Sunday Morning 9/11/2022: Down & Out in Tennessee

We celebrated the Mid-Autumn Festival (sometimes called the Moon Festival) yesterday with mixed nuts mooncakes for dessert.

I didn’t think I would be posting today, but we ended up having to cancel our getaway this weekend due to illness. Last Monday evening I came down with a very heavy cold. I was sure (and scared) I had caught Covid but daily tests all week have been negative. And, while I felt beyond miserable for a couple of days with a sore throat and stuffy head I never had a fever, headaches, or other aches and pains that might have been present with Covid. I did get to spend two full days though doing nothing but blowing my nose, sneezing, and feeling absolutely awful. We had pretty much decided we wouldn’t be able to go away this weekend but by Wednesday evening I thought maybe I was well enough to go ahead with our trip. However, just as I was feeling better M wasn’t, and on Thursday morning she came down with the same miserable cold and we ended up canceling and/or rescheduling everything for the end of October (her Covid tests have all been negative as well). Truth be told, all of us are feeling sort of grateful the trip didn’t happen as the weather this weekend has been very, very rainy and we most likely would have been miserable and not able to see and do as much as we had planned.

The big reason we’re in Tennessee. We’re glad we could help M when she was sick, and we love having K stay with us as well.

K stayed with us Thursday afternoon through Saturday so M could rest and get well enough to care for her. As always, we enjoyed having her with us. Yesterday morning we took her and M to the Morning Glory Orchard to pick up some treats, but it was pouring rain so we didn’t stay long. We were surprised by how many people were there in spite of the rain, and felt lucky to get some of their apple cider doughnuts before they sold out.

Cider doughnuts, fresh apple cider, a caramel apple, and a bag of fresh-picked apples too were our treats from the Morning Glory Orchard. The doughnuts were almost gone when we got there.

Anyway, the past week was mostly a full-on mess with either me or M sick and things having to be cancelled or changed at the last minute. Our Thursday night hotel reservations in Asheville were non-refundable, so that was a wash, but we were able to reschedule our Airbnb reservation for late October . . . for an additional cost (which we’ll split with M). It was either pay that or give up the amount we’d already paid, but October and November are peak leaf-viewing time and the weather should be better so we may come out ahead in the end. The Airbnb was almost booked solid for October and most of November, so I felt fortunate to be able to rebook at all. The Biltmore House tickets are thankfully open ended so all we have to do is call them later to change the date and time.

Someone in the warehouse chose this package to send us, but it’s for a completely different model of credenza than the one we ordered (the Carta) so we’re still back at square one.

We also had a bit of momentary excitement when we received an unexpected box from Burrow (there was never any tracking notice) and thought the missing credenza parts had finally arrived. It was credenza parts all right, but for a completely different model than what we already had! So, now we have two big boxes of unusable furniture parts taking up space in our living room. The correct box is supposedly being shipped this week, and FedEx will pick up the box in the picture above tomorrow. I am trying to stay hopeful, and have received apology after apology from Burrow, but we are about at the end of our rope with whole mess.

Anyway, this morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) All the coffee giveaway packages were packed up and mailed off to the winners on Tuesday! Congratulations again to the winners. 2) Even though I was sick, I reorganized our pantry on Tuesday so that things are easier to find and access. We had been putting things in there somewhat randomly and it was getting near impossible to find and get things out, or even remember what we had in there at times. The pantry we have now is about 1/2 the size of the one we had on Kaua’i so it’s been challenging, but I’m grateful we have a pantry at all because there is so little overall storage space in the kitchen. 3) Although I now have to wait a couple of weeks because of my cold, I have an appointment to get my next Covid booster. Brett got his this past Tuesday.
  • What we’re looking forward to this week: We’re expecting a somewhat quiet, normal week and are grateful for that. I plan to get my TN driver’s license, and we want to take Kai to the vet, but otherwise we have nothing on our calendar.
A Japanese-American Labor Day feast! That’s iced tea in the glass, not scotch.
  • What we ate and how we exercised: I didn’t get a lot of exercise this past week for obvious reasons. Other than Sonic burgers and shakes one evening, meals stayed small and healthy: teriyaki chicken along with corn, sautéed mushrooms, and broccoli that M prepared for us on Labor Day (so delicious!); a roasted pepper, onion, and Italian sausage pizza; Trader Joe’s Kalua pork spring rolls and coleslaw; beef Polish sausage sandwiches, tater tots, and cucumbers; and BLTs and chicken noodle soup soup. Brett and I agree one of the best things we did when we moved here was buy an air fryer – it has been making meal prep so easy for us.
  • The ways we saved: This was not the best week for frugality because of the trip cancellations, but I’ll take the small wins we did have. 1) Brett bought allergy meds for me at Costco this week, some pumpkin streusel muffins for our trip and future desserts (they’re currently in the freezer), and we bought a few things at the orchard, but otherwise we had a no-spend week. 2) We didn’t put anything into the change/$1 jar. 3) No food was thrown out this week.
  • Good things that happened: 1) The two Camille Izumi Page prints arrived from Kaua’i and were framed and hung. They are as beautiful as we hoped and it feels good to have something Hawaiian to look at every day. 2) The new chair pads I ordered on ETSY also finally arrived this week. We gave our old cushions to our DIL but then it turned out our new dining room chairs needed cushions as well. The seller’s work is impeccable but her shipping game left much to be desired. 3) My (delayed) high school 50th reunion was held this weekend, and a friend that attended sent me the link for the class book that was created so I could see where classmates were and what they’ve done over the years. We’ve sadly lost a few classmates, and there were several others who were missing from the book (including me), but I had fun looking back and remembering.

The death of Queen Elizabeth was always inevitable, but feels almost impossible and I’m still having trouble believing she is no longer with us. While Elizabeth was never my queen. she became queen the year I was born and was crowned the next year, and with her death a constant in my world has been lost. She was a remarkable woman who took her role seriously and led a truly admirable life of service right up until the end. My childhood career goal was to marry Prince Charles and follow Elizabeth as the Queen of England, but Camilla will now get to fill that role. SIGH. Talk about playing the long game.

It’s been a while since I’ve felt this glad about being done with a week, but both Brett and I are ready to get on to the next. Being laid up did allow me to finish two books, but otherwise it was time I’m mostly happy to have behind me. Here’s to a good, productive week full of good things coming up!


Sunday Morning 9/4/2022: Heading Towards Fall

(Sorry for the delay today – my publish function didn’t want to cooperate!)

We have a winner, or rather three of them! Using the Random Name Picker, the first place winner for a bag of Mexican flavored coffee is Carol, second place is Beautea97, and third place is Linda from Practical Parsimony! Congratulations to all! As soon as I hear from Carol with her choice of coffee flavors, I will contact Beautea97 for her choice between the remaining two, and then Linda will receive the flavor that’s remaining. Thank you so much to everyone who entered – it took me quite a while to get all the entries loaded into the Name Picker!

Pumpkins were ripening at the Morning Glory Orchard

Fall arrives this month! Other than our time in Europe in 2018 and 2019, this will be our first sustained fall season in quite a while. There were seasonal changes in Hawaii, but they were subtle and we had to pay careful attention to notice and enjoy them. I’m genuinely looking forward to some cooler weather and also fixing some heartier meals and soups. We’re going to “upgrade” our tiny patio in the next couple of weeks; that is, find a couple of inexpensive patio chairs and something to go up against the railing so Kai can’t escape. We want to be able sit outside the next couple of months to enjoy the cooler weather and watch the leaves on the trees behind us change.

The wait for our credenza continues. No one, neither FedEx nor Burrow, knows what happened or where the missing package is. Burrow has been very good about communicating with me and I could tell this past week they were almost frantic about the situation. They finally decided to ship another whole unit to us and pick up the half credenza we currently have. Brett and I thought about canceling the order but we like everything about this piece of furniture – the style, quality, wood, and price – and we are willing to wait for a new one. I’m of course unhappy about the delay, but Burrow has stayed on top of it and communicated regularly while they tried to figure out what happened.

