#Portland: Go By (Aerial) Tram!

For many Portland residents, the aerial tram, which opened for service in December 2006, is a great big meh. For others, especially those that live below the tram route it is a nuisance and an unwelcome presence over their homes and neighborhood. For employees and patients at OHSU the service saves nearly two miles of driving up or down Terwilliger Boulevard, which winds up the front of the West Hills. For the rest of us though the tram can be a wonderful way to take in some spectacular views of the city and the Cascade Mountains.

The two tram cars are sleek, silvery, futuristic pods. The maximum load per car is 78 passengers and one operator but I’ve never been in one with it full.

We took a ride on the tram the other day because it offered a quick way down to the waterfront to catch a bus over to a nearby supermarket. The spectacular views during the four-minute ride were an added bonus. Clouds unfortunately obscured views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens, but otherwise we could see far into the distance.

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The tram is one of only two commuter trams operating in the U.S. (the other is in New York City). It was built by the city of Portland along with OHSU, and today is part of Portland’s wonderful public transportation system although it is operated by OHSU. A round-trip ride is free for OHSU employees and students, some patients, and active duty and retired military but otherwise a round-trip ticket must be purchased ($4.70) unless a passenger has a monthly TriMet passes to ride (HOP cards don’t work though). Going from OHSU to the waterfront the ride is free.

I’m not sure I’d enjoy riding the tram on a windy or stormy day, but who knows? It might be fun! On a clear, sunny day however the gorgeous views of Portland as you ride down from the top can’t be topped.

Minimalist Life, Simple Life, Happy Life

When we moved to Hawai’i back in 2014, we only shipped 4500 pounds of household goods over with us. We were ready for a simpler life, and during the four years we lived on Kaua’i we only added five small pieces of furniture, a washer and dryer, and not a whole lot more. It was enough.

Still, Brett and I often asked ourselves if we could make do with less. The answer was always no though, mainly because we still had two of our daughters living with us, and we were using everything we owned. However, when it came time to prepare for our last daughter leaving the nest, and for us to begin our Big Adventure, we began shedding items again and eventually got our possessions down to just 1500 pounds. No furniture other than two small side tables, one made from an antique hibachi and one from an antique Japanese kotatsu, and two small rugs made the cut to be put into storage back on the mainland. We sold it all.

As Brett likes to joke, these days we carry our net worth in our suitcases. While that’s not true, we do move around with very little these days. We are living a very stripped down, minimal life now, especially so this summer. Our Airbnb apartment is nicely decorated and has everything we need, up to and including a slow cooker and small hand mixer, but there are no extras, no frou-frous. We are living without a car as well, and have found that to be less hassle than we expected. Going with out a car has actually been quite freeing.

We love our life right now. We can’t get over how free and light we feel living with so little. There are no geegaws or tchotchkes to dust or maintain, no books to keep track of, no car insurance to pay or gas to buy. We’re producing less trash these day. We have a basic set of cookware and enough utensils, but our cooking is simpler these days and we eat less. There is a small set of dishes but enough that we usually can get away with running the dishwasher only every other day. All purchases, clothing included, are made with purpose, and after thought and discussion.

We are also not tied down these days with loads of obligations. While we miss our family and love spending time with them and our friends, our days and our time are for the most part our own for a change, with the freedom to decide what to do each day or even if we want to do anything at all.

The best thing though about our simple, minimalist life in Portland is that we’re getting to experience and contemplate how small we can live after we eventually settle down in our own place. We may not want all those things we thought we couldn’t live without when we left Hawai’i, although I suspect we will keep most of them. But maybe not. We can see ourselves living in a much smaller space than we first imagined, even a studio apartment, as Brett and I have learned this past year about how to carve out our own spaces. Being in a truly small place doesn’t scare us any more. Being able to live without owning a car would be the icing on the cake.

Less truly is more these days. 

Sunday Morning 07/14/2019: Week 9 in Portland

Our view of Mt. Hood from our table at the Chart House on Friday afternoon – a perfect summer afternoon in Portland!

This past week was another lovely, low-key one. Earlier in the week I might have said it was almost boring, but a couple of exciting things came about to put a spring in our step. I will tell about them in a couple of weeks, but they’re staying secret for now.

