Monday Morning 1/13/2020: Back on Kaua’i

We traded clouds and rain in Portland for clouds and rain on Kaua’i. But it’s warm (80 degrees) and we’re happy to be here. This is the view from Alan and Cheryl’s lanai, looking out over farm and ranch land to the Anahola mountains. On a clear day, we’d be able to see the ocean.

I don’t think there are words to express how happy Brett and I feel to be back on Kaua’i. We’re treasuring our time with Alan and Cheryl, and it feels like we’re home again. Even though the weather has been windy, rainy and/or overcast since we arrived (and will continue to be the rest of the week), it hasn’t bothered us in the least since we know how to have a good time here in spite of bad weather. Yes, it’s still humid but less unpleasant than I remember (although when I woke up yesterday morning my hair had exploded from the humidity and looked like a giant dandelion puff). Something new has arisen though – I appear to be suffering from some sort of allergy this time and have been dealing with watery, itchy eyes and a runny nose ever since we arrived. I have no idea what’s causing it because when we lived here I never had any problems while Brett was the one who dealt with allergies.

You know you’re really back in Hawaii when you’re tossed a container of POG on your inter-island flight.

So far we have scheduled nothing for our time here – we’re all mostly having fun catching up and chatting with Alan and Cheryl, and just relaxing. We went to Costco yesterday to pick up a few things to use/eat while we’re here, and also some things to take along to Japan, like a couple of bags of the world’s BEST granola. Later today Brett and I are heading down to Lihue to do some banking (we still have an account here on the island) and may stop at Walmart to pick up some shampoo to take to Japan. Alan and Cheryl bought our car when we left in 2018, but are loaning it back to us to use while we’re here – talk about deja vu! Other plans for the week are to get together with our friend Joy up in Princeville and get down to Poipu for a Puka Dog and some Lappert’s ice cream. I don’t think the weather is going to improve enough for us to get to the beach until next weekend, but we’re OK with that.

It was sad to say goodbye to WenYu and YaYu on Friday, and we were grateful to have lots to do for our own departure on Saturday. We will be seeing the girls again in May at WenYu’s graduation, and when we’re in NYC, and I know that time will arrive sooner than we imagine. We had a really great time together this year, and we’re all planning to be back in Portland one more time next December, and will go through our remaining things with them. We plan to rent the same Airbnb as we stayed in this last time because it was just about perfect for us.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m slowly making progress through Killing Commandatore, but haven’t had a lot of time for reading the past few days.
  • Listening to: Roosters! Although we’ve seen them around we haven’t really heard them (maybe because of the rain?), but this morning they have been out in force even though it’s still damp and overcast. Who knows? They really are the background sound of Kaua’i.
  • Watching: I watched the Downton Abbey movie on the plane before I fell asleep, and really, really enjoyed it (and laughed out loud a couple of times – Maggie Smith as the Dowager is a treasure).
  • Cooking: I’m not cooking much of anything this week. We bought a few easy things to fix at Costco (lumpia and Polish sausages; Alan and Cheryl bought a giant pizza and Costco’s stuffed peppers), and we also plan to eat out a couple of times. We made a supreme effort before we left Portland and finished just about everything we had bought – all that was left in the refrigerator when we left was a tiny bit of whipped cream and a little bit of jam.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Packing to leave Portland was a bit of a challenge because the grandkids’ Christmas presents are taking up a lot of room in our suitcases. We finally gave up and decided to check Brett’s new bag (no extra cost) and carry-on the giant Erector set we got for our grandson instead when we couldn’t make everything fit otherwise, and that did the trick. 
  • Looking forward to next week: In spite of the weather Brett and I are planning to take at least a couple of walks on the beach path, and we’re looking forward to eating at a few of our favorite places: lilikoi chiffon pie at Hamura’s, pancakes at the Tip Top Cafe, Puka Dogs, and lau lau from Pono Market. I’m especially looking forward to seeing my friend Joy later this week.
    Getting to know the bunnies at the Hoppy Hour experience.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: WenYu and YaYu had a wonderful time at the bunny petting experience I had booked for them in Portland, and both were happy they got to go (they love rabbits). I had a great visit with a friend last Wednesday and then went for a much-needed manicure and pedicure which was very relaxing. While we were glad to be in first class on our flight over to Hawai’i, it was an older plane and sort of “old-style.” While we were served breakfast on china with real cutlery and a linen tablecloth on our tray table, and we had more legroom, the section still felt cramped, and the seats didn’t really recline all that much and there were no foot or leg rests. The seats were more like economy plus, but were still a good deal for what we paid for them and much nicer than what we would have endured in the main cabin. Kai Kahele, the Hawaiian state senator that’s running for Congress, was on our flight over to Kaua’i from Honolulu and it was exciting to meet and chat with him. We’ve been followers of his since he announced he was running last year.
    Breakfast on the plane was a tasty chorizo and cheese omelet accompanied by a chicken sausage, potato wedges, a bagel, and fresh fruit.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: I received close to a $300 refund from the dentist; we will use that as part of the $400 cash we’ve budgeted for commissary shopping when we’re in Japan. We were expecting to have to pay nearly $150 to get our luggage over to Kaua’i on Hawaiian (no free checked luggage) but we only paid $70 for four bags. We think it may have been our Hawaiian driver’s licenses that did the trick and got us a kamaaina discount. We spent less than $150 at Costco, which I think is a record.
  • Grateful for: Both of us are very thankful for this opportunity to be back on Kaua’i, especially since our daughters just surprised us with their thoughts about us coming back to live here. It really does feel wonderful to be here again – we’ve missed it more than we realized. We’re glad we’re experiencing some of the things we didn’t care for before (humidity and traffic, for example) to see how we feel about those now. Overall, we love the feeling of familiarity with the island – this was a happy place for us.
  • Bonus question: Do you think you could actually move back to Kaua’i? Off the top of my head, yes. For a variety of reasons, this would be a great place for us to settle down, especially since it would just be Brett and me, and we would not be beholden to the girls’ schedules and needs. They all said they would love to have a strong reason to return as well. If we return, we would not need as much furniture or as many things as we did before, and very little to ship over. We are also more aware of the things ahead of time that became problematic for us before, like the humidity, and hopefully, we can better deal with those things on a second time around. There are still negatives about living here though, like Hawaii’s isolation, which would make it expensive and difficult for future travel if we wanted to continue doing that and also for the family to come and visit us. It’s also still an expensive place to live (although we felt Portland was almost more expensive now), and we’d of course have to have a car here. But overall, the positives outweigh the negatives and we are giving the idea of returning real consideration.

I’m not sure how much I’ll get posted this week but I will try my best. We’re looking forward to relaxing as much as possible while we’re here and not overdoing things, so we’ll see if I can squeeze in any writing. In the meantime, I hope everyone had a good week, and that your new year is off to a good start!

Sunday Morning 1/5/2020: Week 6 in Portland

We are ready to be done with cold, clouds, and rain and trade it . . .

Happy New Year! It’s the first Sunday Morning of 2020! And, it’s also the beginning of a very busy week in Portland, our last before departing for Kaua’i early next Saturday morning. We all have lots to do this week to get ready to go including several errands, packing, cleaning, and everything else that goes along with changing locations once again.

. . . for this.

WenYu and YaYu will depart on Friday afternoon, within a couple of hours of each other, and then Brett and I will come back to the apartment to finish cleaning and getting ready to move over to a hotel for the night. After our wild experience getting to the airport in England, and our troubles with the car rental agency here, we were both feeling more than a bit anxious about how things might go with our early departure on Saturday morning (just after 5:00 a.m.). The car rental agency doesn’t open until 4:00 a.m. and we were feeling somewhat afraid that if there were any problems whatsoever things could easily start spiraling out of control again in terms of us getting checked in and through security on time, so we decided to turn in the car on Friday evening instead and spend the night in a hotel near the airport. The hotel is just two minutes away from the terminal and has a 24-hour on-demand shuttle service, so we’re both feeling a bit less nervous now about being where we need to be on time.

