Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saying Goodbye

When my husband and I first met, it was in Denver. He was on active duty in the army. I met him in the late fall and we dated, with me eventually introducing him to my then four year old daughter.  Before we met, he had already been scheduled to be transferred to Japan, of all places, right after Christmas. So we dated during that time, and said good bye-and then wrote every day and spoke on the phone at least once a week.  Those were, after all, the days before email, texting and cell phones.

Scheduled to be in Japan for one year, at the six month mark John took a thirty day leave and returned to Colorado.  After three month of dating and six months of long distance contact, we decided to get married-immediately, during that leave.  My mother flew in from Germany (my father could not make it), and a small wedding was created in about seven days, after which my husband returned to Japan for another six months

My future mother and father is law were also unable to make the wedding-they lived across the country, we were marrying in just a couple days, and they still had dependent kids at home. They gave us a generous wedding gift.  More importantly, they invited me and my four year old daughter to come to live with them for the next six months-in their home, sight unseen.  Let me simply say that the older I get, the more I realize how great a leap this step was. Not only were they getting a daughter in law, they were also getting a four year old child in the bargain. These were empty nesters, almost ready for retirement and happy to be where they were in life.

That time was worth it's weight in gold. One one level, it was filled with normal "getting to know you" difficulties. We were different people doing different things, and I was another woman in my mother in law's kitchen. My mother in law (and sister in laws as well), were what we used to call "rules girls".  I tend to live outside of the box. On another level, it was a chance to know each other on a level that rarely happens between people who become connected by marriage, at least so quickly. More importantly, from the day my daughter entered their home, they welcomed her as their first granddaughter-and continued that relationship in the same way after welcoming three of their own biological grandchildren as well.

After my husband returned from Japan, we moved to Washington, and for the rest of our marriage lived on the other side of the continent or overseas while my in laws (and their other son and daughters) stayed close to home.  They all saw each other regularly, while we traveled on Christmas or during summer vacations.  Still we remained as close as possible, and when my husband died, rather than moving to my first choice of Colorado, we returned to Texas.  This was a chance both for my children to learn more about their grandparents, and for them to hear about their father. My in-laws are the kind of people who regularly included him, and reminisces about him in regular conversation-the good and the bad. For example, my son learned that his father and a friend climbed onto the middle school roof, got stuck and could not get down, as the various other misdeeds of a too active and too smart kid in the school system (some folks think these kinds of things should not be shared-I disagree heartily, by the way.  There are no perfect people and kids should see their parents as human and imperfect).

In their mid to upper eighties, my in-laws were active.  Every year until the year before last, my mother in law would say "Next year it's up to someone else", and then the following year announce that Christmas was at her house, and no, she did not need any help.  Two years ago at Thanksgiving my father in law said "Oh, I have something to show you in the garage", and presented me with a Triumph spitfire, completely taken apart in the garage.  He then announced that tomorrow he was taking out the engine (at which point the grandson, son and son in-laws all looked at each other and knew what hey were doing the next day). They had a very happy marriage and retirement.

In the last couple of years my mother in law had a very hard time and her quality of life had gone down in the extreme.  She had fallen and broken her arm in two places, gone to rehab for three months and then gone home.  She lost her balance and hit her head and split it open-when her daughter was with her-and the same situation happened.  She was tied to her chair, losing her balance and often in pain and discomfort.  She had signed an order not to resuscitate, but of course there is little one can do when all the circumstances are not life threatening but just miserable. She was scheduled to move to an assisted living facility last Tuesday, and died during the night before.

Having just returned from her funeral, I can say that it was a celebration of her life.  After saying goodbye, the extended family went to her favorite restaurant, where we toasted my mother in law and remembered her life. Few tears were shed, and we will remember her well.

And today, one week later, my father in law is having one heart valve repaired and one replaced-as he promised my mother in law he would..............

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sharing a Home In Retirement-One Year Later

It's been almost a year since I moved into my current home.  As readers will remember, I sold my home in Texas and moved to be close to family in Colorado. My original intention was to downsize to an apartment or condo, and I planned and sold according.  Once I got here however, I realized that renting was as expensive as owning in Denver, and that should I downsize that much I would end up walking my dogs at five am! 

