Sunday Morning 11/20/2022: Figuring Things Out

This past week has been one of going back and forth whether it’s time for me to stop writing here or not. I struggled for days with writing my Sunday post, and finally realized maybe it was sign that after 13 years of blogging, it’s time to let it go. I’ve taken breaks before, but this time things feel different.

However, after some thought, and rather than acting hastily, I’m going to stop posting until the end of the year. I need to figure out whether it’s time to quit blogging for good, or whether I’m just restless and only need to step away for a while. My muse has been missing these days, but I know from past experience she often just needs some time away to come back full of ideas and inspiration.

Life is good right now, and we have much to be thankful for. I wasn’t sure what to expect or how things would go when Brett and I came to Nashville, but in less than four months we have settled in and find ourselves happy and satisfied with our life here. We’re busy with our granddaughter, and see her and our daughter-in-law enough without it being overwhelming. We are in love with our little puppy and so happy he is a part of our lives. We are in good health, we have a simple but comfortable home, and we’re looking forward to our entire family being together this year for Christmas. We have goals for next year, and we know where we will be going when we leave Nashville and know it’s the right decision – we can feel it. We have time to read, to walk, and learn more about the area where we live. I may be adding a couple of days of work outside the home each week this coming year. We’re in a very good place emotionally, financially, physically, and spiritually and yet writing has become difficult.

So, it’s time to step back for awhile to think and reflect about the direction I want to go with The Occasional Nomads. I will continue to maintain and update the Occasional Nomads Instagram page with what we’re doing but otherwise there will be no regular posting on the blog other than holiday greetings as I try to sort things out.

I don’t say it enough, but I have the best readers. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for being so faithful. Whether you’ve been following for a long time or just arrived recently, whether you comment frequently or remain silent, I am always grateful for your presence and still am awed that people take the time to read what I write. I treasure the connections I have made, of the friendships that have formed, both online and in real life. If I had to pick one word to describe my readers it would be kind. Over the years, you’ve offered good advice, shared your own stories, and in doing so enriched my life. Thank you.


Sunday Morning 11/13/2022: An Unexpectedly Busy Week

What the coffee table looked like for most of last week

This past week unexpectedly turned into a busy one for Brett and me, with K staying with us not for one but for three full days. The original plan was for her be here all day Tuesday (schools closed for Election Day) and spend the night and then go to school on Wednesday, but she arrived on Tuesday with a slight cold and fever and by evening the fever had climbed to 103 degrees. I stayed awake almost all night with her making sure she was comfortable, and trying to keep her cool. The fever thankfully broke early in the morning, and she woke up cheerful and feeling better but because the district requires 24 hours fever free before a student can return to school we kept her home with us again on Wednesday (M picked her up in the evening when she got home from her trip). K’s fever came back a couple of times on Wednesday so she ended up spending another day with us again on Thursday, although she was in good spirits (and back to her very active self) and able to walk with us in the afternoon and go with us on a couple of errands as well. Needless to say, Brett and I were very tired by Friday and took that day and yesterday to rest and recuperate, and do our food shopping. K will be staying with us again for two nights next week when M has yet another trip to make for the consulate. We saw K and M yesterday and K is well and going back to school on Monday, so things shouldn’t be as intense as they were this past week.

Bundled up and watching TV with a cool washcloth on her forehead.

On Thursday I had a chance to talk with a 73-year-old Trader Joe’s employee. She has worked for TJ’s for over 11 years, and told me it is a great and fun place to work. She explained the shifts, how things are done, the benefits (20% employee discount!), etc. and said if I only want to work two days a week then that’s all they’ll give me. Shifts are 7 1/2-hours, and she says the first couple of days are hard but it gets easier after that. I told her I didn’t want to work until after the new year and she said that was fine, that they hire year round. After talking to Brett and giving it some more thought, I’ve decided I will apply in early January and see what happens!

We are very relieved the election is over. There were some disappointments throughout the evening but overall we are very happy with the results, both locally and nationally. I still don’t think I’m over having to vote (in 2022) for whether Tennessee should ban slavery as a form of punishment or not. Slavery! The measure thankfully passed here, as is did a similar measure in three other states (Alabama, Vermont, and Oregon all had a similar loophole in their constitutions), but Louisiana voted to keep the slavery loophole. Just unbelievable to me in this day and time.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Brett hung a second set of Command picture rails in the bedroom in preparation of our freshly matted prints being ready either this week or next. He put two side by side to create one long rail which involved quite a bit of measuring to keep them together and level. Next job will be to move our Japanese fabric banner across the living room in preparation of our big print being hung where the banner is now. 2) Taking care of K required us to call back up a lot of parenting experience. Caring for her was tiring and worrisome at times, but she bounced back and we’re glad we could help M attend her events (two Japanese companies are opening plants in Tennessee; this is her area so she was required to attend the opening ceremonies). We’ll be ready for more K-care next week!
  • What we’re looking forward to this week: 1) If it warms up a bit we’re hoping to visit nearby Radnor State Park this week. It’s located nearby to us and is filled with great walking trails, wildlife, views, etc. 2) Most of this past week was warm, almost summer-like at times so we were looking forward to things cooling off. Be careful what you wish for though: winter arrived yesterday with temperatures at or below freezing, and barely reaching 40 degrees during the day.
Last week we went from “looks like fall, feels like summer” to . . .
. . . “looks like winter, feels like winter.”
  • Healthy eating and exercise: 1) Last Sunday turned out to be a rainy day, so no walking, and I didn’t walk on Wednesday due to exhaustion after being up all night with K, but otherwise I walked three miles on Monday and Tuesday, then two miles on Thursday and Friday, and yesterday was just too cold to walk outside. 2) Healthy meals this week were cheese and pepperoni calzones; leftover pork chops with sauerkraut and mashed potatoes; an election night dinner of samosas, broccoli with curry dip, and naan bread; mandarin orange chicken (without the orange sauce), sweet potato fries, and four bean salad; beef Polish sausages with sauerkraut in rolls and sautéed green beans; roasted red pepper and tomato soup with onion and cheese focaccia; and Trader Joe’s turkey stuffing fried rice last night (recommended and it was good!). We did a good job during the week of cleaning out odds and ends from the freezer in preparation for refilling it with more things from TJ’s and ALDI. I ate too many pieces of shortbread on Election Day, mainly from nerves, but thankfully that only happened on one day.
We were able to clear the table for our election night dinner that we enjoyed as we begin watching the election results come in.
  • The ways we saved: 1) We didn’t put anything into the change/$1/$5 bill jar because we used my debit card last week. I did my regular bi-monthly shop at Trader Joe’s on Thursday, and Costco and ALDI on Friday, and went $92 over budget but we have enough food on hand now for another month, including everything for Thanksgiving. I’m still surprised when I see the total each time because everything here is still always less than I expect for so much and I always think the total is going to be much, much, more. 2) Lots of leftovers were eaten and no food was thrown out. 3) We had three no-drive days this past week.
Home Alone was released 32 years ago this year. It’s still fresh and funny.
  • Good things that happened: 1) The best thing all week was K’s health improving especially after a long, difficult night on Tuesday. She was thankfully back to her sunny (and active) self on Wednesday and Thursday. 2) K and I watched Home Alone on Thursday afternoon (first time for her), laughed a lot, and she said it’s now her favorite movie ever. It really is a classic. 3) The new season of The Crown started, and our favorite baker made it to the finals on the Great British Baking Show. 4) The frame arrived from Walmart (and it’s huge!) so we’re ready to get our new print hung once we get it back from the frame shop.

