Sunday Morning 9/25/2022: A Very Good Week Indeed!

Worth the wait in the end, and exactly what we hoped for

All’s well that ends well. The missing box of parts to our Carta credenza arrived early last Tuesday morning and Brett had it assembled by the afternoon. We absolutely love it and both of us agree the wait was worth it in spite of all that happened. There was of course a twist to this last delivery: We actually received TWO identical boxes of parts, one of which was the missing box from our initial delivery back in August! The extra box went back to Burrow on Thursday morning.

Of course once we set up the credenza and the TV our living room seemed too crowded, so I thought about it for a bit and then rearranged all the furniture . . . by myself, in the middle of the night. I’m still not sure how I got the sleeper sofa moved because it is heavy. The living room is more open now and we’ll have room for everyone at Christmas as well as a small tree. Kai was initially confused and not happy with the new setup; it took him a couple of days to figure out where everything was (i.e. his toys and bed) but he’s back to being our happy pup.

Our trip to the Shiloh National Military Park today was postponed because the chance of rain is just too high. If it’s not raining here this afternoon though Brett and I may head over and visit the historic Carnton plantation linked to Carter House and the Battle of Franklin. We keep seeing historic markers around here every time we go out – they are everywhere. We just discovered one that’s within walking distance of the apartment the other day, over by a nearby corporate park! I think we need to find a list of all the ones in the area and then start checking them off one by one – I honestly had no idea our little suburb or the surrounding area was so rich with history.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Besides getting the credenza assembled and the furniture rearranged, my only big accomplishment last week was getting my current Covid booster and a flu shot. Brett and I are now ready to go for the winter, or at least we hope so, but another new Covid variant has popped up so who knows? This virus mutates faster than an iPhone with all of its updates. 2) Our license plates arrived so the business side of our move to Tennessee is complete.
The origami cubes are to slip over the lights on our Christmas tree. The folding is not as easy as I thought it would be, but practice will make perfect!
  • What we’re looking forward to this coming week: 1) I want to get started making small origami cubes to slip over the lights on our Christmas tree. M brought me a package of origami paper from Japan, but they’re not as easy as I imagined so it’s going to take me a few weeks. 2) We’re greatly looking forward to cooler weather coming up; the heat at the beginning of the week was awful although the humidity thankfully wasn’t too bad. 3) This is food shopping week, and we’ll hit up ALDI, Trader Joe’s, Costco, and maybe Publix for a couple of things. I did some food shopping on Saturday (see below) so the trip this week will be small and mostly produce.

Once things cooled off we were back out on the trail. I’d never seen an Osage orange (or hedge apple) before!

The delicious Japanese-style dinner M prepared for us last week.
  • Eating and exercise: 1) The hot weather this past week kept us to short walks with Kai at the beginning of the week but once things cooled off we were back out on the trails for longer walks/hikes. I got quite a workout though moving furniture last Tuesday night! 2) This past week we ate leftovers one night; had roasted vegetable quiche and melon (two evenings); barbecue pork sandwiches along with four-bean salad; somen noodles with chicken in broth, Japanese potato salad, and broccoli (meal provided by M); barbecue chicken sausages, tater tots, and (more) broccoli; and clam chowder.

Welcoming fall this weekend!

  • How we saved: 1) I bought some calamine lotion for the poison ivy rash Brett picked up last week when I was at Target getting my shots, and we stopped at Nothing Bundt Cakes for K’s Fabulous Friday treat, so we thought this would be a low-spend week. I even stopped myself a couple of times from going to Trader Joe’s, ALDI, or Publix because we didn’t honestly need anything. Then on Saturday we went to the opening day of the Flying Ghost Pumpkin Market in Nashville – oh my. I’ve never seen so many different kinds of pumpkins in one place, from tiny to humongous, mundane to the truly weird. Prices at the market could not be beat though so we bought a traditional jack-o-lantern pumpkin, a “firebomb,” and two small Cinderella pumpkins for cooking later. After pumpkin shopping we headed across the street to the Japanese market. I went crazy and stocked up on all our favorites, including CookDo sauce and other things we’ve missed. Everything I bought will provide many delicious meals in the coming months. We did not end up with a low spend week but we are ready for fall and some of our favorite Japanese meals! (the Japanese market spending will come out of October’s food budget). 2) We put $2.73 into the change/$1 bill jar. 3) We didn’t throw out any food except for a package of sliced cheese that got moldy. We have to be careful about buying too much of things like bread and cheese because we don’t eat them very quickly. 4) I ordered a small silk plant for a spot in the living room, but decided it was just clutter and returned it for a refund.
The animal whisperer on her way into work
Another POV
  • Good things that happened: 1) The arrival of the credenza parts and getting it assembled was very satisfying. It’s a piece of furniture that was worth the wait. 2) Rearranging the living room opened up a lot more space and made the room more comfortable. 3) The Great British Baking Show is back on Netflix! 4) Even though it was broiling hot on Wednesday (99 degrees), I spent a lovely afternoon over at the pool with K, and met some of our neighbors. The next day we had a perfect first day of fall with cool, crisp weather. 5) Brett and I finished our Christmas shopping although nothing will get wrapped until later. 6) I made a small discovery this past week that has made a HUGE difference in dealing with my GERD. I read (can’t remember where) that adding just 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda to a pot of coffee was enough to neutralize the acid without disrupting the flavor. I have had to give up several of my favorite foods because of the problems they cause, but I was not ready to give up my morning coffee and this adjustment changed everything – my stomach is happy! 7) This past Friday (Saturday in Japan) our son did his annual walking challenge to raise funds in support of a Japanese organization that serves terminally ill children or children with incurable diseases and their families. This year he walked 28 miles in 10 hours. Over the past seven years he has raised nearly $50,000 for this organization, raising $9,410 this year, his best yet. We’re incredibly proud of his efforts and dedication. 8) YaYu called on Thursday to catch up, and let us know two research papers she co-authored this summer were accepted and will be published (a big deal in academia). And, her boss hinted this past week that she wouldn’t be disappointed to see YaYu apply to the department’s graduate (Ph.D.) program this year.