 After some discussion, my sister and I decided to look for a place together.  She was looking to lower her expenses and get more of a yard, so it seemed like a good fix. On one level it was a leap of faith. While I had stayed with my sister for up to three weeks at a time when visiting Denver this was another step entirely.  On another level we knew we would each have our own space and were not afraid of discussing specifics. The end result was that we moved forward into a house and a yard/

Almost one year later, am here to say that this move is a success. I said previously in this blog that I probably would not have shared a home with anyone but my sister. I still feel that way, but now think that with the proper amount of privacy and understanding it could work for other people.  While there are many variables in home sharing, these are the primary reasons I think it works for us.

This is OUR place, in that we moved in together more or less (I moved in approximately a two months before my sister sold her house and made the final move, but she was in and out before then). I still feel strongly that when one person has a house and a second moves in, the level of control and ownership are not the same. I know too many people who fall into the "my house and you are just visiting" mode of home sharing. The things we have done, we have done together in terms of making this place ours.

When I moved in, I addressed our shared living spaces in one way. When my sister moved in, we realized jointly that we would have to make changes (hence the "fireplace room" which has small dining table and two large comfortable chairs in front of the fireplace, with a separate plant and TV room).  We've slowly been painting the shared rooms, agreeing and experimenting as we go.  Had I say, moved in with her, these kind of things would not have happened.

We have enough space to ensure privacy and individual interests-and I mean beyond each having our own bed and bath.  This house is big enough to give us both beds, baths and studio office space while still having shared kitchen and two living spaces as well as yard.  If my bedroom were my only private space, I would have to turn it into a sitting room even if it meant a single bed. We can be completely separate if needed.

Third, for the most part we have differing things of ultimate importance in terms of home issues, and are generally both laid back enough to give preference to the person who cares the most. I NEED the home at seventy four in the winter. Our compromise is to turn off vents in the basement for my sister (who does not) and allow for keeping windows open as needed for her even if the cost is a little more. My sister is of the "never let the water run while loading the dishwasher persuasion" and because she cares so much is willing to do the dishes. Neither of us are type A people, and we both agree that the person who is bothered the most or cares the most gets preference and/or is the one that gets to handle that responsibility. The fact that one say, cleans the kitchen different than the other bothers neither of us a whit.  

Fourth, we have both shared and individual interest. I have absolutely no interest in planting and gardening. While I enjoy the results of my backyard and appreciate when I am shown specific plants, I am not likely to spend many weekends in the yard, as she does. At the same time we both enjoy travel, similar movies and TV, quilting, cooking and entertaining and our dogs.  Neither is offended if one goes to her space to read, for example. We have together time and separate time. I have more out of the house commitments and activities, partly because of church and partly because of personality.  She joins in those or stays home as she chooses.

We have an easy financial relationship.  We both pay "rent" separately.  The house utilities are in my name and once a month I am given a check for those. When it comes to food, I cook mostly during the week, and she cooks on the weekend.  There is no official division of groceries as such. She tends to buy large pieces of meat and cook large meals on the weekend. I tend to cook slow cooker and casual meals during the week and it all works out.

Right now, we have different schedules. My sister has probably at least three more years of work, whereas I am an early retiree who works part time from home.  Will we have changes when she is at home full time?  Probably, but so do other kinds of couples and living relationships.

Finally, this is not a lifetime commitment. Originally this was a five year commitment amongst everyone.  After that time, who knows?

Certainly sharing a home is not for everyone, and at some point I will still downsize more. However my current living situation affords us 2600 square foot of living space, a large yard, a nice neighborhood and less than a thousand dollars a month in total housing costs (rent, cable, utilities, water and insurance), companionship and freedom. Considering my previous mortgage for an equally large house was 1400 dollars alone, this was a smart five year commitment for all parties.  My goal was to re-adjust my living costs, my lifestyle to some point and my retirement priorities and I have done all three-with ease.

