TCB in Portland

They’re all grown up now, but we still can’t wait to be together with these three again for the holidays. (This picture was taken in Guangzhou, less than a week after YaYu joined our family. WenYu was in the first grade, Meiling in the third. YaYu wanted things her sisters had, so we had to get her a puffy vest too while we were there – she chose a shimmery one!)

Our stays back in the U.S. are always a chance for Brett and me to take care of business and reassess what we have and what we need going forward, and our coming six weeks’ stay in Portland will be no different.

The #1 item on our list this visit is to have a wonderful reunion and Christmas holiday with our daughters. They will begin arriving in Portland on the 18th of next month, and WenYu and YaYu will be staying with us until we depart in January. Meiling has to go back to work, so she will leave before the new year arrives. Her boyfriend, K, will also be spending a couple of days with us before they go back. The girls are already requesting food they want me to prepare while we’re together, but it’s going to be a bit of a challenge with one now a vegetarian and two lactose-intolerant. Meiling has set up our annual Christmas ‘Secret Santa’ exchange and everyone is getting their wishlists posted. However, my favorite thing already about this year was Meiling saying, “It’s not about the presents anymore, Mom, it’s just about us all being together again for a while.” 

We’ll also be getting together with friends and are looking forward to that!

We’re currently caught up with all lodging reservations and flights, at least through our time at our mystery destination. We still have to find transportation from there back to the U.S. but there’s no hurry – it’s something that can be done next year when we’re in Japan. I’m also checking on flights from Boston to Tokyo in March – WenYu plans to come and stay with us for a week, and as we did with her sister we’ll be helping her out with the cost of her flight.

Other things to be taken care of when we’re in Portland are:

  • Medical and dental appointments. Brett’s doctor will be checking to see if the condition that was discovered this past summer has progressed or whether it’s holding steady. If things have changed Brett may have to have (outpatient) surgery while we’re there. His dental work is just to finish up work that was started last summer, but nothing major (or expensive, thank goodness). I don’t need any further dental work, but I am due a refund of a couple of hundred dollars!
  • Restocking our medications. Most of our prescription medication refills are automatic, and are mailed to Brett’s sister and will be forwarded, but we will also need to request an “emergency supply” for a couple of prescriptions, an extra 90 day supply to get us through the time we’re out of the U.S.
    I’m looking forward to getting these curls shaped up!
  • Getting our hair cut. Both Brett and I need hair cuts, and Brett needs a beard trim as well, although we have decided to purchase a beard trimmer for him going forward. My hair is a big curly mess these days and pain to fix, but it’s finally long enough that I feel safe getting it shaped up. I found a salon in Portland that has a curl specialist (she does nothing but cut curly hair) and will be making an appointment with her. It’s not going to be cheap but if she lives up to her reviews it will be worth it. I also plan to get a manicure and pedicure just before we get ready to leave for Hawaii.
  • Getting caught up with our mail. Brett’s sister will be sending us a big envelope with the mail she’s collected for the past three months. Going through it doesn’t take long as we don’t get much mail these days, but it’s still a chore and seems to always set up one or two other tasks that need to be taken care of. If we decide to continue traveling we are thinking of changing to a mail service, although that will depend on the cost.
  • Assessing and re-provisioning travel supplies as necessary. This isn’t going to be as big of a task as it was last year because when we leave Portland we will be first going to Kaua’i, and then on to Japan, where we can get U.S. products like cold medication, shampoo, lotion, etc. at stores there or the exchange and commissary in Japan. There are some things however we can’t get, like curl cream for my hair (it’s available on Kaua’i but costs more), and those things we’ll have to resupply in Portland as we won’t be back in the U.S. for nearly six months.
  • Reassessing our clothing. We always do this when we’re back in the U.S. although this task should be quite easy this year as both of us have been wearing and enjoying everything we’ve brought along this time, unlike our first year when lots of things went unworn or were found to be impractical. We also will be adding our warm weather clothing back into the mix (it’s currently in storage). Although I would like to get a winter hat, neither of us has any intention of buying anything new unless we get gift cards for Christmas.
    We occasionally have treated ourselves to slices of cake (Victoria sponge and coffee & walnut) after long walks but such things will stop after we gat back to the U.S.
  • Reestablishing good eating habits. I’m frankly a bit shocked that my clothes still fit. Between the hot chocolate with marshmallows, afternoon biscuits, toffee puddings, Cadbury chocolate, and all those tasty scones with clotted cream and jam I definitely haven’t been as careful about what I’ve been eating as I was last summer and I feel like I’ve grown larger once again. Brett’s also put on a bit of a belly. The only thing that’s saved us from blowing up like balloons is the amount of walking we’ve done here, but that’s been curtailed this past month by the weather. Anyway, it’s back to low carb/keto eating again when we get to Portland – we’re actually looking forward to it.
  • Setting up a budget for Japan. Because of the cost of our housing in Japan (which is still an amazing bargain for the space we’re getting and the location), our daily spending average, while we’re in Japan, is going to drop even more, and we need to assess before we go what we’ll have available each month to cover food, transportation, and other expenditures and then work out a budget and figure out when we’ll exchange dollars for yen and for how much. I’m grateful now that I picked up the book Secret Tokyo when we were in Bath with so many free things for us to check out and do when we’re there this time.
  • Buy Christmas gifts for the grandchildren. This is a big deal as it’s the only time we personally give them gifts (we usually send a check and our son or DIL purchase gifts for them there) and we want to make them memorable. We have a budget, and know what we want to get our grandson, but haven’t figured out something yet for our granddaughter. We plan to visit Finnegan’s toy store when we’re in Portland to get some ideas.

