Jul 29, 2013

The Need to Nurture in Retirement

Bob Lowry posted a piece on Satisfying Retirement the other day about owning pets and all the benefits that an animal can have for a retiree. It was very interesting and in fact important. I found that surprising! In my world animals are just there. I have a dozen grandchildren and a family that value me in so many ways. I am a natural nurturer and I thought that need was satisfied by my family. The wonderful pets we have owned have always been relegated to the outdoors when small children or the family came to visit.

But after I read Bob's article, I began to reflect on all the things our pets have done for us over the years. They have provided comfort and entertainment. Our children learned to nurture from our Momma Kitty and stand their ground from our fierce toms. The love our Dachshunds had for our cats taught them that being different is not a bad thing. They witnessed life and death up close and personal. They suffered the angst of loss at an early age. It was all a good learning experience for them.

After we retired and our children were grown, we were still the caregivers for 4 pets. Two cats  lived for 12 or more years and a the Dachshunds lived to be over 17. I thought that not having a pet would be a relief in many ways.

We led a lifestyle without the company of an animal for several years. It was different in so many ways. Easier yes but better?  Not at all. My husband and I both felt an empty spot in our hearts. Still we waited as though we somehow knew that a furry soul was out there and it would find us.

And find us it did...in the most unexpected place you could ever imagine. We were in our RV staying in a trailer park close to the freeway and next to the river in Corpus Cristi, Texas. Our neighbors were living a life that depended on fishing and frugal living. Unfortunately, cats were not wanted and certainly no one could afford to feed them. A trap had been set to catch strays so they could be destroyed.

RV the Cat
I think someone had dumped kittens near the trailers in the spring and the babies had been living off what remained after the fishermen cleaned their fish. Boats would pull out in the morning and return at sunset. The cats would scurry from every direction when they heard the boat motors approaching. 

My husband was fascinated by the whole process and watch each evening as the cycle came to a close for the day. He talked about the black cat for several days. My husband may be the Doctor Doolittle of our family because he seems to attract creatures for no reason at all. 

One evening the cat followed Doctor Doolittle home. It melted my heart when he turned back into that little boy he was at one time...Can I keep him? he asked. I was not surprised when the black cat came in, laid down on our couch and never left. That was over 10 years ago and the cat still sleeps on our couch and corner of our bed at night no matter where we are. He even travels with us most of the time. We have seen what happens when he is left with someone or to his own devices. We know that he needs us and that is very important.

In our retirement and as we age, it seems RV fills so many needs. We watch him climb fences and stalk possums. He talks to us in no uncertain terms demanding water, food, snacks and escape. He loves my husband and tolerates me. We laugh at him and talk about him with friends. He even helps my husband and I communicate with each other. The very fact that he depends on us fulfills our need to nurture another creature. He is so important to our mental health and social interaction that I cannot imagine being without a pet like him ever again in our lives.

So thank you Bob. Your post made me think. That is a very good thing.


Jul 27, 2013

#Aging: On Staying Young, Grandchildren and Travel Safety

There is the matter of little children...the ones that still cry when they fall and grab toys from each other...do they keep you young or make you very old elderly mature? I have always wondered.  As a young mother I would often want to curl up in a ball and cry myself to sleep. Now I just stay alive and keep going...I love this time in my life.

I have been spending a lot of time with my 5 youngest grandchildren aged 1-9 since my son and his family came to their house here in Hillsboro from China for a visit. He has two children and my youngest son lives nearby and has three. Sometimes they came in small clumps...3 or 2 at a time. On three occasions within the last 6 week they have all spent time together at my house...at the same time.  It was a bit like a bee hive on those days. Their rule for grandma is there will be NO sitting...it is forbidden in their world. Boy do I get a workout.

I may need to buy some new play things in the near future. They have managed to look at what I have from every angle and in every corner of my house.

We live within walking distance of a local school so on the last day of their visit we made the trek in the morning before it was too hot. I am always a little uneasy when we do this sort of thing because I don't want to break the grandchildren. 

Climbing on the spider toy always what makes me afraid. Other grandmothers at the playground thought I was a Bad Grandma because I let the little blond guy climb to the top...as though there was any stopping him! He did fall a little on the bottom rung as he came down but there was no blood and only a few tears. In my world that is a successful play time.
Spider Toy
Big Dude fell a little but he proved he was tough!
A chair full of children...all ours for a day!
I used Photoshop to get out all the wrinkles...I am fine!

So the question is "Do they keep you young or do they kill you?" This is an either/or question. Trust me there is nothing in between.