We aren’t doing anything this Labor Day weekend, but next weekend, along with M & K, we’ll be going on a short road trip to western North Carolina. We’re leaving on Thursday after we pick up K from school, spending the night in Asheville, then visiting Biltmore House and Gardens on Friday morning (in two groups so that someone remains outside with Kai). Friday afternoon we’ll drive over to Grandfather Mountain and walk across the mile-high Swinging Bridge, then head up to Boone where we’ve rented a lovely Airbnb for two nights. Saturday morning we’ll drive some more of the Blue Ridge Parkway and visit Blowing Rock and the Blue Deer Bakery before heading back to Boone for the evening. We’ll leave to come home on Sunday morning. There won’t be a Sunday post next week; I will catch up on Monday.

This morning I am thinking about:

Kai calmly sat outside the entire 45 minutes it took for Brett to get his driver’s license. He wagged his tail for everyone but otherwise was pretty shy. He’s getting his fur cut in a couple of weeks as he’s starting to look shaggy.
  • What we accomplished: 1) Brett got his Tennessee driver’s license last week. I was supposed to get mine at the same time, but it took Brett 45 minutes (while Kai and I waited outside) so I will get mine this week. I tried to make an appointment, but the first opening was November 1, so I’ll just have to stand in line and wait my turn. 2) We visited the Morning Glory Orchard on Thursday and had a great time there as well as a wonderful drive through the countryside (and also learned a couple of new things about the area). 3) I finally got around to filing a claim with our insurance for the medication I bought over the counter while we were in Mexico. Lots of paperwork and copies, but it’s on its way. 4) Otherwise, there were no big accomplishments this past week except to plan our getaway, which was fun. Hot weather or thunderstorms kept us mostly indoors, so much reading and relaxing got done, and a very cute little dog was played with and walked.
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: Brett’s parents, grandparents, and other ancestors came from the area we’ll be visiting in North Carolina. I’ve heard much about it over the years and am excited about finally getting to see this part of his past. Brett hasn’t been back since he was in high school so he’s excited to revisit as well, and we think our DIL and K will enjoy Biltmore House, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and seeing some of the Great Smokies.
Peaches and blueberries are a wonderful combination in a pie!
  • How we ate and exercised last week: I decided I really didn’t want to do a separate post about our eating and exercise, and thought I could fit something into the Sunday post instead. I am so thankful these days to have a Trader Joe’s nearby – it has made cooking and healthy eating so much easier, especially since it’s just the two of us now. ALDI has helped as well. This past week we ate vegetable pizza; smoked pork sliders with four-bean salad; smoked pork tacos; spinach and artichoke quiche; meatloaf, mashed potatoes, and sautéed broccoli; and a whole bunch of leftovers for both lunches and dinner. I had a Goo Goo Cluster for my dessert on three evenings, and otherwise we enjoyed either a small bowl of Tillamook Peaches & Cream ice cream or some of the blueberry-peach pie I made on Thursday (it was supposed to be a peach pie, but the peaches didn’t fill the pie crust so I added blueberries). We ate a lot of fruit during the week as well, including apples, peaches, blueberries, and bananas. Somewhat cooler weather has meant more walking! Brett regularly gets over 10,000 steps a day walking Kai, and I’ve been joining them now that things are cooling off. So far we’re sticking to the paths and trails around our apartment complex. There’s still lots of room for improvement, but we’re on our way.
  • The ways we saved: 1) We finished up our September food shopping in August with a trip to Costco this past week so we could avoid paying sales tax. The total bill at Costco was $150 less than what I was expecting because I still calculate with Hawaii prices on my mind. We’re now stocked up for September other than picking up more produce at some point. 2) Other than Costco, a tank of gas, and our trip to the orchard we had a no-spend week. Gas prices at our Costco are now $3.24 a gallon. 3) We put $2.50 into the change/$1 bill jar. 4) I’d like to say we didn’t throw away any food, but all the produce we had put on the top shelf in our refrigerator one day froze and had to be tossed. Lesson learned though.
It’s got a weird name, but a Goo Goo Cluster has it all as far as I’m concerned: peanuts, caramel, nougat, and chocolate in perfect proportions.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) M brought back a box of Goo Goo Clusters for me from her trip last weekend. I’m not sure how she knew I like them (more like love them) and while they’re now smaller than I remember they were just as good as I remember. 2) Brett’s sister and husband will be joining us for Christmas! They want to see the girls and our son and the grandkids, so will be driving over from Texas and staying in a nearby hotel. There is going to be a lot of people here for meals and other family gatherings (all smushed into our small apartment) and M and I are already starting to think about and plan for that. 3) I got weighed at the doctor’s office and was happy to learn I gained only eight pounds since we left Hawaii in May. Otherwise everything is good, and medications and other tests have been set up (it’s my year for a colonoscopy – ugh). The vertigo I suffered from in Mexico seem to have been caused by allergies (it’s all but disappeared now) so I know what to do now to take care of that.

We have been horrified and sickened by the discovery of all the stolen top secret (and higher classification) documents at Mar-a-Lago. Watching this unfold is like watching a horror film in some ways. Brett held a top secret clearance with secret access during part of his time in the navy, and if even one of the documents he handled had been left out, even in a locked, secure room, he’d probably still be in jail. Seeing so many top secret and classified documents strewn about and learning how many were taken to Florida has been sickening. We are dreading what we’re going to know by the time this investigation is over, and how much our country and its secrets have been compromised.

That’s a wrap for this week! I hope everyone has been enjoying this Labor Day Weekend, whether that’s spending time with family and friends, or just relaxing with a good book. This long, hot summer is finally coming to an end and before we know it sweater weather will be upon us (and pumpkin spice everything, if that’s your thing). We’ve got lots to look forward to next week, and I hope everyone reading does as well!

Sunday Morning 8/28/2022: Everything In Place

The apartment complex is beautifully landscaped; there are colorful flowers and plants everywhere.

All the little stuff is done, there is no more cardboard waiting to be recycled, and my Amazon shopping cart is finally empty. The only thing we’re still waiting on is the second half of the credenza. We received word last Monday that a replacement box was on its way, but all the tracking number showed was that FedEx hasn’t picked it up from the factory, the same thing that happened the first time. I contacted the company, and suddenly the tracking changed to show it was going to be delivered yesterday. It never showed up so we have no idea what’s going on nor does the furniture company. FedEx has been nothing but a pain since we moved here, so I’m not entirely sure why I’m surprised but this time it’s especially disappointing, and once again we’ll be going back and forth with the furniture company to get things made right. Otherwise, we’re enjoying our apartment although it can be a bit gloomy at times, especially if the skies are overcast – the woods behind us are pretty to look at but block much of the light that would otherwise be streaming in. We’ll get more light in the winter when the leaves are off the trees. Also, vultures – vultures – seem to love the top of our building for some reason. They creep me out!

Vultures on the top of our building drying their wings after a storm. They’re HUGE (and ugly) and creepy.

What a week for Kaipo! It began with him having accidents all over the apartment, but occasionally he would hit one of the many training pads we had placed throughout the apartment. By mid-week he was using one of them consistently and on Thursday we were down to needing just one pad out and Kai was letting us know when he needed to go outside. He’s had a couple of accidents since then, but he’s almost there with his house training. He has been a delight overall though, affectionate and well behaved with everyone, although he gets almost over-excited whenever K comes over. He eats well on a schedule, and easily goes into his crate at the end of the day and sleeps through the night (but gets up super early, like a baby – thank goodness Brett is an early riser). All his toys get pulled out every morning (the long stuffed dog seems to be a particular favorite) and he seems mostly happy to chew on them versus anything else around the apartment. He’s honestly everything we hoped for and we’re enjoying him so much.

Teaching Blue Dog who’s the alpha.

We’re planning to take a two to three day trip to Western North Carolina in early September, when M has some comp days coming up. We’re going to visit Biltmore House in Asheville, drive some of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and also spend some time in Blowing Rock, the area Brett’s family comes from. We’ll visit the Shiloh National Military Park, located about two hours away to the southwest, later in the month. We’d also like to visit to Mammoth Caves National Park, but that will have to wait until early October. A visit to Carnton is on Brett’s and my list for September as well. We’re saving Nashville places for when the family is here in December.

