This weekend I will celebrate my 71st birthday. Seventy-one! I know I’m not the first person to do this and certainly won’t be the last, but for some reason the seventies do not seem as momentous as I they might be. Maybe the eighties are going to be the Big Ones?
I accept that I am old, but other than at the end of a shift at Trader Joe’s I honestly don’t think about it all that much. All things considered, I’m still in pretty darn good shape physically. Yes, I have wrinkles, mostly the result of spending my youth in a very sunny location and not using sunscreen (I don’t even know if such a thing existed). Parts of me occasionally wear out or are starting to, but backup systems work and kick in when needed. I can still do physical labor, and although I’m very sore at the end of a workday it’s taking less time for my body to rebound. I continue to enjoy walking and get out as much as possible. I eat well and am at a good weight for my age, not skinny but not overweight either.
I’m grateful to remain on top of things mentally. There are of course those senior moments when I walk into a room and forget what I wanted to do there but for the most part I get everything done every day that needs to get done. Our house is clean and the laundry gets done, the budget is followed, our grandchildren get to where they need to be or picked up on time, meals are fixed, books are read, blog posts are written, and so forth. I enjoy learning new things and still retain a sense of wonder. I am grateful to no longer have to cook, do laundry, or pick up for five, or have to drive all over the place (that’s Brett’s job now), but I do love staying active both physically and mentally.
I’m not so old either that I can’t and don’t dream about the future, or make plans for it. I still get excited even though dreams these days are somewhat conditioned by future financial possibilities. I’ve accomplished all I’ve wanted to do in life (actually more), but dreaming for the future, setting goals, and making plans remain as much fun as they’ve always been. I look forward to what each day brings, especially as we work toward our next Big Adventure.
Life has been a roller coaster ride. My youth was that big, slow climb to the top, filled with both excitement and trepidation about what the future would bring. And then came the twists, turns, and unknowns of adulthood (and boy have I had a lot of those, most of them fun but some very scary ones as well). More love than I thought possible has accompanied me along the way though. I’m now entering the final phase of my ride. I believe there are still some loops, drops, twists, and turns to come before I slide into the end, but I accept that I am closer to the finish than the beginning. I want to make the most of the time I have remaining.
So, to my 71st birthday I say, bring it on! I still have a lot of living and loving to do.
We managed to reach most of our goals this past month, or at least get close to meeting them. March turned into a somewhat crazy month between the weather (temperatures ranged from below freezing to 81 degrees), recovery from my second eye surgery, spring break, and starting work at Trader Joe’s.
Keep grocery spending under $450. We spent $423.20 on groceries in March.
Aim for zero food waste. I had to throw away a head of lettuce that got stuffed in the back and turned mushy, and a small amount of cilantro we didn’t use up. I hate throwing away food, and am glad it wasn’t more.
Have one full no-spend week. We had a completely no-spend week 3/19 – 3/26.
Have four no-drive days. We had five no-drive days in March.
Try one new recipe. I didn’t get to make katsudon with my daughter-in-law due to some last minute schedule changes for her. I did try one new thing: chocolate ganache that I used to frost a chocolate cake. It was super easy and turned out well – recipe is coming up.
Walk 40 miles. I couldn’t walk the entire first week of March because of hurting my back, but still put in 32 miles this month. I’m averaging about two and a half to three miles during my shifts at Trader Joe’s.
The Red Trail at Smith Park: uphill all the way to the turnaround. Spring was definitely showing itself!
Visit one natural or historical site in the area. Our goal this month was to go to Mammoth Caves National Park, but the only time we could go was during spring break and the park’s cave tours were booked solid. Brett and I decided instead to head to Radnor Lake State Park and enjoy an afternoon hiking around the lake, but the park was closed! So, we went to nearby Smith Park again and hiked the Red Trail. It’s shorter than the others but uphill all the way to the turnaround, so we got a good workout on a lovely day.
Read four books. I finished eight books this month, including five I’ve read before (Eat, Pray, Love; Winds of War; To Kill a Mockingbird; The Killer Angels; and Shogun).
