nothing.  When we paused for a moment, a grey rodent suddenly ran out from its hiding place to the hole in the screen and slithered out.  After a scream and shudder, we wondered if it was alone.   We found the plastic housing of an ant bait we had put out a while ago shredded and the ant poison inside eaten. Our visitor must have been hungry, but no other rodent appeared.

After some checking, we determined that our night visitor was a Roof rat.  Roof rats are about 5 to 7 inches long with a thin tail that is longer than head and body combined. Their color varies from gray to black and they have a pointed nose, large  eyes, and big, thin ears.  Roof rats are expert climbers and can squeeze through openings that are only ½ inch wide.  The Roof rat is more common than the Norway rat or Polynesian rat in Hawaii and lives in or near houses and buildings. The house mouse in Hawaii, which is also common in houses and buildings, is much smaller.

We set out a rat trap immediately.  We have heard stories of huge rat colonies taking over empty vacation condos in Hawaii. The rats live big on the food that winter visitors leave in the cupboards when they return to the mainland.  After five days we are relieved to find no further signs of the rat or any others.  A rat invading your bedroom at night is disturbing where ever you live, but in Hawaii it is a concern because they can spread tropical diseases. So now we have rat baits next to our screen doors in case our night visitor returns.