March Odds & Ends

Another small group of things from March that were not enough for an individual post:

New sunglasses and reading glasses.

  • I have my makeup and new glasses all pretty well figured out now, although I’m still walking into stores with my sunglasses on and wondering why everything stays dark. Four pairs of readers was the ideal amount – I always have a pair nearby no matter where I am: red in the living room, blue in the bedroom, aqua at work, and pinkish-red in my purse.
  • We’ve had somewhat low water pressure since we moved in to our apartment last summer, but a couple of weeks ago the pressure suddenly dropped even more throughout the apartment and the kitchen water faucet and sprayer just sort of went crazy – the faucet got stuck in spray mode (we have a pull down spray nozzle) and started spraying in all directions, creating a mess every time we needed to use the faucet. Maintenance came the day after Brett called and we got a new hot water heater, a new kitchen faucet, new bathroom faucet, and new fancy shower head. The hot water heater had apparently been the problem – it was old and internal corrosion was clogging up everything and causing low(er) water pressure throughout the apartment. Everything works wonderfully now! We also love not having to pay for these types of repairs.
  • Brett and I have decided we want to move to a larger apartment when our lease on this one expires this summer. Our current apartment remains uncomfortably small, especially when the grandkids are here, and there is almost no storage space – we feel like sardines packed in a can (and we have so little stuff too). For what we pay now or close to it we can get a larger apartment on the other side of the complex, which in our opinion is lovelier than the side we’re currently on and seems quieter as well. We also no longer want to live on the ground floor – we’ve had enough of the noise coming from above and also having all the noisy heat exchangers/air conditioners for the building outside our bedroom windows. If we take an upper floor apartment we can possibly have a wood-burning fireplace, something we would love and would use. We’ve talked with the main office, and can see on the first of June what’s coming available, tour a couple of the larger floor plans, and then make our choice. Our daughter-in-law and grandkids may also move to larger apartment here or they may move to a different (but close by) apartment complex, still on the way for drop-offs and pick-ups.
I love, love, love my new breadbox! Besides holding a lot, the bottom of the lid can be used as a breadboard.
  • WenYu and Meiling both surprised me with early birthday presents this month (my birthday isn’t until May). I have no idea what I did to deserve this generosity, but I received a lovely rechargeable lighted makeup mirror from WenYu, much needed because the lighting in our bathroom is awful. The mirror is about the size of an iPad, perfect for future travel. Meiling sent me the bread box I have been wanting! It’s as lovely as it looked in pictures, and the “bread clutter” on our counter has been taken care of.
  • We also had a great visit with our son while he was here. He obviously spent most of his time with M and the kids, but they took us out to dinner and he came over a couple of times to visit with us. He’ll be back at the end of April for another week’s visit, and then back again for six weeks in the summer.
It’s sort of amazing the mischief this little dog can get into in just a couple of minutes.
  • We love our little Kaipo so much, but we were having an awful time keeping him from tearing up everything, from his toys to his bed. We stopped one day at a local pet supply store and bought him a few natural chew items (dried tendons, trachea, collagen – all things that “melt” as he chews versus breaking or snapping off) to see if we could redirect his chewing. He loves them, and it’s been like having a different dog living with us, one that’s content to sit calmly in his bed and chew instead of looking for things he can rip to bits. We’ve stocked up on a few more of the items so he should be good for a while.


Want to Live Overseas? A Checklist

Clockwise from the top left: Croatia, France, Ireland, Mexico, Japan. (All photos courtesy of unsplash)

Have you ever thought about living in a foreign country? Maybe not forever, but for a few years? Have you dreamed of working overseas, or retiring to a country and/or place you love?

Brett and I were fortunate to spend six and a half years, courtesy of the navy, living in Japan, and we caught the bug for overseas living and what it can offer. After several false starts, we plan to finally make our move to a foreign country after we leave Tennessee.