I did not make it to my dental appointment on Monday because I woke up with a terrific sore throat, bad enough that I could barely open my mouth that morning let alone swallow. My throat felt a little sore on Sunday evening before I went to bed, but it was raging next morning and I knew there was no way I could manage having the dentist try to work inside my mouth (plus I was scared of infection). Thankfully the pain had mostly subsided by Monday evening which makes me think the whole thing was allergy related (and, it came back last night with a vengeance but is thankfully feeling better this morning). I have never had to deal with allergies before, but this spring/summer in Portland I’ve had to deal with a drippy nose, stuffed sinuses, now these sore throats. Anyway, my dental appointment was rescheduled to this coming Wednesday morning.

And, to sort of add insult to injury this week I went through one of my bi-annual rounds of insomnia, although it seems to be over now (or at least I hope it’s over). The inability to sleep always just sort of shows up without any warning, and I’ve learned there’s nothing much I can do to end it – it’s over when it’s over. I cut back on the amount of caffeine I take in, read before going to bed and avoid other electronics (well, somewhat), but otherwise it’s something I just have to roll with it. Thankfully I usually don’t have to get up early these days for anything, and most mornings I can sleep in (although that can help contribute to keeping me up late at night), but I’m thinking this is one of those old people things that has crept up on me and that I have to deal with from time to time. My grandmother and my mom kept waking up earlier and earlier in the morning (and going to bed earlier and earlier in the evening) as they grew older which for me would be far worse than staying up late into the night because I can’t fall asleep.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m currently reading Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician by Sandeep Jauhar, who wrote a book I read earlier, Heart. We are currently living among several medical students, interns and residents and I thought this one about being a physician would be an interesting read and so far it is. I put four more books on hold at the library and am now hoping they won’t all come in at once.
  • Listening to: It’s very quiet here this morning – Brett is reading and I’m sitting here sipping my coffee and writing. There’s absolutely nothing going on outside. I sure don’t miss all the noise we put up with on Kaua’i (screaming roosters, barking dogs, etc.) although I do miss hearing the bird songs – they were lovely – and sound of the breeze blowing through the palm trees.
  • Watching: We finished Stranger Things, Season 3 (which was great but it looks like this was the end of the series), but we still have a few more episodes of Big Little Lies and Years and Years to go, and a couple more seasons of Father Brown. I thought the actor that plays Father Brown (Mark Williams) looked familiar – he played Arthur Weasley in all the Harry Potter films! Brett and I have also started watching a new-to-us season of The Great British Bake-Off that we had somehow missed before – they’re always fun to watch.
  • Cooking: We’re having chicken lettuce wraps tonight because they didn’t end up getting made last week. Tomorrow I’m fixing pork carnitas in the slow cooker with the roast we bought week before last, and we’ll be having carnitas tacos/lettuce wraps, and then we’ll have those leftovers during the week. Also on the menu will be Snake Alley Zoodles, zucchini frittata with sausages, and our Friday night pizza (with roasted tomatoes, salami, fresh mozzarella and basil this week).
    There were no strawberries this week, but we did get raspberries, blueberries and boysenberries at the farmers’ market as well as zucchini and a bunch of red onions.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We went to the farmers’ market on Tuesday for some more berries and also picked up some red onions and zucchini. On Thursday we picked up a Zipcar and accomplished what is hopefully our last Portland Big Shop at Costco and Trader Joe’s. If we run out of anything after this we’ll head to the downtown Safeway, or Brett will stop at the NW Trader Joe’s after his calligraphy class. Other than getting my goals card filled in for another week I don’t think either of us accomplished any other notable things – neither of us felt particularly ambitious.
    No flowers from the farmers’ market this week as every bouquet contained goldenrod (= allergies), but we did salvage the chrysanthemums from last week’s bouquet to add to a bunch of lovely purple tulips from Trader Joe’s.
  • Looking forward to next week: We want to visit the Oregon Zoo while we’re here, and hope to go one afternoon this week as it’s always fun – we’re sad though that the Zoo Train is no longer operating. Whether we go will depend on the weather because we don’t want to go if it’s too hot or raining. Otherwise we’re just going to take it easy and see what we feel like doing each day.
    We enjoyed adult beverages and . . .
    . . . “small” plates at the Chart House. The above is kim chee fried calimari and baby octopus, and we also had fried artichokes, seared ahi nachos, and chicken lettuce wraps. Everything was delicious!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had an absolutely wonderful time at the Old People’s Happy hour with our friend Joan on Friday. The view from the Chart House was magnificent, and for not a whole lot we each had a drink and shared four tasty small plates. The conversation was pretty wonderful too. Our daughter-in-law sent us lots of photos from their getaway last week – they went RVing (a rental) on the Izu Penninsula. I did not know RVing was a thing you could do in Japan, but apparently it is. YaYu’s pictures from the outing were nice as well – on their last day they visited a mountain top amusement park shrouded in fog that looked like a set from the movie Spirited Away! I got to talk with all three of the girls this week, which is always a treat. Meiling always has a cooking question or two these days, WenYu is living the good life, but YaYu is feeling a bit homesick.
    We filled the back of our Zipcar when we did our Big Shop last week.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I’m not quite sure how we managed it, but we actually spent less than budgeted on our big shop, even though we added a couple of items that were not on our lists. Otherwise we did our usual frugal things, like having as many no-spend days as possible, eating all our leftovers, and not throwing away any food, and we put $11.13 into the change/$1 bag.
    Brett spotted a big bush of ocean spray buried deep in the forest near our place – beautiful! (However, these days I can’t walk through the forest without wondering if anything out there might possibly be causing allergies!)
  • Grateful for: I’ve been so thankful for the beautiful weather we enjoyed so far this summer and hope it continues. The mornings have been cool and a bit overcast changing to sunshine and warmth in the afternoon. I’m pretty sure we’re going to get some high temperatures later in the summer, but for now I grateful for the perfect sleeping weather, and good weather for enjoying being outside in the afternoon.
  • Bonus question: If you were given $1000 that you could spend only on yourself, how would you use it? This question came up again this week, and after some thought I came up with two answers. I would love to just give it away, but if I can’t I have always admired southwest Native American silver and turquoise jewelry and $1000 would buy something very nice, maybe a necklace and a bracelet or some earrings. On the other hand, I really don’t need more stuff so it’s more likely I would spend it on an experience. After some thought I decided I would probably put it toward a luxury spa getaway in a beautiful setting because not only would I be spending all the money on myself but I’d be getting to travel a bit as well. Going to a spa is not an experience that I would have chosen in the past, but these days I think I’d like the chance to be completely pampered and come away from somewhere feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, along with maybe having learned a few new ways to take better care of myself. (Brett couldn’t answer this question, by the way – he couldn’t think of anything other than a couple of small items he needs/wants).