Thank you to all who have been entering the giveaway for your lovely comments! All are appreciated and enjoyed. The coffee giveaway is open until this coming Friday at midnight, and you are welcome to enter every day until then to increase your chances of winning.

This morning I am thinking about:

The job of putting up these two Command rails in our bedroom to create this picture rail took a while. We’re so pleased with how it turned out though that we’re going to make another one for the rest of our pictures.
  • What we accomplished: 1) The apartment is finally set up, everything but the credenza. Most of our pictures/art have been hung although a few of the pictures we moved still need new mats. Once that’s done we plan to put up another Command picture rail – we love how the one Brett put up this past week turned out. He had to do a LOT of measuring to get it straight and centered but it looks great. 2) We finally got the items we bought for YaYu in Mexico sent off, and also (finally) sent a package of family documents to my brother in Australia (mail to Oz was blocked when we left Hawaii). 3) I located a physician (internist) and have my first appointment with her this coming week to get checked out and get my prescriptions renewed. Brett is still looking for his doctor. 4) We did our first bit of local discovery/tourism, visiting the nearby Carter House, and can’t wait to get out to see more of what’s in our area. 5) We reached some big puppy goals this past week.
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: Other than my doctor’s appointment we have nothing on our calendar this coming week. K’s riding the bus home from school was not working out, so we now drive over to the school in the afternoon to pick her up. It’s a easy, scenic trip, and the school has the actual pick-up incredibly well organized.
  • How we saved: 1) We’ve turned off the A/C for the most part and are using the ceiling fans instead; there’s only been a few times where we’ve had to turn the A/C back on, and then only for a short while. We’ve also been running the dishwasher every other night. Our utility bills for August came in and although they were only for a half month they were much lower than we expected and we’d like to keep things that way. 2) We have a full pantry, fridge, and freezer and still have half of our monthly grocery funds left. 3) We put $13.16 into the change/$1 bill jar. Our savings focus has segued to putting away as much as possible for what will happen after Nashville.
This is one of the Camille Izumi Page prints I bought. Her paintings always remind me of our girls, their swimming, and how much they ended up loving Hawaii.
  • Good things that happened: 1) This past week I discovered my favorite artist in Hawaii now offers affordable and signed 8″ x 10″ prints of some of her paintings so I splurged and bought two favorites to hang in the dining room (we otherwise have nothing from all our time in Hawaii other than a small piece of coral and a small piece of driftwood that we picked up on the beach). 2) The girls and Meiling’s and WenYu’s partners bought their tickets this past week to come for a week at Christmas. They also reserved an Airbnb rental nearby. We’re all so excited that the whole family will be together this year. 3) Meiling also set up our annual family Secret Santa exchange – this year the adults will be surprising each other by filling a Christmas stocking for a randomly chosen recipient. We’ve been doing a Secret Santa exchange for years, but with us all together this year we thought we should up our game. 4) The upcoming loan forgiveness and the extended payment freeze are both good things for me, and honestly a bit of relief. The forgiveness won’t erase my balance and I will continue to make payments for a few more years, but after 22 years of paying I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. 5) We have K with us for the weekend while M is working at a project in Knoxville. We’ve been having a grand time swimming, eating blueberry pancakes, reading together, and of course playing with the puppy! K forgot to pack her swimsuit so we took her to Target on Saturday morning and one of the two remaining girls’ swimsuits left in the store was her size and 50% off – we were lucky!
It doesn’t look like much, but these two dbags from ALDI cost us half of what I expected and are filled with LOTS of good things to eat.

I am absolutely blown away by how much lower food prices are here than they were in Hawaii – I come out of every store feeling like I’ve won a prize. Last Friday I went into Publix to pick up some cilantro and some of the Kashi cereal I enjoy. Along with those two things I also picked up a box of sugar cookies from the bakery along with two containers of Tillamook ice cream (they had Peaches & Cream!!!) and two Pepperidge Farm Coconut Cakes for for our desserts this month (I made ice cream sandwiches for K with the cookies and vanilla ice cream). As I walked up to the checkout, I looked into the cart and asked myself if I really wanted to spend a fortune on this stuff and almost put it back . . . but it rang up for way, way less than I had expected because I was still in Hawaii-price mode even though I knew prices were dollars less than what they would have been there. I had the same experience at ALDI and Trader Joe’s – the amount paid at each store ended up way, way less than what I was afraid it would be (and I bought a LOT of food as well as an orchid and and two bunches of flowers at TJ’s). We still have a few things to pick up at Costco later in the month but we still have over 50% of our monthly food budget left. I can’t remember the last time that happened, or if it ever even has. The selection and choices available to us here are also still somewhat unbelievable to me – I feel like the proverbial kid in the candy store whenever I walk into a grocery store (although I do miss being able to buy CookDo).

I almost can’t believe how quickly this last week passed by, but Kai and K have kept us busy. We so happy about how much developmental progress Kai’s made in just a few days and hoping for more this week. Here’s to all having another week filled with good food, good books, and lots of good things happening.

Sunday Morning 8/21/2022: Now We Are Three

One little guy had a long, exhausting, and confusing day but still started settling right in.

We are dog owners again! We left Nashville at 6:00 am yesterday morning, and enjoyed an easy, scenic, four-hour drive up to Odon, Indiana, to meet and take possession of our new little ShihPoo puppy, Kaipo (Hawaiian for “sweetest boy”). Odon is an Amish/Mennonite farming area, and our daughter-in-law was fascinated with and thrilled to see the big farms running without electricity or motorized vehicles, horse drawn buggies and wagons, and the traditional clothing and cooking worn by members of both groups. If we were in love with Kai before we met him, we were even more in love once we set eyes on him. We spent about thirty minutes at the kennel getting acquainted with Kai, learning as much as possible about his routine, picking up all his paperwork, and making our final payment. Then it was off to the Dutchman’s Diner in Odon for a buffet lunch of homemade Amish-style cooking (we ate outside). Kai was a trooper the entire way home, considering the shock and confusion he must have been experiencing after being separated from his friends and the only home and people he’d ever known. We arrived home around 4:00 p.m., and since then Kai’s either been exploring or sleeping – currently his favorite spot is curled up next to me. He barked for the first time when Brett woke him up from a nap, has eaten a small amount and drank a bowl of water, and slept in his crate next to Brett last night. It’s going to take a few days for him to figure things out, but he’s off to a good start. Oh, did I mention we’re in love? And that he’s perfect and exactly the dog we wanted?

Scenes from yesterday’s trip to Indiana. Apparently it isn’t an official road trip for us unless there’s a big storm somewhere along the way.

Otherwise, this past week was far less hectic and messy than the one before although there were still plenty of small jobs that needed to be taken care of. We are very, very close to being done though! Our electrical outlets in the living room are working again , the screen was replaced on the door out to our patio, and some pictures were hung along with our Japanese Boys’ Day banner. The only thing still remaining to be assembled is the credenza, but only half of it showed it up last week! To say that was disappointing would be an understatement, but the company stayed in contact with us as they tried to locate the missing box, and when unsuccessful they sent a second order. We’re looking for that to arrive this coming week so we can get the task finished and our TV up off the floor.

Getting the Boys’ Day banner hung went a long way to making our apartment feel like home.