And now, it's time for me to choose which of about six "brick reds" we will use on the space over our fireplace.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Single on the Open Road (or Airplane) -Thoughts on Traveling Alone

 Awhile back I wrote on treating my knee naturally. Since then, a friend and I have decided to write a book on natural treatments for arthritis and arthritis pain.  Many readers commented. Now I would love to hear from others, especially with regard to diet or other methods that you've found to lessen arthritis pain (or pain in other areas of your life).  I'm not looking for quack medicine, but rather ways such as exercise, yoga, diet changes and aromatherapy that may have worked for you.   

In the past year, I have only taken two vacations of one week each.  Adjusting to a new town, going to school and learning about my new home by taking lots of full day explorations have put my travel by the wayside a bit.  The majority of my retirement lifestyle is not travel, however I normally like to plan a two to three long (three week trips) a year.  This year one of those trips will happen in December-I'll go to Houston for Christmas and then explore the gulf coast both for some vacation time and to explore the possibility of some snowbird time in future years.  In the spring, I hope to take that train vacation to San Francisco, and my third vacation is tentative much longer-a drive to DC by one route with a return on another road

At least two of these vacations (and probably three) will be taken alone.  By this I mean that I will not be part of a tour group, and most likely will not be taking anyone with me at least two of those times.  Many singles would not take a vacation alone because they would fear it is daunting or lonely.  Others might take a plane trip somewhere but would not be comfortable doing a road trip, be it for safety issues.

The first time I traveled by myself it was, well, different. I was used to traveling with my husband and/or at least one child.  My last two vacations in Europe were a driving trip of western Europe with my sister, husband, and son. This was followed with a trip to Venice and Florence with my two children after my husband's death.  My first really long vacation back in the us was a drive from Denver to Moab through Monument Valley to Arizona and then San Diego.

Once I started traveling alone, it was a different experience.  I did learn quickly that traveling alone does not necessarily have to be lonely, and that it can be safe. Admittedly, the driving is done alone, but I like to drive. In my experience MOST open road car travelers travel this way because they enjoy driving, the drive, and those off the road opportunities. People who don't enjoy the journey will most likely be in an RV, or fly or even take a train. In the end, I learned that traveling alone does not have to be lonely, and that to avoid travel just because I was single was self defeating, and unrewarding.  To that end, these are some of the things I have learned (and am still learning) along the way.

First, the boring stuff.  Open road travel has changed, as have communication options on the road.  I mentioned elsewhere that I maintain my car using the "highly used" guidelines rather than the "routine maintenance" on my car.  My car always has some food, water and blankets. I have never broken down, am prepared.  I have a good towing program with my insurance, if  not I would have AAA. I have an expensive cooler/picnic basket.  I get out at least every four hours and walk. When I do stop, if there is any question as to where to do so, I go where the truckers go. Truck drivers talk with each other, are nosy and generally travel in groups, increasing the savings factor.  Finally, I have a phone-a smart phone. One that has GPS, can take pictures of the license plates of tailgating drivers, and more.

When I'm choosing where to stay, I look for places with an opportunity to chat with other people.    There are many ways to do that, depending on style and comfort level. One option is to look at sleeping options where there are chances to meet others, and take advantages of group options when they occur.  For example, when I travel I generally look at overnight options such as bed and breakfasts, or hostels.  A larger bed and breakfast will often have family style dining at breakfast or afternoon cocktails where you will have a chance to visit with others.  Upscale hostels have private rooms but give you the opportunity to visit in group rooms.

One occasional commenter here, Stellamarina, sleeps in group rooms on hostels.  If I wasn't a night owl and open mouth breather I would do the same.  When I am on the highway in motel heaven, I take a bathing suit and swim at the end of the day in the warm weather, as do many others.  And finally, I travel with dogs, with are their own conversation piece.  When I was in San Diego, our small but nice hotel had an ocean front restaurant. While I am not big on eating in the hotel, this hotel had drinks snacks and music beginning at four. While almost all the guests ate elsewhere at least nine times out of ten, the bar/restaurant was full every evening between four and seven-and most of us were guests who were taking a break between sightseeing and going out to dinner. Conversations were all over the place.