Last Sunday evening I was awakened at around 2:00 a.m. by a very loud, strange, and unidentifiable sound right outside our bedroom window. The sound happened four times and I couldn’t tell if it was coming from an animal or a human. Brett of course slept right through it. The sound eventually moved away but I could still hear it in the distance for a while. When I woke up Monday morning I wasn’t sure at first whether I’d dreamed what I heard or not, but the experience was too vivid to have been a dream, and I spent the day on YouTube listening to animal sounds trying to figure out what I had heard, if possible. It took a while, but I finally came across a video of a male deer going after a female and the final set of the sounds he makes before he’s ready to hook up with her sounded just like what I had heard outside our window! I never imagined for a moment when we moved here that I’d have to identify animal calls, or end up knowing what a horny male deer sounds like, but here we are, living next to the woods and hearing nature close up.

We will continue to enjoy our fall decor for another few weeks before changing over for Christmas.

I almost couldn’t believe it when we shopped this past week how strong the push is now for Christmas; Thanksgiving barely seems to register at all. All the holiday hoopla is hard to ignore, and while we’re preparing for a busy December, we want our house to stay Christmas free for at least another three weeks: no poinsettias, trees, or other decor until then. After our years living in Hawaii, Brett and I are enjoying the change in seasons and just don’t want to move things along any more quickly than they seem to be moving now.

We had a busy week that ended on a good note, and although we know next week will be busy again we hope it proves to be less stressful than this past one. So, here’s to good health, more good food, good books, good friends, and more good things happening next week!

Sunday Morning 11/6/2022: Last of the Fall Color

There are still fall colors on some trees, but most of the leaves seem to be on the ground now. Three days after I took the pictures of trees above, all had dropped all their leaves.

November has arrived! Following our weekend getaway, this last week was positively peaceful but boy did it go by quickly! I enjoyed having time to read, to get things caught up with things, and walk for a longer stretch almost every day, but time feels like it’s speeding past these days. There are more leaves on the ground now than in the trees but temperatures were still in the 70s for most of the week, perfect for walking, although it was nearly 80 degrees on Friday. Winter will be here soon so I’m trying to soak of as much of these days as I can.

Coming up this week is Election Day and I’m already biting my nails. Brett and I will set up our typical election night dinner of small bites to eat while we watch the returns come in – this year it will be samosas from Trader Joe’s (because they’re already in the freezer). And of course, Thanksgiving is coming this month as well. We’re looking forward to celebrating with M and K this year, and I plan to serve a full traditional meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, a couple of sides (pretty sure it will be roasted butternut squash and green bean casserole), and K and I are already planning to make another pie for dessert (apple). My thoughts are also turning to Christmas and the end of the year. I’ve been menu planning for Christmas, or at least trying to, and thinking of what I can buy early to be ready without having a huge cash dump for food right before everyone arrives. With several dietary restrictions in our group this year meals are going to be a challenge so I’m grateful for the opportunity to start early on this. I also want to do some more baking with K this month, mostly cookies and muffins as well as our Thanksgiving pies. One final goal we have is collecting a full year’s supply of toiletries so we can keep those off our shopping lists next year. We have four shopping sessions left in 2022 and will add items each time to complete the stash.

Brett and I are also starting to think and talk more about goals for the coming year, although any sort of list is far from complete. Besides having annual goals, I’ want’d like to again set monthly goals like we did before we moved to Hawaii. Those lists greatly helped us to stay focused, get things done, and kept us moving forward.

Anyway, this morning I am thinking about:

When I went into vote there were about 10 people in line; when I finished and came out the line wrapped around the building!
  • What we accomplished this past week: 1) I voted early on Wednesday. The line at our polling place was quite long, a good sign I hope. Brett voted week before last and had the same experience. 2) We dropped our new print off with a local frame shop to be matted as well as four other smaller pieces (photos and art) we had sent from Hawaii. We purchased a commercial frame for the print, but the other pieces will be left unframed and set on a picture rail. 3) I roasted two pumpkins and froze the puree to use later. 4) Brett and I made our budget for next year. There will probably be a couple of tweaks in January, but overall it’s pretty solid and covers everything.
Our two small pumpkins produced seven cups of puree! We have two big pumpkins left but they are still providing fall decoration for the time being.
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: 1) I’m not sure whether I’m looking forward to Election Day or not. Actually, I’m quite nervous about how things will turn out and what the future might hold for our country. I encourage everyone to vote, no matter who or what you support, if you haven’t done so already. 2) K will be with us all day and overnight on Tuesday (schools closed on Election Day) as M has work and than has to attend an early morning event in Knoxville. I am planning for the two us to make a pan of oatmeal shortbread and Brett and I are thinking up another couple of projects for her to do while she’s here.
This section of woods that we pass by on our walks changed color over the weekend.
  • Healthy eating and exercise: 1) We kicked up our walking distance this week to three miles around the complex Tuesday through Friday (we only walked two miles on Monday, and it rained all day yesterday). It was tiring the first couple of days but we’re into it now. 2) Healthy evening meals this week were barbecue pork sandwiches and coleslaw left over from our getaway along with corn on the cob; tuna noodle casserole; cheddar broccoli soup; pasta with red pepper sauce, meatballs, and roasted green peppers; fish sandwiches, tater tots, corn on the cob, and apple slices; and slow cooker pork chops with sauerkraut, apples, and bacon, along with mashed potatoes. 3) K and I baked a cherry pie on Thursday and we had that for our dessert on Friday (M & K eat dinner with us on Friday evenings).
K cut out all the pie crust leaves and arranged them on top of the pie!
  • The ways we saved: 1) Brett bought gas on Monday morning, and we paid in full for the picture matting and a commercial-produced frame (from money set aside for it), but otherwise we had a no-spend week and put $9.02 into the change/$1 bill jar. 2) We had to hunt quite a bit for a commercial frame for the print because of the size needed and a requirement for acid-free acrylic, but we found one for the right price at which came with free shipping. Buying the frame online saved us over $100. 3) We used what we had on hand to create all our meals, ate all our leftovers, and didn’t throw away any food.
There’s lots of sunlight streaming through the trees and into our apartment these days – I love it!
  • Good things that happened: 1) Leaves falling off the trees behind us is allowing more sunlight into our apartment during the day, something we really noticed this past week. 2) K enjoyed her first trick or treat experience on Halloween. M took her out to a nearby neighborhood, and although she was was initially hesitant and a little scared, she ended up impressed by how kind everyone was and how much everyone seemed to enjoy the holiday and meeting the trick-or-treaters. 3) K and I had a great time making our cherry pie. She did all the cutouts for the top and arranged them. She says she is excited about our next baking experience. 4) Brett and I are thinking that next year we might start selling some of the natural items we find in the woods here on Etsy, things like acorns, pinecones, hedge apples/Osage oranges, and so forth – there seems to be a market for them. There is an abundance of these items right on the complex property and plenty more if we increase our range.

Brett and my thoughts are starting to gel around one post-Nashville location. We’ve been ranking the items on our list, assigning them to different locations, weighing needs and wants, and this location in particular has risen to the top of our list. That said, another couple of places are still contenders, and I think our final decision will depend on what is going on in the U.S. in the coming year or so. Meiling and her partner are thinking of moving from Massachusetts and YaYu may leave Pennsylvania for graduate school, and those two things have the potential to affect our decision as well. In the meantime we’re going to settle in here and make the most of our time in Tennessee.

And that was the week that was! I’m happy to have reached the end of another good week and am looking forward to the next, hoping it will move along as smoothly as this past one did. I hope everyone had as good week as we did, and that this week coming up will be filled with good things for you as well.

Monday Morning 10/31/2022: Happy Halloween!

(photo credit: Szabo Janos/unsplash)

Happy Halloween! Long gone are the days when we used to decorate the house as well carved pumpkins, purchased, recycled, or created our own costumes, walked the neighborhood with the kids for trick or treat, bought bags of candy, etc. This year Brett and I will be enjoying a quiet evening at home and watching a scary movie (Dan Curtis’ Dracula, a favorite adaptations). The apartment complex usually holds a trick-or-treat event for the kids so that no one is knocking on doors all evening, but not this year so K will be trick-or-treating in a nearby neighborhood with friends.

