Sunday Afternoon 12/31/2017

Christmas Day view from the Pineapple Dump jetty.

First, a BIG thanks to all for sticking around while I took some time off to spend with the family. It’s been beyond wonderful having the girls here, and spending time with them and watching them interact with each other, but things change this evening when Meiling heads back to the mainland. WenYu is here until the end of January though, and we will stay at full capacity for a while longer as her best friend since kindergarten is visiting until the 10th,. Plus, even though she doesn’t go back to school until the 8th, YaYu still has swim practices, and the next meet will be coming up on the 6th. There’s never a dull moment around here!

We spotted two nene (Hawaiian goose) with their babies on our Christmas walk! They’re endangered, so it’s always a treat when we get to see them.

We had a fabulous Christmas celebration here at Casa Aloha, and had a lovely, relaxed day together. We slept in on Christmas morning, then enjoyed breakfast while we opened our gifts, took a walk/run (Brett and I walked, the girls ran) out to the Pineapple Dump in the late afternoon, and enjoyed our delicious Christmas dinner in the evening. WenYu gave YaYu a game for the Wii, so the three of them played that for a while in the afternoon while Brett and I read and relaxed. All of my and Brett’s gifts were thoughtful and traveled-related, and took care of several things on our list of provisions for the Big Adventure. Brett got guides for France, Tuscany, and Rome, two sweaters, two polo shirts, a hanging scale (for weighing our luggage), a multi-plug adapter, a set of grooming tools, and a money belt. He also received over $75 in Starbucks gift cards! Meiling gave me a French-English dictionary (yeah!), a French-Italian-German phrase book, and a guide to Buenos Aires, and I also received two (!) pair of silver hoop earrings (both lovely), a scarf, a much-desired set of Kuhn-Rikon paring knives, some lipsticks, and two shirts from J. Jill. All of our gifts for the girls were well-received (with YaYu more excited by the box of spicy noodles than the watch or FitBit!). Our son sent each of us Amazon gift cards, and Brett and I decided to save our card for books to download to our Kindles before we set off next summer. It was a wonderful day!

And now we look forward to the New Year – 2018 will be a year of big changes for us, and there is much to do to get ready, but we are ready to get going! One new thing that’s up and running is the Occasional Nomads Instagram page (@The Occasional Nomads)! I think pictures are a lovely way to share, and I want to get used to regular posting before we set off on the Big Adventure. Initially I plan to post pictures just two or three times a week, about what’s going on here on Kaua’i and what we’re doing to get ready, but my eventual goal is to post daily, or almost daily, while we’re traveling, and blog just a couple of times a week. Anyway, I hope you’ll become a follower on Instagram!

Finally, we’ve got an issue pending with our landlord right now. Just before Christmas I received an early morning call from the water company (from a very annoying person) letting us know we had a toilet running or something because our water bill had shot sky high – something was generating 30 gallons of water use per hour! We knew the toilets were OK, but it turned out that when our landlord did his walk-through he had fiddled with the drip sprinklers on the hill behind the house and left them on! Brett got them turned off (and our daily water use of course dropped dramatically), and contacted our landlord because we don’t intend to pay the exorbitant water bill, but we haven’t heard back from him yet. So, we will see although we both hope his health hasn’t taken a turn for the worse again.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I have just a few more pages to read of Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder, but We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, by Ta-Nahesi Coates came off of hold the same day. Hopefully I can finish it in the three weeks I can keep them. My goal last year was to read 52 books but I only finished 36. I am happy though with the books I did read and feel like I had a good mix of genre, fiction vs. nonfiction, etc. I’m not setting any goals this year, but got several good suggestions for new books the other day, and will put up another book list for 2018 and see how I do.
  • Listening to: With four girls in the house right now, there’s a bit more noise than usual, but it’s happy noise – there’s always lots of laughter. The laundry has been going since early this morning so that’s been noisy as well, and a couple of our neighbors have been out mowing their lawns. So, overall it’s been a pretty loud morning, but the girls are taking off for a hike this afternoon, the laundry will be done soon and hopefully I can catch a few hours of peace and quiet!
  • Watching: Brett is watching the new season of Peaky Blinders while I read in the evening, and he also finished up the last couple of seasons of Mad Men this past week. I finished watching all the currently available episodes of The Great British Baking Show and have moved on to Ken Burns’ The Civil War documentary (my fourth viewing) while I work on Swagbucks at night. We are both looking for a new series to watch together in the evening, but nothing has grabbed our attention yet.
  • Cooking/baking: This morning for breakfast I baked a pan of caramel-pecan french toast for the girls and Brett, and served that with grilled breakfast sausages (I just had sausages). Tonight they’re all having a big Costco chicken pot pie for dinner – Meiling asked to have it while she was here, and I wanted to serve it when there were lots of people here to help eat it since I won’t be having any (I’m having a chicken salad). Also appearing on the menu this week will be lasagna, chili pork burritos, 3-cheese ravioli with pesto and Italian sausages, and a couple of other things I haven’t figured out yet. I’m currently not baking anything else as there are still sweets (i.e. candy) around, and WenYu’s friend brought Trader Joe’s cookies with her.

