Sunday Morning 07/14/2019: Week 9 in Portland

Our view of Mt. Hood from our table at the Chart House on Friday afternoon – a perfect summer afternoon in Portland!

This past week was another lovely, low-key one. Earlier in the week I might have said it was almost boring, but a couple of exciting things came about to put a spring in our step. I will tell about them in a couple of weeks, but they’re staying secret for now.

I did not make it to my dental appointment on Monday because I woke up with a terrific sore throat, bad enough that I could barely open my mouth that morning let alone swallow. My throat felt a little sore on Sunday evening before I went to bed, but it was raging next morning and I knew there was no way I could manage having the dentist try to work inside my mouth (plus I was scared of infection). Thankfully the pain had mostly subsided by Monday evening which makes me think the whole thing was allergy related (and, it came back last night with a vengeance but is thankfully feeling better this morning). I have never had to deal with allergies before, but this spring/summer in Portland I’ve had to deal with a drippy nose, stuffed sinuses, now these sore throats. Anyway, my dental appointment was rescheduled to this coming Wednesday morning.

And, to sort of add insult to injury this week I went through one of my bi-annual rounds of insomnia, although it seems to be over now (or at least I hope it’s over). The inability to sleep always just sort of shows up without any warning, and I’ve learned there’s nothing much I can do to end it – it’s over when it’s over. I cut back on the amount of caffeine I take in, read before going to bed and avoid other electronics (well, somewhat), but otherwise it’s something I just have to roll with it. Thankfully I usually don’t have to get up early these days for anything, and most mornings I can sleep in (although that can help contribute to keeping me up late at night), but I’m thinking this is one of those old people things that has crept up on me and that I have to deal with from time to time. My grandmother and my mom kept waking up earlier and earlier in the morning (and going to bed earlier and earlier in the evening) as they grew older which for me would be far worse than staying up late into the night because I can’t fall asleep.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m currently reading Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician by Sandeep Jauhar, who wrote a book I read earlier, Heart. We are currently living among several medical students, interns and residents and I thought this one about being a physician would be an interesting read and so far it is. I put four more books on hold at the library and am now hoping they won’t all come in at once.
  • Listening to: It’s very quiet here this morning – Brett is reading and I’m sitting here sipping my coffee and writing. There’s absolutely nothing going on outside. I sure don’t miss all the noise we put up with on Kaua’i (screaming roosters, barking dogs, etc.) although I do miss hearing the bird songs – they were lovely – and sound of the breeze blowing through the palm trees.
  • Watching: We finished Stranger Things, Season 3 (which was great but it looks like this was the end of the series), but we still have a few more episodes of Big Little Lies and Years and Years to go, and a couple more seasons of Father Brown. I thought the actor that plays Father Brown (Mark Williams) looked familiar – he played Arthur Weasley in all the Harry Potter films! Brett and I have also started watching a new-to-us season of The Great British Bake-Off that we had somehow missed before – they’re always fun to watch.
  • Cooking: We’re having chicken lettuce wraps tonight because they didn’t end up getting made last week. Tomorrow I’m fixing pork carnitas in the slow cooker with the roast we bought week before last, and we’ll be having carnitas tacos/lettuce wraps, and then we’ll have those leftovers during the week. Also on the menu will be Snake Alley Zoodles, zucchini frittata with sausages, and our Friday night pizza (with roasted tomatoes, salami, fresh mozzarella and basil this week).
    There were no strawberries this week, but we did get raspberries, blueberries and boysenberries at the farmers’ market as well as zucchini and a bunch of red onions.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We went to the farmers’ market on Tuesday for some more berries and also picked up some red onions and zucchini. On Thursday we picked up a Zipcar and accomplished what is hopefully our last Portland Big Shop at Costco and Trader Joe’s. If we run out of anything after this we’ll head to the downtown Safeway, or Brett will stop at the NW Trader Joe’s after his calligraphy class. Other than getting my goals card filled in for another week I don’t think either of us accomplished any other notable things – neither of us felt particularly ambitious.
    No flowers from the farmers’ market this week as every bouquet contained goldenrod (= allergies), but we did salvage the chrysanthemums from last week’s bouquet to add to a bunch of lovely purple tulips from Trader Joe’s.
  • Looking forward to next week: We want to visit the Oregon Zoo while we’re here, and hope to go one afternoon this week as it’s always fun – we’re sad though that the Zoo Train is no longer operating. Whether we go will depend on the weather because we don’t want to go if it’s too hot or raining. Otherwise we’re just going to take it easy and see what we feel like doing each day.
    We enjoyed adult beverages and . . .
    . . . “small” plates at the Chart House. The above is kim chee fried calimari and baby octopus, and we also had fried artichokes, seared ahi nachos, and chicken lettuce wraps. Everything was delicious!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had an absolutely wonderful time at the Old People’s Happy hour with our friend Joan on Friday. The view from the Chart House was magnificent, and for not a whole lot we each had a drink and shared four tasty small plates. The conversation was pretty wonderful too. Our daughter-in-law sent us lots of photos from their getaway last week – they went RVing (a rental) on the Izu Penninsula. I did not know RVing was a thing you could do in Japan, but apparently it is. YaYu’s pictures from the outing were nice as well – on their last day they visited a mountain top amusement park shrouded in fog that looked like a set from the movie Spirited Away! I got to talk with all three of the girls this week, which is always a treat. Meiling always has a cooking question or two these days, WenYu is living the good life, but YaYu is feeling a bit homesick.
    We filled the back of our Zipcar when we did our Big Shop last week.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I’m not quite sure how we managed it, but we actually spent less than budgeted on our big shop, even though we added a couple of items that were not on our lists. Otherwise we did our usual frugal things, like having as many no-spend days as possible, eating all our leftovers, and not throwing away any food, and we put $11.13 into the change/$1 bag.
    Brett spotted a big bush of ocean spray buried deep in the forest near our place – beautiful! (However, these days I can’t walk through the forest without wondering if anything out there might possibly be causing allergies!)
  • Grateful for: I’ve been so thankful for the beautiful weather we enjoyed so far this summer and hope it continues. The mornings have been cool and a bit overcast changing to sunshine and warmth in the afternoon. I’m pretty sure we’re going to get some high temperatures later in the summer, but for now I grateful for the perfect sleeping weather, and good weather for enjoying being outside in the afternoon.
  • Bonus question: If you were given $1000 that you could spend only on yourself, how would you use it? This question came up again this week, and after some thought I came up with two answers. I would love to just give it away, but if I can’t I have always admired southwest Native American silver and turquoise jewelry and $1000 would buy something very nice, maybe a necklace and a bracelet or some earrings. On the other hand, I really don’t need more stuff so it’s more likely I would spend it on an experience. After some thought I decided I would probably put it toward a luxury spa getaway in a beautiful setting because not only would I be spending all the money on myself but I’d be getting to travel a bit as well. Going to a spa is not an experience that I would have chosen in the past, but these days I think I’d like the chance to be completely pampered and come away from somewhere feeling refreshed and rejuvenated, along with maybe having learned a few new ways to take better care of myself. (Brett couldn’t answer this question, by the way – he couldn’t think of anything other than a couple of small items he needs/wants).

We are well over the halfway mark of our stay in Portland, with just a little over six weeks left to go in the Rose City. There are still people to see and places to go and things we want to do, but overall it has been a wonderful visit so far and we’re looking forward to the time we have remaining. Future plans are beginning to settle into place but we’re already glad we’ll be back in Portland next December (even if the weather will most likely be miserable).

I hope you all had a great week and that lots of good things happened for you! Can’t wait to see and hear what this coming week brings.

Sunday Morning 7/7/2019: Week 8 in Portland

One of the spectacular views of Portland from the aerial tram on the ride down the hill.

What a nice last week we had, even though Brett had to spend a long morning at the dentist on Tuesday to get three fillings done. Otherwise we woke up when we felt like it, took care of errands at our leisure, and other than Brett’s classes we got out and operated on our own schedule – it was wonderful!

The Beatles exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society was full of amazing memoriabilia. Help! is still one of my all-time favorite movies – it never gets old. (I think I’ve seen it over 25 times, and can still quote dialog from it.)
The coat Ringo was wearing in the famous Abbey Road photo.

I have my turn in the dentist’s chair tomorrow morning, although I’m not exactly sure what she’s going to be doing. The last extraction is healing nicely, but there’s a filling that needs to be done on the next tooth over and I’m not sure if she’ll be doing that yet or getting things prepped for the bridge on the bottom. I love my dentist but I wish I had found out sooner that she wasn’t in-plan with our insurance so I could have found someone less expensive for all this work I’m having done. We have paid around $100 per filling out-of-pocket with my dentist while the out-of-pocket for all three of Brett’s filling was less than $100 after insurance! We also paid around $100 for my dentist’s extraction of my lower tooth, while the extraction of my broken upper tooth, a much more complicated procedure, only cost us $43 out of pocket because the oral surgeon is an in-plan dentist. The one thing that keeps me going to her at this point is that so much of the work I’m having done is complicated, and I’m not willing to work with someone new at this point – it’s a matter of trust (and time – Brett’s had to struggle to get appointments with the dentist he’s seeing, and I lucked into the appointment with the oral surgeon because there had been a cancellation). We’ve decided though that next time we need this much dental work we’re heading to Mexico or over to Malta.