There are many things to consider when thinking about where to live, and which country or countries could be a good fit. One of my favorite blogs, Poppin’ Smoke, all about military travel and everything that goes with it, had a great article a few weeks ago about all the things that need to be considered if you’re thinking about a permanent or long-term move to a foreign country.

Living somewhere is very different from visiting. I cannot stress this enough, and cannot tell you how many stories I’ve read of big moves overseas and returns to the U.S. in under a year because someone hadn’t thought through all the realities of living somewhere different. Anyone thinking of living overseas should seriously consider staying in a place for several weeks to a couple of months to get a feel for daily life before making a move. Brett and I visited and lived in places during our travels where we knew by the end that it wouldn’t work for us.

I asked Brett what he thought, off the top of his head, was the number one issue to consider when choosing where to live overseas. He said it would be the cost of living, but no, the answer is: what kind of visas are available? If there is no visa that fits your situation, then living long term in that country is not an option no matter how much you want it or can afford it. We would still jump at the chance to live in Japan, but there is no visa for retirees that would allow us to stay there for more than 90 days (our son and daughter-in-law cannot sponsor us either). Have you dreamed of retiring in England? For most, there is no visa that will allow a retiree to stay more than 180 days per year. Permission to live long term in New Zealand requires a retiree investment of $750K NZD ($470K USD) plus have an additional $500K NZD ($313K USD) in savings. Ireland also has strict monetary requirements to obtain a visa. Just because you would love to live somewhere doesn’t mean it’s possible, and research is necessary to know where on can qualify for a long-term visa, retirement or otherwise.

Below are other things that must be taken into account before making a decision about a possible move overseas:

  • Financial considerations are at the top of any list. What is the cost of living in your preferred location? Numbeo is a great website for finding current prices in almost any location. You can compare different places and see which place better fits your budget. What is the tax situation in another country? Will you have to pay income tax there? Is your retirement income exempt? Can you work there? Many retiree visas do not allow the holder to work in that country. Also, will you need or want a car or rely on public transportation? And, do you want to purchase a home in another country? If that’s your dream, what are the rules for that? What would it cost to ship your household goods to your chosen location?
  • Is there high quality, accessible health care available? If national health care is available, can you participate? If yes, when or how? If not, what kind of separate health insurance is needed? We are fortunate that our military insurance covers us anywhere in the world, but it does not include repatriation insurance (return to the U.S. for care, or of our remains if we die overseas). Medicare cannot be used for healthcare overseas, but if it’s dropped, it’s not available if necessary when back in the U.S. for a visit.
  • Are you a good fit for the culture? Are you more comfortable in a relaxed or more rule-bound culture. Japan, for example, is very rule-bound when compared to the United States, both legally and culturally. Things are often done in ways that seem foolish or don’t make sense to us, but it’s how they’re done there. Are you able to change and adjust, or tolerate different ways of looking at things? Do you speak the language of the country where you want to live, and are you willing to learn a new language or plan to stick with English (which is possible in some places)? Can you adjust to a different cuisine? And, are there other expats in the area? If so, are there too many or not enough?
  • Will the political environment of another country fit with your personal views?
  • How safe is the country you want to live in? Some places, or places within a country, are less safe than others, and it’s imperative to know where those places are.

If you’ve ever considered an overseas move, it’s important to figure out why you want to live overseas without having to rationalize those reasons to both yourself and others. Do you want the travel opportunities an overseas location might provide? Will the cost of living help your budget stretch further? Do you enjoy being surrounded by a particular culture and feel comfortable in it? Or, do you just want to get out of your native country? All of these are valid reasons for relocating to another country, but you should take the time to know why it’s the right decision for you, and why the location you’ve chosen is right for you as well.

Simple One-Pan Spaghetti & Meatballs

Every Friday evening I cook dinner for our daughter-in-law and grandkids. M has had a long week and is tired, and and we’re happy to relieve her of any cooking duties at home. I always try to make American or American-style dishes, things she typically would not make but loves to eat.

