Closing Out the Books for July

We had another low key month, spending wise, and were able to keep our daily spending average at $39.99/day, still under budget but a little bit higher than last month. Once again this month we had several no spend days, and even though we had one big shopping trip to Costco and Trader Joe’s we spent less than we had on previous trips. Most of the upfront expenses for our getaway out to the coast were paid for in June but we did indulge ourselves at lunch and dinner the first day, spent $$ on cheese and other goodies in Tillamook, and bought a large amount of salt water taffy to divide up for the girls. We also spent more at the farmers’ market each week in July (berries, berries, berries!) and had to reload our public transportation passes. The first payment on my dental work didn’t help our daily average either.

We also had some big expenses come out of our travel fund this month. We purchased YaYu’s ticket back to Pennsylvania at the end of August, and also a round-trip ticket for her to come to England in October. I’d been checking prices but could never find a really good match between price and schedule for the London ticket, and ended up paying just slightly more than I wanted (less than $100) but got her an itinerary with non-stop flights each way that will work with her upcoming fall class schedule. I did make one other big travel purchase this month as well – I’ll have a post up about it next week!

Otherwise, I feel like we are in good shape heading into August. We still have quite a bit of food on hand that has to get eaten (almost too much it seems – why did we buy so much butter?) so we will have fewer trips for groceries. There are just two more local outings we’d like to make, to the art museum and over to see Pittock Mansion once more. We’d like to reserve a Zipcar for the latter visit as public transportation is not convenient. Brett has only two calligraphy class meetings this month so that expense will be cut in half. We plan to go out to dinner at a downtown restaurant one evening with our friend Joan, but will order off the bistro menu in order to stay within our budget.

Our goal for this month is to get our daily expense average for Portland even lower than it was in June and July. We will be on a tighter budget when we get to England in September (because of upcoming college expenses for YaYu) and one of our primary August goals now is to re-sharpen  our frugal skills.

Picture Perfect: Our Getaway to the Oregon Coast

We had a wonderful time out at the Oregon Coast last week, and enjoyed beautiful weather, beautiful sights, good food, and great experiences:

Our first stop was the little town of Yachats, one of our favorite places on the coast. We had hoped to eat lunch in town, but everything was very crowded and parking was non-existent, so we ended up at the Adobe Inn on the north side of town and enjoyed some beautiful views while we ate.
This sign in Newport says it all – Oregon is salmon country!
The Coast Guard has been in Newport since 1887, and it is one of 26 designated Coast Guard cities in the U.S. The Yaquina Bay headquarters building dates from 1944.
The beautiful Yaquina Bay Bridge crosses the bay just south of Newport. The bridge was designed by Conde McCullough, who also designed many of the other iconic bridges in Oregon on Highway 101. This art deco-inspired bridge was opened in 1936 and is now listed on the National Historic Register.
The pretty Yaquina Bay Lighthouse only operated for three years (1871-1874) before being replaced by the larger Yaquina Head lighthouse in 1875. The keeper’s house has two stories with a living room, dining room, kitchen and oil room on the first floor, and four bedrooms on the second – it was a family position.
The living room in the keeper’s house. All the rooms in the lighthouse were decorated with authentic period furnishings.
The Devil’s Punchbowl is located in a state park just north of Newport. The water inside is usually low in the summer (and the tide was out when we stopped there), but in winter and during storms the water rises almost to the top.
The Depoe Bay bridge crosses over the very narrow entrance into the harbor. It was also designed Conde McCullough.
Depoe Bay has the world’s smallest navigable harbor, just six acres in size. The town is also the “whale watching capital of the Oregon coast” and hosts the Oregon Parks Whale Watching Center.
When we’re out at the coast we eat seafood: Brett enjoyed Dungeness crab cakes for dinner; I had scallops sauteed in garlic butter.
The highlight of our first day was watching the sun set while sipping wine and soaking in the jacuzzi on our deck at the Channel House B&B.
The breakfast buffet at the Channel House had plenty of low-carb choices and lots of fresh fruit as well as lots of wonderful freshly-baked pastries and coffee cake. We had a beautiful view while we enjoyed our meal.
Our first stop in Tillamook is always the Blue Heron French Cheese Company for some of their brie. The store offers lots of other gourmet treats (and samples!), most of which are produced in Oregon.
We were surprised by the Tillamook Creamery’s new look – this is the third iteration since we arrived in Oregon back in 1992. Visitors can still self-tour the factory and see how the famous cheese is made, but the building now holds an open-plan dining hall where ice cream, espresso, or even meals can be purchased at the snack bar as well as a large gift shop where special varieties of Tillamook cheese and ice cream can be purchased. It was incredibly crowded on the day we visited, with long lines everywhere.
The Creamery still serves huge scoops of their ice cream, and someone was very, very happy about that!
We left Tillamook with an assortment of smoked goodies: beef summer sausage, smoked salmon for Brett’s bagels, smoked black pepper Tillamook cheddar, and smoked brie from Blue Heron.
A little store in Manzanita called Salt & Paper carries what we think is the BEST salt water taffy on the Oregon coast. We bought 24 different flavors for the girls, from pomegranate to espresso creme, and there were at least another dozen or more additional flavors beyond those!
Our last outing before leaving the coast was a walk on the long, beautiful Manzanita beach. We couldn’t get over how fine the sand was compared to the sand on Kaua’i. This view is looking north at Neahkanie Mountain. The view of Manzanita Beach and the coast from its summit is one of the most beautiful in Oregon.