I want to once again say thank you to everyone who entered the three giveaways. I loved and appreciated everyone’s comments. The last prize goes off in the mail tomorrow, but I’m already planning a couple more giveaways after we get back from England!

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished When We Were Orphans a couple of days ago, and while Remains of the Day remains my favorite Ishiguro novel, this one was a close second. The download for the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biography arrived the day before yesterday but so did Nanaville: Adventures in Grandparenting by Anna Quindlen, and Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land – three books at once! We ended up buying the Ginsburg biography for our Kindles though as it’s a huge book and there’s no way Brett could finish the hard copy in the time we were given nor could I with the download (and there was no renewal for either form of the book). This way both of us will have it available.
  • Listening to: Brett is rustling around in the kitchen, making coffee and refilling the Brita pitcher, but it’s still quiet outside. I got up very late this morning (almost noon) as I seem to be once again dealing with one of my bi-annual rounds of insomnia.
  • Watching: We continue to watch Father Brown, Big Little Lies, and Years and Years together, but right now we’re also binge watching the third season of Stranger Things. It’s as creepy as ever.
  • Cooking: I’ve got some Crack Chicken going in the slow cooker right now for our dinner tonight. I kept hearing about it, and read online that it was a low carb recipe, but when I looked it up I discovered it’s the same cream cheese chicken I’ve been making for over 20 years except there now appears to be bacon added (and cheddar cheese and green onions sometimes). The recipe will make enough that we’ll have leftovers for at least two more meals this week (lunch and dinner). Also appearing on the menu this week will be chicken lettuce wraps, cabbage rolls, a couple of big salads with shrimp, and our Friday evening pizza (Thai chicken this week).
  • Happy I accomplished this week: I don’t think I accomplished a whole lot this past week other than getting my goals card filled in. I walked/hiked every day this past week except yesterday and I can now climb the seven flights of stairs from the OHSU campus to our apartment without having to stop and catch my breath (although I’m pretty winded when I get to the top). I finally finished listing all the places we might want to visit when we’re in the Cotswolds that I’ve been gleaning from the travel book Slow Cotswolds, so that book is ready to be returned to the library.
  • Looking forward to next week: This coming Friday we are getting together with our friend Joan for an Old People’s Happy Hour at the Chart House restaurant. Happy Hour starts at 3:30, which is when we plan to be there to enjoy some tasty small plates, drinks (alcoholic and otherwise), and terrific views of Portland. I think Old People’s Happy Hours need to become a thing. As Joan says, we deserve to be happy without spending a fortune or staying out until all hours. Otherwise I’m looking forward to a pretty uneventful week.
    The history and culture of Oregon’s indigenous tribes are well represented at the Oregon Historical Society.
    An old, full-size Conestoga wagon was on display, like those that traveled the Oregon Trail.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: It was a great week for getting out and about with pretty nice weather almost all week. We had a fun time riding the tram down off the hill in order to get to the (expensive) grocery store (where we won’t be going again) and we also visited the Oregon Historical Society museum on Friday. We not only experienced the wonderful Oregon history exhibits but a totally FAB Beatles exhibit as well (we couldn’t resist buying ourselves a Yellow Submarine shopping bag). On the Fourth of July we had front row seats on the Kohler Pavilion balcony, and although our view of the fireworks was partially blocked by a large pine tree, the effect of the fireworks through the tree turned out to be quite beautiful. We gorged ourselves on fresh Oregon berries this week, and also scored another lovely $5 bouquet at the OHSU farmers’ market.
    Love our new shopping bag . . .
    . . . and our beautiful $5 summer bouquet from the farmers’ market.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: The tram ride down from OHSU was free, but when I went to purchase a ticket to ride back up I discovered only round-trip tickets were sold. When I told the woman that I lived at the top and only needed a one-way ticket, she gave me a complimentary pass – sweet! Unfortunately our trip to Zupan’s market on Tuesday was not frugal because everything there was very expensive, although I did appreciate the market’s selection of local, humanely raised meats. We received a nice senior discount on our admission to the Historical Society museum. After our museum visit we headed over to the nearby Safeway to buy some Tums (calcium!) and I found a two-pound boneless pork roast with an additional 30% off sticker on the already reduced price for the roast. The original price was $9.88; we ended up paying only $4.14. Berries were on sale this week at the farmers’ market so we bought six pints, mixing up the varieties. We put $6.89 into our change/$1 bill bag, and all leftovers were eaten and no food was thrown out except for a tiny bit of grated Parmesan cheese that had started to develop mold.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are feeling thankful these days for the opportunity to be “tourists” in our old home town, enjoy the summer here, and be able to once again appreciate all that Portland has to offer as well as some other beautiful places in Oregon. This is a great location for us to rest up between travels, reconnect with friends, and we’re grateful we have a few more weeks left to go!
    Oregon berries are at their peak! We bought four different kinds at the farmers’ market last week: strawberries, raspberries, boysenberries, and blueberries.
  • Bonus question: What are your favorite fruits? Another questions I’ve probably answered before, but I absolutely love all summer fruits and most tropical fruits. Berries, melons, peaches, plums, cherries, papayas, mangoes, and so forth put me in my happy place. These days though I’m paying close attention to how much of them I eat as they contain a lot of carbs. The only summer fruit I’m not particularly fond of these days are fresh apricots. We had a big tree in our yard when I was little, and while I loved my mom’s canned apricots the fresh ones never interested me much and still don’t. I’ve only also recently become a fan of nectarines and can’t give a good reason now why I didn’t care for them before. This summer I am especially missing the dragonfruit that was so plentiful and cheap at the farmers’ market on Kaua’i. I’ve seen them here for $6 each – no thank you! When I was younger I loved most winter fruits – oranges, tangerines, pears, and apples but not so much these days (although I do love a perfectly ripe Bartlett or red pear).

Finally, our former home on Kaua’i is for rent again – I guess the family that lived there could only manage a year. The landlord still has the rent priced way too high, and now will only include lawn care and trash pickup with a year’s lease (although trash pickup is included in the annual property taxes – he is not charged extra for it). He started out on Craigslist with the same illegal ad as the last time, but someone higher up must have called him on it because we noticed a few days later he had changed the two things that were problematic. Seeing the photos of that house again only made me shake my head – I liked the house and I miss Kaua’i, but am glad we no longer have to deal with that landlord.

I hope you all had a great week and are looking forward to the one coming up, and that loads of good things happened for you too!

Sunday Morning 6/30/2019: Week 7 in Portland

We couldn’t resist this bit of summer at the farmers’ market for just $5!

Where did June go, and how did it go so quickly? I can barely believe it’s the end of of the month already, but here we are. We have two full months coming up in the Rose City (otherwise known as Stumptown, Rip City, Bridgetown, etc.) but if they’re anything like this past month they are going to fly by.

Entrance to the Japanese Garden in Washington Park.
I loved this small, mossy stone lantern tucked away in the garden

This past week started out OK with a visit to the Japanese Garden and the International Rose Test Garden. I visited the Rose Garden several times when we lived here, but had never gone in June when EVERYTHING was in full bloom – it was almost overwhelming because the blossoms were so lush. Brett and I strolled around checking out as much as we could. Although I don’t care for growing roses, I love the big blossoms especially when they are multi-toned or -colored, and we saw quite a few. I also like unusual colors – my favorite was a solid light violet color hybrid tea called Neptune.

The entire Rose Garden was an explosion of blooms, and filled with wonderful aromas.
This rose, Neptune, looks a bit pink in the photo but was actually a beautiful shade of pale violet that I’d never seen before.

The week ended nicely as well but the middle was a bit of a challenge. I had a tickle in my throat last Sunday which segued into a nasty cough and sore throat, and by Wednesday I was miserable and stayed that way on Thursday. However, if I had to be sick, those were the two days for it- both Wednesday and Thursday were cold and stormy/rainy. Poor Brett had to go out in the lousy weather both days, to his Japanese class on Wednesday, and then to the dentist on Thursday.