This easy spaghetti and meatball dinner was a hit with everyone, the grandkids included, who can be quite picky at times. I saw the recipe one day in my Instagram feed, and happened to have everything on hand to make it. It’s as easy as the recipe looks and we enjoyed the results (I served with roasted zucchini and bread).

I didn’t make my own meatballs, but used a package of pre-made ones from Aldi I had on hand. It would have been easy to make my own meatballs though, and the ingredients are included in the recipe.

My only suggestion is to either oil the pan well or use a non-stick spray before adding the spaghetti. I didn’t and some of the pasta stuck to the bottom of the pan and was quite crunchy – lesson learned!

(I apologize for the lack of photos but the lighting in our apartment is just plain awful, especially in the kitchen) and I have given up trying to produce something that would be useful to anyone.)


  • 12 ounces spaghetti, broken in half
  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 24-ounce jar of marinara sauce
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 cup basil pesto
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

Spray the bottom and sides of a 9″ x 13″ baking pan with non-stick spray or coat with oil. Spread the dry spaghetti over the bottom of the pan and drizzle with olive oil.

Blend the marinara sauce and water together and pour over the spaghetti. Gently mix to make sure all the spaghetti is covered with liquid.

If making your own meatballs, mix together the ground beef, breadcrumbs, pesto, and salt and pepper and form 12-16 meatballs.

Arrange the meatballs evenly over the spaghetti. Cover the pan with foil and bake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 6-8 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the tops of the meatballs are browned. If the sauce is already too thick, hot water can be added to reach the desired consistency.

Serve the spaghetti with meatballs along with grated Parmesan, and torn fresh basil leaves (if desired).

Serves four (either three or four meatballs per serving).

Working Girl

I began my job at Trader Joe’s last week, although for a few days prior I wasn’t sure whether that was going to happen or not. I got the all clear from the eye doctor, but a week before my first day I woke up and could barely walk across the room. Somehow during the night I had done something to my back (again) and it was a mess. Brett put me on bedrest for a couple of days, got me a heating pad, made sure I took pain medication on time, and by the following weekend everything was back to normal.

These are happy colors for me, making the job a bit more fun.

I went in early Monday morning, March 6, for “onboarding:” paperwork and getting entered into the system for my schedule and to get paid. I also got my “work uniform,” Trader Joe’s t-shirts and a personal bright green box cutter. I was very happy to find a t-shirt pack in my size with shirts in my favorite colors: spring green, periwinkle, light blue, and two aqua. Once in the system I was able to block out two Saturdays in April for other events I’d already scheduled – it was all very positive and super easy to do online.

The following Thursday was my first scheduled full day, from 11a.m. to 7 p.m. (schedules are made for three week periods so employees can plan). I was paired with three experienced crew members throughout the day to learn the store layout, how to run the register, stock shelves, and all sorts of other things. I worked hard but it was FUN. I was initially chilly in my t-shirt, but my first partner found me a (brand new) special edition Trader Joe’s 50th anniversary hoodie which made the day a whole lot more comfortable (plus the sweatshirt looks great with my t-shirts). I especially appreciated the big kangaroo pocket – perfect for carrying my box cutter, glasses case, and a couple of other things (I ended up having to wear a pair of readers perched on my nose all day). Everyone I interacted with throughout the day, both other employees and customers, was very nice, and the positive atmosphere was something I don’t think I’ve ever experienced in a work situation before. Also, the job rotation throughout the day made the time fly by. Trader Joe’s is a happy place to work.

My special edition hoodie is very comfortable and warm, perfect for our chilly store. It also reminds me of Hawaii which of course makes me very happy too.

I left feeling tired my first day but nowhere near as tired as I thought I would be. The biggest surprise was my feet didn’t hurt at all (thank you HOKA!), and my body was only mildly sore, something a couple of Aleve took care of once I was home. My second day was another story though. The entire day was exhausting and every muscle in my body and my feet were tired and sore. I was told over and over though that the exhaustion was normal, that the second day is/was worse for everyone who works at Trader Joe’s, and that it will take a few weeks for my body to adjust as I’m asking it to do things it hasn’t done in a long, long time.

