Sunday Afternoon 8/25/2019: Last Week in Portland

Portland produces some beautiful sunsets – Brett took this picture on his way home from his last night of Japanese class.

What a lovely, lazy, relaxing week this past one was! We had a busy Friday afternoon, but otherwise we didn’t do much of anything but read and rest. Yesterday and Wednesday we didn’t even leave the apartment, not even to walk (it rained on Wednesday, so going for a walk wasn’t going to happen anyway). We will have more than plenty to do this coming week, and I know we’re going to appreciate the calm of this past week.

YaYu arrives back from Japan on Tuesday afternoon. We will meet her at the airport, have dinner with her there and hand over the suitcase we’ve been storing for her here this summer, and then get her checked in for her flight back to Pennsylvania. We spoke with her this past week and she is very ready to come back to the U.S. She was paid well by her brother for her work (and she did a lot of work for them), had a good time overall but now knows that being a nanny is not her thing. Anyway, we’re looking forward to our time with her and wish we had more.

Back out of hiding . . .

Along with taking care of a bunch of final errands, Brett and I will be packing all week, and on Thursday we’ll pick up a rental car so that we can get our big suitcases out of the apartment Friday morning and over to a hotel near the airport for the night (we couldn’t reserve the apartment through Saturday as it was already reserved beginning Friday). We’ll turn the car in on Saturday and then spend a few hours at the airport – our flight doesn’t leave until after 7:00 in the evening, although we’ll check our bags in as soon as we can. We’re quite good at long airport stays now, and have things to read and do while we wait.

But . . . this time next week we will be in England! We’ve had a wonderful summer in Portland, but we’re excited to be moving on to our next destination. Visiting Great Britain has been a long-held dream for me (my ancestors on both sides come from England and Scotland) and I’m looking forward to being there for a while. We’ll be there for whatever unfolds with Brexit (deadline on October 31) and have no idea how that’s going to go or how it might affect our experience.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I stayed up late last Wednesday evening and finished Truman. It was one of the best books I’ve read, and I learned much I didn’t know before. Harry Truman was a complicated man, but the right person to be president for the time, someone who truly grew into the office, and a great American overall. I’m now reading two completely different books, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman, and Blade of the Samurai, another mystery by Susan Spann set in old Japan.
  • Listening to: It’s thankfully a quiet morning both inside and outside. I didn’t sleep well last night – I woke up around 3:00 a.m. with a knot in my stomach (nerves) over the upcoming travel, and it took me a while to fall back to sleep. I’m feeling very tired this morning and I appreciate the quiet.
  • Watching: Last week Brett and I discovered Mindhunter on Netflix and binge-watched two seasons of that (it’s about the beginnings of the Behavioral Sciences division of the FBI and understanding how serial killers develop). We are looking forward to Season 3! We finished up all the available episodes of Derry Girls and The Good Place, but the latter has new episodes available this coming week so we’re planning to watch those and hopefully will get to see them all before we check out. And then . . . we’re done with TV watching for a long while (unless we discover some great British show while we’re there).
  • Cooking: We finished almost all of the food in the house last week, but have enough for three last meals here at the apartment. Tonight we’re (finally) having teriyaki chicken, tomorrow we’re having stuffed peppers, and on Thursday we’ll have omelets with the last of any leftovers. We’re eating out on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and also on Friday – we’re thinking of maybe going over to IKEA for some inexpensive Swedish meatballs because it’s near to our hotel. On Saturday morning we’ll have breakfast at the hotel, and then we’ll eat again at the airport before boarding our flight as there is no food served on board (fingers are crossed that we’ll be able to get something to eat at the Reykjavik airport during our layover there).
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Other than finishing Truman, sticking to low-carb eating, and drinking lots of water I didn’t accomplish anything this past week.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m looking forward to spending a few hours with YaYu, although we know she will be tired and in a mood (she dislikes air travel). We’re also having dinner with our friend Joan on Wednesday evening at Higgins restaurant. We always love getting together with Joan, and Higgins was on my bucket list before we left Portland in 2014 but we didn’t make it then. I can’t say I’m looking forward to packing, but we are excited about hitting the road once again.

    Discovering that my pants were starting to disintegrate was quite a surprise but I ordered a new pair and am ready to go!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett got the results back from his last round of medical testing and everything looks good. The doctor had seen something in his initial blood work that could have been an indicator for some not-so-good things, so she requested more testing, but none of the subsequent tests have shown any issues that would indicate problems – everything has been within the normal range. He has an appointment with the doctor tomorrow morning and hopefully he’ll get the official thumbs up from her, although we know the issue is something that’s going to have to be watched going forward. One initially not good thing was that I discovered one morning that a pair of my black Perfect Fit pants were beginning to disintegrate! I realized though they were over eight years old and had gotten a LOT of wear over the years so I guess it was time. I ordered a new pair from LL Bean and they arrived in two days so I am ready to go.

    Our last box from the farmers’ market, this time with apricots and plums! How lucky we were to enjoy so much sweet and tasty local fruit this summer.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Brett went over to the farmers’ market on Tuesday and bought fruit and cherry tomatoes, we rented a Zipcar for our visit to Pittock Mansion and to drop off our recycling on Friday, bought two hand-thrown pottery souvenir coffee mugs at Pittock Mansion, and picked up a very few things at the grocery store on Friday to get us through our last days here, but otherwise we had five no-spend days this past week and our daily average for the month is just over $26. We have pretty much finished up all our food, and will only be leaving behind a little bit of vegetable oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, and some ketchup and mustard. (Having to buy new pants was not particularly frugal, but they were necessary and paid out of our clothing fund. I’m hoping they will last at least eight years too!)

    I will definitely be buying more big bags of mugi cha when we’re in Japan next year.
  • Grateful for: It’s often the big things we think of when we think of gratitude, but this week for me it’s one of the little things that has helped make my summer more pleasant. I’m so thankful I found that big package of mugi cha (roasted barley tea) at Costco in Japan because I’ve been able to enjoy it every day all summer long. I still can’t get over how much I detested mugi cha the first time I tasted it (I gagged) because it’s now one of my favorite things to drink and very refreshing. Finding that big package in Japan made it a very affordable treat this summer.
  • Bonus question: What is the most useless thing you ever learned how to do? I have to go back to the navy again for this one, but in my “A” school I learned how to test and replace vacuum tubes. This was in 1977, and the navy was not even using vacuum tubes by then but we still had to do the section as it hadn’t been removed from the curriculum. That was a week of my life I’ve never gotten back. Thankfully my job after finishing “A” school was fairly interesting although the skills I used have turned out to be pretty useless as well. I operated a flight simulator that trained naval flight officers, doing air traffic control for their “takeoffs” and making sure they took off correctly and knew what to say when and how to talk with air traffic control during their “flight.” Also high on my list of useless things was learning to do various math problems longhand back in the day like finding the square root of a number, calculating the slope of a line, etc. – yeah for calculators these days! I still do long division in my head sometimes though as well as some other simple algebraic formulas so those didn’t turn out to be as useless as I thought they were at the time.

    We used a machine like this to test vacuum tubes. I might as well be trying to read Greek these days.