Our dental woes and the associated expenses continue. Brett learned last Monday that he needs three fillings, a deep scaling (which was started this past week), and at least one but probably two crowns as well. It never rains but it pours. He’s seeing a different dentist than I am, one located nearer to our apartment, and his costs appear to thankfully be less than mine (although still not cheap). Anyway, our teeth should be in good/better shape when we leave Portland although our wallets are going to be very empty after we finish paying for all of this work.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Tattooist of Auschwitz early in the week. I know it’s a popular bestseller, based on a true story, but I just didn’t warm to it as much as I thought I would. I’m still trying to figure out why although I know it’s more about the writing versus the story. I also finished The Big Book of Less, by Irene Smit and Astrid van der Hulst, about downsizing and living simply in all aspects of life (with just the first chapter about living with less stuff). I just downloaded and started Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans last night.
  • Listening to: Brett is rustling around in the kitchen, making coffee, and doing other chores. He is coughing a lot now, but it’s hard to tell whether he picked up my cough or if it’s from allergies. It’s very quiet outside, so far at least.
  • Watching: We’re continuing to watch episodes of Father Brown, and it’s fun seeing the British stars that have been appearing. Tonight we’ll also watch another episode of Big Little Lies. We caught the first episode of Years and Years (on HBO) last Monday evening and all I can say is WOW! I cannot wait to watch another episode again tomorrow evening. We also enjoyed seeing the Academy Award-winning Into the Spider-Verse this past week – it’s currently streaming on Netflix.
  • Cooking: We’re having meatballs tonight along with some roasted vegetables. Other things appearing on the menu this week will be chicken in Thai red curry sauce, zoodles with meat sauce, stir-fried pork and cabbage, and our Friday night pizza (bacon cheeseburger this week).
    The iconic Portland sign outside the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on SW Broadway, one of Portland’s most famous landmarks.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We went downtown on Monday to mail the second giveaway prize, and returned a book at the library. I checked out two books but Brett is already reading one of them (the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biography – I decided to wait for the ebook version). While we were downtown we walked around for a while and revisited some of Portland’s landmarks and parks (glad we didn’t go yesterday – there was a pretty nasty demonstration). We walked over to the farmers’ market on Tuesday morning and bought four pints of strawberries, two pints of Rainier cherries (my favorite), some zucchini, and some flowers for the apartment. On Tuesday afternoon we went to visit the Japanese and Rose Gardens, a perfect day to go, which made us glad our visit had been initially delayed. On Wednesday and Thursday I stayed indoors with my cough and sore throat and rested, but Friday I felt better and we went for a short hike, and yesterday we took a longer hike. I filled out all of my goals card (only missed two days of walking), and got a set of cards made up for next month. I moved up a level in Japanese!
  • Looking forward to next week: Once again there’s not a whole lot on our calendar and I’m grateful for it. Brett has more dental work coming up next week, goes to Japanese class on Wednesday evening and his calligraphy class on Saturday, but we haven’t decided what else we’d like to do or where we’d like to go otherwise. We’ve talked about heading over to Pittock Mansion in NW Portland – it’s always an interesting place to tour – but getting there on public transportation will require some extra effort. For the Fourth of July we’re going to walk over to the OHSU campus and see if we can catch some of the city’s fireworks from the Kohler Pavilion balcony.
    WenYu hanging out at the BT21 Line Friends store.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: WenYu visited Meiling in NYC this past week for a two-day getaway. They both would have liked to for her to stay longer, but she begins her internship (at Harvard!) tomorrow. YaYu called to let me know that after a month in Japan she has decided to embrace the experience (finally) and is going to try and get out and experience as much as she can. To this I say YEAH! She was a bit scared at first about being over there on her own, but visited two different places on her own last weekend and decided it wasn’t so bad after all and this weekend plans to go out and walk for as far as she can and then take the train back. My sore throat and cough could have ended up being a whole lot worse, but thankfully only lasted a couple of days. I’m thinking allergies may have been the cause, and that the rain on Wednesday and Thursday settled all the pollen (for a while) because I felt much better after the rain. Finally, I could really sense a difference this past week in how my clothes are fitting. I’m not sure if I’ve lost any weight, or how much, but things are changing for the better anyway.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Other than our trip to the farmers’ market we had a no-spend week, and put $7.90 in our change/$1 bill bag. We’ve decided to cash in our savings the week before we leave and purchase British currency with it.
    When they were small: Fourth-grader Meiling, second-grader WenYu, and kindergartener YaYu (the photo was taken by their beloved school secretary). I love that YaYu’s shirt and pants were originally Meiling’s, then worn by WenYu before being passed to YaYu.
  • Grateful for: I’ve probably expressed this before, but both Brett and I are so thankful that our three daughters get along so well with each other, and support each other in their undertakings. It’s gratifying to hear about them getting together outside of family gatherings, and open themselves up to new experiences. They had their moments growing up, and we sometimes wondered how things were going to turn out between them, but they’ve worked out their issues (well, most of them) and they really are best friends these days,
  • Bonus question: What’s your morning routine? The absolute best part of being retired is that my mornings these days are mine. With only a few exceptions now and then, I wake up when I’m ready to get up and I do what I want at my own pace – no more alarm clocks, and no more running around like crazy. The first thing I do in the morning is drink a 16-ounce glass of water. Unless I am posting on the blog (which I do first), I check my email, Facebook, and Instagram, read through my favorite blogs, and finally go through my Twitter feed. If I see an interesting article or something else that piques my interest, I’ll read further about that. Afterwards I play my favorite game (Matchington Mansion) for a few minutes. I got hooked on it when I was in Japan – C and I used to play together. Then I make the bed and get ready for the day (the house is picked up/cleaned before I go to bed). Besides the glass of water I also drink two cups of coffee and one can of Diet Coke. I love the stuff but I don’t  have any caffeine after noon drink it in the late mornings now. I also fix and eat breakfast somewhere in there as well clean the kitchen and get all the morning dishes into the dishwasher. It’s a very relaxing start to my day!

We had another weird week of weather here – it got very chilly again the two days it rained, but then summer came back and we’re into the 80s again. I am appreciating the cooler days when we get them though because I know it’s going to get HOT later on in the summer (like the high 90s and into the 100s for a few days), and Portland just doesn’t do hot weather very well. Looking at the bright side though, at least I won’t be suffering from any humidity.

I hope you all had a great week, that lots of good things happened for you, and that you’re looking forward to the coming week. Don’t forget too that there’s still a few more days to enter the giveaway for the Japanese kitchen set – you can enter until midnight PST on Sunday, July 3.

Sunday Morning 6/9/2019: Week 4 in Portland

The rain thankfully held off until after we left the Chinese Garden on Thursday afternoon.

My time in the dentist’s chair went well this past Monday; in fact, it went much better than expected! I was numbed up to the max, the filling went quickly with no problems (there had been the possibility of a root canal) and the extraction was over before I knew it. There were few to no post-extraction problems either – we rode home on the tram and bus without my having to keep a wad of gauze in my mouth. Pain was also minimal to non-existent. I will go back mid-month to have my crown prep done, and then at the end of the month I will get my new (gold) crown and the second filling. The prep for the new bridge will begin mid-July and I will be finished with everything at the end of July! Well, everything except the bill.

The last of some new wardrobe items I had ordered arrived this past week, so that summer-in-Portland task is done. I had started thinking back when we were in Japan about what I didn’t want to continue to pack going forward, and what I might want to add to freshen things up. Along with finding some great sales in the past few weeks I now have have a wardrobe that’s a little more stylish, one where everything will get worn, and one that will also give me some variety. More on this coming up!

I bought a “new” summer dress this past week at the downtown Goodwill boutique store!

The end of last week was cool to cold here, with temperatures dropping into the low 60s (Friday’s high was 59º). We wore sweaters and sweatshirts, put an extra blanket on the bed, kept a comfy throw over us while we watched TV, and we still felt chilled. However, yesterday it started warming up and the sun came out, and this coming week temperatures are supposed to climb into the 90s (today will be in the 80s)! On the plus side there will be very low to no humidity, so hopefully it should be bearable, especially up here in the hills, and the forest should be cool(ish) enough for hiking. YaYu is already complaining about the humidity in Japan, and I sadly had to remind her it’s just getting started there for the summer. The humidity is the one part of living in Hawai’i I don’t miss in the least.

Finally, don’t forget you can enter Giveaway #2 once a day through June 19 for the chance to win some supermarket favorites of ours from Japan, including three different CookDo sauces and some Kewpie mayonnaise.

This morning I am:

Besides picking up a book I had on hold at the Central Library, I also found another book on the Lucky Day shelf, which along with three eBooks gives me four books to finish in three weeks.