We had planned to end our trip with a stop in Cannon Beach, but time was not on our side. We knew that it would be extremely crowded there as well, so we decided to head for Portland after leaving Manzanita and enjoyed a lovely (and nostalgic) drive through the mountains on Highway 26. We hit heavy traffic coming into Portland, but nothing that could take away from our wonderful two day geataway.

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

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

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

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

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

This morning I am:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This morning I am:

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

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

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

#Portland: Go By (Aerial) Tram!

For many Portland residents, the aerial tram, which opened for service in December 2006, is a great big meh. For others, especially those that live below the tram route it is a nuisance and an unwelcome presence over their homes and neighborhood. For employees and patients at OHSU the service saves nearly two miles of driving up or down Terwilliger Boulevard, which winds up the front of the West Hills. For the rest of us though the tram can be a wonderful way to take in some spectacular views of the city and the Cascade Mountains.

The two tram cars are sleek, silvery, futuristic pods. The maximum load per car is 78 passengers and one operator but I’ve never been in one with it full.

We took a ride on the tram the other day because it offered a quick way down to the waterfront to catch a bus over to a nearby supermarket. The spectacular views during the four-minute ride were an added bonus. Clouds unfortunately obscured views of Mt. Hood and Mt. St. Helens, but otherwise we could see far into the distance.

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The tram is one of only two commuter trams operating in the U.S. (the other is in New York City). It was built by the city of Portland along with OHSU, and today is part of Portland’s wonderful public transportation system although it is operated by OHSU. A round-trip ride is free for OHSU employees and students, some patients, and active duty and retired military but otherwise a round-trip ticket must be purchased ($4.70) unless a passenger has a monthly TriMet passes to ride (HOP cards don’t work though). Going from OHSU to the waterfront the ride is free.

I’m not sure I’d enjoy riding the tram on a windy or stormy day, but who knows? It might be fun! On a clear, sunny day however the gorgeous views of Portland as you ride down from the top can’t be topped.

Minimalist Life, Simple Life, Happy Life

When we moved to Hawai’i back in 2014, we only shipped 4500 pounds of household goods over with us. We were ready for a simpler life, and during the four years we lived on Kaua’i we only added five small pieces of furniture, a washer and dryer, and not a whole lot more. It was enough.

Still, Brett and I often asked ourselves if we could make do with less. The answer was always no though, mainly because we still had two of our daughters living with us, and we were using everything we owned. However, when it came time to prepare for our last daughter leaving the nest, and for us to begin our Big Adventure, we began shedding items again and eventually got our possessions down to just 1500 pounds. No furniture other than two small side tables, one made from an antique hibachi and one from an antique Japanese kotatsu, and two small rugs made the cut to be put into storage back on the mainland. We sold it all.

As Brett likes to joke, these days we carry our net worth in our suitcases. While that’s not true, we do move around with very little these days. We are living a very stripped down, minimal life now, especially so this summer. Our Airbnb apartment is nicely decorated and has everything we need, up to and including a slow cooker and small hand mixer, but there are no extras, no frou-frous. We are living without a car as well, and have found that to be less hassle than we expected. Going with out a car has actually been quite freeing.

