Sunday Morning 6/9/2019: Week 4 in Portland

The rain thankfully held off until after we left the Chinese Garden on Thursday afternoon.

My time in the dentist’s chair went well this past Monday; in fact, it went much better than expected! I was numbed up to the max, the filling went quickly with no problems (there had been the possibility of a root canal) and the extraction was over before I knew it. There were few to no post-extraction problems either – we rode home on the tram and bus without my having to keep a wad of gauze in my mouth. Pain was also minimal to non-existent. I will go back mid-month to have my crown prep done, and then at the end of the month I will get my new (gold) crown and the second filling. The prep for the new bridge will begin mid-July and I will be finished with everything at the end of July! Well, everything except the bill.

The last of some new wardrobe items I had ordered arrived this past week, so that summer-in-Portland task is done. I had started thinking back when we were in Japan about what I didn’t want to continue to pack going forward, and what I might want to add to freshen things up. Along with finding some great sales in the past few weeks I now have have a wardrobe that’s a little more stylish, one where everything will get worn, and one that will also give me some variety. More on this coming up!

I bought a “new” summer dress this past week at the downtown Goodwill boutique store!

The end of last week was cool to cold here, with temperatures dropping into the low 60s (Friday’s high was 59º). We wore sweaters and sweatshirts, put an extra blanket on the bed, kept a comfy throw over us while we watched TV, and we still felt chilled. However, yesterday it started warming up and the sun came out, and this coming week temperatures are supposed to climb into the 90s (today will be in the 80s)! On the plus side there will be very low to no humidity, so hopefully it should be bearable, especially up here in the hills, and the forest should be cool(ish) enough for hiking. YaYu is already complaining about the humidity in Japan, and I sadly had to remind her it’s just getting started there for the summer. The humidity is the one part of living in Hawai’i I don’t miss in the least.

Finally, don’t forget you can enter Giveaway #2 once a day through June 19 for the chance to win some supermarket favorites of ours from Japan, including three different CookDo sauces and some Kewpie mayonnaise.

This morning I am:

Besides picking up a book I had on hold at the Central Library, I also found another book on the Lucky Day shelf, which along with three eBooks gives me four books to finish in three weeks.
  • Reading: I had three books come off of hold this week, and I picked up a book at the library when I was there so I am currently reading two books at a time, one during the day and one at night. During the day I’m reading Small Fry, by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, Steve Jobs daughter. She is a wonderful writer, but it is one of the most bittersweet books I have read in a long time. Her relationship with her father was not an easy one, but she writes about him with love. My current book at night is Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan. It’s about a political sex scandal that takes place in England, and I’m just getting started (had to finish An American Marriage first), but so far so good. I read a short but funny book while I was waiting for Brett at the library: Why Don’t You Write My Eulogy Now So I Can Correct It? by Patricia Marx (and wonderfully illustrated by Roz Chast). I recognized more than a few of her mother’s aphorisms – my mom and/or grandmother said many of the same things (but less humorously)! Books waiting on deck now are Distant Echo by Val McDermid, and The Unquiet Dead – A Novel by Ausma Zehanat Khan, and I’ve moved to the top of the waitlist for yet another book I have on hold.
  • Listening to: It’s another delightfully quiet morning here. Brett is eating breakfast and reading, and I’ve been enjoying my morning coffee, reading blogs and Twitter, and have my breakfast ready to go. It’s nice and cool this morning, but the sun is out – it’s going to be a beautiful day.
  • Watching: We watched the third season of True Detective this past week which was excellent, and in honor of the 75th anniversary of D-Day we are rewatching Band of Brothers. It’s my fifth viewing of the series and it’s just as compelling as it was the first time – I’m still discovering things I didn’t catch before. We plan to watch the partner series, The Pacific, after we’re done. Band of Brothers is especially meaningful for me this time because of our visit to Normandy last fall. Tonight we’re also going to start watching the new season of Big Little Lies on HBO.

    Greek yogurt and loads of berries for breakfast – yum!
  • Cooking/baking: I’m eating fat-free Greek yogurt with a ton of berries on top for breakfast this morning, and dinner tonight will be chili-pork sauce over cauliflower rice topped with some grated cheese. Leftover sauce will be served over eggs for breakfasts this week. Also on this week’s menu will be slow-cooker turkey pepper pot, zucchini frittata, CookDo pork & pepper stir fry, and our Friday night pizza (we’re thinking topped with sausage and peppers this week).
    The Lan Su garden was all dolled up with red lanterns for an event taking place there that evening.