There is no shame in dining alone.  I have never had a problem.  Certainly one of the reasons for this is that I generally choose non hotel, non tourists local type restaurants.  First because they have better food than hotel restaurants, and second because they tend to be small or family style tables, such as my favorite crab restaurant in old town Alexandria, Virginia. I generally tend to eat on the early side. If it's a place that takes reservations, I always call and ask if they have a table for one or two near a window.  If it's a place with outdoor tables, I generally choose that option. Both cases allow me to people watch while dining, which is entertaining on it's own. Sometimes I bring a kindle with me.  In my experience eating alone is always preferable to eating in my room-and not just in the city or at the resort.
(And this is where I add that yes, I do go to at least one expensive, famous chef gourmet restaurant in each town.  Alone)

 My regular stop between Texas and Colorado is a small down that is really a pass through for people driving between Texas and the Midwest and the resorts of Colorado and New Mexico.  While it has a few fast food restaurants, it also has a refurbished hotel and restaurant that almost everyone traveling uses for dinner.  Inevitably conversations go between tables and discussions as to travel experiences and destinations arise.  No matter how tired I am, when I go to eat there I always am glad I did not settle for Subway in my room.

As far as the sightseeing/exploration aspect of travel, I do my best to find chances to interact as well.  For one thing, I learned many moons ago that in a big city (or even a smaller one), taking the hop on hop off bus tour is a wonderful way to learn about a city if you  are new, and it gives you a real chance to play tourist and chat with others.  To those who are hesitating right now I would only say this.  After ten years of living in Washington DC I took one of these tours.  I've recommended it as a first choice for everyone I've hosted there since-and they had me.  Also, aside from socialization aspects, it gives you at least a photo opp for all those things you won't have time to see up close and personal.

I also look to see if there is something going on that has anything to do with my interest or hobbies, specially if I will be there for more than a few days. If its a hands on thing to do, the more the better.  If there was a quilt meeting or show, for example, I would find away to schedule that.  I let people I know through social media and blogs know when I am traveling. They know really good tips, and occasionally a chance for a get together comes up.

When it comes to entertainment let me just say this.  It's much easier trying to find a single last minute discounted ticket for the Book of Mormon than two, three or more.  Nuff Said??

So there you have me. Traveling alone-but not lonely.  Do you know people who travel alone?  Do you travel alone? Do you have any tips for single travelers?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Earning Money In Retirement-What Are The Altnernatives?

 Hello everyone-my apologies, but this blog seems to have lost a post or two. I am working on it.  Also, as I move this blog more towards  a lifestyle of a person whose living richly in retirement, I may be changing the title of the blog and or the URL. I will keep everyone updated on that, and what I decide to do.

As most regular readers know, a part of my lifestyle includes bringing in a little money here and there as part of my retirement strategy. I don't spend all, or even half of my retirement hours earning money. I do however, constantly explore ways to bring in extra cash-as a primarily frugal girl with a couple of "can be expensive if I let them" hobbies, a little money in the pot always helps.  However, I also like to keep time to myself and flexible.

Over the past few months I've had various emails asking where I do my research, whether my former/current business was worth it, or even if a job was better than a business (as discussed in this thread over at Satisfying Retirement in June).  I'll share more about the online location for earning money later.