There won’t be a Sunday post next week because we will still be flying for most of day (our flight leaves Portland on Saturday evening) or settling in at our hotel near Heathrow for some much-needed sleep after we arrive in England. I’ve been in touch with our host and we’re set to check in once we arrive in Blockley on Monday. I’ll post again once I feel settled.

Finally, this past week I got a Facebook message from someone in Hawai’i I initially didn’t recognize. It turned out to be from the people who had rented the house we lived in after us. They too have been having loads of trouble getting their deposit back from the landlord after moving out at the end of July and are also having to deal with his lies about all the “damage” they supposedly did to the place. They asked about our experience with him and wanted to know if we had any suggestions. I said they should take him to court – their deposit was even larger than ours – and it turned out they already had the paperwork almost done and were getting ready to file. Yeah! The one thing that awful man doesn’t want to do is go to court, and we told them if they needed any help to let us know. They are a young couple from the island with LOTS of family there which may be what finally nails this greedy, immoral guy – you don’t mess with locals (and apparently at one point he had been badmouthing the couple to their family members without knowing it) – no, no, NO!

Hoping everyone has a great week!

Saving For Travel: It’s Not Just About the Money

(This article was originally posted on October 31, 2016, but because our recent budget changes I felt it was a good time for a re-post. A few minor updates have been made to the original.)

I only wish Brett and I had the kind of income where we could whip out our checkbook or charge card whenever we wanted to take a trip, and pay for it all, just like that. For us though travel takes planning, time and saving, saving, saving. All of our journeys are fully funded before we leave home.

However, saving money is only the start. Along with putting away funds we talk about: Where do we want to go and how much is it going to cost? Do we need to save $500? $1000? $5000? More? Is it doable? Realistic? Can we do it for less? When’s the best time to go? Where would we stay? How long can we afford to go away? What do we want to see or do when we’re there? And so forth . . .

That’s the thing about travel: Each trip is different and requires different things and costs a different amount. There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to traveling – we bring our own desires and expectations when we hit the road, even within in the family, and the total cost of any trip is affected by those desires and expectations. Because we don’t have that bottomless checking account, Brett and I not only put money aside but take some extra steps in order to make the most of what we have and where we’re going.

Here are some ways we successfully save for our travels and make sure we get to go where we want, have the best time possible, and don’t bust our budget:

  • Our travel plans always start with us talking about places we’d like to visit and then making a mental list of places we’d like to go, whether we’ve been there before or they’ve been on our “someday” list. We’re not the most spontaneous people when it comes to travel, so we prioritize our list by starting with places and people we’d regret never getting to see down to locations we’ve always been curious about or that make sense to visit since we’ll already be in the area. We allow our list to change whenever new information comes up so that sometimes places we wanted to visit in the past can seem less important as time passes, and other places become more interesting. Some of our destinations, like Japan, are determined by family circumstance and always go to the top of the list. I love this part of travel planning though – dreams are always free ;-).
  • I thoroughly research what it would cost to travel to places. Brett usually leaves this step to me. It takes a while, but I find doing research for travel a LOT of fun, and I always learn lots of new information and pick up tips, even if we don’t end up going to someplace I’ve looked into. I try to figure out how much transportation will cost, as well as lodging, dining, and other expenses. Would it make more sense for us to stay in a hotel or use Airbnb if we go somewhere? Is there a peak season (and how can we avoid it if possible)? I love reading articles and stories about how to dine on a budget at our destination, or about a place where we may need to increase our budget because the food and experience are not to be missed. I love learning about all sorts of interesting places we might want to visit, from must-sees to maybes. I know that there are many people way more spontaneous than we are, and when they see a cheap airfare to somewhere they snap it up and go, or think nothing of hopping in their car and taking off. I’m enough of a nerd though that I’d rather do the research about spending our money on a trip, and figure out how to get the most bang for our bucks. Our income and budget sort of demand it as well.
  • After the research is done, we decide if we can realistically save enough to afford the trip. We make the final decision to go somewhere only if we can afford it. We’re not willing to break the bank and go into debt just to fulfill some fantasy or check off something on a bucket list. I would greatly love to take more tours through India, and Brett and I would like to visit one of the national parks in Botswana, but know now that these days both are way out of our price range (Botswana is way, way, way out) unless we saved for years and did nothing else. We focus on what’s realistic and doable.
  • We set a goal for saving. We like to use the SMART criteria whenever we make a goal, financial or otherwise: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Rather than saying “Let’s save so we can go to Japan,” we tell ourselves that we need to save enough before [proposed travel date] to cover airfare and lodging for three of us as well as have enough for meals and other expenses. Can we have approximately half of that amount saved by [a certain date] to cover airfare if a good deal shows up? This is how we can place what we need and when in relation to other upcoming expenses, such as the girls’ college expenses, Christmas, etc. Once everything gets mapped out, and we decide it’s achievable, we go forward. If it’s not, we either adjust our goal or drop it. We typically set our goals and start planning more than a year in advance of any major travel though, giving ourselves plenty of time to tweak things as we go along.
  • We have a dedicated savings account for travel, whether we’re actively planning any travel or not. I believe it’s important to make dedicated travel savings a priority rather than a ‘leftover’ when it comes to budgeting. We “pay ourselves” first and put away a predesignated amount each month for travel. We add to our savings in other ways like adding what we save in our change/$1 bills jar (which adds around $800 per year to the account). If we can spend under our budget in any other area, like groceries or gasoline, for example, the difference goes into our travel savings – it’s an incentive to look for the best deals and be more conscious about saving. Rebates, refunds, rewards and gifts also go into travel savings. It adds up more quickly than you might think, and I never feel guilty or worried when we take any money out to cover travel expenses because that’s what it’s for. One more thing: with a dedicated travel savings fund we’re already miles ahead whenever we start thinking about going somewhere.
  • We stay motivated to save by giving ourselves reminders of our destination. Once we know when and where we’re going, we post pictures on the fridge, share books or articles about where we’re going, start Pinterest boards, and so forth. These ‘motivators’ can help keep our savings goals on track. They often help us decide between doing or buying something now versus putting away more for travel later. Even when our trip to the Grand Canyon was a mystery to everyone else, I still put up reminders about our trip in places that I saw frequently but that were hidden from Brett and the girls in order to stay motivated.
  • While we’re on the road, we track our spending every day. Brett maintains a daily spending log/diary so that we can see if we’re staying within our budget. If we’re over, we have a way to know why that’s happening and we can rein things in, but it also gives us a way to know if we can afford to possibly add something extra to our visit.

For us, successfully saving for travel involves more than just setting money aside. The extra steps we take help us not only be realistic about what we can afford but help keep us motivated to reach our goals and fulfill our travel dreams. Careful planning and saving along with close tracking of our spending provides us with a solid foundation to see and do what we want during our travels as well as the ability to dream about future journeys and make them a reality.

Budget Adjustments Coming Up

Brett and I had no idea when we started out last year how we would feel about traveling after a year, or whether we’d want to keep going, but it’s turned out that we enjoy our nomadic life and want to keep going. There’s still a lot of this world we want to experience. However, beginning next month there are two upcoming financial matters that are going to cause changes to our monthly budget and that will impact not only how we travel but potentially how much of it we can do for a while.

