Good morning on the first Sunday of the new year! Aloha kakahiaka! Hau’oli makahiki hou! And, in Japanese, 新年)あけましておめでとうございます(akemashite omedetou gozaimasu – “happiness to you at the dawn of the new year”).
January is always an expensive month for us, with two of the girls’ birthdays happening just a week apart in January (and not long after Christmas), and the third birthday falling in early February. We’ve ordered Meiling’s gift and it’s on it’s way to her – we almost can’t believe she turns 25 this year – but YaYu will be celebrating her 21st birthday here with us, and we’re already making plans to create a special day for her. WenYu has the February birthday, and her presents have been ordered and are on their way. They will be coming here and then we’ll mail them off to her toward the end of this month. We used to make a big hoopla over each of their birthdays, with parties, balloons, and fancy bakery cakes, but toned that all way down when we got serious about paying down our debt. After the last birthday is done in February though we’re pretty much done with gifts until Christmas. We send money to our grandchildren for their birthdays, but Brett and I don’t exchange gifts for our birthdays, Father’s or Mother’s Day, or for our anniversary. We might go out to eat for our anniversary this year (at the end of March), but we’ll decide about that later when we can assess whether or not that will be feasible.
Along with taking care of birthday gifts we’ve also been making sure we are well stocked with supplies for the year, things that can often be expensive and hard to find here. We have a Subscribe ‘n’ Save order with Amazon for toilet paper, but have purchased bulk orders of liquid hand soap and dish soap refills, razor blades, shaving cream (Brett), hair creme (me), and other things that will get us through the year, and beyond in some cases. All of this is a big expense now, but will help us save throughout the year.
We also purchased some more Monkeypod jam, sauces, and sauerkraut this past Monday – nice for us, but very sad overall. The store closed down for good on Tuesday, and Monday they sold off their remaining stock of jams, sauces, and pickled goods as well as store fixtures and other items. I chose two more jars of lilikoi curd, one orange-chocolate sauce, one cranberry-orange sauce, and a jar of sauerkraut made with locally grown cabbage. I also bought a glass pie plate (mine were in the lost moving box), two bamboo sushi rollers, and a sturdy cotton chef’s apron (another lost box item) out of their rummage items for just $4. Savings for us, but the experience was one we wished did not have to happen, not just for the loss of a great product, but because the owner had been such an integral part of the community. She won many awards, including several “best of,” and awards from several national organizations as well. With the economic downturn on the island though she just couldn’t keep the business going.
This morning I am:
- Reading: I am still reading The Woman in White, but have not made a lot of progress this week, and will go back this coming week (I will just check it out again though). I had difficulty finding time to read – there was so much going on around here, and finding a slice of quiet time for myself was nearly impossible. At night I was exhausted and fell right asleep. Hopefully I can better organize my time this week and make reading more of a priority, especially since Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line just came off of hold and I’ve got it started. It will be my “day book” and I will continue with The Woman in White at night.
- Listening to: A fairly strong breeze is blowing again this morning, and making lots of noise as it moves through the trees, but nothing like the winds we’ve had the past few days. Birds are signing and there’s a rooster out there making his presence known. It’s not as cool/cold as it’s been either, and the sky is blue so it should be a lovely day, and great for walking later in the afternoon. In other words, another perfect morning! Everyone is up here at Chez Aloha – Brett is puttering in the kitchen, putting away last night’s dishes and making coffee, and YaYu has headed out to the deck out back.
- Watching: Brett and I finished with Bridgerton (on Netflix) on New Year’s Eve – it was wonderful! Some of it was filmed in Bath when we visited in 2019 – we saw streets that were covered with dirt to look like they did in the Regency Era and a couple of other location setups around the town, but had no idea at the time what was being filmed because the name of the show was kept a secret. YaYu took one look at the show opening the other day and said, “Oh, a period piece” and left the room! Her loss, we tell her because we think she would have loved the story. We’ve started watching a creepy German show called Dark, and also Cobra Kai. I loved the original Karate Kid movies, so this one is fun – love all the links and nods to the original movies. We also watched the new Pixar movie, Soul, this past week and enjoyed that as well. The effects were amazing and it was a wonderful story as well. YaYu and I finished Britain’s Best Home Cooks and our favorite won, so that was satisfying. She and I are now watching Top Chef Louisville – she loves the cooking shows!
- Cooking: We are starting off this year with almost a week where rice will be included in the meal in some way. Tonight we’re having tomato paella along with grilled Italian sausages. Other dishes this week will be katsudon (a first-time attempt for me to make my favorite Japanese dish); dirty rice; carnitas & rice burritos; carnitas bowls; and California roll salad (if I can find good avocados at the farmers’ market; otherwise we’ll have mabo dofu). There will be only one evening without rice when we have pepperoni mini pizzas. I’m doing carnitas in the InstantPot this week because oranges, a key ingredient, are ripening now on the tree in our yard. We will be enjoying lemon cake with a lemon-coconut buttercream for our daily dessert this week – I finally got around to baking it on Saturday and it is yummy.