I am not an expert. I have however, explored a whole bunch of alternative money making endeavors since my husband died. I have many friends who work or have a business (some just for the busyness and social aspect, some for the money) and they spend anywhere from a couple hours a week to many more depending on time, interest and availability. Between those and my own experiences, here is what I would say to those people who wonder about working in retirement. Again, I am not a professional nor do I play one on television.
  • First, do nothing. In a perfect world, your business or work should work with your retirement lifestyle. Although you may THINK you know what that schedule will be, life is rarely a guarantee and once you have settled in you will know more about that. I learned this early on.  My plan of selling in stores and at fairs were in direct opposition to my lifestyle plans.  Although doing the caravan from craft fair to craft fair sounded good, the reality was that it took me away from too many other opportunities 
  • The exception to the above, is I expect, those people who are taking their current business or employment to part time or contractor status and need to keep current contacts.  I know a couple folks like this, and I would only say that they had much less time than they expected to have for work. One woman moved from teaching to subbing, for example.
  • Starting a business does NOT have to be expensive. Most of the people I know who started a business took on little risk, no debt and started on a shoestring.  This seemed to be a concern in the original discussion over at Bob's blog.  While you COULD invest twenty thousand in a new business, most folks I know have businesses in two thousand dollar start up range. This group of people includes a consultant, a couple who turned a first floor bath and bedroom into a bed and breakfast, a woman who counsels families on the best options for elderly parents, a guy who buys and sells on EBay, and more. I even know a guy who is considering becoming an Uber car driver.  Most of those expenses were initial advertising and insurance, depending on the business.
  • Having said that, I would suggest that for most retirees, a business needs to be portable, seasonable, include a partner or a backup person or all three. No, not everyone travels in retirement as such. But one of the advantages of retirement is schedule control, and the ability to run away for a couple days midweek if the desire hits. What will you do?  Will you tell callers you are out of town?  Have a person work with your?  In today's business climate an awful lot of work gets done on smart phone and tablet. Still, personal contact and delivery of services could get in the way of that little getaway.
  • In between a business and a job is casual income. Now that I no longer have an Etsy business as such, this is my method of bringing in retirement cash.  Casual retirement income is usually not just from one source.  This income generally comes from a variety of sources and is made "casually", that is, at various times here and there. I've previously talked about my research and writing gigs on the website Elance. For two weeks did nothing on this site, then I had the opportunity to research for an Ebook.  I don't have a quilt business but I do have a web page where I share my quilting, and often sell something (last year I sold the Halloween quilt I had planned to put on my dining table). The advantage of casual income  is the way money is earned.  The other day, I am ashamed to say, we watched Pompeii.  Trust me, this is a watch on TV film, not even Netflix worthy.  While I watched that,, I earned forty dollars for researching an Ebook on 101 things to do with baking soda.
  • The big traditional job advantage that I can see is socialization.  Some people need to be, and want to be, interacting with people all day.  Most retirement business such as retail or restaurant work involve a fair amount of working with the public and a very social person probably enjoys that.  Although I am not familiar as much with traditional retirement jobs, I do know a nurse who works one or two shifts a month, a gal who works in the bookstore, and my late father in law worked at Dillard's for 20 years after leaving his "Mad Men"style advertising career.
  • The Elephant in the room of course, is can you make a go of it.  From what I have seen my answer a qualified yes........you can find income through a job, business or casual income.  How much that income will be, and how regular it will be is a separate issue.  In a perfect world, if there is anyway to manage it, this extra income should not be the backbone of your retirement income .In my case, I work for expensive quilting fabric, expensive dining, and the occasional luxury trip (as opposed to my normal road tripping. I don't use, or budget with it on a daily basis.
Making money in retirement is not necessarily or desirable for everyone.  Some folks need to work to feel fulfilled, Some folks need no work at all, and some folks need to work to live.  The rest of us fall somewhere in between. I sell my quilts because I like to make them, it feels good to be appreciated, and the money is good. I do online research, participate in focus studies and do other online earning activities when it fits into my retirement activities-and the money is good (especially when I'm sitting on my sofa in my nightgown watching TV and STILL making money).  On the other hand, working at a job would interfere with my retirement lifestyle, so even if the money is good that's not a direction I would explore.

Oh, and that baking soda research?  That's the last "ghostwriting" Ebook I'll be doing, even for $90.00.  I can write my own Ebook thanks-on 50 Tube cake recipes, or how to start a fairy garden for that matter. So, thanks for the idea (although that previously mentioned Christmas book needs to get done first).

Monday, August 25, 2014

On UFOs and Other Objects.

