Mar 31, 2012

Is being a snowbird right for you? An Interview with me by Satisfying Retirement Blog

Is being a snowbird right for you?  I know that most retirees have toyed with the thought at one time or another.  I am a snowbird and live with my husband and a cat named RV in Oregon for 6 month and Arizona for 6 month.  I guess living the lifestyle makes me somewhat of an expert on both the daily living part put also the financial cost for owning two pieces of real estate.  So Bob Lowry over at Satisfying Retirement invited me to be interviewed and talk about the pros and cons of this way of living.

Being a Snowbird: Is it the right choice for you? was the title of the interview that contained 8 thought provoking questions.  Bob submitted the questions ahead of time and I wrote the answers at my leisure. Writing for an interview is one of those interesting experiences I wish everyone could have.  I think you learn a lot about yourself when you begin answering questions about your lifestyle and the world you live in.  And that was not even the best part.  When the comments began coming in, it turned out that people had other questions on their mind.

  • What do you do with your mail when you are gone 6 month?, 
  • Are people in Arizona friendlier than in Oregon?, 
  • How do you take care of taxes and do you pay taxes in both places?, 
  • What about licensing your car?, 
  • Will I be able to stand living in a small space with my husband and a dog?, 
  • How do I convince my "homebody wife" to travel with me?, 
  • Isn't having two places twice as much work?, 
  • Will you call me and have tea when you get back to Oregon?
...and so it went.

I wrote a response to each question and you can visit Being a Snowbird on Satisfying Retirement anytime.  I think you will enjoy it.

Oh, by the way, I love your comments or questions so don't hesitate to click on the comments and fire away.

b

Bob Lowry is a fellow blogger and has written a book called Building a Satisfying Retirement that is available on Amazon. (The ad in the sidebar will take you to the Amazon information.)  He is also included in a book called 65 Things to Do When You Retire, 65 Notable Achievers on How to Make the Most of the Rest of Your Life


Mar 28, 2012

What if I used a profanity in my blog? Gawker and me

I may start using this
image as my Avatar (picture
used online)!
Okay, you guys are in my age group...second adulthood I have heard it called.  (I like that a lot better that second childhood don't you?)  Tell me are you sensitive to the use of profanities on the web, in movies on television and in the movies?  I am not a Puritan and I have noticed that I am becoming numb to the use of the "f" word and other related stuff.  The fact that I think they are using the offensive language less is probably a testament to that.  I try to behave myself like a respectable and respectful person.  But it turns out that I just don't see a lot of offense stuff any more.  That is what happens when you work in the world of blogs and online information.

Yesterday I linked to a small post on Gawker that mentioned the name of a relative or a relative of mine and posted it on my Facebook account.  The lovely young women whose name was mentioned was not the one pictured...sadly enough I did not realize that the offensive picture associated with the article would come up and when it did I didn't remove it as quickly as I should.  I don't think I realized that I could!  Well, it turns out her dad was not happy.  I did my Facebook research and removed it. I also apologized for his unhappiness. We all knew it was not his daughter!

Now everyone you should see this is a warning...what we post socially has to be monitored very carefully.  The world is watching! Even those innocent remarks are seen and what we think is just between the involved parties can be inadvertently put up for the world to see. I would even say that when Gawker used the woman's full name they somehow involved everyone with that name.  I know my profile is up with my name online.  This is a job for me.  Hiding does not work.

So there it is...I am just saying!  Be very careful.

b

Mar 27, 2012

Are you smart enough to be a grandparent?

Follow me on Twitter @barbblogtwits!

Babies are on my mind. I will become a Grandma for the 12th time on April 12th.  I am going back to Oregon so I can celebrate my luck.   Read this post and come back and visit me soon.  I will have pictures!:) I also appreciate a follow or a link on your blog.



....boy could I use a copy of this book, How to Be the Perfect Grandma by Bryna Nelson Paston. People say it is funny. The words on the front cover are, "Never let ever, ever let anything bad happen to the kids on your watch...if you do lie!" The name of the first chapter is "There are rules. Follow them or go directly to grandma jail."  I am so glad that other grandparents have the same life as mine.
Brycen, #11, Age 2
Amazon  says: The Ultimate Rules for Grandma Success "Becoming a grandmother is not one of life's free choices. You can pick your pet, your alma mater, and your spouse, but when and where you become a grandma is entirely up to your kids. You don't expect it, and you don't quite know how to respond.  Being a grandma, though, is as close as you may ever get to perfection. So learn the rules and secure your spot as one of the most important parts of your grandchildren's lives."
Note: I want you to know that "How to be the Perfect...." is highly recommended by one of my favorite websites written by Susan Adcox over at About.com.  
Today's Thoughts
I don't know if you are a grandparent or not but I personally think that taking care of my young grandchildren is hard. I'm not sure if I am smart enough now or ever have been. I listen to Susan Adcox because she knows what she is talking about and has a good sense of humor. Yesterday I noticed a Twitter message from her about taking a Grandparenting Class. It turns out that some grandparents are offended that anyone would question their abilities. They are like me... they don't plan on letting anything happen to the children on their watch and if it does they can always do what Paston does...lie. I will have to admit I thought that if the hospital will send a brand new infant home with unsuspecting parents, why the necessity for me, the grandmother of 11 soon to be 12 grandchildren, taking a class. Then I remembered I am an educator and I know all the research that has been done on child rearing in the last 50 years. I realized that I need more information for keeping a baby safe and happy on my watch.  Besides, I am a terrible liar and I love those children beyond reason. Most importantly I don't want my daughter-in-laws mad at me. I am thinking a Grandparenting Class might not be a bad idea.

