Sunday Morning 9/15/2019: Week 2 in the UK

Row houses in Chipping Campden

This past week was a lovely one, filled with walks, hikes, and other outings as well as a couple of days of rest. The weather was mostly warm and sunny, but there was one day of rain and another quite windy one, both a foretaste of what is most likely coming as the fall progresses. We visited the old Blockley mills, the market town of Chipping Campden, and accomplished our first weekly shopping over in Moreton-in-Marsh. We now have a better idea of when and how to get that task done as well as manage our time there better.

The old Blockley silk mills are now apartments. Blockley Brook powered the mills and runs under the lower building in the middle.
The beautiful iron spiral fire escapes are original to the old mills.

We had our first major travel mess occur this past week, an extremely maddening and frustrating turn of events because it’s not due to anything we did but because of a “modification” made by Icelandair. We were scheduled to fly from Reykjavik directly to Portland, arriving in the early evening but Icelandair sent us a message this past week that they had canceled the flight to Portland and instead switched us to a flight to Seattle . . . with no connecting flight to Portland! I called the booking agent (Expedia) to ask how we were supposed to get to Portland since that is our destination and were told that all Icelandair was offering was either gas for our car to drive to Portland (we don’t have a car!) or “public transportation,” whatever that means. Brett and I looked at getting a flight from Seattle to Portland, but the affordable ones were either too early or much later in the evening so we would have had another long wait in the airport, and possibly gotten into Portland too late to pick up a rental car. We talked about renting a car in Seattle and driving down to Portland, but 1) we knew we would be extremely exhausted at the end of our travel day and not up for the 3+ hour drive down to Portland (especially through Seattle traffic); 2) a one-way car rental from Seattle to Portland is not cheap ($200+); and 3) If Icelandair could not arrange a connecting flight to our booked destination we did not feel our chances were good of actually getting any sort of reimbursement from them, even just for the gas. Every option was going to cost us in some way so we ended up canceling the return portion of our ticket for a refund from Expedia for that portion of our ticket (because Icelandair changed our flight route we were eligible for a refund even though our ticket was non-refundable). We have found another affordable alternative route home but we’re still going to end up paying more than we did for the original tickets, even with the refund applied. We had also paid Icelandair for upgraded seats on the flight to Portland, and the Expedia agent claimed they would refund that to us as well but I’ll believe it when I see it as I’ve read horror stories about Icelandair and refunds. Needless to say, we won’t be using that airline again.

We’ve also decided that Brett won’t apply for a one-year visa in Japan, at least not now. This was an extremely difficult decision for us as the chance to live there has been a long-held dream. However, we took a very, very thorough look at our costs of living there (rent, class fees, food, transportation . . . everything) and decided we did not want to live so close to the bone for a year. I could go back to work to make it more affordable, but that’s something I really don’t want to do because it would interfere with being able to help with our grandchildren. We think that until we get YaYu through school we’d do better to make two 90-day trips to Japan each year and then reassess after that. So, following our visit to Kaua’i we’ll be in Tokyo for just 90 days again and then will head to our mystery destination. Following that, we’ll go to Massachusetts for WenYu’s graduation followed by a visit to Maine in June. After that . . . well, we’re still talking about it although Northern California is still our #1 choice.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford. The characters are all somewhat eccentric members of the British aristocracy in what is maybe the late 1920s to early 1930s (people still dressed for dinner, had house parties in their stately homes, etc.) and there’s lots of snappy dialogue – what’s not to love? Up next I have Middle England by Jonathan Coe, a novel set in more recent times and covering all that’s been going on here in England the past few years, including Brexit.
  • Listening to: It’s been another quiet, peaceful Sunday morning here but the church bells just started ringing to call the faithful to morning services. The bellringers were quite busy yesterday – there was a funeral in the morning and the bells were rung for that (a bit too joyously it seemed to us) and then yesterday evening was bell-ringing practice so we got quite the concert for a while.
  • Watching: Brett has discovered British racing, and he tunes into that now and again, but all I’ve been watching is the Great British Baking Show. We still watch the BBC news and have seen some teasers for shows that look interesting but we always seem to be busy with something else so the TV doesn’t get turned on much.
  • Cooking: Tonight we’re having the bacon quiche we picked up at Aldi along with some coleslaw. Our meals this past week included breakfast for dinner with scrambled eggs, sausages, and sauteed apples; a sweet & sour Asian stir-fry with chicken, and lamb burgers with roasted Mediterranean vegetables. The tentative menu for this week, which will somewhat depend on what we can find at Aldi, includes chicken tikka masala; sausages, cheese and apples; eggplant parmesan; and chicken vegetable soup.
  • Happy I accomplished last week: I got started on planning a trip to Bath, Devon, and Cornwall in early November. It was a bit difficult because there is so much we want to see, but we finally nailed down an itinerary we’re both happy with. I’ll book our rental car and hotel stays sometime next week (after I get over the shock of purchasing new airline tickets back to the U.S.).

    All the paths converge in Chipping Campden!
  • Looking forward to next week: Other than our trip over to M-in-M tomorrow for groceries, we’re planning to visit Bourton-on-the-Hill at the end of the week. It’s the next village over from us, and there are several lovely buildings and gardens to check out and we want to have lunch at the local pub which was recommended by our host. If we get nice weather and cooler temperatures one day next week we may also walk the Heart of England path over to Moreton-in-Marsh and then take the bus back to Blockley.

    The Blockley cafe makes some pretty wonderful cappuccinos, which we enjoyed while sitting in the sun yesterday.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had beautiful weather most of the week and enjoyed some rambles around the village and out into the countryside. We also had a nice visit to Chipping Camden on Friday and had afternoon tea there. I found a pretty (and affordable) artisan-made necklace at the Barn Court Museum in Chipping Campden, and also got a jar of the delicious carrot chutney I enjoyed with my afternoon tea sandwich. We finally met our lovely host on Wednesday, and Brett and I had a “coffee date” yesterday at the Blockley Cafe.

    Souvenirs from Chipping Campden. The carrot chutney has a spicy, smoky flavor – I was so happy the tea room had it for sale! The “magpie” necklace coordinates perfectly with all my indigo stuff.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We saved £3 ($3.70) on each of our two bus trips (to Moreton-in-Marsh and to Chipping Campden) by purchasing round-trip fares versus one-way. We shopped with a list at Aldi and the only thing we bought that was not on our list was some sticky toffee pudding (because we want to try it). We had four no-spend days, ate all of our leftovers, and didn’t throw away any food.
  • Grateful for: The other day a friend posted the above daily “Gratitude Scavenger Hunt” on Facebook – I’ve been going through it each day and it’s been an easy, helpful way to think of all the good things I experience each day.
  • Bonus questions: What’s been your favorite thing in England so far? Well, number one is definitely getting to see all the wonderful old buildings in such a beautiful setting, but we have also been finding all sorts of interesting and/or different trees and plants around the village. Every time we go out it seems like we come across something unexpected – it’s been like a treasure hunt. There are hazelnut trees all over, and plenty of giant, old elms, chestnut, hickory, beech, and oaks, but the other day I spotted a plum tree loaded with fruit coming up through the brush and a large fig tree in front of a shop – those two surprised me. This past week we also spotted a monkey puzzle tree in someone’s yard and two massive sequoias along the road we were walking on, and another huge one in the Blockley churchyard. Apparently, sequoias were imported to England during the Victorian era as a novelty for gardens, and these ones held on and kept growing (although they’re nothing as big as the ones in California). I have read about monkey puzzle trees for years but had never actually seen one; however, the minute I saw it I knew exactly what it was. There are lots of very big trees around here with masses of branches and whenever I see them I wish I could find out how old they are.

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After a couple of weeks here we’re starting to settle into a routine: food shopping and a trip to the ATM on Monday, visits to other places in the area on Thursday or Friday, depending on the weather, and otherwise we’ll continue to walk around and explore Blockley and the neighboring countryside, or just relax at home, depending on the weather. We’re finally sleeping through the night and not having to take naps, we get up when we feel like it and leisurely enjoy our coffee or tea and breakfast before getting ready for the day. It’s a nice life in a wonderful location – I could get very used to this!

I have added fresh raisin scones, clotted cream and fresh strawberry preserves, sticky toffee pudding, lemon drizzle cake, and hot peach and chili chutney to the list of foods I adore.