Brett and I are also growing excited about our upcoming visit to Kaua’i, and are looking forward to spending time with friends and enjoying the weather and scenery there as well as getting out for walks, etc. Portland has mostly been its usual gloomy self for the past week and once again I can feel myself start heading into seasonal depression. When the sun shines I feel great, but otherwise, all I want to do is plant myself on the sofa and stay there all day. Those feelings have been combined the past week or so with one of my annual bouts of insomnia – ugh. Japan will be cold (colder, actually) when we get there and somewhat gloomy as well so Kaua’i will provide a much-needed winter respite.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished the Dead of Jericho on New Year’s Eve, and ended the year with a total of 58 books read. I decided to take a short break from Inspector Morse and am now reading Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore. I especially enjoy it when Murakami describes different neighborhoods in Tokyo or other places nearby because I know where and what he’s writing about – I can picture them in my mind.
  • Listening to: The girls were up very late last night so they’re still asleep. Brett is rustling around the kitchen, making coffee and getting ready to make bacon for our breakfast this morning. The neighborhood is quiet as always.
  • Watching: I don’t think we watched any TV at all this past week except for the live version of Disney’s Aladdin on Friday (and I can’t get “Never Had a Friend Like Me” out of my head).
  • Cooking: We’ve been doing a very good job of getting things used up, and as of today, there isn’t a whole lot left so we should be able to finish up everything except for a few pantry items. Dinner tonight will once again be leftovers, then tomorrow I’m making pasta with pesto along with Italian sausages (which didn’t get fixed this past week). On Tuesday we’re having meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy and steamed broccoli. We’ll eat that for a couple of days, and on Thursday we’ll eat whatever is left and call it good. Brett and I plan to have Swedish meatballs for dinner on Friday night at IKEA, which is located close to the airport and our hotel. WenYu’s friend is going to come over on Friday morning to take the odds and ends of the pantry supplies (soy sauce, vegetable oil, etc.).
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I don’t think I accomplished a whole lot this past week other than staying up until midnight on New Year’s Eve. Brett was able to get an appointment in June to meet with the surgeon, but at this point, we have no idea how long it will take to actually schedule the surgery, whether it will be in the same month or later in the year. We’re going to schedule a week to 10 days in Portland then, and will add on days if necessary.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’ll be getting together with our friend Joan on Tuesday, always something we look forward to. I’m also meeting another friend for coffee this afternoon, and another friend on Wednesday afternoon. After she and I are done I’m going to get a manicure and pedicure so I’m presentable when we’re in Hawaii. Brett and I are actually looking forward to the long flight over to Hawaii because we’re flying first class which should make it a more enjoyable experience – I’m so happy to have found those low fares! Our Honolulu to Kaua’i flight will be in economy seating, but I got those tickets for free using miles, so no complaints (and the flight only takes 30 minutes).
  • Thinking of good things that happened: My laptop was ready for pick-up on Friday and I am so glad to have it back! I am enjoying once again having a battery that charges quickly and lasts almost the whole day versus having to get up to charge it every three hours or so. My stomach issues have been under control for the entire week – not one bad day or episode!
    WenYu and A have been best friends since they were five years old. They both come from the same part of China and were adopted through the same agency at the same time, although they didn’t connect until they were in kindergarten. They had planned to go out to a club for New Year’s Eve, but cover charges and admission turned out to be more than they wanted to pay so they stayed home and celebrated with us.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) When WenYu and her friend decided at the last minute that they would not be going out for New Year’s Eve, I rustled up some tasty hors d’oeuvres using leftovers and things we had on hand, including celery stuffed with spicy Thai peanut spread (everyone’s favorite), crackers topped with whipped cream cheese I mixed with some leftover crispy fried onions, chopped green onions, and sriracha; and pesto pizza bites, and there were no leftovers. Our hosts had brought us a bottle of good wine earlier in the day so we ended up having a very nice evening that cost us nothing. 2) We arranged to have our son convert yen for us for our rent payments while we’re in Japan which will save us around $180/month ($540 total) in PayPal conversion fees. 3) The Expedia credit in my account covered most of the taxes on Friday night’s hotel room. 4) My computer repair was only $129, $21 less than I expected. 5) Finally, I bought the Costco store brand of acid reducer for my stomach – 250 tables for just $10.99 versus 25 name-brand tablets for $12 at Winco or 90 tablets for $7 by prescription. Between the Kirkland medication and one order of my prescription, I am set for a full year.
    Something I’ve noticed more of this time in Portland is lots and lots of new, big apartment buildings squeezed in all over the place. At one point the other day it felt like we were driving through downtown Tokyo! Rent in these places is not cheap either. For example, studios in this building start at $1300+ and a 2-bedroom, 2-bath apartment goes for $2800, more expensive than Kaua’i.
  • Grateful for: I’m thankful for all the good years we spent in Portland; it was a beautiful, affordable city to land in following Brett’s retirement from the navy and a great place to work and raise our children. But I’m also grateful we were able to move on when we did; it was time for us to go. Portland is changing, as it should, and we will always love this city, but it isn’t the right place for us anymore.
  • Bonus question: What is your least favorite chore when your family gets together? The girls are very good at helping out with cleaning, cooking, and doing dishes, but the one thing they won’t do? Laundry! I get that they want a break from having to do it on their own (who wouldn’t?), but on the other hand, two to three young women can produce a LOT of laundry, and it’s an effort to sort it, wash it, dry it, fold it, and then get them to pick it up and put it away (and I don’t easily recognize anymore which piece of clothing belongs to which girl). Doing their laundry is a small price to pay for the pleasure of our daughters’ company once or twice a year, but that doesn’t make me dislike the chore any less.

There won’t be a post next Sunday as we’ll be on the move all day Saturday (and tired from having to get up so early), but I will try and instead do a brief Monday Morning post after we arrive on Kaua’i and get settled. We’ll see how it goes – all I may feel like doing once we’re there is sitting out on our friends’ lanai and sipping mai tais! Life has been something of a three-ring circus since the girls arrived, and we are enjoying every moment with them, but we’re also starting to look ahead to our quieter, “regular life” again with just the two of us.

Once again, a very happy new year to all, with added wishes for good health and prosperity. I think this coming year is going to be a bit of a wild ride for a variety of reasons, so hope everyone is hanging on tight!

Sunday Morning 12/29/2019: Week 5 in Portland

The whole gang – we have loved being together with them again.

Changes will begin this evening as Meiling and K return to New York – both have to be at work tomorrow (so all our fingers are crossed there are no problems with their flight arriving on time). We are going to miss Meiling so much (K too) – she’s been a delight to have here. WenYu and YaYu will be with us through the 10th of January, the day before we leave for Hawai’i. WenYu will head back then to Massachusetts to attend an alumni gathering that helps match seniors with employment opportunities following graduation and will begin her last term at Wellesley afterward. YaYu will go up to Seattle to spend a week with one of her roommates, and then they’ll fly back to Philadelphia together for the start of their spring term.

Here’s the main reason our suitcases were so heavy leaving England – the above is what each of the girls received in her “Brit Box” on Christmas morning (and we also brought back several additional jars of jams, curds, and chutneys for ourselves and for friends).

We had a wonderful Christmas Day. We all slept in, and then the girls started off the morning opening the “Brit Boxes” we put together for them in lieu of stockings this year, filled with all sorts of goodies we picked up while we were in England. As we ate our breakfast of bagels and berries, Meiling served as our elf and passed out gifts. The biggest surprise and highlight of the morning for Brett and me was receiving tickets from Meiling to see Hamilton on Broadway when we’re in New York City next May. I’m frankly still in a bit of shock, but also absolutely thrilled – I have been a Hamilton fan from the beginning but never thought I’d be seeing it any time soon! We brought cashmere scarves back from Edinburgh for each of the girls, and are so thankful they were happy with our choices – we had had a very difficult time picking colors and plaids out of the thousands of options available there. We also gave Meiling and WenYu gift cards and contributed to the cost of a much-needed new winter coat for YaYu instead of a gift card. Later in the morning, we all got a nice surprise when our Airbnb hosts appeared at our door with homemade cinnamon rolls, Christmas cookies, and coffee beans that they had roasted for us. The rest of the day was quiet and relaxed: we ate leftover pizza for lunch, watched a couple of Christmas movies, and enjoyed a delicious ham dinner in the evening. We all agreed it was one of the best Christmases we’ve celebrated together.

We were right back to “normal” (or whatever that is) on Thursday with dentist appointments and other errands, including picking up K – he’s spent the past three days with us. Less than two weeks to go and we’ll be back on Kaua’i with friends, and in three weeks we’ll be together with our son, DIL, and grandkids in Japan. They’re currently on a family vacation in Singapore – I can’t wait to hear all about that as it’s on our bucket list.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Way Through the Woods on Christmas, and am now reading The Dead of Jericho (book #5 in the Morse series). I found the last two books I can’t get online at Powell’s (used copies) and will pick those up this afternoon at a nearby Powell’s store. I’m almost ashamed to admit that occasionally when I’m reading an actual book these days I sometimes can’t figure out for a few moments why the pages of the book don’t light up at night or find myself tapping the bottom of the page to go to the next (#addictedtomyKindle).
  • Listening to: The girls are still asleep and Brett is rustling around in the kitchen, but otherwise, all is still and quiet, just the way I like it in the morning. 
  • Watching: The girls have the televisions monopolized most of the time, but Brett and I were able to squeeze in a viewing of Dolomite Is My Name, starring Eddie Murphy. It was raunchy and fun from start to finish – we loved it! We also watched The Two Popes, starring Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce, a completely different but also very good film (although probably not entirely historically accurate). Both films are available on Netflix. We’ve binge-watched all the series we wanted to see so we’re now feeling sort of lost as to what to watch next. Any suggestions?
  • Cooking: We will have two fewer (big) eaters going forward from today, but YaYu has decided to eat meat once again beginning January 1 so that will make menu planning a bit easier. Last night we finished off almost all of the leftovers, which were a) very good, and b) cleared up a lot of room in the refrigerator. Tonight we’re having pad thai, and tomorrow I’m fixing the ham and pasta dish that didn’t get made earlier as planned (YaYu will have hers without ham). We’ll finish off two jars of marinated artichoke hearts along with that. On New Year’s Day, I’m going to make one of YaYu’s favorite recipes, noodles with pork sauce, and other meals planned for this week are turkey rice soup; pasta with pesto and Italian sausages; and fried rice with ham. We will be beginning efforts this week to make sure all the food we bought gets finished before we depart on January 11. 
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Getting all the cooking done and meals on the table has been something of an effort, mainly because I’m out of practice preparing big meals for so many. Keeping the small kitchen clean as I went along was a chore as well, but everything got done and all the food was eaten and enjoyed. Both Brett and I got vacation supplies of our prescriptions ordered so we’ll be covered until we get back to the U.S. in May, and we ordered some other provisions we’ll need.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m really not looking forward to much more than another quiet, relaxing week with Brett, WenYu, and YaYu. Brett and I are going to the Apple Store later this afternoon to finally get a new battery installed in my laptop and get it all spiffed up as well. It’s in very good shape other than needing the battery – the Apple tech was surprised the original one was still operating considering how long I’ve had it (although it only holds a charge for around three hours now).
    Brett joined the Rolling Carry-On Club this past week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Besides having a really great Christmas Day with the girls, I don’t think anything can top the thrill of receiving those tickets to “Hamilton.” What an amazing surprise! The treats our hosts brought us were another sweet surprise as well – they truly are the most delightful Airbnb hosts we have stayed with yet. Brett had decided to switch over from a backpack to a rolling carry-on and we found a very nice one (Samsonite) on sale yesterday. It will give us more room and be easier to maneuver than his bulging backpack. I will be responsible for the carry-ons while Brett will continue to wrangle the big bags. He’ll continue to use the backpack though as his personal carry-on item and to carry my laptop, etc. My stomach issues continue to slowly improve and I had a few days this past week with no problems whatsoever and slept well on those nights as well. I’m still figuring things out but those days give me hope that I can eventually get through this. Finally, I was having a good hair day yesterday so WenYu decided to give me a makeover last night and do my makeup. I enjoyed the experience but couldn’t see the results until I put on my glasses, which of course then covered it all up! So, the girls took pictures of me without my glasses so I could see how things turned out. I haven’t worn makeup for years, and have no plans to start using it again but last night’s session was fun. I especially enjoyed having eyebrows again (mine are naturally invisible).
    My glamour shot. Makeup sure hides a lot of flaws (so do glasses).
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We stayed out of stores this past week so other than my ordering the two books from Powell’s, getting Brett a new rolling carry-on bag (60% off), and making one stop for milk, cheese, produce, a bottle of wine, and toilet paper (and nothing more!) we had a zero-spend week! I chose in-store pick-up for the books from Powell’s and saved $3.99 in shipping fees instead of having them mailed to me. I combined gift card the girls gave me with an online sale at J. Jill and got a new top for nothing out of pocket (the order left 6¢ on the gift card). We were shocked to discover that Costco now charges nearly $50+ for a 10-pack of Oral-B replacement brushes but we found a 12-pack of generic brushes (with equally high reviews) on Amazon for just $8.99. I did some research and found another highly rated brand of curl cream – two containers cost $20 less than what I would have paid for two tubes of my current brand. We went downtown to the Apple Store yesterday to see if it was worth trading in my current laptop for a new one, but when it came down to $850 with trade-in for a new laptop versus having the battery replaced in my current one for less than $150 it was a no brainer. I have an appointment at the Genius Bar this afternoon to get that done.
    A gift certificate from the girls and a 40% off sale price made it possible for me to get this pretty velour tunic.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I continue to be thankful that our daughters get along so well with each other. They support each other, offer advice, tips, etc. and a shoulder to cry on if necessary. They’re very different from each other in their interests, styles, and personalities but they work well together and enjoy each other’s company.  
  • Bonus question: How do you plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve? Our celebrations are always quite boring, to be honest. We don’t like parties or crowds, but Brett and I always stay up with whoever is at home to welcome in the New Year, and sometimes we’ll have some sparkling wine to help the celebration (but not always). When the kids were little we would wake them if they had fallen asleep and take them outside to bang on pots and pans to make noise for a few minutes, and when we were in Hawaii we would all stay up for the fireworks (New Year’s is a BIG holiday there). As I said, our celebrations are very simple and unexciting, but Brett and I have been awake at midnight on January 1 every year for 43 years (we missed being together just once, in 1992, when he was deployed for Operation Desert Storm). So, in 2020 we’ll stay up and welcome in the new year, our 44th New Year’s Eve together.