We are well over the halfway mark of our stay in Portland, with just a little over six weeks left to go in the Rose City. There are still people to see and places to go and things we want to do, but overall it has been a wonderful visit so far and we’re looking forward to the time we have remaining. Future plans are beginning to settle into place but we’re already glad we’ll be back in Portland next December (even if the weather will most likely be miserable).

I hope you all had a great week and that lots of good things happened for you! Can’t wait to see and hear what this coming week brings.

#Portland: The Japanese Garden

Peace, serenity, and harmony weave themselves throughout Portland’s Japanese Garden

“This is a place to discard worldly thoughts and concerns and see oneself as a small but integral part of the universe.”

Brett and I knew that no stay in Portland would be complete without a visit to the Japanese Garden, located in Washington Park in the west hills. The Garden overlooks the city and yet is a world away, transporting visitors to a soothing location where they can relax, unwind, meditate, and realize a sense of peace and harmony no matter the season or the weather. The tranquility of the Garden envelops you the moment you enter, and everyone who enters seems to slow down in order to be able take it in.

There’s an leisurely climb from the ticket office through stands of Douglas fir to the garden’s entrance gate.
Seating is placed throughout the garden so that visitors can not only stop to rest but reflect on the views as well.
Heavenly Falls is one part of the double-level Strolling Pond Garden. As in all Japanese gardens, although everything appears to be completely natural, each part of the setting and each stone and plant was carefully designed and placed for maximum effect.

Designed in 1963, each section of the garden incorporates the three main elements of Japanese garden design: stones, water, and plants with stones forming the bones of the landscapes, water the giving the garden its life force, and plants providing the fabric of the four seasons. The Portland Japanese Garden contains eight distinct garden styles ranging from a traditional tea house to a raked rock garden to meandering streams and a spectacular view overlooking the city. Each garden design is asymmetrical, and presents an idealized form of nature within human scale so that visitors feel a part of nature versus overwhelmed by it. Seating is placed throughout the garden so that visitors can stop to reflect on different views and landscapes as they rest.