That’s a wrap for week two – it was a good one. We’re looking forward to what’s coming up next week and hope you are too!

Sunday Morning 9/8/2019: Week 1 in the UK

Blockley sits down in a small valley and provides views of the countryside in every direction.

It was just slightly over a year ago when Brett and I arrived in Buenos Aires, the first stop on our around-the-world Big Adventure. At the time we had an itinerary that would get us through the middle of May of this year, summer in Portland, and a visit to England in the fall of this year. We didn’t know when we set out how we’d feel about traveling when we got to this point, but we’ve been having a wonderful time, learned some tricks along the way and have decided we are going to keep going for a while longer. We have a visit to Kaua’i planned for next January, followed by another three months’ stay in Japan, and have made an Airbnb reservation for after Japan, but where that is will remain a mystery for now (hint: It’s not California. We still plan on going there, but are will be taking a detour first).

Currenty though we are pinching ourselves that we are finally in England. Our reservation for our cottage in Blockley were made over a year ago, when we were still living on Kaua’i. We’re settling into our little cottage, learning how to operate most of the appliances in the house (we are still having trouble getting the gas stove in the living room to work), and are getting to know the little village of Blockley. This coming week we will be heading over to the nearby towns of Moreton-in-Marsh on Tuesday to check out their big market day and do some grocery shopping, and then will visit nearby Chipping Campden on Friday.

The living room sofa cushions are covered in sturdy British tweed! The cushions are down-filled though, which has taken some getting used to.
Original oil paintings in the cottage add to its charm.

Glebe Cottage is just about perfect for us. Glebe means “a piece of land serving as part of a clergyman’s benefice and providing income,” and the cottage is in a building that was at one time part of the old vicarage attached to the village church. The space has been remodeled enough that it’s impossible to tell now what original function it served in the past. Back on Kaua’i, YaYu had asked if she could find us a place to stay in England and after giving her our parameters she came up with a few choices, with Glebe Cottage at the top of the list. We can’t wait for her to see it when she comes to visit in October! If we have to complain about anything it’s that there is very little storage space in the house, especially for clothes, but we figured out a system that works for us and got everything put away. We have beautiful views of rolling hills and pastures from the cottage patio and upstairs, and the view from our front door of the high street and the Blockley church is one I know we’ll never grow tired of. The little house has every convenience, the kitchen is very well equipped, and the whole place is very cozy and comfortable overall, just the right size for the two of us.

We are almost over our jet lag but not quite. I’m still waking up at 4:30 or so in the morning, and then struggling to get through the day without falling asleep so that I can go to bed at a somewhat decent hour. Brett is doing better although he has had a couple of days where he’s taken some very l-o-n-g naps which have made it difficult for him to fall asleep later. It will all get sorted out but we wish it would hurry up and happen sooner rather than later.

The vines covering the side of Glebe Cottage will eventually turn bright orange as fall progresses but are already starting to change color.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: It was difficult for me to get any reading done while we were traveling, but I finally finished Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine (I loved this book!) this past week. I was ready to start Blade of the Samurai by Susan Spann (her mysteries are set in old Japan), but reader Sheila recommended Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford, whose family is connected to Chipping Campden, so I downloaded that from the library and am reading it first.
  • Listening to: It’s soooooooo quiet here, not a sound to be heard from outside except for a few songbirds doing their thing. Brett is reading so it’s quiet inside as well. I absolutely love it! It’s a beautiful day as well so we’re planning to go out for a walk in a while. We’ve walked through the town a few times but want today want to follow one of the paths out of town and into the hills for a change.
  • Watching: We have cable TV here in the cottage but haven’t found anything yet that’s caught our attention other than the current season of the Great British Baking Show (I think there may be more American shows available than British). We watched a lot of BBC news this past week because of the Brexit vote, etc. They did a fairly good job of explaining what’s been going on although I still have very little understanding of British politics.
  • Cooking: We’re going to have some of the leftover sausage quiche I made yesterday along with roasted cabbage for dinner tonight. We’re looking forward to going to Moreton-in-Marsh next week and seeing what the Aldi there has and what prices are like as well as shopping at the weekly market – there are said to be over 200 stalls! Aldi is the closest and largest major grocery store to us, although the small store here in Blockley is very nice with affordable prices. This past week all we felt up to were easy convenience meals, but I’m ready to start cooking again and will come up with a menu once I get some stuff at Aldi and the market. We forgot and left our spiralizer behind in Portland (the second time we’ve done this – we left our first one at the condo before we left Kaua’i), so zoodles are not going to be a thing here unless we can find another inexpensive one somewhere.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I feel like our journey from Portland to Blockley was accomplishment enough, but so was getting unpacked and fitting everything into the cottage with its limited storage space. I also researched and booked our round-trip transportation up to Edinburgh at the end of the month. My goodness, that was a chore – there is no easy or inexpensive way to get up there from here whether by train or plane, but I finally ended up getting us booked all the way through by train (a nearly nine-hour journey) at a price we can live with. Air tickets would have been a bit less but we would still have had the train journey over to Gatwick along with spending a few hours sitting around in airports again. No thank you – we’d rather enjoy some beautiful scenery out the train window. Finally, I am trying to cut back to one cup of coffee a day and I did OK this past week, but I sure missed my second cup. I tried drinking a cup of tea instead but still craved the coffee. If I can get used to one cup per day though I will be very happy.
  • Looking forward to next week: Besides the trip to Moreton-in-Marsh, we’re greatly looking forward to having afternoon tea when we’re in Chipping Campden next week, and plan to splurge on an “afternoon tea tower” with sandwiches, scones, and cakes, hopefully at the Badger Inn. We’ll be figuring out how to use the local bus system that will take us there and to Moreton-in-Marsh (and eventually up to Stratford-on-Avon and over to Stow-in-the-Wold). Getting to places will be the easy part but getting back to Blockley may be more of a challenge as the buses are somewhat spread out.

    The Great Western Arms pub, one of two in Blockley – it’s very cozy inside and the food is affordable and delicious.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We’ve enjoyed some lovely exploratory walks through the village this past week, people have been very friendly and welcoming, and we had a wonderful, reasonably-priced lunch last Wednesday at one of two pubs in town, the Great Western Arms, and look forward to going back again soon. I had a bowl of amazingly delicious tomato and roasted pepper soup with some fresh whole-grain bread, the best tomato soup I’ve ever had, and Brett had a roast pork with applesauce sandwich along with coleslaw and a salad, and a pint of ale. All the food was housemade from local products. We were advised that the other pub in town, The Crown, isn’t nearly as good or as nice and it would be OK for us to skip it while we’re here, and branch out instead to others in nearby villages.

    Included in the treats left for us by our host were two bottles of wine – we’ve enjoyed drinking it while sitting out on the patio in the afternoons.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We’ve been watching our spending closely since we arrived, and have been heartened by the seemingly affordable prices for food (better than they were in Portland, anyway). I canceled our reservation at a B&B near Heathrow for the night before YaYu arrives and booked a hotel nearer the airport for less than half the price with breakfast included. We need to be there the night before as YaYu’s flight arrives quite early in the morning. The savings will cover our transportation costs from here to Heathrow, and our fares out to our London Airbnb after YaYu arrives. We’ve been enjoying all the treats our host provided for us, and we’ve had three no-spend days this past week. We’ve eaten all our leftovers and haven’t thrown away any food.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are currently feeling especially thankful for the generous Airbnb gift certificate which made our visit to the UK possible.

    Our kitchen is very well-equipped but some of the appliances are small and have taken some getting used to.
  • Bonus question: Has anything in England been a surprise yet? So far no, although the appliances have taken some getting used to. The oven temperatures are of course in centigrade so I have to do conversions to get things right. The washing machine is very small and seems to run for ages, and I’m still working on getting the dryer figured out. The refrigerator is an under-the-counter model and quite small, but it will be good training for not buying so much when we go food shopping. The small dishwasher is easy to use though, thank goodness. The weather has been slightly warmer than we expected, although by late afternoon temperatures seem to cool down to let us know autumn is coming – yesterday morning the heat was even on for a bit.