We had dinner together with our son and family on Wednesday evening and then said goodbye to him and our grandson; they departed for Japan early Thursday morning. They made it home safe and sound and are now in the process of settling into “bachelor life.” They’ll be back here in December, but for now we’re on full support duty for our DIL and granddaughter. K is an absolute character and a joy, and we are having loads of fun with her.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished this past week: 1) We took care of many small tasks this past week, especially organizing all sorts of odds and ends that were lying around and getting some pictures hung. 2) Other than the credenza, Brett finished assembling everything. 3) I used my new air fryer for the first time this past week and I love it! It’s a great solution for the two of us, and will help keep our electricity usage down (instead of always firing up the oven). I also used my new slow cooker. I liked the InstantPot, but honestly prefer the slow cooker. 4) We had a great trip up to Indiana yesterday and back to pick up Kai.
We’re looking forward to visiting Carter House and learning about the Civil War Battle of Franklin Trust.
  • What we are looking forward to this coming week: 1) Our main priority this week is getting to know our puppy, getting him used to the apartment and us, taking walks with him, playing with him, and so forth. 2) We are planning to do a first bit of local exploration this coming week: weather permitting, we’re going to explore the nearby historic downtown area of Franklin. There are some Civil War sites to check out, and the central area is filled with interesting and fun shops and restaurants. There will be no shopping for us though other than the window kind, and dining out will be limited to glasses of tea or an ice cream cone. 3) I’m looking forward to going back to Aldi at the end of the week and getting our shopping done once again without paying sales tax.
  • The ways we saved: 1) We continue to eat what we bought on our shopping trip the week before (except for getting burgers one day and having lunch in Indiana, and we still have plenty enough on hand to get us through this coming week. 2) We shopped at a local pet supply store for necessary items for Kai, and not only received a discount but a free bag of healthy treats for him. 3) Brett tracked down and will be receiving a $160 refund from the dentist he saw back in Portland in 2019 (!) and I received a $130 refund from my dentist on Kaua’i. Both amounts are going into our travel slush fund. 4) ATM charges of $15.10 for international currency exchanges while we were in Mexico were refunded to our checking account; those also were transferred into the travel fund. 5) We saved $220 by having the kennel take care of Kai’s neuter before we picked him up. His shots were also considerably less that what we would have paid at a local vet.
This kitchen rug is one of my favorite new items in the apartment.
  • Good things that happened: 1) The best thing of all was finally meeting Kai and adding him to our family! 2) I wanted to get a cushioned mat for the kitchen, but found a small rug at Lowe’s for less and bought that instead. The colors and size are a perfect fit for the kitchen and the rug makes me happy every time I see it! 3) We wanted to add a picture rail in our bedroom versus hanging individual pictures, but were wondering how we could do that without putting holes in the wall. Surprise! Command turned out to make a picture rail! I am becoming more and more amazed by the Command hook products – we also found very classy metal Command towel hangers this past week to use in the bathroom. 4) We had a full day of errands last Monday, and treated ourselves to cheeseburgers and hand-made shakes at a Sonic drive in. I’d never been to one before (or even heard of them), but they’ve been a longtime favorite of Brett’s. We enjoyed our meal and look forward to eating there again (as a treat). 5) We had some unexpected visitors in the green space behind us last Wednesday. We have now seen rabbits, deer, and loads of birds out there (lots of cardinals!), but I’m hoping a fox shows up. Skunks can stay away though.
I had to shoot the picture through the screen, but I was surprised when these two walked out of the woods right behind us and into the green space.

One thing I’ve been amazed by here is that any and every business anyone can imagine is located nearby. Besides the big and/or well-known ones (Target, Walmart, Lowe’s, Whole Foods, Talbot’s, REI, Macy’s, Belk’s, Sprouts, UPS, CVS, etc.) there appears to be every other business under the sun as well, as well as every restaurant chain one could think of. Although I’m glad to have so many choices and options available (I love that we can go to Lowe’s here instead of only having a Home Depot available, for example), it’s frankly overwhelming at times. Thankfully most of these businesses don’t tempt me in the least. One store we’ve never had nearby though is Sam’s Club and we’re thinking we might join for a year to see if we like it, especially since they’ve offered us 50% off of their annual membership fee. I love Costco, but I’ve always been curious about Sam’s Club, and it’s the same distance away from us as Costco but in the other direction. Sam’s Club’s gasoline prices are usually lower than Costco’s too (both are usually the lowest in the area, less than $3.35/gallon now, but we saw a Nashville station yesterday with regular gas at $3.19/gallon!).

That’s a wrap for this exciting past week! I hope it was as good for everyone else as it was for us. We’re exhausted but looking forward to a good rest today, and then getting more done next week. The finish line is in sight!

Sunday Morning 8/14/2022: What a Week!

The living room and dining room look out to a wooded area behind the apartment complex

I think I can safely say that we are settled, or at least very close to it. Only a couple of things are left to arrive: the credenza for the TV and Brett’s desk, but otherwise we finally have an Internet connection; the living room, dining room and bedroom are mostly put together; and the kitchen is organized with everything put away. We’ve decided though to return the rug we ordered. There’s nothing wrong with it but we thought it would be better to wait and add a rug later after our puppy is more settled. All of the stuff we mailed to Massachusetts arrived in good condition except for four items which broke somewhere along the way. It was sad to lose them but none were heartbreakers as some of our other things would have been. Finding a place for everything has been a bit of a challenge though as the apartment lacks storage (IMO) – we’ve made a few trips to Target and such this past week to pick up organizers, things like a shoe rack and hanging storage for the closet among other items in order to get everything to fit. As much as we downsized before our move, apparently we still have too much stuff.

The apartment is lovely though. We somehow ended up with an “upgraded” unit, so have wood (laminate) floors, nicer kitchen and bathroom finishes, more windows, a larger bathtub, and other things including a full-size washer and dryer. We’re on the ground floor, but for the most part the upstairs neighbors are quiet, especially compared to what we put up with back in Hawaii. The apartment’s floor plan is great, it’s a nice size for the two of us, and we’re conveniently located just across the driveway/parking from our daughter-in-law. There have been a couple of problems though – the electrical outlets in the living room have stopped working and the storage locker was keyed wrong so we couldn’t get into it – but the complex’s maintenance crew has been quick to make contact and get things fixed or at least get started on it. The air-conditioning is sublime as it’s been hot and humid since we arrived. Today’s temperature is supposed to reach 91 degrees.

I feel totally lost here though. The area and neighborhood where we live is beautifully landscaped and filled with shopping areas, but everything looks alike to me and I can’t remember where I’m supposed to turn (same for Brett at times although he mostly is oriented now). Although I think we can now get to Target, Costco, Aldi, and Trader Joe’s without assistance for everything else we don’t dare to go without the GPS turned on. Brett has also figured out how to get to and from K’s school, but she will take the school bus beginning next week so we’ll rarely need to go there.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) We picked up our car the day we arrived, and even though everything was supposedly done beforehand, the process still took nearly three (exhaustingly boring) hours! We’re extremely happy with our new car though. 2) We had several tiring days in a row of unpacking and putting things away, but got that done and all the trash that was produced disposed of. 3) Brett has had to assemble something almost daily but there are only two more pieces to go (one scheduled to arrive later today). The bed frame arrived without instructions, but after a moment of panic he laid out all the pieces, looked at them and at a picture of the bed and put it together beautifully in around three hours. At the same time he began I started assembling the shade for the lamp we purchased for the living room but I only got 2/3 of the way through by the time he finished! Brett said the lampshade assembly – 72 strips which had to be fit into the shade – was far worse than assembling the bed. I finished it the next morning though and we love the lamp! 4) We shopped at Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and Costco and have enough food to get us through until the end of the month.
  • What we’re looking forward to this week: 1) We are bringing our puppy home this coming Saturday! The kennel sent us a new video of him this past week, and he sure takes after his toy poodle dad versus his Shih Tzu mom. Other than adding a few pounds he’s fully grown and very energetic. Our DIL and K will be going up to Indiana with us to bring him home. This coming week we’ll be picking up items we’ll need for him for the journey home and after: a crate, leash, harness, collar, etc. 2) We’re looking forward to getting the last pieces of furniture delivered and getting those in place so we can finally say we’re finished. 3) We’re going to being able to relax and rejuvenate a bit this week. The last two weeks have been crazy busy and we’re ready for a rest!
We have an actual jar this time for our change and $1 bills.
  • The ways we saved: 1) Our son and DIL surprised us with a $300 Target gift card, which helped in a BIG way for the many things we needed to replace here (broom, organizers, soaps, shelf liner, etc.). 2) Food prices here are quite low compared to what they were back in Hawaii (but of course more than Mexico), and between Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and Costco got everything we needed for the rest of the month and came in right at what we had budgeted! There is normally sales tax on food in Tennessee but it’s suspended in August so we saved a bundle on that as well. 3) We had allotted $500 for gasoline for our drive from Massachusetts but spent only $272. 4) We brought along just $40 cash with us on the drive, and saved all the $1 bills and change we received back along the way and are starting off our new change/$1 bill jar with $21.72! 5) We ate free breakfasts at both hotels we stayed at, skipped lunch, and got dinner for free at the second hotel as well. We didn’t use our credit card once during the entire trip (hotels were paid for in advance).
We shopped for the first time at a U.S. ALDI and it lived up to the hype. It will be our primary grocery store.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) Two and a half long years ago we left Japan, and this past week we were finally reunited with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. We had missed them so, so much and we’re having a wonderful time with them. Our son and grandson will return to Japan next week but will be back in December. 2) Everyone we’ve met so far has been very kind and very helpful which has made this transition much easier. 3) Meiling sent us a huge box from Chewy filled with chew toys and other fun items for our puppy. 4) Everything we have purchased online for the apartment has either arrived early or on time, and in good condition. So far we love all the furniture we chose. 5) K started kindergarten this past week and had a great time. C finished up his two weeks of outdoor camp and already wants to sign up for next year!