We love our life right now. We can’t get over how free and light we feel living with so little. There are no geegaws or tchotchkes to dust or maintain, no books to keep track of, no car insurance to pay or gas to buy. We’re producing less trash these day. We have a basic set of cookware and enough utensils, but our cooking is simpler these days and we eat less. There is a small set of dishes but enough that we usually can get away with running the dishwasher only every other day. All purchases, clothing included, are made with purpose, and after thought and discussion.

We are also not tied down these days with loads of obligations. While we miss our family and love spending time with them and our friends, our days and our time are for the most part our own for a change, with the freedom to decide what to do each day or even if we want to do anything at all.

The best thing though about our simple, minimalist life in Portland is that we’re getting to experience and contemplate how small we can live after we eventually settle down in our own place. We may not want all those things we thought we couldn’t live without when we left Hawai’i, although I suspect we will keep most of them. But maybe not. We can see ourselves living in a much smaller space than we first imagined, even a studio apartment, as Brett and I have learned this past year about how to carve out our own spaces. Being in a truly small place doesn’t scare us any more. Being able to live without owning a car would be the icing on the cake.

Less truly is more these days. 

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

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

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

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

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

This morning I am:

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

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

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

#Portland: The Japanese Garden

Peace, serenity, and harmony weave themselves throughout Portland’s Japanese Garden

“This is a place to discard worldly thoughts and concerns and see oneself as a small but integral part of the universe.”

Brett and I knew that no stay in Portland would be complete without a visit to the Japanese Garden, located in Washington Park in the west hills. The Garden overlooks the city and yet is a world away, transporting visitors to a soothing location where they can relax, unwind, meditate, and realize a sense of peace and harmony no matter the season or the weather. The tranquility of the Garden envelops you the moment you enter, and everyone who enters seems to slow down in order to be able take it in.

There’s an leisurely climb from the ticket office through stands of Douglas fir to the garden’s entrance gate.
Seating is placed throughout the garden so that visitors can not only stop to rest but reflect on the views as well.
Heavenly Falls is one part of the double-level Strolling Pond Garden. As in all Japanese gardens, although everything appears to be completely natural, each part of the setting and each stone and plant was carefully designed and placed for maximum effect.

Designed in 1963, each section of the garden incorporates the three main elements of Japanese garden design: stones, water, and plants with stones forming the bones of the landscapes, water the giving the garden its life force, and plants providing the fabric of the four seasons. The Portland Japanese Garden contains eight distinct garden styles ranging from a traditional tea house to a raked rock garden to meandering streams and a spectacular view overlooking the city. Each garden design is asymmetrical, and presents an idealized form of nature within human scale so that visitors feel a part of nature versus overwhelmed by it. Seating is placed throughout the garden so that visitors can stop to reflect on different views and landscapes as they rest.

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The cost to enter the garden is $18.95 per person for adults, $16.25 for seniors aged 65 or older, students are $15.25 and children $13.25. Although the price seems rather steep, it is very easy to lose track of time once inside – Brett and I easily spent more than two hours wandering through the garden, often stopping to sit for a while to take it all in. The Garden also has two gift shops and a restaurant, and visitors are allowed entrance into the art exhibits that are shown in the Pavilion Gallery. The Garden has a parking lot at the bottom of the hill but Brett and I rode public transportation to the Oregon Zoo and then took the free shuttle over from there.

All the roses throughout the test garden are in bloom in June, Portland’s Rose Festival month, and the garden is full of sensational aromas.

Located at the bottom of the hill, and across the parking lot from the Japanese Garden is the International Rose Test Garden, containing over 10,000 rose plants of over 650 different varieties. Rose cultivars are sent to the garden from all over the world to be evaluated. It is the oldest rose test garden in the United States, and roses are in bloom from April through October. Admission to the garden is free.

My favorite roses are always the multicolored ones.
Both Brett and I named this rose our favorite, the Coretta Scott King, a grand floribunda.

Livin’ La Vida Lo-Carb

Zucchini noodles (“zoodles”) topped with meat sauce and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese

I knew before we arrived in Portland that I needed to change how and what were eating because both Brett and I had been steadily gaining weight ever since we left Hawai’i. During our time on the road we indulged ourselves in delicious bakery items, telling ourselves that other countries used less sugar so how bad could it be? We were in France, we told ourselves – we were supposed to eat pastries! We were in Italy – we were supposed to eat gelato and pasta! We enjoyed a big glass of wine every evening (because we were in Argentina! in France! in Italy! in Australia!), often along with a treat of some kind. We ate rice or noodles almost every day in Japan but told ourselves it was OK because we were walking a lot and also eating lots of vegetables and fruit.