Three things we’ve discovered here have already sent me to the moon with happiness: chutneys, gin, and local whole-grain bread. I LOVE chutney (although Brett doesn’t) and I’ve already had the pleasure of trying three different and very yummy types, and can’t wait to try more (there’s a chili peach one at the village store that’s up next). The market also carries a nice selection of gins, and we picked up a bottle of the local Cotswold variety yesterday along with some tonic and limes for G&Ts. More yum! We’re looking forward to trying some local pink and sloe gins as well, along with a tonic flavored with strawberries and roses. And, the locally baked whole-grain bread – oh my! I could eat nothing else and be satisfied (but it’s especially wonderful toasted and topped with some chutney and with a G&T on the side, or with a slice of some local cheddar). I’m still watching my carbs and am trying to be a good girl, but it’s going to be difficult. Don’t even get me started on the yummy chocolates here as well – my willpower is being put to the test.

That’s all for this week – I hope this past week was filled with lots of good things happening for you. Here’s to a great week coming up for all of us!

Sunday Afternoon 8/25/2019: Last Week in Portland

Portland produces some beautiful sunsets – Brett took this picture on his way home from his last night of Japanese class.

What a lovely, lazy, relaxing week this past one was! We had a busy Friday afternoon, but otherwise we didn’t do much of anything but read and rest. Yesterday and Wednesday we didn’t even leave the apartment, not even to walk (it rained on Wednesday, so going for a walk wasn’t going to happen anyway). We will have more than plenty to do this coming week, and I know we’re going to appreciate the calm of this past week.

YaYu arrives back from Japan on Tuesday afternoon. We will meet her at the airport, have dinner with her there and hand over the suitcase we’ve been storing for her here this summer, and then get her checked in for her flight back to Pennsylvania. We spoke with her this past week and she is very ready to come back to the U.S. She was paid well by her brother for her work (and she did a lot of work for them), had a good time overall but now knows that being a nanny is not her thing. Anyway, we’re looking forward to our time with her and wish we had more.

Back out of hiding . . .

Along with taking care of a bunch of final errands, Brett and I will be packing all week, and on Thursday we’ll pick up a rental car so that we can get our big suitcases out of the apartment Friday morning and over to a hotel near the airport for the night (we couldn’t reserve the apartment through Saturday as it was already reserved beginning Friday). We’ll turn the car in on Saturday and then spend a few hours at the airport – our flight doesn’t leave until after 7:00 in the evening, although we’ll check our bags in as soon as we can. We’re quite good at long airport stays now, and have things to read and do while we wait.

But . . . this time next week we will be in England! We’ve had a wonderful summer in Portland, but we’re excited to be moving on to our next destination. Visiting Great Britain has been a long-held dream for me (my ancestors on both sides come from England and Scotland) and I’m looking forward to being there for a while. We’ll be there for whatever unfolds with Brexit (deadline on October 31) and have no idea how that’s going to go or how it might affect our experience.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I stayed up late last Wednesday evening and finished Truman. It was one of the best books I’ve read, and I learned much I didn’t know before. Harry Truman was a complicated man, but the right person to be president for the time, someone who truly grew into the office, and a great American overall. I’m now reading two completely different books, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman, and Blade of the Samurai, another mystery by Susan Spann set in old Japan.
  • Listening to: It’s thankfully a quiet morning both inside and outside. I didn’t sleep well last night – I woke up around 3:00 a.m. with a knot in my stomach (nerves) over the upcoming travel, and it took me a while to fall back to sleep. I’m feeling very tired this morning and I appreciate the quiet.
  • Watching: Last week Brett and I discovered Mindhunter on Netflix and binge-watched two seasons of that (it’s about the beginnings of the Behavioral Sciences division of the FBI and understanding how serial killers develop). We are looking forward to Season 3! We finished up all the available episodes of Derry Girls and The Good Place, but the latter has new episodes available this coming week so we’re planning to watch those and hopefully will get to see them all before we check out. And then . . . we’re done with TV watching for a long while (unless we discover some great British show while we’re there).
  • Cooking: We finished almost all of the food in the house last week, but have enough for three last meals here at the apartment. Tonight we’re (finally) having teriyaki chicken, tomorrow we’re having stuffed peppers, and on Thursday we’ll have omelets with the last of any leftovers. We’re eating out on Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and also on Friday – we’re thinking of maybe going over to IKEA for some inexpensive Swedish meatballs because it’s near to our hotel. On Saturday morning we’ll have breakfast at the hotel, and then we’ll eat again at the airport before boarding our flight as there is no food served on board (fingers are crossed that we’ll be able to get something to eat at the Reykjavik airport during our layover there).
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Other than finishing Truman, sticking to low-carb eating, and drinking lots of water I didn’t accomplish anything this past week.
  • Looking forward to next week: I’m looking forward to spending a few hours with YaYu, although we know she will be tired and in a mood (she dislikes air travel). We’re also having dinner with our friend Joan on Wednesday evening at Higgins restaurant. We always love getting together with Joan, and Higgins was on my bucket list before we left Portland in 2014 but we didn’t make it then. I can’t say I’m looking forward to packing, but we are excited about hitting the road once again.

    Discovering that my pants were starting to disintegrate was quite a surprise but I ordered a new pair and am ready to go!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett got the results back from his last round of medical testing and everything looks good. The doctor had seen something in his initial blood work that could have been an indicator for some not-so-good things, so she requested more testing, but none of the subsequent tests have shown any issues that would indicate problems – everything has been within the normal range. He has an appointment with the doctor tomorrow morning and hopefully he’ll get the official thumbs up from her, although we know the issue is something that’s going to have to be watched going forward. One initially not good thing was that I discovered one morning that a pair of my black Perfect Fit pants were beginning to disintegrate! I realized though they were over eight years old and had gotten a LOT of wear over the years so I guess it was time. I ordered a new pair from LL Bean and they arrived in two days so I am ready to go.

    Our last box from the farmers’ market, this time with apricots and plums! How lucky we were to enjoy so much sweet and tasty local fruit this summer.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Brett went over to the farmers’ market on Tuesday and bought fruit and cherry tomatoes, we rented a Zipcar for our visit to Pittock Mansion and to drop off our recycling on Friday, bought two hand-thrown pottery souvenir coffee mugs at Pittock Mansion, and picked up a very few things at the grocery store on Friday to get us through our last days here, but otherwise we had five no-spend days this past week and our daily average for the month is just over $26. We have pretty much finished up all our food, and will only be leaving behind a little bit of vegetable oil, sesame oil, soy sauce, and some ketchup and mustard. (Having to buy new pants was not particularly frugal, but they were necessary and paid out of our clothing fund. I’m hoping they will last at least eight years too!)

    I will definitely be buying more big bags of mugi cha when we’re in Japan next year.
  • Grateful for: It’s often the big things we think of when we think of gratitude, but this week for me it’s one of the little things that has helped make my summer more pleasant. I’m so thankful I found that big package of mugi cha (roasted barley tea) at Costco in Japan because I’ve been able to enjoy it every day all summer long. I still can’t get over how much I detested mugi cha the first time I tasted it (I gagged) because it’s now one of my favorite things to drink and very refreshing. Finding that big package in Japan made it a very affordable treat this summer.
  • Bonus question: What is the most useless thing you ever learned how to do? I have to go back to the navy again for this one, but in my “A” school I learned how to test and replace vacuum tubes. This was in 1977, and the navy was not even using vacuum tubes by then but we still had to do the section as it hadn’t been removed from the curriculum. That was a week of my life I’ve never gotten back. Thankfully my job after finishing “A” school was fairly interesting although the skills I used have turned out to be pretty useless as well. I operated a flight simulator that trained naval flight officers, doing air traffic control for their “takeoffs” and making sure they took off correctly and knew what to say when and how to talk with air traffic control during their “flight.” Also high on my list of useless things was learning to do various math problems longhand back in the day like finding the square root of a number, calculating the slope of a line, etc. – yeah for calculators these days! I still do long division in my head sometimes though as well as some other simple algebraic formulas so those didn’t turn out to be as useless as I thought they were at the time.

    We used a machine like this to test vacuum tubes. I might as well be trying to read Greek these days.

There won’t be a Sunday post next week because we will still be flying for most of day (our flight leaves Portland on Saturday evening) or settling in at our hotel near Heathrow for some much-needed sleep after we arrive in England. I’ve been in touch with our host and we’re set to check in once we arrive in Blockley on Monday. I’ll post again once I feel settled.

