Sunday Morning 5/19/2019: Week 1 in Portland

The adults walked to Komazawa Olympic Park; the grands got a sweet ride in the wagon. Our son and daughter-in-law spoiled us rotten while we were in Japan, and gave us so many wonderful experiences and memories.

It’s almost hard for us to believe but just a week ago we were still in Tokyo and celebrating Mother’s Day with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids. The day was absolutely lovely, and we walked over to nearby Komazawa Olympic Park and enjoyed the wonderful picnic lunch M had had catered by a nearby department store. M & M surprised me with a strawberry cake for my birthday, and gave me a teacup patterned with the symbols of each of Japan’s 47 prefectures which I absolutely love. I also received a small cloth bag with a chidori (plover) design and a small inu hariko charm for my purse. It was an all-around lovely day and a great last outing with our family. Both Brett and I even managed to get a little sunburned!

Our tasty picnic lunch had something for everyone.
Our beautiful daughter-in-law and granddaughter – we miss them terribly.
Miss this guy so much too.

We picked up our grandson from school one last time on Monday afternoon, and once M and M both were home from work we said our (very tearful) goodbyes and rode the train home for the last time. Brett and I enjoyed a delicious sushi dinner at a restaurant near our apartment, and then finished the evening with sesame soft ice cream from the shop on the corner. It was a lovely way to say farewell to the neighborhood – we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and the location. After we finished our ice cream it was back to the apartment to finish up the last of the packing and get some sleep before having to be up early the next morning for the trip out to the airport.

My surprise birthday cake . . .
. . . an my prefecture cup. Learning the kanji will be one of my summer challenges; I only know about three or four right now (I know the kanji under the maple leaf is Hiroshima, for example).

We’re still settling in to our apartment in Portland’s West Hills, but so far we’re quite happy with it. Our first apartment on the east side was the absolutely perfect place to pull ourselves together for a couple of days after the long flight from Japan, but our permanent place for the summer is pretty wonderful too. We have a well-equipped kitchen with a dishwasher (yeah!), the bed is comfortable, we love the mid-century decor and furnishings, and we even have a guest room! We are completely unpacked and it will be nice to settle in for a while.

I will be holding the first of three giveaways next week beginning on Thursday! While I think all three are great I am going to do the “big” one first so that everyone who wants can participate (the winner of each won’t be able to enter the other two). Each giveaway will run for two weeks, and you’ll be able to enter once every day with the winner chosen at random. I’m pretty excited about all of them, but especially the first one and hope you’ll be motivated to enter!

This afternoon I am:

  • Reading: I’m reading another Val McDermid mystery, Insidious Intent, while I wait for another library book to come off of hold. Her books are real page turners and fun to read. Reading has been sporadic the past few days though because my jet lag made it difficult to concentrate, but thankfully that has passed (somewhat).
  • Listening to: Brett’s the only other one up because it’s early in the morning here: 6:30 a.m. I am never up this early, but thanks to the magic of jet lag, here I am. I’ve actually been up since 2:00 a.m., but have spent my time reading and working on this post. Anyway, I’m listening to Brett making coffee, but otherwise YaYu is still asleep and it’s quiet outside. It was raining earlier this morning, but it seems to have stopped for the time being.
  • Watching: We have a quite extensive number of cable channels to watch here, so Brett and I are thinking we might binge-watch Game of Thrones on HBO this summer – we’ve never seen any of it. Crazy Rich Asians is available too whenever I need a fix! Not sure what we’re watching this evening – we’re letting YaYu choose.
  • Cooking/baking: YaYu will be with us for another 10 days and has asked me to fix several of her favorite things, but tonight she’s doing the cooking and making fried rice (I’ll be having fried cauliflower rice!).
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I don’t really count leaving Japan as an accomplishment, but the journey was a long one and I’m glad we’re through it. Brett and I have shopped at Costco, Trader Joe’s, New Season’s and Target and we’re well stocked for the summer (although we’re going to Fubonn Asian supermarket today). I found a great pair of trail shoes that I’m looking forward to breaking in, and Brett also found a new pair of shoes at Costco that he’s thrilled with (his pair of Skechers also gave out). I visited the walk-in clinic of our former healthcare provider and got my prescriptions refilled for the summer, just in time as I had just three tablets left. The doctor also ordered another bone density test to be done to make sure I really need the medication I was taking for osteoporosis. Both Brett and I will see the doctor in July for physicals, etc. and to get our prescriptions set for the year. I need to have my cholesterol levels checked, and a mammogram done before we take off for England.
  • Looking forward to next week: Next week is all about relaxing and spending time with YaYu, and getting to know our new location. Hopefully I can also start managing this jet lag a little better – I see improvement every day, but I’m still on a wacky sleep schedule (actually no schedule at all). We plan to do some hiking this week on one of the trails in the forest near the apartment, and also walk down the hill into downtown and see how that goes. Brett and I are going to get senior Tri-Met passes so we can get around town using public transportation, and we’re also going to investigate signing up for Zipcar for those days when we need to have a car.