  • The out-of-pocket costs for all of my dental work this summer (three fillings, a new bridge, a tooth extraction, and teeth whitening) and Brett’s work (deep scalings) came to a whopping $3,590 – OUCH! We had both insurance and the means to pay the balance, but beginning next month we want to start replenishing our savings account by a few $100 per month.
  • The cost of attending Bryn Mawr this year will exceed the financial aid YaYu receives, and next month we will begin helping her meet her out-of-pocket costs for the spring term and on into her senior year (she is in her second year now). YaYu works very hard and is extremely frugal and has so far been able to meet her expenses, but what’s left in her savings after this fall’s payment won’t be enough to cover all of the spring term’s bill, so we will step in and make up the difference. Meiling graduated without debt, and WenYu will next year as well, but they both received much larger scholarships than YaYu and were also attending at the same time with siblings, which increased the amount of aid all three girls received. Beginning in the fall of 2020, YaYu will be our only student, and we expect the amount of aid she receives to drop (it already dropped some because Meiling is no longer attending college). So, we will begin setting aside an additional several hundreds of dollars a month for the next two years for her so that she will also be able to graduate without any debt, or at least with as little as possible. Our other children have let us know that although we didn’t provide them with similar financial support, this is the right thing for us to do now for YaYu.

These two items are going to most directly impact our on-the-road expenses, most especially the amount of money we have available for day-to-day spending. Currently, we budget for an average of $50/day, with funds covering not only food but all our local transportation costs and incidentals such as admission fees or other necessary items. Beginning in September, we will be reducing our daily spending average to $35/day. Our summer in Portland has been good training for this lower amount as we’ve tried to keep our average about there (not all that successfully, but we’re getting there – it’s currently under $25/day for August). Thankfully housing during our stay in England is already paid for as are the overnight stay at Heathrow, our lodgings in Edinburg, our train fare out to the Cotswolds from London, two tours we are taking in London, and lodging for an overnight stay in Oxford during YaYu’s visit in October. We know though we are going to have to be very, very careful with and mindful of every penny we spend in England.

Our belt will also have to be tightened a bit more when we arrive in Japan in January of next year because the cost for our housing there will be more expensive than it was before thanks to the current exchange rate, and we will be paying rent month by month rather than ahead of time. If Brett gets the cultural activities visa I can work part-time which will help our bottom line, but if our stay is only for three months finances will be quite tight. We’re not sure yet what we’ll have available for our daily spending because we don’t know what the exchange rate will be, but we know it will be less than $35. We’ve already decided that we won’t make as many outings as we did during our stay earlier this year, and we’ll focus more on spending time with our son and family and helping care for our grandchildren. Our up-front transportation costs have already been covered, but we still don’t know at this time when we will need to purchase fares to leave Japan or to where. If the lower daily amount is unsustainable we will have to lessen the amounts we’re reimbursing our savings and setting aside for YaYu, but we’re hopeful we’ll be able to manage on less.

So, we’re going to have less room to maneuver, budget-wise, for a while but we are up for the challenge. I think we’ll be fine but we’re going to have to be far more careful and creative, say “no” to ourselves quite a bit more, and most likely change up how and where we travel for the next couple of years.

Sunday Morning 8/18/2019: Week 14 in Portland

I am going to greatly miss the wonderful evening views of the city from the Kohler Pavilion balcony (the one above was taken around 7:30 p.m.). We’ve been walking to the balcony all summer and I’ve yet to tire of looking out at the panorama of the city. I am always amazed by the density of trees that cover the east side of the city!

It’s a bit hard to wrap my head around, but his time next week we’ll be dragging out our suitcases once again to start packing once again. Our final week here will be a whirlwind of activity, with everything from downtown errands to meeting YaYu at the airport and getting her on to Philadelphia to moving over to hotel near the airport (we have to check out of our apartment on the 30th). This week though should be a rather low-key one. We plan to visit Pittock Mansion at the end of the week and will also take all of our recyclable cans and bottles to a recycling center when we’re over that way. But, other than a visit to the farmers’ market for more fruit, we have nothing else on the agenda except to relax, read, and get in some good walks.

This past week it was time for me to figure out a plan for getting from Heathrow airport out to our house in the Cotswolds. We’re arriving in London on a Sunday in the late afternoon, but after giving ourselves some time to pick up our bags and go through immigration it turned out there were no trains to our destination other than ones that got us there around midnight and also involved several train changes and/or bus rides along the way. We thought maybe stopping in Oxford for the night might make things easier, but those schedules weren’t any better and Oxford hotel prices were too high. I finally checked hotels at Heathrow and thanks to some Expedia award credits (which I didn’t know I had), I was able to book a king room at the nearby Hyatt Place hotel for half price, all taxes and fees included. Hyatt Place has free shuttle service to and from the airport, and we will also get 20% off our breakfast in the morning because I’m also apparently an Expedia VIP (again, who knew?). And, on weekdays there are numerous trains out to Moreton-in-Marsh from Heathrow with just one change at Paddington Station, so much easier than what we would have had to deal with on Sunday. While neither Brett nor I are especially thrilled about paying for a night in a hotel, this arrangement will (hopefully) make our arrival into the Cotswolds a lot less stressful, and we should be at our house between noon and one o’clock on Monday afternoon.

We also finally caught up with the modern world and got ourselves signed up with Uber and Lyft, or at least Brett now has the Uber app and I’ve got the Lyft one. I was unable to download the Uber app because apparently whoever previously had my phone number had an Uber account, and because my address didn’t match Uber’s records I couldn’t sign up. I tried numerous times to get it straightened out through their customer service, but all they did on their end was send me boilerplate notices saying “address doesn’t match the one we have on file” – there was no human interaction at all on their end to try and get things worked out. After a few of those messages I finally gave up. Thankfully Brett was able to download the app with no problem so he will be taking care of Uber reservations in the future, and the Lyft app downloaded just fine for me, so that will be our backup.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I am still reading Truman but finished Say Nothing on Friday evening. I am learning/have learned so much from both books, especially about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Harry Truman is turning out to be a more complicated man than I ever knew as well.
  • Listening to: We’re enjoying a quiet morning now, but otherwise it’s been a somewhat noisy week up here. There have been more than usual Life Flight helicopters arriving at OHSU this week (two arrived within a half-hour last night before 1:00 a.m.) and they make quite a bit of noise coming in. Also, there have been flyovers by jets from the Oregon Air National Guard and yesterday we could hear the sound of police helicopters all afternoon as they monitored the demonstration downtown. We can also always hear the trains as they move through town on the other side of the river, especially at night. It always sounds like they are right behind us though – the sound carries that well.
  • Watching: We finished what we think was the last episode of Four Weddings and a Funeral, but hopefully not as it was disappointing and left us hanging. The show was billed as a limited series, but there has only been one wedding (and one that didn’t happen) so we’re not sure at this point if the series will be continuing or whether there will be another season, or ??? We’re still watching The Good Place (which we really like) and the second season of Derry Girls, but we’re not going to start anything new at this point. Although Derry Girls is a comedy, it’s set in time during the Troubles and there have been several references to things I would have otherwise missed or not understood if I hadn’t read Say Nothing.