Finally, this past week I got a Facebook message from someone in Hawai’i I initially didn’t recognize. It turned out to be from the people who had rented the house we lived in after us. They too have been having loads of trouble getting their deposit back from the landlord after moving out at the end of July and are also having to deal with his lies about all the “damage” they supposedly did to the place. They asked about our experience with him and wanted to know if we had any suggestions. I said they should take him to court – their deposit was even larger than ours – and it turned out they already had the paperwork almost done and were getting ready to file. Yeah! The one thing that awful man doesn’t want to do is go to court, and we told them if they needed any help to let us know. They are a young couple from the island with LOTS of family there which may be what finally nails this greedy, immoral guy – you don’t mess with locals (and apparently at one point he had been badmouthing the couple to their family members without knowing it) – no, no, NO!

Hoping everyone has a great week!

Sunday Morning 8/18/2019: Week 14 in Portland

I am going to greatly miss the wonderful evening views of the city from the Kohler Pavilion balcony (the one above was taken around 7:30 p.m.). We’ve been walking to the balcony all summer and I’ve yet to tire of looking out at the panorama of the city. I am always amazed by the density of trees that cover the east side of the city!

It’s a bit hard to wrap my head around, but his time next week we’ll be dragging out our suitcases once again to start packing once again. Our final week here will be a whirlwind of activity, with everything from downtown errands to meeting YaYu at the airport and getting her on to Philadelphia to moving over to hotel near the airport (we have to check out of our apartment on the 30th). This week though should be a rather low-key one. We plan to visit Pittock Mansion at the end of the week and will also take all of our recyclable cans and bottles to a recycling center when we’re over that way. But, other than a visit to the farmers’ market for more fruit, we have nothing else on the agenda except to relax, read, and get in some good walks.

This past week it was time for me to figure out a plan for getting from Heathrow airport out to our house in the Cotswolds. We’re arriving in London on a Sunday in the late afternoon, but after giving ourselves some time to pick up our bags and go through immigration it turned out there were no trains to our destination other than ones that got us there around midnight and also involved several train changes and/or bus rides along the way. We thought maybe stopping in Oxford for the night might make things easier, but those schedules weren’t any better and Oxford hotel prices were too high. I finally checked hotels at Heathrow and thanks to some Expedia award credits (which I didn’t know I had), I was able to book a king room at the nearby Hyatt Place hotel for half price, all taxes and fees included. Hyatt Place has free shuttle service to and from the airport, and we will also get 20% off our breakfast in the morning because I’m also apparently an Expedia VIP (again, who knew?). And, on weekdays there are numerous trains out to Moreton-in-Marsh from Heathrow with just one change at Paddington Station, so much easier than what we would have had to deal with on Sunday. While neither Brett nor I are especially thrilled about paying for a night in a hotel, this arrangement will (hopefully) make our arrival into the Cotswolds a lot less stressful, and we should be at our house between noon and one o’clock on Monday afternoon.

We also finally caught up with the modern world and got ourselves signed up with Uber and Lyft, or at least Brett now has the Uber app and I’ve got the Lyft one. I was unable to download the Uber app because apparently whoever previously had my phone number had an Uber account, and because my address didn’t match Uber’s records I couldn’t sign up. I tried numerous times to get it straightened out through their customer service, but all they did on their end was send me boilerplate notices saying “address doesn’t match the one we have on file” – there was no human interaction at all on their end to try and get things worked out. After a few of those messages I finally gave up. Thankfully Brett was able to download the app with no problem so he will be taking care of Uber reservations in the future, and the Lyft app downloaded just fine for me, so that will be our backup.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I am still reading Truman but finished Say Nothing on Friday evening. I am learning/have learned so much from both books, especially about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Harry Truman is turning out to be a more complicated man than I ever knew as well.
  • Listening to: We’re enjoying a quiet morning now, but otherwise it’s been a somewhat noisy week up here. There have been more than usual Life Flight helicopters arriving at OHSU this week (two arrived within a half-hour last night before 1:00 a.m.) and they make quite a bit of noise coming in. Also, there have been flyovers by jets from the Oregon Air National Guard and yesterday we could hear the sound of police helicopters all afternoon as they monitored the demonstration downtown. We can also always hear the trains as they move through town on the other side of the river, especially at night. It always sounds like they are right behind us though – the sound carries that well.
  • Watching: We finished what we think was the last episode of Four Weddings and a Funeral, but hopefully not as it was disappointing and left us hanging. The show was billed as a limited series, but there has only been one wedding (and one that didn’t happen) so we’re not sure at this point if the series will be continuing or whether there will be another season, or ??? We’re still watching The Good Place (which we really like) and the second season of Derry Girls, but we’re not going to start anything new at this point. Although Derry Girls is a comedy, it’s set in time during the Troubles and there have been several references to things I would have otherwise missed or not understood if I hadn’t read Say Nothing.

    An abundance of fresh fruit and berries has been one of the best parts of our stay in Portland.
  • Cooking: This week will be our big push to clean out the fridge, freezer, and cupboards. Tonight we’re having Thai red curry chicken with cauliflower rice, and other meals this week will be spicy Korean beef over cauliflower rice, zoodles with meat sauce, teriyaki chicken, and our final Friday night pizza (pepperoni) with leftovers filling in the blank spaces. We are still enjoying bowls of fresh summer fruit every day – I am going to miss it greatly when we leave Portland.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Besides getting all my dental work finished (yeah!), I also got my new shoes waterproofed and ready to go, and purchased a new bathing suit for our visit to Kaua’i (my old ones went into the trash when we left – I had worn them for our entire four years there and they were worn out). Brett got three final medical tests taken care of and finished his summer Japanese conversation course.
  • Looking forward to next week: Besides visiting Pittock Mansion, I’m looking forward to having lots of time to read (and hopefully will be able to finish Truman) and rest before the craziness that will be happening the following week.

    Sadly raspberry season is over. We also bought a big bag of peaches this week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We got more delicious berries and peaches at the farmers’ market (and some cherry tomatoes too). Our daughter-in-law sent us loads of pictures and videos of the grandkids and YaYu, and Meiling and K invited us to stay with them for a few days in New York next year before we go to WenYu’s graduation!

    I love everything about this picture, especially our granddaughter pointing her spear in the wrong direction!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1)I saved 50% on a new bathing suit because of end-of-summer sales. 2) The dentist gave me enough travel-size tubes of toothpaste to equal a large tube, and also extra gel for my whitening tray to get me through the coming year (that stuff is expensive, too). 3) We ate all our leftovers and didn’t throw away any food (the latest Instagram photo shows how I used up leftovers and some other odds and ends to make a yummy, nearly zero-carb dinner yesterday evening). 4) Other than going to the farmers’ market and getting my two pairs of shoes waterproofed (for a whopping $12), we had a no-spend week. 5) We saved $115.28 this summer in our change/$1 bill bag which will cover all of our dining out next week. We were going to buy some British pounds before departing, but the exchange rate here is awful so we’ll instead stop at an ATM before we leave Heathrow airport.

    The apartment’s living room is simple but very comfortable.
  • Grateful for: I am once again so thankful we’ve been able to spend the summer in this apartment on the west side of the city. It’s been slightly too big for the two of us because YaYu hasn’t been here, but the location (next to OHSU and Marquam Forest Park) and space has been comfortable, convenient and mostly quiet. We will be staying in a different Portland location when we’re back in December, but we would stay in this apartment again in a heartbeat!
    The dining area has also served as Brett’s “office.” I love the dining chairs!

    The kitchen is small but very well-equipped.
  • Bonus question: What is the most difficult thing you’ve ever done in your life (so far)? That would be the eight weeks I spent in navy boot camp. I joined the navy in 1976 and went to boot camp (in Orlando, FL) in January and February of 1977. When I arrived at the Recruit Training Center it was very late at night, and I was put into a barracks with other women and told to go to sleep because we would all be awakened very early the next morning to begin our training. A guard walked through the barracks all night, and I couldn’t sleep because I had to go to the bathroom very badly but was terrified of asking the scary guard if I could get up. I managed to get through the night, but things went downhill from there. I vowed every morning going forward that I would not stay in boot camp one day longer than necessary. I also questioned my sanity every day because each day was a test of wills between me and the navy, and some of the stuff we had to do seemed ridiculous at times (it made sense later). I quickly learned to keep my mouth shut, do whatever they told me to do, and never volunteer. Some of the “highlights” of those eight weeks include being chosen as the “laundry petty officer” and sorting our entire company’s dirty laundry every night and then lugging it over to the base laundry and then picking up the clean stuff and lugging it back; marching in formation and running every day (and I hate running) but finishing a required five-mile run without coming in last; going into a burning building as the lead firefighter with the hose and putting out a fire even though I was terrified; being tear-gassed and tearing my Achilles tendon (not at the same time, thankfully); shooting a gun for the first and only time in my life (and hitting the target every time) as well as learning to field strip, clean and re-assemble a pistol in record time; standing watch many times in the middle of the night and getting to be some other new recruits’ scary guard a couple of times; making it through the obstacle course on the first try (still not sure how that happened); taking numerous tests on arcane facts about the navy, learning to tie several different types of knots (marlinspike seamanship!), standing numerous inspections every week, and doing a whole lot of other crazy and difficult things. It was eight weeks of pure hell, but I kept my promise to myself to not spend one extra day there and also showed myself that I could accomplish anything if I set my mind to it. Right after leaving boot camp I was sent to my “A” school where one of my instructors was a sailor named Brett!

