Almost hard for me to believe, but it’s the Sunday morning before Christmas! Aloha kakahiaka and Mele Kalikimaka!
First things first: There were 45 entries to the Kaua’i coffee break giveaway, and the winner, chosen randomly by namepicker.net is . . . M’Shell! Congratulations! I will be sending an email to her later today to get her mailing address, and will have her coffee and cookies off to her no later than Tuesday. Thank you again for all the entries and the great recommendations for local foods from your home area or places you’ve traveled.
I’m having a bit of hard time accepting that Christmas is just five days away. Everything is ready here for the holiday – the presents wrapped, the food bought, the decorations up – and yet I found myself feeling somewhat stunned this past Friday when I realized Christmas Day was just a week away, and not days and days away like I thought it was. I think some of the cognitive dissonance I’m experiencing this year comes from Meiling and WenYu not arriving this week, but also because the past couple of months have been busy, crazy, and disjointed, from the election and its ongoing aftermath to YaYu arriving to everything else going on. Also, after being in gloomy/rainy Portland for our last two Christmases, to now look out most every day at palm trees and blue skies, it just hasn’t seemed like it’s time for Christmas. Oh well – our little twig tree is decorated, our wooden Santas are out, and the refrigerator is full of food for the holidays. Christmas will be here whether it feels like it or not.
I started collecting wooden Santas in 1990, with two from the Philippines (they’re in the back in the picture on the left). At one point I had over 40 different Santas, but when we moved to Hawaii I culled the collection and kept my favorites. Some were gifts, some came from craft fairs, and others were unexpected finds.
I admit to being very curious about what I’ll getting for Christmas this year (I’ve seen packages but have no idea what’s in them). I don’t think anything can top the Hamilton tickets we received from Meiling last year (and then didn’t get to see thanks to COVID), but I loaded up my wishlist with practical items this year so we’ll see. I honestly don’t need anything, but asked for things that I can use on our walking tour in 2022 as it’s never too early to start assembling those items (walking poles, merino wool socks, etc.) and for a couple of small kitchen items. The most difficult person to shop for this year was YaYu, but I think we ended up doing OK, and that she’ll enjoy her gifts. We shopped for Meiling from her Christmas list, but used another prompt from WenYu to put together her gifts – we think (hope) she will be surprised (and happy). We’re looking forward to learning how the grandkids plan to spend the yen we sent them, and we’ll do something special for our son and daughter-in-law the next time we see them! I can say nothing about Brett’s gifts as he reads the blog but I think he’ll enjoy (and be surprised by) his gifts.
Kaua’i is very quiet these days with the quarantine reinstated; there have been almost no visitors coming to the island for the past several weeks and our number of COVID cases has stabilized. From what I’m reading and hearing there have been mixed feelings – residents realize we need visitors to keep the economy running, but at the same time have been enjoying the peace and quiet of not having to deal with tourists everywhere. I hope a compromise can be found once the pandemic is finally under control. There were frankly too many visitors when we left in 2018 and the island’s infrastructure was struggling to support everyone, both tourists and residents. I don’t think anyone wants to see a return to those days (although I am sure there are some who would love it). Hawaii is always going to be a tourist destination, and there’s no getting around that, but I’m hoping another industry can be developed here even though we face unique problems because of the islands’ location.
This morning I am:
- Reading: I got an early start this week on next year’s mysteries and am now reading Wilkie Collin’s The Woman in White, published in 1859. Said to be the first detective/mystery novel written, it’s one I’ve never read, so I thought it would be a good start to the year.
- Listening to: It’s very windy this morning, and cool (cold) too. Winter has arrived in Hawaii! And, the wind is loud too as it blows through the trees. It rained like crazy last night, and the wind howled, but this morning I can see blue skies along with the clouds, so fingers are crossed for another good day because weather like this is wonderful for walking.
- Watching: We continue to binge on three episodes od Schitt’s Creek each evening, and then watch an episode of Black Spot each night. It continues to be creepy and mysterious and I have no idea what’s going on or how things might turn out. YaYu and I are also still watching Britain’s Best Home Cook, but our favorite was eliminated last night so we’ve got to pick another favorite (and don’t particularly care for any of the others left).
- Cooking/baking: I baked a Bacardi Rum cake last Friday instead of the lemon cake I had planned as the coming holidays seemed to call for something a bit more festive. We decided on a mango-lilikoi pie though from Kalaheo’s The Right Slice for our Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner desserts. Scallops were determined to be too pricey, so we’ll be having shrimp risotto on Christmas Eve instead, along with whatever vegetable looks good at the farmers’ market this coming week, and a sliver of mango pie for dessert. For our Christmas meal we’ll grill a flank steak and have that along with homemade stuffing, a vegetable, and some more pie, and Christmas morning brunch will be freshly-baked scones, smoked salmon, fresh blueberries and raspberries, POG mimosas, and some of our special holiday coffee or hot chocolate. I’m looking forward to all of it – simple, but delicious. Other meals this week will be curried chickpeas and rice for our dinner tonight; and chili pork burritos; grilled Italian sausage along with spaghetti and marinara; and egg roll in a bowl for Monday through Wednesday dinners. There was lots of great produce at the farmers’ market as well this past week, so we’ll be enjoying that along with our meals. Next Saturday we’ll have our mini pizzas and use some of the leftover steak on those.