Bluer skies and fluffy clouds for fall. If you look carefully, in the picture on the right you can see vultures circling up high in the cool breezes.

Fall is my favorite season of the year, so I couldn’t be happier that it’s finally arrived. The heat almost “popped” overnight last Wednesday, with the air noticeably different on Thursday, the first day of the season. The sky was bluer, the air clearer, and the temperatures cooler. Leaves on the trees are just beginning to change too. I’m still holding out hope that Trader Joe’s will get their yummy pumpkin toaster pastries in (doesn’t look like it though), but we’ve already bought pumpkin pancake mix and Meiling told me the other day we need to try their pumpkin sticky toffee tarts. We’ll see. After a long, hot, and and very busy summer Brett and I are ready to relax and enjoy Tennessee. There’s plenty to see and do around here and we plan to enjoy all that fall has to offer.

What a great week we had! Mornings are now cool, and there’s a real change to the way the everything feels outside. We got a lot done, had fun, and we’re set for the week coming up (and for several months with Japanese supplies). I hope you’re as excited about autumn’s arrival as I am, and are looking forward to all it brings. In the meantime, here’s to another great week coming up!

Travel In Our Future

Photo by Leonardo Yip on Unsplash

Brett and I are starting to like this being settled in one place with our own stuff. We like having a dog in our lives again. We’re currently no longer itching to travel, travel, travel other than visit sites or destinations in our area. Brett has already put his foot down that our move to Mazatlán will be our last, and I have agreed. We will not be selling our furniture or things this next time either. Going forward, where we go our stuff will go with us.

Beginning with our departure from Hawaii last May, we found travel experiences disappointing to downright miserable, and something of a deterrent to future travel. I shudder now when I think of the long waits we endured in airports, the expense of dining in airports, or of getting an hour or so of sleep between flights. With airline schedules constantly changing these days, flights being cancelled or placed on hold, and prices going up as well, going from one place to another is no longer the exciting process it was for us back in 2018. Since leaving Hawaii, our journeys from one location to another turned into everything from uninviting drudgery to pure misery versus being the thrilling start to a new adventure they were before.

So, what’s a couple who loves to travel and experience new locations to do? There are still so many things we want to experience, and places we want to see, but we dread the process of getting there.

Mazatlán gets especially hot mid-summer through early fall, and those months would be an ideal time for us to leave town for a while. Early fall is a wonderful in Japan, and mid-summer a great time for us to head up to the northeast to spend time with the girls. We can see ourselves renting a New England beach house or mountain cabin for a month, and spending a couple of autumn months in Japan each year. The “shoulder season” before the summer travel season begins would be for visiting other destinations. There are still plenty more places we’d love to see, including several in South America and others in Europe and Asia.

Travel is definitely going to have a place in our future, but it’s going to have to be done differently than in the past. We’re going to have to adjust our attitudes and expectations going forward and change how we think about and do travel, from possibly upgrading how we travel to the length of time we stay in a location to even possibly taking part in a tour now and again. The travel industry is not going to return to its pre-Covid heyday, and we’re not getting any younger either, nor have the energy we once had for full-time travel. We don’t want to sell all our stuff again, or put it into storage, and the thought of lugging around two big suitcases is no longer as exciting as it once was. We’re ready to have a home to come back to. And, time with our family is more important to us than ever. We know we can make that work for us when it comes to future travel, visiting family and some of our favorite places every year but making time for new locations as well.

The adventure isn’t over yet, and we intend to remain Occasional Nomads as long as possible, but travel in our future is going to happen in a different way.

The Sweet Spot

Simple and comfortable.

When we moved to Hawai’i in 2014, we shipped 4500 pounds of household goods over with us, 8,000 pounds less than what we moved from Japan when Brett retired in 1992. We were ready for a simpler life in Hawaii, and during the first four years we lived on Kaua’i we added just five small pieces of furniture and a washer/dryer combo to what we brought. We put 1500 pounds into storage and sold everything else in 2018, but when we left Kaua’i again earlier this year the only items we kept fit into 32 boxes that were mailed to the mainland. The contents of those boxes weighed less than 300 pounds. Five of those items were broken during shipment, so we ended with even less.

Brett and I used to frequently ask each other during our first four years in Hawaii if we could do with less, and that made selling our things before we set out to travel not to be as difficult as we thought it might be. We still had many possessions we were not ready to part with though and we paid dearly to have them packed and shipped to the mainland for storage. We lived minimally during our travels and discovered we enjoyed being responsible for so little. Although we ultimately ended up owning less than we had before when we returned to Kaua’i in 2020, we continued asking ourselves the same question – do we really need or want all this stuff?

We’re discovering this go-round the answer is still no. Our current home, an apartment smaller than our one on Kauai, has limited storage and space. There’s little room to accumulate . . . anything. Furniture purchases were minimal out of necessity.

We initially worried when we arrived that we might have given away or sold too much of our stuff, especially the antiques from Japan. We know now it was the right amount. I told Brett the other day that it had apparently been time to let those things go because I don’t miss any of the things we sold and had hauled around with us for years and thought we couldn’t live without. There is no room for them here anyway. The few items from our time in Japan that we have kept are the most meaningful to us, and we take joy in seeing and using them daily.

I also didn’t think a kitchen could be smaller than the one in our Kaua’i apartment, but our current kitchen, although fully outfitted, has a smaller amount of space for dishes, cookware, and pantry items. It’s taken a little over a month to figure out how and where to fit everything in, and get ourselves adjusted to less counter space and such, but it’s working for us now. We’ve been able to cut our food expenses not just because prices are lower here but because we only buy what can fit in the limited storage we have, which thankfully has meant no more bulk buying at Costco.

We have long dreamed of living in a location where a car wasn’t required, but this is not that place, and truth be told, we are enjoying our car. But, gas is affordable here, we only drive when we have to, and we combine errands whenever possible. One car is enough for the two of us and we still strive to have at least one day a week where it isn’t driven.