    Brett’s sister sent the girls holiday appropriate accessories

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Can I count our lovely Christmas celebration as an accomplishment? We really had a lovely day, every minute of it. Otherwise it was just the usual around here for most parts: walking every day unless it was raining, making my glasses of water goal every day, practicing French every day. We mailed Meiling’s packages off on Friday; they will arrive a couple of days after she gets back to Oregon. I finally ordered my new frames – they will be here next week, and then off to Costco to get my new glasses made.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am greatly looking forward to saying goodbye to the year 2017 and moving onto 2018, hoping for better things (although we are going to see a tax increase next year – grrrr). We have several activities planned while WenYu’s friend is visiting this week, including another trip to Ono Charburger, and a visit to the south shore so the girls can get a Puka Dog and do some shopping (Brett and I will be having coffee somewhere). I am not looking forward however to saying goodbye to Meiling this evening.

    The amazing piece of green tea pie that Meiling, WenYu and I shared for dessert at Kintaro’s (I admit to having a few bites). Brett and YaYu shared a just-as-gorgeous piece of chocolate pie.

  • Thinking of good things that happened: We enjoyed a fun family dinner on Thursday evening at Kintaro’s, a local Japanese restaurant. We have been meaning to go to for like, forever, and it was worth the wait. Our son and daughter-in-law sent loads of photos and videos of the grandchildren celebrating Christmas – it was exciting to see our granddaughter walking. She really is a little monkey! The check for my inheritance arrived mid-week and has been deposited in the bank – thank you Mom! Everything about our Christmas celebration was absolutely wonderful – it’s one for the books.
  • Thinking of the frugal things we did: 1) On the whole, we did a very good job keeping up with leftovers – there were lots of them but they all got eaten. We did lose one cucumber that got buried in the bottom of the produce drawer and got squishy. 2) We gave Meiling several cookbooks and kitchen items that she can use and that we would be selling or donating otherwise, and will be packing up more things for her in the coming months. 3) By ordering my glasses frames online versus buying them from our optometrist, I saved $40. 4) We didn’t really spend anything the past couple of weeks other than our trips to the farmers’ market and one stop at Big Save for some odds and ends. 5) We put $33.41 into the change/$1 bill jar. $19.25 left over from farmers’ market trips, $3.26 from recycling, $!0.80 from our Big Save trip, and we found 10¢ on the ground.
  • Reporting gains and losses: I lost another pound in December, bringing my total for the year to 31 pounds gone. As I’ve said before, I’m just going to continue what I have been doing, and see how it goes. I’ve indulged a bit the last week or so, but am ready to put all of that aside now. I posted our savings total for the year on Thursday, and am ready to start on more savings in 2018. Our December savings total was $963.35.

    The views never get old

  • Grateful for: I’ve said it before, but I’m thankful every day that we get to live on this incredibly beautiful island. After nearly four years here, the natural beauty of Kaua’i still takes my breath away, every day.
  • Bonus question: Do you stay up until midnight to welcome the New Year? Yes! Brett and I have stayed up past midnight every year except for the one year he was deployed. We don’t do parties, or drink champagne or anything fancy like that, but we do like to stay up to wish each other, and whichever kids are up and around, a Happy New Year! When our children were little we’d wake them up, and then would go outside and bang on pots and pans to celebrate the arrival of the new year. The years we lived in Yokohama were very memorable – New Year’s is the BIG holiday in Japan, and at midnight all the ships in the harbor would blow their horns for an hour. It was really something special. New Year’s is a big holiday here in Hawai’i as well, and we’ll most likely be kept up once again with fireworks going off everywhere.