- Happy I accomplished this past week: We’ve had mostly had nice weather this week, at least in the afternoons, and walked every day, but the weather still ran the gamut from bright sunshine to high humidity to crazy winds to rain, rain, rain. Most days Brett and I were able to walk for over an hour. I lost three pounds this past month, and continue to get smaller – YaYu says I am converting fat to muscle now (I still have plenty of blubber to lose though). Everything is ready to go for our holiday celebration this week – YaYu and I stopped by The Right Slice on Friday and ordered our pie which we’ll pick it up early Thursday afternoon. I finished Lesson 5 of Japanese and started Lesson 6, but it appears to be a word-for-word repeat of Lesson 5! I’m going to continue with it though as it’s a good review, but I’m moving through it very quickly. I’m going to start looking this week for some sort of online kanji lessons so I hopefully don’t forget all I’ve learned before we go to Japan again.
Our walking route at Kukiolono these days takes us approximately 65 minutes (@4.5 mph). We start with a loop around the Pavilion, then cross the parking lot and head up the hill to the club house, enjoying the views of Kalaheo and out to Port Arthur and Niihau along the way. Then it’s down the hill and into the upper woods. At the bottom we cross the entry road and head into the lower woods for a loop and a half, and finish with another loop around the Pavilion. Our goal by the end of this year is to walk this route twice at least four days a week.
- Looking forward to next week: Although I’ll be greatly missing the rest of our family, I’m looking forward to Christmas morning with Brett and YaYu, and our whole family’s Zoom get-together on Christmas afternoon – we’ll be connected from Japan to Hawaii to New York City! Otherwise we’ll be enjoying a relaxing week with nothing on our schedule other than going for a walk each afternoon, the farmers’ market on Wednesday, and picking up our pie and berries.
- Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu finished all her work for the term and got everything submitted on time. Brett saw the Dr. for his annual heart check and all is good and the way it should be. The first two tomatoes on our plant ripened, almost a miracle because the poor plant has been attacked by some crazy bug or spider but keeps hanging in there. Our avocado tree continues to grow and thrive however.
- Thinking of frugal things we did: This was not a frugal week, nor was it a crazy one either, but there was more spending than usual to get us ready. The only time we intend to step into a store for the next two weeks will be to pick up berries for Christmas morning and our pie (although it has been paid for). YaYu and I visited Ishihara Market in Waimea for the first time last Friday to see what kind of noodles they carried and check out their poke (very, very impressive), and we found some good deals in their sale cart including large packages of mung bean vermicelli (each enough for Chinese 3-color salad) for just 89¢ each, and a 5-pound bag of Lundberg Farms Arborio rice for just $2.97 (usual price is over $9 on Kaua’i). Between the cannister of arborio we bought for our Christmas Eve dinner and this bag we’ll be able to enjoy risotto for several months next year! We put $4.37 in the change/$1 jar, and I earned 1,857 Swagbucks this past week giving me enough for my first $500 Delta gift card!
- Grateful for: In spite of our family not being able to gather for the holidays this year, both Brett and I are grateful for our family’s good health and good fortune. Our son and family are doing well in Japan, with both grandkids in good schools, and our grandson old enough to ride his bike to school and home each day. Both Meiling and WenYu are employed, and both are with partners that support and love them. YaYu is doing well in school, and has a wide circle of friends. We’re all looking forward to connecting on Christmas Day, and dreaming of a reunion next year here on Kauai.
- Bonus question: What are some of the little luxuries you allow yourself these days? I can think of just two that I would qualify as luxuries: quality small-batch gin for Brett and my gin and tonics, and some wonderful imported goats’ milk soap for showering/bathing. Brett and I have enjoyed gin and tonics for many years, and really don’t drink much of anything else other than a little (inexpensive) wine now and again, but we always bought cheap, generic gin. We introduced ourselves to quality gin when we were in England last year, and that changed everything. What a difference! These days we stick to the small batch stuff, some domestic, but most of it from the UK (one of our favorites comes from Japan though). This stuff is not cheap, but it is delicious and lasts us for a few months. We were thrilled to find several new varieties to try next up at the Kileaua Market. The goats’ milk soap was first discovered at Costco when we were in Japan in 2019, of all places, and we decided to buy a box (which we split with our DIL). The soap is creamy and luxurious, and we toted our bars of it around with us for the rest of our travels. We happily discovered that we could purchase the soap on Amazon, for a really good price (much less than it had been in Japan) so we have stocked up again and are good to go for a long while.
I saw milk at the store this past week that had expiration dates in 2021, my first sign of hope that this crazy, awful, ridiculous year is almost done! Good things have happened for us this year, but on the whole it’s been a trial, not just for our family but for the country and the world as well. I’m hoping we can get through this next month without anything crazy happening, but 2020 still has a few more days to go and as I think we all know now, anything can (and might) happen. It’s been that kind of year and I will be happy to see the end of it..
Wishing all of you and yours that celebrate Christmas a very happy and peaceful holiday, and a good week coming up for all!