I never thought I would say this about Tennessee after coming from Hawaii, but we are happy here and so glad we said yes to our son’s request. We are getting to live the minimalist life we have dreamed of. Having family nearby is the icing on the cake. We love how free and satisfying it feels living with the least amount of stuff we’ve had since we were first married. There is no clutter (other than dog toys all over the floor) or even a way to create clutter here. Our few pieces of furniture fit all our needs. We have a smaller amount of kitchen gear than we did in Hawaii but enough that we can usually get away with running the dishwasher every other day. We produce less trash. Any purchase, clothing included, is made with purpose and only after thought and discussion.

Other than caring for our granddaughter after school, or when our daughter-in-law has to go out of town, we are also not tied down with obligations. Our days and our time are our own to fill, with the freedom to decide what to do each day or even if we want to do anything at all.

Ten years ago, if you’d told me we’d be living like we do now I would have thought you certifiable, but minimalism is about living with enough, and we’ve hit our sweet spot. The changes we’ve experienced over the past eight years have been good for us and will see us well into our later years. The only thing we have left to accomplish will be our last move, but we’ve got another couple of years to prepare for that.

Sunday Morning 9/18/2022: Autumn Is Coming

I am thankfully feeling much, much better than I did last week with an occasional cough the only thing to remind me of how awful I felt last week. Our daughter-in-law is also well again and was back at work all week. Brett never got sick and thinks we both had bronchitis, possibly picked up from K who had had a mild cold the week before we got sick. Both M and I remain extremely grateful we did not have Covid because what we had was bad enough.

We’ve had a lovely week weather-wise, with somewhat cooler temperatures. However, along with fall officially arriving this coming week, so is another heat wave, and temperatures are expected to be back in the upper 90s here for a few days. Ugh. The complex pool is still open though so we plan to take K over to swim after school, and will otherwise do our best to stay cool. I am so ready for things to change though; I’ve had enough of heat and humidity for the year. All the pumpkin things at Trader Joe’s have put me in the mood for fall as well.

Two giant pots of chrysanthemums from Costco and a pumpkin from Trader Joe’s will be the extent of our fall decorating.

Have I mentioned we have valet trash service here? Seriously, someone will come every week and pick up our trash – it’s included in our rent. We were provided with a large kitchen trash can when we moved in, and if we place our bagged trash inside and set it outside on our door on Monday morning our trash will be picked up for us. We’ve never used the service because Brett carries our trash over to the bins when he walks Kai but our daughter-in-law uses the service as it’s very convenient with her work schedule. Also, we have been recycling our trash for over thirty years (beginning when we lived in Japan then continuing in Portland, Hawaii, and overseas) but there’s no recycling here – everything goes into the trash. It feels weird and wrong to put cans, bottles, plastics, paper, etc. into the trash bin without sorting it, and we’ve looked into whether there are any nearby recycling services but there’s no place nearby that takes recyclable trash. Tossing everything has made me realize how much time we used to spend sorting and getting things ready to be recycled, and how much space it took, but while it may be quicker now the truth is we’d be very happy to start sorting once again.

The credenza parts did not arrive even though they were promised to be here this past Thursday. However, our package was picked up at the warehouse on Friday by FedEx and is on its way, with an early delivery scheduled for Tuesday. I’ll believe it when I see the credenza fully assembled and our TV sitting on top, but after what we’ve been through both of us feel a bit doubtful about what might arrive or even if the missing pieces will actually arrive. We have mixed feelings about this company and we’re torn about asking for a refund if things go wrong again. From the partial product we have received we can tell the quality of the piece is very high, and the customer service department has been excellent about trying to straighten things out, staying in touch with us, and communicating what’s going on, but the coordination with the delivery service gets less than a zero. The right hand really doesn’t have a clue what the left is doing and vice versa and the whole experience has been beyond frustrating.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Brett and I are now officially Tennessee residents! I got my Tennessee driver’s license and registered to vote this past Wednesday. I felt sad when I surrendered my Hawaii license, but am now good to drive for the next eight years. We’re still waiting on Tennessee plates for our car, but they should arrive this week or next. 2) Brett finished getting the school district’s security screening done in order to serve as a field trip escort for K’s class. He was fingerprinted and went through a criminal check this past week. 3) Otherwise, we had a very low-key, easy week.
  • What we’re looking forward to this coming week: 1) I’m getting both the latest Covid booster and a flu shot on Tuesday so I’m ready and protected for this fall/winter. I have never had the flu, and never used to get the vaccine, but at age 70 I’m no longer taking any chances. 2) Brett and I are hoping to take a couple of longer hikes in the area this week, spreading out from our apartment complex. We are working at building our walking distances back up and keeping our weight down. 3) We are planning to visit Shiloh National Military Park next Sunday.
  • Eating and exercise last week: 1) We went on three good hikes this past week, each around a mile long, through the woods behind our apartment complex. There are marked trails to three scenic overlooks. We discovered a crumbling low stone wall along one trail we’d like to know more about, whether it’s new or old. It looks like something that could have been around during the Civil War but it’s most likely newer than that. 2) Meals we enjoyed this week were: BLTs with chicken noodle soup on a cool day; spinach & cheese ravioli with pesto and meatballs; smoked pork tacos and corn on the cob; vegetarian hamburgers with onion rings; broccoli stuffed chicken breasts and mashed potatoes; chili pork burritos and coleslaw; and pepperoni pizza. When I write it down it looks like so much food, but we keep our portions small and there are almost always leftovers for our lunch the next day. 3) I am also trying to be more conscientious about drinking more water every day.
  • The ways we saved: 1) We reexamined our monthly budget this week and made some adjustments as several things here are/will be less than we initially estimated. We still have a cushion every month, but I was able to increase the automatic deposit into our travel savings by $100/month. 2) We put $1.90 into the change/$1 bill jar. 3) We ate all our leftovers and didn’t throw away any food. 4) Before cancelling my trial Amazon Prime membership this past week, I ordered our Christmas gifts for the family. Besides free shipping I was also able to use a coupon on one item for more savings. Although the total came in under our budget, I used credit card rewards to knock off almost half of the total. Meiling has been reminding everyone that there’s less than 100 days now left until Christmas – she is already that excited about this year!
K’s Fabulous Friday treat from Crumbl: a BIG sugar cookie with Minion sprinkles.
  • Good things that happened: 1) K officially named Friday after school Fabulous Friday because that’s the day we take her for a treat. This past week we stopped at Crumbl and got her a giant Minion-themed cookie. 2) We lucked out and were in Costco in time to get three giant chrysanthemum plants yesterday – several people there told us they regularly sell out in a few hours. Two are for our patio and one was for our daughter-in-law. We had been planning to get chrysanthemums anyway, but these ones were about four times the size of any we’d seen and for just a few dollars more.