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The cost to enter the garden is $18.95 per person for adults, $16.25 for seniors aged 65 or older, students are $15.25 and children $13.25. Although the price seems rather steep, it is very easy to lose track of time once inside – Brett and I easily spent more than two hours wandering through the garden, often stopping to sit for a while to take it all in. The Garden also has two gift shops and a restaurant, and visitors are allowed entrance into the art exhibits that are shown in the Pavilion Gallery. The Garden has a parking lot at the bottom of the hill but Brett and I rode public transportation to the Oregon Zoo and then took the free shuttle over from there.

All the roses throughout the test garden are in bloom in June, Portland’s Rose Festival month, and the garden is full of sensational aromas.

Located at the bottom of the hill, and across the parking lot from the Japanese Garden is the International Rose Test Garden, containing over 10,000 rose plants of over 650 different varieties. Rose cultivars are sent to the garden from all over the world to be evaluated. It is the oldest rose test garden in the United States, and roses are in bloom from April through October. Admission to the garden is free.

My favorite roses are always the multicolored ones.
Both Brett and I named this rose our favorite, the Coretta Scott King, a grand floribunda.

Livin’ La Vida Lo-Carb

Zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) topped with meat sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese

I knew before we arrived in Portland that I needed to change how and what were eating because both Brett and I had been steadily gaining weight ever since we left Hawai’i. During our time on the road we indulged ourselves in delicious bakery items, telling ourselves that other countries used less sugar so how bad could it be? We were in France, we told ourselves – we were supposed to eat pastries! We were in Italy – we were supposed to eat gelato and pasta! We enjoyed a big glass of wine every evening (because we were in Argentina! in France! in Italy! in Australia!), often along with a treat of some kind. We ate rice or noodles almost every day in Japan but told ourselves it was OK because we were walking a lot and also eating lots of vegetables and fruit.

However, in spite of all the walking we did, in spite of there being less sugar, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the calories and carbs we were consuming. We gained weight, for me to the point I was often very uncomfortable in my clothes.

I decided that once we arrived in Portland, we would try going back to low-carb eating once again. I had lost weight and shaped up when we lived in Hawai’i but only when I limited my carb intake, and doing so was much easier than counting calories or points or eating vegan or whatever. I also wanted to get back to drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, and make sure we kept up with our walking.

It’s now been eight weeks since we arrived in Portland and embraced La Vida Lo-carb once again. I have no idea whether we’ve lost any weight or how much, although my clothes seem to be less uncomfortable. I have more energy these days too.

Nonfat plain Greek yogurt with berries is a frequent breakfast – the peach was a special treat!

Sticking with a low-carb diet has been easier than it was back in Hawai’i. There is a wider array of foods to choose from in Portland that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and we can find substitutes for rice and noodles that could were often difficult to find on Kaua’i. I feel too that I can now better figure out how to make substitutions when we’re on the road again, and know how to include some higher-carb foods once in a while without going overboard.

Avocado on thin-sliced whole grain bread topped with a poached egg and red pepper spread from Trader Joe’s. I could eat the pepper relish right from the jar with a spoon – it’s that good.

My breakfasts these days are usually nonfat Greek yogurt with berries, a small frittata or other egg dish, or occasionally a piece of avocado toast made with thin sliced whole grain bread. Brett usually always has a bowl of oatmeal with fruit, and enjoys a bagel once a week or so.

Every once in a while I enjoy a “power breakfast” like this one: bacon, avocado slices, and scrambled eggs topped with corn & chili relish

Our lunches are often cheese and fruit or vegetables (I have to watch how much fruit I have though – it can be very high in carbs), a small bowl of vegetable soup, or sometimes leftovers. Now and then I sometimes have an open-faced sandwich on the thin-sliced bread.