We have so far lucked out with the weather this summer. Both Brett and I have vivid memories of uncomfortably long stretches of temperatures in the mid- to upper 90s and even over 100 degrees during the summer, usually starting in late July, but other than a couple of days that hasn’t happened this summer and there have actually been a few days instead where it’s been almost uncomfortably cool. Yesterday it was cold enough that we had winter socks on our feet and blankets and throws over us in an effort to stay warm. We even debated for a few minutes whether we should turn on the heat! Our fingers are crossed that our final 12 days in Portland are temperate ones.

All those spray-painted markings in the road mean loud and messy road work is coming.

Finally, as much as we’ve loved our location this summer, it looks like we may be getting out of town at just the right time. When we headed out on our walk on Friday evening, the road outside our building was covered with new spray markings denoting all the utilities in the street. Apparently the city is getting ready to tear up the road in the very near future. There haven’t been any notices for bus route changes or road closures, at least not yet, so we have no idea when work will start, but we’ve got our fingers crossed that it will be after we’re gone.

As always I hope everyone had a great week, had lots of good things happen, and is looking forward to the week that’s coming up. It’s almost hard to believe that summer will be over in just a little over a month – it’s been a good one!

Sunday Morning 8/11/2019: Week 13 in Portland

The forest was the place to go at the beginning of the week as temperatures were 10-15 degrees cooler inside, and being surrounded by so much green was mentally cooling as well.

If we thought we felt restless and ready to move on before now, it is really beginning to gnaw at us now, although we’re still not quite ready to drag out our suitcases. Feeling restless though is very motivating to get everything done that needs to be done before we leave town. And, there is plenty to do, from taking care of the last of the re-provisioning to getting our recycling done to making sure all the food we have on hand is finished. Every day now we wake up and ask ourselves, “Is there something we can take care of or use up or get out of the way today?”

This past week was sort of crazy when it came to the weather, going from uncomfortable temperatures in the 90s at the beginning of the week to cool rainy weather and thunderstorms by the end of it. On Monday evening we wanted to fill the tub with ice water in an effort to cool down, but Thursday, Friday and yesterday evenings we were wearing our winter pajamas because we were so cold! We made plans each evening for the next day but then ended up putting them off because the weather wouldn’t cooperate (we did finally get downtown on Friday though). I have to say though I’d much rather deal with cool summer days in Portland than the hot ones they get here.

YaYu learned this past week she was accepted into an upper-level Mandarin class at UPenn, which is just about 40 minutes away from Bryn Mawr by train. However, the first class meeting will be on August 28, and she arrives back in Portland from Japan in the afternoon on the 27th! I was able to find an affordable red-eye flight that leaves Portland in the evening and gets her into Philadelphia early the following morning, in time for her to take her bags out to Bryn Mawr and then head over to UPenn. We will meet her when she arrives at the airport here, have dinner with her there and then help her get checked in and on her way. We were hoping we’d get a couple of days with her before she had to go back, but are also very proud that she was accepted into the UPenn class. She is going to be one very tired girl though.

The Tunnel View of Yosemite Valley.

If we end up only staying in Japan for three months next year we’ve decided we will fly back to California and spend a few days in San Francisco and then travel around the northern part of the state for a few weeks before heading to Massachusetts for WenYu’s graduation. We’d like to see Lake Tahoe and Lake Shasta, drive up the coast on Highway 1 and see the redwoods, and visit Yosemite National Park. We’ll work up plans (if we have to) once when we know more about what’s happening next year.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Path Between the Seas and am getting close to halfway through Truman, a good thing because a book I’ve been waiting for all summer, Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe, finally came off of hold at the library and I want to get it read before my three weeks are up. Reviews have said it’s one of the best books about the Troubles in Northern Ireland, and one of the best books released this year.
  • Listening to: We fell asleep last night to the sound of pouring rain, but this morning there are birds chirping outside and I can see bits of blue sky peeping through the mostly heavy cloud cover. It’s quiet inside and out too – Brett is reading in the kitchen and the noisy kids downstairs have departed. I’m not sure what it is about Sundays, but these kids always make a ton of noise in the early morning and then disappear for the day. During the week we never hear them!
  • Watching: We finished the last of the available episodes of Father Brown this past week, but are still watching The Good Place each evening (loved the surprise ending at the end of Season 1!) and are almost finished with Four Weddings and a Funeral. We’ve also just started watching Derry Girls on Netflix which is wonderful. We have been trying to wean ourselves off TV watching but are not doing a very good job of it. We’re curious about what we’ll find when we’re in England – we’ve loved so many of the shows that have been brought over here, and are sort of hoping we’ll get lucky and catch something great while we’re there.

    My Friday evenings extras of a Japanese cup of wine and some tasty parmesan cheese crisp (no carbs!) is followed by a slice of pizza. I envy Brett – he gets the leftovers!
  • Cooking: Almost nothing I had planned got made last week but I moved things around and we’re having stir-fried cauliflower rice with pork tonight. This week we’ll also be having lettuce wrap tacos, Cobb salads, meatloaf, and our Friday evening pizza (bacon cheeseburger this time to use up some ground beef, cheddar cheese, bacon, and dill pickles). Besides using up what we’ve got on hand, we’re also going to finish up our wine supply this week which will be sad because we love sitting down together on Friday evenings with our glasses of wine and a small snack before having our pizza. Maybe we’ll just have to buy another bottle.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: It doesn’t feel like I accomplished much of anything but we finally went downtown on Friday (after almost being scared off by lots of thunder in the morning) but decided to save our visit to the art museum for another week when we don’t have so many other errands to run. I got all of my goals card filled in for the week although we didn’t walk on Monday because it was so HOT or on Thursday because it was raining (we got our walk in yesterday before the rain started). Otherwise everything on the card got done. Brett dropped off my new shoes yesterday for waterproofing, and we’ll pick them up tomorrow on our way to the dentist. Along with purchasing YaYu’s ticket to Philadelphia, I also finally got around to reserving a rental car for our final two days here so we can do some last-minute things the afternoon of the 29th, check out of the apartment on the morning of the 30th, and get our bags over to the airport hotel for the night before our departure on the 31st.
  • Looking forward to next week: My new bridge will be put in place tomorrow and the ugly space in my lower front teeth will finally be gone! I also go back on Tuesday for a cleaning and then I am DONE with the dental visits. Brett has his last Japanese class on Wednesday evening, and will be making a trip over to Costco by bus to get batteries for his hearing aids, allergy medication and some vitamins, but otherwise we have nothing planned.

    This week’s swag from the farmers’ market included sweet yellow plums. I am so happy we’ve been able eat so much wonderful fruit this summer!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Brett had his annual eye exam done this past week and his vision has stayed the same – no new glasses required! The whitening regime I’ve been doing for the past two weeks has made my upper teeth lovely and white; but now that the dental work will be finished I’ve got to get started on the lower teeth. This week at the farmers’ market our favorite vendor had sweet, juicy, ripe yellow plums in addition to loads of lovely berries and peaches. I love plums!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had four no-spend days again this week. We put $4.42 into the change/$1 bill bag, and as always ate all our leftovers and didn’t throw away anything.
  • Grateful for: I am so thankful that it has been so easy for us this summer to run errands in downtown Portland, which is only a short bus ride away from our apartment. There’s a Target, a Safeway for groceries, and every other kind of store available, all within a short walking distance of each other. The Target store is a new-ish downtown addition – it didn’t exist back when we lived here. We had a great time being downtown once again on Friday, and got in some good exercise while taking care of everything within a couple of hours!