I can’t believe that this week will be Kaipo’s one-month anniversary with us – it certainly feels like it’s been much longer as he has so fully integrated himself into our lives. He is everything we hoped for when we selected him, and a great fit for us overall – we are so happy to be dog owners again! He has gotten slightly bigger than he was when we met him, and put on some weight but he’s now pretty much as big as he’s going to get. His first grooming appointment is scheduled for October 10, the earliest we could get him in. We found a local groomer who specializes in Shih Tzus and toy and miniature poodles, so she should be a good fit for Kai. He is going to be a very floofy dog though by the time we get him there.

That’s all for this week – it was a nice one. Fingers are crossed that the one coming up will as nice in spite of the weather, and we’re hopeful we can stay cool and that the missing parts to our credenza finally show up. Hoping everyone had a good week as well and are looking forward to the next one as much as we are!

Lessons Learned

Travel days are always exhausting, and occasionally things don’t always go as planned, but Brett still makes sure everything gets packed and we’re where we need to be on time.

During all our travels we’ve never lost a suitcase, or left one of our phones in a taxi, or made another major goof. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure how we kept those things from happening other than we had a good system for tracking things, and Brett proved to be a superb logistics manager, making sure everything was in place and keeping us moving.

Things still went wrong though. Often the problems we encountered were things outside of our control, and the biggest and best lessons learned throughout our travels were that no matter how well we planned or how well we tracked our stuff, things could and did go wrong, and an ability to pick our battles, adapt quickly, and stay calm determined whether there would be a successful outcome or not.

We counted late departures part of doing business when we traveled and something that was entirely out of our control, no matter how frustrating the situation. We knew the best way to deal with a late flight was go with the flow and hope for the best. A six-hour delay departing Philadelphia when we began our travels almost caused us to miss our flight to Buenos Aires, but we stayed calm as possible and eventually got to our flight on time (on only an hour’s sleep). All’s well that ends well – we ended up in the only row in the aircraft with empty seats which allowed us to stretch out and sleep! Our flight from Montevideo to Madrid was delayed by over an hour, which meant we would miss our connection to Paris – nothing we could do about that – but somehow we turned out to be “special passengers” and an Air France representative personally met us upon arrival with new boarding passes for our connecting flight to Paris and we arrived on time. Not all situations ended happily though – when we departed India, the airline determined our luggage was overweight (it wasn’t) and no amount of arguing would get them to budge. We finally paid the overage to get on our way. To add to our misery, we had to empty our carry-ons for security and then repack, and our departure. gate was the furthest one away – we thought we’d never get there.

The view from our balcony in Montevideo.

We also learned along the way not to judge a book, or rather an Airbnb, by its cover. Our apartment in Montevideo appeared to be in a rather seedy-looking neighborhood, and we were hesitant about it, but the interior was lovely and comfortable, and we had a balcony view into the city. The location turned out to be perfect for touring the city. Our Strasbourg apartment was tiny, less than 300 square feet, yet was also in a great location for exploring the city. The sofa bed we slept on there we count as one of our most comfortable beds and the apartment as one of our favorites. However, the apartment we rented in Bath looked great in the pictures, but turned out to be rather shabby with an uncomfortable bed. We won most of the time, but occasionally lost.

At the last minute we scored first class seats on our flight from London to San Francisco, and made it home on time.

Departing the UK in 2019 was our most trying experience, with just about everything that could go wrong going wrong, starting with our first train of the day being cancelled and the next one arriving nearly 45 minutes late. Rather than staying calm, we allowed ourselves to get flustered and ended up taking the wrong train into Reading Station from Oxford, arriving on the furthest track from the one we needed. We literally ran through Reading Station, up and down escalators and elevators, with Brett hauling our two big suitcases behind him, and we climbed onto the last car of the train to Gatwick airport with less than 30 seconds to spare. That train was still a long shot, our last chance to possibly catch our flight, but when we arrived at the airport the check-in lines were so long that we knew we’d never make it and resigned ourselves to rebooking for the next day. Lady Luck was apparently looking down on us though because there was suddenly an announcement that four remaining first class seats were available on our flight. Unusual for us, we made a quick decision and snapped up two seats, getting to the gate just as first class was boarding! Those first class seats ended up saving us hundreds of dollars over what it would have cost us to check our bags, pay for a hotel room for the night, and rebook our tickets. Lessons learned? Stay calm no matter what, be flexible, and recognize there are times to let go when it comes to your budget.

While we enjoy free walking tours, the paid tours we took allowed us to experience and learn things we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Other lessons we learned along the way? While we’re big fans of free walking tours offered in most cities, we learned that paying for a speciality tour now and again can give you a big bang for your bucks. We took an amazing small-group tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and the Forum in Rome that got us into places the free tours didn’t go. We took two different wine tours in Bordeaux offered through the city, and learned more than we ever could have on our own as well as got to taste come fabulous wines. We took three Airbnb Experience tours in Edinburgh and a tour of a local gin distillery, and again, went places and learned things we never would have otherwise.

Our farmhouse stay in Switzerland provided experiences we wouldn’t have had staying in our own Airbnb or in a hotel.

We also learned that staying as a guest in someone’s home offered cultural experiences and learning as part of the package. At the beginning of our travels we had been determined to always stay in our own place, but after spending two nights with a family in their 300+ year-old Swiss farmhouse, we changed our minds. We were treated to a traditional dinner (raclette) with the family on our second evening, enjoyed a massive farm breakfast in the mornings, baked bread with the host, and left with a big bag of apples picked from their trees. We departed New Zealand with a deeper understanding of that country because of the hospitality and knowledge offered by our hosts along the way.