I’m working today, paired one last time with another employee to soak in as much as I can, but on my next workday I’ll be on my own for the first time. I’m already sort of anxious, and know I’ll be asking A LOT of questions all day long.

The employee discount is fantastic (the benefit I was most excited about) – Brett and I shopped after I finished last Saturday and were very pleasantly surprised by our total after the discount was applied. I plan on buying more of our groceries at TJ’s going forward; with the discount many if not most items will cost less than they do at Aldi (although I’ll still be shopping there as well).

I’m going to stick with a two-day/week schedule for the time being, probably until after we get back from Meiling’s wedding this summer, and then may bump it up to three days a week.

My first impressions are that the job seems like it will be a good fit for me. I’m happy to be somewhere where I’m busy all the time but get a nice, long lunch break, and out of the house for a couple of days a week. Brett is fine handling the extra grandchild duties. I’m also getting some good exercise and interacting with lots of nice people; I enjoy the work environment and that lovely discount; and of course a little bit of money will be coming my way as a sweetener. It’s everything I hoped for.

What Could I Do Less Of?

With simplicity our watchword for the year, I’ve been wondering if maybe this was a good time to think about doing less of some things. I’ve typically always asked myself what I could do more of (decluttering, saving, exercising, etc.) so What could you do less of? sort of threw me off balance at first.

I think I eat just about the right amount, don’t eat too many sweets, clean our apartment often enough, etc, I’m not a shopper, even online, don’t watch more than an hour or so of TV most days, and we really do have everything we need right now to get through the rest of our time here. However, I could:

  • Spend less time on the sofa. I sit or lie down way too much. From the time I have my first cup of coffee in the morning until I head to bed at night, I am mostly either sitting or lying on the sofa. It’s where I read, write, watch TV, and so forth. I need to get up off of it more frequently if to do nothing more than walk back and forth in the apartment for a while.
  • Spend less time on my laptop or phone. I had days at the end of last year where I was glued to my phone practically all day. I play a couple of games on my phone, and sort of got carried away with them and while I don’t plan to give them up I also don’t need to spend as much time on them as I have been. Checking twice a day would be more than enough. I also became addicted to Twitter last year, but finally let that go at the end the year (post Elon Musk takeover) and I’m better for it.
  • Eat less meat. We began eating meat again when we went to Mexico, and currently eat meat most days, although no more than four ounces a day. We only have dairy occasionally (mostly cheese and ice cream), and eggs even less frequently. However, I think both Brett and I would do better eating less meat again. I loved how we felt in Hawaii when we were eating vegan and I’d kind of like to do more of that again. It’s honestly easier for me to menu plan and cook with meat though.
  • Use less energy. We’re already pretty conservative when it comes to energy use (our utility bills – Internet, electric, and water – have never exceeded $150/month since we moved into the apartment), but I keep thinking I could find more ways to use less. I’ll have to think on this one for a while though to figure out where we might be able to cut back a bit more.

After I came up with this list, I realized none of them actually made life any more simple; in fact, they actually required me to do more of other things! And, I am – I’m walking more, reading more, watching our utility usage as well as how much meat we eat. All of those are good things though, so once again, less has turned into more.

Easy Beef Pot Pie with Puffed Pastry Crust

I am 70 years and until the week before last I had never made beef stew, in my slow cooker or otherwise. I have no idea why not because it was incredibly easy and tasted fantastic. The reason I finally made beef stew now is that I needed it as the base for a beef pot pie.

I chose this beef stew recipe because I had (almost) everything it called for other than balsamic vinegar, which I just left out. I also didn’t have thyme, but substituted oregano and all was well. The recipe also called for one cup of red wine; I cut that back to half of a cup, and upped the beef broth to two cups. This allowed the wine taste to be present without being overwhelming, but the wine can be skipped entirely and 2 1/2 cups broth used instead, if desired. Otherwise I followed everything as called for. The prep was simple, and it turned out beautifully.

