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.

Afternoon Tea Giveaway

There to seem to be more than a few blog giveaways going on right now (Don’t Read This; It’s Boring and One Hundred Dollars a Month just announced giveaways this week, for example) so here’s one more you can enter!

This Afternoon Tea giveaway includes a lovely blue and white porcelain heritage mug from Oxford and some Scottish shortbread from Edinburgh as well as a box of PG Tips tea bags. The mug is decorated with images of some of the famous buildings at Oxford University and is rimmed with gold; the shortbread is handmade from a traditional melt-in-your-mouth butter recipe.

To enter, please comment on this post only, with one entry per day permitted. Leave at least one comment telling me about one of your favorite travel tips. Another one-time extra entry can be earned if you’re already a follower of The Occasional Nomads, or if you become a follower of the blog – leave a comment and let me know. One more one-time entry can be earned if you mention the giveaway in your own blog; again, let me know in a comment.

The giveaway will be open through midnight PST Friday, November 29 (the day after Thanksgiving), with the winner chosen by a random name selector and announced on Sunday, December 1. I will contact the winner to get your address and mail your package out a couple of days later. I can only accept entries from the U.S. and Canada as overseas postage is prohibitive.

Thanks for entering!

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.

We Have a Winner! Giveaway #3

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



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

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

Time Travel

My pretty pink leather wallet from high school somehow survived over the years.

We might not have had iPhones for taking pictures, or Instagram and Facebook back in the day, but we did have a photo-sharing device: our wallets. Besides carrying money, a wallet usually came with several plastic pages in the middle (mine had 16) where one could save and share photos, as well as keep tickets, receipts and other memorabilia.

Neither of us is still sure how or why, but Meiling somehow ended up with possession of my high school wallet (I didn’t even know it still existed) and handed it over to me when we were in Eugene. What a fun bit of time travel I had going through it all! I still almost can’t believe how many photos I had stuffed in there, actually layers of photos under other photos. The wallet also contained my old library card, a school ID, receipts, and several raffle-type tickets for who knows what that were apparently important enough at the time that I thought they should be saved.

Here are a few of the things I found:

I was on the drill team during my sophomore year with some of my best friends. We all went on to other things after that year. (Note – all of my friends commented that you can see the mountains in the background, so unusual then because the mountains were almost always obscured by LA area’s then-horrific smog).
Photo booth pictures! I blame being 14 and not knowing any better for that hairstyle in the upper right picture. The photo on the upper left was taken at the Los Angeles County Fair where I ended up in the medical tent with breathing problems because of the smog.
There were several friends’ senior portraits. Senior women were required to wear a sweater and a pendant on a fine chain for their picture (a single pearl was considered very classy).
There were several photos of family members (except for my Dad for some reason). My mom’s hair and glasses were kind of wild in this picture but she was still a beauty.
High school crushes Stuart R. and Jeff W. Meiling wanted to know who the hot guy was with the towel and it took me a while to remember Jeff’s name! Stuart sadly died several years ago.

Finally, I really was a mere slip of a girl back then – what the hell happened?

Christmas Dance 1967 with Steve J, a friend from church.

Reminder: Kitchen Set Giveaway

The last giveaway includes a boxed set of lacquered chopsticks and two blue and white tenugui with traditional seigaiha wave patterns.

Counting today, there are seven days left to enter Giveaway #3 for the kitchen set from Japan containing two tenugui (cotton hand towels) and the set of five lacquered chopsticks. The giveaway will end at midnight on Wednesday, July 3, and the winner will be announced on Friday, July 5.

FYI – I saw this book the other day on how to gift wrap Japanese-style with textiles, including tenugui!

Finally, please continue to enter on the original Giveaway #3 post. You can enter once a day.

Giveaway #3: Kitchen Set

The last giveaway, from Tokyo’s Kappabashi (kitchen) district, includes a boxed set of lacquered chopsticks and two blue and white tenugui (cotton hand towels) in traditional wave patterns (called seigaiha 青海波).

Tenugui are normally around 14 x 35 inches (I am assuming these are the traditional size), made of silk-screened cotton, with the ends of each towel left unfinished. They can be used for a variety of purposes, and the more they are used and washed the softer they become. Tenugui can be cut and hemmed to make napkins, or used to make a table runner, but they can also be used to wrap gifts or for other purposes. They make wonderful kitchen towels.

The chopsticks have ribbing on the ends which makes it easier to pick up and hold things, especially noodles, and the ornamentation at the top show a variety of traditional Japanese design motifs in blue.

Here are the giveaway rules once more:

  • You may enter the giveaway once a day.
  • Leave at least one comment on this post about anything having to do Japanese design. Additional entries can be as simple as you’d like.
  • For an additional one-time additional entry, send a separate comment and let me know if you already follow The Occasional Nomads or if you become a follower.
  • Share about the giveaway on your own blog and let me know in a separate comment for one more additional entry.
  • Please only at this post only (not on reminder posts).
  • The giveaway will end at midnight on July 3; one entry will be chosen at random and the winner announced on Friday, July 5. I will contact the winner by email to get shipping information. The giveaway is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada (I’m sorry – I can’t afford the postage otherwise).

Thanks for entering – I am looking forward to hearing from you!

We Have a Winner!: Giveaway #1

I used a random name generator, and out of 44 entries the winner is:



Pat: I will be contacting you by email, and once I have your address I’ll mail the obi to you. I’d love to hear or see how you use it!

Thanks so much to all who entered – I loved all your comments about how you would use the obi and what you would like to see in Japan. For those who didn’t win this time, I hope you’ll enter the current giveaway, Supermarket Favorites from Japan!

Giveaway #2: Supermarket Favorites from Japan

For the second giveaway, I’ve put together a few of our favorite food items from Japan:

  • 3 packages of CookDo Chinese sauces: Sweet & Sour Pork (or Chicken), Chili Shrimp & Stir-fry Pork or Beef w/ Peppers. Each package makes 3-4 servings (more like 2-3 American size servings). The three dishes could be served together for a complete Chinese meal, or each made individually, and they are meant to be served with steamed rice. Although there are picture directions on the back, I will include instructions in English.
  • 1 package soy peanut crackers (our favorite snack in Japan).
  • 1 package Asparagus Biscuits. These are lightly sweet cookies shaped to resemble asparagus spears (there is no asparagus in the cookies). They are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea.
  • 1 package dark chocolate KitKat bars.
  • 1 200-gram bottle of Kewpie mayonnaise. Kewpie has a cult following among chefs and others in the U.S. – its creaminess and rich flavor are because Kewpie is made with just the egg yolk instead of the whole egg like most mayonnaise.

Here are the giveaway rules:

  • You may enter the giveaway once a day.
  • Leave a comment on this post with at least one about your favorite Japanese food, or whatever – each comment you leave equals one entry.
  • For a one-time additional entry, send a separate comment and let me know if you already follow The Occasional Nomads or if you become a follower.
  • Share about the giveaway on your own blog and let me know in a separate comment for one more additional entry.
  • The giveaway will end on midnight on June 19; one entry will be chosen at random and the winner announced on Friday, June 21. I will contact the winner by email to get shipping information. The giveaway is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada (I’m sorry – I can’t afford the postage otherwise).

Thanks for entering – I look forward to hearing from you!