The biggest lesson we learned? We discovered strengths and skills we didn’t know we had. We played to the strengths we did know, but adapted as new ones revealed themselves and evolved. My forte was and is planning, and Brett let(s) me handle almost all of that as well as entertainment, meals, and a daily or weekly schedule. Brett’s strength is logistics – he makes sure we get to where we need to be on time (well, except when trains get cancelled), makes sure everything gets packed, and is able to orient himself very quickly in a new location. Brett also keeps track of our finances – he tracked our spending every day so we knew whether we need to slow down or whether there was enough in the budget for something special.

Solid research and planning before departure made a world of difference in whether a change or problem felt doable or like the end of the world, and our knowledge worked for us almost all of the time. As we went along though we learned to open ourselves up a bit more and manage our reactions to what could potentially become a negative experience. We came very close to paying the penalties that come along from not staying calm and not being flexible with our budget when the time called for it. All these things have affected how we travel now – how we plan. how we spend, and how we react to and handle what gets thrown in our path.

Sunday Morning 9/11/2022: Down & Out in Tennessee

We celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival (sometimes called the Moon Festival) yesterday with mixed nuts mooncakes for dessert.

I didn’t think I would be posting today, but we ended up having to cancel our getaway this weekend due to illness. Last Monday evening I came down with a very heavy cold. I was sure (and scared) I had caught Covid but daily tests all week have been negative. And, while I felt beyond miserable for a couple of days with a sore throat and stuffy head I never had a fever, headaches, or other aches and pains that might have been present with Covid. I did get to spend two full days though doing nothing but blowing my nose, sneezing, and feeling absolutely awful. We had pretty much decided we wouldn’t be able to go away this weekend but by Wednesday evening I thought maybe I was well enough to go ahead with our trip. However, just as I was feeling better M wasn’t, and on Thursday morning she came down with the same miserable cold and we ended up canceling and/or rescheduling everything for the end of October (her Covid tests have all been negative as well). Truth be told, all of us are feeling sort of grateful the trip didn’t happen as the weather this weekend has been very, very rainy and we most likely would have been miserable and not able to see and do as much as we had planned.

The big reason we’re in Tennessee. We’re glad we could help M when she was sick, and we love having K stay with us as well.

K stayed with us Thursday afternoon through Saturday so M could rest and get well enough to care for her. As always, we enjoyed having her with us. Yesterday morning we took her and M to the Morning Glory Orchard to pick up some treats, but it was pouring rain so we didn’t stay long. We were surprised by how many people were there in spite of the rain, and felt lucky to get some of their apple cider doughnuts before they sold out.

Cider doughnuts, fresh apple cider, a caramel apple, and a bag of fresh-picked apples too were our treats from the Morning Glory Orchard. The doughnuts were almost gone when we got there.

Anyway, the past week was mostly a full-on mess with either me or M sick and things having to be cancelled or changed at the last minute. Our Thursday night hotel reservations in Asheville were non-refundable, so that was a wash, but we were able to reschedule our Airbnb reservation for late October . . . for an additional cost (which we’ll split with M). It was either pay that or give up the amount we’d already paid, but October and November are peak leaf-viewing time and the weather should be better so we may come out ahead in the end. The Airbnb was almost booked solid for October and most of November, so I felt fortunate to be able to rebook at all. The Biltmore House tickets are thankfully open ended so all we have to do is call them later to change the date and time.

Someone in the warehouse chose this package to send us, but it’s for a completely different model of credenza than the one we ordered (the Carta) so we’re still back at square one.

We also had a bit of momentary excitement when we received an unexpected box from Burrow (there was never any tracking notice) and thought the missing credenza parts had finally arrived. It was credenza parts all right, but for a completely different model than what we already had! So, now we have two big boxes of unusable furniture parts taking up space in our living room. The correct box is supposedly being shipped this week, and FedEx will pick up the box in the picture above tomorrow. I am trying to stay hopeful, and have received apology after apology from Burrow, but we are about at the end of our rope with whole mess.

Anyway, this morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) All the coffee giveaway packages were packed up and mailed off to the winners on Tuesday! Congratulations again to the winners. 2) Even though I was sick, I reorganized our pantry on Tuesday so that things are easier to find and access. We had been putting things in there somewhat randomly and it was getting near impossible to find and get things out, or even remember what we had in there at times. The pantry we have now is about 1/2 the size of the one we had on Kaua’i so it’s been challenging, but I’m grateful we have a pantry at all because there is so little overall storage space in the kitchen. 3) Although I now have to wait a couple of weeks because of my cold, I have an appointment to get my next Covid booster. Brett got his this past Tuesday.
  • What we’re looking forward to this week: We’re expecting a somewhat quiet, normal week and are grateful for that. I plan to get my TN driver’s license, and we want to take Kai to the vet, but otherwise we have nothing on our calendar.
A Japanese-American Labor Day feast! That’s iced tea in the glass, not scotch.
  • What we ate and how we exercised: I didn’t get a lot of exercise this past week for obvious reasons. Other than Sonic burgers and shakes one evening, meals stayed small and healthy: teriyaki chicken along with corn, sautéed mushrooms, and broccoli that M prepared for us on Labor Day (so delicious!); a roasted pepper, onion, and Italian sausage pizza; Trader Joe’s Kalua pork spring rolls and coleslaw; beef Polish sausage sandwiches, tater tots, and cucumbers; and BLTs and chicken noodle soup soup. Brett and I agree one of the best things we did when we moved here was buy an air fryer – it has been making meal prep so easy for us.
  • The ways we saved: This was not the best week for frugality because of the trip cancellations, but I’ll take the small wins we did have. 1) Brett bought allergy meds for me at Costco this week, some pumpkin streusel muffins for our trip and future desserts (they’re currently in the freezer), and we bought a few things at the orchard, but otherwise we had a no-spend week. 2) We didn’t put anything into the change/$1 jar. 3) No food was thrown out this week.
  • Good things that happened: 1) The two Camille Izumi Page prints arrived from Kaua’i and were framed and hung. They are as beautiful as we hoped and it feels good to have something Hawaiian to look at every day. 2) The new chair pads I ordered on ETSY also finally arrived this week. We gave our old cushions to our DIL but then it turned out our new dining room chairs needed cushions as well. The seller’s work is impeccable but her shipping game left much to be desired. 3) My (delayed) high school 50th reunion was held this weekend, and a friend that attended sent me the link for the class book that was created so I could see where classmates were and what they’ve done over the years. We’ve sadly lost a few classmates, and there were several others who were missing from the book (including me), but I had fun looking back and remembering.