Day One: A chilly morning at our Airbnb; then on to Grandfather Mountain to walk across the mile-high swinging bridge, followed by views of the Smoky Mountains from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and a stop at the Blowing Rock to view spectacular fall foliage in the valley.

We had an absolutely wonderful getaway and a fabulous fall experience in North Carolina. The leaves were just lightly past their peak, but still lovely and had enough color to have made the trip worthwhile. M picked up K early from school and we set out around 3:00 to make the drive over to Banner Elk, arriving there a little after midnight. It took over an hour to get clear of the traffic in Nashville, and we also made a stop for dinner, took bathroom breaks, and then wind our way through the mountains in the dark. The Airbnb, a cabin style condo, was very nice and cozy, complete with a fireplace. We all fell asleep soon after we arrived but were up early Saturday morning to visit Grandfather Mountain. Afterwards we went to the town of Blowing Rock for lunch and ice cream (the place was packed with tourists) then took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and finished our day with a stop at the Blowing Rock for a few more spectacular views of fall foliage and the Great Smokies. Other than at the town of Blowing Rock, we seemed to arrive at the right time to miss the hordes of tourists that were also visiting the area. We ate dinner at our Airbnb and went to bed early.

Day Two: Biltmore House in Asheville.

Yesterday morning we were up early again and had breakfast, got everything loaded into the car, checked out of the Airbnb, and headed west to Asheville to visit to Biltmore House. The drive over was easy, the scenery and foliage gorgeous, and we arrived at Biltmore House at 11:30. Biltmore House was nothing less than amazing – we all talked about how glad we were that we went, even K! M, K, and I toured the house first while Brett walked Kaipo around the grounds. When we finished we got (really good) sandwiches at the snack bar, then met Brett in front of the house and took Kai so Brett could take the house tour while we visited the gardens. We left Asheville just a little before 3:30 in the afternoon for the drive home, much easier than the ride over because it was interstate the entire way. Rain had been predicted for all day Sunday, but thankfully never showed up and was instead quite warm and the roads clear. We ate our sandwiches in the car on the way back and got home just a little after 7:00 p.m.

Kaipo was a great little traveler although he chewed right through his new sweater on the first day – sigh. For mostt of the car ride he sat on my lap and slept. We learned quite a bit about traveling with him though to file away for future reference. Otherwise, we are happy to be home and unpacked, and it was nice to sleep in our own bed again (the Airbnb mattress was too soft for us).

Kai’s first big adventure! He was a great traveler.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Our trip to NC involved an ambitious schedule over a short period of time but we did and saw everything we hoped to and we had a great time. 2) I finished two more books and have started two more. After these ones I just finished I was hoping to slow down a bit and catch my breath, but no – three more books came off of hold in a two-day period. The past few weeks have been intense trying to make sure I get books finished on time before they have to be returned (while still enjoying them) and it looks like this will have to continue for another week or two. 3) Brett set up our post-Tennessee spreadsheet and we’ll begin evaluating different potential locations/ideas soon.
  • What we’re looking forward to this week: 1) K and I are going to make a cherry pie this week! We will be using a refrigerated crust and canned cherry pie filling, but we’re going to do something fancy with the top crust. 2) We again have no appointments on our calendar but will do half of our monthly shopping at Trader Joe’s and Costco toward the end of the week.
The aroma from the pine needles as we walk by these days is intoxicating.
  • Healthy eating and exercise: 1) We did five two-miles walks in the apartment complex last week and then two days of walking (at least four miles each day) in North Carolina. 2) Meals last week were Chef Tom Colicchio’s one pan pasta with broccoli and bacon; spinach and onion pizza with fresh mozzarella; lobster macaroni and cheese and wedge salad; kalua pork spring rolls, steamed pork buns, and peanut coleslaw; Mandarin orange chicken, steamed rice, and leftover coleslaw; Sonic cheeseburgers and small milkshakes on the road; barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, traditional coleslaw, and potato chips; and a Cuban sandwich from Biltmore for lunch/dinner last night in our drive home. While I’m normally very careful about portion size, I truthfully ate too much on our getaway.
Operation Overeat on Day One: bespoke (and huge) ice cream sandwiches from Blue Deer in Blowing Rock. From top to bottom, snickerdoodle with apple pie ice cream (Brett); oatmeal raisin with pumpkin ice cream (Laura). and double chocolate cookie with chocolate ice cream (M & K). We ate these right after lunch, and then had dinner later. Too much! The ice cream sandwiches were a highlight of our getaway though.
  • What we saved: 1) We replaced Kai’s harness last Tuesday and received a 10% discount because it was the pet supply store’s Senior/Military discount day. 2) We brought along our own food to the Airbnb in NC for two breakfasts and one dinner; otherwise, our DIL bought our all our lunches and paid all our admission fees on Saturday as well as half of the Airbnb cost. 3) We put $33.04 into the change/ $1 bill bag this week. It’s way more than usual because we decided to start putting $5 bills away as well as $1s this past week. 4) Our efforts at saving energy this month paid off: the combined total for electric, water, and Internet was $47.70 under budget. 5) No food was thrown out and all leftovers were eaten.
Our new piece of art. This photo really does the piece no justice because it’s hard to see the abstract detail in the drawing.
  • Good things that happened: 1) A friend I have known since childhood is a gifted abstract artist, and it has been one of my life goals to own one of her works. I’ve been wanting to buy one of her paintings, but Brett doesn’t particularly care for abstract art, so we could never agree on anything. However, this past year she did a series of ink drawings of the woods behind her Massachusetts home, and we decided to purchase one we both love. It arrived this week so goal achieved! 2) We had a great time traveling with M & K and are looking forward to doing it again in the future!

Brett and I had talked before we left about possibly adding Western North Carolina to our list of post-Nashville locations. The whole area was stunningly beautiful, and we loved being in the mountains, but it just didn’t feel right to either of us, mainly because of the isolation. We drove through so many towns that didn’t have a market, or much of anything else, and we couldn’t see ourselves having to drive on winding roads in the winter to buy food, etc. We did like Asheville though, and it’s big enough to have everything we want and need, so we’re adding it to our list of potential locations.

That’s all from last week! It was a very good week, but we’re happy to be home and are looking forward to what should be another great week coming up. Happy Halloween!

Sunday Morning 10/23/2022: BRRRRR!

The sky was blue and the sun was shining, but boy was it COLD!

Cold weather officially arrived this past week in middle Tennessee, with overnight temperatures dipping below freezing on three nights and temperatures in the low- to mid-50s during the day. Thing have warmed up a bit since (temperatures are back into the 70s), but it’s still cooler overall than it was the week before. It was definitely the week though to break out the warm socks, sweaters, and fleece, Kai included! The complex had notices posted mid-week about keeping the heat on and letting faucets drip at night so pipes didn’t freeze, but except for one morning our living room has pretty much stayed right around 70 degrees without turning on the heat – so far so good. Our bedroom temperature is cooler, but perfect for sleeping.

Little dog in a big, warm sweater!

At eight months old, Kaipo has suddenly ramped up his chewing and boy have we had to watch him carefully this past week. One day he snuck into a corner out of sight and chewed through his harness! He also chewed two small holes in his new sweater, and sometimes even wanted to chew (not bite) our hands. He has lots of chew toys and “bones” (no rawhide) and uses them every day but this past week he’s become a lot more interested in things like shoes, laundry, etc. He is a fun, affectionate puppy but it’s truly like having a rambunctious toddler in the house right now.

A rare moment when he wasn’t chewing on something. Thankfully so far he’s left the furniture alone.

There will be no Sunday post next weekend because we are heading out of town on Friday with M & K to visit western North Carolina over the weekend. We’ll be staying two nights in Boone, leaving Friday afternoon to drive over, then visiting the surrounding area and driving some of the Blue Ridge Parkway on Saturday. On Sunday we’ll visit the Biltmore House and Gardens in Asheville before heading home. I’m going to try to write a post for Monday instead, but give no guarantees.