    I prefer quick and easy dishes these days, like this shrimp, pepper and onion stir-fry tossed with a CookDo sauce and served over cauliflower rice.
  • Bonus question: Do you like to cook? The honest answer is not very much these days. I consider myself a good journeyman cook, and used to enjoy it a lot more than I do now but think I would give it up completely these days if I could. However, we like to eat healthy, unprocessed, tasty food and we can’t afford (and don’t want) to eat out all the time or hire a private chef, so I still cook. It’s been a learning experience for me this past year though to cook for just Brett and myself rather than making enough for five like I did for so many years. I used to bake quite a bit too but don’t do that at all these days and frankly don’t miss it either, and Brett and I definitely don’t need things like cake, cookies, bread, etc. around the house. These days I usually keep things simple and I no longer am looking for or trying new recipes like I did in the past. I use a few more “convenience” foods than I did in the past, things like the CookDo sauces or pizza crusts from Trader Joe’s. I do make family favorites when the girls are home although that’s getting more complicated as both Meiling and YaYu are very lactose intolerant, and YaYu doesn’t eat beef or care much for chicken (thankfully WenYu will eat anything). We figure it out though.

I hope everyone is still awake after reading the above because our time here now seems awfully boring to me. This is the reason though we are not feeling ready to settle down just yet – we still like staying busy and there’s so much more of the world we want to see. Life and finances are going to get in the way though beginning next month because we are going to start putting away a good chunk of money each month to apply toward YaYu’s future college expenses, and that’s going to slow things down a bit. Although she receives significant financial aid from Bryn Mawr, it’s nowhere near enough to cover the cost of going there, especially when YaYu will be the only one attending college for two years. We’ll see how it goes, but her sisters will graduate/graduated with no debt and we would like the same or as close to the same for her.

Once again I hope everyone had a great week and had lots of good things happen for them!

Sunday Morning 8/4/2019: Week 12 in Portland

Summer in Oregon means long, long days. This picture looking out east from the Kohler Pavilion at OHSU was taken just after 8:00 p.m. while Brett and I were out on a walk. The setting sun made the east side of the city glow.

What a busy week we had! There have been doctors’ and dental appointments for both of us, lab work and tests, classes for Brett, meet-ups with friends, and lots of other things going on all week. We’ve thankfully made it on time to every place we’ve needed to be, but it was sort of crazy at times.

With all the medical stuff done, we learned both of are in pretty good shape which is always good news. The cause of my GERD remains a mystery however, and I may have to have a gastro-endoscopy after all to find out what’s going on (possibly a hernia). I am also still at risk for osteoporosis so I will be starting medication for that once again, but otherwise everything is OK, our cholesterol levels are great, and we’re doing everything right. All our prescriptions have been set up for the coming year, although the doctor would like to wean me off the medication I take for GERD. I am miserable without it so hopefully another solution can be found sooner rather than later. I saw the dentist once again last Monday afternoon and got the last filling done and also got started on my teeth-whitening regime (which is going well), and Brett got the last of his dental work done. I got a call that the bridge for my lower teeth has arrived and I have an appointment for it to be installed on August 12. I will go back on the 13th for a cleaning and then I am done (well, all except for paying the bill for all of this work)!

We had pretty great summer weather this past week: Brett caught this beautiful view of Mt. Hood last Thursday on his tram ride down to a medical appointment . . .
. . . and this terrific view of Mt. St. Helens while he was at the lab. By the time we went for our walk in the evening, both mountains were clouded over.

Our big challenge this last month in Portland will be to make sure that we finish up all the food we have on hand right now, including as many of the condiments as possible, and buy only what we need so we can leave with the refrigerator and cupboards empty. I have a feeling we might be eating some pretty strange combinations at times, but we’re motivated and committed to not wasting anything. We’re also keeping lists of everything we need to do or get or see before leaving Portland, from purchasing motion sickness medicine to getting my shoes waterproofed to buying British pounds from the bank. I keep a set of cards on the ledge by the stairwell coming up to the apartment along with my goals cards, and check them every day to see if there’s anything we need to add, or check something off if we’ve taken care of it.

Our “organization center” in the apartment, where we keep track of appointments or other things that need to get done or acquired.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m still working my way through Truman and The Path Between the Seas – both are very interesting but very dense with information so they’re taking some time. I know I am not going to get them finished before they have to go back to the library, and since Brett would like to read them too we’ve decided go ahead to purchase the Kindle editions.
  • Listening to: Brett is rustling around in the kitchen getting breakfast started (bacon, scrambled eggs, orange juice, and Chinese dumplings for Meiling and K), Meiling is reading in her bedroom, and K is taking a shower. The kids downstairs were making a lot of noise outside in the courtyard a few minutes ago, but they’ve quieted down again so it’s again calm and peaceful here. The weather is lovely for now with a cool breeze that makes the blinds move and clatter once in a while, but temperatures are supposed to go over 90º today, so I know to enjoy this all while I can.
  • Watching: We’ve got a few more episodes of Father Brown to go, and are otherwise only watching The Good Place, but don’t have many episodes left of that either. Meiling signed us into her Hulu account so we can watch the new series, Four Weddings and a Funeral.

    This week’s pizza, besides being delicious, used up several items/leftovers in the fridge!
  • Cooking: We’re going to have zoodles with meatballs and marinara for dinner tonight. Also appearing on the dinner table this week will be teriyaki chicken and fried cauliflower rice w/vegetables, mabo dofu, and pork chops with roasted vegetables. We’ll be having the sausage and artichoke heart pizza that we were going to have last week because I ended up making a roasted vegetable and feta pizza on a red pepper sauce base on Friday – it was amazing, and used up several things in the fridge. We will of course also continue to enjoy fresh fruit and whipped cream parfaits!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We accomplished a lot! I am so happy all the main doctor appointments, lab work and other tests are over though. It was so convenient being able to walk to everything, or ride the tram, because it seemed one of us was over at the hospital for something almost every day. We made it to the farmers’ market this week in between all this other stuff going on – we weren’t entirely sure if that was going to happen or not. I’m proud that I once again got my entire goals card filled in for the week. There are days I really don’t feel like doing some of the things on it, but I prefer to see a check rather than an X, so I get it done. I finished Level 2 of Japanese in Memrise and have started on Level 3. Level 3 is more of an actual language lesson while Levels 1 and 2 were all about learning complicated (and mostly unnecessary) phrases aimed at young travelers.
  • Looking forward to next week: We thankfully don’t have any appointments next week so we’re finally going to go to the Portland Art Museum. They currently have an exhibit about turn-of-the-century Paris, and we’re excited about seeing that. We also would like to stop by the Keller Fountain and need to take care of a few other errands while we’re downtown.

    Out for a hike in the woods after dinner with our favorite oldest daughter and her guy
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a great visit with Meiling and K on Saturday! I fixed dinner and breakfast here at the apartment, and we took a hike together in the evening as well as caught up on what’s happening back in NYC. I had a wonderful time having lunch and talking with friends Elaine and Sylvia this past week, and feel very blessed to have both a part of my life. We got our OHSU online accounts reactivated, and were able to learn the results of our tests in a day or so, and that everything was normal. I have lost some weight, although not anywhere near as much as I hoped this summer. We picked up lots more berries at the farmers’ market again this week as well as peaches and some figs!

    Our haul from the farmers’ market this week. The eggplant and zucchini were roasted for dinner one night, and leftovers appeared on our pizza on Friday.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We had four no-spend days this past week. 2) I once again was given a free pass to ride the aerial tram back up the hill after a medical appointment. 3) We ate all our leftovers and didn’t throw away any food. 4) I was prepared to pay both times, but my friends picked up the tab for lunch both times which was a lovely surprise. 5) We put $3.35 into the change/$1 bill bag, and got a refund check for $10.66 from the electric company on Kaua’i (a year after we closed the account!).
  • Grateful for: I’m very, very thankful for our continuing good health and for our health insurance (Medicare and Tricare-for-Life) as well as our dental insurance. While we’re still paying quite a bit to the dentist this summer, our insurance has covered more than half of the expense I have incurred. Of all the benefits that Brett earned from his time in the navy, our insurance benefits have been the most valuable and we know we are fortunate to have them.