The death of Queen Elizabeth was always inevitable, but feels almost impossible and I’m still having trouble believing she is no longer with us. While Elizabeth was never my queen. she became queen the year I was born and was crowned the next year, and with her death a constant in my world has been lost. She was a remarkable woman who took her role seriously and led a truly admirable life of service right up until the end. My childhood career goal was to marry Prince Charles and follow Elizabeth as the Queen of England, but Camilla will now get to fill that role. SIGH. Talk about playing the long game.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt this glad about being done with a week, but both Brett and I are ready to get on to the next. Being laid up did allow me to finish two books, but otherwise it was time I’m mostly happy to have behind me. Here’s to a good, productive week full of good things coming up!

Too Many Expats?

Our friend Denise posed a great question last week in a comment: I would be curious to hear your thoughts about expats, and specifically why you are opposed to a larger expat population where you settle. I attempted to answer the question in a reply to her comment, but realized that the answer required not only more room but quite a bit more thought on my part.

The number and presence of expats we encountered in San Miguel de Allende was a new experience for Brett and me. We have wracked our brains and memories trying to remember any other location we’ve visited where we encountered so many foreign residents. We know that large expat communities exist in cities like Florence, Bordeaux, or Lisbon but we never encountered any Americans or Canadians in any numbers other than on the wine tours we took in Bordeaux (one of my fondest memories there is the young American girl who sat next to us on the tour bus so, she said, she could hear American English spoken. She’d been in Bordeaux for almost a year and missed hearing and speaking English. We included her in our conversation both coming and going on the tour and had a great visit). We’ve visited Japan many, many times but rarely run into other expats during our stays, and certainly not in the concentrations we encountered in San Miguel de Allende. Expats seemed to be present everywhere there, in restaurants, shops, markets, walking down the streets, etc. We ate in restaurants where every customer was an expat or tourist, and the waiters spoke English to everyone. We walked down streets of Centro and other neighborhoods and heard nothing but English spoken. Other than the gardeners and other occasional workers, we heard only English in the condo complex where we stayed. Everyone we met or encountered was nice, and the easy availability of English certainly made our time in SMA easier, but it was a strange experience for us and in the end one of the things that put us off living there in the future.

San Miguel de Allende is not an especially big city although it is expanding and growing. It’s a charming place to visit, full of history, bright colors, colonial architecture, beautiful churches and parks, extensive shopping, and a lively and affordable restaurant scene. The cost of living, compared to the U.S., is enticingly low, but it’s actually one of the most expensive cities in Mexico. Americans have been coming to SMA since the post-WWII years, when GIs came to live in SMA and study art on their GI bill funds and Stirling Dickinson opened the Instituto Allende. The city is now a haven for artists, and after being named the Best City in the World in 2021 by Condé Nast Travel & Leisure, it’s a place tourists, both foreign and local, feel they need to see. So many had sung its praises that we felt we should experience it too. Many visitors, especially retirees, fall in love with the city while they are there and decide to relocate. There are real estate offices all over the place, and building going on everywhere as the city expands to fill the need for housing. Prices are climbing however – currently the median price of a colonial home in Centro has risen to over $500K.

The number of expats and tourists we encountered in SMA reminded us somewhat of our time on Kaua’i and the changes we saw happening. We had the unique experience of living there for around a year while the island was closed to tourists, and then witnessing how quickly things changed as visitors, mainland investors, and wealthy retirees returned when the island opened back up again. The explosion of the island housing market was one of most noticeable changes, with prices rising into the stratosphere as properties were snapped up at inflated prices. Young, local families became completely priced out of the market. Also, once-quiet venues and beaches became filled with visitors who didn’t want anyone, local or otherwise, messing with their “Kaua’i experience.”

Encountering so many American or Canadian expats in SMA, I often thought, Do you know you are changing things here? Like pebbles tossed into a stream, expats cause places to change in ways that might not be immediately recognizable or affect them. While the cost of living might be low for an expat, the prices that locals pay for housing, for food, for other necessities go up, sometimes rapidly. Local water sources and other infrastructure become more strained, and traffic in and out of cities, and in the city centers, becomes crowded and often stop and go. Expats do bring benefits to a city, including charitable efforts, but those benefits can be harder to see or not seen at all until after a long time has passed. We weren’t especially looking for it, but during our time in SMA we didn’t see a whole lot of exchange between expats and the local community other than on the surface. Expats tended to cluster with other expats, although we know it did go deeper than that in some cases.

Will we cause things to change by moving to Mazatlán and becoming expats? Of course. Will there be lots of other expats there? Probably. We look forward to meeting some of them, making friends, and learning from those who have lived there for a while. But we’re also hoping for numbers where expats are not to be found everywhere, every day, in every place we go. Our goal will be to find ways to make a positive impact on our new location, to add to it versus just reaping the benefits, and to get to know our neighbors.

The number of expats in San Miguel de Allende was uncomfortable for us. While we weren’t looking for some “authentic Mexican” experience while we were there, we were unprepared for the numbers and presence of Americans and Canadians we encountered. We are educating ourselves about Mazatlán now so we know what to expect, where we might want to live, and so forth and educating ourselves to fit into the culture rather than having the culture fit us.

Sunday Morning 9/4/2022: Heading Towards Fall

(Sorry for the delay today – my publish function didn’t want to cooperate!)

We have a winner, or rather three of them! Using the Random Name Picker, the first place winner for a bag of Mexican flavored coffee is Carol, second place is Beautea97, and third place is Linda from Practical Parsimony! Congratulations to all! As soon as I hear from Carol with her choice of coffee flavors, I will contact Beautea97 for her choice between the remaining two, and then Linda will receive the flavor that’s remaining. Thank you so much to everyone who entered – it took me quite a while to get all the entries loaded into the Name Picker!