This past week we’ve been thinking about words to guide us in the coming year and have come up with four:

  1. Experience. No matter where we are or what we do, appreciate the experiences for what they are, both good and bad. Stay adventurous!
  2. Learn. Keep an open mind and heart, accept what the world and others can teach us, and adapt as necessary.
  3. Wonder. Maintain a sense of wonder and amazement at what the world has to offer, even in the smallest things. Stay humble.
  4. Save. Become better stewards of our income in order to live our best lives and maintain choices going forward.

2019 has been a great year for us, and we’re looking forward to what the future holds!

That’s a wrap for Sunday Morning in 2019! I hope everyone had a great week, had a wish or two come true, and are looking forward to the possibilities of 2020. 

Note: My computer might still be in the shop this weekend so if there’s no Sunday post next weekend, that’s the reason why. Thanks for understanding.

Sunday Morning 12/22/2019: Week 4 in Portland

Hanukkah sameach! Wishing all who celebrate a happy and peaceful Hanukkah along with best wishes for the coming year.

In spite of breakdowns, storms, squalls, delayed flights with late departures, and middle-of-the-night arrivals, the girls (and one boyfriend) all eventually made it to Portland this past week. Meiling left yesterday morning for a couple of days down in Eugene with K and his family, but she’ll be back tomorrow. Currently, the girls are awaiting a few more of their packages to arrive, but otherwise, we all are ready for Wednesday’s festivities. And my goodness, these girls still eat a LOT! I’m frankly shocked by how much they can still put away. Meiling received some big news the day after she arrived: although she has been at her job less than two months, apparently she has made a very good impression because this past Thursday she learned her manager would be leaving the company to take a position elsewhere . . . and she was asked to take over the manager’s position! She was initially very stressed by the offer, torn between wanting the increase in salary/benefits versus the added stress she’d be taking on, at least for the first few months. However, with encouragement from her manager and several others in the company, and from her boyfriend and Brett and me, she has decided to accept the position and is getting prepped. Her manager, who Meiling adores, is already helping her with the transition and will continue to serve as her mentor even after she leaves. To say Brett and I are impressed and proud of this girl would be an understatement.

Meiling was actually not unhappy when she arrived early Thursday morning, just very, very tired since her flight on Wednesday had been delayed by several hours and she’d been awake at this point for over 24 hours)
WenYu’s flight on Thursday was also delayed by several hours, but at least it was during the day and she had been able to sleep most of the way so she arrived in a better mood.
YaYu was the last to arrive, on Friday, the only one whose flight arrived when it was supposed to. Her flight from Philly left over an hour late so she was sure she would miss her connecting flight and was surprised to be the only one whose flight got into PDX on time.
K’s flight was also delayed, but he ended up arriving just a few minutes after YaYu so we didn’t have to make two trips to the airport that day.

Brett had a follow-up appointment this past week with the doctor regarding the endocrinology issue that was discovered this past summer. The doctor wants him to have surgery to remove a misfiring parathyroid gland in the coming year, but how and when he will get this done is going to be a challenge as we will be out of the U.S. for the first half of the year, and not be back in Portland for at least a year. Thankfully the issue is not as troublesome as it was last summer, nor is the surgery urgent. We’ve already checked on whether this was something he could have done in Japan while we’re there, at the naval hospital, but we found out that endocrinology is not handled there; patients requiring the same surgery as Brett would either be sent back to the U.S. or out to a Japanese hospital. Anyway, fitting this in is going to affect future plans one way or another as it’s a very delicate procedure and the doctor did not recommend getting it done just anywhere.

I will be taking the next week off from the blog but will be back next Sunday. I am so ready for the big day on Wednesday – the girls are here, almost all the gifts have arrived and have been wrapped, and all the food has been bought and is ready to prepare. Beyond the holiday hoopla, I’m planning to bask in the simple joy of our family being together. I know our time together will fly by, but I’m going to enjoy every moment we get.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Jewel That Was Ours, #9 in the Inspector Morse series (which had a different ending from the TV program – I was surprised) and immediately downloaded book #10, The Way Through the Woods, from the library. I won’t get all the Morse books finished by the end of the year, but I’m making good progress.
  • Listening to: The heater is running strong this morning – it’s cold outside! Brett is making coffee and putting away yesterday’s dishes, and WenYu and YaYu are still asleep. In other words, another quiet morning (so far)!
  • Watching: Brett and I binge-watched the British detective series, Broadchurch, at the beginning of the week. We’d seen the series before but found it just as compelling the second time around. David Tennant and Olivia Colman have to be two of the best British actors working these days – both their performances were amazing. Meiling and WenYu went together on a subscription to Disney+ and have set that up here, so the girls have been busy watching stuff on that channel as well as all sorts of videos about their favorite K-Pop group, BTS (they are all slightly obsessed), and YaYu is catching up with everything.
  • Cooking: There will be lots of activity going on in the kitchen this week! We will be having big bowls of vegetarian dumpling soup this evening and tomorrow night, when we’re all back together, I’m putting together a big salad bar for our dinner (along with some sourdough bread). Then, on Christmas Eve, we’re having a pizza night. I going to make four different pizzas: classic pepperoni; roasted vegetable; lamb sausage with feta and artichoke hearts on pesto; and Thai chicken. On Christmas Day we’ll be having ham, macaroni & cheese, roasted Brussels sprouts, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, and apple and cherry pies for dessert. After Christmas, I’ll be making turkey divan casserole; pasta with ham, peppers, and spinach; and super nachos one night to break up the ham and turkey monotony. I actually baked a couple of times this past week – a pan of brownies for the girls and a pumpkin coffee cake.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Our big accomplishment this past week was getting all the girls and one boyfriend picked up at the airport no matter how delayed their flights were or what time in the middle of the night they finally arrived. Keeping them fed has been a bit of an accomplishment as well!
  • Looking forward to next week: Christmas, of course! But most of all just being together with Brett and the girls – the only thing that could make the week better would be having our son and his family here too. We put a different twist on the girls’ Christmas stockings this year and I’m excited to see how they react to that.
    Our tree now has some bling!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our hosts brought up some extra Christmas ornaments they had after decorating their tree, and now our little tree is all decked out for the big day! Little by little my stomach issues are getting better. It’s been a learning experience though about what and when to eat and what I need to avoid (for example, chocolate has sadly turned out to be an irritant), and when to take medication, etc. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I’m getting there. Brett took all the girls and Meiling’s boyfriend out to a doughnut shop just up the street for breakfast yesterday. I haven’t had a doughnut in ages, but the jelly-filled (my favorite) they brought me was very good and much appreciated. 
    Doughnuts!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Other than one last shop for a few things at Winco on Wednesday, parking fees at the airport ($9 total), and the trip to the doughnut shop yesterday morning we had a no-spend week. There’s also been no effort or worry this week about leftovers getting eaten!
    Grateful to love and be loved by these beautiful girls
  • Grateful for: I’m so thankful that the girls all arrived safely in Portland and that we’re together again. I love hearing their chatter and their laughter.
  • Bonus question: Have you ever regifted or returned something you got for Christmas? Yes, but only a very, very few times. I’ve only made one return that I can remember. For our first Christmas together Brett gave me a sweater. I liked it except for the color (pale tangerine orange and I don’t look good in pastels). I asked him if it was OK if I exchanged it for a different color, and he said OK so we went back to the store. However, none of the other colors were available in my size and I ended up exchanging the sweater for something else. I knew he felt disappointed, especially that he had missed on the color, but I wore the new top I got in exchange a lot so it all worked out. I can only remember regifting a couple of items, a massive three-level cake stand I received from someone one year and a set of cut-glass wine glasses I got from one of my students. Neither was something I liked nor would use and I regifted both to people who were happy to have them. There have probably been a very few other items I’ve passed along but I don’t remember them.