When they go home!
The two girls flew back to China this morning. We are a traveling family to be sure. My husband and I drove my son, his wife, 2 grandchildren and 10 bags of stuff to the airport at 7:00 am. I takes two vehicles to get them there. They checked in on Foursquare and were delayed at hour because one runway at the airport in San Francisco is still closed after the recent accident. They will be home sometime tomorrow. It is a long way to China!

We are all paying more attention to the safety issues with airlines. So far we have eliminated Delta and Spirit as airlines we will use because of frightening personal experiences. I just thought you would want to know. 

What airlines do you prefer to use? I am making a list!


p.s. I am writing on the fly...please overlook any glaring errors!

Jul 25, 2013

British Expats Find Retiring Abroad the Right Choice

My sponsored guest today is Michael Jones. He is a freelance writer and blogger who writes on such topics as international affairs, world finance, retirement and investment. His areas of expertise include European, Asian and Latin/South American economic policy and QROPS. When not at work, he enjoys anything and everything outdoors. 


With the recent falling standards of living in Britain, many retirees are taking the plunge and heading overseas to enjoy their golden years in more fiscally serene environs. For those that no longer have to work every day, dreams of warm weather and lower costs of living are motivating retirees in droves to such countries as Spain and Australia.

It is estimated that more than 1 million Brit’s have moved overseas to retire. The most popular place to retire in Europe is Spain, long one of the most popular vacation destinations for British citizenry. Approximately 104,000 pensioners live there. The most popular country for British pensioners is Australia, with over 250,000 taking up residence there.

This article will look at the reasons many choose Spain as their retirement home. Besides the warmer and sunnier climate, many retired expats find other reasons to move as well. For example, the lifestyle is laid back and the standard of living is comparable to that of the UK.

Without the benefit of a QROPS, many retirees would find it impossible to live overseas. The formidable tax break that a QROPS provides is a big factor in retirees being able to afford living overseas. But regardless of where a British Expat decides to retire, it is quite important for them to keep up with their QROPS like they would with any other investment. Fluctuations in the market and rising costs of living in their country of residence should play into a retirement strategy that ensures a comfortable standard of living can be maintained for the life of the pensioner.

Cost of Living

The cost of living for most places in Spain is cheaper than in the UK. Other countries.com figures that the cost of living is 20 to 30 percent cheaper overall in Spain than in the UK. Thirty percent is quite a substantial amount, and no doubt contributes to the popularity of retiring to Spain. However, unexpected costs like heating and air conditioning in particular during the summer months may mean higher electricity bills than what might be expected.

Housing costs are quite reasonable when compared to the UK but can be higher in the cities and more popular tourist areas. For a pensioner, the profit from selling a detached home in the UK can be put into a home or apartment in Spain and leave the pensioner some extra money to invest or spend on other items.

Food is relatively cheap compared to the UK. However, dining out can get expensive especially if it is in a tourist hotspot. But that is the same wherever you live. Grocery expenses tend to run 10-15 percent cheaper in Spain than in the UK. But if you prefer already prepared food the cost is likely to be about the same or a little less than what was spent in the UK.

Petrol for vehicles and maintenance are cheaper in Spain. Buying a used vehicle in Spain, however, is more expensive than buying one in the UK. Car insurance is about the same in both countries. It is far cheaper to insure a vehicle registered in Spain than it is to insure one that has a UK registration.

The Downside

There are some downsides to living in Spain. Electricity can run about 20 percent higher than in the UK for a similar sized piece of property. Gas for heating and cooking is not readily available in all parts of the country. Where it is it typically runs about 20 percent higher than in the UK. Bottled gas is quite expensive in Spain.

Some older apartments don’t have central heating and cooling so it is important to consider the cost of using bottled gas to heat the home during the winter months, which can be quite cold.

Note: QROPS is defined as

Qualifying Recognised Overseas Pension Schemes (QROPS)

Jul 24, 2013

5 Travel Items No One Ever Mentions

I love to travel. But I also want to somehow take all the comforts of home with me. I know that is not possible but there are a few things I will pack next time we travel.

Last year my husband and I spent two weeks vacationing in Cancun.  We stayed in a condo with a kitchen. As I look back on that vacation, I know there are things I should have taken...things I have never seen anyone mention in a "what you need to take when you travel" article. You may be surprised by my suggestions.
My Ribbon Scented Candle

Remember the five senses!
Sense of Smell:

When I first arrive in a resort and check into a condo room the first thing I notice is the way the space smells. While I do love the smell of a very clean room, I don't want to have it surround me the whole time I am staying. That is why I wished I had taken a scented candle like the one Airwick had delivered to my door for review. 

I received one that is called Color Ambiance.  It not only smells wonderful but also changes colors as it burns. The other is called Ribbons Scent and a delicious vanilla bean fragrance fills the room. 