  • Reading: I had three books come off of hold this week, and I picked up a book at the library when I was there so I am currently reading two books at a time, one during the day and one at night. During the day I’m reading Small Fry, by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, Steve Jobs daughter. She is a wonderful writer, but it is one of the most bittersweet books I have read in a long time. Her relationship with her father was not an easy one, but she writes about him with love. My current book at night is Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan. It’s about a political sex scandal that takes place in England, and I’m just getting started (had to finish An American Marriage first), but so far so good. I read a short but funny book while I was waiting for Brett at the library: Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It? by Patricia Marx (and wonderfully illustrated by Roz Chast). I recognized more than a few of her mother’s aphorisms – my mom and/or grandmother said many of the same things (but less humorously)! Books waiting on deck now are Distant Echo by Val McDermid, and The Unquiet Dead – A Novel by Ausma Zehanat Khan, and I’ve moved to the top of the waitlist for yet another book I have on hold.
  • Listening to: It’s another delightfully quiet morning here. Brett is eating breakfast and reading, and I’ve been enjoying my morning coffee, reading blogs and Twitter, and have my breakfast ready to go. It’s nice and cool this morning, but the sun is out – it’s going to be a beautiful day.
  • Watching: We watched the third season of True Detective this past week which was excellent, and in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day we are rewatching Band of Brothers. It’s my fifth viewing of the series and it’s just as compelling as it was the first time – I’m still discovering things I didn’t catch before. We plan to watch the partner series, The Pacific, after we’re done. Band of Brothers is especially meaningful for me this time because of our visit to Normandy last fall. Tonight we’re also going to start watching the new season of Big Little Lies on HBO.

    Greek yogurt and loads of berries for breakfast – yum!
  • Cooking/baking: I’m eating fat-free Greek yogurt with a ton of berries on top for breakfast this morning, and dinner tonight will be chili-pork sauce over cauliflower rice topped with some grated cheese. Leftover sauce will be served over eggs for breakfasts this week. Also on this week’s menu will be slow-cooker turkey pepper pot, zucchini frittata, CookDo pork & pepper stir fry, and our Friday night pizza (we’re thinking topped with sausage and peppers this week).

    The Lan Su garden was all dolled up with red lanterns for an event taking place there that evening.

    There were lots of memories as we walked around old Chinatown after visiting the garden. I think we ate at every restaurant there at one time or another, but they’re all closed and gone now, or moved over to SE Portland.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Besides getting that dental experience behind me, Brett and I also made two trips downtown. One was to pick up a book from the Central Library about slow traveling in the Cotswolds, and the other trip was to visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Northwest Portland. I filled in everything on this week’s goals card and walked every day except for Wednesday when my back was acting up again (Brett took a four-hour hike through the forest that day though), and Friday, when it rained. We missed going to the OHSU farmers’ market on Tuesday because I got the day and time wrong, but we found out exactly where it was held and the correct time so we’re definitely going this week.

    When we were downtown we stopped at Pioneer Square to check out a flower festival currently going on, and spotted this familiar guy, Umbrella Man (actual name is Allow Me).
  • Looking forward to next week: Other than Brett’s calligraphy class on Saturday and the class’s summer barbecue potluck afterwards, we have no appointments or errands this week. Our time is our own, which is always lovely (I am looking forward to the barbecue though – we’re going to take a prepared noodle salad from New Season’s market). We’ll see how it goes here in the heat, but we’re thinking about maybe visiting the Oregon Zoo later in the week, with a side visit down the hill to the Japanese Garden and the International Test Rose Garden (the zoo train makes a stop where we can get to them). We also need to make a trip over to Trader Joe’s in NW. I’m hoping to get a LOT of reading done so all the books I have checked out can be returned on time.

    Looking good in his new-to-him sports coat. We almost missed it as it had been pushed behind other jackets. WenYu says he looks like a “wise cat” in this picture – LOL!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: At the Chinese Garden I ran into a former colleague of mine from my teaching days and we had a lovely, long chat to catch up. Then, yesterday morning there was a knock on the door and it was another good friend who had come to visit – we ended up chatting and catching up for nearly four hours! We heard from all the girls this week – Meiling is getting ready to graduate (next week!), WenYu is still waiting to hear one way or another about an internship but is also applying for other work, and YaYu is settling into life in Japan and had gone out into the neighborhood on her own for the first time this past week. She went with our son and family out to the Atsugi base yesterday so they could get some American stuff at the commissary and she thankfully had no issues sponsoring him onto the base. Brett and I stopped in at the downtown Goodwill store across from the Central Library last Tuesday – Brett’s been wanting to add a sports coat to his wardrobe, and we found a Burberry(!) one that fit like it was tailored just for him (I also found the summer dress there). The downtown Goodwill is one of their “boutique” stores, and carries designer and other higher-end items (but of course has higher prices than a regular Goodwill store).
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had a fairly low spend week, and we’re once again below our $50/day average for the month. At the Chinese garden we got both a senior discount and a military discount on our admission which saved us $4. Brett’s sports coat and my “new” summer dress were both things we were looking for this summer, so we’re very happy that we found such nice ones at Goodwill for such low prices. We continue to do a good job of using up leftovers and things we have in the fridge so there’s no food waste. We put $10.28 into the change/$1 bill bag this past week.

    Another jar of mugi-cha begins its steep on the counter.
  • Grateful for: I am so thankful these days for the giant package of mugi-cha (roasted barley) tea bags I found at Costco in Japan. It is my favorite summer drink and the package contains enough to get me through the summer. I make it every other day in a half-gallon jar – all I have to do is put two teabags into cold water, wait three hours and it’s ready! I find it more refreshing than iced tea, but it has no caffeine so I can drink it at any time during the day (a good thing because I finally have settled into some normal sleeping hours).
  • Bonus question: What is your favorite type of book? I love, love, love reading mysteries and police procedurals, including ones written about true crimes. I especially like fictional ones that are set in Great Britain or Ireland, or outside the U.S. However, I also enjoy novels about the human condition (like An American Marriage or Anatomy of a Scandal) and also books about social history and historical events both famous and not, especially those centered on World War II, and books about healthy eating and nutrition. The types of books I don’t like include romance novels, science fiction, and self help, but I’ll generally read just about anything if it’s well written.

When I wrote the title for this post I had to stop and think, have we really already been here for four weeks? It seems like we just arrived the other day. We’re still enjoying living up in the hills – I’ve already told Brett that if we ever came back to Portland, this is where I’d want to be versus over the east side. The Marquam Nature Park and its forest trails are pretty much my idea of heaven.

Once again, I hope all of you had a great week, got lots done and also had lots of good things happen for you. Here’s to next week being a wonderful one!

Sunday Morning 6/2/2019: Week 3 in Portland

When a tree falls in the forest . . . . In Portland, it is quickly covered with moss! The English ivy looks beautiful, but it’s an invasive species here and has taken over much of the forests in the city.

It’s now just the two of us again. YaYu departed for her summer adventure in Japan this past Thursday morning, and it’s taken us these past couple of days to get used to her absence. We know she’s going to have a wonderful time there this summer (and would have been completely bored here with us). I had a long conversation with her yesterday – she was getting ready to learn how to pick up C from school. She’ll be doing it for the first time on her own tomorrow and is nervous.

This is apparently going to be My Summer of Dental Work. After having lots of x-rays taken and an exam done by my dentist last week, beginning tomorrow I will be having (in order of the work being done): a major filling, an extraction, another filling, a crown, bridge prep and new front lower bridge, cleaning and whitening. The extraction will be in my lower front in preparation for the new bridge, so for the next six weeks I am going to have a gap there while it heals – lovely. However, my old bridge is 30 years old and old technology, and it’s frankly a miracle it’s held on this long. In the time between tomorrow’s filling and extraction and getting the bridge installed, the crown and the other filling will be done. Other than the cavities – my first ones in nearly 50 years – I knew all of this was coming and it’s finally time to deal with it. We are expecting the bill, even after insurance, to be quite high – we’ll receive an estimate tomorrow. I will be glad however to have my teeth in the best shape possible when we head overseas again.

English ivy doesn’t just stay on the ground either – it overtakes the trees as well.

Brett and I were going to go see the Starlight Parade last night, the opening event in Portland’s annual Rose Festival. The parade is a celebration of all that is weird and wacky in Portland and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, my back had other ideas so we ended up staying home – there was no way I could have stood for that long. In the 20+ years we lived in Portland we never made it to the Starlight Parade, so we were very much looking forward to going, but in the long run I’d rather my back feeling better than worse.

The Clown Prince of Portland float in the Starlight Parade. (photo credit: Pamplin Media Group)

Finally, there are four more days left for the obi giveaway, so four more chances to win (please enter on the original giveaway post). Giveaway #2 will be announced on Thursday, and the winner for Giveaway #1 on Friday.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished reading All You Can Ever Know, by Nicole Chung. She was adopted as an infant, and writes about her experiences and feelings growing up in a loving white family (she is ethnically Korean), and in a community where she was “different,” then searching for her birth family (her adoption was domestic, so not the same hurdles as it would have been if the adoption had been international). Her reactions and feelings about her adoption and meeting her birth family are compelling and emotional. Today I’m starting An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and after that I have another Val McDermid mystery to read.
  • Listening to: It’s quiet now, but earlier it sounded like one of the families that live in our condo buildings was getting ready to go on vacation of something. We could hear what sounded like the dad and the kids getting the car packed to go somewhere out on the street side of our building (the courtyard side is quiet though). The kids were very excited which made me wonder where they were going! Inside though it’s quiet – Brett is reading while eating a bowl of oatmeal and I’m up on the sofa, writing.
  • Watching: We finished up all the available episodes of Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel before YaYu left – we all loved them both and are looking forward to upcoming seasons. Brett and I have been watching Chernobyl the last few days, which we found extremely sobering – I knew the accident was bad, but I had no idea how bad until now. The final episode will be tomorrow evening. Last night I watched all three episodes of The ABC Murders (starring John Malkovich) on Amazon – it was very well done.