    An abundance of fresh fruit and berries has been one of the best parts of our stay in Portland.
  • Cooking: This week will be our big push to clean out the fridge, freezer, and cupboards. Tonight we’re having Thai red curry chicken with cauliflower rice, and other meals this week will be spicy Korean beef over cauliflower rice, zoodles with meat sauce, teriyaki chicken, and our final Friday night pizza (pepperoni) with leftovers filling in the blank spaces. We are still enjoying bowls of fresh summer fruit every day – I am going to miss it greatly when we leave Portland.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Besides getting all my dental work finished (yeah!), I also got my new shoes waterproofed and ready to go, and purchased a new bathing suit for our visit to Kaua’i (my old ones went into the trash when we left – I had worn them for our entire four years there and they were worn out). Brett got three final medical tests taken care of and finished his summer Japanese conversation course.
  • Looking forward to next week: Besides visiting Pittock Mansion, I’m looking forward to having lots of time to read (and hopefully will be able to finish Truman) and rest before the craziness that will be happening the following week.

    Sadly raspberry season is over. We also bought a big bag of peaches this week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We got more delicious berries and peaches at the farmers’ market (and some cherry tomatoes too). Our daughter-in-law sent us loads of pictures and videos of the grandkids and YaYu, and Meiling and K invited us to stay with them for a few days in New York next year before we go to WenYu’s graduation!

    I love everything about this picture, especially our granddaughter pointing her spear in the wrong direction!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1)I saved 50% on a new bathing suit because of end-of-summer sales. 2) The dentist gave me enough travel-size tubes of toothpaste to equal a large tube, and also extra gel for my whitening tray to get me through the coming year (that stuff is expensive, too). 3) We ate all our leftovers and didn’t throw away any food (the latest Instagram photo shows how I used up leftovers and some other odds and ends to make a yummy, nearly zero-carb dinner yesterday evening). 4) Other than going to the farmers’ market and getting my two pairs of shoes waterproofed (for a whopping $12), we had a no-spend week. 5) We saved $115.28 this summer in our change/$1 bill bag which will cover all of our dining out next week. We were going to buy some British pounds before departing, but the exchange rate here is awful so we’ll instead stop at an ATM before we leave Heathrow airport.

    The apartment’s living room is simple but very comfortable.
  • Grateful for: I am once again so thankful we’ve been able to spend the summer in this apartment on the west side of the city. It’s been slightly too big for the two of us because YaYu hasn’t been here, but the location (next to OHSU and Marquam Forest Park) and space has been comfortable, convenient and mostly quiet. We will be staying in a different Portland location when we’re back in December, but we would stay in this apartment again in a heartbeat!
    The dining area has also served as Brett’s “office.” I love the dining chairs!

    The kitchen is small but very well-equipped.
  • Bonus question: What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever done in your life (so far)? That would be the eight weeks I spent in navy boot camp. I joined the navy in 1976 and went to boot camp (in Orlando, FL) in January and February of 1977. When I arrived at the Recruit Training Center it was very late at night, and I was put into a barracks with other women and told to go to sleep because we would all be awakened very early the next morning to begin our training. A guard walked through the barracks all night, and I couldn’t sleep because I had to go to the bathroom very badly but was terrified of asking the scary guard if I could get up. I managed to get through the night, but things went downhill from there. I vowed every morning going forward that I would not stay in boot camp one day longer than necessary. I also questioned my sanity every day because each day was a test of wills between me and the navy, and some of the stuff we had to do seemed ridiculous at times (it made sense later). I quickly learned to keep my mouth shut, do whatever they told me to do, and never volunteer. Some of the “highlights” of those eight weeks include being chosen as the “laundry petty officer” and sorting our entire company’s dirty laundry every night and then lugging it over to the base laundry and then picking up the clean stuff and lugging it back; marching in formation and running every day (and I hate running) but finishing a required five-mile run without coming in last; going into a burning building as the lead firefighter with the hose and putting out a fire even though I was terrified; being tear-gassed and tearing my Achilles tendon (not at the same time, thankfully); shooting a gun for the first and only time in my life (and hitting the target every time) as well as learning to field strip, clean and re-assemble a pistol in record time; standing watch many times in the middle of the night and getting to be some other new recruits’ scary guard a couple of times; making it through the obstacle course on the first try (still not sure how that happened); taking numerous tests on arcane facts about the navy, learning to tie several different types of knots (marlinspike seamanship!), standing numerous inspections every week, and doing a whole lot of other crazy and difficult things. It was eight weeks of pure hell, but I kept my promise to myself to not spend one extra day there and also showed myself that I could accomplish anything if I set my mind to it. Right after leaving boot camp I was sent to my “A” school where one of my instructors was a sailor named Brett!

We have so far lucked out with the weather this summer. Both Brett and I have vivid memories of uncomfortably long stretches of temperatures in the mid- to upper 90s and even over 100 degrees during the summer, usually starting in late July, but other than a couple of days that hasn’t happened this summer and there have actually been a few days instead where it’s been almost uncomfortably cool. Yesterday it was cold enough that we had winter socks on our feet and blankets and throws over us in an effort to stay warm. We even debated for a few minutes whether we should turn on the heat! Our fingers are crossed that our final 12 days in Portland are temperate ones.

All those spray-painted markings in the road mean loud and messy road work is coming.

Finally, as much as we’ve loved our location this summer, it looks like we may be getting out of town at just the right time. When we headed out on our walk on Friday evening, the road outside our building was covered with new spray markings denoting all the utilities in the street. Apparently the city is getting ready to tear up the road in the very near future. There haven’t been any notices for bus route changes or road closures, at least not yet, so we have no idea when work will start, but we’ve got our fingers crossed that it will be after we’re gone.

As always I hope everyone had a great week, had lots of good things happen, and is looking forward to the week that’s coming up. It’s almost hard to believe that summer will be over in just a little over a month – it’s been a good one!

Some Portland Miscellany

Keeping Portland weird, here is the world’s smallest park: Mill End Park, built and maintained by Portland Parks & Recreation. Not sure what kind of tree that is, but I think a small fir would look better.

Four things not big enough for their own posts:

  1. When we went downtown last week we made an effort to stop by both the Ira Keller fountain and Mill End Park, the smallest park in the world (it’s in the record books). The Keller Fountain was one of my favorite Portland places to visit when I attended Lewis & Clark College in the early 70s, right after the fountain had opened. I appreciate it more now because it’s something that could never be built today (too many potential lawsuits), and the cost of operating a fountain of this type is prohibitive. The fountain was almost empty when we stopped by because the weather was cool, but on hot days it can be filled with people and kids. It was a short walk from there over to Mill End Park, which sits in the middle of the Naito Parkway next to the Tom McCall Waterfront Park which runs along the west side of the Willamette River. There used to be a little fir tree in Mill End Park, but currently there is some other sad-looking little plant.
    I learned that a recurring problem with the Keller fountain (besides the operating costs) is that occasionally over the years pranksters have added dish soap to the cascading water, creating a mess of bubbles. This causes the entire fountain to have to be shut down for cleaning (which is quite expensive).