Study ***** every day for 10 minutes. I studied for at least 20 minutes every day in March.
We put $34.69 into the change/$ bill jar this past month; all my income from Trader Joe’s went into savings.
Work is going well, but it’s honestly exhausting and I’m grateful for every day off to rest and recover. It’s a very physical job and I’ve been getting quite the workout each day I’m there. However, I can feel myself getting stronger, and it’s taking less and less time to bounce back. A real test is coming soon though: I’ll be working 11:00 to 7:00 one day, then have to be back at 7:00 the next morning. I’m hopeful that between a good, hot bath and my heating pad I’ll be able to handle it. I love the work and the people I work with and don’t want to let anyone down.
April’s goals are pretty much a repeat of March’s, but I’m happy with the progress that’s happening.
Keep grocery spending under $450. I plan to do the majority of our food shopping at Trader Joe’s this month and get a better idea of how the discount affects our bottom line. Hopefully it will allow us to buy more fun things and still stay under budget. There are still a few things I will continue to get at Aldi and Costco (and chicken livers for Kai’s food come from Publix), but I’d like to do most of my shopping at TJ’s, if possible. I have been seeing lots of new items in the store I want to try, like their bulgogi fried rice with kim chee and the Korean short ribs, and hopefully the discount will make them something we can afford to enjoy now and again.
Aim for zero food waste. We will try once again for no food waste this month.
Have one full no-spend week. It seems the third week of the month is the best for a no-spend week so we’ll target it again in April.
Have four no-drive days. This is a very doable effort.
Try one new recipe. I will try again this month to make katsudon.
Walk 40 miles. I am pretty sure I can do this, between work and walking at the apartment complex.
Visit one natural or historical site in the area. We plan to visit the Shiloh National Military Park in southwest Tennessee this month. The battle of Shiloh was fought in April, so a visit this month will hopefully give us a better sense of what the area might have looked like then.
Read four books. I usually have one book I read during the day, and another at night because the library still seems to send out a bunch all at once and I have only three weeks to finish them. I have greatly enjoyed most the books I have reread so far this year and gotten more from them the second time around. I’m surprised too by how popular many of these books are; several have been on hold at the library and I have had to wait to get them.
Study ***** every day for 10 minutes. I am using the Duolingo app on my phone, and it’s very easy to pick up my lessons during the day. I find myself usually doing 10 minutes in the morning, and then another 10 in the evening.
Upcoming events in April will be Brett’s birthday and our son’s return at the end of the month for another visit. Otherwise we plan to just keep on doing what we do now, and try to stay healthy and save as much as possible. Spring weather in Tennessee can be unpredictable, but we’ve got our fingers crossed for more warmer, sunnier days!
Brett and I will mark our 44th anniversary at the end of this month and we’ll once again celebrate with our traditional Day of No Cooking.
Our anniversary falls on a Thursday this year, but we will be dining out two days later, on Saturday, so that our daughter-in-law and grandkids can watch Kaipo for the day.
Choosing where to eat around here was an interesting exercise because we live in an area I call “Restaurant Overload.” Seriously, there are more restaurants per square inch here than I’ve ever encountered, anywhere. Many of them are national chain or franchise eateries, which we mostly tend to avoid, so it took us a little more time than usual to come up with our choices for this year.
Breakfast will be at Biscuit Love because . . . we love biscuits (and we’ve been told over and over that we should go)! Biscuit Love is a local, family-owned chain with three locations in the Nashville area and they’re now expanding into Alabama. We love, love, love fresh biscuits with sausage gravy and can’t wait to try them at this place.
We sort of surprised ourselves with our choice for lunch: P.F. Chang’s. We were planning to avoid chains but drove by a P.F. Chang’s the other day and agreed some of their tasty chicken lettuce wraps and noodles would make a great mid-day meal!
Dinner will be at an Indian restaurant: Persis Biryani Indian Grill. We had a chance to look at their extensive menu a little while ago and decided then and there that’s where we wanted to have dinner on our anniversary.