    There were lots of memories as we walked around old Chinatown after visiting the garden. I think we ate at every restaurant there at one time or another, but they’re all closed and gone now, or moved over to SE Portland.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Besides getting that dental experience behind me, Brett and I also made two trips downtown. One was to pick up a book from the Central Library about slow traveling in the Cotswolds, and the other trip was to visit the Lan Su Chinese Garden in Northwest Portland. I filled in everything on this week’s goals card and walked every day except for Wednesday when my back was acting up again (Brett took a four-hour hike through the forest that day though), and Friday, when it rained. We missed going to the OHSU farmers’ market on Tuesday because I got the day and time wrong, but we found out exactly where it was held and the correct time so we’re definitely going this week.

    When we were downtown we stopped at Pioneer Square to check out a flower festival currently going on, and spotted this familiar guy, Umbrella Man (actual name is Allow Me).
  • Looking forward to next week: Other than Brett’s calligraphy class on Saturday and the class’s summer barbecue potluck afterwards, we have no appointments or errands this week. Our time is our own, which is always lovely (I am looking forward to the barbecue though – we’re going to take a prepared noodle salad from New Season’s market). We’ll see how it goes here in the heat, but we’re thinking about maybe visiting the Oregon Zoo later in the week, with a side visit down the hill to the Japanese Garden and the International Test Rose Garden (the zoo train makes a stop where we can get to them). We also need to make a trip over to Trader Joe’s in NW. I’m hoping to get a LOT of reading done so all the books I have checked out can be returned on time.

    Looking good in his new-to-him sports coat. We almost missed it as it had been pushed behind other jackets. WenYu says he looks like a “wise cat” in this picture – LOL!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: At the Chinese Garden I ran into a former colleague of mine from my teaching days and we had a lovely, long chat to catch up. Then, yesterday morning there was a knock on the door and it was another good friend who had come to visit – we ended up chatting and catching up for nearly four hours! We heard from all the girls this week – Meiling is getting ready to graduate (next week!), WenYu is still waiting to hear one way or another about an internship but is also applying for other work, and YaYu is settling into life in Japan and had gone out into the neighborhood on her own for the first time this past week. She went with our son and family out to the Atsugi base yesterday so they could get some American stuff at the commissary and she thankfully had no issues sponsoring him onto the base. Brett and I stopped in at the downtown Goodwill store across from the Central Library last Tuesday – Brett’s been wanting to add a sports coat to his wardrobe, and we found a Burberry(!) one that fit like it was tailored just for him (I also found the summer dress there). The downtown Goodwill is one of their “boutique” stores, and carries designer and other higher-end items (but of course has higher prices than a regular Goodwill store).
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had a fairly low spend week, and we’re once again below our $50/day average for the month. At the Chinese garden we got both a senior discount and a military discount on our admission which saved us $4. Brett’s sports coat and my “new” summer dress were both things we were looking for this summer, so we’re very happy that we found such nice ones at Goodwill for such low prices. We continue to do a good job of using up leftovers and things we have in the fridge so there’s no food waste. We put $10.28 into the change/$1 bill bag this past week.

    Another jar of mugi-cha begins its steep on the counter.
  • Grateful for: I am so thankful these days for the giant package of mugi-cha (roasted barley) tea bags I found at Costco in Japan. It is my favorite summer drink and the package contains enough to get me through the summer. I make it every other day in a half-gallon jar – all I have to do is put two teabags into cold water, wait three hours and it’s ready! I find it more refreshing than iced tea, but it has no caffeine so I can drink it at any time during the day (a good thing because I finally have settled into some normal sleeping hours).
  • Bonus question: What is your favorite type of book? I love, love, love reading mysteries and police procedurals, including ones written about true crimes. I especially like fictional ones that are set in Great Britain or Ireland, or outside the U.S. However, I also enjoy novels about the human condition (like An American Marriage or Anatomy of a Scandal) and also books about social history and historical events both famous and not, especially those centered on World War II, and books about healthy eating and nutrition. The types of books I don’t like include romance novels, science fiction, and self help, but I’ll generally read just about anything if it’s well written.