So Why the Class?
Adcox mentioned reasons for the class...things like the research on how a baby sleeps, tummy or back.  When my children were small we did not allow them to sleep on their backs. Back sleeping was thought to be the cause of infant death syndrom. We fed babies solids very early, did not take our babies out in public for months and used formula because we thought it was better for the baby (and ourselves) than breast feeding.  We spanked children, had them play in the sun until they were tanned and allowed our children to crawl all over the car and sleep in our laps in the front seat. My tiny babies slept in a bed on the backseat...it was manufactured for parents of newborns. Grandparents/parents smoked in the the house and grandmothers encouraged us to use weird homemade concoctions on our children. Yes my lovelies, times have changed.

So could it do any harm to take a class, bone up on emergency treatments for cuts, head wounds and choking?  Could we use a reminder about the medicines in our drawers and what would happen if your grandchild got into them and how to keep them alive if they did? What about the safety issues we have forgotten like the senior neighborhood swimming pool or the mop bucket or the toilet bowl or that water feature in the backyard you love so much? Would it be bad to listen to someone talk about child psychology for a while and even learn about the best way to help children adapt to being away from home? How about finding out which of the toys we have kept from our children childhood that might not be safe? Do we need to learn the new CPR methods or if there are ways to reduce SIDS? I don't know about you but I am thinking that I will bone up a little bit on my grandma skills. Adcox mentioned almost all of these.

I am glad that Susan Adcox brought this up. While I can joke about the things that happen on my watch, I do take the responsibility very seriously. I have decided I think we might all be a little smarter if we spent some time learning about what the commonly held knowledge for today is. What do you think?


b

Mar 26, 2012

Do you act dumb so you will fit in? Retirement!

We live among a group of well read, highly educated people...but I often get the feeling that they are hiding their light under a bussel just so they will fit in.  Have you found that to be true with your friends?

For example, a lady I have lived close to for 5 years was the head of the Home Extension Service in her state working at her state university.  She seldom talks about her former life so I found this out by pure accident.  Last night we were talking about how she began pursuing her doctorate after she retired.  Are you impressed by that?  I know I am.

Jan and her Husband Hugh!
So tonight when a few friends had a wine tasting party, I began to think about how those of us that actually love a really good bottle of wine were put to the test.  I cannot help that I have tasted and judged whether I like or don't like a lot of wines. Tasting wine is a hobby. It is a part of my life experience.  The ridicule resonated in the group of people and the first prize was given to a bottle of blueberry wine. It was a lot of fun, we laughed a lot and the woman that won the prize with a $1.95 bottle of wine from Safeway was delighted.  You see, she said, you don't have to spend a lot of money to have a really good bottle of wine!  I just smiled.  I don't agree but I did care.

The connection between good wine and an accomplished person is evident.  You can smirk at the best and discount the value of work, quality education and aging. The person or the maker of the wine knows. And there will always be people that recognize the quality of the work and the bottle of wine.  That is all that matters.

Being discrete is okay but please, when you meet me, let me know who you are and what you have done. As Popeye would say "I yam what I yam".  Don't hide it.  And I love a good bottle of wine and an accomplished person.

b

Mar 25, 2012

Native Mexican Dancers/Beggers

San Carlos Mexican Native Dancers/Beggers

Paying the Price for Living in Paradise ... garbage!



I like a blog written by a solo woman traveler called Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel.  It is a very serious blog about sights and sounds of foreign countries. She tells it like she see it.  That is good...if it is bad or boring or dirty then I want to know.  She will tell you.  That is where I saw the post about garbage in third world countries.  It turns out I have an opinion!

Garbage/litter/trash/filth is not my favorite subject but it seems that it will draw your eye faster than any beautiful sight. That is why we crop litter in the foreground from our photos. But it turns out that in other cultures it does not even raise an eyebrow.

My husband and I just returned from a short stay in a fishing community about 6 hours south of border called San Carlos.  This is one of the "cheap" third world places to live that US and Canadian retirees are looking for.  You know, the one that lets you keep your money and still enjoy the Mexican lifestyle.  No taxes for roads or garbage/sewage removal.  Just life in the sunshine and drinks at 5 pm.  It is almost free they told me...well a lot less than staying in Tucson for example.  (An RV space just off the beach rents for $25 daily.  Here in Tucson the fee is $40 daily.)



So my husband and I spent 4 days finding the exploring San Carlos and it's back roads.  We came home with a car that looked like it had driven down the Baja on dirt roads for several days.  Here is what we found.  Nothing is free...PARADISE comes at a cost to someone.  In this case, the cost may be to the Mexican people...I am not sure.

Sea of Cortex and Me
The road from Nogales taking the truck route around the city is a toll road all the way from the border to San Carlos.  Locals and the Mexican trucking industry pay dearly so those roads can be maintained.  I suspect that most locals are taking back roads to avoid the cost.  The first toll as you enter the country is $11.  Really!  Back roads are paved if they are a main road to somewhere.  Maintenance on them is minimal.  If they are country roads or even back streets in town they are not paved.  In San Carlos, the roads to the snowbird neighborhoods are paved but all other roads are dust.

Then there is the garbage.  It just grows and flys everywhere.  There is a garbage bag hanging from every tree.  I will say that at least San Carlos does not have dogs wandering free like they were in Puerto Penasco the last time we visited.  A burning barrel becomes traveling garbage when dogs tip them over.  Those people that visit San Carlos must have waste disposal of some kind but if you go even a few streets away from the center of this snowbird community, you will find the garbage strewn in the yard or tossed over a bank.