We are going to budget $120 for the day and see how we do as we’ve enjoyed having a spending challenge in the past. We plan to share dishes this year to help keep costs down, and think if we’re careful and refrain from ordering alcohol and desserts we’ll make it. We’ll have our cocktails and dessert at home which will help us save.
It should be a fun day once again, and as before, the perfect way to celebrate our special day. Happy anniversary to us!
Plan One for the Big Family Event has already come and gone. The original idea for our 2023 Big Family Event came together and then crumbled quickly as other events rose up to overtake it.
The original idea was a five-day family reunion at Walt Disney World in Orlando. WDW was not Brett’s nor my favorite choice for a location, but the kids all have fond memories of our visits there and have always wanted to go back, and we knew the grandkids would love it. The plan was to go in early January of 2024, when crowds were smaller, and Brett and I would have less trouble getting rooms for everyone at the military resort (Shades of Green). However, no matter which way we sliced things pulling it off was going to be expensive for everyone. It was doable but we were all going to have to stay very focused throughout the year.
But then Meiling and KN got engaged, and with that everything changed. Our one big plan has ended up broken into several smaller (and thankfully more affordable) plans and ideas:
M & KN are going to have a small, family-only wedding in the New England area this summer, so we will be heading up there for that, and we’ll add on a few days in Maine.
WenYu and I have talked about possibly making a 10-day visit to England (London, Oxford, and the Cotswolds) in September of this year. WenYu was supposed to spend a few weeks with us in Oxford this past summer, and she and I would still like to go if we can. If it happens, Brett would stay home with Kai and he’s fine with that. However, both she and I are also willing to wait and go to Mexico in 2024 along with YaYu.
We may possibly visit Washington D.C. with our son and family this summer.
The entire family agreed that we’d like to get together again for Christmas this year, so there will be planning going on for that as well throughout the year. We may gather here again but WenYu’s home in the Boston area may be another possible location.
So, there will be no one big encompassing family event happening but rather a set of smaller gatherings and travels throughout 2023 and into 2024 to keep us connected. All the ideas are exciting, we’ll still be saving like crazy, and there’s still much to look forward to this year!
Because our family is scattered all over the place and has been for a while, getting all of us together only happens once in a very few whiles. I think the last time we were together was in 2015, but that was minus one grandchild and Meiling’s partner, KN. However, with our daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and Brett and I living in Tennessee, and knowing our our son and grandson would be here for the Christmas break, the girls made plans to join us as well so we could celebrate Christmas together this year. Brett’s sister and her husband, Linda & Erik, also drove over from Dallas to see everyone so we had a very full but very happy house for several days. YaYu stayed with us, WenYu, Meiling, and KN stayed at a nearby Airbnb, and Linda and Erik stayed in a nearby hotel.
There was always some kind of game being played.
Our son and grandson had arrived in Tennessee on the 17th, the girls and KN on the 21st, and Linda and Erik on the 22nd, and we made the most of our time together. We ate together, played together, talked together, and just had a grand time being with each other. Brett and I had a blast watching the kids interact whether that was everyone playing Nintendo or the girls and KN doing wiggle dances with six-year-old K. Although Kaipo was initially upset by all the strangers that had invaded his space, he got to know everyone and loved being spoiled by all.
Of course with ten family members who hadn’t seen each other for ages there was an abundance of presents to open on Christmas morning following our traditional breakfast of bagels, cream cheese, smoked salmon, scones, and fruit (and mimosas for some too). Meiling and our grandson served as our elves making sure things kept moving and gifts were given out in order. We all had a lot of fun and oohed and aahed over everything everyone received. Our children were very generous this year – all of them chipped in and got Brett a beautiful mountain bike and all the accoutrement (helmet, pump, lock, mirrors, etc.) and he is still floating up on Cloud Nine about that. I received a few items off of my list as well, including a much-desired Le Creuset grill pan and some beautiful pieces of silver jewelry. I think we managed to make a few of the kids’ dreams come true as well as fulfill some of their needs, and the grandkids got everything they wanted and more. I had gotten input from almost everyone of what to serve for Christmas dinner, and the final menu included ham, macaroni and cheese, roasted Brussels sprouts, roasted sweet potatoes, broccoli, sushi, namasu, biscuits, and apple pie and cupcakes for dessert. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to pull it off, but with help from our daughter-in-law everything got made and served on time.