Open-face tuna salad on thin-sliced whole grain bread with one cup of grapes

Havarti with dill cheese, cherry tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, and kale chips

Open-faced crack chicken sandwich with cucumber slices

We both substitute cauliflower rice now for regular rice, and zoodles for pasta or other noodles, and are fine with that. Gone from our table are bread, potatoes, cakes, cookies and other starches, although Brett still occasionally enjoys a couple of his much-loved graham crackers or Triscuits when he wants a snack. A handful of nuts are a more frequent snack for both of us these days. I make a homemade pizza on Friday evenings and enjoy one slice (Brett eats one slice and has the leftovers during the week), and we each have a small glass of wine on Friday and Saturday evenings. I measure absolutely everything these days though, and know exactly what I’m getting in the way of carbs. I’m not following any sort of keto or other low-carb plan, but I aim to keep my carbohydrate intake around 50-75 grams per day; Brett’s allowance is a little higher.

Zucchini frittata and sausages: a nearly zero-carb dinner.

All-beef Polish sausage, fresh sauerkraut and roasted zucchini is another almost zero-carb dinner.

A Mediterranean dinner with spanakopita, hummus, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and cucumber had just 23 carbs.

I also include low-carb splurges for myself every day: heavy cream whipped cream is one of my daily indulgences as is a spoonful of natural peanut butter. We also discovered grain-free low-carb granola bars (11 grams each) and low-carb chocolate bars (12 grams each) at Costco, and I treat myself to one a few times each week. I’ve yet to feel like I’m going without anything.

Heavy cream whipped cream is very low carb (and fairly low calorie too) and a sweet treat every day.

Low-carb grain-free granola bars and low-carb dark chocolate bars are a once-a-week treat.

It’s been said that it takes 21 days to create a habit, but new research says it’s more like 66 days. We’ve been eating low-carb for over 50 days now, and this time it really does seems like it may stick. I know I will indulge again now and again once we’re back on the road, but hopefully never again to how it was during our previous travels. La Vida Lo-Carb this time around seems to be a better fit for us than it was before with all the choices we have in Portland and the fact that we don’t have to feed anyone but ourselves. We’re learning lots of new tricks this time as well. We won’t know for sure if we’ve lost any weight until we visit the doctor at the end of July, but for now we’re feeling great and that’s what’s important.

Sunday Morning 7/7/2019: Week 8 in Portland

One of the spectacular views of Portland from the aerial tram on the ride down the hill.

What a nice last week we had, even though Brett had to spend a long morning at the dentist on Tuesday to get three fillings done. Otherwise we woke up when we felt like it, took care of errands at our leisure, and other than Brett’s classes we got out and operated on our own schedule – it was wonderful!

The Beatles exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society was full of amazing memoriabilia. Help! is still one of my all-time favorite movies – it never gets old. (I think I’ve seen it over 25 times, and can still quote dialog from it.)
The coat Ringo was wearing in the famous Abbey Road photo.

I have my turn in the dentist’s chair tomorrow morning, although I’m not exactly sure what she’s going to be doing. The last extraction is healing nicely, but there’s a filling that needs to be done on the next tooth over and I’m not sure if she’ll be doing that yet or getting things prepped for the bridge on the bottom. I love my dentist but I wish I had found out sooner that she wasn’t in-plan with our insurance so I could have found someone less expensive for all this work I’m having done. We have paid around $100 per filling out-of-pocket with my dentist while the out-of-pocket for all three of Brett’s filling was less than $100 after insurance! We also paid around $100 for my dentist’s extraction of my lower tooth, while the extraction of my broken upper tooth, a much more complicated procedure, only cost us $43 out of pocket because the oral surgeon is an in-plan dentist. The one thing that keeps me going to her at this point is that so much of the work I’m having done is complicated, and I’m not willing to work with someone new at this point – it’s a matter of trust (and time – Brett’s had to struggle to get appointments with the dentist he’s seeing, and I lucked into the appointment with the oral surgeon because there had been a cancellation). We’ve decided though that next time we need this much dental work we’re heading to Mexico or over to Malta.

I want to once again say thank you to everyone who entered the three giveaways. I loved and appreciated everyone’s comments. The last prize goes off in the mail tomorrow, but I’m already planning a couple more giveaways after we get back from England!