We excited to see the Biltmore Estate wrapped in fall colors.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished last week: 1) We wanted a quiet week last this past week, we created one, and it was lovely. Other than picking up K after school every day (and taking her with us to shop at Trader Joe’s one afternoon) and Brett taking her to the school’s annual Family Fun Night on Friday (because M had a late meeting that evening), we stayed home and read, relaxed, and walked almost every day. 2) I finished two more books in my current library-imposed reading marathon, but still have three more downloaded books to go. 3) I had to organize the pantry again – it is so small and after a few weeks everything seems to end up a jumbled mess. I always assume it’s going to be a quick, easy chore but it never is because we have a lot of food in there (mea culpa).
K and her grandpa had a very good time at her school’s annual Family Fun event!
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: 1) We’re hoping for another quiet, uneventful week topped off with good weather and a wonderful visit to North Carolina. 2) Once again there’s nothing on our calendar we have to do so we plan to continue reading, relaxing, and walking although we will shop next week at Costco, Aldi, and Target.

I miss Kauai’s views, but am loving all the fall colors in Tennessee.

  • Healthy eating and exercise: 1) We took only four two mile walks – we took last Sunday off, and then Thursday and Friday we didn’t walk because early I developed a chest cold (not Covid) that made breathing in the cold uncomfortable plus I just felt miserable. I have been missing the beautiful ocean views we had while we walked in Hawaii, but there are still beautiful things to see here and it’s a good workout for us without having to get in the car and go somewhere. 2) Healthy meals this past week were a medley of samosas from Trader Joe’s along with naan bread (I think TJ’s samosas are almost spicier than the ones we ate in India!); chicken pot pie; fried rice with shrimp & vegetables; chicken in Thai red curry sauce with steamed rice and a wedge salad; pumpkin ravioli with cacio e pepe sauce and roasted zucchini; roasted red pepper & tomato soup; and wonton soup with spinach. Lunches were either apples and cheese(s), or leftovers.
  • How we saved: 1) We got through almost the whole week without turning on the heat (we turned it on for two hours on Thursday morning), and did just three loads of clothes (washed in cold water), so a good low energy use week. 2) We went to Trader Joe’s on Wednesday, and Aldi on Thursday, and still have $120 of our monthly food allowance left over for savings as well as plenty of food. 3) We put $3.71 into the change/$1 bill jar. 4) I had to throw away two ears of corn that had gotten pushed to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten, but everything else and all leftovers were eaten. 5) Last Sunday was a no-drive day. We try for one day each week that the car stays parked, so that at the end of the year we have at least 52 days (over seven weeks) of not burning gas or putting wear and tear on our car. So far this year, with our time in Mexico removed, we’ve had 11 days in Tennessee where our car (and the two of us) have stayed home, and 41 overall for the year.
The change/$1 bill jar is an actual jar again versus a plastic bag. We’ve saved nearly $70 in it since we left Massachusetts back in August.
  • Good things that happened: 1) I started a new medication for my stomach this past week, and oh, what a difference! The proof was being able to enjoy a big cup of tomato soup on Friday and not suffering mightily for it. I think I might be able to give up the baking soda in my coffee as well. 2) Otherwise, there were no big standouts this past week – everything was good (except for my cold, but it’s getting better)!

I noticed at Trader Joe’s the other day that the pumpkin items are on their way out – there are still a few available but stock is diminishing and some are gone completely – and they have already started stocking some Thanksgiving-related items, things like stuffing mixes, turkey stock, cranberry sauce, and gravy. Christmas items were already being put out at Target week before last and Costco has been fully stocked for Christmas for at least a month. We’re ready for the holidays as far as our gift shopping, but my goodness (old lady raises her fists and yells) could we hold off with the gift wrap, decor, candy, etc. until we at least get through Halloween? Can we have a moment to breathe between the holidays?

Time marches on though and another week has come to an end – it was a good one and I hope it was a good one as well for everyone reading. We’ve got another great week coming up with delicious and healthy food to eat, walks to take, good books to read, more fall color and an exciting getaway planned that we’re looking forward to. Bring it on!

Sunday Morning 10/16/2022: All Fall Down

There’s a reason it’s called Fall.

We thought we were going to have a somewhat relaxing week, at least up until our two full days with K, but we ended up busy every day and were very grateful for the arrival of this weekend. For a couple of days last week it seemed as if we could barely catch our breath! On the upside, the days went by quickly and lots was accomplished. We kept things very low key yesterday and the same today as well. I had another two books come off hold last week (seven in the last two weeks!) so I spent most of yesterday reading and will do the same today.

We got our first severe storm warnings on Wednesday! Boy, was it a surprise when those sirens went off – there’s no way anyone could ignore that sound. Brett and I had gotten home from a walk a couple minutes before they started, and we had noticed the sky darkening as well as the wind getting stronger as we walked, but had no idea big thunderstorms were on their way nor the potential for a tornado! Shortly after the storm arrived over us a lightning strike hit very close to our apartment – we about jumped out of our skins from the explosion! We’re very grateful though for the warning systems in place these days. A tornado passed very close to us in Memphis when our son was a few months old – there were no warnings back then. I happened to be in class on base (in the tornado shelter building!) but Brett had to shelter with our son in a closet under the stairs and listen to the wind sounding like a freight train and the windows buckling back and forth while the tornado passed by – very frightening.

On a different topic, I have been sort of stumped about what to continue to write about these days. We’re not traveling other than locally, and I write about that when it happens, but otherwise not much is going on. I’m not sure I have any great insights on retirement either other than the frugal choices we’ve made and about making the most of what you have. I have absolutely no interest in writing about politics, the economy, etc. I have a couple of posts coming up but overall I think I will be posting less frequently, maybe just once midweek with the Sunday Morning post to catch up on our week. There could be more if something exciting is going on though. Brett and I are still on track to head to Mexico following our time here in Tennessee, but a couple of other ideas have popped up in the meantime (don’t they always?) so they may show up here eventually if we decide they’re a better choice for us. If there’s anything you’d like to hear about, or hear more about, let me know.

Anyway, this morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished this past week: 1) Kai finally got his haircut on Monday. We had a bit of a drive each way but the groomer was definitely worth it and she lived up to her reviews. Kai’s scheduled to go back for his next grooming at the beginning of Thanksgiving week, a six week schedule versus once a month. 2) We did our food shopping on Tuesday and have plenty to see us through until the end of the month, although we may have to pick up some more produce before then. 3) I saw the gastroenterologist on Wednesday and got scheduled for a colonoscopy in two weeks. However, it turns out my last one was less than ten years ago and Medicare will not pay for it (and I am not high risk) so I’m going to call tomorrow and cancel: I’ll reschedule next year. 4) We had two fun days with K on Thursday and Friday. K decorated her Halloween House, we watched some TV and read together, we walked (or rode a scooter), and she and I baked two dozen muffins (pumpkin raisin and chocolate chip). For Fabulous Friday we went to Sonic for milkshakes – yum! 5) I was selected to participate in the Beta testing of the student loan forgiveness application, so that has been completed (super easy) and will be in the first group processed.

A busy but fun couple of days with K

  • What we’re looking forward to this week: Hopefully this coming week will stay calmer than this past one. We have nothing on our calendar other than picking K up every day after school.
Love my new walking shoes!
  • Healthy eating & exercise: 1) We walked six days this past week, two miles each time. My new walking shoes are very comfortable and have made a big difference in my pace and how I feel at the end of walk. 2) Healthy meals this week included a couple of nights of leftovers (chicken noodle soup and falafel); cacio e pepe and sautéed string beans; pepperoni pizza; fish sandwiches, coleslaw, tater tots and onion rings; meatloaf, roasted potatoes, and broccoli; and chili shrimp with rice and cucumber.
  • How we saved: 1) We stayed well under budget with our grocery shopping. 2) We put $5.69 into the change/$1 bill jar. 3) The groomer’s fee was $25 less than we expected, a lovely surprise. 4) All of our leftovers were eaten and no food was thrown out – we focused on cleaning out the odds and ends from the freezer this past week (which is the reason we had tater tots and onion rings on the same night – each bag held enough for one person so I prepared both and we mixed them up).

