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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.