Thursday, October 27, 2011

Celebrating a special girl

My first born, precious baby girl turned 10 today! We celebrated her birthday with family before we left B.C. so it had been feeling like she'd already had her birthday. She was starting to worry that we weren't going to celebrate on the actual day, but I assured her we would mark the occasion with birthday festivities.

We started the day with pancakes and fresh fruit, and stories about the night she was born. Her prezzies were wrapped in towels and pillowcases! I'm so glad my kids don't mind the eco-wrapping! I picked up the colorful placemat she's using here at a thrift store earlier this week. (Yay! Molokai has two thrift stores!)

One of a her presents....a beautiful rainbow wind twirler made here on the island at a local kite shop. John and Thor got this for her! She said today that it made her smile everytime she saw it. Me too! It's gorgeous!

New art supplies... everyone enjoyed painting again. It's been awhile! Most of our art supplies have been in storage since May!

Lemon cupcakes with rainbow candles.

Served with vanilla yogurt and fresh passionfruit (here it's called Lilikoi). Yum yum!

Zara and I spent some time this afternoon at the beach closest to us (Papohaku Beach) looking at shells and just admiring the ocean. Everyday the beach and ocean are different. Today the waves were smaller and the shells were down lower, closer to the water. We just breathed in the ocean air and felt happy to be here. Zara got lots of birthday phone calls today which she so appreciated! After the call from Grandpa she said "And I didn't even cry". I asked "What made you want to cry?" She said "This is the first birthday I've ever celebrated without Grandma and Grandpa." There were twinges of sadness and missing her family, but she had a smile on her face most of the day and felt excited to be celebrating here in Hawaii.

Happy Birthday to my beautiful girl!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Living off the grid and a house tour

For years I have dreamed about living in an “off the grid” house, so I was very excited when I heard this house was powered completely by wind and solar. But as I’m being reminded these days, the reality of something is often quite different than what you imagine it might be! Not necessarily in a bad way… just different. On the surface, the house looks like any other house… you can’t tell it’s off the grid. (Unless you notice the wind turbine and solar panels at the top of the driveway!) But we really have to watch how we use electrical power.

So the energy created with the wind turbine and solar panels charges a bank of batteries in the garage. Every time we use power, we draw on those batteries. John checks them morning and night and writes down what the charge is. On a sunny, windy day lots of power is being generated. We had a day like that last Friday and John came to me and said “today’s a good day to use appliances”. So we did LOADS of laundry (beach towels, sheets, bathing suits, clothes….everything!) – Actually I shouldn’t say “we”. John did all the laundry and hung it out to dry on our makeshift clothesline, then I helped fold and put everything away. One of the benefits of having a husband at home is that I don’t have to do EVERYTHING! I get help! While he was doing laundry, I was vacuuming the house and cleaning the lanai off of one of the bedrooms for Zara to sleep in.

When John came home from his reconnaissance trip to Molokai, Zara saw photos of the loft in the house and immediately claimed it as her bedroom! When we got here, we got it all set up for her and moved dressers and furniture up there. She stuck it out about a week then the creepy crawlies got to her! All night long she could hear little scuttling feet above her head and each morning she’d find heaps of fresh gecko poo all around her bed. (Who knew that geckos made such a mess!!) One night she woke up after having a scary dream about her room, and came down and crawled into bed with John. The next morning she informed me she wasn’t comfortable sleeping up there anymore. I can’t blame her! I don’t think I’d want to either!

So we moved her bed down and into the lanai. Then Bella decided she wanted to sleep out there too, so out went her bed! Now, this room is ALL windows, facing east, with no window coverings. Bella was up at the crack of dawn after her first night out there, or maybe earlier! The sky was just starting to lighten when Bella came to me and whispered “I’m going to go play Lego”. I thought “Are you serious?!?! Please go back to bed until the sun comes up!” She reluctantly went back to bed and when I looked over about 6:30am , she was sitting up on her bed, watching the sun rise up into the sky. Now she waits until the sun is UP then she goes out to play!

I got sidetracked there! Back to living off the grid! The batteries in the garage are on a trickle charge so that they can’t be over charged. IF the wind blows all night, which it often does, then there’s enough energy being produced to keep the batteries topped up. However, if there is no wind, then between the trickle charge and the ceiling fan in my room we wake up with low batteries and the generator has to be turned on. Within an hour, the batteries are at full charge again (and the generator is very fuel efficient). But I’m still baffled… I always thought that an off the grid house could make and STORE enough energy to (literally) get you through a rainy day. Not in this case. We are assessing our battery levels on a day to day basis. Anyways… we’re learning. Many nights there is not enough energy to run the dishwasher so we hand wash or run it the next morning. We have to be super conservative with using lights and toasters and any other electrical appliances. It makes a person extremely aware of how much we depend on electricity! But I also have to say it feels pretty neat to know that the energy we're using it being created right here!