When I wrote the title for this post I had to stop and think, have we really already been here for four weeks? It seems like we just arrived the other day. We’re still enjoying living up in the hills – I’ve already told Brett that if we ever came back to Portland, this is where I’d want to be versus over the east side. The Marquam Nature Park and its forest trails are pretty much my idea of heaven.

Once again, I hope all of you had a great week, got lots done and also had lots of good things happen for you. Here’s to next week being a wonderful one!

We Have a Winner!: Giveaway #1

I used a random name generator, and out of 44 entries the winner is:



Pat: I will be contacting you by email, and once I have your address I’ll mail the obi to you. I’d love to hear or see how you use it!

Thanks so much to all who entered – I loved all your comments about how you would use the obi and what you would like to see in Japan. For those who didn’t win this time, I hope you’ll enter the current giveaway, Supermarket Favorites from Japan!

Giveaway #2: Supermarket Favorites from Japan

For the second giveaway, I’ve put together a few of our favorite food items from Japan:

  • 3 packages of CookDo Chinese sauces: Sweet & Sour Pork (or Chicken), Chili Shrimp & Stir-fry Pork or Beef w/ Peppers. Each package makes 3-4 servings (more like 2-3 American size servings). The three dishes could be served together for a complete Chinese meal, or each made individually, and they are meant to be served with steamed rice. Although there are picture directions on the back, I will include instructions in English.
  • 1 package soy peanut crackers (our favorite snack in Japan).
  • 1 package Asparagus Biscuits. These are lightly sweet cookies shaped to resemble asparagus spears (there is no asparagus in the cookies). They are the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or tea.
  • 1 package dark chocolate KitKat bars.
  • 1 200-gram bottle of Kewpie mayonnaise. Kewpie has a cult following among chefs and others in the U.S. – its creaminess and rich flavor are because Kewpie is made with just the egg yolk instead of the whole egg like most mayonnaise.

Here are the giveaway rules:

  • You may enter the giveaway once a day.
  • Leave a comment on this post with at least one about your favorite Japanese food, or whatever – each comment you leave equals one entry.
  • For a one-time additional entry, send a separate comment and let me know if you already follow The Occasional Nomads or if you become a follower.
  • Share about the giveaway on your own blog and let me know in a separate comment for one more additional entry.
  • The giveaway will end on midnight on June 19; one entry will be chosen at random and the winner announced on Friday, June 21. I will contact the winner by email to get shipping information. The giveaway is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada (I’m sorry – I can’t afford the postage otherwise).

Thanks for entering – I look forward to hearing from you!


On the Road: Patterns

Mosaic floor, Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral

Going through my photos the other day I was quite surprised by the pictures I had taken of the many beautiful and intriguing patterns we came across during our travels, both natural and manmade. Each picture brought on a rush of memories and I could clearly remember the place, the time and the day each picture was taken. I do have a favorite: the huge bowl of rose petals that were sitting across from the elevators on our floor at our New Delhi hotel. Besides the feeling of excitement that I was finally in India, the photo also evoked the wonderful aroma of the petals as we waited to go down to the lobby to meet our guide and start our tour.

Stairway, Lemarck-Caulaincourt Station, Paris
Tree bark, L’Orangerie Park, Strasbourg
Cobblestones, Petit France, Strasbourg
Interior columns, the Duomo, Siena
Inlaid marble floor, the Duomo, Siena
Roman mosaic floor, Vatican Museum
Ceiling, The Pantheon, Rome
Tiled building, Lisbon
Sidewalk, Lisbon
Rose petals, Taj Palace Hotel, New Delhi
Antique Kashmir silk rug, New Delhi
Marble inlay, The Taj Mahal
Man Mo Temple, Hong Kong
Manhole cover, Napier, New Zealand
Roof tiles, Imperial Palace grounds, Tokyo
Cup noodle sale, Sangenjaya, Tokyo

Sunday Morning 6/2/2019: Week 3 in Portland

When a tree falls in the forest . . . . In Portland, it is quickly covered with moss! The English ivy looks beautiful, but it’s an invasive species here and has taken over much of the forests in the city.