    There were only (messy) Canada geese gathering in Waterfront Park when we visited, but this is where the Proud Boys will gather.
  2. Speaking of Waterfront Park, on Saturday the right-wing group Proud Boys are going to be holding a “demonstration” there to protest “domestic terrorism.” For some reason, Portland has become a magnet for this group and many are bused in from all over the northwest. And, when they show up so do members of Antifa and the public to counter demonstrate. Although the Proud Boys have a permit to gather, the city has made it known they are not welcome because when they show up things have a tendency to get violent. Initial calls from the group told members to bring weapons and get “ready to rumble,” but apparently they have toned down the rhetoric a bit depending on who you’re listening to. Residents have been warned to stay away from the area and downtown because of the violence that typically erupts when this group shows up and spreads up into the city. The owner of the shoe repair store we stopped at last week says he won’t even bother to open his store – he stays far away. Hopefully, things won’t get out of hand this time but I’m thankful Brett doesn’t have a calligraphy class this week and doesn’t have to go through downtown. Portland is, for the most part, a very peaceful, mellow place and this stuff really rubs most people the wrong way.

    I love the art deco detail we discovered on the top of the Mark O. Hatfield Research Center building (dedicated in 1998).
  3. We’ve had two different daily walking routes while we’ve been here: the forest trail and what we call “the hospital route,” which takes us up and down the seven flights of stairs across the street to the balcony at the Kohler Pavilion for a view out over the city (and then back). We switched up the hospital route a couple of weeks ago and now walk back up a hill through the campus and beyond and then around back down to our apartment. I personally like climbing back up all those stairs for the workout it provides but Brett doesn’t and is happier with the new route (although he says it’s already becoming boring). I’m always finding something new to look at though, and happily noticed a few new architectural details on some of the OHSU buildings that we hadn’t been able to see on our original route. We also tried out a “new” forest route the other day but once of that was enough – it was a somewhat steep uphill climb almost the entire way, and more exhausting and less fun than we imagined.

    My favorite architectural “find” on the OHSU route are these art deco-inspired covers for rainwater drainage troughs.
  4. The new hospital walking route also takes us past our neighborhood cannabis shop, Exhale, one of the many shops that are all over Portland now (it’s legal in Oregon). These shops are everywhere and some of them have come up with some very clever names, sort of like hair salons do. We haven’t stopped in at our neighborhood shop although the prices posted outside seem reasonable and we’ve thought about it. We’ve heard we’d be entitled to a senior discount, but Brett and I feel mellow enough these days (and I definitely don’t need a case of the munchies).

    Our neighborhood cannabis shop. These places are all over Portland now, with some offering discounts and delivery service. The price for three blunts at this shop is $10, less than a bottle of wine.

Summer Goals Progress Report

Mission accomplished: longer (very curly) hair, a few pounds gone, and in good health and good shape.

Shortly after we arrived in May, I posted a list of things I wanted to accomplish during our stay in Portland over the summer. As we’re nearing the end of our stay, it’s time for an update on how I’ve done.

  1. Lose 15 pounds. NOPE. When I got weighed at the end of July I had lost a whole six pounds, not the 10 I was hoping for at that point. The doctor said that I was doing everything right though (daily exercise, low carbs, lots of water) and to just give it time. I will have lost probably around eight to ten pounds by the end of our time here in Portland, but my clothes fit much better so I know I am changing shape.
  2. Get myself in top shape health-wise. DONE. My new bridge is in; I’m having my teeth cleaned today and my upper teeth have been whitened; I’ve gotten three fillings done and my broken tooth removed (along with many dollars removed from our savings) so I am all caught up with dental work. I had a bone scan and some other tests done (cholesterol and mammogram) and had one medication added as I’m still at risk for osteoporosis but otherwise no changes, and I should be off the GERD medication by the end of our time in England. The residual swelling on my leg from my fall in Auckland last February is almost gone but it may be another year before the last of it disappears completely. I can now climb seven flights of stairs without stopping and barely get winded. Things are not perfect, but all in all I’m in good shape!
  3. Read, read, read. DONE! I blew past my original goal of 30 books for the year and am now up to 39, and going for a total of 52 books read this year. I think for Christmas the only thing I will ask for is Amazon credit so I can load up my Kindle before we head to Japan.
  4. Improve my Japanese. DONE (I think)! I have no way to judge how much my Japanese has improved because I’ve had no chance to use it, but I can recognize and read a lot more kanji than I did at the beginning of the summer and I’m happy with that. I’ve been doing a half-hour of language practice every day with Memrise, but dislike that they initially relied mostly on memorizing phrases that had little to no backup or practice with grammar patterns and nothing to do with my life – I no longer want to party all night or get drunk, and will not be looking for love in Japan. And the speed tests! I can either read the Japanese phrase or the four possible choices, but not both in the time they allow.
  5. Shape up my travel wardrobe. DONE! I am super happy with the updates.
  6. Grow out my hair. DONE! I’ve grown my hair all summer and am happy with how the grow-out is going. I can’t get over how curly my hair is these days, but it’s super easy to style now.

    My summer-in-Portland bling
  7. Replace some earrings. DONE! I purchased a simple pair of silver hoops made by a local artisan, and along with what I already have I am now satisfied with my earring selection. I also bought a beautiful silver pewter cuff bracelet, designed by a NW Native American artist, so I’ve got enough shiny things for the time being, although jewelry is turning into my favorite souvenir these days – I wear my travel memories.

So, six out of seven goals were accomplished, and I’m calling that a win!

Sunday Morning 8/11/2019: Week 13 in Portland

The forest was the place to go at the beginning of the week as temperatures were 10-15 degrees cooler inside, and being surrounded by so much green was mentally cooling as well.

If we thought we felt restless and ready to move on before now, it is really beginning to gnaw at us now, although we’re still not quite ready to drag out our suitcases. Feeling restless though is very motivating to get everything done that needs to be done before we leave town. And, there is plenty to do, from taking care of the last of the re-provisioning to getting our recycling done to making sure all the food we have on hand is finished. Every day now we wake up and ask ourselves, “Is there something we can take care of or use up or get out of the way today?”

This past week was sort of crazy when it came to the weather, going from uncomfortable temperatures in the 90s at the beginning of the week to cool rainy weather and thunderstorms by the end of it. On Monday evening we wanted to fill the tub with ice water in an effort to cool down, but Thursday, Friday and yesterday evenings we were wearing our winter pajamas because we were so cold! We made plans each evening for the next day but then ended up putting them off because the weather wouldn’t cooperate (we did finally get downtown on Friday though). I have to say though I’d much rather deal with cool summer days in Portland than the hot ones they get here.

YaYu learned this past week she was accepted into an upper-level Mandarin class at UPenn, which is just about 40 minutes away from Bryn Mawr by train. However, the first class meeting will be on August 28, and she arrives back in Portland from Japan in the afternoon on the 27th! I was able to find an affordable red-eye flight that leaves Portland in the evening and gets her into Philadelphia early the following morning, in time for her to take her bags out to Bryn Mawr and then head over to UPenn. We will meet her when she arrives at the airport here, have dinner with her there and then help her get checked in and on her way. We were hoping we’d get a couple of days with her before she had to go back, but are also very proud that she was accepted into the UPenn class. She is going to be one very tired girl though.

The Tunnel View of Yosemite Valley.