Pretty much all that will be left to do this week is hang pictures, but that’s going to be a bit of a challenge as we’re not allowed to put any sort of nail or tack into the walls. I’ve been researching Command hooks and other products and we’ll eventually figure out which will work best. Another project for me this coming week will be to figure out my new air fryer as I hope to use it as much as possible instead of the oven to help keep our electric bill down. Otherwise, I plan to read, read, read this week.

We’re glad to finally be here and settling in, and thrilled to be with our family again. I hope everyone reading had a great week as well. Our week was a very exhausting but productive one, and we are looking forward to what looks to be a more relaxing week coming up. Here’s to more good things happening, good books, good food, and family and friends!

Sunday Morning 8/7/2022: A Quick Update

Sunset and blue hour on the way to Boston

We are on our way to Nashville today! We were up early this morning, enjoyed a wonderful free breakfast at the hotel (sausage gravy and biscuits for me!), have loaded up the van once again and will hit the road in a few minutes. Our drive today should only take around three hours (versus the eight hours we’ve driven the past two days).

Our first stop once we arrive in Nashville will be at the car dealer to pick up our new car! Once that piece of business is taken care of we’ll head to our hotel for the night and get checked in, unload the van once more, then head over to see our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. I’m so excited about that I can barely stand it!

We had a long day last Tuesday getting out of San Miguel de Allende and up to Boston, but our flights were comfortable and we actually arrived on time with WenYu and Meiling waiting for us. After we got home to WenYu’s we spent a couple of hours catching up with the girls, and then Brett and I fell into a deep sleep. I honestly did not sleep well the entire time we were in Mexico and it was wonderful to sleep so deeply again without waking up several times during the night or super early in the morning (like between 4:00 and 6:00 a.m.). I couldn’t get over the difference in how good I felt the next morning.

Good times in Massachusetts

Our two days in Massachusetts went by too quickly. On Wednesday, WenYu and I went to Trader Joe’s to pick up a few things for Brett and I to carry along on our journey. Afterwards she took us on a walk around their property (the house sits on 10 wooded acres) – such a lovely place to live! Meiling had found a box of oil paints in a free box on her street, and brought them along with her along with a couple of canvasses, so we had fun watching the girls both try oil painting for the first time. In the evening we had dinner over at WenYu’s partner’s parent’s home. We enjoyed our time with them immensely and it was obvious they adore WenYu and look out for her. Early Thursday afternoon WenYu took us over to pick up our rental van, which turned out to be not only brand new but much, much bigger than we expected. Brett loaded it with all our stuff when we got back to the house, then he and I went with the girls to a concert being held at WenYu’s workplace. The band was great, and we had a very good time at the event (WenYu had recently worked with the band to design their logo). WenYu picked up sushi for everyone on the way home for a late dinner.

If there was a downside to our stay it was that WenYu’s partner wasn’t feeling well most of the time. He has long Covid (although currently disease free) and has no energy most of the time. It’s made it very difficult for him to work or do other things. He did show us around his work spaces (some in his home, some in his parents’ home), and provided us with gifts (a t-shirt for Brett and some of his product adorned with Meiling’s and WenYu’s artwork for me, to which I will add necessary accoutrement for a Christmas gift for our grandson). We left with a much better understanding of his product and the process that goes into designing, fabrication, and then getting it to customers.

We set off early Friday morning, and made our way through five states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, stopping in Chambersburg for the night). We were up early again yesterday morning, enjoyed a delicious free breakfast at the hotel, reloaded the van, and traveled through another five states – Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, a long drive through Virginia, and finally Tennessee – stopping for the night in Knoxville. We have spent over $100 less than expected on gas, and less than $10 for food and drink while we’ve been on the road (WenYu gave us sandwiches to bring along). Breakfasts have been free at both hotels, and the hotel in Knoxville (Drury Inn) provided a free dinner as well.

There was lots of road work in MA, CT, and NY that added about an hour to our drive on Friday, but we also endured an awful rain storm in Pennsylvania for nearly an hour – we could barely see the road in front of us! Thankfully almost all the other cars and trucks put on their emergency flashers so we could see them. The roads were better yesterday but we had to drive through not one but two even worse storms, one in Virginia and one as we approached Knoxville. Both of these storms were frightening, with even heavier rain than Friday and loads of thunder and lightening, but very few put on their flashers and some didn’t even turn on their lights. Thankfully Brett is a good driver who remained calm and just kept going although we had a near miss during the final storm when a car pulling a trailer without any lights on stopped for some reason in the middle of the Interstate versus pulling over and we almost ran right into him. Thankfully Brett was able to swerve around him at the last second.

Anyway, it’s been quite the journey so far but we are ready to finally be in Nashville and start unpacking and settling in. We will meet with the property manager tomorrow morning to get the keys to our place, then will unload the van for the last time and head to Costco to purchase a mattress and TV. The van will be returned on Tuesday, and after that’s taken care of we’ll go food shopping. Our furniture will arrive on Thursday and we should be nearly settled by next weekend!

Sunday Morning 7/31/2022: Hasta Luego, Mexico!

Tomorrow will be our last full day in San Miguel de Allende. We’ll finish up packing later today and tomorrow, and enjoy a farewell seafood dinner at Mario’s Mariscos this evening. We cleaned out the refrigerator and pantry this past week and will take the pantry leftovers to our neighbor Jenny tomorrow. We leave for the airport at 8:00 am Tuesday morning, and depart later in the morning for Dallas where we’ll have a several-hour layover (and a trip through U.S. immigration and customs) before heading up to Boston. We’re flying first class on both legs of the trip, made possible by the refund we received from British Air and surprising low prices from the airline. We plan to wear our masks the whole way, and hopefully won’t have to worry too much about others either next to or around us. We’ll be fed on both legs of the trip too so maybe we can skip having to buy anything other than a cup of coffee at the Dallas airport. WenYu and her partner will meet us in Boston, no matter what time we get in, and bring us back up to their place.

We will mostly be spending our time in Massachusetts getting ourselves ready for the drive to Nashville. We’ve rented a cargo van and will be loading that up with all the things we sent from Hawaii as well as the items we ordered from Amazon. Meiling will be joining us while we’re at WenYu’s, and we’re planning to go out to dinner one evening with WenYu’s partner’s parents, and will also visit WenYu’s workplace as well as her partner’s business. He is the owner of a multi-million dollar niche firm he started when he was nine years old!

Can’t wait to see these two next week as well as our DIL! Our son and K took our grandson, C, to a two-week outdoor camp in Wyoming and then visited Grand Teton NP while they were there (C will finish camp and be back in Tennessee for a few days a week after we arrive). K discovered air dryers on their trip (they shut them down in Japan when the pandemic started), and apparently they’re now her favorite thing about the U.S.

