Halloween is a low-key affair for us this year. Because of the holiday's occurrence on Sunday, there were plenty of Halloween parties all around the island this weekend but Zac and I spent Friday evening watching Food Network and Saturday evening throwing darts in the garage. Some friends asked us to go down to Waikiki with them, but Waikiki is an absolute zoo for Halloween. Almost as bad (or maybe worse than) New Year's Eve. Not only do we object to Waikiki's $20 cover charges and $10 drinks, but Zac and I didn't take the time to come up with costumes which would probably be the only fun part of going out to a party or a bar. Maybe next year we'll come up with something and host a party of our own.
As far as passing out candy goes (don't hate me) but we're not doing it. We're hoping that if we turn off the lights and speak in hushed tones that the kids in the neighborhoods will think we're not at home. Because of the way Navy housing works, and who's entitled to what type of housing, everyone on our street has kids. (We got into this housing only because there was a shortage of housing for a sailor with a spouse and no kids. To get into our neighborhood you're usually supposed to have at least one child.) I don't mind living in a neighborhood full of kids. I just don't feel like partaking in passing out candy. I'm sure the trick-or-treaters will find plenty of sugary sweets to keep them happy without us. If the kids do ring our doorbell, they might find themselves getting a ziploc bad of steel-cut oats, some whole-grain pasta or the dreaded apple. Sorry kiddos - candy isn't something we keep on tap around here.
Speaking of turning the lights off and housing, a new electricity usage policy recently started for us. I'm thrilled. Up to this point people living in military housing out here on Oahu didn't have to pay for any utilities. The housing allowance that was given to service members living in housing covered the rent and all the electricity (and water). This meant that you could set your thermostat to 62 degrees, turn on all your lights and run hot water all day and you wouldn't incur any sort of cost.
Somewhere along the line the top Navy folks out here realized that the Navy is the number one consumer of energy on Oahu. Yes, the naval base was using a lot of electricity, but housing was using it like it was going out of style. The powers that be decided that something needed to be done. The company in charge of housing had already made some changes to try and be more energy-conscious. All of the housing built in the last couple of years have a couple of solar panels on the roof that are tied to the hot water heater and all of the light-bulbs that they supply to the houses are CFLs. But the Navy folks wanted the service members to take on more of the responsibility.
The new policy is fairly simple: Every month housing will calculate what the average energy usage is for houses that are about the same size. Then they'll create a buffer zone that extends 20% above and 20% below that average. If your energy usage falls in that buffer zone, you won't have to pay anything - just like it has always been. If you fall below the buffer zone you'll get a rebate of the amount you were below. If you fall above the buffer zone, you now have to pay for that extra energy use. Hooray!
Now personally I think that the 20% upper limit is too modest. I'd like to see them drop that to 15% or 10%, making more people responsible for paying for extra energy use. 20% is a pretty high bar. I'm a little amazed at how many people still exceed it even with that high barrier. For the next couple of months everyone in housing will be receiving "mock" bills to show us our usage. Starting January 1 the program goes into effect for real. I'm really hoping that this program will cause the people in housing to quit abusing the privilege of having our utilities (mostly) paid for and cause people to be more responsible.
Since I'm all riled up about energy consumption now, let me end on one quick other rant. I went to the grocery store yesterday and you know what I saw? Stacks of sugar, flour, chocolate chips, oil, Crisco, vanilla and assorted extracts, cinnamon by the bucket, every and all baking things I could ever want. I wanted to buy a cart-load and head home to bake up six different kinds of cookies, a few pies, a cake or two and whatever other November/December-type treats I could think of. I love to bake so much.
But I can't. Why? Because Zac and I can't eat all that sugary goodness by ourselves and we have no one to pass it off on! Arg! I suppose I could bake it all up and freeze it, but I've already got a cheesecake, three different kinds of cookies and two banana breads already in the freezer. I really don't want to eat the stuff, I just want to make it. I think I have a disorder of some sort. Anyhow, grocery shopping will be a painful experience for the next couple of months.
But the approaching holidays mean that butter will go on sale at least once. I am sooooooooooo looking forward to butter being on sale. (It's twice as much out here in Hawaii as it is in Minnesota.) *sigh* You can never have to much butter around, just in case you do need to bake something . . .