Pumpkins were ripening at the Morning Glory Orchard

Fall arrives this month! Other than our time in Europe in 2018 and 2019, this will be our first sustained fall season in quite a while. There were seasonal changes in Hawaii, but they were subtle and we had to pay careful attention to notice and enjoy them. I’m genuinely looking forward to some cooler weather and also fixing some heartier meals and soups. We’re going to “upgrade” our tiny patio in the next couple of weeks; that is, find a couple of inexpensive patio chairs and something to go up against the railing so Kai can’t escape. We want to be able sit outside the next couple of months to enjoy the cooler weather and watch the leaves on the trees behind us change.

The wait for our credenza continues. No one, neither FedEx nor Burrow, knows what happened or where the missing package is. Burrow has been very good about communicating with me and I could tell this past week they were almost frantic about the situation. They finally decided to ship another whole unit to us and pick up the half credenza we currently have. Brett and I thought about canceling the order but we like everything about this piece of furniture – the style, quality, wood, and price – and we are willing to wait for a new one. I’m of course unhappy about the delay, but Burrow has stayed on top of it and communicated regularly while they tried to figure out what happened.

We aren’t doing anything this Labor Day weekend, but next weekend, along with M & K, we’ll be going on a short road trip to western North Carolina. We’re leaving on Thursday after we pick up K from school, spending the night in Asheville, then visiting Biltmore House and Gardens on Friday morning (in two groups so that someone remains outside with Kai). Friday afternoon we’ll drive over to Grandfather Mountain and walk across the mile-high Swinging Bridge, then head up to Boone where we’ve rented a lovely Airbnb for two nights. Saturday morning we’ll drive some more of the Blue Ridge Parkway and visit Blowing Rock and the Blue Deer Bakery before heading back to Boone for the evening. We’ll leave to come home on Sunday morning. There won’t be a Sunday post next week; I will catch up on Monday.

This morning I am thinking about:

Kai calmly sat outside the entire 45 minutes it took for Brett to get his driver’s license. He wagged his tail for everyone but otherwise was pretty shy. He’s getting his fur cut in a couple of weeks as he’s starting to look shaggy.
  • What we accomplished: 1) Brett got his Tennessee driver’s license last week. I was supposed to get mine at the same time, but it took Brett 45 minutes (while Kai and I waited outside) so I will get mine this week. I tried to make an appointment, but the first opening was November 1, so I’ll just have to stand in line and wait my turn. 2) We visited the Morning Glory Orchard on Thursday and had a great time there as well as a wonderful drive through the countryside (and also learned a couple of new things about the area). 3) I finally got around to filing a claim with our insurance for the medication I bought over the counter while we were in Mexico. Lots of paperwork and copies, but it’s on its way. 4) Otherwise, there were no big accomplishments this past week except to plan our getaway, which was fun. Hot weather or thunderstorms kept us mostly indoors, so much reading and relaxing got done, and a very cute little dog was played with and walked.
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: Brett’s parents, grandparents, and other ancestors came from the area we’ll be visiting in North Carolina. I’ve heard much about it over the years and am excited about finally getting to see this part of his past. Brett hasn’t been back since he was in high school so he’s excited to revisit as well, and we think our DIL and K will enjoy Biltmore House, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and seeing some of the Great Smokies.
Peaches and blueberries are a wonderful combination in a pie!
  • How we ate and exercised last week: I decided I really didn’t want to do a separate post about our eating and exercise, and thought I could fit something into the Sunday post instead. I am so thankful these days to have a Trader Joe’s nearby – it has made cooking and healthy eating so much easier, especially since it’s just the two of us now. ALDI has helped as well. This past week we ate vegetable pizza; smoked pork sliders with four-bean salad; smoked pork tacos; spinach and artichoke quiche; meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and sautéed broccoli; and a whole bunch of leftovers for both lunches and dinner. I had a Goo Goo Cluster for my dessert on three evenings, and otherwise we enjoyed either a small bowl of Tillamook Peaches & Cream ice cream or some of the blueberry-peach pie I made on Thursday (it was supposed to be a peach pie, but the peaches didn’t fill the pie crust so I added blueberries). We ate a lot of fruit during the week as well, including apples, peaches, blueberries, and bananas. Somewhat cooler weather has meant more walking! Brett regularly gets over 10,000 steps a day walking Kai, and I’ve been joining them now that things are cooling off. So far we’re sticking to the paths and trails around our apartment complex. There’s still lots of room for improvement, but we’re on our way.
  • The ways we saved: 1) We finished up our September food shopping in August with a trip to Costco this past week so we could avoid paying sales tax. The total bill at Costco was $150 less than what I was expecting because I still calculate with Hawaii prices on my mind. We’re now stocked up for September other than picking up more produce at some point. 2) Other than Costco, a tank of gas, and our trip to the orchard we had a no-spend week. Gas prices at our Costco are now $3.24 a gallon. 3) We put $2.50 into the change/$1 bill jar. 4) I’d like to say we didn’t throw away any food, but all the produce we had put on the top shelf in our refrigerator one day froze and had to be tossed. Lesson learned though.
It’s got a weird name, but a Goo Goo Cluster has it all as far as I’m concerned: peanuts, caramel, nougat, and chocolate in perfect proportions.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) M brought back a box of Goo Goo Clusters for me from her trip last weekend. I’m not sure how she knew I like them (more like love them) and while they’re now smaller than I remember they were just as good as I remember. 2) Brett’s sister and husband will be joining us for Christmas! They want to see the girls and our son and the grandkids, so will be driving over from Texas and staying in a nearby hotel. There is going to be a lot of people here for meals and other family gatherings (all smushed into our small apartment) and M and I are already starting to think about and plan for that. 3) I got weighed at the doctor’s office and was happy to learn I gained only eight pounds since we left Hawaii in May. Otherwise everything is good, and medications and other tests have been set up (it’s my year for a colonoscopy – ugh). The vertigo I suffered from in Mexico seem to have been caused by allergies (it’s all but disappeared now) so I know what to do now to take care of that.

We have been horrified and sickened by the discovery of all the stolen top secret (and higher classification) documents at Mar-a-Lago. Watching this unfold is like watching a horror film in some ways. Brett held a top secret clearance with secret access during part of his time in the navy, and if even one of the documents he handled had been left out, even in a locked, secure room, he’d probably still be in jail. Seeing so many top secret and classified documents strewn about and learning how many were taken to Florida has been sickening. We are dreading what we’re going to know by the time this investigation is over, and how much our country and its secrets have been compromised.