However, in spite of all the walking we did, in spite of there being less sugar, it wasn’t enough to keep up with the calories and carbs we were consuming. We gained weight, for me to the point I was often very uncomfortable in my clothes.

I decided that once we arrived in Portland, we would try going back to low-carb eating once again. I had lost weight and shaped up when we lived in Hawai’i but only when I limited my carb intake, and doing so was much easier than counting calories or points or eating vegan or whatever. I also wanted to get back to drinking at least eight glasses of water a day, and make sure we kept up with our walking.

It’s now been eight weeks since we arrived in Portland and embraced La Vida Lo-carb once again. I have no idea whether we’ve lost any weight or how much, although my clothes seem to be less uncomfortable. I have more energy these days too.

Nonfat plain Greek yogurt with berries is a frequent breakfast – the peach was a special treat!

Sticking with a low-carb diet has been easier than it was back in Hawai’i. There is a wider array of foods to choose from in Portland that don’t cost an arm and a leg, and we can find substitutes for rice and noodles that could were often difficult to find on Kaua’i. I feel too that I can now better figure out how to make substitutions when we’re on the road again, and know how to include some higher-carb foods once in a while without going overboard.

Avocado on thin-sliced whole grain bread topped with a poached egg and red pepper spread from Trader Joe’s. I could eat the pepper relish right from the jar with a spoon – it’s that good.

My breakfasts these days are usually nonfat Greek yogurt with berries, a small frittata or other egg dish, or occasionally a piece of avocado toast made with thin sliced whole grain bread. Brett usually always has a bowl of oatmeal with fruit, and enjoys a bagel once a week or so.

Every once in a while I enjoy a “power breakfast” like this one: bacon, avocado slices, and scrambled eggs topped with corn & chili relish

Our lunches are often cheese and fruit or vegetables (I have to watch how much fruit I have though – it can be very high in carbs), a small bowl of vegetable soup, or sometimes leftovers. Now and then I sometimes have an open-faced sandwich on the thin-sliced bread.

Open-face tuna salad on thin-sliced whole grain bread with one cup of grapes

Havarti with dill cheese, cherry tomatoes, avocado, sour cream, and kale chips

Open-faced crack chicken sandwich with cucumber slices

We both substitute cauliflower rice now for regular rice, and zoodles for pasta or other noodles, and are fine with that. Gone from our table are bread, potatoes, cakes, cookies and other starches, although Brett still occasionally enjoys a couple of his much-loved graham crackers or Triscuits when he wants a snack. A handful of nuts are a more frequent snack for both of us these days. I make a homemade pizza on Friday evenings and enjoy one slice (Brett eats one slice and has the leftovers during the week), and we each have a small glass of wine on Friday and Saturday evenings. I measure absolutely everything these days though, and know exactly what I’m getting in the way of carbs. I’m not following any sort of keto or other low-carb plan, but I aim to keep my carbohydrate intake around 50-75 grams per day; Brett’s allowance is a little higher.

Zucchini frittata and sausages: a nearly zero-carb dinner.

All-beef Polish sausage, fresh sauerkraut and roasted zucchini is another almost zero-carb dinner.

A Mediterranean dinner with spanakopita, hummus, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes and cucumber had just 23 carbs.

I also include low-carb splurges for myself every day: heavy cream whipped cream is one of my daily indulgences as is a spoonful of natural peanut butter. We also discovered grain-free low-carb granola bars (11 grams each) and low-carb chocolate bars (12 grams each) at Costco, and I treat myself to one a few times each week. I’ve yet to feel like I’m going without anything.

Heavy cream whipped cream is very low carb (and fairly low calorie too) and a sweet treat every day.

Low-carb grain-free granola bars and low-carb dark chocolate bars are a once-a-week treat.

It’s been said that it takes 21 days to create a habit, but new research says it’s more like 66 days. We’ve been eating low-carb for over 50 days now, and this time it really does seems like it may stick. I know I will indulge again now and again once we’re back on the road, but hopefully never again to how it was during our previous travels. La Vida Lo-Carb this time around seems to be a better fit for us than it was before with all the choices we have in Portland and the fact that we don’t have to feed anyone but ourselves. We’re learning lots of new tricks this time as well. We won’t know for sure if we’ve lost any weight until we visit the doctor at the end of July, but for now we’re feeling great and that’s what’s important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This morning I am:

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

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

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