This time next week though we’ll be in Tennessee! We’ll be having Sunday morning breakfast in Knoxville and then dinner with our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter in Franklin that evening (our grandson will still be at camp in Wyoming). After getting the keys to our apartment on Monday morning and unloading all our stuff from the van we’ll head over and pick up our new car then go to Costco to purchase a mattress and a TV. On Tuesday we’ll visit Aldi, Trader Joe’s, and Costco for groceries. Otherwise the rest of the week we’ll be unpacking, getting some furniture delivered, and spending time with the family.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • A troubling/weird thing that happened: Last Wednesday evening I realized Brett had given me the wrong street number for our address in Tennessee when I placed our delivery orders with IKEA, so I went into my account to see if I could correct the mistake. We had placed two separate orders for our furniture, but the site informed me that in order to make any changes to the address I would have to cancel and reorder everything. This was problematic because a few items were no longer available for delivery to our address. However, when I was looking at one of the orders I noticed the delivery address had been changed from Nashville to one near Baltimore! What??? I went back and checked the the other order again, and the delivery address was changed to the Maryland address while I was on that page! YIKES! I cancelled both orders immediately, and changed my IKEA password. I have no idea if the switch was done by a hacker outside of IKEA who got into my account or by someone working for IKEA who was arranging to get a whole houseful of furniture for themselves but I am so thankful I caught it and was able to stop it. I contacted IKEA and let them know what had happened but they didn’t seem too concerned which was very disappointing. IKEA refunded us immediately, but that left us with no furniture and a decision about what we were going to do. We’ve been monitoring our credit card a couple of times a day ever since to be sure it wasn’t hacked as well but so far all seems to be OK there.
It didn’t take long to get packed, and we got everything to fit!
  • What we accomplished this past week: 1) Things this past week went in a couple of directions: getting ready to pack and starting to pack as well as using up as much of the food we purchased as possible. We’ve done a good job with both and will be ready to go on Tuesday morning. We have just a couple more things left to pack. 2) Brett got our utility accounts in Tennessee set up. The only one left to take care of is the Internet, but that’s done through the apartment complex when we get our keys. 3) We found a nice furniture store near our apartment, and after our money was returned from IKEA we bought a sleeper sofa, loveseat, and dining table and chairs from them. Everything will be delivered two days after we move in, so along with a mattress we’ll be OK to start out. We also found a cabinet we liked for our TV and ordered it as well; it will be delivered right after we move in. We still need a coffee table, possibly an end table, a bed frame, dresser, and nightstands, but they can wait until we get into the apartment and take some measurements.
This is the sofa we ordered (along with a matching love seat) – it’s a light teal. When we saw it we realized how ready we were for some color after years of beige, tan, and gray. I just hope it doesn’t clash too much with the apartment’s carpet and wall color (which are tan and beige, of course).
I found this cabinet for the TV in an online shop and chose metal legs so our puppy can’t chew them (not sure how we’ll protect the wooden sofa legs though). I thought I’d be having fun looking at and buying furniture but my stomach is in knots about it, especially after the IKEA situation. We’ll have less furniture than originally planned, but the quality will be far, far better.
  • What we’re looking forward to this coming week: 1) We’re very excited about seeing Meiling and YaYu and getting to spend a couple of days with them. 2) We leave for Nashville early Friday morning; it will take us two and a half days of driving to get there but we know there’ll be some interesting things to see along the way. 3) We’re planning to have dinner with an old friend from our navy days during our time in Knoxville.
  • What we saved: 1) All we’ll be giving to our neighbor is a can of vegetable oil spray, some vegetable oil and olive oil, two bottles of vinegar, a can of tuna, and half a package of pasta. Otherwise we used up everything. 2) We stayed away from City Market this week except to pick up a bottle of Tums and several bags of the absolutely delicious dark roast cinnamon coffee we discovered there and want to take back with us to the U.S. We usually don’t care for flavored coffee but this stuff is very good and will save us from having to buy coffee right away when we arrive in TN. 3) One reason we chose the TV cabinet above is because the company offered free shipping. However, they also surprised us with a $90 discount (!) because it was our first order from them. So far we have stayed under budget with the furniture we’ve bought, and think once we’re done we’ll be right at our limit or maybe only very slightly over.

It wasn’t all leftovers and odds and ends this past week. The restaurants (and their low prices) have been our favorite thing about SMA.

  • Good things that happened: We returned to some of our favorite eateries for our last week here. For our Wednesday lunch date we went back to Turk for Mediterranean food (a beef & lamb burger for Brett, a mezze platter for me); had tasty beefsteak tacos at Tacos Mario again on Thursday; and went to Rustica one last time for our last Friday brunch (frittata for Brett, chilaquiles for me). Both of us are looking forward to having seafood for dinner tonight at Mario’s Mariscos.
Panio Bakery has provided some delicious desserts for us on many evenings during our stay in SMA.

The big unknown for me leaving SMA is not did I gain weight? but how much? We have not walked/hiked as much as we did back on Kaua’i (we both agree that walking here has been a real pain, sometimes literally) nor have we been as careful about our eating. We definitely fell under the spell of the local bakeries too. My clothes haven’t gotten tight though, and Brett says I look the same, but overall I definitely feel heavier than I did when we arrived. Oh well, we’ll be back on the wagon once we arrive in Tennessee (and are looking forward to it). One of our first tasks will be to locate the gym at the apartment complex – we’ll use their treadmills on hot or rainy days – and we also want to find other nearby walking venues and get back to regular exercise.

I won’t be posting this coming week, nor next Sunday but will be back as soon as we get moved in and connected to the Internet in our apartment. I’ve also got a giveaway planned once I get organized. Thank you to all for staying with me while we make this transition from Mexico to Tennessee – I’ll be back in a little while.

Sunday Morning 7/24/2022: Final Week In Mexico

Every time we turn down a new street in San Miguel de Allende there’s always something interesting to discover.

This coming week will be our last full one in San Miguel de Allende – a week from Tuesday we’ll be on our way to Boston. The past couple of weeks have mostly been quiet ones and we’ve spent a good deal of our time relaxing in the apartment rather than going out (except to eat and food shop). We’re ready to move on, but that being said we’ll genuinely miss being in Mexico. We’ve felt especially lucky this past week that we came here instead of Strasbourg as originally planned, and didn’t have to deal with the broiling heat there while paying twice as much as we have here for the experience. We will always love Strasbourg but this was not the summer to be there (nor maybe any summer in the future), or to be heading to Oxford in the UK.

The shelf of souvenirs

The suitcases will be coming out again and the packing will commence toward the end of the week. Because we didn’t bring any of our winter things with us both of our bags had room to spare when we arrived. We’ve bought quite a bit while we’ve here though, mainly gifts for everyone else, so our bags will be leaving San Miguel de Allende stuffed to the max once again. I’ll be carrying the most fragile items onto the plane with me but I think in the end we’ll be able to get everything to fit. Several things will be unloaded when we’re in Massachusetts but the rest will head to Tennessee (with YaYu’s gifts being mailed to Pennsylvania once we get settled). We’re happy with what we’ve bought here and really spent very little for all we got. We’ve decided to leave the bean pot behind; it’s too big to pack or carry and its cost ($5) isn’t worth the hassle of bringing it back. We sure had a good time looking for it though.

On their way to the U.S. last Wednesday! Our son was surprised by how few people wear masks in the U.S.

Our son and family are all in Tennessee! They arrived last Thursday, and our daughter-in-law moved into her apartment yesterday. She’s bought a car which will arrive next week, and they’re picking up some furniture locally and ordered other pieces for delivery. They’re doing a big sweep (or two) through Target this weekend for necessities (cookware, dishes, etc.) to get her settled as well. We’re so excited about seeing them – just a couple of weeks to go!

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished this past week: 1) We got brave this past Wednesday afternoon and stopped at a hair salon down the road from our apartment for haircuts. Brett’s hair was getting shaggy, and my curls were absolutely driving me nuts and taking too much effort each day to maintain. The salon was recommended by our neighbor, and both Brett and I came out with great haircuts. 2) I put ten books on hold at the library so I am set for the rest of the summer and fall. Two other books came off hold this week so I’ve got plenty of reading to do! 3) We did our last food shopping at City Market – I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at U.S. supermarkets in the same way again.
This view from our front door has been one of the best things about our stay in San Miguel de Allende.
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: We’re planning a relaxing week overall, even with getting started on the packing. We’ll mostly stay in the apartment to read, relax, and enjoy the view out the front door for a last few days but will also be going out to eat at a few of our favorite nearby restaurants.
Two happy customers!
  • How we saved: 1) The total price for our two haircuts was $15.72 USD (including the tip). It’s hard to determine how much we saved by getting our hair cut here versus waiting until we got back to the U.S. but it was A LOT. 2) We ate what we had on hand and didn’t buy any groceries until yesterday; nothing was thrown out. We have enough now to get us through until the end of our stay.