It’s now just the two of us again. YaYu departed for her summer adventure in Japan this past Thursday morning, and it’s taken us these past couple of days to get used to her absence. We know she’s going to have a wonderful time there this summer (and would have been completely bored here with us). I had a long conversation with her yesterday – she was getting ready to learn how to pick up C from school. She’ll be doing it for the first time on her own tomorrow and is nervous.

This is apparently going to be My Summer of Dental Work. After having lots of x-rays taken and an exam done by my dentist last week, beginning tomorrow I will be having (in order of the work being done): a major filling, an extraction, another filling, a crown, bridge prep and new front lower bridge, cleaning and whitening. The extraction will be in my lower front in preparation for the new bridge, so for the next six weeks I am going to have a gap there while it heals – lovely. However, my old bridge is 30 years old and old technology, and it’s frankly a miracle it’s held on this long. In the time between tomorrow’s filling and extraction and getting the bridge installed, the crown and the other filling will be done. Other than the cavities – my first ones in nearly 50 years – I knew all of this was coming and it’s finally time to deal with it. We are expecting the bill, even after insurance, to be quite high – we’ll receive an estimate tomorrow. I will be glad however to have my teeth in the best shape possible when we head overseas again.

English ivy doesn’t just stay on the ground either – it overtakes the trees as well.

Brett and I were going to go see the Starlight Parade last night, the opening event in Portland’s annual Rose Festival. The parade is a celebration of all that is weird and wacky in Portland and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, my back had other ideas so we ended up staying home – there was no way I could have stood for that long. In the 20+ years we lived in Portland we never made it to the Starlight Parade, so we were very much looking forward to going, but in the long run I’d rather my back feeling better than worse.

The Clown Prince of Portland float in the Starlight Parade. (photo credit: Pamplin Media Group)

Finally, there are four more days left for the obi giveaway, so four more chances to win (please enter on the original giveaway post). Giveaway #2 will be announced on Thursday, and the winner for Giveaway #1 on Friday.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished reading All You Can Ever Know, by Nicole Chung. She was adopted as an infant, and writes about her experiences and feelings growing up in a loving white family (she is ethnically Korean), and in a community where she was “different,” then searching for her birth family (her adoption was domestic, so not the same hurdles as it would have been if the adoption had been international). Her reactions and feelings about her adoption and meeting her birth family are compelling and emotional. Today I’m starting An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, and after that I have another Val McDermid mystery to read.
  • Listening to: It’s quiet now, but earlier it sounded like one of the families that live in our condo buildings was getting ready to go on vacation of something. We could hear what sounded like the dad and the kids getting the car packed to go somewhere out on the street side of our building (the courtyard side is quiet though). The kids were very excited which made me wonder where they were going! Inside though it’s quiet – Brett is reading while eating a bowl of oatmeal and I’m up on the sofa, writing.
  • Watching: We finished up all the available episodes of Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel before YaYu left – we all loved them both and are looking forward to upcoming seasons. Brett and I have been watching Chernobyl the last few days, which we found extremely sobering – I knew the accident was bad, but I had no idea how bad until now. The final episode will be tomorrow evening. Last night I watched all three episodes of The ABC Murders (starring John Malkovich) on Amazon – it was very well done.

    Even though I’m avoiding starches, Friday night is pizza night. We made a bacon blue cheese burger pizza this week, which was fairly low carb – 32 gm per slice. And for dessert . . .
  • Cooking/baking: We are going to have zoodles with meat sauce tonight – our new spiralizer has arrived (we left our old one back on Kaua’i by accident). On the menu this week will be pork chops, fried cauliflower rice, teriyaki chicken, and pizza on Friday evening. I’m not sure what we’ll be having the other two evenings although I’m dreaming of another Cobb salad.

    . . . I had a mixed berry parfait (whipped cream and fresh berries) – extremely low carb and DELICIOUS!
  • Happy I accomplished this week: We helped YaYu pack and got her safely off at the airport – she had an easy if long flight and arrived in Japan on time and is settling in. I filled in all of this week’s goals card – having to check things off motivates me to get things done, and I’m also someone who hates to see things go unfinished! I hurt my back earlier in the week and didn’t think I would get much walking done, but somehow, except for Monday, when my back was at its worse, by the end of each day I had walked at least a mile and a half! I’m taking it slow though so that I don’t re-injure my back again.