I love a candle in the bath, on the deck in the evening and in the bedroom at bedtime. I am packing these next time I travel.

Sense of Hearing:

I think one of the things I missed on our deck and in the dipping pool was the sweet sound of music. After I arrived home last year I bought a wireless speaker with a Bluetooth connection. I will carry the little device with me now and connect it with my smart phone to listen to music.

Sense of Taste:

I like to use the kitchen in the condos we rent. It can be a real money pit to eat out all the time. However, no condo comes equipped with the spices and herbs I like to use in cooking. In many cases not even salt and pepper. That sort of thing is very expensive especially if you are staying in a resort that is not near to a local market. 

Next time I will carry some of those things with along with a few packaged meals and basic food items (pasta, dried onions/vegetables, etc) so I can cook a simple meal and not break the bank.

Sense of Feel:

When my husband and I traveled to San Diego to see our grandson graduate from Marine Recruit School, I noticed that my granddaughter carried her pillow with her. I could only think how I missed my pillow when I travel. I don't know about you but getting a good nights sleep is really important. Even sleeping on a long plane ride can made the difference in how I feel for the first few days of vacation. I am going to find a way to do that myself next time.

Sense of Sight:

Here is one that can ruin your vacation if you are like me. My glasses were broken at poolside. MY GLASSES! I need my glasses to find my glasses. I really don't have an extra pair of glasses but if I did I would always bring them. That is why I have learned to travel with my prescription. You may never break your glasses...lucky you. 

You should even carry an extra pair of sunglasses. They always seem to get lost or broken and resorts charge a fortune for things like sunglasses. Seeing is very important.

These 5 things can make all the difference in how relaxed and comfortable you will feel. 

You can take a bubble bath, light your beautiful candle, listen to your favorite sounds  and really feel like you are on vacation with all the comforts of home. Then you can fall into bed on your very own pillow and read while you snack on something you made yourself. Life will be very good!

Have a wonderful day.


Jul 22, 2013

7 Reasons Why I Like The Snugg iPad Cover

Contest Canceled: I am keeping the prize!

When I accepted the offer of a free iPad cover from The Snugg website, I thought I would like what they were sending me. It took me 15 email exchanges though...I'm just saying. I am not an easy person to deal with when it comes to free stuff. I actually don't believe in the reality of free so I usually make it hard for myself so I don't feel like it is free...if that makes any sense. When I said yes to the offer, my thinking was that if I didn't like it, I could give it away either to an unsuspecting reader or a member of my family. I'm not proud of that part at all. I am glad to report that my fears were unfounded though. I love it!

I have discovered that the iPad cover can make the difference between easy to use and an absolute pain. For example, I paid a considerable amount of money for a cover that featured a bluetooth keyboard. I hated it! The keys were so small that a baby’s fingers would over lap the gap between the t and the y. My writing looked like goobledigook. It was not long before I disposed of that.

Initially, I received the iPad as a gift from my son and he included a heavy-duty cover that has worked just fine. It is bulky and takes several steps to unclasp, set up and use. The clasp is just always hanging out there. And it is bright pink. But it was what I had so I was satisfied...until the free cover from Snugg showed up in the mail.

  1. Now I have moved the iPad to the new cover. I took it with me last night when I had dinner with my Apple user family. I wanted to see what they saw about it that I didn't. I was surprised at how many features fit their needs:
  2. It has a tab on the end so your stylus has a holder. It can be used for reading glasses because the temple will fit through it perfectly.
  3. There are hard corners so it is less likely that a drop will break it.
  4. It is flexible and easy to set up.
  5. It has pocket for business cards, cash and travel but it is still not bulky.
  6. When it is set up, you can turn it over and the angle is automatically changed. One is perfect for reading and the other for writing.
  7. The cover is magnetic so you do not need to fasten a tab when you close it.
  8. It smells like leather and I like that.
  9. It is classic and sleek so it looks very professional.
I am very glad I took this gift. I was going to run a contest and give it away as a prize. I am so sorry but the contest has been cancelled. I am keeping the prize for myself.


Jul 21, 2013

5 Ways Engineering is Like Writing

Ever wondered how your skills from the work place could transfer to a new vocation or avocation after you retire? Here is a look what published author, Pam Houghton, brought to her writing career from her other work experiences.

By Pam Houghton

Before I became a so-called professional writer, I worked in the corporate world for over 20 years. I started out as a technical editor, which sounds more technical than it really was.

When that gig ended, I transferred to a manufacturing facility and worked in Inventory Control - the ultimate in completely unnecessary paperwork. And micro-management. And total boring-ness.