Before and after

  • Good things that happened: 1) Kai went from scruffy to handsome with his haircut. We can’t get over how cute he looks, and can really see how he takes after his poodle dad in his build. 2) Kai also tried out his “bucking bronco” Halloween costume (a gift from Meiling) and it’s a hit! We have to hide the costume though if he’s not wearing it – he growls at the cowboy and tries to attack it. 3) My new HOKA walking shoes are wonderful. 4) The weather is getting cooler, in a good way (other than the thunderstorms). 5) We are very happy about the cost of living increases coming next year to our Social Security benefits as well as Brett’s military retirement. And, that Medicare payment will be decreasing as well. Hopefully the combination of a COLA increase and decrease in Medicare payments will give more seniors some breathing room next year and relieve some of the stress of this past year.
Autumn decor from nature

One of the things we’ve been enjoying on our walks is collecting items that we can temporarily incorporate into our apartment decor or for other purposes. Last week’s storm blew down a considerable number or Osage oranges/hedge apples and we picked up a few to display on our coffee table for a short while. There are also pinecones galore throughout the property and we’ve gathered some of those to use at Christmas, as well as some gnarly twigs I have plans to incorporate into a holiday decoration as well. K collects acorns when we’re out, and we’ve picked up leaves, seeds, and other natural items for Brett to sketch (he does beautifully detailed pencil drawings, almost like photographs).

That’s a wrap on a very busy but productive week! I hope it was a great week for everyone and that all are looking forward to the week coming up. It seems as if time is flying by here, but we’re having a good time, accomplishing our goals, and saving for the future. Here’s to another great week (although hopefully a less busy one for us)!

Sunday Morning 10/9/2022: More Autumn Goodness

There’s more fall color every day!

This past week was a quiet one. We walked a lot, we read a lot, and we ran a few errands – but that’s pretty much it. We celebrated K’s actual birthday this week with a surprise box of Crumbl cookies for her treat as well as a bouquet of birthday balloons. She got a much-desired scooter from her mom, so we’ve been including that on our afterschool walks .

In another world we would be traveling up to Edinburgh today after finishing a two month stay in Oxford. I never felt sad about cancelling our time in England for some reason, but it took me a while longer to get over feeling sad about not going to Edinburgh. We had a quick trip there in 2019, and we were greatly looking forward to exploring more of the city than we were able to do earlier, as well as taking side trips to Glasgow, up into the highlands, and over to Isle of Skye. I firmly believe we are doing what we are meant to be doing, and we are surprisingly happy here in Nashville, living in suburbia. I will be forever grateful for the time we get to spend with our daughter-in-law and granddaughter as well as the opportunity to save a little more than we expected. Travel has only been postponed.

Otsukimi (お月見), meaning, “moon-viewing”, is a Japanese festival honoring the autumn moon. The time for the viewing normally fall in September and October. Tsukimi traditions include displaying decorations made from susuki grass and eating rice dumplings to celebrate the beauty of the Moon.

This evening Brett’s taking K to a Japanese moon viewing (otsukimi) celebration put on by the Japanese consulate while I stay home with the puppy. Our daughter-in-law will be working at the event, serving sake and Wagyu beef appetizers created by the Consulate’s personal chef at a special tasting booth with admission by ticket only. The event (and tickets) apparently sold out very quickly, in less than two days. By the way, in America we see a man in the moon but in Japan they see a rabbit pounding mochi!

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished last week: 1) Family members worked together this past week to set a date for next year’s Big Event, which looks like it’s now going to happen in early 2024 versus December 2023 because it’s easier for our son and DIL to take time off then. We also strategized together ways for everyone to afford the Event and came up with some ideas and plans. 2) I finally got around to ordering some good walking shoes, another pair of HOKAs. Skechers are comfortable for casual walking but are not cutting it on the longer walks we’re taking.
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: 1) We’re very excited about Kai getting his first haircut tomorrow because he is such a mess right now. It’s been seven to eight weeks since his last cut which is far too long, so we have a pretty good idea now of how frequently he’s going to need to be groomed (around once a month, five weeks at the most). 2) Cold weather pajama week has arrived! It’s not cold enough for fleece and socks yet, but I need to wear something warmer than my summer PJs. Mornings have been quite cool recently. 3) We’ll go food shopping again at the end of the week, always fun these days. 3) I am meeting with the gastroenterologist mid-week to discuss my ongoing stomach issues (which I currently seem to have somewhat under control) and to possibly schedule a colonoscopy although I’m hoping to put that off until next year.

Some upper loop apartments have beautiful views of the hills. The trees are more mature, and larger and fuller on that side; there are more garages; and more apartments have fireplaces – on our side only the top floor has them. If we were going to stay I’d request a move to the other loop!

  • Healthy exercise and eating: 1) We got in five, good walks this week. Last Tuesday I told Brett I was just going to walk around the apartment complex a few times, thinking I’d do two to three loops, but instead I headed up to the upper level of apartments. By the time I walked one loop through our section and around the upper area and back to our apartment I had spent 40 minutes and covered over two miles! The route has some gentle hills as well so it’s a good workout. We enjoy walking through the upper level because it’s gorgeous, with lots of big trees and some beautiful views. For now Brett and I are going to walk the two-mile loop each day, and do a shorter walk with K some afternoons, but we’re planning to double up next month for four miles/day. Kai seems to be enjoying the longer walks as well. 2) We enjoyed some delicious and healthy meals this past week: leftover shrimp and smoked salmon from K’s birthday party; feta & spinach chicken sausages topped with tzatziki in a roll along with roasted butternut squash; bacon-cheeseburger pizza; pork & pepper stir-fry with steamed rice; chicken noodle soup & cornbread; and falafel in pita sandwiches with tzatziki, lettuce, and chopped tomatoes. M took us out to dinner to celebrate K’s birthday at a nearby restaurant serving Southern cooking. Brett had a bacon and avocado sandwich but I had smothered fried chicken, green beans, and collards. The food was delicious but neither of us could finish our meals and the leftovers provided lunch the next day.
Smothered fried chicken, green beans, and collards: maybe not the healthiest meal, but it was delicious!
  • How we saved: 1) Brett washed and vacuumed our car for free at the apartment complex’s car wash station. 2) Yesterday M & I went on a “treasure hunt” at two local Goodwill stores, and treasures were found. See below for details! 3) I resisted purchasing an armchair for the living room. The price was right, the style was what we’ve been looking for, the color was perfect, and I came this close to ordering it. But, I finally convinced myself to wait 24 hours and see if I was still as excited about it the next day, and in that time realized the chair could wait and that I’d rather save than spend right now. 4) We put $3.15 into the change/$1 bill jar. 5) We didn’t throw away any food and all our leftovers were eaten.
Watching TV at Grandma & Grandpa’s with her birthday balloons.

Good things that happened: 1) We had a good time at K’s birthday party last Sunday. There was a unicorn piñata that Brett ended up nearly beating to death with the stick because no one could get it open – too funny! M eventually had to rip it apart with her hands to pass out the prizes. 2) My insomnia is fading, helped in part by this past week’s increase in walking distance. I am tired at night and have been falling asleep earlier than before, sleeping soundly, and waking up earlier as well. I’m still not totally back to my normal routine, but I’m getting there. The allergies seem to be tapering off as well – I only needed to take a Zyrtec tablet twice this past week in spite of being outside for longer periods of time.