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished When We Were Orphans a couple of days ago, and while Remains of the Day remains my favorite Ishiguro novel, this one was a close second. The download for the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biography arrived the day before yesterday but so did Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting by Anna Quindlen, and Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land – three books at once! We ended up buying the Ginsburg biography for our Kindles though as it’s a huge book and there’s no way Brett could finish the hard copy in the time we were given nor could I with the download (and there was no renewal for either form of the book). This way both of us will have it available.
  • Listening to: Brett is rustling around in the kitchen, making coffee and refilling the Brita pitcher, but it’s still quiet outside. I got up very late this morning (almost noon) as I seem to be once again dealing with one of my bi-annual rounds of insomnia.
  • Watching: We continue to watch Father Brown, Big Little Lies, and Years and Years together, but right now we’re also binge watching the third season of Stranger Things. It’s as creepy as ever.
  • Cooking: I’ve got some Crack Chicken going in the slow cooker right now for our dinner tonight. I kept hearing about it, and read online that it was a low carb recipe, but when I looked it up I discovered it’s the same cream cheese chicken I’ve been making for over 20 years except there now appears to be bacon added (and cheddar cheese and green onions sometimes). The recipe will make enough that we’ll have leftovers for at least two more meals this week (lunch and dinner). Also appearing on the menu this week will be chicken lettuce wraps, cabbage rolls, a couple of big salads with shrimp, and our Friday evening pizza (Thai chicken this week).
  • Happy I accomplished this week: I don’t think I accomplished a whole lot this past week other than getting my goals card filled in. I walked/hiked every day this past week except yesterday and I can now climb the seven flights of stairs from the OHSU campus to our apartment without having to stop and catch my breath (although I’m pretty winded when I get to the top). I finally finished listing all the places we might want to visit when we’re in the Cotswolds that I’ve been gleaning from the travel book Slow Cotswolds, so that book is ready to be returned to the library.
  • Looking forward to next week: This coming Friday we are getting together with our friend Joan for an Old People’s Happy Hour at the Chart House restaurant. Happy Hour starts at 3:30, which is when we plan to be there to enjoy some tasty small plates, drinks (alcoholic and otherwise), and terrific views of Portland. I think Old People’s Happy Hours need to become a thing. As Joan says, we deserve to be happy without spending a fortune or staying out until all hours. Otherwise I’m looking forward to a pretty uneventful week.
    The history and culture of Oregon’s indigenous tribes are well represented at the Oregon Historical Society.
    An old, full-size Conestoga wagon was on display, like those that traveled the Oregon Trail.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: It was a great week for getting out and about with pretty nice weather almost all week. We had a fun time riding the tram down off the hill in order to get to the (expensive) grocery store (where we won’t be going again) and we also visited the Oregon Historical Society museum on Friday. We not only experienced the wonderful Oregon history exhibits but a totally FAB Beatles exhibit as well (we couldn’t resist buying ourselves a Yellow Submarine shopping bag). On the Fourth of July we had front row seats on the Kohler Pavilion balcony, and although our view of the fireworks was partially blocked by a large pine tree, the effect of the fireworks through the tree turned out to be quite beautiful. We gorged ourselves on fresh Oregon berries this week, and also scored another lovely $5 bouquet at the OHSU farmers’ market.
    Love our new shopping bag . . .
    . . . and our beautiful $5 summer bouquet from the farmers’ market.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: The tram ride down from OHSU was free, but when I went to purchase a ticket to ride back up I discovered only round-trip tickets were sold. When I told the woman that I lived at the top and only needed a one-way ticket, she gave me a complimentary pass – sweet! Unfortunately our trip to Zupan’s market on Tuesday was not frugal because everything there was very expensive, although I did appreciate the market’s selection of local, humanely raised meats. We received a nice senior discount on our admission to the Historical Society museum. After our museum visit we headed over to the nearby Safeway to buy some Tums (calcium!) and I found a two-pound boneless pork roast with an additional 30% off sticker on the already reduced price for the roast. The original price was $9.88; we ended up paying only $4.14. Berries were on sale this week at the farmers’ market so we bought six pints, mixing up the varieties. We put $6.89 into our change/$1 bill bag, and all leftovers were eaten and no food was thrown out except for a tiny bit of grated Parmesan cheese that had started to develop mold.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are feeling thankful these days for the opportunity to be “tourists” in our old home town, enjoy the summer here, and be able to once again appreciate all that Portland has to offer as well as some other beautiful places in Oregon. This is a great location for us to rest up between travels, reconnect with friends, and we’re grateful we have a few more weeks left to go!
    Oregon berries are at their peak! We bought four different kinds at the farmers’ market last week: strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, and blueberries.
  • Bonus question: What are your favorite fruits? Another questions I’ve probably answered before, but I absolutely love all summer fruits and most tropical fruits. Berries, melons, peaches, plums, cherries, papayas, mangoes, and so forth put me in my happy place. These days though I’m paying close attention to how much of them I eat as they contain a lot of carbs. The only summer fruit I’m not particularly fond of these days are fresh apricots. We had a big tree in our yard when I was little, and while I loved my mom’s canned apricots the fresh ones never interested me much and still don’t. I’ve only also recently become a fan of nectarines and can’t give a good reason now why I didn’t care for them before. This summer I am especially missing the dragonfruit that was so plentiful and cheap at the farmers’ market on Kaua’i. I’ve seen them here for $6 each – no thank you! When I was younger I loved most winter fruits – oranges, tangerines, pears, and apples but not so much these days (although I do love a perfectly ripe Bartlett or red pear).