Hole in the Donut said children pointed out that banana peels and orange rinds do not hurt a thing. They go back into the soil to make it rich and the oranges sweeter next year.   I agree totally.  Composting is a very good thing. The smell of rotting vegetables should not offend anyone but piling it close to the house or on a city street attracts rats and worse.  But in our "use it and toss it" world, it is the containers that are burying third world countries.  They have caught onto our luxurious food in styrofoam packaging and plastic grocery bags but don't realize or care about disposing of any plastic in the proper way.

In our country we are hiders of waste.  The garbage in the state of Oregon is transported from the Portland metro area  to a huge disposal sight about 2 1/2 hours from the city.  It is sorted, buried, composted and heaven knows what else.  But the point is, we never see or smell it again. It is very costly for us and communities are doing everything to reduce the amount that needs to be taken away.

What is the point?  While I do not like to see the garbage and tires tossed over the hills and people living in squalor, I have to admit that we are not much better...we just put waste where we cannot see it. The snowbirds that are living the cheap life on the Mexican dime are dreaming if they think that paradise doesn't come at a cost. We pay the price in the United States for the services we receive.  But who is paying for the infrastructure in Mexico if the snowbirds have it so good?  Could it be the country is suffering a lot of damage that is invisible?
Snowbirds build around travel trailers!
Lake and litter
Courtesy of 501 Places Flickr Account

As an afterthought I need to say...I think we missed the point of the "global warming" discussion.  It really doesn't matter if climate change is our fault or not.  The message was...PLEASE QUIT MAKING OUR PLANET INTO ONE BIG GARBAGE DUMP!

b

Links:


Mar 24, 2012

Learning about China by reading Mao's Last Dancer

Note: The words high lighted in blue are ads included for your convenience.By running the cursor over the ads you can see what the ad is about before you click on it. I like that a lot


I have been in China three times now. During those three times I have spent a total of 8 weeks getting to know China but only on the surface. My husband and I have wandered here and there in Shanghai and in the countryside. But it wasn't until I read Mao's Last Dancer by Li Cunxi that I understood what really had happened to the Chinese people during the Cultural Revolution and as a result, what I had been seeing. The hurt from those years still can be seen in the attitude of it's older Chinese citizens.
Poster showing Jiang Qing promoting the fine a...
Poster showing Jiang Qing promoting 
the fine arts during the Cultural Revolution while holding
 Mao's "Little Red Book" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Li Cunxi is a world famous dancer on the ballet stage and performed with the Houston Ballet for many years. He ended his career in Australia where he still lives with his wife and three children. He success in life belies the life he left behind in China. For the first 11 years of his life he lived in extreme poverty in a commune in Qingdao. He was one of seven boys. Had fate not taken him elsewhere, he would have been destined to be a truck driver when his father retired. But one day he was selected by his teacher as a child to be trained in Madame Mao's ballet school in Beijing. At the age of 11 he became one of the Communist Party's possessions and was raised to be not only a dance but a member of the Red Guard. This simple beautiful book lets the reader get a glimpse of what life was like and how the minds of the Chinese people were controlled through propaganda and lies.
.

I have never read a book that said so much in such a simple way.  Li told the heart felt story beginning with his life as a small child, his life in the school of dance in Beijing and on to his time in Houston at the ballet.  The drama of his life unfolds in the story as he comes to the realization that he would never return to China willingly.

I would recommend this book to anyone that has opinions about international affairs and the true personality of the Chinese people.  It is a true eye-opener.

b
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Mar 23, 2012

Should you believe what the Groupon Coupon promises? Maybe not.

Are you a smart traveler...are there ways that we can avoid these problems or do we just deal with them as their ugly head appears?  My husband and I discussed this yesterday.  We thought that maybe when we travel, especially in Mexico, we need to go back to doing things the way we did when we were younger.  We would not have made reservations that locked us in and would have checked out the room before we signed the registration book. I don't know but it is sounding better to me all the time.  After all the Frugal Traveler with the New York Times does that.  Why don't we?

The Beach at Sunset
We just returned from 4 days in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico.  The reason we took this little trip was to check out a Groupon Get Away.  My husband purchased the coupon online in January. The coupon was for 4 nights in the "resort" and included wine, a dinner and continental breakfast each day.   It sounded like such a good deal we thought we had better see if the Groupon Coupon could produce what the resort owners promised.

I wrote about the rating a couple of days ago...it was our first day in the resort and I was not a happy camper.  But my husband had the philosophy that we had paid so little so our expectations should not be high.  I, on the other hand, think that a coupon gets us a reduced price not a reduced service.  What do you think?  It took me a while to realize that I could not change anything to make it much better...at least in relationship to the room.  By the time I got all the problems solved it was OK but not wonderful.

I should mention that the restaurant, special entertainment and bar was wonderful.  The place is popular with snowbirds that are staying in surrounding condos.

I didn't mention before that we did not have any hot water but we let it go because we had complained about the other problems already (a room that had not been cleaned).  How big a schmucks do you think we are?  I took two cold showers and had begun to smell bad before we finally talked to a maintenance man.  He simply went to a control panel and turned the water heater on.  We had hot water within 15 minutes!

In the future I will:

  1. Read the reviews online, look at google maps, read about the community.
  2. See what Fodor's has to say about the motel and the community.  I have used Fodor's when traveling in Mexico before and gotten great results.
  3. If we are using a coupon, we will check to see what the daily rate actually is and do some research.
  4. Never use a coupon that seems too good to be true.  Never!
  5. Complain about everything immediately.  Every motel or resorts should be clean, have hot water, and provide enough towels, hand towels and wash clothes for everyone staying in the room.  
I might add I will also be looking at the list of things to do in the area...I honestly did not have a very good time.  I can only read and walk the streets so much.  The golf course is not good...it is not even satisfactory.  Somehow I need a little more action.  However, if you like to fish or drink you are in luck.  San Carlos is the place for you.