The day after Christmas, Brett’s sister took the girls and KN out to lunch so Brett and I could relax a bit (we still had the grandkids over for a while) and get the house back in order. We all got together at our son and daughter-in-law’s apartment in the evening and were treated to a fabulous pizza party! Afterwards, the kids took the grandkids back to their Airbnb for a sleepover to the delight of both M&M and the grandkids. On Tuesday the girls and I went to Aldi – none of them had ever been even though all three live near one – they were impressed!
It was honestly the most wonderful Christmas celebration we’ve ever enjoyed. Brett and I were in heaven with the whole family together, and even if we all were crammed into our small apartment everyone had a place to sit and there was always enough (usually more than enough) food for everyone. Actually, having so many people here made things a bit easier for me as someone was always helping to keep things picked up, putting dishes in the dishwasher, or otherwise helping to keep things organized. And, to top it off, it snowed two days before Christmas but was too cold for the snow to melt so we also enjoyed a bit of a white Christmas. However, the weather was pretty miserable overall and very cold from the deep freeze that came through while everyone was here. I have to salute Brett for going out in the cold every day to pick up Meiling, KN, and WenYu in the morning and well as taking them (and YaYu) shopping on two days and getting them back to their Airbnb every night.
On top of all things Christmas we also celebrated M & M’s 20th anniversary (they were married on Christmas Day in Japan), and Meiling & KN’s engagement!
Of course all good things come to an end, and the good times ended here when the girls and KN received word the night of the 27th that their Southwest flight the next day had been cancelled (our son and family had left for a few days in Florida). What a mess that caused! The first affordable flights back to Boston for all four were not until the 31st, and with their Airbnb rental over the girls and KN moved in with us (thank goodness we had a sleeper sofa). Meiling ended up finding an affordable ticket and returning to Boston on her own on the 29th – they have a pet that needed care and she was also running low on medication. WenYu, YaYu, and I went out and bought a bit more food on the 28th to get through the extra days they would be here, and we managed to keep everyone fed and provide them a place to sleep. We took walks, they worked out in the complex’s gym, played cards, we cooked together, and watched movies (Maverick and Glass Onion were our two favorites). Brett and I put our Christmas things away on the 29th which eased up the space somewhat, but by noon on the 31st Brett, Kaipo, I were finally on our own again. We enjoyed a quiet New Year’s Eve, barely staying awake until midnight, and then celebrated on New Year’s Day with a steak dinner and the sparkling wine we were too tired to drink the night before. We had had a wonderful time with our kids and were grateful for the extra time with them, but the last four days with everyone crowded into our little apartment were truthfully tiring for everyone, and we know the girls and KN were grateful as well to be back at their homes again.
In spite of all the unexpected turmoil this year we are planning to gather again for Christmas next year, either here or maybe up in Boston. Hopefully we’ll have a slightly less crazy and over-the-top occasion than we had this year, but who knows? In the meantime, we have much to enjoy as well as look forward to and celebrate this year, including our grandson’s relocation to Tennessee (for school) this month, Meiling and KN’s wedding in the summer, and some possible other upcoming travel.
Brett and my guiding word for 2023 is SIMPLE. That is, we intend to either make, maintain, or change things in our lives to enhance simplicity.
Although I feel we already live quite simply, we would like to add nothing to what we have (after a year of downsizing, and accumulating stuff again), and figure how to do more with what we have now. Living simply will mean doing more of the things that make us happy, of finding and enjoying challenges in trying something new, rereading books I’ve read before, or relearning/reusing old skills we haven’t used in a while. This will also be a year of spending less and saving more, and using less technology whenever possible. I want meal preparation and planning to be more simple as well, even if it means we have to rely on more prepared foods (easier to do with the food stores and healthy choices we have available here).