Lunch and brunch were at Raices and El Pegaso this past week. We have never had a meal in San Miguel de Allende that wasn’t completely delicious.

Good things that happened: 1) We had two terrific thunderstorms roll through last Sunday and Monday afternoons – both lasted for for a couple of hours and dumped a LOT of rain. I love a good thunderstorm, and the thunder and lightening from these were quite the experience. It also rained again Tuesday night, Wednesday afternoon, and Saturday afternoon (we walked to City Market with umbrellas). The storms cooled things off, cleaned out the air, and settled the dust. 2) We took neighbor Jenny to lunch at our favorite restaurant in SMA, Raices, on Wednesday. She had a horrible cold for two weeks (not Covid) and we wanted to get her out of her apartment for a little bit. The three of us ate for less than $25, including the tip, and the food was as amazing as always (cheese enchiladas for Brett, enchiladas stuffed with roast suckling pig in chipotle sauce for me (enchipotladas), and a mole taco for Jenny). 3) We finally stopped at the taco stand down the street on Thursday to try some tacos. Two plates with two beefsteak tacos, a Fanta orange soda to share, and a generous tip came to just $4.54. We’re mad at ourselves that we didn’t go sooner! 4) We had brunch again at El Pegaso in Centro on Friday. Both of us enjoyed chilis en nogada, the dish the restaurant is famous for. It was our most expensive brunch since we’ve been here: $34 USD including the tip, but very worth it.

We plan to get tacos at Mario’s again this week, maybe more than once! Both of those salsas were very spicy (but good), the green more so than the red!

I’m thankful for the creative and thought-provoking responses I received to Friday’s post about ideas for our post-Nashville life. They have given us quite a bit to think about! Brett and I really need about to two years to pull a big change/plan together, so we hope to decide on something not long after we get settled in Nashville and then get working to make it happen. It’s funny: A week or so ago I would have said relocating to Mexico was at the top of the list, but now we’re equally excited about potentially traveling with an RV or locating to Ventura County in California, or maybe even “base-hopping” around the U.S., none of which were on our radars before.

I hope everyone enjoyed a great week in spite of the heat the enveloped most of the U.S. and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up. Can’t believe it’s our last week here, but we’re going to make the most of it, whether that’s relaxing in the apartment, getting our suitcases loaded, or enjoying a meal out in town.

Sunday Morning 7/17/2022: Back At It

Thank you for indulging me with a couple of weeks off from writing. I’ve enjoyed the break, used my time wisely, and am looking forward to picking things up again. Going forward I’ll be moving the blog in a slightly different direction, with travel still playing a role but with more about retirement and figuring out the future, all along with the ups and downs of settling into a new location and what that entails.

Out and about in Centro last Friday

We only have two weeks left in San Miguel de Allende! Our attitudes about the city have been changing and we’re feeling somewhat sad about leaving while at the same time eager to see our family and get on with our lives. The hot, hot weather and altitude adjustment when we arrived as well as our apartment’s location had a strong influence on our feelings about this place, but we finally figured out we didn’t have to let those get in in the way, and are very happy we came to San Miguel de Allende.

Hyndai Tucson SEL FWD

We bought a car! The timing around our move is such that we need to pick up a car as soon as we arrive in Nashville, but we were having an absolutely awful time trying to find an available type of car we wanted (compact SUV). Dealers throughout Tennessee (and surrounding states) had few, if any, of what we wanted in stock, and what they did have were models we weren’t interested in, or ones that were out of our price range. Everything we wanted seemed to be “in transit,” with no one having any idea when new stock would arrive. Used car prices were nearly equal to those of new cars and those options were severely limited as well. The Hyundai Tucson has been one of our top choices, and week before last I checked with a dealer located near to where we’ll be living it and they were receiving a delivery of new cars this coming week! We were able to reserve the model and color we wanted, at the price we wanted as well and, unlike many of the other dealers we’d corresponded or talked with, the whole process with the Hyundai dealership was superb from start to finish. All Hyundai cars come with three years of free mechanical service (oil changes, tire rotations, etc.) and a lifetime warranty, and the Tucson is currently rated in the top in its class for compact SUVs so we’re feeling very good about this purchase.

We also got all of our furniture ordered from IKEA and it will all be delivered the two days after we take possession of our apartment. We were going to have to travel to Memphis to pick up the sofa and dining table we wanted because they were not available for delivery, but we changed those to items that could be delivered. The trip to Memphis would have been a three-hour drive each way from Nashville, a long day for us, but the cost for delivery was less than the two extra days of van rental we would have had to pay for as well as the cost of gas to get back and forth from Memphis. The delivery people will also carry everything up to our apartment, another savings in a way as IKEA packs can be very heavy and Brett was dreading having only me to help. There are still things we need to get (like a rug for the living room and lamps) but those will have to wait until the rest of our move shakes out and we see what our budget can handle and when.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • The things we accomplished: Besides the car and furniture purchases 1) I also placed a BIG order with Amazon and everything arrived at WenYu’s place in less than a week – so quick compared to how it was getting things delivered in Hawaii! The order had things like a shower curtain, cookware, a coffee maker, etc. that will help us settle in more quickly. We also bought a small soft-side cooler to bring with us on our drive down to Tennessee from Massachusetts as we plan to carry sandwiches every day for both lunch and dinner in order to save. The cooler will also be useful when we start exploring the area with our daughter-in-law and granddaughter. 3) I booked our van transportation over to the airport in Queretaro for our departure on August 2. I felt a bit sad as I made the reservation which surprised me, but it was another realization that we’ve grown somewhat fond of SMA.
  • What we’re looking forward to: 1) We don’t have a lot on our calendar these next two weeks. We’ll be going out to lunch on Wednesday, brunch on Friday, and food shopping at City Market, all things we look forward to but otherwise our days are ours to fill. 2) We’re determined to stop for tacos one day this week at the stand down the road from us. There’s almost always a crowd there so we’re thinking they’ll be pretty good.
We bought four of these glasses at less than half of what they would have cost back in the U.S.

The ways we saved: 1) Our weekly spending for food still has not topped $75 USD, and even going out to eat twice a week or picking up goodies at the bakery hasn’t broken our monthly food budget. We’ll be slowing down food purchases this next couple of weeks though to focus on using up what we have. Left over cooking oil, vinegar, and other staples will be donated to our neighbors. 2) We bought four blue-rimmed handblown glasses for 280 pesos ($13.63); the same glasses from World Market are $28. 3) We received a $500 rebate on our car purchase because of Brett’s military service. 4) By changing the sofa and dining table in our IKEA order we saved $400, and by having those items delivered we potentially saved at least another $250 (van rental extra days and gas to and from Memphis). 5) I decided not to buy the pair of silver earrings in the window of the silversmith’s down the street – I don’t need them and it’s money saved for the future. Same for another Mexican blouse I’d had my eye on.

Brunch at Cafe de la Parroquilla in Centro on 7/8 . . .

Good things that happened: 1) For our Wednesday lunch date week before last we went back to Luna de Queso (I wanted the Reuben sandwich again!), and for Friday brunch that week we visited Cafe de la Parroquilla, located in Centro. It was a great find and the food, service, and setting wonderful. This past week we tried a nearby Japanese-style restaurant, Mikka, for our Wednesday lunch date. The food was more Japanese-Mexican fusion rather than authentic Japanese but it was still very, very good. For Friday brunch we tried another new-to-us place in Centro, the Bagel Cafe. I had steak fajitas and Brett had huevos rancheros and while the food was simply prepared it was delicious and filling. We were also the only non-Mexicans in the cafe, a nice change from several of the other restaurants we’ve visited recently. 2) The weather has been much nicer these past two weeks, cool in the mornings (sometimes outright cold) but warm or even hot in the afternoon although usually never broiling like it was during our first month here (last Monday afternoon though it was back up to near 90 degrees). Thunder arrives almost every afternoon these days but not much rain accompanies it. Every little bit that falls though is welcome!