Resort:  Fiesta Real Hotel, San Carlos, Sonora,  Mexico
  • FYI:  Gas was $4.15 per gallon on the USA side of the border.  
  • Travel down the freeways in Mexico will cost you at several toll stations.  Check out the cost before you leave and maybe get some pesos.  They will take credit cards but you pay a fee to your bank for using those.
  • As long as you don't leave the state of Sonora you do not need a visa to visit.  If you travel further south you will need to get the visa at the check point along the freeway. Find out where that is before you leave.

Mar 22, 2012

Dear Mexico, I apologize for the earthquake! It may be my fault!


Dear Mexico,

I am sorry for the earthquake.  It may be our fault.  It seems that no matter where we go there is a strong possibility that a disaster can happen.  We don't do it on purpose.  We were:
  • on the east coast when Three Mile Island nuclear plant malfunctioned.
  • in Boston when the famous blackouts occurred.
  • trapped in Boston when United Airlines went on strike paralyzing the airways.
  • in Thailand when the tsunami swept across Phuket and the Indian Ocean.
  • in Spain when the Americans invaded Iraq.
  • in Beijing when the storm from Mongolia covered the country in red dust.
  • in San Carlos when the 7+ earthquake his Mexico.
There may be more...I have just blocked them out. I have a friend that says we should not be allowed to leave home. Anyway, I send my apologies.

b+



Mar 20, 2012

Rating a Groupon Get Away, San Carlos, Sonora, Mx

We are staying in a hotel resort on the beach in San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico. We came here to try out a Groupon Get Away packages. Did I get my money's worth? Is this frugal travel or too hard to make it worth it? You be the judge.

I have had people ask me recently “Why do you buy a timeshare?” On the face of it I question the decision too...until we start to travel in places like Mexico. A two week vacation can be a dream come true or a struggle. Not that I mind the frugal travel or even a floor that suggests that I should wear my shoes and turn on the lights before I step on the floor. I have done that a lot...and the very first time was in NYC. But as the years passed I wanted to experience my vacation without the creeps. Just being here is not enough for me anymore. I need a little luxury on a vacation and I am beginning to think that the only sure way to guarantee that is to own a reputable timeshare and be able to exchange for something of equal value.

Boat Basis filled with yachts of every size...very large slips are situated in from of gorgeous homes. 
So what about San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico? We were asked recently if we had ever used a Groupon Get Away and we decided to give it a try. My husband booked four nights in a “resort” on the beach near the center of the village with Groupon. The room was billed as being worth twice as much as we payed. We are being given dinner, continental breakfast and a bottle of wine. There may be more but you get the idea. The price for that package would have been $380 if we had paid full price. Did we get a good deal...well maybe. Even $380 for 4 nights is not bad! However, a week at Grand Mayan would have cost us around $400 in a studio suite. Now that is luxury!

San Carlos is about a 6 hour drive south of Tucson. It is located on the Gulf of California. San Carlos is a sleep little Mexican town near Guaymas. The waters team with beautiful shrimp and other sea food. The community is invaded by snowbirds from the USA and Canada in the winter. It is being built up with houses and gated communities on every hillside. The setting is spectacular but the community is not experiencing the kind of growth big "resort" money would bring. Tourism has not brought boutiques or shops filled with souvenirs. There are a lot of advertisement with real estate people for condo rentals but hotels do not line the beach. Condo buildings stand unfinished at the water's edge.

Giving that information, you are asking “So how is that hotel/resort?” Well let me say the restaurant is wonderful. The wait staff is attentive, the bartender is friendly and the food has been very good. We talked with several local people over dinner last night and a talented trio played guitars and sang ballads at our table.

But our room...well that is another thing all together. These accommodations are the best and the worst of the hotel room situation. When we checked in the beds was made but the room had not been cleaned. It takes me a while to realize this sort of thing but when I do become aware I get a little queasy. When I looked around, I realized there were no glasses and my husband went the bar to get a couple so we could drink our bottled water. The shower had sand in it and the paint that is pealing off the walls was laying on the floor. I used one of our two towels to clean the shower and floor. Thank heaven the floors in the bedroom area were tiled so I did not have the feeling that carpet was hiding a multitude of sins.

On the good side, we are on the bottom floor facing the beach. Our room has a wall of windows and the two double beds are okay. It is very quiet and the hotel is up front in saying that you will not have a phone or a TV in your room. We liked that. Our patio is protected and the view is spectacular. I don’t want to move...I just want what I have to be clean. We have accomplished that part just fine. I only wish I had pointed out the problem sooner. 

Should I have told them I was going to tell you...was that right? You know, I guess I don’t care. My husband and I went out exploring and when we came back the room smelled like Clorox, the shower was clean, there where two glasses on our dresser and the floor was mopped.. There was even a little bath mat! Sometimes having this blog is a very good thing.

You will have to decide if you think this is a good place to stay. I cannot make that judgement for you. Fiesta Real Hotel, San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico. If it had been clean I would have given it 3 1/2 stars. There is a Best Western up the road and some big resorts up the coast on the beach. But that is all there is here in town! And this is a very beautiful location. I just wish I were staying in my Grand Mayan timeshare!

b

Mar 18, 2012

Travel to Spain...Lonely Planet's Hot Suggestion

There is a place in southeastern Oregon where the Steens Mountains loom over the landscape. Very few people live in the wild wondrous place so few have seen the mythical herd of wild horses that are descendants of the Andalusian horses the Spanish explorers brought in their search for gold. I've only seen a picture of them one time in my life. Their long unruly mane flow over the side of their necks attesting to their wild and illusive nature. When I looked at the website for the region this morning I see no mention of them. For someone like me to even see such a horse was a dream or maybe I dreamed the whole thing!
From Lonely Planet:  10 of the World’s Unsung Places
"Some places stay persistently off the beaten track, despite their many charms. Here’s a sampling of places overlooked because of geography, chance and the presence of more glamorous neighbours."Read more: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/italy/friuli-venezia-giulia/trieste/travel-tips-and-articles/77017#ixzz1pUQGqrU0