No matter what you celebrate this coming week, or with whom, or whether you celebrate at all, I hope everyone has the holiday they hope for and makes wonderful memories in some way. I know it can be a difficult time for some (it was for me for many years), so take care of yourself and your heart, and ask for help if you need it. For all, I wish a time of comfort, peace, calm, and love.

Happy holidays to all!

Sunday Morning 12/15/2012: Week 3 in Portland

A wintery day in Portland with some blue skies. I wish it could have lasted but rain and gloom arrived toward the end of the week.

Brett and I enjoyed a lovely, laid-back week – lots of sleeping in, lazy days, wonderful get-togethers with friends, good food, but things are going to change this week because beginning on Wednesday . . . the girls start to arrive! Meiling arrives after 10:00 Wednesday night, WenYu arrives at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, and YaYu comes in after 10:00 p.m. on Friday. We are more than ready for their arrivals, and so excited we can hardly stand it! We did get to spend time with Meiling this past June for her graduation, and YaYu was in and out of Portland on either side of her time in Japan for the summer, but we haven’t see WenYu for almost a year so are greatly looking forward to being together with her again. As far as how we’ll be spending our time, we’ll pretty much go along with whatever the girls want to do.

I had another rough week as far as my stomach troubles go, but I saw the doctor on Thursday evening and I’m trying some new stuff and hoping to get things turned around. The doctor’s main concern is that what I’ve experienced since I stopped taking the PPI on December 2 is not normal. An E-consult was set with a gastroenterologist – he has already reviewed bloodwork (which was normal), symptoms, reading my chart, etc. and will eventually make a recommendation, and in much less than time than I would have spent waiting for a regular appointment. So far all that I know is that several things that could be causing the issue have been ruled out (bleeding ulcer, Hep C, bacterial infection). My doctor feels the gastroenterologist will be ordering an endoscopy before we leave Portland to see if he can find out what’s going on. In the interim, she prescribed Pepcid to help with the symptoms. Brett and I stopped at Winco on the way home from the doctor’s and picked up a package to carry me over until my prescription arrives, and I felt almost immediate relief when I took the first one but unfortunately, it only lasted a few hours before the pain was back with a vengeance. It’s helping more each day though, and I can take it indefinitely as it does not cause the problems the other medication does. I am not used to being or feeling unwell so hopefully what’s going on can be diagnosed and a solution found soon. On the plus side, I found out that for all the scones, clotted cream, and jam I ate over in England (as well as the shortbread, etc.) I had only gained six pounds from what I weighed  this past summer. I’m taking that as a win.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished the sixth in the Inspector Morse series, The Riddle of the Third Mile, and have downloaded the ninth in the series, The Jewel That Was Ours. I realized the books are not written so that they have to be read in order (well, except for the last book in the series), so I went with what the library has. I ordered a used copy of the fifth book, The Dead of Jericho, from Amazon for 99¢ – it should arrive before Christmas. Mysteries, even convoluted ones like the Inspector Morse ones, are about all my brain can handle right now.
    We got our Pittock Mansion mugs out of storage when we were at Joan’s. I love having my morning coffee in these mugs, and we’ve decided to take them along with us to Japan this time.
  • Listening to: Although it’s not raining right now, it is gloomy and damp which is helping to keep everything quiet outside. We both slept in late this morning, but Brett’s rustling around in the kitchen now while he fixes coffee and makes breakfast. The only other noise is the sound of the heater blowing – it’s cold outside. In just a few days the noise level is going to ratchet up a bit as the girls arrive – I can’t wait!
  • Watching: We had another week of binge-watching good shows and movies. We started out with Season 3 of Goliath, starring Billy Bob Thornton, and then watched the movie Marriage Story. That was difficult to watch at times but the acting was absolutely superb. Scarlett Johanssen deserves the Oscar for her performance. Then it was back to comedy with Modern Love, a great series on Amazon. Brett and I watched White Christmas last night, and once WenYu arrives it will be time for our annual viewing of Love, Actually.
  • Cooking: Brett and I will be finishing up odds and ends through Wednesday (soup, sandwiches, etc.) but on Thursday I will be preparing Meiling’s favorite recipe, stir-fried broccoli & tofu with spicy peanut sauce. Friday we’ll have hot turkey sandwiches with stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy; and on Saturday I’m going to make vegetable curry (Japanese style) along with rice. We have lots of things on hand for breakfasts from cinnamon rolls to quiche to breakfast sandwiches and the girls will nibble on leftovers and such for lunch (more like eat us out of house and home), and Brett is planning to take the girls up the road to the fancy doughnut shop one morning.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: Not my accomplishment, but Brett got all of our tax paperwork lined up for YaYu’s financial aid for next year (the FAFSA was done back in October) – now all we have to do is wait until July of next year to hear how much she has to pay now that she’ll be the only one left in college. I got my prescription refills ordered so I will have enough medication to get me through until we’re back in the U.S. in May, and I also got written prescriptions that I can carry along in case I lose my medication or something else occurs where I need refills (U.S. prescriptions cannot be sent overseas through the mail). I got a flu shot as well as one for pneumonia and my DPT booster and still have the sore arms to prove it! I am also due for the shingles vaccine but the clinic was out of it, so I am going to try and get it from the navy when I’m in Japan. We got our summer clothes out of storage when we were at Joan’s (to have for Hawai’i) as well as our Pittock Mansion coffee cups – they were a good purchase and we are enjoying getting to use them!
  • Looking forward to next week: I just can’t wait to be together with the girls again and hear more in detail about what they’re doing, etc. They all make me so happy!
    Joan provided a beautiful spread for our tea last Tuesday.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: I got a great haircut last Sunday – I was very pleased with the experience and the result. We had a delightful lunch/tea at our friend Joan’s house on Tuesday afternoon – she prepared so many good things to eat – and we enjoyed great conversation with the other guests. It would be hard to pick a favorite thing I ate that day, but Joan’s curry tarts with chutney were pretty amazing. The scones and clotted cream she served brought back some good memories as well. On Thursday I had coffee and a pastry with my friend Elaine – she and I met back in 2005 when her daughter and YaYu were in the same Mandarin Immersion kindergarten class and we’ve been setting the world straight ever since. Another friend, Pat, came over to our place on Friday because I was feeling too under the weather to go out, and we had a great catch-up as well. Brett learned how much his military retirement cost-of-living raise will be for next year (not very much), but between that and our Social Security increases we are happy – every little bit helps. We sent YaYu a surprise “Finals Week Care Package” full of all sorts of fun treats to get her through the coming week (lucky WenYu did not have any finals this term!). The packages were a fundraiser for the Bryn Mawr lacrosse team, and YaYu was very surprised and happy with all the goodies she got.
    This is what approximately $36 worth of yen looks like – a nice gift from YaYu!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: The package of 25 Pepcid tablets we bought at Winco cost nearly $12 (ouch), but with the doctor’s prescription and mail delivery from our pharmacy, going forward we will pay around half of that for a 90-day supply – yeah! I paid nothing for the used book I ordered from Amazon because I had exactly enough credit left in my account to cover the entire cost of the book plus shipping fees. We got our annual rebate back from our insurance company – $96.65 this year (even though we don’t own a car, we carry an affordable non-owner policy that covers us whenever we rent a car or use a car-share service (like we did with Zipcar last summer). I had forgotten we put away some yen over at Joan’s that YaYu gave us when she got back from Japan last summer and we were surprised to discover it totaled over ¥4000! It’s mostly coins, but I know we’re going to appreciate having it, especially during the first couple of weeks we’re there. We continue to stick like glue to our shopping lists, eat all our leftovers and not throw away any food.
  • Grateful for: I was deeply touched by the many comments I received on the “10 Years a Blogger” post and cannot say thank you enough for all the continuing support, now and over the past 10 years, that I have received from my readers. You are all simply THE BEST!
    Hanging an ornament on our little wooden advent tree each day in December was a Christmas tradition for us for more than 30 years. We got the tree for our son when he was eight, then the girls took it over, and now our grandchildren are carrying on the tradition.
  • Bonus question: Does your family have any special Christmas traditions? Christmas time used to be a lot more complicated, with decorations and stuff, but we still keep our Christmas morning traditions. Our children have always been allowed to open their stockings before waiting for Brett and I to get up and before we start breakfast (although this year Brett and I have put a fun twist on the Christmas stockings). Brett usually gets up first and makes hot chocolate for the girls, with whipped cream and marshmallows, and coffee for the two of us. Before opening presents, we have always have our traditional breakfast first: toasted bagels with cream cheese and smoked salmon, fresh fruit (often berries), and orange juice. Our son decided on bagels when he was eight years old, and that’s what we’ve had ever since. I asked a few years ago if I could fix something else for breakfast and was about strung up, so bagels, cream cheese, and salmon it still is. After we’re done, we open our presents. Meiling serves as our “elf” these days and chooses a gift for each person to open (our son did this before passing the duty on to Meiling), and we open presents in order from oldest to youngest, one at a time so everyone can admire each others’ gifts (if the grandkids are with us they start first though). When we’re done we all pitch in to pick up wrapping paper, etc. and then relax until it’s time to eat. Over the years we’ve attempted to add other traditions but after over 40 years these are the ones that have remained consistent, no matter where we are.

I was very happy and surprised by the reaction I got to this past week’s post from my old blog, I’m Losing It Here. It’s been interesting to go through the old posts and see what I was writing back then (I’m shocked though by how bad the photos were. They were beyond abysmal. All hail the iPhone!). What stands out is how much we learned going through the experience of ridding ourselves of so much debt – it truly changed us forever. I’m planning to share around one re-post a week to share our story and how we got where we are today.

We have an exciting, busy week coming up but I have a couple of posts ready to go, including another “Back to the Future” installment. I also plan to post next Sunday but after that will be taking the week after off for the holiday. In the meantime, here’s hoping that your week included lots of good food, good friends, good books, and all sorts of good things happening for you! And here’s to a great week coming up!

Sunday Morning 12/8/2019: Week 2 in Portland

There will be room for all of us on the sofa in our living room!