After that, I moved to Configuration Management. There, we made sure software bills-of-material were properly configured in the database (hopefully, you haven’t dozed off by now) so that orders could be received, manufactured and shipped properly to global customers before we knew the world was flat – or at least before that book was published.

That position went through a few more name changes before I was officially anointed a “manufacturing engineer.” Our boss told us it put us in a higher salary range. Thoughtful of him, but I am no more an engineer-at-heart than I am a fan of Oprah and her gobble-gook on continuous self-improvement. (No offense to the Oprah fans! Really! I hope you keep reading! She’s a hero!)

Anyway, as I sit here day after day, connecting the dots between my old corporate life and my current role as a professional “writah,” here are five ways in which I think engineering is like writing. Really.
1. Jazzed by problem-solving. Engineers love to figure out how stuff works, then take things apart and put them back together when they don't. Don't writers do the same thing when they struggle with a piece that isn't working?
2. Quality control. Engineers are fascinated by quality - achieving top results using better and more efficient methods after much trial and error. Aren't writers fascinated by quality too? Especially with all the editing and revising that goes on to make a piece as-close-to-perfect as it’s gonna get?
3. Work alone. Engineers aren't afraid to work alone and focus until goals are achieved. Do I really have to spell this one out? Okay. Writers work alone. Until goals are achieved.
4. Independent thinkers. Man, let me tell you, engineers are independent thinkers. They don't care what others think as long as they are confident in the logic of their own thinking. Writers really have to be independent thinkers too and believe in their work, even when others may not like what they write or how they wrote it.
5. Outside-the-box thinking. The best engineers aren't afraid to think outside-the-box, as cliche as that term has become. Writers have to think outside the box too if they are going to become successful even when the odds are stacked against them.
In the unlikely event that you are an engineer-turned-writer, how you do think engineering is like writing? 
Pam Houghton’s features and essays have appeared in local, regional and national publications including the Christian Science Monitor, Metro Parent and Patch. She also maintains a personal blog, Soul Searching at Starbucks. If you would like to see more of Pam’s published works, please visit her website. She is available for features, essays, blog posts, as well as business profiles and marketing communications materials. To contact her directly, please e-mail: phoughton@wideopenwest.com

Jul 19, 2013

Captivating Capitola: a tiny beach town that defines relaxation

Capitola Shop

The pier
By Carol A. Cassara

Capitola. It’s a charming little beach town just a few miles south of Santa Cruz, California, on the northeast shore of beautiful Monterey Bay. That’s on the central coast of California, and if you’ve missed a visit to Capitola, well, you’re really missing something special: a place to relax, eat good food, imbibe a bit and even catch a few rays.

The area’s several picturesque beaches are marked by dramatic cliffs and rocky shores, but in a smaller, manageable scale than, say, Big Sur, some 60 miles further south. 

Downtown Capitola has its own tiny beach that’s usually fogged over until about noon. But that’s ok—visitors while away the waiting time by visiting some of the few dozen adorable boutiques and speciality shops just steps away on the Esplanade.  Lunch, dinner and cocktails are purveyed at excellent restaurants right along the water.

The Venetian
Vacation rental units and cute little motels are scattered around downtown, most with easy beach access if not beachside entrances. The colorful units at the Mediterranean-style Capitola Venetian have become an icon for the area. They weren’t always so colorful: I remember when they were adobe brown.  But the color adds to the visual pleasure of this tiny little gem of a city. If you can take advantage of a Venetian special, an ocean view room can be had in summer for as little as $199 a night, a non-view room on weekdays for $129.  That’s as good a deal as you’ll find for a beachfront vacation. There are also two-bedroom apartments that sleep two to five people.

And small is right: the entire city has only 1.6 square miles of land—and fewer than 10,000 people call it home.

Back in the day, a girlfriend and I would rent an apartment near the beach for six weeks each summer.  Since we worked in San Jose some 40 miles away, we’d make the hour-long commute over the Santa Cruz Mountains every day to and from our jobs in Silicon Valley. It was worth it to watch the sun set over the water, hear the gulls caw and breathe in the summer-fresh sea air.

If you’re looking for a peaceful place to while away some retirement hours, Capitola has the allure of a beach town that’s absolutely manageable. For the most part, you can fulfill all your needs for a short stay right in downtown.
Book Cafe
But if you can venture out a mile or so, there are traditional grocery stores, a small indoor  mall with a Macy’s, hair and nail salons galore and even an independent book-café. Back in the mid-1980s, the Capitola Book-Café was the very first bookstore I’d ever seen offer food and drink. Its shelves are more sparsely populated now than they were back then, as you might expect, but the book quality is quite good and the community has rallied round to help it stay alive.  I stopped in on a recent visit and bought a few books to show my own support—it was an important part of my own California history.