I was reminded of that dream when I saw an article on the Lonely Planet website this last week.  The article was about 10 unsung out of the way places that people are missing when they travel.  Jerez de la Frontera was number nine on the list.  When my husband and I along with friends took our very first trip to Europe twelve years ago, our friend asked what we wanted to see above anything else. Each person took their turn...The Alhambra, Rhonda, Seville.  I wanted to see the Andalucian horses at the Royal Academy in Jerez de la Frontera.  It was not on the beaten track but somehow we managed to go there.

Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art is perhaps one of the finest examples of living art you could ever see.  The afternoon we found the academy in Jerez was warm and horses were in corrals where you could approach and even touch them.  We purchased tickets to watch the show in an arena on the grounds.  Classical spanish guitar music filled the space and as the horses began to perform we could not help but be filled with the awe.
Flamenco Dancers and Andalusian Horse

Jerez is that kind of place.  It is famous for not only the Royal Academy but also for being a city that produces sherry in bodegas and of course the flamenco.  When Lonely Planet listed Jerez de la Frontera as one of 10 unsung places I was surprised.  I have been singing it's praises for 12 years now!


b
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Mar 16, 2012

Staying Smart Learning Hot New Trends in Communities...Pop Up Communities and more

FIY this topic is so hot that Techonorati does not have any tags for it.  Who knew??

What did you learn today that surprised you?  Was it some hot new trend?  I hope it was an idea or trend that will interest us too.  Please share in the comments.  As for me, I learned about two new types of communities.  One involved a new meaning for "Pop Up" and another is a new concept in a nursing facilities that looked like a normal community but had walls so people could not escape wander away.  Both fascinated me.  Tweet it up if you find it interesting and have a great day!
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. from Wikipedia!
I spend a certain amount of time online just surfing...everyday. It is important because that is one of the places that I go so I can be in the know.  The definition above doesn't acknowledge that generations learn from each other. Young from the old and old from the young. In fact, I never cease to be amazed at the creative ideas that each new generation brings to our world.  That is why the internet is so important to a person like me.  I spend 6 months of the year with age mates. I could very easily loose the thread of thought that passes across the world population every day. And like most people, I want to know what is hot. So shoot me!

This week I saw two items I found very interesting.  One was because of the mention of Pop Up Communities and another was an article about a community in Switzerland for people that suffered from dementia.  I was unaware that either one existed.

Pop Up Communities
Remember last week/year/whenever the words "pop up" conjured the image of those annoying boxes that appeared on your computer screen to advertise insurance?  Now the two little words "Pop UP" have taken on a whole new meaning.  A Pop Up Community is simply a temporary community of people that gather in an unexpected place.  It can involve a total art show or just a patch of green turf and 8 lawn chairs set up in a parking lot.  Out there in the world the idea may have sprung from the simple food trucks that inhabit communities across our nation.  The trucks are traveling restaurants that appear near parks, at construction sites and in vacant lots.  A community or people that run and use them is growing.

Now the Pop Up Community concept has spread to other segments of our populations.  In fact The Street Blog wrote a piece about it just a few days ago.  They described the unconventional use of conventional spaces in this way:
Streets repurposed as public markets. Parking spaces as parks. Vacant storefronts as temporary art galleries. It’s never been hotter.
I read about a group that took over a retail street in their community that was almost abandoned.  Stores were opened as temporary restaurants, art was displayed on the streets and the "Pop Up Community" was dressed up for one day.  It was done to show how the street could be repurposed to become a functioning part of their community again.

I found this video on YouTube about a group in NYC that do that creates pop up markets on a regular basis.  Take a look and I think you will be amazed too.



Dementia Village, Switzerland
Here is a community of another kind.  I can barely even write about this even though it was fascinating in a "Truman Show" kind of way.  Switzerland is embracing the idea of building nursing facilities for people suffering from dementia.  They are communities with an altered reality.
It’s a village like many others. Street signs, front gardens with little gnome figurines, a restaurant, beauty parlor and supermarket. What is different about it is that the 150 men and women who live here suffer from serious dementia. They can move around freely in the village. But they can’t leave it. This is Hogewey, a nursing facility near Amsterdam that is considered a pioneer in dementia care. Care givers stay behind the scenes, and are dressed like gardeners, hairdressers, and sales people. from World Crunch
Really I don't know what it was about this that didn't ring true.  What do you think? Do you think that a village that will cost 17 million British pounds, houses 150 people and is not real in anyway is a good idea?  Is it just me or is this creepy in some way?

Have a wonderful day.

b


Mar 15, 2012

When "Staying Put" does not work out! Thoughts on down sizing!

The thought of an apartment that’s not in the city – with no room for Pop Up community is making me ill.  They probably won’t allow Daisy [the dog].  I feel my insides squeezing even though I know that if I do it, I won’t have to worry about cash flow once the deed is done.  At least not for a while.  
I am a aging woman and I have talked a lot about downsizing. I am just like everyone else...I worry about the mortgage and finances and debt.  Money is the "tail that wags the dog" in many of our lives.  When I began reading The Little Old Lady Stays Put this morning, it hit me one more time.  What we want and what we must do are totally different things.

I am not a place person in any way. I spend my winters in a park model and live with the previous owners stuff.  It doesn't take very many of my things to make me feel at home.  Don't get me wrong, the living space is beautiful in my eyes but just not big or even permanent.  But....