We’ve rented a car for our entire time in Portland so that we’re able to easily pick up the girls and return them to the airport along with ferrying them around while they’re with us. Having a car will also allow us to easily take care of errands, food shopping, etc. All of the above is going to keep us busy but not overwhelmed, and I sort of expect our time in Portland to fly by, especially the time we’re together with the girls.

16 thoughts on “TCB in Portland

    1. We always have a good time when we’re with the girls, and always busy. Our Christmas this year will be smaller than usual – all of us are on a tighter budget but the celebration will be big!

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  1. GM, ok it is morning on the east coast of the USA.

    I appreciate your thoughts on England weather during the late Fall. I have one memory of visiting Devon in December. It was bone chilling cold, wet and days were very short then. Clearly that’s the reason (except for the holidays) air fare is usually a bargain.

    I note your “reward” of seeing your daughters once in Portland and the vision beyond of Hawaii—where I hope sunny and warm days await.

    I admit our recent trip to the UK meant I did exactly what you have done-scones/clotted cream/jam and McVities Chocolate Biscuits/cookies—in fact I pretty much never turned down desserts. Like you I find lower to no carbs the easy way to get back on track. Yay-have lost 5 of the 12 pounds gained over 8 weeks of travel! Vigilance, and remembering it is for my health has made it easier to keep my focus.

    I know you are still enjoying your time there yet also really looking forward to home with the family. Wishing you both continued good health & safe travels.

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    1. I sure hope Kaua’i will be sunny and warm, although they have been getting a LOT of rain recently, and January weather was always iffy. We will still have a good time with our friends and visiting favorite places and eating favorite foods even if we don’t make it to the beach.

      I think one of the things that has saved us here is that in spite of the goodies we have enjoyed we haven’t eated any pasta, rice or potatoes, and other than scones have stuck with whole grain bread. We will do better when we’re in Portland, although I’m going to have to have those other starches on the table when the girls are around (and then hope I can be strong enough to stay away from them).

      We’re also hoping the neighborhood where we’re staying will be conducive for walking (if the weather permits). All the walking we’ve done here has made a difference.

      Although it’s not below freezing here (almost though) the “real feel” has been below freezing temperatures. We are sadly not accustomed to this cold weather any more and it’s been a bit of a struggle for us.

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  2. Cakes and puddings and scones with cream. Yum! Has me salivating. I actually lost weight this past trip to Europe. All the walking. Though I prefer German cakes to English ones (generally more moist) Mr S isn’t into cakes much so I didn’t have as many as I had hoped for. Also the meal servings were so large we were often too full for an afternoon tea break.

    Love your curls. I’ve always wanted curly hair. My dead straight hair doesn’t need an iron to hang perfectly straight. Curls won’t hold past a few hours. But frizzy and kinks from sleeping on wet hair or poor attempts to curl seem to last all day.

    Looking forward to hearing about your mystery destination.

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    1. Scones are the absolute best thing since sliced bread. Apparently our favorite store in the U.S., Trader Joe’s, now carries a pretty decent scone mix and although we have promised to be good we’ll probably be making those a couple of times. I agree with you about the cakes here being a bit dry, which is probably why we like the coffee walnut cake so much – it’s very moist (so is lemon drizzle, usually).

      I’ve always wanted straight hair, or at least straighter hair. What people don’t realize about naturally curly hair is that it’s ALWAYS the boss. It’s always going to do what it wants to do, not what you want. After years and years and years of fighting it, I’ve finally decided to just let it do its thing. It needs to be shaped up, but it’s fairly easy to care for now that I’ve given up trying to make it follow my desires.

      All will be revealed when we arrive at our mystery destination!

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  3. I love what Meiling said! My kids and I visit with their dad’s aunt and uncle every Thanksgiving and Christmas. They bring their RV to a really nice resort at a local Indian casino, and we go to the buffet for Thanksgiving. Everyone gets everything they want! Then we travel to Tucson at Christmas to see them. This year I found an AirBnB in the college area rather than stay at the Omni as in years past. It was getting pretty pricey! We have a family competition which now includes axe throwing, mini golf, pool, and Cards Against Humanity. It is fun to just be together, and I’m glad that the kids have that connection to their dad.