Monterey and Carmel are only 40 traffic-free (most of the time) miles away, so you can do all the favorite touristy things with just a short drive.

While you might not have heard of Capitola before, it’s a captivating little place to spend some down time.

Bio: Carol Cassara is a writer who lives life out loud with her husband and dogs in Northern California. She blogs daily on creating your best life at www.carolcassara.com

Jul 16, 2013

3 Great Ways to Record a Celebration

Let's get straight the point. I know a few cool things that you may not know. For example, there are some wonderful ways to record celebrations with your cell phone that do not take a lot of expertise. No big camera is needed.  Here are three ways that I use to capture all the fun.
  • There is a new app on you iPhone called Takes. I allows you to use your iPhone camera to record a series of photos/video to create a montage of your day. You open the app and your camera automatically is recording what it sees but does not keep anything until you snap the photo. You camera saved the photo but Takes saves a video a little before the photo and a little afterwards. It has to be the coolest thing I have ever seen. It is like magic.  Here is the one I took on a day spent with my grandchildren.
  • I also have an app on my iphone called Camera SX. It takes a picture for you and you can record all the back ground noise that goes with the photo.  Lets say you are at your grandchilds school just watching in the classroom.  You can take a picture of your grandchild and then record some of the background sound. I am working on getting this to work so I can download it into iPhoto on my computer. 

  • I never get tired of my iPhone. I took the video below on my iPhone. When I upload the pictures to Blogger, they have a cell phone choice. When you open that, it not only shows all the photos you have taken with your cell phone, it also shows if they are a video. This very short clip below is funny but we love it anyway. Our baby Shay is one of a kind.

    I just thought you would want to know. 

    What to you know that you would like to share?


Jul 14, 2013

Transformative Travel: The World Is Flat (Thomas L. Fiedman) and Me

This post was written for a Blog Hop on Generation Fabulous. Click the link at the bottom of the page to share yours. Powered by Linky Tools

In a book called The World Is Flat written by Thomas L. Friedman the question is asked:
Which is more important? "The attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the Iraq war? Or the convergence of technology and events that allowed India, China, and so many other countries to become part of the global supply chain for services and manufacturing, creating an explosion of wealth in the middle classes of the world's two biggest nations, giving them a huge new stake in the success of globalization?" The World Is Flat 3.0: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century
I know that Friedman's book is more about global competition in the world market than it is about the arrival of McDonalds in Toledo Spain (which horrified me). But I can somehow see the relationship between the two. When every country has good education and access to the world market, we are going to have to work much harder to keep up. When cultures around the globe learn about the world market they are going to want to do what other developing nations are doing. Poor people really do want a lot of what we have. McDonalds is only the beginning.

This is what happened to me when I complained about that McDonalds because the people of Spain were becoming more prosperous and it was changing their culture. "Yes" my son said, "watching poor people is very interesting!" He brought me up short when I regretted that all those beautiful third world cultures would never be the same. Then I realized why I didn't like those cultures changing. The attitude I had was selfish in that it said I didn't want people to have the privileges I have because it would not be interesting for ME.  My thinking was that technology and the resulting Wal Mart and McDonalds was going to take away all the texture of our planet. Where was I going to travel to learn about the world the way it used to be? I was not happy about the world economy and our ever flattening planet because I wanted to be entertained. His statement stopped me dead in my tracks.

See, I can remember the first time I visited Mexico many years ago. Ixtapa had just added a direct flight in from Los Angeles and even the stewardess were excited about buying the salsa to take home to share to friends. While the area had been a tourist destination for many years, the direct flight was going to make the place very popular with Americans. Waiters and waitress could not stop asking about the United States and they dreamed of going there. They were working very hard to learn English and their children wanted to practice with us to help themselves in school. While I loved the exchanges I knew that before long it would be changed. Nothing would be the same. I did not like that and bragged about being there back in the day before the Mexican people discovered the prosperity that a booming business might bring.
Tea Terrace
Tea Terrace in Sapa
Hmong Woman Selling
Sapa women selling goods.
Sapa Pig
Sapa pigs
Sewing Machine Parts
Sewing machine parts

Trail to Cat Cat Village

Sapa: Hike to Cat Cat Village

When we were in Vietnam last time, we visited Sapa where we saw the culture unchanged and even flaunted for the benefit of visiting European trekkers and tourist. The remnants of the Vietnam war could be seen if you squinted your eyes. It was enchanting and interesting. The women were set up in the market using WWII sewing machines and spare parts were sold from a bucket set along side a road. What a privilege it was to see that. But we also saw the Hmong and Montinor tribal children playing beside huge creeks and near black Sapa pigs that ran wild. Their only clothing was a coat to cover their little bodies. The hotel we stayed in collected soap to give to the people so they could learn about cleanliness. They fed the local tribe people a hot meal once a week. It was very primitive at the very best. At the time I found it charming in so many ways. Now, I see that these people may be happy but their children should not be cold and barefooted in December. There is plenty to go around. It would not take much to help these people see their true value in our world. Right now the world is simply using them for entertainment.