If we end up only staying in Japan for three months next year we’ve decided we will fly back to California and spend a few days in San Francisco and then travel around the northern part of the state for a few weeks before heading to Massachusetts for WenYu’s graduation. We’d like to see Lake Tahoe and Lake Shasta, drive up the coast on Highway 1 and see the redwoods, and visit Yosemite National Park. We’ll work up plans (if we have to) once when we know more about what’s happening next year.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Path Between the Seas and am getting close to halfway through Truman, a good thing because a book I’ve been waiting for all summer, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe, finally came off of hold at the library and I want to get it read before my three weeks are up. Reviews have said it’s one of the best books about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and one of the best books released this year.
  • Listening to: We fell asleep last night to the sound of pouring rain, but this morning there are birds chirping outside and I can see bits of blue sky peeping through the mostly heavy cloud cover. It’s quiet inside and out too – Brett is reading in the kitchen and the noisy kids downstairs have departed. I’m not sure what it is about Sundays, but these kids always make a ton of noise in the early morning and then disappear for the day. During the week we never hear them!
  • Watching: We finished the last of the available episodes of Father Brown this past week, but are still watching The Good Place each evening (loved the surprise ending at the end of Season 1!) and are almost finished with Four Weddings and a Funeral. We’ve also just started watching Derry Girls on Netflix which is wonderful. We have been trying to wean ourselves off TV watching but are not doing a very good job of it. We’re curious about what we’ll find when we’re in England – we’ve loved so many of the shows that have been brought over here, and are sort of hoping we’ll get lucky and catch something great while we’re there.

    My Friday evenings extras of a Japanese cup of wine and some tasty parmesan cheese crisp (no carbs!) is followed by a slice of pizza. I envy Brett – he gets the leftovers!
  • Cooking: Almost nothing I had planned got made last week but I moved things around and we’re having stir-fried cauliflower rice with pork tonight. This week we’ll also be having lettuce wrap tacos, Cobb salads, meatloaf, and our Friday evening pizza (bacon cheeseburger this time to use up some ground beef, cheddar cheese, bacon, and dill pickles). Besides using up what we’ve got on hand, we’re also going to finish up our wine supply this week which will be sad because we love sitting down together on Friday evenings with our glasses of wine and a small snack before having our pizza. Maybe we’ll just have to buy another bottle.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: It doesn’t feel like I accomplished much of anything but we finally went downtown on Friday (after almost being scared off by lots of thunder in the morning) but decided to save our visit to the art museum for another week when we don’t have so many other errands to run. I got all of my goals card filled in for the week although we didn’t walk on Monday because it was so HOT or on Thursday because it was raining (we got our walk in yesterday before the rain started). Otherwise everything on the card got done. Brett dropped off my new shoes yesterday for waterproofing, and we’ll pick them up tomorrow on our way to the dentist. Along with purchasing YaYu’s ticket to Philadelphia, I also finally got around to reserving a rental car for our final two days here so we can do some last-minute things the afternoon of the 29th, check out of the apartment on the morning of the 30th, and get our bags over to the airport hotel for the night before our departure on the 31st.
  • Looking forward to next week: My new bridge will be put in place tomorrow and the ugly space in my lower front teeth will finally be gone! I also go back on Tuesday for a cleaning and then I am DONE with the dental visits. Brett has his last Japanese class on Wednesday evening, and will be making a trip over to Costco by bus to get batteries for his hearing aids, allergy medication and some vitamins, but otherwise we have nothing planned.

    This week’s swag from the farmers’ market included sweet yellow plums. I am so happy we’ve been able eat so much wonderful fruit this summer!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett had his annual eye exam done this past week and his vision has stayed the same – no new glasses required! The whitening regime I’ve been doing for the past two weeks has made my upper teeth lovely and white; but now that the dental work will be finished I’ve got to get started on the lower teeth. This week at the farmers’ market our favorite vendor had sweet, juicy, ripe yellow plums in addition to loads of lovely berries and peaches. I love plums!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had four no-spend days again this week. We put $4.42 into the change/$1 bill bag, and as always ate all our leftovers and didn’t throw away anything.
  • Grateful for: I am so thankful that it has been so easy for us this summer to run errands in downtown Portland, which is only a short bus ride away from our apartment. There’s a Target, a Safeway for groceries, and every other kind of store available, all within a short walking distance of each other. The Target store is a new-ish downtown addition – it didn’t exist back when we lived here. We had a great time being downtown once again on Friday, and got in some good exercise while taking care of everything within a couple of hours!

    I prefer quick and easy dishes these days, like this shrimp, pepper and onion stir-fry tossed with a CookDo sauce and served over cauliflower rice.
  • Bonus question: Do you like to cook? The honest answer is not very much these days. I consider myself a good journeyman cook, and used to enjoy it a lot more than I do now but think I would give it up completely these days if I could. However, we like to eat healthy, unprocessed, tasty food and we can’t afford (and don’t want) to eat out all the time or hire a private chef, so I still cook. It’s been a learning experience for me this past year though to cook for just Brett and myself rather than making enough for five like I did for so many years. I used to bake quite a bit too but don’t do that at all these days and frankly don’t miss it either, and Brett and I definitely don’t need things like cake, cookies, bread, etc. around the house. These days I usually keep things simple and I no longer am looking for or trying new recipes like I did in the past. I use a few more “convenience” foods than I did in the past, things like the CookDo sauces or pizza crusts from Trader Joe’s. I do make family favorites when the girls are home although that’s getting more complicated as both Meiling and YaYu are very lactose intolerant, and YaYu doesn’t eat beef or care much for chicken (thankfully WenYu will eat anything). We figure it out though.

I hope everyone is still awake after reading the above because our time here now seems awfully boring to me. This is the reason though we are not feeling ready to settle down just yet – we still like staying busy and there’s so much more of the world we want to see. Life and finances are going to get in the way though beginning next month because we are going to start putting away a good chunk of money each month to apply toward YaYu’s future college expenses, and that’s going to slow things down a bit. Although she receives significant financial aid from Bryn Mawr, it’s nowhere near enough to cover the cost of going there, especially when YaYu will be the only one attending college for two years. We’ll see how it goes, but her sisters will graduate/graduated with no debt and we would like the same or as close to the same for her.

Once again I hope everyone had a great week and had lots of good things happen for them!

The Luxury of Slow Travel

A side street in Lisbon, Portugal

What do you think of when you think of luxury travel?

Is it flying first class and having a big, comfortable seat with a footrest, one that reclines into a bed? Dining on real china with real silverware instead of having to use plastic everything? Receiving special treatment the airport, like being seated early and greeted with fresh coffee or a cocktail?

Is it being pampered in five-star lodgings with high thread-count linens, every amenity you could imagine, or a staff that knows your name and takes care of every whim?

Or is it taking the time at your destination to truly unwind and experience your location in more depth versus skimming the surface and racing from sight to sight or activity to activity?

While I have greatly enjoyed the first two aspects of luxury travel, over the past year I have come to realize that embracing slow travel was the most luxurious thing I had ever experienced. While we enjoyed our structured tour of India, and our train ride across Australia, embracing the ethos of slow travel and the opportunities to connect with a place and its rhythms, culture, food, and sights has made for our most memorable travel experiences, with the added benefits of costing us far less than it would otherwise and being easier on the environment.