And that’s a wrap for Sunday Afternoons in 2017! It’s been quite a year, but we’re looking forward to what’s coming next. Wishing all of you a very happy and prosperous 2018!

 

Closing the Books on This Year’s Travel Savings

It’s the end of the year, and we’re getting ready to close out the books in preparation for the new year. This includes totaling up our travel savings for the year.

It turns out we had a very good year! May I have a drumroll please? While our original goal for 2017 was $7000, our total travel savings for the year was . . . $9, 295!

Here’s how that big number breaks down:

  • Regular savings yielded $8913.91, which was made up of a regular monthly allotment to our savings account, all refunds and rebates received throughout the year, my jury duty pay, and the change/$1 savings. The change/$1 bill savings for the year totaled $890.50.
  • The end-of-year cash back reward total from our charge card is $181.09.
  • I earned $500 in Southwest Airlines gift cards from Swagbucks.

We’re splurging on a stay at the Waipouli Beach Resort before we take off on the Big Adventure

We will continue to aggressively save in 2018, following the same path as this year, but will also be selling various household items throughout the year, as well as holding a moving sale before we leave and selling our car. I will also be adding to our savings from my inheritance. Even though we should end up with a nice cushion we have no plans to go more “upscale” as we make reservations and travel. Our only planned splurge is the condo where we will stay for our last few weeks on Kaua’i. We will have enough extra though to consider adding in one or two side trips to Germany and Switzerland that were unaffordable before.

So . . . here’s to saving, and travel in 2018!

Ready For Christmas at Casa Aloha!

Meiling hung almost all the ornaments this year by herself – a beautiful job! Every ornament is a memory.

The tree is up, the presents have been wrapped, the food purchased, and WenYu arrives home this week – we are ready for Christmas here at Casa Aloha! I love this time of year, and am again looking forward to us all being together for the holiday. Our son and family had thought they might come, but the grandkids are at a stage where jet lag is a difficult, long-lasting issue, so they’ve decided to postpone a visit until next summer.

We set up a Christmas savings account this past year, and between what we put into that each month and some Swagbucks I earned, we ended up with $1200 to use for gifts this year. We sent $100 to Japan for our grandchildren (although our son would prefer we sent nothing) and they will use the money to either do an activity together or get the kids something they want. The rest was divided so that there was $210 per person – $150 for gifts under the tree and $60 for each stocking. Brett and I typically don’t exchange gifts, but we are this year.

I can’t say what I got for Brett for obvious reasons, and I haven’t a clue what I’m getting, but here’s what the girls will be receiving:

GoToob travel bottles

Each girl’s stocking will contain a travel set of Mālie bath products (we get a kamaaina discount for these), a set of GoToob silicone travel bottles, a cute phone stand (either a dog or a cat), a bath scrubby, a set of decorated paperclips from Japan, and some candy, which will include Lindor truffles, Dove dark chocolate hearts, and Japanese mochi.

Meiling, who loves to bake, is getting a red KitchenAid hand mixer, a set of cute cat-shaped measuring cups, Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, and a $50 Trader Joe’s gift card. We got WenYu a pair of gold earrings from Bali (via Novica), a professional set of 132 colored pencils, and a $40 gift card to her favorite clothing store. YaYu will be receiving a sports watch with a timer, a FitBit with a set of changeable bands, and a “party box” filled with her favorite Korean spicy noodles. Each girl is also receiving a “food bag,” filled with their favorite treats and things they like to make, or in the case of WenYu, things she can fix in the dorm, like macaroni and cheese. We tucked these items into our regular grocery shopping the past few months, so have no idea of the value of what’s in them, but it’s balanced between each girl.

Meiling also set up a family Secret Santa exchange, where we’re not allowed to know who got what for whom and have a $30 limit for the gift. My recipient will be receiving a Regal Cinemas gift card.

We’ve had our little wooden advent tree for 30 years – we bought it when our son was nine years old. After Christmas is over this year, we’re packing it up and sending it to him so our grandchildren can enjoy it in the coming years.

Christmas morning we’ll follow tradition, and early-riser Brett will have coffee and hot chocolate made when the rest of us get up. Everyone gets to unpack their stocking first. Then I’ll serve our traditional Christmas breakfast of bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon, along with fresh fruit (this year it will be fresh berries), and we’ll eat while we open gifts. For something new this year we’re serving POG mimosas with breakfast (or POG with club soda, for those that don’t drink alcohol). Gifts are opened one at a time so we can admire and appreciate what each person receives, and we will once again go in order from oldest to youngest, with Brett starting things off. Meiling will serve as our “elf” and distribute the gifts.