- Happy I accomplished this past week: This past week seemed busy, busy, busy every day, but we accomplished a lot. We put away all the Christmas stuff so we had a clean house to start the New Year, and got Meiling’s and WenYu’s boxes of Christmas ornaments sent off to them. I also belatedly got the giveaway winner’s prize sent off (sorry, M’Shell!). We took care of lots of recycling, made lists and submitted our final Amazon orders (I will close our Prime account as soon as all our orders arrive). We walked every day except for last Sunday when it unexpectedly rained the entire day and I instead did some Zumba with YaYu (which was completely exhausting – I was grateful to get back to walking). I got started on my strength training – also tiring. We did a Big Shop at Costco and Walmart on Wednesday and are well provisioned for the coming three weeks. And, I made my first set of activity cards for the new year’s – my days are full!
- Looking forward to next week: A more relaxing week, I hope! I’m getting my hair cut on Tuesday but other than that we have nothing on the calendar to demand our time this coming week. Maybe the weather will be nice enough that we can get to the beach – we had hoped to go on New Years Day, but it was too windy and cold.
- Thinking of good things that happened: We enjoyed much nicer weather, including a few days that were genuinely hot, although most of the week was breezy and cool (but no rain). New Year’s Day was especially windy but made for very nice walking weather. Our daily walks up at the park have been very pleasant – strong breezes makes the walking easier. I finally broke down and ordered a wedge pillow to see if that would help with my ongoing stomach issues; it arrived this past week and made a big difference right away, so that was money well spent. WenYu decided this past week that she wanted to learn how to crochet, and in a few days she figured it out well enough to make this cute sweater and a matching tank top to go under it! Just amazing. My mom was a master crocheter and I’d like to think she is smiling down on WenYu and her efforts. Our son and DIL bought a house! Being that it’s located in Tokyo I don’t even want to think what they paid for it, but they bought an older home and will be doing some remodeling and renovations before they move in later this spring. It’s located near to where they live now so they will still be able to take advantage of the park and all it offers.
- Thinking of frugal things we did: Once again, not a very frugal week because of all the stocking up we did. Our food shopping expenses were higher than usual as well, but we have three weeks to get through (because other than our weekly trip to the farmers’ market, we only shop on our “paydays,” three times a month – we’ve found if we stay out of stores in-between we spend less). Our food expenses are just higher right now as well with YaYu here. We put $11.45 into the change/$ bill jar this past week though. I’m going to track this little bit of savings all year to see how just how much we save. We received our stimulus payment on January 1, and it has been tucked away. I gave myself another slow week with Swagbucks (good thing because it was difficult to earn any this past week) and earned 963 SB, but I earned my bonus for December, and am starting off the year with a 2,000+ SB balance. I’ll crank my efforts back up next week as I have a big goal for the year (100,000 SB). Finally, we did a superb job of using up our Christmas leftovers this past week, with meals of avocado toast with smoked salmon and onions; steak & stuffing hash topped with a poached egg for breakfast; chicken, vegetable & rice soup (which cleaned out our vegetable drawer); “kitchen sink” pancakes that used up the last of some yogurt, the remaining fresh berries, and the POG; and tacos de las sobras, made from leftover steak, leftover sautéed Swiss chard, leftover shredded cheese, tomatoes, and salsa. Nothing was thrown out last week!
- Grateful for: Brett calculated our walking distance for the year (he tracks it every day) and we walked 1,030.5 miles in 2020! We’re so thankful that we now live where we can not only walk almost every day, but in such a beautiful location as well. Our walking this year has been truly life-changing for both us, for our health and weight, and we’re looking forward to doing more of it, and increasing our time and distance as this year progresses.
- Bonus question: What is your favorite New Year’s Eve memory? Brett and I are not party people, and tend to stay home and have a quiet evening on New Year’s Eve. We always stay up until midnight though to welcome in the new year, and have rung in the new year together 43 years now (would be 44 except that Brett was gone on January 1, 1991 for Operation Desert Storm). When our children were little we would all stay up and bang on pots and pans at midnight – lots of fun when you’re a kid! The best memories of New Year’s Eve were when we lived in Japan in the early 1980s, in Yokohama – at midnight on January 1 all the ships in the harbor would blow their whistles for an hour, and the sound would float up to where we lived. It was magical. Also, New Years is the biggest holiday in Japan, and the country pretty much shuts down for about five days. We loved being able to drive around with the usually crowded roads nearly empty, or have the few stores that were open (like Tokyo Hands) practically to ourselves. New Year’s Eve in Hawaii is a pretty big occasion, and there were LOTS of fireworks being bought at Costco and Walmart last week. Thursday night was a very noisy here but everything quieted down right after midnight.
Although the island economy is suffering, we continue to enjoy the lack of crowds on the island right now, and it seems that most residents we speak with are enjoying it as well. The holiday period, usually a crazy crush of people here, was very subdued and enjoyable this year. We especially like shopping at the farmers’ market these days – no long lines, impatient people, etc. Prices are still good as well, but we’re sure it’s hard on the farmers as they usually sell out before the end of the market (we go early so have no idea if that is still happening with just local shoppers). For now things will stay locked down (10-day quarantine for all residents and visitors) until at least the first of February, if not longer.
I forgot to post a picture of these poinsettias during the holiday season, but snapped one the other day as we were driving by. In my opinion, it is/was the best Christmas decoration on the island!
Here’s to the new year and new beginnings, with lots of good books, good food, good friends, and good things happening for all.