A magical shot of St. Peter’s at dusk, captured as we walked back to our apartment one evening in Rome.

Our slow travel experiences didn’t mean we had to make or find the time to be in a place for a month or longer, although we were able to do that in a couple of places. But it did mean what the name says, that we slowed down, and didn’t feel like we had to try to do and see everything (especially on a rigid schedule) or eat everything, or try to fit every experience into our visit. Slow travel meant interacting with the local culture up close whenever possible, trying to overcome some of the language barriers that we encountered, and taking the time to notice and observe local customs. Slow travel for us was about making connections. All of this took place sometimes within the space of a few days all while visiting and experiencing some amazing sights along the way.

Street art can be found down alleys or off the main thoroughfares, but sometimes you have to look up to find it, like with this work in Montevideo, Uruguay.

Some of the ways we did this were:

  • Staying in homes and apartments through Airbnb versus staying in hotels.
  • Shopping for most of our food in local markets versus eating out all the time.
  • Using public transportation most of the time.
  • Not having a set schedule every day, or a list of things we had to see or do. For the most part we got up and got going when we were ready to start our day. And some days we did nothing but explore the neighborhood we were staying in, or stay home and read.
  • Adapting ourselves to local customs whenever possible, such as removing our shoes when entering a home in Japan (and then turning them to face out), or greeting shopkeepers and other workers in France with Bonjour! before any beginning business operation.
  • Not expecting people to speak English with us. If they could or wanted to that was great, but we never made it the expectation. We tried to learn how to at least say hello and thank you in the local language of every place we visited (and excuse me or pardon me if possible).
A fruit market in Italy

Time, whether long or short, can either be one’s nemesis or one’s ally when traveling, something that there’s never enough of or a luxury to be savored even if all one has is a few days. When the emphasis is on experience over sights, and quality over quantity, the time one has can become the ultimate luxury of travel. 

Our Plans Have Changed (again)

Brett’s calligraphy: the orange characters on the left are his sensei’s example and the orange circle on his work means he got it right. Brett is left-handed, but Japanese calligraphy must be done with the right hand, so it’s very much an effort for him.

Brett and I thought we had all our future plans nailed down before we left Japan, but events have conspired to once again have us change those plans. It turns out we won’t be going to California in January after all, but back over to Japan instead, with a stop on Kaua’i along the way!

The big unknown for us now though is how long we’ll be staying in Japan this time.

This is the quality of work he hopes to eventually produce. (Photo courtesy of Wanto Shodo Kai-Easy Bay Japanese Calligraphy Association)

Brett has decided to apply for a long-term visa to continue studying calligraphy. He loves the art and the discipline and is improving with each lesson. He has been sending work from his classes here in Portland to his sensei in Japan who told him he is indeed a serious student and suggested he apply for a cultural activities visa to continue studying in Japan. So, paperwork for the visa will be submitted in early October, while we’re in England, and Brett should find out if the visa has been approved sometime in early December. The visa is good for one year but can be extended for another year or two if studies continue and he is making progress. I would travel over to Japan with Brett and enter on a tourist visa, but immediately apply for a dependent visa once we’re in-country. Approval for that typically happens within a couple of weeks. The chance to live in Japan full-time for a year or more would be a dream come true for us, something we have long wanted to do but never thought possible. Best of all, in my opinion, because of our three-month stay this past spring we have a much better sense of what a long-term stay would entail, both the positive and the negative.

We also have a Plan B because approval of the cultural activities visa is not a given. If Brett’s application is rejected we will instead do another three-month stay like we did earlier this year, from mid-January through mid-April. Japan has changed its rules for the tourist visa and visitors can now stay 180 days total (maximum 90 days at a time) during a 365-day period versus just 90 days as it was before. This means we can potentially do long stays in Japan twice a year. We have some pretty firm ideas for what we’ll do after that which include a stay in Massachusetts at the end of May for WenYu’s graduation from Wellesley.

We have negotiated housing with the same landlord we used earlier this year. Even though the monthly cost of renting from her again would be higher than renting our own apartment for a year, by doing so we would not have to deal with setting up and paying utilities, buying furniture or household goods, nor incurring the very high upfront rental fees that are required in Japan (anywhere from three to five months rent, some of it non-refundable). All of those, if averaged out, would increase the monthly cost of living there to the same if not more than the cost of renting a furnished place with the utilities and Internet provided. We loved the location where we stayed before as well as its proximity to our son’s home. O-san said she would love to have us back again, and for now we know we have a place if we go for just three months, but she has asked us to inform her the minute we know whether Brett’s visa has been approved or not and she will extend the rental for us. We asked for a different apartment this time rather than the one we had before as we could not imagine staying in that one for a year – it was just too big and uncomfortable.

A few weeks ago I looked to see what it might cost us to go to Japan in January and was surprised by how low the fares were. Brett and I had also been talking about wanting to visit Kaua’i again to see friends and prices for flights from Portland to Honolulu in January also turned out to be very low. So, after some discussion with Brett and with our friends, and deciding on dates that worked for everyone, we went ahead and purchased tickets to both Japan and Hawai’i. We’ll be staying at our friends’ home in Kapaa for nine days (and they have a car for us to use so no rental car!!), and then we’ll be flying on to Tokyo from Kaua’i. We are greatly looking forward to being on the island once again and seeing what’s changed in the time we’ve been gone as well as catching up with friends there. I’ve already got my fingers crossed for good weather (January can be iffy), but even if it rains every day we know we’ll still have a good time and enjoy every moment.

By purchasing our tickets early we were able to afford to fly first class to Honolulu and economy plus for the long flight to Tokyo all while still staying well below our budget! I had enough Hawaiian miles to cover the flight for both of us over to Lihue from Honolulu, and the fare from Kaua’i to Tokyo included the trip back over to Honolulu from Lihue, which saved an additional $40 over what we would have had to pay if we booked those flights separately on Hawaiian. The total price per person for the both long flights was less than a typical one-way first class fare from Portland to Honolulu, and less than we used to pay for roundtrip fares in economy for the girls to come home to Kaua’i at Christmas. Plus, the two long flights also include two free checked bags for each of us, a nice option especially if we end up going to Japan for a year’s stay (however, we unfortunately will have to pay to get our bags from Honolulu to Lihue on the Hawaiian flight). The upgraded seats are worth every penny to us because after our very uncomfortable 11-hour flight from Tokyo to Portland in economy where we couldn’t cross our legs, let alone move, we vowed that if all possible we would do no more long-distance flights unless we could afford to purchase more comfortable seating.

来年日本に帰国します Rainen nihon ni kikoku shimasu – we are returning to Japan next year! We are so excited – not only will we get to be in Japan, and see our son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids again, but we get to return to beautiful Kaua’i as well!

Sunday Morning 8/4/2019: Week 12 in Portland

Summer in Oregon means long, long days. This picture looking out east from the Kohler Pavilion at OHSU was taken just after 8:00 p.m. while Brett and I were out on a walk. The setting sun made the east side of the city glow.

What a busy week we had! There have been doctors’ and dental appointments for both of us, lab work and tests, classes for Brett, meet-ups with friends, and lots of other things going on all week. We’ve thankfully made it on time to every place we’ve needed to be, but it was sort of crazy at times.