After a stop at Trader Joes, Brett and I moved over to our long-term rental last Sunday morning, and all I can say is this place is fantastic! It looked good in the pictures but it’s even better in reality. The spacious two-bedroom apartment was built into the attic of a 100-year-old Craftsman home, and you can tell the hosts had a lot of fun decorating and equipping the home for guests. I especially love the huge dining table we have this year as well as the big desk for Brett to work at, and all the room we’ll have to spread out when the girls are here. The house has everything we could possibly need as well because the hosts, a retired couple our ages, have really thought of everything. Every time we see them they ask if we need anything more, but so far we haven’t been able to come up with anything (they stopped by Friday evening with additional umbrellas for us). They’ve even offered to wash our towels and other linens for us (which we will do ourselves though). The neighborhood is nice too, quiet with lots of big, old Craftsman homes sitting on big lots, and we’re not too far away from WinCo, Costco, and other stores as well as the airport (but far enough away that we’re not bothered by jet noise).

I love the BIG dining table! Last year we could barely squeeze the five us at the table in the house we rented.
The master bedroom has its own sitting area with a television. The bed is super comfortable.

We enjoyed some pretty nice weather for several days we arrived in Portland, with blue skies on many days which helped my mood considerably. However, rain arrived on Friday and had continued for the past few days so we’re dealing with that once again. We took care of most of our big shopping errands this past week though so as long as the weather remains damp Brett and I will spend time indoors. We will be getting together with friends a couple of times this week though and I’ve got a medical appointment next Thursday evening.

Lots of blue skies over Portland this week.

The doctor I saw last summer wanted me to stop the medication I’d been taking for GERD when my prescription finished (because it negatively affects my bone density) and I took the last pill a week ago. The heartburn came right back, worse than ever, so I’m heading back to see her this coming week to find out what’s going on (and hopefully new medication). I’ll also be getting a DPT booster and a flu shot, and whatever else she recommends.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: The library took The Guns of August back yesterday. My stomach problems made made it difficult to concentrate this past week so I got little reading done. I’m not sure whether I’ll check it out again or hold off for a while. Brett got me a copy of the fifth book in the Inspector Morse series, The Riddle of the Third Mile, at Powell’s yesterday, but the fourth book, Dead of Jericho, is out of stock everywhere, new or used.
  • Listening to: We’re enjoying another wonderfully quiet morning here. Brett is in the kitchen making breakfast for us this morning (avocado toast and coffee). It’s foggy outside so it’s very quiet out there too (although the neighborhood is regularly pretty quiet all on its own).
  • Watching: The viewing highlight of our week was The Irishman. Just WOW. Superb storytelling, and even more superb acting – Joe Pesci deserves an(other) Oscar for his performance. We also watched The Highwaymen on Netflix (the story of how Bonnie and Clyde were caught) and we binge-watched a very creepy British mystery/thriller, Requiem. We also binge-watched the third season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and are going to start watching Late Night tonight, with Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson. The house has a 72-inch television and full cable including Netflix and Amazon Prime, so we’re feeling very spoiled.
  • Cooking: Meals will stay simple for us again this week. We’re having stuffed peppers tonight, and other meals this week will include leftover quiche; broccoli & cheese soup with a sandwich of some kind; and teriyaki chicken over cauliflower rice along with some cucumber. We’ll fill in the other nights with leftovers. I am trying to eat smaller portions, and stay away from acidy foods, but there is currently nothing I can eat right now that doesn’t seem to aggravate the GERD.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: We got our big Costco shop done on Thursday afternoon and stopped at New Seasons Market for a few things yesterday so we’re ready for the girls’ arrival (although they won’t be here until the week after this one). The house is stuffed with food right now. I’ve gotten all the girls’ gifts sorted and wrapped, and ordered gifts to take with us to Japan for the grandkids. We stopped at Target on Wednesday and picked up a new spiralizer (third time’s a charm, fingers crossed, etc.) and a couple of other cooking utensils that we can use now but want to take along to use in Japan.
    We already carry a good vegetable peeler and a corkscrew along with us and have now added a silicone spatula, a pair of tongs, and yet another spiralizer. Please send reminders when it’s time for us to pack again so we don’t leave the spiralizer behind.
  • Looking forward to this week: I am getting my hair cut this afternoon and I’m so looking forward to it! I was surprised to get a Sunday appointment, but that’s one of the days the Deva curl specialist works. We’re having lunch with our friend Joan at her home on Tuesday afternoon, along with the nomad couple we met last summer, Chris and Sarah, who are back again in Portland. On Thursday I’m meeting up with another good friend, Elaine, for coffee at our favorite spot so we can catch up and set the world straight once again. While I can’t exactly say I’m looking forward to seeing the Dr., I do want to find out what’s going on with my stomach and hopefully get some new medication!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Moving into our current Airbnb home has been a very good thing – Brett and I are still pinching ourselves that we got this place. We had dim sum with our long-time friend Sylvia on Thursday and had a great time catching up (and a good meal too). Sylvia is from Hong Kong and had just returned from a family visit, so we got to hear some about the situation there. Getting together with friends is always the best part of coming back to Portland!
    We always let Sylvia order the dim sum – she started our feast with shrimp har gow, pork shu mai, and beef cheung fun.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We’ve finished almost all of our food shopping (just need to buy more produce after the girls arrive) and we are well under budget – we have been super strict about sticking to our shopping lists. I ordered both our grandchildren’s Christmas gifts and received free shipping for both gifts as well as Cyber Monday discounts of at least 20%.
  • Grateful for: I’m very grateful I could get in so quickly to see the doctor this time – last summer I had to wait nearly two months for an appointment! As always, I’m extremely thankful for our good medical insurance (Medicare and TricareForLife) that covers everything with little to no out-of-pocket cost. 
  • Bonus question: What’s on your Christmas list this year? I remember that when I was young I could always come up with a long list of things I wanted for Christmas and was always puzzled when my mom and grandmother would both always say they didn’t have a list because they didn’t need or want anything. Who couldn’t come up with a list for Christmas? Well, this year I have a very short list with just four things on it, and I had to struggle a bit to come up with these: an Amazon gift card that I can use to purchase books for my Kindle; a J. Jill gift card; a Coldwater Creek gift card, and a pair of silver hoop earrings because I have lost yet another pair. I made a list because the girls insisted and because we do a Secret Santa gift swap each year ($35 or under). Like my mom and grandmother, I really don’t need or want anything else this year other than time with Brett and the girls.

Overall, I’m enjoying the calm of being back in Portland, of being in familiar territory, so to speak. I like knowing my way around and the convenience of having a car again to get to places, although we did fine without one last summer. We’ve already been talking about coming back next year, but with the intent of going through all the stuff we have in storage with the girls and letting them take the things they want, and then downsizing the rest even more. We neither miss nor have deep feelings these days about most of the stuff we kept. We’ll see though – it will depend on whatever we finally come to a decision about the keep traveling/settle down divide we’re currently working our way through. 

That’s a wrap for this week! It was a good one for us, and I hope a good one for everyone else as well. Here’s to another week of good food, good times, good friends, good books, and good health for everyone as the holiday season approaches.

Sunday Morning 11/24/2019: Week 12 in the UK

Our two old friends will be going back to work this afternoon when we start packing for our return to the U.S.

It’s our final Sunday in England. At this same time, four days from now, we’ll be on our way back to Portland once again. We’re flying nonstop from London to San Francisco, where we have a five-hour layover before heading on to Portland. The flight from London to San Francisco is 11 hours, and there’s no chance for an upgrade from our seats in regular economy. Our only saving grace is that the section of the plane we’re in appears to still be mostly empty (unless lots of people suddenly get the urge to fly from London to San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day) so we should have room to spread out a bit and get some sleep. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a very long day; we’ll be up for more than 24 hours.

We’re be staying at this inn on our last night because it’s located just a very short walk from the Moreton-in-Marsh train station. The inn began as a 17th-century coaching station and apparently back in the day royalty stopped here.

We’ll be spending Wednesday night at the White Hart Inn in Moreton-in-Marsh. Our train for Gatwick leaves early Thursday morning, long before any bus could get us over there from Blockley, and it’s been impossible finding a taxi to get us over there so early in the morning. This way though we’ll have time to finish our packing on Wednesday morning and clean the cottage, and on Thursday morning we’ll be close enough to walk the short distance to the station. Hopefully, it won’t be below freezing or raining.

You know you’ve been someplace long enough when you can almost immediately see that someone’s got directions or locations for the area wrong! This past week I caught a mistake (or maybe just a bit of a fictional license) in the Inspector Morse book I just finished. In order to interview a witness, Inspector Morse and Sargeant Lewis drive over to the Cotswolds from Oxford through Chipping Norton, which sits on the eastern side of the area, on the A44 road. Dexter wrote they first go to Bourton-on-the-Hil, then up the hill to Moreton-in-Marsh. What??? It’s just the opposite: Moreton-in-Marsh is downhill from Bourton-on-the-Hill on the A44, and you have to go through it first to get to Bourton-on-the-Hill from Chipping Norton! Continuing on, they drive downhill from Moreton-in-Marsh into Broadway on the A34 (which doesn’t exist here). Again, nope! Continuing from Morton-in-Marsh on the A44, you go up and through Bourton-on-the-Hill and then back down the long hill to Broadway, in the opposite direction from Moreton-in-Marsh. I was initially puzzled as I read, thinking I must have it wrong because surely his editor and millions of British readers must know this better than I do, but I pulled up a map to check and make sure I wasn’t going crazy. It was just as I thought though – he had the towns/villages in the wrong order and direction and used a wrong highway number.

The weather remains cold and miserable – the temperature barely went above 40 degrees this week. After getting some blue skies on Monday the rest of the week looked like it was going to snow at any minute, and felt like it too at times although all we got was some rain which began on Friday. It’s even been an effort at times to stay warm inside – we’ve had the fire going, the heat on, and covered up with blankets and still feel cold at times. We’ve had to keep most of the drapes pulled to help block the cold so it’s been fairly dark and dreary inside as well. I’m still on the edge of coming down with a cold and have not been willing to risk going out for anything more than a quick trip to the village market for supplies, and out to dinner on Friday, for fear of getting sick for real before our flight next week. There have thankfully been chores to keep us busy inside (we’ll start packing this afternoon), and both Brett and I are getting a LOT of reading done.

I can attest from experience that the shortbread is melt-in-your-mouth delicious!