We’ve traditionally had appetizers for our Christmas Eve dinner, and this year will be no different although we are sticking to an Asian theme and having pad thai, lumpia, potstickers, sushi, and homemade wontons along with rice and a cucumber salad. Dessert will be Japanese cakes and mochi ice cream. For our Christmas dinner we’ll be having ham, macaroni and cheese, roasted brussels sprouts, biscuits, and cream puffs topped with chocolate sauce for dessert. Guess what I’m not having!

If weather permits, we plan to head down to the beach on Christmas Day, but if it’s a less than beach-worthy day we’re going to take a family hike out to the Pineapple Dump. We also plan to watch a movie together, but we’re waiting until WenYu is home to decide what that will be.

This will be our last Christmas in Hawai’i, maybe for a long while (next year we’ll be in Portland), so we’re making this a special one. I almost can’t believe Christmas Day will be here in just a week, but we are ready!

Sunday Afternoon 12/17/2017

Our new ornament this year celebrates our daughters. I bought the small clay bells in Japan last spring, and put them together to hang on the tree. The pig, tiger and rabbit are their Chinese zodiac animals. I made a similar ornament over 30 years ago for Brett, our son and me (tiger, horse and dragon), with clay bells from the same shop.

WenYu arrives home this week! We’re all getting excited about her return and having all three of the girls together again. I don’t envy her trip though – she leaves Boston at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening and gets into Honolulu at 6:40 in the morning on Thursday, and then into Lihue at little after 9:00 a.m. She is the only member of this family that I know can sleep on airplanes though so hopefully she won’t be too exhausted. Her sisters are going to monopolize her time (when she isn’t working), but Brett and I will be thrilled with whatever time we get with her. Just having all three of the girls around is going to be wonderful.

We’ve had another week of wacky weather here. It’s been cold (one morning the temperature dropped to 57°, which is bone-chilling for here), but most of all it’s been windy. Long sleeves and jackets have been required on more than one occasion this past week. There hasn’t been a whole lot of rain though so Brett and I have still been able to get out for our daily walks. We’ve seen seals up on the beach every day, and on a couple of days there have been more than one seal – very exciting!

This past year I gave myself a goal of posting five times a week on the blog. It’s been a challenge at times, and I after some thought I’ve decided I’m going to cut back to three times per week next year – I just have so many other things going on, especially as we get ready for the Big Adventure. I will be folding both the Tuesday weekly menu plan and Friday’s Five Frugal Things into other posts, most likely the Sunday Afternoon post, and then will post on Tuesday and Thursday. Other things may be changed up a bit, or might be added later, so I hope you’ll stick around! I’ll have a post up tomorrow, but after that I am taking some time off until the end of the year, to enjoy the holiday and our family time together.

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m making good progress through Pachinko, and the further I go the better it gets. I was actually hoping to be further along by now, but I’ve been having a real problem with falling asleep when I read. The book isn’t boring in the least, but I’ve been apparently more tired than I realized.
  • Listening to: I got the laundry sorted and started last night, so I’ve been listening to the washer and dryer all morning to the exclusion of everything else. I’m longing for some peace and quiet (but will be glad to have the laundry finished earlier in the day).
  • Watching: After finishing up the second season of The Crown I haven’t been watching much of anything in the evenings. Mostly I’ve been reading (and falling asleep). I’ve been watching episodes of The Great British Baking Show again while I work on Swagbucks at night – they’re just as enjoyable the third time around as they were the first!
  • Cooking/baking: Brett is making scotch eggs tonight, which he and the girls will have with toast. I’m going to slice up some apples to round out the meal. I may make a pan of brownies today but I plan to bake a triple chocolate bundt cake the day before WenYu arrives – it’s her favorite.

    I’m making slow progress on this page in my coloring book. It’s fun to do, but requires a LOT of concentration.