I am going to continue to blog, hopefully somewhat regularly, but I will be giving up the Sunday Morning post. It had been the most-read post every week for years, but decidedly not a simple one for me to write (totally my own fault; I kept making it more complicated in spite of trying to cut back) and last November it nearly drove me to folding up the blog all together. For the time being I plan to take the weekends off from writing, and use the time to do things with Brett, our daughter-in-law, and our grandchildren, even if that’s just staying home, reading, and enjoying each other’s company. Several readers commented that they hoped I would continue with news about the family, and I know there are ways of doing that other than the Sunday post. Hopefully with time there will be some regular features again as there have been in the past, but for now the only one I know of will be a recap of our monthly goals and how we did with them the month before. I don’t want to feel trapped or obligated to write certain posts which is what had been happening.
We have nothing on our calendar this month other than an eye appointment for me (getting new glasses – yeah!), dog grooming, and haircuts, and will otherwise take each day at a time. We will continue to enjoy time with our little Kaipo as he segues from puppyhood into adult life, and pick up and watch our grandchildren after school, or when otherwise necessary. We plan to choose one local site to visit each month. We also hope to do a couple of local hikes and more walking, weather permitting.
When we decided to visit the Carter House in nearby Franklin we thought we’d be taking a quick stroll through the grounds, checking out the house’s exterior, learning a little bit of Civil War history, and leaving with enough time left to walk through downtown Franklin to check out the shops and restaurants located there. Little did we know that we’d end up spending a fascinating afternoon learning about a short but decisive Civil War battle and a family that unexpectedly ended up in the middle of it. Our visit to Carter House turned out to be one of the most informative and enjoyable historic tours we’ve ever taken.
The Carter House was home to the extended Carter family, built by Fountain Branch Carter in 1830. A farmer and businessman, Carter owned 28 slaves, and not only owned a large farm but also owned and operated the largest cotton gin in the area (located just across the road from his home). He ran a third successful business in the city of Franklin as well.
Outbuildings at the Carter home, clockwise from the upper left: original slave quarter house which was moved to its present location from another part of the property: slave quarter interior (which probably didn’t look as cozy and comfortable back in the day); kitchen interior; kitchen exterior – the building sits just outside the house in back; bullet holes in the south-facing back wall of the farm office; the bullet-riddled south-facing back wall of the smokehouse; the hand-hewn brining trough in the smokehouse.
On November 30, 1864, Carter House ended up in the middle of the Second Battle of Franklin, perhaps the shortest battle in the Civil War (only five hours long), and maybe the bloodiest as well, with heavy casualties on both sides but more so on the Confederate side. The family had been given a small window of time to leave the area before the fighting began but decided to stay and ended up barricaded in a basement room as the battle raged outside. The house and outbuildings are said to have more bullet holes than any other surviving buildings from the war, with every one still standing on the site – house, farm office, kitchen, and smokehouse – riddled with holes and scars, mostly on the outside but some inside as well, including the main house. The 28-member Carter family, ranging in age from three to sixty-seven, survived the battle.
The parlor, the dining room (located in the basement), and our wonderful guide telling about life in the Carter home. Many of the furniture pieces in the house were owned by the Carters and were in the home at the time of the battle. The interior has been authentically restored.
Because we had brought our puppy along with us for the day and he was not allowed inside the house, Brett chose to walk him through the grounds where the fighting took place. The property is well-marked with informational plaques about the Second Battle of Franklin and what happened in different places on the property that day. I went on the home tour to learn about the Carter family, the house, and what happened on that day in 1864. I can honestly say I’ve never had a better guide anywhere! A natural storyteller, he brought the history of Carter House and the Battle of Franklin to life in a clear and engaging way. The more I learned as we went along, the more I wanted to know.
Fountain Branch Carter lived in the house into the late 19th century and was its original tour guide as veterans of the battle and their families returned to visit the site. He eventually sold the house to private owners but when they put the house up for sale in 1951 it was purchased by the state of Tennessee as a historical site. It is now operated by the Battle of Franklin Trust who maintain and manage the site along with two other mansions involved with the battle that also survived, Carnton and Rippavilla.