    Even though I’m avoiding starches, Friday night is pizza night. We made a bacon blue cheese burger pizza this week, which was fairly low carb – 32 gm per slice. And for dessert . . .
  • Cooking/baking: We are going to have zoodles with meat sauce tonight – our new spiralizer has arrived (we left our old one back on Kaua’i by accident). On the menu this week will be pork chops, fried cauliflower rice, teriyaki chicken, and pizza on Friday evening. I’m not sure what we’ll be having the other two evenings although I’m dreaming of another Cobb salad.

    . . . I had a mixed berry parfait (whipped cream and fresh berries) – extremely low carb and DELICIOUS!
  • Happy I accomplished this week: We helped YaYu pack and got her safely off at the airport – she had an easy if long flight and arrived in Japan on time and is settling in. I filled in all of this week’s goals card – having to check things off motivates me to get things done, and I’m also someone who hates to see things go unfinished! I hurt my back earlier in the week and didn’t think I would get much walking done, but somehow, except for Monday, when my back was at its worse, by the end of each day I had walked at least a mile and a half! I’m taking it slow though so that I don’t re-injure my back again.

    My goals card was all filled in (except for Monday’s walk when my back pain was at its worse).
  • Looking forward to next week: The OHSU farmer’s market opens on Wednesday afternoon and we’re planning to go and see what’s there. We may also go to the main Portland farmer’s market on Saturday, down in the Park Blocks by Portland State University. Brett and I want to visit NW Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden this week, and later today we’re going to ride the aerial tram down and back up as well as walk around the neighborhood at the bottom of the hill. We’re planning to take at least two more hikes through the forest this week (but hopefully more) – it is so wonderful to be in there. Of course, everything is dependent on the weather. If it rains we’re pretty much stuck inside but so far it looks like a good week ahead.

    My favorite flowers: peonies!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We spent a wonderful morning on Friday catching up with our friend Joan – we thought we’d visit a couple of hours and instead spent nearly five hours chatting away (which included a short walk in the forest). I picked up a small bunch of peonies, my favorite flower, at Trader Joe’s this past week. They’re slowly blooming, which is fine with me because the longer they last the better. Brett started his calligraphy class here yesterday and had a very good first session! Although we spent a lot of money last week we are now well stocked for the summer and shouldn’t have to go back to Costco, Winco or Target at all – our shopping will now be limited to small trips to Trader Joe’s and the farmer’s market, or we might have food delivered from New Seasons. I ordered a pair of leggings from J. Jill (on sale) and they turned out to be too big, something I never thought would happen to me these days so I am returning them for a smaller size. I found a pair of lovely, affordable sterling silver hoop earrings made by a local artisan at an airport shop after we said goodbye to YaYu, so that’s another summer goal that’s been accomplished.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This was not a frugal week – we spent A LOT of money on food, wine, and supplies to get us through the summer. We at least ate all our leftovers and did not waste any food, and we put $15.49 into our change/$1 bill bag.
  • Grateful for: There are so many transportation options in Portland, and we’re finding it very easy to get around town without having a car. We can also get free delivery from our favorite grocery store (New Seasons), and we’ve signed up for a car-share service. We’re feeling very thankful to have so many ways to get around this summer without having had to rent a car.
  • Bonus question? What’s on your nightstand? Well, what’s not on my bedside table at this house is a lamp, which I wish was there. Otherwise, there’s a small dish that holds my ear plugs, some lip balm and cuticle cream from Lush, my Kindle because I always read in bed at night, a coaster because I always have a glass of water by the bed at night, my little inu hariko figure, and an inu hariko ema I bought at a temple we visited in Japan. This table has a drawer, and inside I keep my sleep mask and a bag of odds and ends I carry with me (emery boards, tape measure, extra ear plugs, sewing kit, etc.).

I am dreading my time in the dentist’s chair tomorrow, but I know it’s all going to make me better in the end. I will survive. And, the ride over there and back on the bus and tram turned out not to be as bad as I thought it would be, thank goodness. I am really warming to this whole not having a car thing more and more. Our Zipcar pass arrived yesterday and we are logged in, so will have use of a car if absolutely necessary, but otherwise we’re sticking to public transportation and walking.

I’m looking forward to the coming week and hope you are too! I’m also hoping that you had lots of good things happen for you this past week, that you’ve got a good book to read and good food to eat, and that everything else is going well.

Sunday Morning 5/26/2019: Week 2 in Portland

Looking out east over Portland, watching the traffic cross the Ross Island Bridge. Our former home was a little off to the right, out of the picture.

What a difference a week makes! Last weekend I was dragging, and felt like my head was stuffed with cotton. I had absolutely no motivation to do anything. But, I slept through the night for the first time last Sunday and woke up feeling refreshed and like my old self. Although I’m going to bed earlier than I usually do (around 10:00 p.m.) and waking up much earlier too, I’ve slept through every night this week, so I guess I’m over the jet lag, the fastest I’ve ever recovered.

We cross several bridges on our hikes through the forest, with the lovely sound of water running underneath.

Love, love, love my new trail shoes. I have a wide foot and these shoes give me plenty of room. The cushioned soles are pretty amazing too.

We’ve had a very productive week. Brett and I have been hiking or walking almost every day, either on trails in the nearby forest or in the city. I’ve actually felt like cooking in the evenings, I’ve been reading up a storm, and have taken care of all sorts of little jobs that I just didn’t feel like doing up until now. We turned the rental car back in last Tuesday and have either walked or used public transportation since, including a trip over to Trader Joe’s in NW Portland. I had a bone density test done this past Thursday and walked to and from the clinic in the Kohler Center at OHSU (with seven flight of stairs each way). We’ll have a real test of the system though when I go over to the dentist’s office next Tuesday – it’s located on the far east side, and the bus and tram ride over is estimated to take over an hour. Our motto this summer though is if we could do it in Tokyo, we can do it here!

Waiting for the streetcar in downtown Pioneer Courthouse Square, “Portland’s Living Room.”

And here comes our Max tram to take us to the NW neighborhood! Our round-trip ride cost us just $1.25.

We’ve been enjoying pretty nice weather too – some rain, some cooler temps, but also quite a bit of sunshine. It’s been warm enough to have the windows open on some days, and Portland is lush and green all over, especially so in the forest. My new trail shoes are very comfortable, although I can tell I will eventually need some thicker socks if I am going to walk longer.

Finally, don’t forget to enter the current giveaway for the brocade obi from Japan! You can enter once a day until June 7 by leaving a (short) comment on the giveaway post even if it’s just to say hi. The more entries, the greater your chances of winning.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: Because I’m still waiting for a library book to come off of hold, I downloaded The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú, voted one of the best books of 2018. Cantú writes about his experience working for Customs and Border Patrol as an agent in the southwest, and why he finally decided to leave the agency. It’s an amazing piece of writing.
  • Listening to: I’m enjoying a very quiet morning – Brett is up and reading, but YaYu is still sleeping and it’s very quiet outside (which is one of the things we like about where we’re living this summer – it’s a very quiet community). After a rainy day yesterday we were hoping for sunshine today but can’t tell yet whether that’s going to happen or not.
  • Watching: We watched one of my all-time favorite movies on Netflix last Wednesday evening, Kung Fu Hustle. It’s a very different sort of Chinese kung fu movie with lots of humor and laugh-out-loud moments (but also has great fighting sequences). Since we finally have access to Amazon Prime, YaYu and I have started binge-watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Brett and I are watching Fleabag.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re having scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast this morning once YaYu gets up (she and Brett are also having toast and jam with theirs). Dinner tonight is mabo dofu served with steamed rice – cauliflower rice for me – and a cucumber salad. Other things appearing on the menu this week will include beef Polish sausages with fresh sauerkraut, chili shrimp and sweet and sour pork, chicken in Thai curry sauce, and Cobb salads.