We all know that travel changes us in ways we cannot even imagine. We learn new tastes in food, discover the wonders of new cultures and listen to the sound of a language unlike our own. It broadens our horizons and expands our minds. But the most important thing to me was that it made me appreciate what I had. It was a feeling that I had I it pretty good even though I was not wealthy in my world. In theirs I had it all.

I occurred to me when my son said those words, that the Intel employees from Korea or India I see in my neighborhood all the time these days must be thinking it is too bad that there is an Indian restaurant on every corner or kimchi at our local grocery store. Don't they find that strange? Are they wondering what is happening to our world and wanting us to go back to an earlier time when we were more interesting? Maybe they would like the 1950's better? I can see when the shoe is on the other food, the whole concept takes on a new meaning.

Now the final transformation has happened. I have come to realize a flat world is not a bad place. If poor people can be educated and learn to compete in our flat world, then they can live in a house with windows. Learning could be the norm and cleanliness a right and not a privilege. That really is what I want. What was I thinking? Really, how could I have not seen that even though these people are happy, they would be healthy and well fed too in a world more like mine? There is plenty to go around and every one can be raised up. When they learn to be a part of the 21st century both their world and ours will be better.

Yes, travel has transformed me. I am not the same tourist I was. It is a good thing. What do you think?


This post if part of a Blog Hop sponsored by Generation Fabulous called Transformative Travel. Leave a comment with a link to your blog about travel.

Blog Hop: 

Jul 12, 2013

Re-decorating: Kitty Bartholomew where have you gone?

I loved Kitty Bartholomew on HGTV! I know that dates me but I cannot help it. In fact, I woke up the other day thinking how much I missed those HGTV shows that inspired me to create and recreate. She made me feel at home in my home because the message was that little changes made a big difference. I could do it myself.

Kitty Bartholomew's Decorating Style: A Hands-On Approach to Creating Affordable, Beautiful, and Comfortable Rooms
I still watch HGTV but after a while every show is the same. If you have wasted enough time watching Property Brothers or Love It or List It, you know what is coming next because, in the end, every decor is the same. Nothing reflects the fact that anyone lived there. If you do it their way, a trip to the local big box store is  all you need to decorate any apartment or home. What each place is missing is the layers of life we bring to our dwellings. A home is so much more than furniture placed correctly or even the pictures on the walls. It is those personal items that make the difference.

Moving is a real test of your ability to make a home. Downsizing is a challenge in particular. All the "stuff" you have chosen to keep comes with you and now the task is to make a nest where you can feel as though it reflects who you are. But most people don't move with the thought of hiring a decorator...it is expensive to move. Yet we all want a fresh look. As a result, you have to take what you have and make it work. Someone told me once that when my husband and I moved, you could not tell we had just arrived. It was just us from top to bottom yet it all "looked" new.

The fun is in taking what we have and putting it together in a different way...like a recipe that is changed in small ways creating a totally new dish...familiar yet refreshed.  I love to take all of my wall decor, for example, and mix them together in different way. I do that several different ways:

  • color combination, i.e. all black and whites or muted colors or genre
  • texture, i.e. all antique frames or woods
  • eclectic, i.e. a mixture of colors, textures, 3-d items (musical instruments, etc.)
  • shapes, i.e. round, rectangle, square
  • themes, i.e. travel photos, pictures of flowers, family photos, landscapes
I use this same technique when I arrange furniture or gather a table top arrangement.
I can use my formula for my home and it looks okay. But Kitty knows that a home is where you live. Every item in her rooms seemed to say that she put her hands on it and made it her own. I always had the feeling that each piece had a story and she could tell you where it was from and why she loved it. I want to be like her.

When you come in my house, you will know that what you see is what my husband and I love. My husband is the ergonomically correct person and he wants to have his things at his finger tips. I have come to love that. His clutter is a thing of beauty because it tells me that he is at home too. I suppose this fact explains why the walls are not pink and covered with flowers. Our home is a shared space.

So, Kitty Bartholomew wherever you are, thank you for making it okay to "live" in my little house with a cat that sheds and a husband that nests. Even as our home gets smaller we feel comfortable. In my eyes it is beautiful. You have given me a very special gift.