    My goals card was all filled in (except for Monday’s walk when my back pain was at its worse).
  • Looking forward to next week: The OHSU farmer’s market opens on Wednesday afternoon and we’re planning to go and see what’s there. We may also go to the main Portland farmer’s market on Saturday, down in the Park Blocks by Portland State University. Brett and I want to visit NW Portland’s Lan Su Chinese Garden this week, and later today we’re going to ride the aerial tram down and back up as well as walk around the neighborhood at the bottom of the hill. We’re planning to take at least two more hikes through the forest this week (but hopefully more) – it is so wonderful to be in there. Of course, everything is dependent on the weather. If it rains we’re pretty much stuck inside but so far it looks like a good week ahead.

    My favorite flowers: peonies!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We spent a wonderful morning on Friday catching up with our friend Joan – we thought we’d visit a couple of hours and instead spent nearly five hours chatting away (which included a short walk in the forest). I picked up a small bunch of peonies, my favorite flower, at Trader Joe’s this past week. They’re slowly blooming, which is fine with me because the longer they last the better. Brett started his calligraphy class here yesterday and had a very good first session! Although we spent a lot of money last week we are now well stocked for the summer and shouldn’t have to go back to Costco, Winco or Target at all – our shopping will now be limited to small trips to Trader Joe’s and the farmer’s market, or we might have food delivered from New Seasons. I ordered a pair of leggings from J. Jill (on sale) and they turned out to be too big, something I never thought would happen to me these days so I am returning them for a smaller size. I found a pair of lovely, affordable sterling silver hoop earrings made by a local artisan at an airport shop after we said goodbye to YaYu, so that’s another summer goal that’s been accomplished.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This was not a frugal week – we spent A LOT of money on food, wine, and supplies to get us through the summer. We at least ate all our leftovers and did not waste any food, and we put $15.49 into our change/$1 bill bag.
  • Grateful for: There are so many transportation options in Portland, and we’re finding it very easy to get around town without having a car. We can also get free delivery from our favorite grocery store (New Seasons), and we’ve signed up for a car-share service. We’re feeling very thankful to have so many ways to get around this summer without having had to rent a car.
  • Bonus question? What’s on your nightstand? Well, what’s not on my bedside table at this house is a lamp, which I wish was there. Otherwise, there’s a small dish that holds my ear plugs, some lip balm and cuticle cream from Lush, my Kindle because I always read in bed at night, a coaster because I always have a glass of water by the bed at night, my little inu hariko figure, and an inu hariko ema I bought at a temple we visited in Japan. This table has a drawer, and inside I keep my sleep mask and a bag of odds and ends I carry with me (emery boards, tape measure, extra ear plugs, sewing kit, etc.).

I am dreading my time in the dentist’s chair tomorrow, but I know it’s all going to make me better in the end. I will survive. And, the ride over there and back on the bus and tram turned out not to be as bad as I thought it would be, thank goodness. I am really warming to this whole not having a car thing more and more. Our Zipcar pass arrived yesterday and we are logged in, so will have use of a car if absolutely necessary, but otherwise we’re sticking to public transportation and walking.

I’m looking forward to the coming week and hope you are too! I’m also hoping that you had lots of good things happen for you this past week, that you’ve got a good book to read and good food to eat, and that everything else is going well.

Closing Out the Books For May

Two dozen bagels to get Brett through the summer are now in the freezer.

I don’t even want to think about what we spent in May.

We left Japan with a daily spending average of $51.03, but we are ending the month in Oregon with a daily spending average of $74.46 – YIKES! I knew it was going to be bad, but not this bad.

What did we spend all that money on? Food! Lots and lots and lots of food. We had to feed YaYu while she was here and got a few things for her that she’ll need in Japan and, because we won’t have a car this summer, we did a couple of big shops at Costco when we did have a car – one when we first arrived, and another this past week. We also stocked up at Trader Joe’s and Winco, and we bought a few things at Target. Our cupboards, fridge and freezer are stuffed full, and we now have enough laundry supplies, toilet paper and paper towels to get us through the summer (the house came with supplies to get us started thankfully). Our Oregon spending also includes a Brita pitcher and filters which we will store when we leave, our TriMet passes, and the car rental to take YaYu to the airport.