    We’re here long enough this summer that we can unpack and use some of our Japan things, like these two Kutani porcelain coasters we found at the Kubota museum. The designs remind of us the stunning kimono we saw there.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: I am still a bit stunned that we made it to Portland with all our stuff – I kept thinking if one of our suitcases was going to get lost, this would be the trip but even though they arrived on different flights (Brett’s suitcase came in on an earlier flight for some reason and was waiting for us), they both arrived safe and sound. I love that our summer apartment has lots of storage space – it was easy to unpack this time and get everything put away. I’m very happy about the great lightweight trail shoes I bought this past week and am looking forward to breaking them in this summer so I’ll be ready for some serious walking when we get to England.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This was not a frugal week. We bought A LOT of food and supplies for the summer, and along with my shoe purchase we really messed with our daily spending total. On the plus side, we won’t need to shop for quite a while, for anything. I was going to buy an Instant Pot this summer but the apartment has both a slow cooker and a rice cooker so I will forego the Instant Pot for another few months. We’ve started saving our change and $1 bills again – I’m hoping to save enough this summer to cover one of our train trips while we’re in England.
    Our summer apartment is decorated simply in the mid-century style – I love it! The sofa is very comfortable.

  • Grateful for: While I enjoy traveling, I’m very thankful we have a nice, affordable place to stay for the summer, and the chance to unpack once again for a while and unwind before hitting the road again. We’re here long enough that I can set out some things we bought in Japan to enjoy them and the memories.
  • Bonus question: What has your best travel experience between locations and what has been your worst? Hands down taking the train between Perth and Sydney was our most amazing travel experience. It was comfortable, the food and serve was great, the other passengers were nice, and the scenery and outings magnificent. Train travel throughout Europe was pretty great overall too. When it comes to flying the best trip was our flight from Hawaii to Portland in first class – absolutely wonderful! That’s not going to happen again though. Our best economy flight experience was the one from Gatwick to Boston last December on Norwegian Air. We had loads of legroom, the food was very good (the first perfectly cooked chicken breast) and the service was amazing. The worst travel day? The journey from Bordeaux to Florence was a very long and difficult day, and I think we used every form of transportation to get there except for a donkey and a bicycle. We made it but really had to be on our toes the entire time as there was lots that could have gone wrong. The (thankfully again) short flight on Iberia Airlines from Lisbon to Madrid on our way back to the U.S. was absolutely miserable. We are not tall people and our knees were pressed up against the back of the seats in front of us – I can’t even begin to imagine what it was like for taller people. Plus, once the plane took off we never saw a flight attendant again until we landed. The most awful flight though, hands down, was the one from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Paris. It was extremely long and extremely crowded, and departed late so full of lots of unhappy people. The minute the plane took off the women in front of us reclined their seats and we couldn’t move (and if I reclined mine the woman behind me pounded on the seat to put it back up!). The only way we survived those flights was to keep reminding ourselves that they would eventually get us to where we wanted to be.