  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Getting the Big Shop done and coming in just under our regular budget was quite the accomplishment, and I’m still not sure how we did it. And, getting dinner on the table every night this week was an accomplishment, but it happened (and everything turned out well). Hopefully next week will be easier! Because it’s been cold again this week I’ve had a harder time drinking all eight glasses of water every day because I’m just not as thirsty, but I managed to do that too. I’ve also done my daily French lesson, and Brett and I have walked every day except for yesterday, when it rained, I’ve started back coloring in the book Meiling gave me last year, but it’s been hard to find the time to sit quietly and work at it because the designs are quite delicate and difficult. I’m happy with what I did get done.
  • Looking forward to next week:  I’m looking forward to having all our girls at home, and (most of) our family together again. I can’t wait!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had quite the wonderful week! We got together with friends Alan and Cheryl not once, but twice, (the second time we talked for over three hours, and realized that we could have talked the whole evening except they had dinner reservations!). They also bought several pieces of furniture from us, in preparation for their move over here next summer. On Friday morning we had breakfast with Portland friends Julie and Ken, who were visiting the island, and we could have talked with them all day, but they had a plane for home to catch. And, we’ve been loving every minute of having Meiling with us, and enjoyed having lunch with her on Tuesday at the Charburger. My daughter-in-law sent us a bucketload of pictures this week, which we always enjoy – I can’t even count how many times I’ve looked at them. We’re talking now about them coming next summer, for one more visit to Kaua’i before we take off on our adventure.

    Bowdoin College

  • Grateful for: For quite some time, YaYu’s first college choice has been Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. She applied Early Decision, and learned on Friday that she had been deferred to the regular decision. While of course being accepted would have been ideal, she knew it was a bit of a long shot as her high school does not provide mid-term grades; their report only notes satisfactory progress during the term, and Bowdoin requires grades. But, everything else in her application was good enough that she’s still in the running, and for that I am currently feeling very thankful. Her grades for the term will go off right after the first of next year along with a letter stating her continuing interest in attending Bowdoin, and we will keep our fingers crossed for good news next March. In the meantime she will continue finishing up the applications for the other schools she is applying to.
  • Bonus question: What’s the best thing you ever got for Christmas? We were very, very fortunate that for all the years Brett was in the navy, he was only not home for Christmas just once. His ship, and the airwing, were sent to the Persian Gulf in 1990 in support of Operation Desert Storm, leaving our son and me back in Japan. It was a very scary time, because that’s when Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction and chemical weapons. The previous summer though we had moved from our off-base house out in town into base housing, and had gotten back our cleaning deposit and rent deposit from our landlord, and Brett encouraged our son and me to use the money and go somewhere for Christmas rather than staying home that year and feeling sad. So, I booked a tour to Hong Kong, and M and I spent seven days there, including Christmas, and had a wonderful time. There was another year where the airwing went on high alert because of troop movements in North Korea, and Brett spent the three days before Christmas at the hangar with his seabag packed, expecting to deploy to some base in Korea, but on Christmas Eve the alert was called off and he came home. Brett somehow managing to be home for every Christmas except that one was almost a miracle, and better than any present I could have ever received.

That’s all for this week! How was your week? What good things happened for you? Are you ready for the holidays?

 

Five Frugal Things: 12/15/2017

Our 100+ year-old mizuya (kitchen tansu) will be going to a new home. It’s been a very functional and beautiful storage piece over the years, and we’re so happy it will continue to be useful (and enjoyed) in someone else’s home.

  1. We received a rebate on our car insurance this year of $29.46 (and it went right into our travel savings).
  2. We sold our three antique Japanese tansu, two stainless storage shelves, our dining table and chairs, the girls’ bunk bed set and a few other pieces! We’ll still continue to use them though until the buyers arrive on the island next summer.
  3. Meiling used her savings and purchased a new iPhone 8 at Costco this week saving $50 off the cost of buying it elsewhere. It wasn’t as big of a discount as Brett got over Thanksgiving for his phone, but still better than paying full price, and there were no additional charges for activation, etc. We are now a 100% Apple family!
  4. We added an additional $200 to our monthly food budget to cover holiday meals and the addition of two (big) eaters here at Casa Aloha this month, but we finished our shopping and came in just under our regular budget amount! All we have left to purchase is fresh fruit for our Christmas morning breakfast.
  5. We put $19.43 into the change/$1 bill jar: $2.72 change from Safeway shopping, $4.50 left over from the farmers’ market, $9.76 back from the cable bill, and $2.45 change from our lunch with Meiling at the Ono Charburger on Tuesday.