That’s a wrap for this week! I hope everyone has been enjoying this Labor Day Weekend, whether that’s spending time with family and friends, or just relaxing with a good book. This long, hot summer is finally coming to an end and before we know it sweater weather will be upon us (and pumpkin spice everything, if that’s your thing). We’ve got lots to look forward to next week, and I hope everyone reading does as well!

Local Tourism: Morning Glory Orchard

Although September has arrived it’s still summer, so yesterday Brett and I decided to take a drive through the countryside to visit Morning Glory Orchard and buy some of their peaches.

The peach orchard
The apple orchards

Morning Glory Orchard is a family-owned farm in Nolensville, located about 22 miles south of Nashville, and a short distance from the cities of Brentwood, Franklin, and Murfreesboro. The orchard grows peaches and several varieties of apples, operates a large farm store and a vegetable stand, and also runs an apiary. They bottle their own hard cider and are getting started with a winery. Self-guided tours of the orchards are available until August 31 so we just missed getting to do that. The vegetable stand was also not operating yesterday but it may be not be open on Thursdays. The orchard does not offer U-pick; all produce must be purchased in the farm store.

The farm store had loads of interesting and delicious things for sale. Big tubs of chrysanthemums sat outside getting ready to bloom.

We wandered around when we first arrive to checked all there was to see, and spotted a pumpkin patch, an animal petting area, and an area set aside for private events. It seemed quite a lot goes on there, mainly on Saturdays, but during our visit on a Thursday afternoon only the farm shop was open. After checking things out, Brett (with Kaipo) enjoyed a long conversation outside with the orchard owner while I perused the farm store. He learned they do cider pressings in the fall and sell apple cider doughnuts, but only on Saturdays – we would have loved to have picked up some of those!

The drive through the countryside to the orchard and back home was absolutely lovely, full of rolling hills, thick woods, and fields (with either hay or horses). We came across several historical markers as we drove through the area surrounding Arrington on our way to the orchard and back, learning about Wheeler’s Raid around Rosecrans and Ozburn Hollow. Apparently there are nine markers just in the Arrington area, from both the Revolutionary and Civil War periods. As we drove it was not hard to imagine Civil War troops moving in the area or cavalry thundering through on their horses or soldiers setting up campsites in the open spaces.

I wanted to buy some of everything the orchard made but limited myself to honey, unsweetened applesauce, apple butter, peach butter, peach preserves (for our DIL) and some fresh peaches.

We did indulge ourselves a bit at the farm store and bought some of their site-made peach and apple products as well as three pounds of peaches. Although we’re not fond of crowds, we think a trip back on a fall weekend might just be worthwhile, if only together some of those doughnuts!

That Didn’t Take Long

Brett told me the other day that he never wants to move again. It’s not that he’s fallen in love with Tennessee, but he said he’s tired of all the packing, unpacking, setting up, etc. that goes with moving. Our last few travel experiences didn’t help his mood: the long plane flights and schedules that were changed without notice, lugging the big suitcases around, driving a big van through all sorts of crazy weather and having to unload it every evening and load it again in the morning, and on and on. At age 72 he said he’s had enough.

While I still enjoy and look forward to traveling, our experiences since we left Hawaii have left their mark on me as well, and I admit to being somewhat relieved to be settled again with our own things, even if many of those things are actually new to us. I honestly did not enjoy the whole moving part of the past few months, but also know that I don’t want to stay in Tennessee for more than two years. I know that means we’re going to have to pack up and move once again.

I’ve promised Brett though that next move will be our last, and that someone else will move us and do all the work. One of the reasons I’m so fierce about saving once again is that if we are not going to do it ourselves, we are going to have to pay someone else to pack our things, load a truck, move our stuff, and unpack at our destination. I’m all done with that part of moving.

We are 100% decided at this point that when we leave Tennessee we will head to Mexico, to the city of Mazatlán on the Pacific coast. We enjoyed our time in San Miguel de Allende, but knew that while we could happily live in Mexico, SMA was not the right place for us for a variety of reasons.

Why did we choose Mazatlán?

  • It’s beach town on the same latitude as Hawaii but with a much, much, much lower cost of living. We can easily afford an oceanside modern condo or apartment, or a house with an ocean view and Pacific breezes as well as a housekeeper (and gardener if needed).
  • We thought the cost of living in San Miguel de Allende was fantastic, but Mazatlán’s COL is even lower. We can live very well there on half of our income. The other half can be used for travel, investment, and saving. And, I can continue to afford to live there if Brett predeceases me.
  • The city has an international airport with direct flights to several American cities (two hours from Phoenix, for example) as well as Mexico City. We can fly from Mazatlán to the U.S. and either up to the northeast to see the girls, or over to Japan. We could afford to visit Japan and the girls every year as well as travel to another destination in the world.
  • Although our health and dental insurance cover us worldwide, good health and dental care are available and extremely affordable in Mazatlán. As we age, we can also afford to hire home health assistance if needed.
  • There is a large expat community in Mazatlán, but not an overwhelmingly large one like there was in San Miguel de Allende. There is a tourist season, with an influx of snowbirds and visitors, but nothing approaching the numbers of SMA or cities further down the coast such as Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco.
  • The city has well-run public transportation, and we would not need a car there (two of our daughters are already interested in purchasing our car from us).
  • Mazatlán’s weather is hot and dry. It can be quite hot during the summer and into the early fall, but the rest of the year is pleasant and warm. There are numerous walking venues, and a long, accessible beach. The city is known for it seafood, shrimp especially.

Will we move all of our stuff to Mazatlán? Yes – it would be an affordable move. We like the stuff we’ve purchased here and if it holds up we plan to keep it.

Mazatlán has everything we want, from an oceanside location to a low cost of living that will allow us to continue to travel while still being settled somewhere. We will get everything we want at a cost we can afford. We’ve got two years to go here in Nashville, but we’re back in savings mode once again so that when the time comes we’ll be ready to make our move!