Here is the truth of the matter.  It is ours...we own it and in our minds that is what makes it home.  I have lived temporarily in an apt. within the last 10 years and it was very hard.  AND we go back to Oregon in the summer for 6 months to live in a 1500 square foot home in a small 55+ community very near my children. School buses stops/pass by on the street across from our homes in both places. I cannot in all honesty call myself a fulltime small space dweller nor am I isolated from younger people in either place.  I don't yearn for the bigger space when we are in Arizona but I know Oregon is there.

That is where The Little Old Lady Stays Put  blog comes in.  They have been running a series of stories about why some must sell their home and downsize.  One post called "Death by Mortgage" talked about reverse mortgages and how the house can run out before the person gives out.  It is a big gamble because we do know that the equity in our homes is a nest egg of sorts for many of us. Just the worry of that mortgage hanging over our heads could be awful.

If I were facing this and one of us suffered from dementia making outside help necessary, I can see how financial our homes would become a problem.  We would probably start looking at selling our home and downsizing considerably in order to provide care for the person that needed it.  I cannot walk in the another's shoes but the blog does give me a glimpse into the heart of the The Little Old Lady.  Could I see the positives?  I don't know.

So given the choice, would you move to an apartment and pay a monthly rent to let someone else maintain the lawn and the plumbing? Could you move permanently to a 55+ community and rent a very small space?  Could you make the sacrifice in terms of space and privacy to save that nest egg for what may or may not come?  How much space do you need to be happy?  What do you think?

b

Mar 11, 2012

How to be Timeshare Smart! What You Need to Know Before You Visit a Resort

Timeshare Iguana
Many of the resorts you see for rent on Expedia, Travelocity are timeshare resorts.  Before you leave, be aware that they will try to sell you a timeshare.  Be smart, be armed and be wary.  


My husband and I have had a timeshare for many, many years. Recently we moved up to a Grand Mayan timeshares called The Bliss with 3 weeks (can be converted to 6 one week units) for our family's use or to rent. It has been a roller coaster of good and bad. This last week I decided to do some deep digging and talk to a variety of people. But first....

Does anyone actually listen to all the information that says don't buy a timeshare at the resort? The nightmarish pressure to attend sales presentations before the resort will even give your the keys to your room is only the beginning! It is all downhill from there. I hate those presentations, abuse the sellers, don't even wash before I go. NONONONO does not mean a thing to these people.  Getting up and walking away is the only recourse and I am not sure they will let you. But they are not going to stop talking until you are out of earshot. Having said that, you can find a timeshare that will work for you if you have the right information and go to the right place. Just not the resort itself!

So here is what I have learned after talking to the typical pay up front listing and the website owner that is reluctant to list my unit until he actually knows what we have.  It was quite an eyeopener.

Mayan Palace, Puerto Vallarta, MX
  • Don't pay upfront to list your property for rent. A person in the know said these are scams.  I would go with a agency that has you pay the fees after they have rented your unit. I would also want to see the agreement in writing before I decided to do anything.  These rental companies can charge up to $600 with a renewal fee each year. They claim to have a link to Expedia and other bargain travel companies. Try Craigs List first! It is free.
  • If a timeshare promises that you can rent your purchases to re-coop your purchase money, don't believe it. When looking for a rental agency be aware that a company that rents for a commission is probably the best deal.  But, they do not take all the listings they are offered so you may be turned down. The one I talked to charged 20% for booked units.  A 2 bedroom at the Grand Mayan, The Bliss rents for around $2000.  You pay over $1000 in maintenance when you rent the unite.  When you take the 20% away that leaves you with approximately $500.  The profit is better than nothing but you are not going to get your money back for the purchase anytime soon. Better yet figure out how to do it yourself.
  • If you buy a timeshare and you think you will get an ocean view room think again.  In the Grand Mayan resorts for example, you must have upgraded or purchased more than one timeshares with the company before you are eligible for one of those view rooms.  
  • Some timeshares like WorldMark by Wyndam charge maintenance fees quarterly whether you use the units or not.  If you buy it, use it!  It just doesn't make any sense not to. What you have done if you don't, is pay $1000 a year for a vacation you have never gone on.  Be smart...buy and then use!  If you can accumulate weeks for that trip of a lifetime it may be worth saving them up...but if you do that for three years, you have just paid $3000+ for three weeks of accomodations.  Keep that in mind.
  • Before you even leave for a resort, check to see what timeshares at that resort are selling for. Then, if you give in to the pressure to go to a presentation (that will take your whole day), you are armed with good information as to values and perks.  Print and take this information on your vacation.  Darn...!  
  • If you check websites that are selling timeshares be sure to note those shares that are being dumped.  There could be a reason for dumping.  For example:  a) there may not be many years left on the contract,  b) older contracts may not have the amenities you want, c) it may be a basic unit with a view of the parking lot , d) it may be a week that is undesirable.  You can check the resort link to find out about the area...weather, beach access, cost of food on the resort etc.  A good deal is always relative to the not so good amenities or weather.  In Mexico you can run into hurricanes in the summer.  The locals call that monsoon season.  Humidity can be very high.  After looking into all these things, you still may be able to score a timeshare at a very good price. Just be careful.
  • When you go online to look at timeshares, the first links on the page are the ones that get most of the business.  It could be that those are the very best.
  • Having said all this, you will find that both of the resorts (WorldMark by Wyndam and Grand Mayan) beautiful ...honestly you will feel like royalty when you stay there.  People like us could never in a million years afford to stay in these type of accommodations year after year had we not made some upfront investments.  Our initial investment was so small that we have earned our money back over and over again.  
Here's a thought:  Consider donating a week to charity with the idea that they can auction it off and pay the maintenance fee and still have money in their pocket.  You might get a tax write off.