Goodwill scores from yesterday!

Yesterday I invited M to go thrifting with me. I have a somewhat limited fall/winter wardrobe and thought maybe I’d be able to find a couple of sweaters at Goodwill. Thrift stores are a recent addition to the shopping mix in Tokyo; Japanese traditionally prefer new items, so this was a new experience for M. The first Goodwill we visited had a limited clothing selection but a fabulous household goods section, and M found a few things (vase, serving platter, Day of the Dead glass for K, and more) and a new, still-in-the-package toy and a book for K. I discovered a cute Christmas platter, a Crockpot mini-dipper to use when everyone is here in December, and two red mugs for a Christmas project I’m putting together. I also found a red cotton turtleneck and red fleece pullover for sleepwear this winter. My best discovery though was a black wool & cashmere blend peacoat, for the astonishing price of $7.99. The second store we visited was the reverse of the first, with lots of great clothing but a very limited household good selection. M found a lovely glass bowl in the shape of a Christmas tree, but I scored a wool marine blue turtleneck sweater, a gray wool & cashmere sweater, a deep pink-red corduroy shirt, and, as I was walking to the register, a L.L. Bean striped shirt in gray with white stripes that I have desired for years! So, a very successful day for me with only $58 spent on everything, tax included. I did leave behind a complete set of Fiestaware (dinner plates, salad plates, bowls, and cups & saucers) at the first store. That took some willpower.

We have a busy week coming up because K is on fall break all week. M has tomorrow through Wednesday off from work, but we have several errands and then will have K with us all day Thursday and Friday. The week sort of caught us by surprise (we knew it was coming but hadn’t paid attention to the dates), but we’ve got some ideas to stay busy the two days K’s with us. There are always hikes to take, her new scooter to ride, books to read, movies to watch, and pictures to color or paint for starters. She and I are also wanting to bake muffins (chocolate chip and pumpkin-raisin), and she wants to help Brett make pancakes for lunch one day. Hopefully with all this going on she’ll have a good time with her old grandparents.

It’s been another great week full of fun, good things, bargains, and surprises, and we have much to look forward to this coming week as well. I hope it’s been equally good for everyone as well, and that you’re looking forward as much as we are to the week coming up!

Sunday Morning 10/2/2022: Cooling Down

A bridge on the Stillhouse Hollow trail.

It’s October! Fall is really here and I couldn’t be happier. The weather is noticeably cooler but still sunny and bright, the light is different, and the trees are changing – every day the hills around us pop with a little more color. When I was young, the sound of leaves rustling in the streets and gutters were the sign that fall had finally arrived in Southern California (usually happened just before Halloween), and I still love that sound when dry leaves get blown around our patio, which I now have to sweep almost daily. The stores are flooded with Halloween and fall items for sale, from costumes to candy to clothes to everything pumpkin. Halloween and fall were so not a big deal on Kaua’i (for some obvious reasons), but I had no idea until seeing all the fall hoopla around us here how little attention fall got there, including Halloween. I’m not sure what the treat-or-treat protocol is or will be at our apartment complex, or whether K might instead go with some of her friends from school who live in a nearby neighborhood.

K’s birthday confetti pink princess cake is coming from Nothing Bundt Cakes. Their cakes are to die for.

K’s sixth birthday is this week and we’re very excited about celebrating with her. We’ve been in Japan plenty of times for our grandson’s birthday, but never in the fall for K’s special day. Later this afternoon we’re going over to our DIL’s place to attend a small birthday party for K, and we’re planning to make her actual birthday this week’s special day instead of on Friday as usual. We’re so thankful for all this time we get to spend with K, and being able to make memories with her.

The view of the Spring Hill Battlefield from the parking lot, with the walking trail cut into the side of the hill. The trail continued along the top to the right and around the hill. There were five maps/markers in total along the trail that explained the battle’s progress. The walk from the car and back was a little over a mile.
The view of Stillhouse Hollow falls from the overlook was somewhat blocked by the many nearby trees. An unnamed tributary of the Duck River falls 75 feet into the rock hollow below before going on its way.

We had planned to go to the Shiloh National Military Battlefield yesterday, but K woke up with a cough and slight fever, and we agreed with M that it was best for her to stay home and stay well so she could enjoy her party today. Brett, Kai, and I instead set out to visit the Stillhouse Hollow Falls, located about an hours drive south of Nashville. On the way we stopped at the Spring Hills battlefield historical site, and walked the battlefield to learn what happened there. Markers and maps were set up along the way that helped us understand what happened that day (the Battle of Spring Hill was the setup for the Battle of Franklin the next day). After we finished we headed to Stillhouse Hollow, a Tennessee State Natural Area, about a 25 minute drive away. We were mildly surprised to find the parking lot full, but yesterday’s weather was perfect for hiking, and we passed several other hikers along our way. We thought we would hike down to the bottom of the hollow for the view, but my bum knee did not like the downward slope of the somewhat rough trail, so we stopped at the falls overlook instead. By the time we arrived I knew if I hiked to the bottom I would be in big trouble. We were sad to miss the views, but the parts of the trail we did hike were filled with beautiful scenery. Kai was a fantastic companion, at both the battlefield and on the trail, and got along with all the other dogs he met along the way.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) One of the few reading genres I dislike is dystopian fiction, so finishing The School for Good Mothers (by Jessamine Chan) this past week felt like a genuine accomplishment. I had no idea it was going to be such a dark story when I checked it out. The book was well written but difficult for me to read at times and I for several days I couldn’t pick it up or decide whether I even wanted to finish it which is unusual for me. Thankfully I did and the ending was somewhat satisfying. Five books came off of my library wait list last week, a new record, so I’m pretty much going to have my nose buried in a book for the next couple of weeks to finish them all. 2) Brett and I watched the sobering Ken Burns documentary about the Holocaust and the U.S. Some things that are going on in the U.S. now are a little to close for comfort to things that were happening back then. 3) I got all our food shopping done for the next few weeks at Trader Joe’s, ALDI, and Costco. I enjoy food shopping here (unlike in Hawaii, where it turned into a chore), although our local Costco is always a madhouse. I managed to get out of there this past week with less than 10 items in my cart which is something of a miracle.
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: 1) We’re excited about celebrating K’s actual birthday with her later in the week. We’re giving her a small box of cookies from Crumbl for her treat after school that day because she talks about them all the time, and we will also be making her a balloon “bouquet” of six balloons (we have a small present to take to her party today). 2) Otherwise. we have nothing on the calendar for next week and are hoping for a relaxing week (with lots of time for reading).
  • Exercise and eating last week: 1) Besides walking nearly three miles yesterday, we took four brisk 1 1/2-mile hikes in our neighborhood this past week, including a visit to the historical marker near us (about the Carothers Family) last Sunday afternoon. Nearby we found the old Carothers Family cemetery, with graves dating from the 18th century. Most of the stones were so old the engraving had disappeared, and there were so many small, tiny stones that we guessed were for children that died. The cemetery is preserved on the current grounds of a large conference center, so we walked around that and discovered several cherry trees at the edge of their parking lot which will be lovely next spring. The parking lot connected to a paved trail back to the apartments. We were grateful to find it because we are staying out of the woods behind us now. Poison ivy and oak have exploded and are everywhere – Brett has been dealing with an outbreak on his legs for the past two weeks. 2) We ate healthy and well last week. Our dinners this past week were inari sushi, chicken & vegetable spring rolls, and vegetable potstickers; a “leftovers pizza” that used up odds and ends from the refrigerator; Mandarin orange chicken, steamed rice, and cucumber; smoked pork in barbecue sauce over a baked sweet potato and corn on the cob; shrimp burgers with sweet potato fries; breakfast for dinner (pancakes, bacon, scrambled eggs, and strawberries); and California roll sushi, a surprise from M.
Leftovers Pizza ready for the oven: the bottom half used up pizza sauce, pepperoni, and mozzarella and the upper half finished up some pesto, a small bag of sausage I found in the freezer, chopped red onion, and tomato-basil goat cheese crumbles. The crust is a flatbread pizza crust from Trader Joe’s that had been hanging out in the freezer.
  • How we saved: 1) After two weeks, five calls, and speaking with 10 different people, Brett managed to get an erroneous charge of $109.75 taken off of our Xfinity bill this week. 2) We put $10.93 into the change/$1 bill jar. 3) It took some effort and putting a couple of things back, but we stayed just under our grocery budget amount. 4) We didn’t throw away any food.
Eager to try his first Puppachino . . .