No, not those lights you see in the sky.  In the case, UFO is short for "Unfinished Objects" of which I have a few-both physical and mental. 

 I tend to be someone who has a lot of things going at one time.  I have about six quilt tops on my quilt rack, for example.  I have more than one art work in progress, including the picture from a collage below. I have three writing projects going on that are not blog related (a frugal retirement book, a book on homemade gifts for folks who hate homemade gifts, and a cookbook for two or one) not related to blogging. As if that were not enough, I have two knitting projects (one easy and one for when my knitting group meets in case I need help).

It's not just the creative side of me either.  I realized today that I have four major trips planned, and yet I only want to take two long trips in the next year.  I've been wanting to do some arranging in the house now that I am fully settled, and I'm kind of "stuck in the middle". On top of all this, I'm trying to adjust my retirement routine-to leave a bit more down time, and to allow time for meditation or yoga daily. Twice now I've decided to sign up for on line courses in drawing and writing at Open2Learn and twice I have not finished them.

Now, just because I have these unfinished projects, that is not to say I don't complete things on a regular basis.  In the past month I've completed a quilt, designed two patterns (still trying to figure how to turn everything into PDF for downloads), experimented with at least one new recipe, and more. And that of course is in addition to two road trips.

If I've learned something about myself, I know that I'm person who often has a short attention span and changes what I'm interested in doing, on a fairly regular basis.  Fortunately this works for me because I an entire room that is my own space, and that allows me to have a quilt on the table, artwork in another area, and a computer desk.  I've always been willing to sacrifice the "guest room" into my office, I'm not sure what that says about me (my husband was the same way, so I guess we figured people would stay on the fold out sofas and we would pay for the hotel rooms down the road. Of course, we've had a few mattresses and sleeping bags on our floor a time or two as well).

I also tend to be the kind of person who at times gets into doing a specific task, even thought it may seem monotonous, and continues on. Those are the times my mind is working and I find the task relaxing. For example, I hate the cutting portion of the quilting process. But I enjoy the planning and find the sewing part very restful and that it allows me to think.  What this means is that I have a sketch book full of ideas, patterns and plans, as well as a wall full of quilt tops. I tend to like the mixing and the decorating, but not the cutting out of those decorated cookies. So I'm liable to cut out sugar cookies for three or four occasions and freeze them (sugar cookies freeze very well, do not go stale in many months and may come out tasting better, especially a chewy cookie). There are days when I have the energy to sit and look at maps for hours and those I don't.  You get the idea.

I also have my "picky" days.  Although I am a mellow person, there are times when I know exactly what I want and will wait until I can find it. Such it is with the fall quilt, where I waited since last fall to find the perfect border. Most of the time I am the queen of substitution and creativity.  Once in a while though, I can see it in my head, and until I find that image, phrase or ingredient I am, so speak, on hold

Recently a friend reminded me that I was well, retired. That means that I can do what I want when I want (or not do what I want when I want).  I can keep a half day free for meditating and reading every day if I wish (and often do).  I can take on a research or writing project here or there for extra cash and use my brain-and not do that for a  weeks at a time. As long as I don't fall into one extreme or the other, what I do is put simply up to me. 

Which means I'll just keep on keeping on. Eventually things get finished and done, and put away, given away or used. Chapters get written, cooking gets done, and travel plans get made. And so it goes this week in retirement, as I finish one fall quilt, begin another, help a client write a book and natural cleaning hacks, and try a new pulled pork recipe.

Meanwhile, I have this book I downloaded and plan to spend this particular afternoon reading and having something as simple as frozen lasagna.  I just need to take my proper place in my reading chair.  What do you think my chances are?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Necessity is the Mother of Creativity-and other thoughts this week

Necessity is the mother of invention, it seems.  I've been looking for a couple alternatives for awhile, and the solutions seem to be similar.  The nature of the beast when it comes to Christmas and holidays these days are gift cards.  I don't have a personal objection to this as such, we have college students whose needs change from semester to semester, as well as seniors and retirees for whom the best gift is not a thing, but perhaps kindle credit or a restaurant gift card.  My problem was two fold. I hate the silly gift card holders, and I always feel like I should give something along with the gift card.  I also have occasions when I want to give a really, really nice card instead of a gift, but I never found a card I liked.