I’ve been asked for some photos of the house and our living space so will give you a little tour here. I’ll narrate the tour below each photo.

The view of our house as we drive up the driveway. The wind turbine and solar panels are just to the right of the garage.

Walking from the driveway up to the entrance. Garage is on the right. Trees loaded with papayas on the left!

The covered entrance way. I love the big doors that open up. They were selvedged from a hotel in Maui. The kids spend a lot of time playing right here. It feels like part of the house with the open door way.

If you turn to your right while standing in the entrance way, you have this view. Behind the doors on the left side are the washer and dryer, and the hot water tank (which is solar). Straight ahead is the outdoor shower. The door to the right goes into the garage.


The main part of the living space has vaulted ceilings. It appears more spacious in these photos than it really is! Behind the sitting area, there are more open doors that lead to a big lanai. There's a ping pong table in there but it's a space that rarely gets used. The breeze coming through those open windows cools the house.

A lovely, fully equipped kitchen. Notice all the fresh fruit sitting on the counter to the left of the fridge!

This is taken from the kitchen looking across to area on the other side of the entrance. Straight ahead in the middle is a bathroom. On either side there is a door leading into a bedroom (and another bathroom). You can also see the loft were Zara WAS sleeping. I plan to turn that space into the kid's play area. The stairs leading up there are steep and super narrow. There's a nice dormered area with windows that let in lots of light. Zara spends quite a bit of time drawing at the table up there and watching the deer out back. Notice all our beach stuff sitting on that little sofa by the door and my basket beside it. We're always ready to go to the beach!

This is the bigger family room, eating area and the wood fire oven (aka the pizza oven!) This is currently where the kids play Lego. John's getting pretty good with the oven and we've enjoyed lots of hand made pizza's baked in there! Delicious! There's a door to the right of the table which leads out into the front (ocean side) yard and patio.

This photo just gives a bit of a perspective of that room in relation to the kitchen. Can you see the glass jar full of shells to the left of the bright red kettle? We're having so much fun collecting shells!

Here are the girl's beds in the lanai. Note the big windows on 3 sides! It gets hot during the day, but lovely and cool at night!

Well, that's it for now! Hope you've enjoyed the tour. You're welcome to visit anytime! We'll crank up the wood fire oven and have a pizza party!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Recent days

We enjoyed a little piece of paradise the other day! This is a beach on the east side of the island called Murphy's beach, also known as Mile 20 beach. We spent the day here with a lovely family we met last week from Vancouver. We spent almost every day this past week doing something fun with them! It was so nice to have some new friends to explore with. They had 2 kids that Bella and Thor really enjoyed playing with.

The snorkeling was great here. And the spot itself was magical. I felt like I was at the quintessential "South Pacific" beach. The water was warm and there was shade under the tree! We ate, snorkeled, lounged, visited, checked out the birds and spiders in the tree, and just relaxed. Our new friends left the next day. We miss you guys!

Today we went to the Saturday Market in Kaunakakai. The kids wanted to try some fresh coconut water...mmmmm, so yummy! When we were done drinking the water the vendor cracked open the coconuts with his machete and we brought them home to eat. The market is tiny! But we bought some mangos, a HUGE watermelon and some passionfruit.

Bella eating a passionfruit at the beach.

This is the closest swimming beach to our place so we go here often. It's got a Hawaiian name but locals call it Dixie Maru (a ship by that name sunk off the point here). We just call it Dixie! It's a lovely, safe little beach and the water is warm. Bella and Zara snorkeled there today for the first time and saw lots of neat fish.

This was my anniversary present to myself! I saw it at the market in town last week and couldn't stop thinking about it. So today I bought it and LOVE it! We arrived here on Molokai on Oct. 12th, which happened to be our 12th anniversary. We got married in Maui so it seemed fitting that I should have a plumaria ring to mark the occasion!

This little frog hangs out in our bird bath with his friends each night. We saw them tonight while we were out watching the stars.

It's been another good day. We're all settling in well except Thor. No surprise really as he's generally the one who has the hardest time adjusting to change. He's just having a really tough time, missing friends and family and missing the familiarity of life "in Canada". "I just want to go back to Canada" he laments often.  I realized last night that he needs more quality time with John and I individually in order to feel safe and secure and adjusted. We'll make that a priority starting tomorrow.