Finally, another reminder that the Afternoon Tea Giveaway is still open, and that entries will be accepted until Midnight PST on Friday. You can enter once a day – the travel tips have been fantastic – thank you!

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished the fourth Inspector Morse book, Service for All the Dead, but the fifth, The Dead of Jericho, is neither available from the library or Amazon other than as an audiobook, so I may download it and listen while we’re on the plane or I may wait and see if I can find a copy of the book at Powell’s when we’re in Portland. In the meantime, I’m reading The Guns of August: The Outbreak of World War I, by Barbara Tuchman. One of my reading goals for the next year is to learn more about World War I, both through fiction and non-fiction, and this book is considered one of the greatest war books ever written, covering how the war started and the first disastrous 30 days.
  • Listening to: It’s very quiet this morning, maybe the quietest it’s been since we’ve been here. I woke up too late to hear the church bells ring (had trouble falling asleep last night), and since Brett is reading it’s very still. Outside it’s . . . wait for it . . . gray and gloomy, but at least it’s not raining (for now) and the wind isn’t blowing. It will get noisier in a little while when we go upstairs and get started on the packing but for now, this is pure bliss.
  • Watching: We binge-watched The Crown last Sunday and Monday – it was quite a change from the first two seasons, but still extremely well-acted and a pleasure to watch. Olivia Colman deserves an Emmy, especially for the episode “Aberfan,” and Helena Bonham Carter is wonderful as Princess Margaret (I love too that she’s now played both the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret as well as Bellatrix Lestrade!). We finished the last episode of Endeavour last night – loved how the season wrapped up – and we’ve started a new series, The Brokenwood Mysteries, although we won’t get to finish that. It’s sort of quirky, but pretty good. Since November 1, Christmas ads have been coming fast and furious. Our favorite is the one below from Marks & Spencer – we love to hear the way the actor (Paddy McGuiness) pronounces “panettone.”
  • Cooking: We’ve started the great fridge clean-out for the next three days. It shouldn’t be very hard this time because we only picked up a few supplies from the village market to get us through instead of going to Aldi one last time. We’re having steak and potato pasties one more time for dinner tonight along with some steamed broccoli; bacon and onion quiche tomorrow with more broccoli; and chicken & lentil soup with cheese, crackers, and fruit on Tuesday evening. In between, we’ll finish up all the other odds and ends. We plan to get fish and chips once more for our dinner on Wednesday evening after we get over to Moreton-in-Marsh (it’s just across the street from the hotel) and grab something from the Tesco Express as well for a quick breakfast on the train in the morning.

    In spite of being bundled up, someone was still very cold when we went out for a walk last Monday. It’s definitely time for a beard trim – he’s beginning to look a bit like Santa Claus. Brett’s wool watch cap is almost 50 years old – it was issued to him in boot camp in 1971!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: This past week has been all about staying warm, which mostly meant sitting in front of the fireplace wrapped up in a blanket! I did get a few things sorted for the upcoming packing and kept up with the cleaning and laundry, but that’s about it. I took the big step of finally dumping Facebook this week, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. It was a very difficult decision though and took several weeks to get up the nerve to do it. I’ve been on FB for over 10 years and it’s been a great way to stay connected with friends and family, but I could no longer support the platform and some of the recent decisions regarding advertising and such. I am staying with Messenger though as it’s been the best way to communicate directly with family and friends as we travel, and the girls want to continue to use it.
  • Looking forward to next week: Although we are not looking forward to our upcoming travel day, we are ready to get it over with!

    The non-profit Blockley Village Store & Cafe is located just a couple of minutes from our cottage. The coop also operates a post office, a newsagent, and an off-license (betting).

    The village shop has its own bakery which supplies cakes, cookies, and loaves of bread. The date cake is my favorite!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Our Friday night dinner at the village cafe was absolutely wonderful, a great way to finish our time in Blockley and also have an early Thanksgiving celebration of a sort. The three-course meal included an appetizer, main course, and dessert and we also each had a specialty gin & tonic, our last ones for this visit to the UK. Last Monday we went for a long walk through the village to check out how fall is progressing. In spite of the sunshine, it was very cold, and at one point a big dark cloud came over us but thankfully didn’t drop any rain before moving on. We set out on our walk thinking it would be nothing but a nostalgic look at familiar places but once again we found a couple of new things, like the old British School, established in 1835, which sits at the backside of the old Ebeneezer Baptist Church.

    If you were a Baptist and not Church of England, this is where you sent your children to school.

    The Church of England school was just down the street. The C of E School still operates in the village but has been moved to more modern buildings; the old building now contains residences.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: By booking early for a Portland Airbnb experience in January, a gift for WenYu and YaYu, I saved 20% off the already low price for activity! This coming week is going to be a challenge for our budget because travel days can be costly, but we’ve got a plan and we’re sticking to it! We get a meal and a snack on the plane (the chicken breast we got on the flight we took with the same airline last year was perfectly cooked and delicious – I’m hoping for a repeat), and we’ll bring along our own water and some other snacks. We will have to eat during our layover at the San Francisco airport and are probably going to want coffee as well, but we should be able to keep that affordable. Even with the expense of dining out on Friday, by skipping a last trip to Aldi this past week (where we would have most likely bought too much and would have also had to pay the bus fare) and only buying a few things from the village store instead, we’re under $33/day for the month.
  • Grateful for: Did we get to see and do everything we wanted or planned on this visit? No, but we did visit some pretty wonderful places, experience everyday life in a British village, and take some beautiful country walks. Brett and I are beyond thankful for all the wonderful experiences we have been able to enjoy here in the UK, and for the friendly and helpful people we’ve met along the way. We’ve dedicated ourselves to making a return visit someday to learn and experience more.
  • Bonus question: Are you making goals yet for the new year? I’m getting started on them if nothing else. I have made some reading goals for next year, including finishing at least 52 books once again. I want to read and learn more about WWI, but I also want to finish the Inspector Morse series and re-read all of the Harry Potter books next year. All of that should keep me busy with other books thrown into the mix as well. Another goal, since I’m now off of Facebook, is to get more involved with the blog’s Instagram account (I know Instagram is owned by Facebook but at least I don’t have to deal with ads, politics, etc.). Of course, the BIG goal for Brett and me is to come up with a firm decision about the direction we plan to take next year, whether that’s continuing to travel or settling down somewhere. We’ll have a decision before we leave Japan in April.

I’ll miss the little things here in Blockley.

What a time we’ve had though! I’ve found myself occasionally near tears when I think about leaving or about the things we’ve seen and done since we’ve been here. England, and most especially Blockley, now tops our list of favorite places, and we can’t wait to come back again.

I’m honestly a little sad that we’ll miss Thanksgiving next week because it’s my favorite holiday of the year – no gifts, just family, friends, and good food (and leftovers!). Brett and I have much to be thankful for once again this year, too many things to name, but most especially our and our family’s continuing good health, the opportunities and blessings all of us have been given this year, and for all of you who read this blog every week and comment now and again. I hope those celebrating will have a great Thanksgiving, however and with whomever you spend the day.

See you on the other side (of the pond) next week!

Sunday Morning 11/10/2019: Week 10 in the UK

Trying to stay warm

It is very cold here! Temperatures dipped down to freezing this past week and are expected to stay well below normal until we leave. They’re now in the 40s during the day in our part of the world, and have dipped below freezing at night, but even colder temperatures are scheduled to arrive later this week. It seems Brett’s and my main activity right now is trying to stay warm. The gas fire is on all day, the radiators come on twice a day now, we keep the heavy drapes drawn over the front door and French doors to keep out drafts, and I cover up with a blanket when I’m on the sofa reading or writing. Still, we just feel cold all the time . . . winter really is coming. I am dreading our weekly trip to Aldi tomorrow because of the cold, and have my fingers crossed on both hands that it doesn’t rain.

Even though it was still very cold the day we left Bath, the blue skies were a cheerful break from all the wet and gloom we’ve been experiencing.
Leaves are still changing, but there are also lots of bare branches to be seen these days. Locals say that fall came much later than usual this year.

Overall we had a good trip down to Bath, but now our focus will be on making the most of our last couple of weeks here in England and wrapping up the things we need to do and get here. A visit to Stratford-upon-Avon is number one on our list of things to accomplish with Bourton-on-the-Water not far behind. We’ve got our fingers crossed we get a couple of dry days so that we can get those trips accomplished. No matter how it goes though we are happy and satisfied with all that we have been able to see and do, and we have loved every minute of our time in the UK. Leaving here is going to be a sadder than usual experience for us.

Today is Remembrance Sunday in the UK. Held on the Sunday closest to November 11, the day commemorates “the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts,” and is sort of a combination of the U.S. Memorial and Veterans Day holidays. Bells will be rung today at 11 a.m., the time that WWI ended, but will be muffled and somber. The red poppy is the symbol of remembrance (taken from the poem “In Flanders Field”) and people wear poppies beginning around the first of the month to commemorate those who died in service to the UK. Money donated for the poppies assists veterans in need.