All of this hopefully means that our monthly averages for the rest of the summer will be well below average. We will be paying admission for a few activities, making a couple of trips to Trader Joe’s, and visiting the OHSU farmer’s market every week for fresh produce, but between the two of us this summer I think we will be able to keep our spending to minimum (clothing and other travel supplies come out of a different fund). Fingers crossed!

Reminder: Luxe Obi Giveaway

If you haven’t entered yet, there’s still more time (seven more days) to enter the giveaway for this gorgeous brocade obi – I will draw the winner next Thursday and announce on Friday. You can enter every day for more chances to win. Please enter only on the original giveaway post!

There are loads of different ways to use or display an obi (see last Thursday’s post), and it would make a lovely gift for someone who loves fabrics or textiles.

Here again are the giveaway rules:

  • You may enter the giveaway once a day.
  • Leave a comment on this post with at least one about what you would like to see or do if you went to Japan, or how you might use this obi – each comment you leave equals one entry (you can just say hi too).
  • For a one-time additional entry, send a separate comment and let me know if you already follow The Occasional Nomads or if you become a follower.
  • Share about the giveaway on your own blog and let me know in a separate comment for one more additional entry.
  • The giveaway will end on midnight on June 5; one entry will be chosen at random and the winner announced on Friday, June 7. I will contact the winner by email to get shipping information. The giveaway is open only to readers in the U.S. and Canada (I’m sorry – I can’t afford the postage otherwise).

Thanks for entering – I look forward to hearing from you!


Homes On the Road, Part II

Our Portland Airbnb for the summer is already our favorite!

One of our favorite things about the nomadic lifestyle we’ve been living for the past several months has been the homes we’ve stayed in along the way and their hosts. Thanks to Airbnb we’ve been able to enjoy not only having our own place from time to time, but also the pleasure of staying as guests in others’ homes, the perfect arrangement for shorter stays in places like Lucerne last fall, and during our road trip around New Zealand earlier this year.

The kitchen and living and dining area of our Portland apartment. The mid-century decor is minimal, but very stylish and extremely comfortable.

Our Portland apartment for the summer is currently at the top of our list of favorite Airbnb rentals. The price, the size of the apartment, the minimal but very comfortable mid-century furnishings, the kitchen and location are all just about perfect. Two other notable favorites along the way on Part II were our rooms in Napier and Wellington in New Zealand, although every place we stayed in Australia and New Zealand were very, very nice and helped make our visits there great ones.

The view while we ate breakfast on the terrace at the home we stayed at in Napier.
The stunning view from our room in Napier.

I wish I could link to our place in Japan, except that they are currently not listed with Airbnb. While the location of the apartment building was superb, the price very affordable for Tokyo, and the hosts wonderful to deal with, we did not get the apartment we had requested which made that stay a bit of a disappointment, especially since it was for three months. The kitchen was wonderfully equipped, and the bed was comfortable, but the furniture in the living and dining area was not. There was also no balcony (highly unusual in Japan) so we always had to dry our clothes indoors (we were thankful to have a washing machine though).

Our bright, sunny, and extremely comfortable room in Wellington – I was sick for a day and this was a serene place to rest and recuperate. We also had a huge, deluxe bathroom and breakfast was provided in the morning.
Our apartment in Perth was very comfortable and in a great location – just a 10-minute walk one direction to the station to ride into downtown Perth, or catch the Indian-Pacific for our journey across Australia. Ten minutes in the other direction took us to a grocery store, great shops and restaurants.
The Perth apartment had a fantastic kitchen including a washer AND dryer, much appreciated after our India tour and Hong Kong stay.
Our Sydney apartment in the vibrant Potts Point neighborhood was a short walk to the train station, and a fairly easy walk from the harbor as well. We would stay here again in a heartbeat!

Overall we have had a great experience using Airbnb, saved quite a bit over staying in hotels, and met some truly wonderful people along the way. If you haven’t used them before, I strongly recommend giving Airbnb a try. Michael and Debbie Campbell’s (The Senior Nomads) book, Your Keys, Our Home, is a great overview on how to make the most of an Airbnb experience, from choosing a house or room to interacting with the host to how to be a great guest.