To keep the crust part of the pie simple as well, I topped the stew with pre-made puffed pastry. The hard part was finding frozen puffed pastry – to seemed every store was sold out of it, as if everyone was using puffed pastry for Valentine’s Day. I ended up buying the final package remaining at Whole Foods, a bit expensive but the box contained enough for two dishes making the purchase a little less painful.

Anyway, if you’re looking for an easy, hearty, and scrumptious-looking dish, this beef pot pie is a winner!


  • 1 TBSP olive oil
  • 3 pounds chuck roast cut into 1″ pieces for stew, with excess fat removed
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups beef broth or beef bone broth (I used 2 cups)
  • 1 cup dry red wine (I used 1/2 cup)
  • 2 TBSP tomato paste
  • 1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (I substituted dried oregano)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly grated black pepper
  • 6 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into chunks
  • 4 large carrots, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 pound potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes (I used small Yukon gold potatoes and cut them into fourths)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup frozen peas

Add olive oil to large skillet and heat to medium high. Add the stew meat, season with salt and pepper, and sear each piece on both sides, about 4-5 minutes to a side. Place the meat in the bottom of the slow cooker, then blend the broth, wine, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and balsamic vinegar in the skillet, scraping up the bits of beef drippings stuck to the pan. Pour the hot liquid over the beef in the cooker and add the salt and pepper, then place the garlic carrots, potatoes, and onions over the beef, and cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 4-5 hours.

Around a half-hour before serving, blend 1 cup of broth from the slow cooker into the flour with a whisk so there are no lumps. Mix this back into the beef and vegetables, and add the frozen peas. Turn the slow cooker temperature to high and cook with the lid off an additional 10-15 minutes, until the liquid in the cooker has thickened up.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pour the hot stew into a baking pan – I used a 7″ x 11″ pan -and top with a piece of cold puff pastry dough (follow directions on the package for how to handle to dough). Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust is a golden brown and crispy throughout. Let the pie sit for 5 minutes, then cut, serve, and swoon! Makes six servings.

Goodbye February, Hello March

We had a good month in February, all things considered:

  • Keep grocery spending under $450. We spent $468.21 for food in February. That would have been over budget but our daughter-in-law reimbursed us mid-month for all the snacks and meals we provide the kids (and for gasoline), so we used some of it for . . . more snacks! What was left over was used to pay for haircuts for both Brett and me, Kaipo’s grooming, the purchase a small (reconditioned) printer, and Brett and C’s outing to see the IMAX 3-D version of Antman.
  • Aim for zero food waste. I had to throw out two things in February: a bunch of broccoli that went from green to yellow (and bitter) overnight, and the small remainder of a head of lettuce that I forgot about. Everything else was used and eaten. I’ve vowed to do better next month.
  • Have one full no-spend week. We were going to have a completely no-spend week 2/19 to 2/26, but both my large mixing bowl and large baking pan broke and had to be replaced. And, Amazon had the Stasher mega stand-up bag for over $10 less than it typically costs. We’ve been wanting one to store the dog’s food, so we bought one of those as well. Total spent $61. We otherwise didn’t spend on anything else.
  • Have four no-drive days. Even having the kids with us for a week and driving them all over, we had six no-drive days in February, and only had to fill our gas tank twice.
  • Try one new recipe. I made a beef pot pie for the first time ever, using puffed pastry for the crust (and boy, was puffed pastry hard to find around here!). I made a wonderful, easy beef stew in the slow cooker (my first time for that too), then put it in a baking dish and topped with the crust. It was fabulous! I also made crusty Dutch oven bread for the first time this past month and cannot imagine making bread any other way. It’s been a winner with everyone.
  • Track my meals and calories every day on MyFitnessPal. I did not follow through with this and have decided I’m not going to continue. January was informative, but basically the good habits and portion sizing I learned before appear to be ingrained.
  • Walk 20 miles. The weather is getting better although was still all over the place this past month which made consistent walking difficult, and my recovery also knocked a few days off, but I ended up walking 26+ miles this past month.
  • Visit one natural or historical site in the area. We visited Carnton Plantation on February 3 with our grandson. It was bitterly cold that day (below freezing), too cold to wander and see things outside, but the indoor tour was interesting and informative. Eleven-year-old C was especially fascinated by the bloodstains left on the floors in the upstairs rooms (every room in the house had been utilized as a surgery for wounded Confederate soldiers). He was grossed out though by the lack of any indoor bathrooms. Even though didn’t get to do a weekend hike with the grandkids, Brett and I hiked in Smith Park, on a different trail than the last time, and had a great time and got some good exercise.
On the Black Trail in Smith Park
  • Read two books. I hoped to read at least two book this month but ended up reading four, including rereads of Band of Brothers, Grant, and Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. I began rereading Herman Wouk’s The Winds of War the last week of the month as well as Eat, Pray, Love, which I enjoyed the first time around. I’ve put several other books on hold at the library for March.
  • Study ***** every day for at least 10 minutes. I kept up with this every day and am learning and improving. I usually spend between 15-30 minutes a day with the lessons.