What would living alone be like?

Back in early 2012 there was an article in the New York Times called One is the Quirkiest Number written by Steven Kurutz.  It caught my interest because I am approaching the age when one of us will be left to fend for ourselves. I think that every senior couple has this "number" on their mind.  I know the idea that my husband or I will have to face a life alone sooner or later does not make us happy.  I suppose that is why I read the article at the time (and several blog posts related to it) from beginning to end.  I wondered, "How would that be?" One of the singles featured in the article was Ronnie Bennett (age 70) over at Time Goes By.  This is what she had to say our chances of being alone: 
...in old age, we are more likely than young and mid-age people to be forced into single living after the kids are grown and/or a spouse dies.
Eccentric Behavior:
The New York Times article talked about the eccentricities singles living alone develop. While the solo life style allows singles the freedom to come and go without anyone questioning them, it also allows them to indulge in unusual behaviors. They can take a shower with their clothes on (The Accidental Tourist) and wander around naked eating bananas peel and all. When no one is watching they can do as they please. It does have it pitfalls too. When one woman went to work wearing a blouse and tights but forgot her skirt, a second pair of eyes at home and not a subway full of people would have been better. But, in most women's case, I think you will find that they feel living with a spouse/partner is no guarantee that those second pair of eyes will actually check to see if you are properly dressed! I know that I have gone out looking like a clown a number of times.

For the aging senior, a life of solitude can be the straw that breaks the camels back.  In my family the walls finally closed in leaving dementia in one case. I knew an older woman that was widow for many years. She began answering the front door naked. Her eccentric behavior actually did not hurt anyone but it was surely a sign that she needed some company. That kind of behavior leaves no doubt in the neighbor's mind that there is something very wrong.

I also think that ageism plays a big part in the perception of a senior's behavior. The quirky behaviors that young people exhibit when they live alone for an extended period of time can spill over into their daily lives without much damage. But when a senior exhibits the same behaviors, families and friends get worried. So, when older people do "quirky" things, it does not mean that they have lost their marbles.  Some actually choose to do most things because it works for them and not because of their age. Bennett is 70 years old and lives alone. In her post on the subject of leaving the toilet door open and a comment in the Time's article that she did it because of her age, she said:
"First, I do not “forget” to close the bathroom door. It's a choice; I don't see the point of closing it when I'm home alone. But always, in our culture, anything slightly out of the ordinary in old people is identified up as a failing. Shannon's assumption is that I leave the bathroom door open because I'm stupid, demented or at best, addled just because of my age. I'm so tired of this kind of stuff."
On Being Alone:
Most of us need some alone time. However in a lot of cases, facing day after day isolated from the world is not good. The perfect situation for us could be one where the single lives alone but close to others or in a community of people. On the other hand I know seniors that love their life alone and thrive in the life they have built for themselves. Each person is different. As the Times article points out, 1 in 4 people of all ages are living along now. Most of the people featured in the article were young and living in apartments. The exception was Ronnie Bennett. She was the woman I quoted above. As a senior I think we can learn from the these people. Keeping a network of others, not a spouse or partner, is very important. If we don't do that, we will have an empty tool box when the need to repair our life becomes a necessity.

Remembering that when our spouse is gone or we are left alone for other reasons, there are many choices. I don't think that you should be lonely in today society. Hopefully, when the time comes, WE can decide how to live what is left of our life.

So it is just a thought. What experiences have you had with living alone?

Blogs related to NYT's article:

Jul 9, 2013

6 Wonderful Train Journeys for Visitors to Britain

By Derin Clark

As the birthplace of modern rail travel it is no wonder that Britain has some of the best train journeys in the world, making it an ideal relaxing holiday destination for retirees. The UK’s rail network covers some of the wildest and most remote parts of the island, along with picturesque landscapes that the nation is famous for.

This, together with the fact that train travel in Britain is relatively cheap, makes it the perfect form of transport for international tourists – even if you’re on a budget. To give you an idea of what you would be missing if you passed up the opportunity to explore Britain by rail, here are half a dozen fantastic British train journeys:
Far North Line
The Far North Line is the most northern train line on mainland Britain. The track connects Inverness to Wick in Scotland and the route passes through some of Scotland’s wildest and most remote areas. Most of the line follows the coast and there are times when the train is almost next to the shore, making this one of the most desolately beautiful journeys in Britain, as well as touching on the least populated areas of mainland Britain.
Perfect For: This route is ideal for those wanting to escape the tourist crowds and see some of Britain’s wildest and most remote regions.