Good things that happened: 1) We took K to Starbucks for her Fabulous Friday treat this past week. She chose chocolate milk and a unicorn cake pop, Brett had a cinnamon latte, I tried a nonfat pumpkin spice latte – nope, still don’t like them – and Kai loved his first Puppachino (whipped cream in a small cup). 2) There were no other real standouts this week; everything that happened was a good thing in one way or another.

. . . and very excited about her unicorn cake pop!

My insomnia has come back with a vengeance. I have cut my coffee way back, try not to drink any other caffeine during the day, and yet there I’ve been at 3:00 a.m. every night with my eyes wide open and my brain racing. It’s frustrating because I do eventually fall asleep but never know what time I’ll wake up. Some days it’s 9:00 a.m., but other mornings I sleep soundly until noon! I know the insomnia will eventually pass – it always does – but getting through it is a challenge. And, although I’m thrilled with the cooler fall weather, allergies have come back – I’ve had a runny nose and itchy eyes the past few days, and vertigo has returned as well. Hopefully this is just my body adjusting to a new location, climate, and flora, but I sure hope an adjustment happens sooner rather than later!

That closes another great week, one that went by surprisingly quickly. A quiet yet exciting week is coming up that will be filled with celebration, lots of reading, good food, and family. Change is in the air and I am here for it! I hope last week was a good one for everyone, and that you’re looking forward to the one coming up.

Sunday Morning 9/25/2022: A Very Good Week Indeed!

Worth the wait in the end, and exactly what we hoped for

All’s well that ends well. The missing box of parts to our Carta credenza arrived early last Tuesday morning and Brett had it assembled by the afternoon. We absolutely love it and both of us agree the wait was worth it in spite of all that happened. There was of course a twist to this last delivery: We actually received TWO identical boxes of parts, one of which was the missing box from our initial delivery back in August! The extra box went back to Burrow on Thursday morning.

Of course once we set up the credenza and the TV our living room seemed too crowded, so I thought about it for a bit and then rearranged all the furniture . . . by myself, in the middle of the night. I’m still not sure how I got the sleeper sofa moved because it is heavy. The living room is more open now and we’ll have room for everyone at Christmas as well as a small tree. Kai was initially confused and not happy with the new setup; it took him a couple of days to figure out where everything was (i.e. his toys and bed) but he’s back to being our happy pup.

Our trip to the Shiloh National Military Park today was postponed because the chance of rain is just too high. If it’s not raining here this afternoon though Brett and I may head over and visit the historic Carnton plantation linked to Carter House and the Battle of Franklin. We keep seeing historic markers around here every time we go out – they are everywhere. We just discovered one that’s within walking distance of the apartment the other day, over by a nearby corporate park! I think we need to find a list of all the ones in the area and then start checking them off one by one – I honestly had no idea our little suburb or the surrounding area was so rich with history.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Besides getting the credenza assembled and the furniture rearranged, my only big accomplishment last week was getting my current Covid booster and a flu shot. Brett and I are now ready to go for the winter, or at least we hope so, but another new Covid variant has popped up so who knows? This virus mutates faster than an iPhone with all of its updates. 2) Our license plates arrived so the business side of our move to Tennessee is complete.
The origami cubes are to slip over the lights on our Christmas tree. The folding is not as easy as I thought it would be, but practice will make perfect!
  • What we’re looking forward to this coming week: 1) I want to get started making small origami cubes to slip over the lights on our Christmas tree. M brought me a package of origami paper from Japan, but they’re not as easy as I imagined so it’s going to take me a few weeks. 2) We’re greatly looking forward to cooler weather coming up; the heat at the beginning of the week was awful although the humidity thankfully wasn’t too bad. 3) This is food shopping week, and we’ll hit up ALDI, Trader Joe’s, Costco, and maybe Publix for a couple of things. I did some food shopping on Saturday (see below) so the trip this week will be small and mostly produce.

Once things cooled off we were back out on the trail. I’d never seen an Osage orange (or hedge apple) before!

The delicious Japanese-style dinner M prepared for us last week.
  • Eating and exercise: 1) The hot weather this past week kept us to short walks with Kai at the beginning of the week but once things cooled off we were back out on the trails for longer walks/hikes. I got quite a workout though moving furniture last Tuesday night! 2) This past week we ate leftovers one night; had roasted vegetable quiche and melon (two evenings); barbecue pork sandwiches along with four-bean salad; somen noodles with chicken in broth, Japanese potato salad, and broccoli (meal provided by M); barbecue chicken sausages, tater tots, and (more) broccoli; and clam chowder.

Welcoming fall this weekend!

  • How we saved: 1) I bought some calamine lotion for the poison ivy rash Brett picked up last week when I was at Target getting my shots, and we stopped at Nothing Bundt Cakes for K’s Fabulous Friday treat, so we thought this would be a low-spend week. I even stopped myself a couple of times from going to Trader Joe’s, ALDI, or Publix because we didn’t honestly need anything. Then on Saturday we went to the opening day of the Flying Ghost Pumpkin Market in Nashville – oh my. I’ve never seen so many different kinds of pumpkins in one place, from tiny to humongous, mundane to the truly weird. Prices at the market could not be beat though so we bought a traditional jack-o-lantern pumpkin, a “firebomb,” and two small Cinderella pumpkins for cooking later. After pumpkin shopping we headed across the street to the Japanese market. I went crazy and stocked up on all our favorites, including CookDo sauce and other things we’ve missed. Everything I bought will provide many delicious meals in the coming months. We did not end up with a low spend week but we are ready for fall and some of our favorite Japanese meals! (the Japanese market spending will come out of October’s food budget). 2) We put $2.73 into the change/$1 bill jar. 3) We didn’t throw out any food except for a package of sliced cheese that got moldy. We have to be careful about buying too much of things like bread and cheese because we don’t eat them very quickly. 4) I ordered a small silk plant for a spot in the living room, but decided it was just clutter and returned it for a refund.
The animal whisperer on her way into work
Another POV
  • Good things that happened: 1) The arrival of the credenza parts and getting it assembled was very satisfying. It’s a piece of furniture that was worth the wait. 2) Rearranging the living room opened up a lot more space and made the room more comfortable. 3) The Great British Baking Show is back on Netflix! 4) Even though it was broiling hot on Wednesday (99 degrees), I spent a lovely afternoon over at the pool with K, and met some of our neighbors. The next day we had a perfect first day of fall with cool, crisp weather. 5) Brett and I finished our Christmas shopping although nothing will get wrapped until later. 6) I made a small discovery this past week that has made a HUGE difference in dealing with my GERD. I read (can’t remember where) that adding just 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda to a pot of coffee was enough to neutralize the acid without disrupting the flavor. I have had to give up several of my favorite foods because of the problems they cause, but I was not ready to give up my morning coffee and this adjustment changed everything – my stomach is happy! 7) This past Friday (Saturday in Japan) our son did his annual walking challenge to raise funds in support of a Japanese organization that serves terminally ill children or children with incurable diseases and their families. This year he walked 28 miles in 10 hours. Over the past seven years he has raised nearly $50,000 for this organization, raising $9,410 this year, his best yet. We’re incredibly proud of his efforts and dedication. 8) YaYu called on Thursday to catch up, and let us know two research papers she co-authored this summer were accepted and will be published (a big deal in academia). And, her boss hinted this past week that she wouldn’t be disappointed to see YaYu apply to the department’s graduate (Ph.D.) program this year.