We put $41.06 into the change/$1 bill jar last month and the jar is now almost completely full! I was thinking it would take a year to fill the jar, but in another month or so I’m going to have to take it to take it all to the bank and start filling it again. We also received our rebate check from Costco this past month in the amount of $86.09. That amount will go into savings and we’ll use the check next time we shop.

I’m beyond happy that my eye surgeries were successful and I can clearly see distances, read signs, etc. again without glasses – YEAH! Vision in both eyes is again 20/20 except for close work, like reading or working at my laptop, and I almost cried when the doctor said my vision will stay that way for the rest of my life! Going forward, I will only need to buy inexpensive readers versus an expensive pair of prescription glasses every year.

My goals for March are pretty much the same as they were last month:

  • Keep grocery spending under $450. If all goes well, I will have a 20% employee discount from Trader Joe’s to help out.
  • Aim for zero food waste.
  • Have one full no-spend week. 
  • Have four no-drive days. 
  • Try one new recipe. With my daughter-in-law’s help I hope to make katsudon for the first time in March. It’s my favorite Japanese dish, a fried panko-breaded pork cutlet topped with eggs and onion, served over steamed rice.
  • Walk 40 miles. I’m kicking my walking distance back up to 40. I’m not sure whether to count the time I will be on my feet at Trader Joe’s, but during my interview I was told the average distance walked during a work day there is five miles!
  • Visit one natural or historical site in the area. Our big goal this month is to go to Mammoth Caves National Park, located about an hour and a half’s drive away from us. M has a business trip to Mississippi in early March, and then our son will be here from Japan for 10 days over the kids’ spring break, and we’re going to try and fit in this trip.
  • Read four books. I am goaling myself once again with reading four books in March, with at least two of those books I’ve read before.
  • Study ***** every day for 10 minutes. I am enjoying the challenge!

Spring is starting to arrive around here, with trees blossoming or starting to bud out. It honestly can’t come soon enough for me – we had a taste of warmer weather last week and it was so lovely. I’ll be starting at Trader Joe’s next week, and we’re looking forward to our son’s visit and celebrating our grandson’s 12th birthday in March – it should be a fun and busy month!

February Odds & Ends

A few miscellaneous things too small for individual posts:

  • Grandkids: We spent quite a bit of extra time with C and K this month beyond our usual duties. M came down with Covid the second week of the month so we kept the kids with us as much as possible until she recovered. Getting them up, dressed, fed, and off to their respective schools in the morning was a challenge – we were definitely out of practice!! Their schedules don’t sync at all either so there was lots of driving for Brett. Both kids are somewhat picky eaters, so getting them fed was also a challenge at times but we managed. I have baked like crazy all month making cookies, brownies, muffins, and cakes for some of their snacks, and have vowed to be better prepared next month. For those who might wonder, we are generously reimbursed for gas, snacks, etc. every month even though we don’t ask for or expect it.
  • Eye surgery: My first surgery went very well, with a much faster and easier recovery than I expected. The almost-immediate improvement in the eye that was done was absolutely remarkable – I have 20/20 vision in that eye again. The other eye will be operated on tomorrow morning. I cannot wait to get all of this over and get new glasses (for close vision) but that won’t happen until the end of March, when both eyes have fully healed. In the meantime all I need now are inexpensive reading glasses.
  • Breadmaking: Count me in as the latest convert to no-knead Dutch oven bread. I made my first loaf at the beginning of the month and it was instant love for both of us. I’ve been making a loaf per week since (the grandkids love it too), and have tried the cinnamon raisin version which we enjoyed as well. The main challenge is not to eat too much after it comes out of the oven! I’m still kind of mad at myself for taking so long to try it because it’s so easy and makes such a delicious loaf of bread. We’re also very happy with the take & bake items we’ve gotten from Whole Foods: blueberry scones, cherry turnovers, and croissants. The cost per item is the same or less than already-baked goods, but this way we get the items fresh and warm from the oven, so we’re going to continue to keep them in rotation (we have a pastry around once a week for breakfast).
  • Reservations for Maine: I made our hotel reservations for four nights in mid-coast Maine following Meiling’s and KN’s wedding this summer. At first I thought it might be too early, but some places were already sold out for the dates we wanted! We’ve reserved a pet-friendly room in a well-reviewed place that provides a site-made free breakfast every morning, and the location will be perfect for exploring up and down the coast.
  • Weight update: I was weighed the morning of my eye surgery and was very happy to find my weight far less than expected. I honestly thought I had gained a lot since we’ve been here, but even being fully clothed with shoes on my weight was only a few pounds more (less than 10) than I weighed when we left Hawaii. I don’t get as much exercise here as I did there, so all things considered I’m calling it a win. I’m very motivated now to keep up the walking and the way we eat! Brett is in good shape as well – he’s the primary dog walker and regularly gets 10,000 – 15,000 steps a day.
  • Happy birthday, Kaipo! Our little pup turns one year old on Sunday. We are so happy and grateful to have this little guy; he’s everything we hoped for when we decided to add him to our lives. I can’t get over how much he’s changed since we got him last August – his breeder said he was pretty much as big as he was going to get, but he’s actually bigger and more filled out more than expected. He’s matured in other ways as well although he still loves to chew on things (thankfully not the furniture), and is a digger – he “digs” in his dog bed and “buries” his toys under the cushion. I felt bad for a while because we don’t have a yard for him, but can see now it would either be full of holes or he’d dig himself out under the fence. Meiling sent him a box of cute, fun birthday toys the other day and he had them all chewed up or damaged in less than 48 hours. I’ve repaired them as best as I can, but we knew when we first saw them they were doomed. We still love this little guy to pieces!
  • Taiko concert: Brett and I are attending the Kodo One Earth Tour concert on Monday evening in Nashville courtesy of M and the Japanese Consulate. If it’s like any other taiko event we’ve attended it will be a very exiting evening!

The taiko: a traditional Japanese drum with limitless rhythmic possibilities. Kodo’s mission is to explore these possibilities, and in the process forge new directions for a vibrant living art-form. Since 1981, Kodo has given over 6,500 performances in 52 countries on five continents. This figure includes 4,000 performances under the “One Earth” banner, a theme that embodies Kodo’s desire to transcend language and cultural boundaries, all while reminding their audiences of the common bonds we all share as human beings. 

Time is flying by: just a few more days of this short month to go and then it’s on to March!

Our Airbnb Home

I told Brett the other day that after seven months in our apartment it still feels like we’re living in an Airbnb. I like our furniture, the personal accessories and art we kept and display in the apartment from our time in Japan and our travels, and yet it really doesn’t feel like “ours.” It feels temporary.