The 2019 Remembrance Poppy.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn and now am back to reading Code Girls. I have also been going through the little book I bought in Bath, Secret Tokyo. We’ve only been to three of the places in the book, so there will be plenty for us to explore when we go back to Tokyo next year.
  • Listening to: Brett is rustling around in the kitchen fixing his breakfast, and the church bells just began ringing to call people to the morning service. The peal they’re ringing is especially lovely this morning too, although the bells will be somber later. Patches of blue sky and sunshine are visible outside so it should be a nice albeit very cold day. We may bundle up and go for a walk later if Brett feels up to it (he’s come down with a cold). However, yesterday started out nice and devolved into a wet mess so we have no expectation that things will remain as they are now.
  • Watching: The satellite feed to the TV stopped unexpectedly on Thursday night but Brett successfully got it rebooted on Friday so we could watch the next episode of Endeavour last night. We have been thinking all this time that it’s a new season but learned yesterday it has already been shown in the U.S. – I can watch the episodes online at PBS! While the TV was down we discovered we could still access Netflix, a good thing because the new season of The Crown begins next Sunday and we didn’t want to miss it if we couldn’t get the TV signal back. 
  • Cooking: We came home from Bath to a nearly empty fridge, but stopped by the village shop and picked up a few provisions to get us through until we can get to Aldi tomorrow (weather permitting). Tonight we’re having breakfast for dinner: eggs, sausages, sauteed apples, and scones. Also on the menu this week will be tacos; meatballs in marinara along with roasted Mediterranean vegetables; sweet & sour chicken and vegetable stir fry; breaded cod filets (we love these!) and roasted root vegetables; steak & potato pasties; flatbread pizza; and quiche Lorraine with vegetables of some sort. We discovered a fish and chip stand in Moreton-in-Marsh that gets high ratings, so we’re going to go there for lunch tomorrow before we head to Aldi. We can’t leave England without having fresh fish & chips!
  • Happy I accomplished last week: Getting to and from Bath, and having a great time there, was our big accomplishment, especially with the last-minute changes to our train reservations. We also finished up the last bit of the Christmas shopping we wanted to do while we’re here – we’re going to pack all of that up and ship it back to the U.S. this week versus adding too much extra weight to our suitcases. I purchased our tickets to get us out to Gatwick on the 28th, but we still have to arrange for a taxi to get us over to the station that morning because the train departs before the first bus of the day leaves Blockley.
  • Looking forward to next week: We haven’t planned anything for this week, and will just take it as it comes. If the weather looks decent one day (i.e. no rain) and we feel OK we’ll head over to Stratford.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The best of all was the meet-up with Chris and Jane while we are in Bath. I’m always wary and a little scared of first-time meetings, but they were a lovely couple and we never ran out of things to talk about. They also showed us a few things in Bath we wouldn’t have known of otherwise and I hope we’re able to get together again someday. After two nights in an uncomfortable bed while we were in Bath, coming back to the supremely comfortable bed in our cottage and getting a good night’s sleep was pure heaven. It’s true what they say: “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” Meiling messaged us to say she had a great first week at her new job, is very happy there and the company environment appears to be a very good fit for her. She even has a window in her office with a gorgeous view of Manhattan. We’re so proud of that girl!
    This little guidebook will help us save when we’re in Tokyo next year as every place mentioned in it is free to visit. There are also editions for London and Rome as well.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We pretty much stayed on budget while we were in Bath, with the only unplanned purchase the Tokyo guidebook I found in the bookstore. One of the items we had planned to purchase we ended up getting for free, and we were able to find better-than-expected prices for the Christmas items we bought (and that’s all I can say about that!). For now, we’re only very slightly above our Daily Spending Average but have no more big purchases left for the rest of the month so that will be coming down and we’ll hopefully end the month with our spending below average.
  • Grateful for: About 18 months ago, our Japan Airbnb host, Yasuko, decided not to go ahead with licensing her rentals for Airbnb. Because of that decision, our Airbnb reservation was canceled and we received a large gift certificate from Airbnb to make up for the inconvenience. That certificate made this visit to the UK possible, something we couldn’t have afforded otherwise. We will be forever grateful for how it’s all turned out and for the experiences we’ve been able to have here because of that decision.
    Gingerbread and chocolate? We weren’t too sure if we’d like this combination or not, but it was quite good with lots of crunchy bits of ginger cookies inside. One was enough though.
  • Bonus question: What have been your favorite sweet treats in Britain? We definitely haven’t stuck to a carb-free diet here, but have still tried not to go overboard with the sweets. I don’t think Cadbury makes anything that isn’t delicious, and besides enjoying their drinking chocolate we’ve also tried a few of their new and unusual (to us, anyway) chocolate bars now and again. Cadbury holds a contest every year where customers submit new flavors with the top three being marketed and the winner chosen by the public. We’ve gotten to try two of the three final entries for this year, but the grand prize-winning flavor, Choca-latte, has been impossible to find because it’s been so popular (its creator was just 18 years old!). I do love a Mars bar now and again but also loved the walnut whip I tried from Marks & Spencer. Both Brett and my favorite cake here is coffee and walnut, with lemon drizzle close behind (and I still want to try a slice of a traditional Victoria sponge before we go). As for biscuits (cookies), I have yet to meet a ginger nut or shortbread I didn’t love.

The big effort going forward for both Brett and me will be trying to stay and/or get well. With all the cold weather and damp, I’ve been teetering on the edge of a cold but so far it hasn’t developed into anything serious. Brett hasn’t been so lucky and acquired a sore throat and cough which has now settled into his chest. It seems that we spend an awful lot of our time resting and not doing much these days, but we know in this weather pushing ourselves or getting too wet and cold would probably lead to one or both of us coming down with something miserable – that’s what happened last year and we don’t want a repeat. 

We’ve got just 18 more days left in the UK, and we’re focusing now on what we need to do to finish up here and get ready to go back to the U.S. As I mentioned above, we’ll be sending a package back to the U.S. this coming week with things we purchased here for Christmas. It will be expensive, but less than we would pay for overweight luggage. 

I hope everyone is staying warm wherever you are, and that you all had a wonderful week full of good things, good food, good books, and good friends, and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up!

Sunday Morning 11/3/2019: Week 9 in the UK

Halloween night in the Blockley churchyard looked straight out of Disney. I never thought I could or would walk through a graveyard at night, but we do it all the time here.

The vicarage had a pumpkin set out to welcome trick or treaters.

We’ve had another very low key week, and spent most of our time in the cottage trying to stay warm. The weather wasn’t too bad at the beginning of the week, but temperatures dropped into and stayed in the 40s and there was quite a bit of wind as well. We had to break out our winter coats and gloves when we went to do our food shopping last Monday, and even with the fireplace going inside we still spent a good deal of time wrapped in warm blankets, and drank coffee, tea, and cocoa trying to stay warm. My knees are already aching near constantly, a hint of what’s to come in Japan next year, especially when I have to climb up and down multiple flights of steps going into and out of the stations.

We’ll be heading out of town once more on Tuesday morning, this time to visit Bath for two days. Our Airbnb there is right in the center of town, just a few minutes walk from the Royal Crescent and other sights, and a few minutes more away from the Roman Baths. We plan to take a free walking tour and we will meet with one of Brett’s former high school classmates for tea. He has lived in the area for years and teaches at a local university, and Brett has been looking forward to getting together with him ever since we planned to come to England. We will stick with our usual meal plan while we’re there – breakfast and evening snacks at our rental and one (big) meal out each day.

This past week I went to empty my spam folder on the blog (I take care of this every other month as I thankfully don’t get a lot of spam) and discovered a few comments from readers that had gone directly there. Grrrrrr. If you have sent a comment and don’t see it appear this is most likely what happened and I apologize. Also, there still appears to be something weird going on between WordPress and Blogger as I’ve had absolutely no success in commenting on any Blogger platform either from my laptop or phone. WordPress can just be weird though – I have a couple of commenters who have been commenting on my blogs for years and I still have to approve them every single time!

Anyway, this morning I am:

  • Reading: It took a few days for the third book in the Morse series, The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn, to become available for download from the library so I started Code Girls: The Untold Story of American Women Code Breakers of WWII, about the women who worked in cryptology during WWII (it was mostly women who did this work). But, the Morse book became available on Friday so I’ve set aside Code Girls until I get it finished.
  • Listening to: So far it’s been a very quiet morning. It’s thankfully not raining (for now), there’s no one out on the streets, and Brett is reading. I slept in a bit this morning and missed all the church bells but all this quiet is very nice.
  • Watching: We watched the final of The Great British Baking Show this week and decided we just didn’t really care much for this season. No quirky/interesting bakers to root for as in the past – the bakers this year were mostly in their 20s and overly focused – and the bakes themselves were weird at times. We’re still watching and enjoying Doc Martin and The Accident, and caught the opener of Endeavour – it’s going to be a great season.
  • Cooking: We’re having sausage rolls and miniature pork pies for dinner tonight along with homemade applesauce, with any leftovers for breakfast on Tuesday morning before we catch the train. Tomorrow we’ll most likely be having meatloaf sandwiches. We’re not going to Aldi again until the 11th and will instead pick up a few things from the village store after we return to get us through until then.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: The only thing I accomplished this past week was finding and booking some flights. It took a while, but I finally found a decent fare for YaYu’s trip from Philadelphia at Christmas on a schedule that worked for her but it took some effort (I have yet to ever find a real bargain on any flight between Philly and Portland, especially for the holidays). On the other hand I happened to find a very, very good price for Delta’s Premium Select seats on a flight from Tokyo to our mystery destination next April and snapped those up. We vowed after our extremely uncomfortable flight back to the U.S. earlier this year that we would not sit in economy seats again (other than on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner) for any flight longer than five hours, and we increased the amount in our travel budget to cover the cost of upgraded seats. Premium Select seats are wider, have a leg and foot rest, and recline more fully, and they also come with some first-class amenities, like dining on real dishes with real cutlery and drinking from real glassware and cups, all without a first-class price.
  • Looking forward to next week: Bath has been a dream destination for me for ages and had been our initial choice for where to stay during our visit to England, although we are now very happy we ended up in Blockley. So, we’re looking forward to our upcoming getaway, and fingers crossed, hoping the current weather prediction holds (cold but not raining) while we’re there. I’m also looking forward to having an authentic Sally Lunn bun in Bath – other than tea with Brett’s classmate and a stop at Sainsbury’s for a few things for the cottage I’m hoping that will be our only expense!

    The way the “stage” had been set up in the community hall for “Cranford” was very clever – it took up most of the floor and attendees sat up on risers around the sides.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: The “BAD Company’s” (Blockley Amateur Drama Company) production of Cranford was wonderful, funny and well done and we’re so glad we went. I’m not sure if another happening around here this past week was a good thing or not, but if nothing else it was “interesting:” We spotted a small weasel-like animal running around on our patio one morning! It was most likely a ferret (at least we hope that’s what it was), but if we hadn’t figured out by now that we were living in the countryside, that would have done the trick.

    One of our favorite frugal but indulgent ways to warm up these days: Hot Cadbury drinking chocolate with (cheap, but pretty) marshmallows from Aldi.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: A small thing: we passed on buying a tin of Cadbury drinking chocolate at the village store (@£2.29) last Sunday afternoon because we felt we could get it cheaper when we went to Moreton-in-Marsh on Monday. Yup – the same tin was just £1.35 at Tesco Express. We stuck to our list at Aldi and came in under budget (spent £43.50; our weekly budget amount is £50), even after buying some gift items to take back to the U.S. with us. We had five no-spend days last week, ate all the leftovers, and didn’t throw away any food.