Bluer skies and fluffy clouds for fall. If you look carefully, in the picture on the right you can see vultures circling up high in the cool breezes.

Fall is my favorite season of the year, so I couldn’t be happier that it’s finally arrived. The heat almost “popped” overnight last Wednesday, with the air noticeably different on Thursday, the first day of the season. The sky was bluer, the air clearer, and the temperatures cooler. Leaves on the trees are just beginning to change too. I’m still holding out hope that Trader Joe’s will get their yummy pumpkin toaster pastries in (doesn’t look like it though), but we’ve already bought pumpkin pancake mix and Meiling told me the other day we need to try their pumpkin sticky toffee tarts. We’ll see. After a long, hot, and and very busy summer Brett and I are ready to relax and enjoy Tennessee. There’s plenty to see and do around here and we plan to enjoy all that fall has to offer.

What a great week we had! Mornings are now cool, and there’s a real change to the way the everything feels outside. We got a lot done, had fun, and we’re set for the week coming up (and for several months with Japanese supplies). I hope you’re as excited about autumn’s arrival as I am, and are looking forward to all it brings. In the meantime, here’s to another great week coming up!

Sunday Morning 9/18/2022: Autumn Is Coming

I am thankfully feeling much, much better than I did last week with an occasional cough the only thing to remind me of how awful I felt last week. Our daughter-in-law is also well again and was back at work all week. Brett never got sick and thinks we both had bronchitis, possibly picked up from K who had had a mild cold the week before we got sick. Both M and I remain extremely grateful we did not have Covid because what we had was bad enough.

We’ve had a lovely week weather-wise, with somewhat cooler temperatures. However, along with fall officially arriving this coming week, so is another heat wave, and temperatures are expected to be back in the upper 90s here for a few days. Ugh. The complex pool is still open though so we plan to take K over to swim after school, and will otherwise do our best to stay cool. I am so ready for things to change though; I’ve had enough of heat and humidity for the year. All the pumpkin things at Trader Joe’s have put me in the mood for fall as well.

Two giant pots of chrysanthemums from Costco and a pumpkin from Trader Joe’s will be the extent of our fall decorating.

Have I mentioned we have valet trash service here? Seriously, someone will come every week and pick up our trash – it’s included in our rent. We were provided with a large kitchen trash can when we moved in, and if we place our bagged trash inside and set it outside on our door on Monday morning our trash will be picked up for us. We’ve never used the service because Brett carries our trash over to the bins when he walks Kai but our daughter-in-law uses the service as it’s very convenient with her work schedule. Also, we have been recycling our trash for over thirty years (beginning when we lived in Japan then continuing in Portland, Hawaii, and overseas) but there’s no recycling here – everything goes into the trash. It feels weird and wrong to put cans, bottles, plastics, paper, etc. into the trash bin without sorting it, and we’ve looked into whether there are any nearby recycling services but there’s no place nearby that takes recyclable trash. Tossing everything has made me realize how much time we used to spend sorting and getting things ready to be recycled, and how much space it took, but while it may be quicker now the truth is we’d be very happy to start sorting once again.

The credenza parts did not arrive even though they were promised to be here this past Thursday. However, our package was picked up at the warehouse on Friday by FedEx and is on its way, with an early delivery scheduled for Tuesday. I’ll believe it when I see the credenza fully assembled and our TV sitting on top, but after what we’ve been through both of us feel a bit doubtful about what might arrive or even if the missing pieces will actually arrive. We have mixed feelings about this company and we’re torn about asking for a refund if things go wrong again. From the partial product we have received we can tell the quality of the piece is very high, and the customer service department has been excellent about trying to straighten things out, staying in touch with us, and communicating what’s going on, but the coordination with the delivery service gets less than a zero. The right hand really doesn’t have a clue what the left is doing and vice versa and the whole experience has been beyond frustrating.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Brett and I are now officially Tennessee residents! I got my Tennessee driver’s license and registered to vote this past Wednesday. I felt sad when I surrendered my Hawaii license, but am now good to drive for the next eight years. We’re still waiting on Tennessee plates for our car, but they should arrive this week or next. 2) Brett finished getting the school district’s security screening done in order to serve as a field trip escort for K’s class. He was fingerprinted and went through a criminal check this past week. 3) Otherwise, we had a very low-key, easy week.
  • What we’re looking forward to this coming week: 1) I’m getting both the latest Covid booster and a flu shot on Tuesday so I’m ready and protected for this fall/winter. I have never had the flu, and never used to get the vaccine, but at age 70 I’m no longer taking any chances. 2) Brett and I are hoping to take a couple of longer hikes in the area this week, spreading out from our apartment complex. We are working at building our walking distances back up and keeping our weight down. 3) We are planning to visit Shiloh National Military Park next Sunday.
  • Eating and exercise last week: 1) We went on three good hikes this past week, each around a mile long, through the woods behind our apartment complex. There are marked trails to three scenic overlooks. We discovered a crumbling low stone wall along one trail we’d like to know more about, whether it’s new or old. It looks like something that could have been around during the Civil War but it’s most likely newer than that. 2) Meals we enjoyed this week were: BLTs with chicken noodle soup on a cool day; spinach & cheese ravioli with pesto and meatballs; smoked pork tacos and corn on the cob; vegetarian hamburgers with onion rings; broccoli stuffed chicken breasts and mashed potatoes; chili pork burritos and coleslaw; and pepperoni pizza. When I write it down it looks like so much food, but we keep our portions small and there are almost always leftovers for our lunch the next day. 3) I am also trying to be more conscientious about drinking more water every day.
  • The ways we saved: 1) We reexamined our monthly budget this week and made some adjustments as several things here are/will be less than we initially estimated. We still have a cushion every month, but I was able to increase the automatic deposit into our travel savings by $100/month. 2) We put $1.90 into the change/$1 bill jar. 3) We ate all our leftovers and didn’t throw away any food. 4) Before cancelling my trial Amazon Prime membership this past week, I ordered our Christmas gifts for the family. Besides free shipping I was also able to use a coupon on one item for more savings. Although the total came in under our budget, I used credit card rewards to knock off almost half of the total. Meiling has been reminding everyone that there’s less than 100 days now left until Christmas – she is already that excited about this year!
K’s Fabulous Friday treat from Crumbl: a BIG sugar cookie with Minion sprinkles.
  • Good things that happened: 1) K officially named Friday after school Fabulous Friday because that’s the day we take her for a treat. This past week we stopped at Crumbl and got her a giant Minion-themed cookie. 2) We lucked out and were in Costco in time to get three giant chrysanthemum plants yesterday – several people there told us they regularly sell out in a few hours. Two are for our patio and one was for our daughter-in-law. We had been planning to get chrysanthemums anyway, but these ones were about four times the size of any we’d seen and for just a few dollars more.

I can’t believe that this week will be Kaipo’s one-month anniversary with us – it certainly feels like it’s been much longer as he has so fully integrated himself into our lives. He is everything we hoped for when we selected him, and a great fit for us overall – we are so happy to be dog owners again! He has gotten slightly bigger than he was when we met him, and put on some weight but he’s now pretty much as big as he’s going to get. His first grooming appointment is scheduled for October 10, the earliest we could get him in. We found a local groomer who specializes in Shih Tzus and toy and miniature poodles, so she should be a good fit for Kai. He is going to be a very floofy dog though by the time we get him there.

That’s all for this week – it was a nice one. Fingers are crossed that the one coming up will as nice in spite of the weather, and we’re hopeful we can stay cool and that the missing parts to our credenza finally show up. Hoping everyone had a good week as well and are looking forward to the next one as much as we are!