The inviting entry to our Auckland backyard cottage.
I don’t think we were ever so happy to check into an Airbnb as we were when we arrived at the one in Auckland. After an exhausting day of driving we so appreciated this comfortable and peaceful room.

Below are the links to the Airbnb homes and rooms we stayed in on Part II of our Big Adventure:


Beside our room and sparkling clean bathroom, our stay in Rotorua also included a large breakfast in the morning, freshly prepared by our hosts.

New Zealand:

We were surrounded by nature at the Mangorei Airbnb. The house had decks on three sides, with gorgeous natural views from each one, including a view of the ocean in the distance. Breakfast was provided, and we greatly enjoyed chatting with the host, George – a very interesting man!
Our three nights in the Sellwood Airbnb studio were the perfect way to decompress after our long journey from Japan.


Although we’ve enjoyed some of our Airbnb rentals more than others, we have yet to have a bad experience. We like having our own place with a kitchen, where we save by preparing most of our own meals, and also like getting to know the neighborhoods. We’ve made friends with a few of our hosts as well, another added benefit to traveling with Airbnb. Finally, Airbnb offers $40 off your first booking with them if you spend more than $75 – just go to the site and set up an account and start looking for a place to stay!

Sunday Morning 5/26/2019: Week 2 in Portland

Looking out east over Portland, watching the traffic cross the Ross Island Bridge. Our former home was a little off to the right, out of the picture.

What a difference a week makes! Last weekend I was dragging, and felt like my head was stuffed with cotton. I had absolutely no motivation to do anything. But, I slept through the night for the first time last Sunday and woke up feeling refreshed and like my old self. Although I’m going to bed earlier than I usually do (around 10:00 p.m.) and waking up much earlier too, I’ve slept through every night this week, so I guess I’m over the jet lag, the fastest I’ve ever recovered.

We cross several bridges on our hikes through the forest, with the lovely sound of water running underneath.
Love, love, love my new trail shoes. I have a wide foot and these shoes give me plenty of room. The cushioned soles are pretty amazing too.

We’ve had a very productive week. Brett and I have been hiking or walking almost every day, either on trails in the nearby forest or in the city. I’ve actually felt like cooking in the evenings, I’ve been reading up a storm, and have taken care of all sorts of little jobs that I just didn’t feel like doing up until now. We turned the rental car back in last Tuesday and have either walked or used public transportation since, including a trip over to Trader Joe’s in NW Portland. I had a bone density test done this past Thursday and walked to and from the clinic in the Kohler Center at OHSU (with seven flight of stairs each way). We’ll have a real test of the system though when I go over to the dentist’s office next Tuesday – it’s located on the far east side, and the bus and tram ride over is estimated to take over an hour. Our motto this summer though is if we could do it in Tokyo, we can do it here!

Waiting for the streetcar in downtown Pioneer Courthouse Square, “Portland’s Living Room.”
And here comes our Max tram to take us to the NW neighborhood! Our round-trip ride cost us just $1.25.

We’ve been enjoying pretty nice weather too – some rain, some cooler temps, but also quite a bit of sunshine. It’s been warm enough to have the windows open on some days, and Portland is lush and green all over, especially so in the forest. My new trail shoes are very comfortable, although I can tell I will eventually need some thicker socks if I am going to walk longer.

Finally, don’t forget to enter the current giveaway for the brocade obi from Japan! You can enter once a day until June 7 by leaving a (short) comment on the giveaway post even if it’s just to say hi. The more entries, the greater your chances of winning.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: Because I’m still waiting for a library book to come off of hold, I downloaded The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú, voted one of the best books of 2018. Cantú writes about his experience working for Customs and Border Patrol as an agent in the southwest, and why he finally decided to leave the agency. It’s an amazing piece of writing.
  • Listening to: I’m enjoying a very quiet morning – Brett is up and reading, but YaYu is still sleeping and it’s very quiet outside (which is one of the things we like about where we’re living this summer – it’s a very quiet community). After a rainy day yesterday we were hoping for sunshine today but can’t tell yet whether that’s going to happen or not.
  • Watching: We watched one of my all-time favorite movies on Netflix last Wednesday evening, Kung Fu Hustle. It’s a very different sort of Chinese kung fu movie with lots of humor and laugh-out-loud moments (but also has great fighting sequences). Since we finally have access to Amazon Prime, YaYu and I have started binge-watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Brett and I are watching Fleabag.
  • Cooking/baking: We’re having scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast this morning once YaYu gets up (she and Brett are also having toast and jam with theirs). Dinner tonight is mabo dofu served with steamed rice – cauliflower rice for me – and a cucumber salad. Other things appearing on the menu this week will include beef Polish sausages with fresh sauerkraut, chili shrimp and sweet and sour pork, chicken in Thai curry sauce, and Cobb salads.