    I hope my laptop battery hangs in there until we get back to Portland (above is this blog post in progress, by the way)
  • Grateful for: While she was here YaYu checked out my laptop and let me know that the battery in my nearly four-year-old MacBook Air was living on borrowed time. It’s gone way, way over it’s predicted lifespan, so although it drains fairly quickly these days (usually in around three or four hours of use), I’m extremely grateful it’s hung on for so long and has that it’s been such a dependable workhorse. Currently, Apple is offering generous trade-in allowances, something else to be grateful for at this time, so I’m going to look into turning it in when we get back to Portland for a new (and lighter) model. However, I might just replace the battery if the total cost of going new is too much and stick with my old friend. We’ll see.
  • Bonus question: Can you choose a favorite “English experience” yet? At the top of my list would be walking through the English countryside (as long as there’s no mud). I have never lived or really spent time in the country so this was a new experience for me and have I loved it more than I thought I would. The landscapes and views have been magnificent every time and never fail to take my breath away. I’ve also found myself having more energy than I knew whenever we’ve gone out, and every walk we’ve done has gone straight into my heart. I’ve also enjoyed our visits to tea shops for tea and scones with clotted cream and jam. It’s been an effort not to do this every time we go somewhere, but again it’s been a uniquely British experience I will never forget.

I don’t want to believe November has arrived – our final month in England. We are growing a bit restless at this point though, but still have things on our list to see and do here, and hope the weather will cooperate at least a few days this month. For example, I don’t want to be this close and never get over to visit Stratford-upon-Avon.

Oh, look – another gloomy picture taken through the French doors! The weather these days is much like the Portland weather that eventually drove us to Hawai’i. I used to love it, but not so much anymore.

However, when there’s a break in the weather, we hustle and get out for a walk through the village. (The rain was back as bad as ever about a half-hour after I took this picture).

As has been true with some other places we’ve visited, as much as we love and have loved being here in England, and love village life, we’ve come to see we could never live here long-term because of the weather. Fall and winter would be just too cold and gloomy for us. Somewhere along the way, we’ve turned into warm-weather people (although not hot and/or humid weather people) which we realize is going to narrow the number of choices we’ll have for where we eventually settle if and when we ever get around to doing that.

October 31, 2019: Sir Elton John and Mickey Mouse made a special joint appearance in Tokyo!

That’s all for this week – hopefully I’ll have some more interesting and uplifting news to write about next Sunday (no guarantees though). I hope everyone had a great week, full of good things, good food, good books, and good company, and are looking forward to the one that’s coming up!

Sunday Morning 10/27/2019: Week 8 in the UK

We had a couple of nicer days this past week, and took walks through the village . . .

We have just a little over a month left to go in England.

Thirty-three days from now we will take the train to Gatwick Airport, board a plane, and head back to the U.S., to Portland again. We have seen and done almost everything here that we set out to see and do, with a short visit to Bath coming up in about 10 days (we decided against the driving tour to Cornwall). We still want to visit Stratford-upon-Avon and Bourton-on-the-Water, but otherwise, we are content to stay cozy in our little cottage when the weather is less than ideal (which is happening more frequently these days). The first feelings of restlessness have begun to appear now and again as well, letting us know the time is getting near for us to move on. Truth be told though we will be very, very sad to leave the UK – we’ve been having a wonderful time here.

. . . but some days were just too dreary to go outside . . .

. . . and kept turning even more dreary . . .

. . . so we stayed indoors and warmed ourselves by the fire instead.

This past week was a very relaxing one, although some of the relaxing was “mandatory” – other than our weekly shopping trip over to Moreton-in-Marsh on Monday (in the rain) we just didn’t feel like going anywhere or doing anything special. The weather was nice for a couple of days and we went for walks, but we spent most of our time relaxing and reading at home in front of the fire because other days were downright dreary (Friday and Saturday especially). We spent our time during our walks trying to figure out what some of the old shops might have been (we found the old wool shop, maybe where you bought yarn for knitting sweaters? And, we think we discovered a location where a pub had been in the past). Brett and I also tightened up our Christmas shopping list and as always, talked some more about future plans and how we see those possibly unfolding.

Also, there will be a small giveaway coming up in November! I plan to post about it around the middle of next month and then announce the winner soon after we get back to Portland so I can get it mailed off in early December – it would make a nice Christmas gift if someone wanted to use it for that. Stay tuned!

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Salt Path in two days – I couldn’t put it down – and then I finished the first and second books in Colin Dexter’s 13-book Inspector Morse series, Last Bus to Woodstock and Last Seen Wearing (just finished it last night). While I read those books I could picture how amazingly well John Thaw brought Dexter’s literary character to life in the TV series. Now I have to decide whether to just go through all of the Morse books together (they’re all available from the library and are fairly quick reads) or break them up with other books in between. I only have three more books to go to finish my goal of reading 52 books this year.
  • Listening to: The church bells are ringing! Brett is puttering around in the kitchen (putting away the dishes, fixing his breakfast) and making a bit of noise in there. I don’t know if it’s because the sun is out but the bells sound especially joyous this morning.
  • Watching: This week will be the final of The Great British Baking Show, but I’m not crazy about any of the three finalists so don’t really care who wins. My two favorite bakers were eliminated during the past two weeks. We started a new show this past Thursday, The Accident, which stars Sarah Lancashire, from Happy Valley and Last Dance in Halifax. We also watched Part I of a special about Prince Charles and his work in the Duchy of Cornwall and enjoyed that as well. Coming up on Saturday evening is the new season of Endeavour!

    My favorite evening snack these days is a cup of hot Cadbury’s drinking chocolate topped with pretty pink and white marshmallows (from Aldi). It warms me from the inside out and satisfies my sweet tooth at the same time.
  • Cooking: We picked up some more Cornish pasties from the neighborhood shop to have this evening. The first ones we tried were amazing, so we wanted some more and this time we’re having chicken, bacon and potato ones. We’ll also be having applesauce – I’m making it today from British Cox apples that we picked up at Aldi this past week. Other items appearing on our dinner table this week will be breaded cod filets with roast vegetables; chicken masala along with vegetable samosas and onion bhajis; meatloaf with roasted root vegetables; and chicken en croute (ready to bake at Aldi and very affordable). Lamb seems to sadly be gone from Aldi these days.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I don’t think either Brett or I accomplished anything special other than keeping ourselves warm and dry (after getting drenched on Monday’s trip for groceries) and getting ourselves rested and rejuvenated after a very busy time with YaYu. I did purchase our train tickets to Bath so that trip is ready to go.

    We’re hoping to get out this week to search for more fall foliage, if any is left after this past week’s storms and wind.
  • Looking forward to next week: We don’t have anything planned for this coming week, although the weather is supposed to be nice(r), especially toward the end of the week. If so, we’ll probably go over to Stratford-up-Avon on either Thursday or Friday. We’re also going to attend a local production of “Cranford” at the village hall on Thursday evening, put on by Blockley’s amateur drama group.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Although most of the week was a rainy, windy mess, we did get some sunshine on a couple of days and got out for some walks. We enjoyed sleeping in every morning and being on our own schedule each day. British daylight savings began today so we’ll have longer days and more light.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Other than food shopping and buying tickets to see “Cranford,” we had a no-spend week. We have been able to stay under $300/month when it comes to our eat-at-home food expenses here, even with things like laundry detergent and paper products and such included, a good thing because this has otherwise been an expensive month. We ate all of our leftovers and didn’t throw away any food.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are feeling quite thankful these days for having a lot of time to think and talk about our plans for next year. We have destinations scheduled through early June of next year (finishing with a visit to Maine following WenYu’s graduation), but I have to admit that after that we don’t have a firm idea at all of what we want to do or where we want to go. Should we continue traveling? Settle down? If so, where? We go back and forth and can’t seem to reach a decision about anything. Since we don’t really have to decide anything now we’re going to keep any ideas or plans to ourselves as we come up with something because it seems as soon as we think we’ve reached a decision and announce it, even to our family, a short time later something comes up and we change our minds again. Like our mystery destination following our stay in Japan next year, we’ll announce our plans when we get there as that seems to be the safest path for us to follow these days.

    We have lots of options, but can’t seem to settle on anything.
  • Bonus question: Overall, what’s the best purchase you’ve made this year? Hands down I have to say the best thing I bought this year was the pair of trail shoes I purchased in Portland at the beginning of last summer. They have been worth every penny, and I’m exceedingly glad I spent a little extra for the pair with thicker, more cushioned soles and a wide footbed. Those two things have made a huge difference in how long and how far I can walk, especially on pavement. The shoes made it possible for me to enjoy our time in Edinburgh, London, and Oxford, and the distances we walked there without collapsing in pain at the end of each day, or not wanting to go out again. And of course, they’ve been wonderful for countryside walks here in Blockley and the surrounding area. They are holding up very well too, and still look close to new.

    My oh-so-comfortable trail shoes were a great purchase this last year.

All in all, this was not the most exciting of weeks, but that’s OK and one of the reasons we’re enjoying our longer stay here in Blockley. We don’t have to be out exploring or sightseeing all the time and don’t need to feel guilty about staying in and reading when the weather is nasty outside. We’ve used our time off this week to think and talk about lots of things, including our upcoming return to Portland and reunion with the girls, and what we’re going to do (and eat) when we’re all together. I’m also teetering on the edge of a cold, so staying indoors and out of the cold and wet, and getting lots of rest, has been a good thing for me to do this week.

That’s all from the Occasional Nomads for this week. I hope everyone had some glorious fall weather (at least better than what we’ve had) and is looking forward to Halloween and trick-or-treaters this week. We’ll be attending “Cranford” that evening so won’t get to experience what goes on here, although there have been lots of ads for the holiday on TV, and lots of trick-or-treat candy available at Aldi and other stores.

Finally, what are you all reading these days? I’d love suggestions and ideas for new books to add to my Kindle even if I do read all the Morse books together!