We have another busy week ahead: Later today we are taking YaYu around to several thrift stores so she can look for things to take to Japan this summer, and we’ll also stop at Fubonn supermarket to get some other things she wants to take along, like hot sauce. Brett is taking her to get her military ID card renewed tomorrow morning and we may visit some more thrift stores; the car goes back to the airport on Tuesday; and I will be setting up appointments to get my bone density scan done (I can walk to the hospital from our apartment though!); and I will also be calling the dentist to get the rest of my dental work finished while we’re here. Brett is going to register to take a Japanese class at the community college along with his calligraphy class. I was going to enroll in the Japanese class as well, but decided to stick with Memrise and use along with a text as the classes offered this summer are beginner level, and below where I’m already at. We’re hoping too that the weather will cooperate this coming week so we can get out for some hiking on the nearby trails.

I hope all of you had a very good week, that lots of good things happened for you and that you’re looking forward to what’s happening this coming week. I hope you’ll stick around for next week’s exciting giveaway too!


15 thoughts on “Sunday Morning 5/19/2019: Week 1 in Portland

  1. I had a short Norwegian Air flight from Mendoza back to BsAs and they are terrific! I noticed they have a desk at the Austin Airport so I may look into that for trips to see my friend. So glad you’re back and getting settled. Am I allowed to enter the contest since I’m a previous winner? 😉


    1. Of course you can enter – this is a new series of giveaways, and I think you will like all three.

      We will definitely be using Norwegian again. We entered the auction for the upgraded seats but were not chosen but may go ahead next time and just pay for them. We had exit row seats on our last flight – no extra charge – and had plenty of legroom.


  2. So glad you are getting settled in Portland and enjoying some time with YaYu. I am in London and just heard about zipcar yesterday. I had no clue it was used in USA. I am heading to a town near Stow on the Wold for the next 5 nights tomorrow then to north Wales for 3 nights. Looking forward to seeing the country side. England has been a delight! I would like to enter your contest. What do I need to do?


    1. We’ve never had the need to use Zipcar before, but our son and DIL did when they lived in Seattle and thought it worked well. We heard it’s in England, although I don’t think it’s anywhere near where we will be. We’re excited about our upcoming trip there as well – I have wanted to go to England for a long time and we finally were able to fit it in (and afford it).

      Entry into the giveaway is easy – you just send a comment every day during the open period – you receive one entry for each comment. A name is then chosen at random from all the entries, I contact the winner for an address and mail the prize (although only within the U.S. and Canada – the postage outside the U.S. would be more than the value of the prize). So, I hope you’ll be encouraged to enter – I think the first prize is pretty special!


  3. Laura, what a wonderful time you as in Japan. It’s like there’s always more little memories and photos to share with us.

    I hope to do the Indian Pacific train one day. Would love to also do the Ghan which goes up the middle from Adelaide to Darwin. Our worst flight was being stuck on a crowded flight, so no changing seats, next to an obese person whose body flopped over onto a third of our seat. My husband took the seat, love him! He had the man’s rolls of fat sitting on his left leg the whole way. The person in front of him couldn’t recline his seat and the man’s torso touched the seat in front. Luckily it was only a two hour flight.

    I look forward to reading about, and seeing photos of, you walking in your new trail shoes.

    I look forward


    1. Brett and I would be back on a plane tomorrow if we could go back to Japan. I physically ache to go back and live there again. Oh well – we are going next year, either early in the year or next fall – we haven’t decided yet.

      Both Brett and I would love to ride the Ghan, so if you ever decide you want to do it, let us know – we’d love to do it with you (we could hang out in the lounge car 😉 with the all their complimentary beverages). The ride on the Indian-Pacific was fantastic as was the service.