Oh, and to answer your question...yes we will rent our unit.  Send me an email. ;)  Let's talk!

b

Mar 10, 2012

Tucson for Snowbirds...a season at a glance!

It occurred to me that I had never written about a total retirement snowbird season in a RV Resort.  The emotional and financial implications of making the decision to leave home for a whole season are big.  Here is a small glimpse of what your life might be like.  Additional links to information is at the bottom of the page.  You will find more information on costs, real estate possibilities and park model living.

We begin our snowbird season in October. In Oregon, our home state, it begins to rain and turns cold. As soon as we have a few dark days our thoughts turn to our winter home. When we travel south, we leave the cold behind. It is generally very warm when we arrive but I am not sure if we just notice because it is cold in Oregon or because it is hot in Tucson. I shed my warm clothes in favor cooler ones. The warm clothes I arrive in go into storage for 6 weeks or so.

This brings up the issue of clothes that fill our needs for six months. While my husband leaves shorts, jeans, etc here in our park model, I don't do that. He tells me women are different. I don't know about other women but that does not work for me. I need clothes for the weather we find in Oregon from March through October. I use the same clothes year around. While we don't need fur lined coats in Tucson, it does make sense to pack for lots of layers. Each day in March or November, for example, can call for long pants with a jacket to short sleeve and crop pants. I change my clothes a lot. When it is winter in Minnesota it is winter in Tucson. It can snow, hail, freeze and blow here just like back home. I do not own two sets of everything so I take my clothes back and forth.

Arizona Front DoorArizona Front Door (Photo credit: Always at Home)
Fort Lowell Neighborhood 
  • Jan 38.9°F 64.5°F 
    • Feb 41.6°F 68.4°F 
    • Mar 45.1 °F 73.3°F 
    • Apr 50.5°F 81.5°
    • May 58.6°F 90.4°F 
    • Jun 68.0°F 100.2°F 
    • Jul 73.4°F 99.6°F 
    • Aug 72.4°F 97.4°F 
    • Sept 67.7°F 94.0°F 
    • Oct 57.0°F 84.0°F 
    • Nov 45.1°F 72.3°F 
    • Dec 39.2°F 64.6°F
    As we move from October toward December and the days grow shorter, the days get cooler.  Actually this is one of my favorite times of the year.  We golf and I plant flowers in my little plot in front of my park model. The park begins to fill back up and the snowbirds fly south to find warmer weather.  Our park will begin to have dances on Halloween and a big Thanksgiving dinner is served for everyone.  The people here do become like a second family.

    In December we fly back home to be with our family for the holidays. By using a Amex credit card or airline miles, we usually have enough in point to buy at least one round trip ticket. Most years we only stay for a week. Many times we have been back in the park to celebrate New Years Eve to go dancing with friends.

    It will freeze here around Christmas.  The flowers will need to be covered for a few nights. We even protect the water on some nights. I wear jeans, long sleeved tees and sweaters. We have bocce ball fun league in Nov-Dec and all the activities in our park will keep even the most dedicated recluse active.  What we have here in the park coupled with all those things going on in the city make it hard to be bored.

    Tucson is a city!  We live fairly near the Park Mall on Broadway. In the winter we love to take in a movie in the afternoon...like all senior citizens we take advantage of better rates on special days and hours. The mall also has restaurants and great shopping. When we settle in for the remainder of the season our life becomes very routine. But, as compared to our summer home, we are not isolated from other people. We can be with people all the time or stay out of sight. It is our choice. People gather in the coffee room in the morning and read the paper, share a story or two and then move on to the rest of their day.

    January is cool and the days are short. We place bocce ball and if we play at three in the afternoon, we are wearing ALL our layers before the game is over.  February begins to warm but it can still freeze.  Frost delays are common on the golf courses up through March. In spite of the nippy mornings the pickle ball players are whacking the ball around almost every day. We have a table outside that overlooks the courts and we are regular spectators. We love to eat breakfast in the sunshine and we always have entertainment.

    We live very frugally here. Our park model is beautiful on the inside but cost us less than a car.  We pay rent for the space. Our washer and dryer were added in the shed this year.  Before, I used the laundry room.  I like that a lot. I met some friends there. The pool is just outside the door of the laundry and I would sit in the sunshine and read as my wash tumbled dry. The clothes lines are very handy too.

    Our library here in the park is really quite extensive. Residents read their books and then donate them.  There is no cost. Neighbors read the wide selection and do it year after year.

    I am a great reader but I use a ipad or kindle to read most books. We subscribe to Cox internet.  We can afford this because we but our internet and TV service back home on vacation. No good internet service or tv package is cheap so you may as well bite the bullet and go ahead and get it. We have a wireless network in the park you can pay a monthly fee for...it is worthless and a big pain. Talk to your neighbors before you subscribe to any wireless service. I have yet to see one that is worth the money.

    I tried the line dancing class but it turns out I don't like to get up and be at the recreation hall at 9:30 am.  Oh well, line dancing is fun to watch anyway. They added a Zumba class this year and that is a great favorite. Cards are a big favorite too and Texas Hold Em or Bridge will fill the card room.

    It is March now. The wind is blowing today and it has been windy off and on all week.  But next week the temps will be in the 80's. My husband will play golf a couple of times. By using GolfNow.com or Easylinks he always gets the best rates.  The city golf course are generally much cheaper if you use these websites.  In fact I cannot imagine not using the computer here. Restaurant.com and Groupon are our go to places for almost everything. Like most seniors we try to live high style at a reasonable price. Go figure!