    A neighbor’s garden in our condo complex would be about as much gardening as I want to manage these days.
  • Bonus question: Is there something you wish you enjoyed but you don’t? That would be gardening. I love beautiful gardens, love eating fresh vegetables from the garden, but greatly dislike the work and experience of gardening. I put the blame for this squarely on my dad’s shoulders – he made gardening hard work and drudgery for me and my siblings starting at a an early age, and there was no joy, fun or pleasure to be had in the experience and that has stayed with me my entire life. Any attempts I have made at gardening have been with the weight of those memories on my shoulders. I have had successful small vegetable gardens, but mostly everything I have tried has been a failure because a result of my own lack of effort or lack of desire for the experience. On the flip side, I have somewhat of a green thumb when it comes to house plants, and I love growing and caring them. My dad couldn’t grow a houseplant to save his life and had no interest in them. My mom, on the other hand, would take plants that were on their last legs and nurse them back to health and make them flourish, and I learned a lot from her.

It’s exciting to think that this time next month we’ll be in England and beginning our exploration of the Cotswolds – we grow more excited each day! Our plans for what we’re doing after England have been set as well, at least as much as possible for now, and we’re very excited about those as well. There will be a post up about our plans on Tuesday.

I hope you all had a great week, and had loads of good things happen for you. Here’s to a wonderful next week for all of us!

A recent summer portrait of the grands – can’t wait to see these two again!

Sunday Morning 7/28/2019: Week 11 in Portland

We were expecting cooler temperatures out at the coast, but it was sunny and hot both days. We saw a whale while we were checking out this view south to Newport from the Devil’s Punchbowl!

What a great week we had! Our getaway out to the coast was everything we hoped for and more – it was so wonderful being by the ocean again. The weather was perfect, we saw and did almost everything we had planned and ate some great food, and the B&B we stayed at exceeded every expectation. Time was our nemesis though – even though we were there midweek, because of the abundant summer visitors everything seemed to take a bit longer than expected, from finding places to park, to the occasional traffic slow downs on Highway 101, to waiting in line at several places, and we ended up having to leave to go back to Portland before visiting Cannon Beach (which would have been crazy with crowds anyway).

It’s almost hard to believe that we have less than five weeks to go in Portland (we fly to England on August 31). Our break here has also been everything we hoped for, but we are feeling a bit restless and ready to move on. We’ve asked ourselves again and again while we’ve been here if we could live here again, but even though the weather has been great this time and we’ve loved staying over on the west side of the city, and have done fine without a car, we know what the gloomy winters are like and remember how we felt about that last December when we were here. Portland has also become quite expensive (gas costs more here than it does on Kaua’i!). We love, love, love this city but we know we would become unhappy again if we came back permanently. 

One thing we figured out from the trip though was that if we ever buy a car again it will be a Prius. The car was very comfortable, Brett said it handled well and was easy to drive, and the gas mileage! Our two-day drip covered over 350 miles and only used around a half a tank of gas (mileage was around 56 mpg). We’re sold!

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m still working my way through The Path Between the Seas. As with every David McCullough book, there’s so much detail but it’s fascinating. I never knew, for example, that the French tried to build a canal in Panama first, and what a failure that turned into (for many reasons) or that for a long time Americans were convinced Nicaragua was the idea location for a trans-Central American canal. I finished one of the Andrea Camilleri mysteries and was getting ready to start a second but another David McCullough book, Truman, came off hold from the library so I’ve started that so I can get it back on time – it’s huge.
  • Listening to: It’s another typical quiet Sunday morning here. Brett is rustling around in the kitchen and listening to a show on his iPad, but otherwise it’s nice and quiet. Yesterday we woke up to the sound of rain which was a surprise, but it was gone by the afternoon. It’s quite cool this morning though – delightful to me, but chilly for Brett.
  • Watching: We normally don’t watch TV, but it’s been fun having it this summer. We’re almost to the last available episode of the Father Brown series, and we finished all of the Midsomer Murders episodes this past week, so we’ve been looking for something new to watch in the evenings. We watched an episode of The Good Place last night and will see how it goes. We sadly did not get to see the last episode of Big Little Lies last Sunday because HBO had disappeared from our cable lineup! We read the synopsis of the episode so know what happened but it would have been far more satisfying to have been able to watch it.
    Ripe peaches and strawberries were available at the farmers’ market this past week!
  • Cooking: I’m fixing stir-fried pork and cabbange for our dinner tonight (using one of the last CookDo sauces we brought back from Japan) which we’ll have over cauliflower rice. This week we’ll also be having Thai curry chicken, Cobb salad, tuna melts (open face for me), and our Friday evening pizza (sausage and artichoke). We plan to stock up on more berries and peaches at the farmers’ market and continue enjoying fruit parfaits for dessert as long as we can!
    Parfaits with all the fruit!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Brett got us to and from the coast without going over our Zipcar alloted time and mileage which was quite an accomplishment. We took a couple of very winding and loopy back roads to save miles on the way home, but the scenery more than made up for it. Before we left for the coast I found a decent airfare and schedule for YaYu’s trip over to England in October and purchased those tickets. I also booked two (very affordable) walking tours for us to take with her in London: one exploring the Notting Hill neighborhood, and the other a special behind-the-scenes look at the changing of the guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace. We’re also going to visit Oxford the day before YaYu leaves, and I reserved a B&B there for night so we can get her on the train to Heathrow early in the morning. I filled out my goals card for the week, only missing two days of Japanese study while we were out of town.
  • Looking forward to this week: Meiling and her boyfriend will be arriving on Saturday for an overnight stay before heading up to Canada for a week’s vacation with K’s parents! We can’t wait to see her (and K) again. I also have two lunch dates with friends next week and am really looking forward to both of those as well. I see the doctor tomorrow morning and will find out whether my low carb lifestyle this summer has had any affect on my weight, and will get set up for my annual mammogram and cholesterol check, and get my prescriptions renewed for the year as well. Brett and I may visit the art museum this week, but we may also wait until the following week – we’re not sure yet. 
    The Channel House B&B in Depoe Bay sits on a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean. Each room or suite has a private deck or balcony with a jacuzzi. A scrumptious breakfast buffet of freshly baked pastries, fresh fruits and other goodies is included each morning.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Fresh Oregon peaches showed up at the farmers’ market this week – they have been so sweet and good! And, there were strawberries available again too! While we thoroughly enjoyed every moment of our getaway the best part was our stay at the Channel House B&B in Depoe Bay. It was a dream come true for me as I have wanted to stay there forever, but it was either too expensive for us or we had kids along before so it never happened. Soaking in the jacuzzi out on our private deck while we sipped wine and watched the sun set was an absolutely sublime experience, as was falling asleep to the sound of the waves hitting the rocks below. The breakfast in the morning was pretty wonderful too. We loved getting to spend time once again in Manzanita, and Brett was thrilled to once again enjoy a big dish of Tillamook ice cream (old-fashioned vanilla and Oregon strawberry). Our apartment was actually cool when we arrived back in Portland, a nice surprise as we were expecting it to be stifling.
    We found the chidori plate on the left in Manzanita; the one on the right we bought in Japan.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We spent very little during our getaway other than indulging ourselves at dinner on Wednesday night. The only purchases we made were some cheese, sausage and smoked salmon in Tillamook, and some salt water taffy for the girls and a small Japanese plate from another favorite shop in Manzanita – we bought it because it goes with two we bought in Japan. We had to throw out a bag of coleslaw mix that went bad while we were away, but otherwise we ate all our leftovers and made some headway using up the condiments in the fridge. We put $6.41 into the change/$1 bill bag.
    So thankful to be blessed with Brett as my partner.
  • Grateful for: He makes me coffee every morning; he carries the laundry up and down the stairs to the laundry room and then helps me fold it when it’s done; he does the dishes and cleans the kitchen at night; he does all the driving and tracks the balances on our Trimet cards; he tallies our spending every day and checks our walking distance; he takes care of all sorts of odd little errands; and he stops and listens whenever I want to talk about our future or make plans. I’m so very thankful (and blessed) for everything Brett contributes to make my life easier and more meaningful these days!
    Scallops cooked in garlic butter with fresh, lightly steamed vegetables = the perfect seafood meal for me!
  • Bonus question: What’s your favorite seafood? I love, love, love shellfish of all kinds (and am thankfully not allergic to any of it). Lobster and king crab are okay, but I am a bottomless pit when it comes to peel ‘n’ eat shrimp. I always felt sorry for those places that used to sell “all you can eat”  because I could do some major damage to their supply. I love oysters (both raw and cooked), mussels, and clams too. When we lived in Maryland I couldn’t get enough steamed blue crab when they were in season – I would love to eat some of those again some day as well as some soft-shelled crabs. Although I hated them as a child, I now love scallops, and also like squid and octopus. As for fish, I prefer white-fleshed seafood and also love ahi, but am not a big fan of salmon, although I do love it smoked (actually I love just about anything smoked). My favorite fish dish these days is grilled fish tacos – yum! It’s kind of strange but I don’t care for fresh-water fish (trout, bass, catfish, etc.), and never have even though I’ve tried to like them many times.