What frugal wins did you have this week?

#Kaua’i: Street Burger

The Napa Burger: Point Reyes blue cheese, cabernet onions, port reduction and spinach, served on a freshly baked roll along with hand-cut sea salt fries and homemade ketchup.

The idea of a gourmet burger has always sort of struck me as an oxymoron. By nature, a hamburger is a humble sandwich, just a ground beef patty set inside a soft roll, often served with a few condiments or maybe a slice of cheese. It doesn’t exactly fit with the idea of “gourmet.”

Street Burger however, located in Wailua on the east side of Kaua’i, takes the humble hamburger to a level that is definitely gourmet. The restaurant has become one of our favorite places to eat on the island, and our go-to restaurant when we want to enjoy a meal with friends.

Brett’s half of the bacon-barbecue burger we shared (plus all the fries).

The burgers at Street Burger are HUGE. Half of one is plenty for me these days, and Brett and I usually share (although he gets all the fries). Each burger is a virtual tower of hamburger goodness. There are 17 different burger versions to choose from, from a classic hamburger, cheeseburger or bacon-barbecue burger (my favorite!) to a Greek burger with olive tapenade, feta cheese, tzatziki, cucumber and spinach. Other creative burger examples include the Wailua, (crispy spam, jalapeño-pineapple marmelade, kabayaki glaze and spinach) or the Southern burger (fried green tomato, pimento cheese, greens and buttermilk-chive dressing) or the Italian (prosciutto, bufala mozzarella, arugula pesto, marinara and spinach). A vegan burger is available for those who don’t eat meat, and is just as glorious as their other offerings. Each burger is cooked to order on a big wood-fired grill, served with hand-cut sea salt fries and house-made ketchup, and is a masterpiece from start to finish. Street Burger also offers exciting and interesting salads and sides, including to-die-for onion rings, or one of Brett’s favorites, Texas Poutine: Texas-style chili over fries, with sharp cheddar cheese, a fried egg and fizzled onions.

Beginning with the burger, everything is as local as can be achieved here. The hamburger patties are made from Kauai-raised grass-fed beef, and the produce comes from local farmers. The rolls are made on site. The ice cream is made on Kaua’i (Lapperts) and the coffee served at the restaurant comes from Java Kai in Kapaa. Even the ketchup is made from scratch.

Sitting at the counter and watching these guys work the grill is a great place to enjoy your meal at Street Burger.

For all the amazing deliciousness of their creations, Street Burger is an affordable dining choice. The burgers range in price from $10 to $17, and for that you get a LOT of food. Even when Brett and I share an order, there are still usually leftovers to bring home.

The restaurant also offers a large selection of craft-brewed beers, and has an interesting wine list. Dining is available inside the restaurant or out on the patio, where guests can enjoy a stunning view of the Sleeping Giant. Another fun seating option is at the counter that surrounds the grill. We did that on one trip and had a fun time throughout our meal watching the burgers being made and chatting with the cooks. It’s also worth it to save some room (if you can) for one of Street Burger’s desserts. They are divine, and well worth the extra calories!

One of the most popular desserts is the Street Burger S’more: Chocolate mousse, peanut butter crunch, and toasted Swiss meringue

Street Burger is located at 4-369 Kuhio Hwy, in Wailua, just north of the old Coco Palms hotel on the mauka (mountain) side of the highway. They’re open Tuesday through Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

 

This Week’s Menu: Let the Favorites Begin!

Turkey divan casserole is Meiling’s favorite recipe, or at least in the top three. I add noodles to the casserole when I make it.

Beginning this week, and for the next month or so the menu will revolve around the girls’ favorite meals. There will be no new recipes, no experimenting, etc. – just dishes that they enjoy and either can’t make or can’t get wherever they are.

Coming up with a menu of favorites though was more difficult than I thought it would be. The biggest problem is that I don’t want to fix certain things upfront for Meiling when WenYu will be arriving home the week after and have to repeat them. It was a bit of a juggling act trying to think of what to make early and what to save for later.

We’re picking up a pizza at Costco on Wednesday – that’s the day of the Big Shop and along with the farmers’ market trip I know it’s going to be an exhausting day and I’m not going to feel much like cooking that evening. We’ll let Meiling choose which kind of pizza she wants, and then Brett will fix it out on the grill. Brett is going to make Scotch Eggs on Sunday – Meiling hasn’t had them yet, but we’re pretty sure she’s going to love them.