And to that we both said, “Good!” Temporary is where we want to be right now.

We will most likely be spending three years in Tennessee versus the original two we signed up for. Our daughter-in-law’s position is initially for two years, but most consuls stay for three, and she doesn’t feel she can accomplish what she wants in just two years. Also, they would like our grandson to finish middle school here. We’ve said we would stay for an additional year, but that’s all.

Our daughter-in-law and we have discussed moving after our leases expire this summer, either to a new apartment complex, or to bigger apartments within the complex here. Nissan has a big presence here, and there are apartments near their headquarters that she has seen and likes. There are more Japanese people living there as well, which would be more pleasant for her. But neither of us wants to pay the fees or the costs of moving our stuff to a new apartment complex. A move to a bigger apartment here would be much easier, but again there would be costs. Every time we talk about it we both seem to get to a point where we remind ourselves that where we live now is temporary; it’s not forever and maybe it would be best if we stay where we are until it’s time to go. We have six months until our leases are up for renewal, so we have time to think about it some more and decide. I would love a bigger space than what we have now, but have also come to appreciate the big positive of living in this smaller space – there’s absolutely no room to add or accumulate anything above what we currently have. M would like a bigger space now that our grandson is here, but both she and I dread the prospect of moving or doing paperwork again.

Brett and I are going to keep most of our things when we leave Tennessee. A few pieces of furniture will go to YaYu (coffee table, dining table, chairs, and side table), but for the most part we are keeping everything else and will put it into storage here. We are done with selling everything and then having to start over again somewhere else if we end up doing that in the future.

So temporary it will be for a while longer in our “Airbnb home.” Our goal for the remainder of our time in Tennessee is to be comfortable but unattached, and what we have now fits the bill perfectly. No matter how long we stayed in an Airbnb when we traveled, we eventually moved on, and it will be the same here.

Where Did My Desire To Travel Go?

Hanging up my traveling shoes for a while

The urge to travel used to grip me, fiercely and all the time. I thought about traveling constantly, and loved every part of the experience, from the early planning stages to completion (some parts more than others, to be honest). Recently though my desire to go somewhere has been somewhat missing in action and I’ve been wondering where it’s gone and why

Have I seen everything and done everything I wanted to do? Definitely not! While I’ve never wanted to see everything, I can still think of places I’d like to see, or locations I’d like to see. However, none of them creates a burning desire to travel or makes me feel impatient to get going.

Did recent bad travel experiences affect how I feel about traveling more than I realized? Our trips from Hawaii to the mainland, then down to Mexico last year were flat out awful, and those memories seem to pop right into my head any time I started to think about traveling again. Any desire to pack a suitcase, lug it around, sit on an airplane, or take a long drive anywhere just leaves me cold. For now, any travel will be with a carry-on only.

I sometimes wonder if our two “pandemic years” in Hawaii had an affect. That time now feels like a wonderful, long adventure, a long travel experience between rampant COVID, travel restrictions, and travel availability now. We always knew the whole time we were there we weren’t going to stay even though we thought about it quite a bit, and I sometimes think our time there drained some the travel bug right out of me.

Am I feeling my age more than I’d like to admit? I’d like to say I don’t feel old, but if I’m honest I don’t have the energy I once did, even a couple of years ago. Most days I want nothing more than to enjoy my surroundings, the possessions we have now, and being near family. Although we have no intention of staying permanently in Tennessee, life is peaceful right now, there are no looming changes coming up for another couple of years, and I am enjoying the calm we currently experience.

Brett and I know where we will be going when our time in Nashville is over. Most importantly, we know why we have chosen that location, and we are slowly making plans to eventually make our move. We’re looking forward to it but for now we want to enjoy where we are and learn more about the area where we’re living. We want take advantage of the time we have with family. Traveling is always going to be a part of our lives, and I know there are still places we want to see, but for now the urge to go, go, go seems to have moved to the back burner.

Life is apparently asking me to slow down for a bit, and I’m happy to oblige.