Tyne Valley Line
This 60 mile train line connects the city of Newcastle upon Tyne in the east of England with the Cumbrian city, Carlisle, in the west. This is the oldest coast-to-coast passenger line in the UK and was completed in 1838. The line not only connects the east and west of northern England, but also follows sections of Hadrian’s Wall, which was built 2000 years ago by the Romans. Along with its history, this route provides views of northern England’s picturesque countryside.
Perfect For: If you need to get from the east of England to the west and want some stunning scenery with a bit of history thrown in, then this is the route for you. 

The Bittern Line
Named after a rare bird found in the Norfolk wetlands, The Bittern Line is one of the most scenic routes in the east of England. The line connects the city of Norwich with Sheringham, a popular town on the North Norfolk coast. Along the way the route passes parts of the Norfolk Broads, as well as Norfolk’s wild, open, and sometimes bleak, countryside. 
Perfect For: This route is ideal for those who love the outdoors, as North Norfolk is a great location to indulge in activities such as  hiking, cycling and sailing.

The Heart of Wales
Journey through the stunning Welsh countryside well known for its rolling hills, picturesque valleys and tranquil streams. This single-track route takes passengers through the centre of Wales while also connecting nearly 30 rural towns along the way.
Perfect For: This train line is great for those wanting to explore deeper into the Welsh countryside.

The Exeter-Penzance line takes in some of the most scenic parts of Devon and Cornwall coast and is described as one of the finest routes in Britain. This train journey takes passengers through landscape that include sandy beaches, small fishing villages and rugged cliff edges. As well as this, it is the perfect starting off point for visiting Devon and Cornwall, two of Britain’s most laid-back and trendy counties.
Perfect For: Those who want to discover England’s most popular coastal towns, villages and countryside.

North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Have you ever dreamt of travelling on an old-fashioned steam engine? If so, head up to Yorkshire where you can book a seat on one of the steam engines that regularly travel on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Although tickets are a bit pricey, the cost usually includes a lunch or dinner, along with the chance to travel on a unique train through the famous Yorkshire Moors.
Perfect For: Those who have always wanted to experience the golden age of rail travel.

About the author
Derin Clark is a journalist and writer. She often writes about travel and holidays, and has been published across a range of magazines and websites. 

All photos are compliments of Train Chartering and Private Rail Cars.

Jul 6, 2013

County Homes, Books and me (of course)!

Country Homes:
I was looking at magazines today and thinking about what we will come next for us. My husband and I are always dreaming of little changes.  After a wonderful 4th of July spent with my family in our little home, I came away feeling that this place is important to our family because it tells the story of their life. They see little pieces of their history each time they cross the threshold.

Ice cream table from my grandfather's country grocery

I suppose that is why I am thinking about decorating with things I have stored away. I have always wondered what it would be like to live in a home put together by a decorator. In the end though, I know that what I have is all about the way I live. The Roseville pottery was owned by my grandmother and mother. The Little Red Riding Hood cookie jar was a gift from an aunt when I was a child. Pictures painted on glass graced the wall of an ancestor. Even the toys in the toy box were played with by children that are now nearing 50.

Don't bet me wrong, I am not a hoarder. I give things to my children so that they might treasure them as I have. But still, there is always plenty for everyone. I love my country garden my husband has built for me and will tell stories about each plant, where I bought it or how long I have been moving it from one house to the next.

My beautiful country home is just that because we use what we have always used but in different ways. We love it.

We have just returned from a trip to Barnes and Noble. I don't care how much I use my Kindle, there is something about a real book that speaks to me. Barbara Kingsolver has a new book out called Flight Behavior: A Novel (P.S.)that is beautiful. The jacket has a sleeve that folds inside like a hard cover book cover. I didn't buy it but I was tempted because I liked the feel of it in my hand.

I picked up several others, some that I have on my Kindle already. It was reassuring to see a printed copy for some reason. Among those was The Amazing Life of Henrietta Lacks  and Gone Girl: A Novel. Both were notable books that Barnes and Noble had on their tables. I enjoyed both of these books but for very different reasons.

Then I saw Cleopatra: A Life written by Stacy Schiff. The author wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning book Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) and I am hoping this one is equally as good.

While I am at it I may as well mention my obsession with the writers of our constitution. I have read John Adams by Davic McCullough(beyond excellent), Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson (author of Steve Jobs biography) and am in the process of reading Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power by John Meacham. This is a great way to read books like this, each written by a different author with a different style about men that lived and worked during the same era. Jefferson was very young, John Adams was middle aged and Franklin old. What a lesson these books are teaching me!

I am having a great summer...I hope you are too.


Featured Post

HOW TO BE A SNOW BIRD...answers and lists!

I published this article 4 years ago but most of it is still relevant. I hope it is helpful. I love being a snow bird. But I wish someone h...