. . . and 7/15 at the Bagel Cafe (they had bagels for sale but we were too full to buy any)

I have been up and down the past couple of weeks with both good and bad days, thankfully more good than bad. This past Friday, for example, Brett and I walked all over Centro and I felt great, but the day before I could barely get myself off the sofa, let alone get dressed, with no energy and vertigo coming and going all day. I have no idea why other than I slept very poorly on Wednesday night. Thursday night though I slept soundly again (even after taking an hour-long nap in the evening) and woke up feeling like a million bucks. I can’t begin to express how much I am looking forward to sleeping on a really good mattress again once we get to Tennessee (the one here is only so-so) in an air-conditioned environment.

That’s a wrap for these past two weeks! They provided a good but productive rest, we got a lot accomplished, and we’re now very ready for our move to Nashville in just a couple more weeks (our daughter-in-law arrives this week). I hope everyone enjoyed a great couple of weeks as well and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up. Here’s to good things happening for all!

Sunday Morning 7/3/2022: 4th of July

I am really not feeling the Fourth of July this year, and not just because we’re outside of the U.S. I feel like the person on Twitter who said that this year it feels like we’re celebrating someone’s birthday while they’re in hospice. The last two weeks of Supreme Court decisions have felt almost personal as they ran roughshod over previously settled decisions, ones several of these justices swore under oath they had no intention of overriding, with the majority’s logic flipping from decision to decision (we have to do this because of history but no, history can’t be a factor with this one), etc. The more I continue to learn as well about what happened on January 6, 2021, has also been deeply unsettling. I have no idea what’s going to happen in the coming months and years, but I feel great despair about the direction our country is going and how we are already losing freedoms many fought and died for, and that we have been blessed with for so many years.

On a brighter note, we rented an apartment in Nashville and will move in the second week of August! Our daughter-in-law sent us a link early in the week indicating the available apartments at hers and our primary location choice, and we noticed that one of the one-bedroom units was not only in our price range but available for occupancy the day after we arrived in Nashville! So, we applied online, were accepted a few days later, and will now only have to stay in a hotel one night before moving in. Our idea is to unload our boxes from Massachusetts into the apartment on move-in day in the morning, then head to Costco and buy a mattress and a few other supplies so we can sleep there that night. The next day we’ll start unpacking the boxes and do some grocery and supply shopping, and then the day after that we’ll drive to Memphis and pick up our IKEA furniture and start getting that set up (Brett weirdly enjoys assembling IKEA stuff). Fingers crossed everything goes as planned, but our arrival week is going to be crazy (our DIL will also be moving into her apartment the same week). We only hope buying a car will go smoothly once we get there. We got our financing approved this past week, but so far we’ve either been quoted prices w-a-y over the MSRP or the car(s) we’re interested in are “in transit” or sold before we can complete anything and we’ve been told there could be anywhere from a 90- to 120-day wait for the next batch of cars to arrive. Sigh. We may end up buying a car when we’re in Massachusetts and bringing it down with us to Tennessee as Nashville dealers have all been a complete bust but we hope we don’t have to do that.

Some of our IKEA furniture choices.

I can’t honestly say I’ve been miserable since we arrived in SMA in May, but whether it’s been the altitude, the heat, the dry air, a lack of sleep (it can be very noisy around here during the night), occasional vertigo, or the current constant noise throughout the day (neighbors have been having their rooftop patio renovated the past three weeks and it’s been constant sawing and tile cutting going on the entire day, every day, starting at 8:00 a.m.), I just never have had my usual energy and feeling of well-being. I think I may also be/have been suffering from allergies caused by one or more of the plants in our compound. I felt bad enough one day last week (run down, sore throat, cough, and sinuses) that I took a Covid test but it came back negative so who knows what’s going on?

An unexpected afternoon rain on Friday was refreshing and cleared pollen and dust out of the air.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Getting our apartment lined up in Nashville was the big accomplishment this past week. The one we’ve rented is the same square footage as the crazy-landlord house we lived in on Kaua’i, but costs so much less each month, actually a full $1000 less a month than what he’s currently charging for rent, and the apartment comes with a washer and dryer and a dishwasher (can you guess what I’m excited about?). 2) Getting our car financing set up this past week was easy, and it’s great that whenever we finally find a car we’ll be ready to go.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am looking forward to feeling better and hopefully getting a handle on what’s been bothering me – that’s my focus now. We didn’t do the San Miguel de Allende historical tour this past week so maybe that will happen this week.
Surrealism in the sink: Peaches, plums, mango, and raspberries getting washed in an antibacterial solution. Anything that will not be peeled or that will be eaten raw gets the treatment.
  • The ways we saved: 1) We spent very little on food this week, around $75 for fruit at the frutería – mangoes, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, figs, and raspberries – and a few items from City Market following our brunch on Friday. It will all get us through the next couple of weeks except for maybe one or two more stop at the frutería. 3) We will be paying more initially but but decided we will save overall by buying a car versus leasing. We currently don’t know what we’ll be doing when we leave Nashville, and felt it would overall be better financially to own a newer car at that point rather than having to start over after finishing up a lease. The car payment will be higher than the lease payment would have been, but we plan to pay off the loan in two years. It’s sort of weird to think this is probably the last car we’ll ever buy. 4) Our son and daughter-in-law booked and paid for our hotel room in Nashville as a small treat for us – we appreciate the savings!
  • Good things that happened: 1) The kennel sent a video of our puppy this past week and Kai looks healthy, happy, and fluffy, and we love how his little tail never stops wagging. We are very excited about meeting him in August! He will be almost six months old at that point, and the kennel is going to take care of having him neutered before we pick him up. One of our first tasks once he’s back in Nashville will be to get him groomed as he’s going to be very shaggy at that point! 2) Brett and I enjoyed a tasty lunch date at Raices on Wednesday afternoon. I had the Amor Amarillo (“love yellow”): chicken, beans, and cheese inside a fresh, handmade tortilla with yellow mole sauce. A pepper leaf was grilled to the outside of the tortilla to add extra flavor – yum! I should have ordered two of them, it was so good. Brett had the enchiladas verdes I had the first time we ate there and we both repeated our previous tea and lemonade drinks. We’re already planning our next visit. 3) We also had a delicious brunch on Friday at Turk Mediterranean Street Food, another nearby restaurant. I had a beef and lamb wrap and Brett had a falafel wrap, and he got a second wrap for free because unknown to us it was “Falafel Friday” (we brought it home and shared it for dinner). We had a lovely, long chat with the owner (originally from the U.S.) while we were there and he helped us think in a different and more positive way about possibly living in San Miguel de Allende in the future. The BIG (and fun) surprise though was during our conversation the owner and I figured out we grew up about three blocks from each other! Seriously! Talk about a small world. 4) The emergency J6 hearing on Tuesday was very compelling. 5) Our daughter-in-law was sworn in this past week as an official Consul for the nation of Japan. She will receive her diplomatic passport later this month to begin her position in Nashville. We’re so proud of her!

We enjoyed some good eating last week at Raices and TURK. The culinary scene in SMA is one thing I can’t complain about – so much creative, delicious food at affordable prices. The beautiful mosaic was part of the floor at TURK.

I am going to take a few weeks away from the blog again, although I will continue to post on the Occasional Nomads Instagram page and keep up my reading list. It feels a bit like we are now marking time in San Miguel de Allende with our focus more on getting to Nashville and getting settled there for the next two years. I also feel like the direction of the blog needs to change and adapt a bit and want to think about that for a while as well, with the focus of the blog less about travel, travel, travel, and more about creating an alternative (retirement) lifestyle and making it work. Although we plan to continue traveling while we’re in Nashville (visiting Mammoth Caves & Great Smoky Mountains National Parks – with some misgivings as visitors are now allowed to bring loaded guns into National Parks – and a couple of Civil War battlefields; touring Washington, D.C. with our granddaughter and DIL; visiting Asheville, N.C.; and doing a big family reunion at Walt Disney World in 2023) Brett and I will mostly be enjoying our time with family in Nashville and setting up where we’ll be going and what we’ll be doing next. I’d like the blog to focus more about that and keep track of our steps as it will be one of the most significant changes we’ll make in our lives.

Although I might not be feeling the holiday spirit this year, I hope others are and I wish all a happy Fourth of July, and a fun but thoughtful time with family and friends. I’ll be back in a few weeks.