    My index cards are a big help in keeping me motivated and making sure I stay on track with my goals.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got all sorts of little things done that I just had no energy nor motivation for last week, like creating my checklist cards, sorting through all the hotel toiletries we brought back so we can use them up; getting my compression socks and a couple of other things ordered, renting a car to get YaYu to the airport next week, taking some hikes through the forest, and walking through the OHSU campus a couple of times.
  • Looking forward to next week: Two of our three girls are taking off in different directions this coming week: WenYu will return to Massachusetts following a successful term abroad in Cyprus, and YaYu will depart for her big summer in Japan on Thursday morning. I will miss having them with us for the summer, but am so proud of both of them for their initiative. I’m looking forward to taking some more walks/hikes in the forest (including one with my good friend Joan), weather permitting, but mostly am excited about being able to relax and not have to rush around and run a lot of errands and such except to see the dentist – I am not looking forward to the trip over there and back.

    The iconic post-modern Portland Building is undergoing (much-needed) renovations, and Portlandia, the second-largest copper repoussé statue in the U.S. after the Statue of Liberty, is still under wraps for the summer.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Nothing particularly stands out – it was just a great week all around. I especially loved getting back into downtown Portland, and over to the NW Nob Hill neighborhood.

    Kitchen Kaboodle on NW 23rd was my first employer when we arrived in Portland 27 years ago. I left with lots of quality cookware and utensils (that I still have) thanks to the generous employee discount and several sales incentives.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) YaYu asked to stop at Goodwill last Monday and we bought a nice vase for 99¢, a gorgeous black velvet shirt for me for $9.99 that I couldn’t resist, a summer cotton shirt for $7.99 for Brett, and a paper towel holder for the apartment kitchen for $4.99. 2) We have not thrown out any food this week except for one package of Trader Joe’s hamburger rolls which were covered with mold after just a couple of day in the fridge (grrr) – everything else, including leftovers, has been used up or eaten. 3) I signed up for a free month of Amazon prime and saved $7.68 in shipping fees on my order of compression socks and a couple of other things we needed (now I just need to remember to cancel it at the end of the month). 4) I reserved a rental car for next week to take YaYu to the airport early in the morning – the cost was just $6 more than an Uber ride and we have the car for 24 hours. 5) We put $8.46 into our change/$1 bill bag.

    We’re living within easy walking distance of the OHSU campus this summer, with its hospitals and many clinics. I love the way the new buildings fit in with the old.
  • Grateful for: I am beyond thankful for the medical care we’re able to receive because of Brett’s military service. Between Medicare and our military insurance we no longer have any out-of-pocket charges, and here in Portland we can access clinics and be seen by doctors at the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), which provides some of the best healthcare in the city and state. We also now have even better dental insurance now than we did in the past and also vision care (finally!) through the military.
  • Bonus question: How does it feel to be back in Portland? I told Brett the other day that except for the long dreary winters I could easily live here again. I love being so close again to friends. I also love all the green, the stores, and everything the city offers, but I don’t think I can deal with the cold, wet winters again – it was very depressing last winter. I am enjoying being on the west side (of the Willamette River) this time, up in the hills for a change – the views! – so we’ll see how that goes through the summer.

I am still unable to comment on any Blogger platform for some reason. I thought it might have been a Japan problem, but I’ve tried to comment a couple of times this week and my comments still vanish into the ether when I submit them. Also, I now get notices that several blogs and websites I read are “not secure” and I’m not sure what that means either.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, a day for remembering those who gave their lives in service to our country, and for saying thank you for that service and that we remember you for a debt we still struggle to repay. Veterans Day is for thanking those who got to come home from their service; this weekend is one of remembrance for those who didn’t.

Anyway, I hope you all had a great late spring week, that lots of good things happened for you, and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up.  And don’t forget to enter the giveaway!!

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!

Sunday Morning 5/10/2019: Week 12 in Japan

We’re going to miss this little pixie so much! She is such a happy, even-tempered and contented little girl.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! Today would be my traditional Day of Doing Nothing, where Brett and the girls take care of all the chores and wait on me hand and foot, but this year there is too much going on for that to happen (and no girls around to help Brett). We’re relaxing at home now, but in a little while we’re heading over to the park near our son’s place for a picnic with them. Yesterday we handed over the few last things we had in the cupboards and refrigerator to our DIL so the apartment is ready for cleaning and last minute packing on Monday.

This is it though – our final Sunday in Japan. What an absolutely wonderful time we have had here! We are so, so sad about going but have enough to do before we leave on Tuesday that we hopefully won’t sink too far into melancholy. The only thing we are looking forward to leaving behind is our apartment. While the location has been superb, and the apartment clean and the kitchen well-equipped, it’s otherwise been a somewhat stressful place to live with very uncomfortable furniture, funky decor, and a so-so bed and bathroom. We realize that the apartment we had originally requested may have been too small to host Meiling and her boyfriend when they came, but it would have suited us far, far better in the long run. We’re apparently leaving at a fortuitous time as well as a new house is being built right next door (and I mean up close next door) and the construction noise during the day is becoming annoying. There are also other noisy tenants in the building now, including a group of some rather loud American college students.

Doing some homework at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s – we’re going to miss our fearless skateboarding boy too.

But, we’ll be back to Japan soon – we already have plans to come at least for a month in the fall of 2020 to be here for our granddaughter’s fourth birthday, but hopefully we will be able to stay longer. We had once dreamed of being here for the Olympics, but have now rethought that idea: we don’t really want to deal with the huge crowds along with Tokyo’s sweltering summer head and humidity.

Walking through the wetlands at the nature park in Saitama Prefecture last weekend. It was lovely the day we visited but I imagine the park would be beastly during the summer humidity.

Everything is ready for us in Portland – we will be staying in one Airbnb for three nights when we arrive, and then move to our long-term rental in the west hills on the 17th. Before we move over there, and in between bouts of jet lag, we will shop for food and supplies for the summer and take care of a few other errands on the east side of the city. YaYu arrives late at night on the 17th, and will be with us until the 25th (I think) before heading over to Japan for the summer. Meiling’s graduation happens mid-June, and Brett’s sister will hopefully be able to join us for that and stay with us for a few days. Brett is planning to continue his calligraphy lessons throughout the summer, and we both intend to sign up for Japanese lessons – our time here has shown us how woefully inadequate our language skills are. We are also going to somewhat try to be tourists in Portland this summer, and visit places and do things we normally never did there, or at least didn’t do very often.

Anyway, this morning I am:

  1. Reading: I finished two Val McDermid mysteries this past week (I read Broken Ground in two days!) and am now just about finished with The Library Book by Susan Orlean. I’m not sure what I’m going to read next.
  2. Listening to: We’re enjoying a very quiet morning – there’s not even a sound outside. The leaves aren’t moving on any of the trees either which means it’s going to be another hot day. It’s almost hard to believe how bitterly cold it was when we arrived back in February, and we’re now wearing summer clothing.
  3. Watching: Remember all those movies I planned to watch last week? I didn’t watch even one of them because I was too busy reading! I’m hoping I get to watch Crazy Rich Asians once again on the flight to the U.S. – love that movie!

    The only thing missing on my plate of pancakes from Butter was actual butter! The squares on the right were crème brulée, but Brett took my ice cream and syrup (in the back) and I somehow ate all the rest – it really wasn’t as sweet you might imagine. Brett and I are both going on a carb moratorium when we get back to the U.S. though. The only reason I’m still able to fit into my clothes now is because of all the walking we’ve done here every day.
  4. Cooking/baking: There are no longer food nor supplies in the house to do any sort of cooking so we have been eating out the past few days. We had okonomiyaki, Japanese savory pancakes, on Friday evening; McDonald’s last night (one more Teriyaki McBurger for me) because we were feeling tired and lazy; and tonight we’ll probably pick up a bento somewhere or maybe get one last order of takoyaki. We’re going out for sushi tomorrow evening, will have something from the bakery on Tuesday morning before we leave the apartment, and finish our Japan eating odyssey with lunch at Narita before we depart.

    Brett’s final calligraphy work product after four weeks of instruction. The characters represent the four seasons.
  5. Happy I accomplished this past week: This past week has been a series of chores necessary for moving on and we’ve mostly gotten them accomplished; thankfully there are just a few more small things left to do. We’re down to the last few items to fit into the suitcases and we have our fingers crossed that everything will fit. Brett had his last calligraphy lessons and did OK on his final work product. It has been a challenging endeavor for him because he has to use his right hand (he’s left-handed) but he enjoys it and is looking forward to continuing to learn. I also found and booked an Airbnb in Portland for us to stay in when we return to Portland next December to get us through Christmas there once again.
  6. Looking forward to next week: The only thing I’m looking forward to next week is that I will be able to once again understand what people, signs, magazines and newspapers around me are saying. I am not looking forward to the jet lag I know is coming – I think it’s going to be brutal this time.

    We enjoyed getting together with M’s parents last weekend. (And yes, I am growing out my very curly hair, and am in currently in my “old lady pouf” stage.)