      I have been too tired and hung over from jet lag to even want to walk a little, but actually slept through the night last night and feel like a new person so may take a little hike this afternoon with Brett and try out my new shoes!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. As tall people, we definitely have problems with airplane seats, especially when people recline. We’ve started spending the extra money for premium. On a flight from Dublin to Boston last fall, my 6’3″ husband sat behind a woman who wanted to recline her seat fully, and he braced his knees against the seat back so she couldn’t. She thought there was something wrong with her seat, and we didn’t tell her otherwise. His knees would have been up to his chest if she’d been able to fully recline–can you imagine that for 6 hours? Glad you’re enjoying your Airbnb–it’s always wonderful to get a good one for a long stay.


    1. I can’t even imagine the torture taller people have gone through in some of the seats we’ve had on this trip. We were shocked by how little leg room we had this last trip in Delta economy seats. We’ve decided that if at all possible, from now on we will pay for the extra comfort seats on any long flights. Unfortunately that won’t be happening on our flight to London, but after that it will be well worth the extra expense.


  5. I love the coasters, they are so beautiful.
    Most of my flights were 30+ years ago prior to seat shrinkage so they were mostly good. I did have a Piedmont flight in college where the fog was so bad we could not see the ground even after we landed. It was like being in the Twilight zone.
    Sounds like you will have a great summer. Looking forward to your posts.


    1. Thanks, Vivian – we are so happy with those coasters. We have rarely bought souvenirs on this trip, but when we saw those tiles we knew those were something we would use and enjoy for years, and provide a wonderful memory of our trip to the Kubota museum.

      Worst landing we had was coming into Gatwick Airport from Madrid on our way home last December – the wind was horrific so the plane was rocking back and forth, and it was raining so hard that the wind was causing waves on the ground! It was very frightening. By the time we left in the afternoon though the sky was clear and the sun was out!


  6. I have so enjoyed your adventures and am looking forward to your England trip. That is a dream of mine!


  7. Glad you are getting settled. The apt looks lovely, and hopefully your jet lag will pass soon. We just spent four days in Toronto with kids and grands. Fun times and we’re still laughing at the antics of the 2 yo. He is just a hilarious personality.

    Our favorite transport between locations has to be the trains in Italy. We both loved the speed, comfort and ease, combined with the wonderful scenery. The very worst flight I had was a return from Paris after catching a cold two days before we left. With some great flight cabin pressure, it morphed into a sinus infection and two ear infections and I was in agony the entire way. Endless. The flight monitor on the seat in front of me showed us hovering over Montreal for about a week, I think. 🙂 Never so glad to see the US in my life.


    1. We really like this apartment, maybe the nicest we’ve stayed in so far as far as space, decor and amenities, and affordable too (for Portland). I think I may actually have licked the jet lag too – I have slept thru the night the past three nights and woken up at a decent time, all with no naps during the day!

      The trains in Italy were the best, and their staff was exceedingly helpful, which we appreciated so much. I loved the ones in France though too – so fast and yet so smooth. I have given up on planes though – these days they are nothing more than an effort that must be endured.

      I have so far been able to avoid being sick while having to fly (knock on wood), although we were getting over bad colds when we flew back to Boston last December. We flew on an 787 Dreamliner though, and they are pressurized differently and so it didn’t really affect us like it would have in another aircraft. I have heard horror stories (similar to yours) though about flying with sinus infections, etc.


  8. Interesting note about Iberia Airlines. We’re shopping for flights to Delaware at the end of summer and one option popped up where the first segment goes from Milan to Madrid on Iberia Airlines. I might rethink that if the leg room is scarce…my husband would suffer!


    1. Our flight from Lisbon to Madrid on Iberia was just a little over an hour, so how bad could it be, we wondered? It was positively miserable! Plus, I had reserved seats near the front, but when we checked in our seats had been changed from third row from the back, and of course there was absolutely NO leg room – I don’t know how people taller than us managed for even an hour.

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