Last night on New Year’s Eve, we had the pleasure of celebrating the closing of 2013 with our dear friends the Barber family in Wahiawa. Their children and our Lil’ K just love to play together and we all just enjoy being in each other’s presence. With good food, good company, and a relaxed atmosphere, we ushered in the new year with toasts of sparkling apple cider. It was just what my hurried and hectic spirit needed to go slowly and gently into the new year.

This morning, as per tradition, we started the new year with our first meal of the day at my in-laws’ home. My mother-in-law was busy in the kitchen, slaving over a boiling pot of ozoni when we arrived.

Dad-in-law proclaimed that I would have the very first bowl of ozoni this year!

I was flattered and honored for about 5 seconds before he revealed that the first bowl of ozoni is not the best.  The soup thickens the longer it cooks as the mochi melts into the broth. In jest, I assured him that I was willing to make the sacrifice and take it for the team, eating the first bowl of ozoni so everyone could have a better serving. We all had a great laugh about it.

I indeed had the first bowl of ozoni, which I still felt was quite the honor. After all, if anyone should be served first, shouldn’t it be the family patriarch? It thought it was cute that he deferred the first serving to me. Even with the pretense that it’s not as good as subsequent servings, which I believe the difference is negligible.

After everyone was served, seconds were given. Of course, I got another serving – as I love ozoni and it’s a delicacy that we enjoy only once a year. As Dad-in-law observed me finishing off the last of my soup, he chuckled saying, “How lucky! You got the first AND the last bowl!” Of course, in our family, we consider the last bowl the best one!

Not long after we finished our ozoni, it was time to head over to the windward side of the island to visit my Dad’s side of the family. My 86-year-old Aunty Mieko was making the traditional ashitibichi (Okinawan pig’s feet soup) and nishime.

Aunty Mieko had been living in Utah for about 10 years, but came back home a few months ago. We enjoyed getting together on a regular basis prior to her move, but during the decade of her absence, our family did not gather for holidays as we once did.

She is truly the hub of the family and once she returned, we have gathered for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. What a blessing! Everyone is getting older and since my mother passed away in 2011, it really hit home that our time is short with my aging aunts and uncles.

It was a low-key, relaxed gathering in Kaneohe, as we ate family-style, sitting around and talking as we enjoyed good home cooked food.

I pray that the rest of 2014 will be the same as it started: surrounded by dear friends and family, relaxing, low-key, and an ongoing celebration of time-tested family traditions and the creation of new ones along the way.

P.S. – There are no pictures from today because I am consciously trying to live in the moment more. I find that I lose a little of the experience when I’m constantly trying to capture the moment on my camera. 🙂

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