So this week, I was sorting through all those fabric scraps left from various projects in a large bin in my sewing room (I'm having a yard sale next weekend so it's time for a quick organizing effort).  My first go to for creating things tends to be fabric, even when it's not quilting as such. My project today was to combine the two in some way.  So today I designed some "quilted cards'. I made  a bunch of themed mini quilts that were greeting card size.  These were very quick to make with minimal stitching and I am simply taping them to the front of blank cards-they can be a gift as well as a card and cost me nothing since they were made of things I am throwing out.  They can also be put in a frame later. I hope to have a bunch of these to photograph later this week.  While I was at it, I made mini bags with handles in various gift card sizes-these were also free, and give me room enough to put a gift card and a small memento or candy or whatever else I decide to throw in at the last minute.

Other thoughts this week:

  • I knew I had a fear of heights.  I just didn't know how bad it was.  I'm never going to be the girl looking over the glass at the Grand Canyon. I may take the scenic train under the Royal Gorge bridge but not drive over.  Much as I'm looking forward to next years cross country train trip, there are some areas where I will be nervous because of the height. Being the road tripper that I am, I returned home via back roads through Taos and then the oldest city in Colorado, Los Rios.  One of the stops on my return was the Rio Grande gorge, a bridge that goes down more than five hundred feet.  Let's just say that good intentions were just that.  My camera and I never even made it off the edge of the bridge. I'll leave it to someone else to take a good picture of the bottom of the gorge.
  • Three or four blogs as well as Yahoo have shared and discussed the fact that at least one restaurant in California has decided not not allow strollers, high chairs or booster seats or loud children. I must be out of the loop, because I am amazed at the vitriol of some of the arguments.  I'm a parent who took her children out to eat at a variety of restaurants around the world.  But I did not take my kids to "fine" restaurants until the teen years.  And even during that time of life, there were times when my husband and I had our date nites deliberately at locations we knew would not have children.  I think there are enough restaurants available to families that a restaurant here and there that bans kids (or has a separate adult room) can be tolerated and even embraced.  But then I'm one of those crazy adults that actually applauded when my local movie theaters decided not to let children under six in movies after 8 PM.
  • As many readers know, one of my regular gigs is to provide dinner for a group of homeless women and then have some kind of activity (this is a residential home where 20 women with physical and mental issues who have been long term homeless stay until they are ready to become independent.  The stay can be quite awhile).  Most months I enjoy coming up with different themes for the evening.  This week it was a slap together effort because of my trip. On the day in question someone made white bean and chicken stew and I grabbed a pile of ice creams and toppings with no thought to much of anything.  Our "activity"?  One of the group went online and read of the theme lines of various brands (from as far back as 1950) with the challenge to name who the ad was sponsored by.  As disorganized as we were, these women still had a wonderful evening and asked us when we were coming back. I do need to remember that perfection in my volunteering area is not always required.
  • Amazon now has something available known as kindle unlimited.  I think it aims to be a Netflix of sorts for kindle books. For a fee, you can read an "unlimited" number of books. Since they had a free trial, I figured I would check it out.  I used my five page amazon wish list as a test list.  These is a list that I generally use for library reserves, buying a few kindles here and there.   While I did take advantage of my free month, for me the program would not make financial sense. Most of my fiction reading is current police procedural fiction.  Someone else might have better success, depending on their reading habits.
Meanwhile, It's time for me to start my two Open2Study classes, work on those sewing and crafting projects, get to work on my book, and take some time to laze on the patio during these last few weeks of summer.  Hopefully I will get a chance to get lots more photos up in a couple days here.  Happy weekend all!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Frugal Retirement-A Few Days In Santa Fe

We all have different lifestyles in retirement.  While many of my fellow retirees are taking off on long journeys, I'm finding just the opposite is working for me.  A couple longer (two weeks) trips throughout the year and some short breaks in between are what work best for me. I NEED to be at home, and this schedule fills all of my needs.