    M’s mother’s garden is even more gorgeous this week as everything is in bloom!
  7. Thinking of good things that happened: We had a wonderful time last weekend with our daughter-in-law’s parents. We started out with snacks at their home and toured her mom’s beautiful garden (she’s a master gardener) before going out for lunch at a restaurant in the countryside. Afterwards we spent some time walking through a lovely nature park and wetlands near to the restaurant – it was an all around great day. Brett and I had a fun trip to Sogo’s food gallery in Yokohama on Tuesday. We bought a few items and then finished with fancy pancakes for lunch. The restaurant was named Butter, but I think butter was about the only thing I didn’t get with my pancakes! We were so glad to have finally eaten at the okonomiyaki restaurant last Friday. We have walked by it nearly every day we’ve been here and alway said we’d eat there “one of these days.” The restaurant was small but the food was fantastic and I’m sad we didn’t get to eat there more than just this once.

    The okonomiyaki restaurant had a nice old-school ambience.

    Our okonomiyaki getting started on the griddle, with the pancakes topped gererously with cabbage, ginger and chopped shrimp. That mound was then topped with several larger shrimp and pork belly slices. The cook expertly flipped the pancakes a few times as they cooked and didn’t spill a thing!

    The pancakes were finished on a hot metal plate before a scrambled egg, seaweed, sauce, mayonnaise and dried bonito flakes were added on top. The pancakes were then served to us on a wooden charger.
  8. Thinking of frugal things we did: We’ve done an outstanding job of using up all the food we had here in the apartment if I do say so myself. Very little went over to our son’s. Last Wednesday Brett went to the grand opening of a new 7-11 store that opened just down the street and scored some nice discounts on several items that we have eaten this past week or used for our grandson’s after-school treats. I reserved a hotel room for an overnight stay near Eugene for Meiling’s graduation and saved $40.47 off the price using my Expedia reward points. And, we’re leaving with a daily spending average for our entire time in Japan of $45.75 per day which makes us very happy (currently $43.75/day for May).
  9. Grateful for: Both Brett and I are so very, very thankful for the extended period of time we have been able to spend in Japan near our son and his family. It’s been all that we hoped for and more.
  10. Japanese word of the week: sayonara さようなら. While sayonara means good-bye, it also carries a sense of finality, and is used in situations where one will never be returning or not for a very long time, much like the word farewell in English. Sayonara is often used casually in Japanese speech, but you really don’t hear it much in regular conversation. We will be using the more informal jā matane when we say our goodbyes tomorrow, which means “see you again soon.”

Tuesday is my 67th birthday and Brett has been joking that I will get to enjoy it twice this year – thanks to the miracle of international travel it will be Tuesday morning once again when we arrive in the U.S. Not funny though – on Tuesday here we’ll be running the gauntlet to get out to the airport onto the plane, and all we’re going to want to do once we get to Portland on Tuesday is sleep. Oh well, there’s always hope for a special birthday next year!

I’d like to wish all of the moms a wonderful, wonderful day today! I hope everyone had a great week and that lots of good things happened for you, and that you have a great week coming up. See you back in the U.S.!

Sunday Morning 5/5/2019: Week 11 in Japan

What I love about Japan #3,692: This house has no yard, but a lovely garden has still been created out in front.

It’s almost impossible to think about, but we have only 10 days left to go in Japan (counting today)! We haven’t figured out how we’re going to accomplish it, but on May 14 we and all our luggage will head out to Narita Airport and leave for the United States in the late afternoon. We’ve seen and done everything we wanted to here and then some, spent loads of wonderful time with our son, daughter-in-law and grandchildren, eaten all the food, accomplished everything else we set out to do while we were here and even a few things we hadn’t planned on. Our three months in Japan has been everything we hoped for and more.

The main building of the Tokyo National Museum – there are four more.

We visited a special exhibition of treasures from Tō-ji temple in Kyoto. This sculpture is from the 9th century, and is a National Treasure of Japan.

We’ve had a relaxing and not too busy week: we returned from last weekend’s Golden Week getaway on Monday evening; unpacked, did our laundry, and rested on Tuesday, visited the Tokyo National Museum on Wednesday; Brett went to his calligraphy lesson on Thursday; and on Friday we did a self-guided walking tour of the Yanaka neighborhood. A little later today we’re going up to Saitama Prefecture for a visit and lunch with our daughter-in-law’s parents, and are looking forward very much to seeing them again. Because of Golden Week every place we’ve gone has been quite crowded, but we decided that’s just part of the experience.

From the Imperial Household display, a magnificent porcelain plate.

Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan, and their small population currently resides in the north, on Hokkaido. The applique and embroidery on these coats are exquisite; the fabric is hand woven and dyed.

An old corner building in the Yanaka neighborhood has been turned into a shop.

One of Brett’s and my big jobs this summer will be to inventory all of the things we’ve been traveling with and get rid of or store what is unnecessary and replenish or replace things that are needed. For example, my trusty Skechers have to be replaced – the memory foam soles that were so comfortable at the beginning of our travels have completely broken down, the inside fabric is falling apart, and both pairs are now quite uncomfortable. I must have taken nearly a million steps in them though. I think I have worn the pair of clogs I brought along all of two times, so they will go into storage and be replaced with a good pair of walking/hiking shoes for treks while we’re in England. I also have a couple of jackets that have turned out to be impractical, and can see that a lightweight rain jacket would take up less space and get used more, so I’ll be on the lookout for one of those as well. Some of my clothes I’m just plain sick of at this point and want to swap them out, but thankfully I still am happy with most of them. Brett is in a similar position and wants to change out a few things and add a couple of things as well. We’ve started on a list but will get serious about it all once we’ve settled into our Portland apartment later this month.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished up another one of Susan Spann’s mysteries, Blade of the Samurai,. Because of the amount of historical detail she includes, I was able to appreciate much more many of the things I viewed at the National Museum this past week. I am still waiting for a couple of books to come off of hold at the library but was able to download a book by one of the authors, Cross and Burn, by Val McDermid. She’s a new-to-me mystery writer from Scotland. So far the book I’m reading now is a real page-turner and I can’t wait to read more of her work (and she has written a lot).
  • Listening to: Our grandson slept over with us last night, so he and Brett are chatting right now. We’re getting ready to go up for lunch with his other set of grandparents in a short while. Otherwise it’s very quiet here – not many people outside. The sun is shining brightly too – it’s supposed to up to 77º today!
  • Watching: I watched a couple of favorite movies this past week on days that I wasn’t too tired or reading: The King’s Speech and Lincoln. This week I am going to choose between Doubt, The Theory of Everything, The Imitation Game and Apollo 13. Neither Brett nor I have missed not watching television while we’ve been in Japan, and at this point doubt we’ll get a television again when we finally settle down.
  • Cooking/baking: I’m not sure what we’re having tonight as I’m fairly sure our DIL’s mother will feed us well for lunch. The freezer here is now cleared out, and we’re going to start stopping by the grocery store each day to pick up what we need for dinner rather than do a weekly shop and end up with any leftovers.

    There’s a lifesize statue of a blue whale outside of the national science museum in Ueno Park.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I had a lot to write about after last weekend’s travels, and got four blog posts done. Writing is a genuine effort for me (I am never satisfied), so I’m glad I was able to get last week’s posts done in a timely manner. Even though we were tired, Brett and I both were glad we made the effort to go to Ueno Park to the National Museum and to the Yanaka neighborhood. Believe it or not, even after all my time in Japan, this was my first trip to Ueno Park! Other than those things, I don’t think I accomplished all that much other than the regular everyday stuff I do around here.

    We gave up counting all the old temples and shrines in Yanaka.
  • Looking forward to next week: We are heading back to Yokohama again to visit the Sogo department store food gallery in the basement. We want to buy a package of bird cookies, and a kind of Japanese green tea “pudding” I love, made with kudzu starch as the thickener. Brett has his final class and will take his first calligraphy exam this coming week! We’re also hoping for better weather this week too – we’ve had quite a bit of rainy weather this past week, including a major thunderstorm yesterday. What we’re not looking forward to is dragging out the suitcases toward the end of the week and getting started on the packing.

    We’ve been happy to ignore these for the past three months.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our visits to the Tokyo National Museum and the Yanaka neighborhood were the last two items on our list of things we wanted to see and do during our stay in Tokyo. I think the only thing we missed out on was our visit to Shinjuku, but it will be here when we come back. We’ve heard from all three of the girls this week: Meiling is getting ready for her last set of finals; WenYu is currently in Florence, Italy during her spring break (and eating gelato every day); and YaYu is finishing up her first year of school and not looking forward to her finals. We stopped at a shop selling traditional Japanese sweets when we were in Yanaka to pick up a small gift for M’s parents, and the shop carried another one of my favorites: mochi filled with red bean paste and wrapped in a fresh, aromatic bamboo leaf. They were every bit as good as I remembered them.