    My index cards are a big help in keeping me motivated and making sure I stay on track with my goals.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got all sorts of little things done that I just had no energy nor motivation for last week, like creating my checklist cards, sorting through all the hotel toiletries we brought back so we can use them up; getting my compression socks and a couple of other things ordered, renting a car to get YaYu to the airport next week, taking some hikes through the forest, and walking through the OHSU campus a couple of times.
  • Looking forward to next week: Two of our three girls are taking off in different directions this coming week: WenYu will return to Massachusetts following a successful term abroad in Cyprus, and YaYu will depart for her big summer in Japan on Thursday morning. I will miss having them with us for the summer, but am so proud of both of them for their initiative. I’m looking forward to taking some more walks/hikes in the forest (including one with my good friend Joan), weather permitting, but mostly am excited about being able to relax and not have to rush around and run a lot of errands and such except to see the dentist – I am not looking forward to the trip over there and back.

    The iconic post-modern Portland Building is undergoing (much-needed) renovations, and Portlandia, the second-largest copper repoussé statue in the U.S. after the Statue of Liberty, is still under wraps for the summer.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Nothing particularly stands out – it was just a great week all around. I especially loved getting back into downtown Portland, and over to the NW Nob Hill neighborhood.

    Kitchen Kaboodle on NW 23rd was my first employer when we arrived in Portland 27 years ago. I left with lots of quality cookware and utensils (that I still have) thanks to the generous employee discount and several sales incentives.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) YaYu asked to stop at Goodwill last Monday and we bought a nice vase for 99¢, a gorgeous black velvet shirt for me for $9.99 that I couldn’t resist, a summer cotton shirt for $7.99 for Brett, and a paper towel holder for the apartment kitchen for $4.99. 2) We have not thrown out any food this week except for one package of Trader Joe’s hamburger rolls which were covered with mold after just a couple of day in the fridge (grrr) – everything else, including leftovers, has been used up or eaten. 3) I signed up for a free month of Amazon prime and saved $7.68 in shipping fees on my order of compression socks and a couple of other things we needed (now I just need to remember to cancel it at the end of the month). 4) I reserved a rental car for next week to take YaYu to the airport early in the morning – the cost was just $6 more than an Uber ride and we have the car for 24 hours. 5) We put $8.46 into our change/$1 bill bag.

    We’re living within easy walking distance of the OHSU campus this summer, with its hospitals and many clinics. I love the way the new buildings fit in with the old.
  • Grateful for: I am beyond thankful for the medical care we’re able to receive because of Brett’s military service. Between Medicare and our military insurance we no longer have any out-of-pocket charges, and here in Portland we can access clinics and be seen by doctors at the Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), which provides some of the best healthcare in the city and state. We also now have even better dental insurance now than we did in the past and also vision care (finally!) through the military.
  • Bonus question: How does it feel to be back in Portland? I told Brett the other day that except for the long dreary winters I could easily live here again. I love being so close again to friends. I also love all the green, the stores, and everything the city offers, but I don’t think I can deal with the cold, wet winters again – it was very depressing last winter. I am enjoying being on the west side (of the Willamette River) this time, up in the hills for a change – the views! – so we’ll see how that goes through the summer.

I am still unable to comment on any Blogger platform for some reason. I thought it might have been a Japan problem, but I’ve tried to comment a couple of times this week and my comments still vanish into the ether when I submit them. Also, I now get notices that several blogs and websites I read are “not secure” and I’m not sure what that means either.

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, a day for remembering those who gave their lives in service to our country, and for saying thank you for that service and that we remember you for a debt we still struggle to repay. Veterans Day is for thanking those who got to come home from their service; this weekend is one of remembrance for those who didn’t.

Anyway, I hope you all had a great late spring week, that lots of good things happened for you, and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up.  And don’t forget to enter the giveaway!!