As many readers know, I just returned from five days or so in Santa Fe-a trip that was just about the right amount of time for me. This trip ended up both being fairly frugal, and the perfect blend of activities. I'm not an adventure retiree.  While I appreciate nature, I generally do it in horizontal or seating position much of the time.  This week, I stepped out of the box for a brief period of time (against doctors orders), but the rest of my trip fulfilled my basic needs of life.  Please forgive the lack of photos. As some know, I dropped that camera on cement, and I've been trying to learn how to use my camera on my phone. Its a process.  Anyway, onto my weekend.

This weekend was probably the perfect example of why driving and road tripping is the best alternative for me.  Rather than camping or staying in a hotel, my home away from home was a rental outside of the city, high on a hill. Surrounding by silence and Russian sage, this was the perfect vacation getaway. No noise, beautiful views, well appointed rooms-and just ten minutes to the plaza.  Renting this house gave us a chance to be in vacation rather than tourist mode for the most part.  The kitchen allowed breakfast and occasionally lunches (food which we brought in coolers) and a single evening of grilled steaks on the patio. It was a perfect happy medium.

So what did I do during this little respite?  

I briefly stepped out of the box and went to Bandelier national monument, where one can see cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, standing walls and kivas. I'm sure my doctor would be shaking if he knew.  For those of you who have been there, I did not, repeat not, climb the caves, but walked the path and observed from afar. I know my limitations. I did climb up the fifteen steps at the far end so that I could see the petroglyphs-a decision which I will be paying for for a couple weeks. As someone who lives with chronic pain, this was not my smartest move, but ended up being worth it. 

I spent a day at the plaza, exploring churches, galleries, museums, the state capitol and more.  I never met a church I was unwilling to visit, and Santa Fe was no exception. 

I spent one day exploring galleries and foundries. I watched blown glass vases being made, visited a foundry where they make sculptures, watched potters, and generally enjoyed the Santa Fe art process. I purchased absolutely nothing, but may be ordering a hand blown birds nest with gold leaf and hand blown eggs. I also spent a day visiting the art colony of Madrid and the Turquoise Trail.

Last but not least, I spent a day vegging in my beautiful adobe house with the butterflies, hummingbirds and solitude.  After all, I was on vacation, and what better vacation than peace and quiet, the perfect vista and a good book.

I also went to the opera for a mere $15, and experienced a concert on the plaza while eating ice cream and sitting on a park bench.  While the opera can be pricey, Santa Fe includes opera internships.  Every year they put on apprentice opera shows, where they show eight different scenes from various operas. Everyone is an apprentice or student, from the singers to the folks who do the makeup. You would not always know it however-its an impressive night for little cash, with my favorites this year being a Verdi excerpt along with Anna Bolena.  Lots of entertainment for very little money.

My trip to Santa Fe would not be complete without many visits to New Mexico restaurants, or at least that was what my co travelers thought. Me, I know nothing about the difference between red and green chili.  Fortunately all of these restaurants also have other alternatives. My first night I had raspberry soup, blue cheese and walnut salad and flan, and the evenings progressed from there.

For those who are wondering, while Santa Fe can be an expensive area, in this case the price of a trip was more than reasonable.  Our house slept at least four and ran $300 a night. A deal at the price when four people are sharing. We ate out four nights and each time one of us picked up the tab. Was the accounting perfect?  No, but it's worth it to us and this averaged between eighty and one hundred dollars a night-a planned purchase. To offset these expenses we brought food in coolers from home for other meals and the steak dinner, and all felt we had a wonderful time.

As for my other out of pocket tourist type expenses?  $10 for the museum, approximately $10 for other entrances.  Fifteen dollars for the opera. $30 on optional mementos  that were useful and loved (a pair of green bead earrings and an O'keefe poster).  Add that to my travel cost and all and all I'd say the trip was rewarding on all levels.

Hopefully I'll get some more pictures up soon, along with  a description of our "taking the long way" drive home.