    Mochi wrapped in fresh bamboo leaves – very delicious!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We didn’t spend much this week – just two small trips to the grocery store, the present for M’s parents and mochi for me, and a stop for lunch when we visited Yanaka. We have done a good job of eating out of our refrigerator and pantry this past week and had no food waste. Both of us are very happy with our April spending totals, and hope we can keep it up in May, although we have some big grocery shops to take care of in Portland as we set up for the summer.

    We ate a late lunch at a ‘fast food’ tempura restaurant near Yanaka, and got lots of tasty food for the two of us for just $15.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are extremely thankful for our son’s generosity throughout our stay in Japan, and for the wonderful time we had with them last weekend on our getaway. We are glad we have been able to give back just a little by picking up and watching our grandchildren in the afternoons, a pleasure for us and a small way to make their lives easier, especially with our daughter-in-law returning to work outside the home.
  • Japanese word of the week: yada やだ. This is an expression my grandchildren use over and over, and although I understood it to mean “no” or “don’t” more accurately means “I don’t like that!” or “I don’t want to!” Children often use it to mean “Stop it!” Yada is often compared to the word dame だめ, which generally means “wrong,” “no good,” “useless,” or “hopeless.” Dame is usually said to stop an action immediately, especially when said to children.

Ten days to go . . . I almost can’t believe it. I’m pretty sure from here on out it’s all going to fly by, and the next thing we know we’ll be on our way out to the airport. It’s all been wonderful though, the visit of a lifetime and I would do it again in a heartbeat!

I hope all of you had a very good week, and that plenty of good things happened for you!

Sunday Morning 4/21/2019: Week 9 in Japan

Spring has arrived, and azaleas are in bloom everywhere.

Wishing a Happy Easter to all who celebrate! And, for those celebrating Passover, chag Pesach sameach!

The design on the back is the same, but with the colors reversed.

The grands colored eggs yesterday and had a small egg and candy hunt this morning (we supplied the egg dye and some Japanese Easter-themed KitKats). In a short while we are going to get together with our son and grandson for lunch in the Hiroo neighborhood to celebrate Brett’s 69th birthday, which is today. When we were at Tokyu Hands the other day I bought him a lovely, big, blue and cream pillow cover that says “Hokusai Japan” in beautiful calligraphy. Hokusai is one of Brett’s favorite artists, and is also a play on our family name, so I hope he’ll like it. Plus, it will easily pack into his suitcase when we leave Japan, still a consideration these days.

This week definitely didn’t turn out anything like we hoped for or planned. On Tuesday we were going to head to Shinjuku to check out Bingoya and a couple of other places, but I woke up with a sore throat and feeling deeply tired, with absolutely no energy to do anything or go anywhere. So, we stayed home – Brett picked up our grandson from school on his own while I rested all day. Thankfully I was fine on Wednesday, but we still decided that other than our usual pick-up duties we should stick close to home. Brett went to his shodō lesson on Thursday, and on Friday we were ready to get back out there, but instead we were up early to watch our granddaughter for the day – she has a very bad cold, so couldn’t go to her hoikuen. Yesterday we stayed close to home again and took care of some errands in the neighborhood, did three loads of laundry, and cleaned the apartment. It was a nice week off, and we’re hoping to do the activities and errands we missed this coming week but we may need to watch our granddaughter another couple of days so will work around that if it happens.

Brett and I had a nice day out running errands yesterday, and ended with a coffee and juice break at Starbucks. As is typical for a Saturday, the neighborhood was crazy busy with long lines everywhere, but today will be even more crowded. Oh, and I can’t believe this guy is 69 years old today!

I found some clothes here that fit! For the past few weeks I have had my eye on a lovely full cotton skirt at Muji, and yesterday I finally decided to try it on . . . and it was too big! Actually, the skirt fit but the look of it added another 20-30 pounds on my hips, so . . . nope. I love Muji’s simple clothing – it’s all made from natural fibers and favors a loose, comfortable style – so I poked around while I waited for a dressing room, and ended up buying a lovely black linen sleeveless shift (size L), and a light grey French terry topper (size M/L) that I found on the sale rack. I know that not everything they make would fit me, but it was gratifying to discover that there is at least one place in Japan where I could find some things if I had to.

Edinburgh has been on my bucket list for a long while . . . and we’re going at the end of September!

YaYu will be coming over to England in mid-October to spend a week with us (fall break at Bryn Mawr), so I reserved a stay at an Airbnb in London for the three of us – we’ll spend three days poking around London before heading back to our place in the Cotswolds. Brett and I also picked out dates for our visit to Edinburgh, and I made an Airbnb reservation there – our apartment is just a short walk from Edinburgh castle! I still need to make train reservations for the trip up to Scotland – fellow passengers from England on our Australian train trip recommended we ride up from Kings Cross station in London as that trip has the best scenery – but that task can wait until later in the summer. I also purchased YaYu’s plane ticket to come to Portland in May. She’ll spend 12 days with us before heading over to Japan for the summer.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished We Were the Lucky Ones (a great read), and am now reading Heart: A History, by Sandeep Jauhar. It’s filled with all sorts of interesting information about things like advancements in heart surgery, changes in the treatment of heart disease, and how the heart came to be seen as the core of being human, among other topics.
  • Listening to: We’re enjoying a quiet morning here, just reading and writing with our cups of coffee. I absolutely love mornings like this!
  • Watching: I watched The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix this past week – very creepy and scary at times. I loved it! The backstory of the family dragged on a bit too much for me at times, but the last episode brought it all together. Apparently there’s going to be another season in 2020 – yeah! I’m thinking about watching Beyoncé’s Homecoming tonight.
  • Cooking/baking: Since we’re going out to lunch for his birthday celebration, Brett and I will probably just have leftovers tonight. There’s yakisoba from last night, or we can make quesadillas. I did buy a small orange poundcake at a nearby bakery for his cake, and we’ll have that with ice cream tonight.
  • Happy I accomplished this week: I went through all of the several ziplock bags we carry that hold things like medication, toiletries, etc. and reorganized and downsized those to give us more room in our suitcases. I’m glad to have gotten the Airbnb reservations done for this fall, and have YaYu’s flight to Portland taken care of. Otherwise I don’t think we really accomplished anything.

    We had a delicious lunch with Eriko and her husband Jun and son Joe (I love how he’s showing us his food – 110% boy). The cacio e pepe I ordered was just like I had in Rome.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a fantastic Italian meal with my former student, Eriko, and her family on Sunday afternoon, and got ourselves caught up with what’s been going on with each other. In spite of this not being a stellar week for us in many other ways, the weather has been glorious and quite warm. We’ve even had to open the windows in the apartment a couple of times to cool things off, and have not had to turn on the heater for a few days. While the cherry blossoms have now almost completely disappeared, the dogwoods and azaleas are blooming, so there’s still more beautiful color around. Meiling had her first job interview the other day – she thought she did OK but not great, but was happy that her resume was interesting enough that the company wanted to interview her. However, on Friday she was asked to do a second interview so now we’ve officially crossed our fingers!

    Dogwoods are now in bloom all over!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This wasn’t a particularly frugal week, although we didn’t go crazy either. Our daily spending average though is where we want to be ($50.07) so we’re doing OK.
  • Grateful for: I adore spending time with our grandkids, and am so thankful we have been able to have so much time with them. I had a wonderful time raising our own four children, but at the same time I am also thankful that that part of my life is finished. Brett and I live very simply and minimally now, and I am happy not to have to deal with all the accoutrement that comes along with kids (toys, clothing, books, paper, art supplies, and so forth), the food and other childhood issues, and all the scheduling that goes along with having children in the home (school, extra-curricular stuff, etc.). I just don’t have the energy I once did either – I had a good time taking care of our granddaughter on Friday, but even though she was sick she almost wore me out!

    Even when she’s sick she still is full of energy!
  • Japanese word of the week: Chigau 違う. I had always understood this word to mean “wrong,” and I often overhear it in conversation which seemed strange. I’d always thought it meant “you’re wrong” or something similar, but in fact chigau has several meanings, such as “to be different or differ,” “another,” or “something else.” In conversation chigau can mean “that’s not how it is” or “that’s wrong,” with chigau being a softer word than “no” is in English. I’d heard it said that having the word “wrong” equaling “different” was a cultural link to Japan’s homogenous society, so that no one stuck out, but there’s been pushback on that interpretation. Anyway, I feel like I have a better understanding now of chigau and how and why it’s used (not that I’m confident enough to use it properly).

Just three more weeks in Japan to go! Next weekend we’ll be visiting Hakone with our son and family for a two night stay, so I won’t be posting until we get back. Hakone is part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, so we’ll get to see Mt. Fuji up close, as well as many other interesting sites in the area like Lake Ashi and the geothermal valley. Hakone is noted for their natural hot springs, and we’re looking forward to taking a couple of good soaks while we’re there (although the water is so hot in places that I once actually burned myself climbing into a tub!).

I hope you all had a good week, had lots of good things happen, and are looking forward to next week!