Carnton, also located in Franklin, will be our next visit. The area around Franklin is loaded with historic sites and markers, and we’re making it our mission to get to as many as we can while we’re here. Carter House though was the ideal place to start!
As we both feared and somewhat expected, the eating and exercise regime Brett and I created in Hawaii fell apart when we started traveling again, and we were never any place long enough to set a consistent routine and stick with it. Restaurant meals, airport food, and delicious and affordable local cuisine in Mexico changed how we we ate the past four months. Hot and/or humid weather, dealing with San Miguel de Allende’s higher altitude, and sometimes uncomfortable walking venues kept exercise opportunities inconsistent or impossible at times. We did our best, but always knew we could do better.
Surprisingly, we gained very little to no weight. We had learned to keep our portion sizes small, so large lunches or brunches in Mexico meant we would skip dinner. I thought all the delicious bakery items we enjoyed in San Miguel de Allende would do us in, but they came with less sugar and fat than they would have in the U.S,, and that seemed to help keep things on an even keel. We’re both out of shape though when it comes to walking and moving around. My hips are stiff again, and the heat and humidity knock me out in short time. There are no refreshing ocean breezes here to keep us going like they did in Hawaii but I can and will acclimate.
It’s time for both Brett and I to get serious again with our health. We’re settled now, we have an abundance of sources to supply us with fresh, healthy food, and a dog that needs to be walked a few times a day. Our apartment complex has an air-conditioned gym with treadmills we can use on super hot, humid or bad weather days, so we have no excuses for not exercising every day.
I am once again keeping a daily food diary. We’ve added meat back into our diet, but only occasionally and in small portions. For the most part our diet is still mostly vegetarian/vegan. We’re eating more fresh fruits and vegetables again, drinking several big glasses of water each day, and we’ve stopped buying sweets other than something small to enjoy after dinner each evening. Both of us have new walking shoes on our shopping list. Brett walks Kaipo several times a day, and I go with them for a long walk every evening. As time goes on, the distance we walk will increase.
Beginning next week I’m going to start the weekly eating and exercise posts back up again – they were a big help to me before and will be again. Brett’s and my efforts in Hawaii made a genuine difference in our health before and it’s important we get this ship turned around and heading in the right direction again. We can do this!
All is going well in Tennessee although we still don’t have an Internet connection. A technician is scheduled to come on Saturday to see if he can figure out what’s wrong. Data through my phone is all I’ve got right now.
We are almost completely unpacked and the furniture we’ve ordered has been arriving daily. Brett and his trusty tool kit have been busy every day assembling things (the bed came without instructions but he had it together in three hours), and so far we’re happy with everything we’ve bought. We currently have a sofa & loveseat, dining table & chairs, a very comfortable bed (I’ve been sleeping like a log), and bedside tables & lamps. Oh, and a lamp in the living room that about broke my hand when I made the lampshade. Brett said it was easier to assemble the bed without instructions than put one piece of the lampshade together (and there were over 75 pieces to assemble). Our coffee table arrives tomorrow, a console table and small desk for Brett on Saturday, the credenza for the TV on Tuesday, and a rug for the living room on Wednesday and then we’re done!! The apartment is very, very nice but lacks storage somewhat so organizing has been a challenge at times but we’ve made good progress and found a place for everything.
We’re having a terrific time with our son and family. K is sleeping next to me as I write this – her first sleepover at Grandma & Grandpa’s. Brett will fix her breakfast tomorrow and take her to school as our son will be on his way to pick up our grandson from camp. They’ll be back here on Saturday for another week before returning to Japan. Our son just received a major promotion at his company so we’re all celebrating that and M’s work is going well too.
Fingers are crossed that we’re back online on Saturday, but no guarantees. If all goes well I’ll post a giveaway next week! In the meantime, thanks for hanging in there with me. It’s been an exhausting week, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel . . .
. . . when we’ll be adding a small, very energetic puppy to the mix! I think (hope) we’re ready.