    We love the outdoors and eat outside as much as possible. We own a space heater for our patio.  The Saguaro National Park is very nearby and we visit to watch the sunsets whenever possible.

    By April the days will be getting very warm. We usually leave the third week in the month. Water is turned off, refrigerator emptied and windows shuttered.  Our little park model "doll house" will sleep until next fall. It stays very clean because it is closed up tight. When we come back in the fall, it will not even be dusty.

    What Does Tucson Have to Offer?
    Tucson is just an hours or so north of the Mexican border. The city is divided into two section; South Tucson is a separate town and made up mostly of Hispanic residents. Tucson proper has a upscale north side and the rest of us live middle class lives in the rest of the city. The area around the U of A is the old part of town and some beautiful Territorial style houses can be found there.

    City center is beginning to show signs of a return to usefulness but really the banking and business community occupies it during the day and disappears at night. It is interesting to drive through because it retains the look of the Old Pueblo back in the day. Tattoo parlors are prevalent so the downtown has a very counter culture look. The addition of some condos and space for stores is helping the area now.   There are some very old buildings and the Congress Hotel has a great restaurant.  Just so you know, John Dillinger was captured here and the likes of Wyatt Earp visited nearby. I like that history a lot.

    Living for six month in a culture so different from the one we enjoy in summer is one of the great pleasures of this location. I always have the feeling that this is where the "Old West" lived and breathed.

    The food is fantastic. Mexican Sonoran food can be found in small family owned restaurants. We visit one on 22nd Street called Taco Giro. We are told that it has the best Sonoran cuisine around. If you are a  fan of great New Mexico Mexican food, a small place called Poco and Moms is the place to go. For more main stream Mexican we visit a place called El Rio. But if you are in the notion for white table clothes and wonder cuisine, you can find that in Tucson too. Beautiful resort like Lowe's Ventana Canyon and Marriot Resorts dot the area close to the Catalina Mountains. Tanque Verde Guest Ranch is a world renowned dude ranch and features horse back riding, bicycle tours and beautiful barbeques.

    Hopefully, if you decide to come to Tucson, you will embrace the Hispanic and Native American culture along with all that it brings. An evening spent watching the Day of the Dead parade near the University of Arizona will give you a look at what this world has to offer.  People sit in the cemeteries on the holiday with picnics and barbeque's to spend the day remember a loved one.  Small monuments sit in front of houses on country roads with a shrine housed in a tiny concrete house. The San Xavier del Bac Mission is home to the Tohono O'odam Nation.They are having the nations largest Indian PowWow this weekend. This very old mission is so very charming and the photographer's dream come true.

    However, if you don't want to ever rub shoulders with people that are unlike the ones back home or try food that is different, you should not come here. You will not like it.

    Arts
    A small community called Tubac is about 40 minutes south of Tucson. Here you will find a growing thriving art community. North of Tucson along the foothills of the Catalina Mountains you will also find art studios for famous artist  Diane Maderas studio is here as is De Grazia's Studio in the Sun. The University of Arizona brings performances in through out the school year. The Tucson Gallery of Art is located in the old downtown area.

    I hope this post has been helpful for you.  Be well!

    b


    More Information Here....Park Model Living

    Mar 7, 2012

    When Smart Decor Is Still Atomic...2012 Style! Apartment Therapy



    Apartment Therapy is all about living in small spaces.  It seems that living in a city among a million people does not insure any human contact.  Apartment Therapy is a place apt. dwellers can go online to read about other people that live the same lifestyle. I guess you can see why I am a frequent visitor to this website!  My small space life is indeed a lifestyle choice my husband and I have made.


    They have been running a contest for home design blogs.  They said;
    There are awards for all sorts of blogs, but no one ever pays enough attention to the home blogs, so we started The Homies.
    They just thought that people writing a home design blog should get more traffic. The money prize is $50 but the big prize is a whole lot of traffic.  If you are a blogger you will understand how important traffic is. Readers are now voting on the blogs using a list created in the last week of February. But we are all winners because this allows people like you and me to have access to a list of the best of the best home design blogs.  Five blogs have made the finals and I voted today.


    Finalist Links
    (The blog names in orange above are the blog links but you need to go to Apartment Therapy to vote before March 9, afternoon)


    From Chezerbey
    I visited each blog just to make sure I wasn't voting the one with the best name.  If I were to pick the best name I would have to go with The Lettered Cottage.  In fact this is a beautiful blog and one I have on my blog list here in my sidebar. I like that blog a lot.  It has by far the best tutorials around!
    Atomic Art from Stevo Cambronne as seen on Retro Renovation
    I really could not believe how hard it was for me to pick.  Initially, I wanted to vote for Retro Renovation. I remember when retro was new. Teal green cars and kitchen counters used the same paint chip.  Girls wore "Bermuda shorts" and guys combed their hair back in a "duck tail". But I decided I didn't want to read more than one post. I guess I don't have any sentimental attachment to that era.


    So I finally chose Chezerbey.  This blog is about a young couple, both architects, that are making their home in Seattle.  The blog follows the renovation of one of Seattle's 1910 homes. The blog posts show you step by step how they have transformed the interior into a beautiful modern, minimalist environment.  The exterior is also renovated and the couple has managed to bridge the gap between the modern interior and the modest 1910 exterior.  The whole process from rough sketches to the finished (?) product are chronicled in a carefully written blog.  


    So I didn't pick the atomic Retro Renovation blog.   I think the creators of Chezerbey have created a smart, functional design for this "fixer Upper" and they have some wonderful recap pages that take you through the whole process without the need to search hundreds of posts.  In a lot of ways their choices reflect what "atomic design" is in 2012.   They are not in 1st place but maybe if everyone votes for the before Friday, they might win.


    Have a great day.


    b