With all the medical stuff done, we learned both of are in pretty good shape which is always good news. The cause of my GERD remains a mystery however, and I may have to have a gastro-endoscopy after all to find out what’s going on (possibly a hernia). I am also still at risk for osteoporosis so I will be starting medication for that once again, but otherwise everything is OK, our cholesterol levels are great, and we’re doing everything right. All our prescriptions have been set up for the coming year, although the doctor would like to wean me off the medication I take for GERD. I am miserable without it so hopefully another solution can be found sooner rather than later. I saw the dentist once again last Monday afternoon and got the last filling done and also got started on my teeth-whitening regime (which is going well), and Brett got the last of his dental work done. I got a call that the bridge for my lower teeth has arrived and I have an appointment for it to be installed on August 12. I will go back on the 13th for a cleaning and then I am done (well, all except for paying the bill for all of this work)!

We had pretty great summer weather this past week: Brett caught this beautiful view of Mt. Hood last Thursday on his tram ride down to a medical appointment . . .

. . . and this terrific view of Mt. St. Helens while he was at the lab. By the time we went for our walk in the evening, both mountains were clouded over.

Our big challenge this last month in Portland will be to make sure that we finish up all the food we have on hand right now, including as many of the condiments as possible, and buy only what we need so we can leave with the refrigerator and cupboards empty. I have a feeling we might be eating some pretty strange combinations at times, but we’re motivated and committed to not wasting anything. We’re also keeping lists of everything we need to do or get or see before leaving Portland, from purchasing motion sickness medicine to getting my shoes waterproofed to buying British pounds from the bank. I keep a set of cards on the ledge by the stairwell coming up to the apartment along with my goals cards, and check them every day to see if there’s anything we need to add, or check something off if we’ve taken care of it.

Our “organization center” in the apartment, where we keep track of appointments or other things that need to get done or acquired.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m still working my way through Truman and The Path Between the Seas – both are very interesting but very dense with information so they’re taking some time. I know I am not going to get them finished before they have to go back to the library, and since Brett would like to read them too we’ve decided go ahead to purchase the Kindle editions.
  • Listening to: Brett is rustling around in the kitchen getting breakfast started (bacon, scrambled eggs, orange juice, and Chinese dumplings for Meiling and K), Meiling is reading in her bedroom, and K is taking a shower. The kids downstairs were making a lot of noise outside in the courtyard a few minutes ago, but they’ve quieted down again so it’s again calm and peaceful here. The weather is lovely for now with a cool breeze that makes the blinds move and clatter once in a while, but temperatures are supposed to go over 90º today, so I know to enjoy this all while I can.
  • Watching: We’ve got a few more episodes of Father Brown to go, and are otherwise only watching The Good Place, but don’t have many episodes left of that either. Meiling signed us into her Hulu account so we can watch the new series, Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    This week’s pizza, besides being delicious, used up several items/leftovers in the fridge!
  • Cooking: We’re going to have zoodles with meatballs and marinara for dinner tonight. Also appearing on the dinner table this week will be teriyaki chicken and fried cauliflower rice w/vegetables, mabo dofu, and pork chops with roasted vegetables. We’ll be having the sausage and artichoke heart pizza that we were going to have last week because I ended up making a roasted vegetable and feta pizza on a red pepper sauce base on Friday – it was amazing, and used up several things in the fridge. We will of course also continue to enjoy fresh fruit and whipped cream parfaits!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We accomplished a lot! I am so happy all the main doctor appointments, lab work and other tests are over though. It was so convenient being able to walk to everything, or ride the tram, because it seemed one of us was over at the hospital for something almost every day. We made it to the farmers’ market this week in between all this other stuff going on – we weren’t entirely sure if that was going to happen or not. I’m proud that I once again got my entire goals card filled in for the week. There are days I really don’t feel like doing some of the things on it, but I prefer to see a check rather than an X, so I get it done. I finished Level 2 of Japanese in Memrise and have started on Level 3. Level 3 is more of an actual language lesson while Levels 1 and 2 were all about learning complicated (and mostly unnecessary) phrases aimed at young travelers.
  • Looking forward to next week: We thankfully don’t have any appointments next week so we’re finally going to go to the Portland Art Museum. They currently have an exhibit about turn-of-the-century Paris, and we’re excited about seeing that. We also would like to stop by the Keller Fountain and need to take care of a few other errands while we’re downtown.

    Out for a hike in the woods after dinner with our favorite oldest daughter and her guy
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a great visit with Meiling and K on Saturday! I fixed dinner and breakfast here at the apartment, and we took a hike together in the evening as well as caught up on what’s happening back in NYC. I had a wonderful time having lunch and talking with friends Elaine and Sylvia this past week, and feel very blessed to have both a part of my life. We got our OHSU online accounts reactivated, and were able to learn the results of our tests in a day or so, and that everything was normal. I have lost some weight, although not anywhere near as much as I hoped this summer. We picked up lots more berries at the farmers’ market again this week as well as peaches and some figs!

    Our haul from the farmers’ market this week. The eggplant and zucchini were roasted for dinner one night, and leftovers appeared on our pizza on Friday.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We had four no-spend days this past week. 2) I once again was given a free pass to ride the aerial tram back up the hill after a medical appointment. 3) We ate all our leftovers and didn’t throw away any food. 4) I was prepared to pay both times, but my friends picked up the tab for lunch both times which was a lovely surprise. 5) We put $3.35 into the change/$1 bill bag, and got a refund check for $10.66 from the electric company on Kaua’i (a year after we closed the account!).
  • Grateful for: I’m very, very thankful for our continuing good health and for our health insurance (Medicare and Tricare-for-Life) as well as our dental insurance. While we’re still paying quite a bit to the dentist this summer, our insurance has covered more than half of the expense I have incurred. Of all the benefits that Brett earned from his time in the navy, our insurance benefits have been the most valuable and we know we are fortunate to have them.

    A neighbor’s garden in our condo complex would be about as much gardening as I want to manage these days.
  • Bonus question: Is there something you wish you enjoyed but you don’t? That would be gardening. I love beautiful gardens, love eating fresh vegetables from the garden, but greatly dislike the work and experience of gardening. I put the blame for this squarely on my dad’s shoulders – he made gardening hard work and drudgery for me and my siblings starting at a an early age, and there was no joy, fun or pleasure to be had in the experience and that has stayed with me my entire life. Any attempts I have made at gardening have been with the weight of those memories on my shoulders. I have had successful small vegetable gardens, but mostly everything I have tried has been a failure because a result of my own lack of effort or lack of desire for the experience. On the flip side, I have somewhat of a green thumb when it comes to house plants, and I love growing and caring them. My dad couldn’t grow a houseplant to save his life and had no interest in them. My mom, on the other hand, would take plants that were on their last legs and nurse them back to health and make them flourish, and I learned a lot from her.

It’s exciting to think that this time next month we’ll be in England and beginning our exploration of the Cotswolds – we grow more excited each day! Our plans for what we’re doing after England have been set as well, at least as much as possible for now, and we’re very excited about those as well. There will be a post up about our plans on Tuesday.

I hope you all had a great week, and had loads of good things happen for you. Here’s to a wonderful next week for all of us!

A recent summer portrait of the grands – can’t wait to see these two again!