Good night!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Settling into life in Molokai

Well hello again! It’s been absolutely ages since the last blog post, but now that we’re so far away from friends and family, I will definitely be updating regularly, keeping you up to date on what’s going on in our life. I’d also love to hear from you, either with a comment at the end of a post (anyone can leave a comment! If you don’t have a google account, just choose the anonymous option and make sure you sign your name at the end of your comment!) or via email. I miss you all! Communication with loved ones takes on a whole new meaning and importance when we’re far away from you all!

We arrived on Molokai one week ago and are slowly getting settled into a somewhat different lifestyle than we’re used to! We arrived with 14 (yes, 14!!!) pieces of luggage…. 9 suitcases, 3 rubbermaids and 2 large bike boxes. We are caretaking a house and property for a very generous man named Virgil, who lives most of the time in Alaska. John met him in Melbourne last year where they were both doing a Permaculture Design course. One thing led to another and now we’re here for the winter…or possibly longer….depending on how it all goes!

One of our patios with the view of the ocean in the background.

Sunset from the patio.

We’ve spent our first days unpacking, deep cleaning the house, hanging out at the beach and checking out this end of the island. We‘re living on the very dry, windy west side of the island! We have found some lovely beaches, some safe for swimming and some just plain gorgeous but with huge waves and strong rips.

The little village closest to us is called Maunaloa – about a 20 minute drive – with a small “grocery” store, a post office, a cool kite shop and a rec. center. (I’m going to check out a Zumba class at the rec center this evening!) For real grocery shopping we need to go into the main town called Kaunakakai (pronounced Caw-na-ka-kye) which is about a 30 minute drive. The town consists of a couple of streets with a handful of stores, a nice little natural food store, a great little library (we got a card the first day here and have already been enjoying our library books!), a community center, a school and a gas station. I have not been buying enough food when we’ve been in town to last us until the next shop! I realize I have to stock up… buy 3 pineapples instead of 1! I’ll have to get more organized, perhaps create a week’s menu before shopping each week!

One of the treasures on this island is Kumu farms – a beautiful organic farm with a farmstand and lovely produce. They are open 4 days a week, so again… I’ll have to plan my days in town accordingly!

We’ve been enjoying delicious papayas off the trees around the house. Sweet, tree ripened papayas with a squeeze of lime (off the neighbor’s tree!)…. Yum! The neighbors have also gifted us with bananas of f their tree and fresh eggs from their chickens. Lucky us!

Yesterday we went on a bit of an adventure. We took a crazy 4x4 road to a gorgeous white sand beach where we spent a good part of the day swimming, snorkeling, and collecting beautiful shells. The kids loved playing in the clear water, had fun in the gentle surf and enjoyed playing in the sand.

 John drove the truck, Bella rode shotgun and Zara, Thor and I bounced around in the back! The beach was truly gorgeous, but not sure we’ll be doing that drive again anytime soon!!

Some of the shells Zara and John collected while snorkeling at the beach!

Our nightly entertainment has been watching the big screen….. the sky that is! Most nights we sit out after dinner (it’s pitch black by 7pm), snuggle up with blankets and just watch the stars. With so little light around here, the number of stars visible is mind blowing! We watch planes come and go from Honolulu (we can see the city lights way off in the distance from our patio), we oooh and aaww over shooting stars and listen to the night song. A few nights ago we saw the most incredible shooting star drop straight down out of the sky with a massive, bright tail…. we were all afraid it was going to land right in front of us! I have no idea what is was….a meteor? a comet? Perhaps a once in a lifetime sighting!

We checked out a neat group yesterday for Zara called Youth in Motion. They meet twice a week for stand up paddle boarding, kayaking and other watersports. Zara paddled for hours yesterday and really enjoyed it! Next time we go I’ll wear my bathing suit and paddle too!

I have been surprised at what a transition it’s been to move here. I’ve had a hard time reconciling the difference between the reality of being here vs. what I thought it would be like… my expectations. It’s not like we’ve moved to China…. I mean we’re still in the USA! But it feels so different… I have to admit there were a few pity parties going on during those first few days! More than just a few times I thought “What the heck was I thinking?!?!!?” BUT…as the days go by it feels easier. I’m trying to live in the moment and just BE here, with my family and embrace the adventure with all its ups and downs. As you can see from the pictures, we're seeking out the beauty and enjoying what this island has offer. Aloha from all of us!