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Tuesday (this evening): Oyakodon; cucumber salad (I’m skipping the rice)
  • Wednesday: Pizza; sliced apples
  • Thursday: Turkey divan casserole; roasted mixed vegetables; French bread (I’m having sliced turkey and steamed broccoli instead of casserole)
  • Friday: Meatloaf; mashed potatoes and gravy; steamed green beans (no mashed potatoes for me)
  • Saturday: Mabo nasu; steamed rice (no rice for me)
  • Sunday: Scotch eggs; onion rings; fruit (I’m not having onion rings)
  • Monday: Spaghetti with marinara and meatballs; grilled zucchini; garlic bread (no bread for me, and I’ll have my marinara and meatballs over the zucchini instead of pasta)

Cucumbers, bok choy and green beans are the only “must buys” at the farmers’ market, and I’ve got my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to find broccoli (if not, we’ll have to make a run to the store). I also want to get a papaya, some limes and we’ll let Meiling pick out some fruit she wants (like starfruit).

Will It Stay or Will It Go?

The jubako will be stored; the chest they sit on will be sold

A big topic of current conversation between Brett and I these days is over which of our things we are going to store while we travel next year, and which ones we will sell or otherwise get rid of. We mostly agree, but there are few items we’re still haggling over (with Brett usually saying “let it go”). We plan to start the downsizing process fairly soon after Christmas, with our tree the first thing we’ll put up for sale. We’ll start gradually, but end with a big moving sale right before we leave.

Will it go? is the easy part because the answer is: almost everything. We have to no plans to store any furniture other than our big hibachi table, so our dining table and chairs, all bedroom furniture, our remaining antique Japanese tansu, living room furniture, etc. will all go up for sale. Everything except the tansu is replaceable, but after some discussion we decided to let them go as well – they will fetch a good price, and our goal is to eventually live even more streamlined than we do now.

We’ll be storing the KitchenAid mixer, the slow cooker, our set of All-Clad pots and pans, most of the pottery collection, one cake stand (a gift from the girls), less than five Japanese cooking utensils, and a few of our coffee cups; otherwise, everything in the kitchen will be sold as well. We’re going to let Meiling go through the things we’re not keeping (i.e. bakeware) while she’s home and will send what she wants back with her.

We’re keeping all or most of our blue and white Japanese porcelain although there are a couple of pieces I don’t have any strong feelings about and can let go. All of our artwork will be stored as well. Our collection was curated before we moved over here and we don’t want to part with the pieces we kept. A couple of the pictures will go back with the girls this year, but that’s all. We’re keeping both of our wool rugs.

Things like our collection of Christmas ornaments, lovingly collected over the past 40 years, and the few other sentimental items we brought with us will also go into storage. We debated dividing up the Christmas ornaments among the kids this year, but then realized the girls don’t want to have to worry about storing Christmas ornaments while they’re in school, and the cost of shipping our son’s bunch over to Japan would be prohibitive. We still plan to get together for Christmas every year no matter where we are, so Brett and I will remain the ornament keepers for the time being.

We’ll also store our new TV, mainly because it will be less than a year old, and we see no sense in replacing it so soon. However, our washer and dryer set and our freezer will be sold.

The car will be sold too, hopefully around a month before we depart on our Big Adventure. I’m amazed at what people get for used cars here on the island, even ones with high mileage, so we’re hoping our little Honda Civic will bring a decent price with its fairly low mileage. It’s a terrific island car, in pretty good shape, and gets good mileage (34-36 MPG) so we’ve got our fingers crossed that it sells quickly. Both Brett and I are looking forward to not owning a car for a while.

The items we are keeping will be stored here on the island – whether we’ll do that independently or work with a local moving company is something we’re still investigating. Doing it independently will most likely cost less, but the moving company would offer packaging and protection for the items being stored (especially the art work).

Can I admit to being a little bit excited again about downsizing even more? Brett and I grow less and less  sentimental over our things as more time goes on, and feel like we have a lot of stuff we just don’t need anymore, especially because of our upcoming travels and because we won’t have any children living with us full time. But, we also recognize we’re not ready to part with everything just yet. I’ll think we’ll be keeping enough to make wherever we eventually settle, whether that’s back here on Kaua’i or somewhere else, feel familiar and like home, but not enough to tie us down. That’s just where we want to end up.