Finally, our former home on Kaua’i is for rent again – I guess the family that lived there could only manage a year. The landlord still has the rent priced way too high, and now will only include lawn care and trash pickup with a year’s lease (although trash pickup is included in the annual property taxes – he is not charged extra for it). He started out on Craigslist with the same illegal ad as the last time, but someone higher up must have called him on it because we noticed a few days later he had changed the two things that were problematic. Seeing the photos of that house again only made me shake my head – I liked the house and I miss Kaua’i, but am glad we no longer have to deal with that landlord.

I hope you all had a great week and are looking forward to the one coming up, and that loads of good things happened for you too!

We Have a Winner! Giveaway #3

There were 62 qualifying entries for the kitchen set from Japan, and after inputting all the names the random name picker chose:

LAUREL!

Congratulations!

Laurel: I will be contacting you by email to get your mailing information, and will send off your package at the beginning of next week. 

Thank you to all again for entering the giveaways and for all your lovely comments – I enjoyed reading all of them. I honestly wish I had a prize for everyone who entered, but I am planning to do another one or two in December, when we’re back from England!

The Fourth of July

Independence Day this year feels a bit different to me. I’m experiencing all sorts of emotions these days whenever I think about my country: sometimes confusion, sometimes frustration or fear or disbelief or anger or discouragement. I know others feel differently, but to me that’s one of the things that makes America what it is, that we can feel these things, express them without fear, and still love our country deeply. Although at times nothing feels normal or right, I believe there still remains in this country at the core a true national spirit of courage, integrity, sacrifice, liberty and independence. Although it seems at time we’ve lost our way, maybe we’re just awakening to or coming to terms with a new way, and change is never easy.

Brett and I will be enjoying some red, white and blue Oregon berry parfaits after dinner, and walking over to the OHSU campus a little later in the evening to see if we can catch some of the fireworks displays happening around the city. It’s actually supposed to be clear enough this year to see them (because typically in Portland the clouds go away right around July 5).

Wishing everyone a very happy 4th of July!

Closing Out the Books For June

After the spending madness of May, we had a MUCH better month in June, and took our daily spending average down by little over 50% from $74.46 to just $35.77!

The main reason for this huge drop in the daily average was that we had lots and lots and lots of no-spend days in June. With our pantry, fridge and freezer filled to overflowing at the end of last month we didn’t spend as much on groceries, and we kept our other discretionary spending low as well.

Our June spending (or lack of it) has helped to give us an idea of what things might look like once (if) we eventually settle down. We’re doing fine without owning a car, and our few car-sharing or rental costs have been quite low when averaged out over the month. Housing expenses are not included in our daily spending average, but they’re a little lower than average right now as well. All we currently pay is monthly “rent” for a great apartment in a great location, but without the additional expenses of taxes, utilities, WiFi, cable, etc. There are also no maintenance costs.

We will have the expense of our getaway out to the coast coming up in July, although our Zipcar (along with gasoline) and our lodging were paid for in June. We have some other activities for the month on our list as well that will require admission fees and such, and we will be making another trip to Costco in a couple of weeks which always brings up the monthly average for a while. However, we’re mainly going to keep doing what we have been which should still keep things below our self-imposed spending ceiling for another month.