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    1. I was so touched by what Meiling wrote, especially because of all of our children, she has always been the one who’s been all about the presents. It will be fun to see what games she brings along this year (we’re hoping for Cards Against Humanity again).

      Tucson in winter is lovely. It’s changed so much from when I went to school there and lived there (the apartment where I lived near the University no longer exists), but I’d still love to go back some day and see it all again.

      I’m get a warm feeling thinking of all of you keeping that family connection going – so special!

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  4. Seems like you have a plan in place. I think you have beautiful curls so I am just so curious to see what that magician hairdresser will do to them.
    And of course, there is family time in the forecast which is so precious. And your daughter is wise, it shouldn’t be about presents. In my family we dropped the habit of buying gifts many years ago and although it felt a little odd at the beginning, now everyone enjoys the stress-free, debt-free holidays. The only exception is for parents who want to gift their own kids.
    I can sense your excitement to come back on this side of the pond. Soon.

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    1. We will keep busy in Portland, that’s for sure!

      We only give the girls three gifts each year, and this year for the first time we won’t be filling their stockings. As they get older they’re getting harder to shop for, but we also hate the idea of just handing over a gift card or two. We always save for the holidays, but this year our budget is a little less than usual so we’ve had to be a bit more creative.

      I am really excited about finding someone who specializes in cutting naturally curly hair. It’s always been a bit of a problem finding someone who knows what to do with it and how it behaves (blow-dried styles don’t work because my curls are eventually going to do what they want . . . or frizz). This stylist cuts the hair dry, one curl at a time (the appointment can take up to three hours, although I don’t think mine will take that long). Fingers are crossed!

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  5. I love your curls! It’s so important to find a hairdresser who knows how to work with your hair. Mine is straight and short, and once I find someone who can cut it, I only change under duress. 🙂

    Sounds like lovely holidays with some nice errands thrown in. And then you’ll be ready for more travel.

    I just found out I need a ticket to England in May, as we are having a new grandchild! I could not be more excited. It’s my DD who is 40 and we never thought she’d be able to have kids. THRILLED. (Can you tell? ha!)

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    1. BIG congratulations!!! I can only imagine how excited you all are, especially since this is something you didn’t see happening. Can’t wait to hear about your visit, both from the grandma point of view and the travel side as well.

      I’m like you – once I find a stylist who knows what to do with my hair or how to cut it, I will stick with that stylish until I’m forced to changed (and then the search begins again). I think it’s a law of nature that those with curly hair wish they had straight hair, and those with straight hair wish for curls. It’s a wonder I still have hair these days for all the damage I did to my hair in the past trying to get it straight (chemicals, ironing, giant rollers, etc.).

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  6. If I didn’t know we were on the Mid Atlantic coast of the USA I would swear we were in England due to the rain and cold weather. I just cannot seem to get warm and by 4:30 pm I wonder how did the days get so short so fast?

    Like others I longed for beautiful curls like you have. And spent many years pursuing via perms. I am happy with myself and my hair and mainly working on being healthy—and oh yeah-decluttering!

    On the travel end about 2 years ago I decided if it would not fit in a lightweight back pack and a mid sized purse I would not take it. So now we generally do our best to stay in Airbnbs with washer/dryer. The big plus for souvenirs is if I cannot carry it then I do not buy it. AND if it’s that important to buy then I will mail it home. As a rule I can say no since we are also clearing out, donating and gifting no longer used or needed stuff.

    I think if we could travel like you & Brett do we would still do that but buy seasonal clothing as we traveled & look at charity shops to fill in for weather changes. Everyone’s needs are different though!

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    1. Your weather sounds like what we’re dealing with here. We can quite literally feel the temperature dropping here in the cottage, especially when the sunlight fades in the afternoon.

      With few exceptions, a washer (and sometimes a dryer) are on our must have amenities whenever we book an Airbnb. We are still probably carrying too many clothes with us, but everything gets worn these days. The last couple of weeks though I’ve been spending more time in my pajamas since we haven’t been going outside as much as we did earlier.

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  7. Hi Laura, been following your travels since when you lived and owned a house in Portland. Love your writing and your adventure. Wanted to inform you about using a mailing service (a commercial mail receiving agent). We traveled the Western US in an RV for a year and used a mail service. What I didn’t know is once you use a forwarding card through the USPS to have your mail go to a mailing service, you cannot reforward from the mail service address. If you decide on a mail service, the best way is to change your address with each and every bill individually to the mail service address and once you settle (ha!) then change each to the new address. We had to keep the service we had a little longer to be sure it was only junk mail left going there. Best wishes, Kitty

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    1. Thank you for this information! We had a similiar issue when we changed our address to a mailbox at a local UPS store before we left Portland. It took a while to straighten it out.

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