Our time in Portland has moved along at a nice pace, but I’m wondering now if it’s going to start feeling like the days are flying past. We’ve done almost everything we wanted and planned to do while we are here but things always seem to crowd up at the end, whether it’s getting something done or seen or using up the food on hand. We’ll see.

I hope this past week was a great one for everyone, and that you have plenty to look forward to in the week coming up!

Sunday Morning 7/21/2019: Week 10 in Portland

On Tuesday the Portland sky carried a blanket of clouds. It looked like rain was approaching, but it never arrived.

Although we have been enjoying our time in Portland and will miss it when we leave, both Brett and I noticed that we are both starting to feel a bit restless. We have five more weeks here before we leave for England, and several things we still want to do, and people we want to see before we take off, but we can just now feel and see the end of our stay approaching, and the changeover to travel mode beginning.

The view while we enjoyed our coffee at Pioneer Square on Friday (I actually had blueberry iced tea – yummy!).
Another one of Portland’s iconic downtown churches – this is First Presbyterian, built in 1890.

This week we had planned to visit the Oregon Zoo, but a timely comment from reader Emilee about the zoo’s current renovation (almost half the zoo is closed) plus the cost for admission made us change our minds, and we instead decided to visit the Portland Art Museum this past Thursday. That didn’t happen either – there was a special event going on that day and the museum closed early! We also decided that in the end we were better off not spending on that either – we are heading out to the coast this week, and now have a few extra dollars in our pockets for that outing. The museum will still be here when we get back.

Otherwise it’s been quite a nice week. I had my bridge prep done on Wednesday morning, and I now have a big gap right in the middle of my lower teeth – so attractive (not). I go back on August 13 for my cleaning, and my final appointment will be on August 21, when the bridge will be set. Somewhere in the next week or so I will go in to have my teeth whitened – the gel forms are being made now (I had impressions done for those Wednesday) and they will call me when they are ready. I will be so glad to get all of this work done, although I do not want to think about what the total cost is going to be (thankfully the cleaning is free).

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished two books this past week: Doctored: The Disillusionment of an American Physician by Sandeep Jauhar, and The View from Flyover Country by Sarah Kendzior. Doctored was a good read, and along with the author’s story gave an insightful overview about how screwed up health care is in our country. There’s lots of blame to go around, but it is a mess. The View from Flyover Country is a series of essays about where we are as a country right now and how we got there, as viewed from the bottom up. It was a compelling read. Next up I have three mysteries by Andrea Camilleri, all set in Sicily, and The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 by David McCullough. I love his writing – he makes any topic he takes on fascinating.
  • Listening to: It was noisy outside early in the morning – I think the family (with young kids) downstairs was was getting ready to go somewhere – but it’s delightfully quiet now. I’m sipping my cup of coffee (I’m down to one cup a day now) while Brett is doing stuff in the kitchen. After several days of cool-ish weather, it’s going to be hot today, in the upper 80s, so it’s a day for staying quiet. Actually, the whole week is supposed to be hot.
  • Watching: Tonight is the season finale of Big Little Lies – last week closed on an interesting note so we’re looking forward to seeing how it ends tonight. We’re also still watching Father Brown and the new-to-us seasons of Midsomer Murders. Father Brown’s little parish sure has a lot of murder going on, but nothing compared to the blood that’s still being spilled in Midsomer County.
    Peach parfaits were a treat this past week.
  • Cooking: I went through the freezer and cupboards yesterday to assess what we have on hand and what needs to get eaten when so that we can use everything up before we go. This morning we had omelets stuffed with the last of carnitas from this past week, and tonight we’re having sautéed peppers and onions with Italian sausages. We’re looking forward to eating some tasty seafood out at the coast, but other meals here this week will be Snake Alley zoodles (which didn’t get made last week), mabo dofu, and our Friday night pizza, probably bacon blue cheese burger.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got my entire goals card filled in, and am especially happy that I got in six days of walking this past week. Otherwise we had a pretty normal week, just taking care of the usual stuff.
  • Looking forward to next week: Both Brett and I are excited about our little getaway to the Oregon coast. We reserved a Zipcar for two days, and are going to leave town heading south to have lunch in Yachats, one of our favorite towns, and then driving up to Depot Bay, where we’ll have dinner and spend the night. The next day we’re going up to Tillamook, for ice cream, cheese and sausages (from the Tillamook Creamery and the Blue Heron French Cheese Company). Afterwards we’ll head north to Manzanita (our favorite beach town) and finally stop in Canon Beach before turning in to go home.
    We enjoyed another wonderful Old People’s Happy Hour with friends on Friday, this time at Jake’s Famous Crawfish.
    Jake’s has been serving seafood in Portland since 1892.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We did another Old People’s Happy Hour with friends Julie and Ken on Friday afternoon, this time meeting up at Jake’s Famous Crawfish. It was nice enough for us to sit outside to eat, and we talked for nearly three hours – Julie and Ken are getting ready to become nomads at the end of the year so we had lots to discuss. The food at Jake’s was pretty terrific too. We went downtown a couple of hours earlier and enjoyed walking around and having coffee at Pioneer Square. Before Ken and Julie arrived at Jake’s we chatted with a lovely couple from New Jersey who were sitting at the next table – they were also nomads, and currently on the road visiting all the lower 48 states and Canada!
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: Brett patiently waited almost all summer for the Nordstrom anniversary sale which began this past Friday, and finally bought himself a pair of Olu Kai flip flops, saving 25%. Olu Kai’s are not cheap, but they wear like iron and will last him several years (mine from 2016 are still going strong in spite of daily wear for two years in Hawai’i). I stuck to my shopping list and only bought a small jar of moisturizer and a pair of tights at the sale. We had four no-spend days this week, and put $9.73 into our change/$1 bill bag. Once again, no food was thrown out and all leftovers were eaten.
    Japanese calligraphy requires daily practice, doing the same brush strokes over and over. The one is the lower left corner is the best one.
  • Grateful for: I am so thankful Brett discovered and has been able to continue studying shodō (Japanese calligraphy) this summer. It’s challenging for him – shodō is always done with the right hand only, and Brett is left-handed – but he shows improvement every week, and best of all he is enjoying the challenge and learning both stroke technique and Japanese characters. He was able to purchase a smaller brush yesterday which will help give him more control. Some of the things he previously liked to do have become more difficult for him this summer, like hiking (his joints hurt more these days so long hikes are difficult) and calligraphy has been a great way for him to pour his energies into something else. 
  • Bonus question: Were you ever a smoker? Oh yes. I started when I was 18 and went away to college – I thought smoking was so cool, and my dad was a heavy smoker (four packs a day) so I was very accustomed to it. Over the 15 years I smoked, I eventually got to where I was a pack-and-a-half/day smoker. I could quit for long stretches, like when I was pregnant and when our son was little, but eventually would go back during those years – all it took was one puff and I would be hooked again. Brett also smoked, and when he was in the navy and we were both smoking we used to buy three cartons of generic menthol cigarettes every payday, back when a carton cost just $5, although $15 out of our paycheck was a good piece of change back then. I quit for good on January 15, 1984 and Brett quit a year later. Quitting was one of the most difficult things I have every done. I got through it a day at a time, but it took years before I knew the addiction had truly died. For the first couple of years after I quit I took the money I/we would have spent on cigarettes and purposely bought or did something we could not have afforded otherwise – that really drove home what a waste the habit had been.

Finally, an announcement: I will be taking this week off from writing as we’ll be out of town for a couple of days, but I also feel like I need a little break from the blog. I’ll be back next Sunday though.

I hope everyone had a lovely week, and had lots of good things happen as well as having good books to read, tasty food to eat, and got lots accomplished. I’ll see you next week!

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

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

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

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

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

This morning I am:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This morning I am:

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

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

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