Friday, October 16, 2015

New Home

2015-09-22 10.49.23The townhouse we purchased in 2011 was supposed to be our retirement home.  It was beautiful with hickory hardwood floors throughout, granite countertops, open floor plan backing up to a large meadow (never to be developed) and the golf course beyond.  But, there were changes in our lifestyle in the last few years and the townhouse was not meeting our needs. 

None of the rooms had enough light to paint.  I took over the guest room for more room, but the lack of light was a problem.  The husband’s driftwood carving needed more room and a place to contain the dust from sanding. 

Fortunately, a home nearby became available that met all our needs.  We put the townhouse on the market, and it sold in 9 days.  We made an offer on the home we wanted and the purchase closed last week.  This all happened in the last two months.  It has been a hectic time with paperwork and moving, but at the end of this month we will move in (we are in a rental now).

In the coming months, we will share photos as we settle in.  There is a wonderful light-filled room for painting and the garage is bigger.  The house needs a little freshening up with paint inside and out; and there will be lots of work to get organized and things put away, but in the end it will be worth it. (Photo of our new front porch.)

And the journaling of the Scotland trip still needs to be finished.

Friday, September 4, 2015

History Lessons from Paul Martin

Continued retelling of our July 2015 trip aboard the barge, Scottish Highlander, and our passage down the Caledonian Canal in the Scotland Highlands.

DSCN0927History lessons from a passionate and informed guide will always make the past come alive.  And Scotland came alive for us.  From the battlefield of Culloden to the massacre at Glencoe, we experienced the Scottish Highlands via Paul Martin.  Being from Wales, Paul has a lot of sympathy/empathy for the people of Scotland at the hands of the English.  And, I am sorry, but why are the Royals/Aristocrats still major landowners in Scotland?  Time to break free Scotland!  Hope the vote for independence succeeds in the future.

P1010579In addition to the lessons, Paul made arrangements for various cultural “events”.  In Inverness, a trio singing and playing traditional instruments with song arrangements given a modern twist.  Another included our barge approaching a remote location along the Caledonian Canal, and encountering an elderly Highlander dressed in his clan kilt, marching slowly while playing his bagpipe.  The music was haunting as it echoed off the valley hills.  Well done, Paul!  Well done!

Paul also provides his services on the French canal trip for European Waterways.  He fell in love with the French countryside so much that he and his wife purchased an old farmhouse, barn and surrounding acreage for their retirement.  And he is a talented artist (30 years of painting and quite well known in the UK).  The barn in France will become his studio with plenty of space for workshops.  His plans include building small cabins for visiting artists to rent whilst (he says that a lot) attending his workshops.  Guess who is invited and going in a few years?!  Moi! et Madame Wanda.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

2015 Annual Mother/Daughters Get-Away

August has been an active month!  Between our annual get-away, my volunteer job as HOA treasurer, and some other goings-on (if the results of this turn out, I will share later), I have not had time to post on the blog and finish my Scotland trip debrief (the July trip).  With summer coming to a close, at least the HOA commitments will slow down. Annual Mother/Daughters Get-Away was fun, as always.  My turn to pick this year.  Never been to Poulsbo before, except to drive through from the Bainbridge ferry to our home on the Olympic Peninsula.   So, Poulsbo was my choice and this was the first time using Airbnb.  Airbnb is such a brilliant resource—lots of places to pick from, reasonable cost, and the transaction process works efficiently.  Our little cottage looked out over the marina, was a 2-minute walk to Old Town (cute with Norwegian roots), and the weather was perfection.  Little Momma gets cold ya’ know?!

A fun to-do this year was for each to take a turn picking out a song from their favorite genre.  You could really see the differences between each of us with our selections.  Mom, of course, was anything big band from the 40’s.  Melinda was a little bit country.  Tracy, blues and rock and roll.  I tend to lean toward folk (or singer/songwriter stuff) or chill-out type (Kygo remix, “I See Fire”).  Entertaining as we drank wine and drank in the views.

Next year, sister Tracy picks the location.  Talking about someplace closer to drive.  Maybe somewhere in the Columbia River Gorge (Hood River?  Skamania Lodge?), Bend, Oregon?, Oregon Coast? or maybe we will fly to Las Vegas!  Anyone have thoughts or recommendations?  Need someplace to keep 4 girls entertained and more than one bathroom (the cottage only had one bathroom and it was a bit tight!)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Captain of the Canal

P1010595Took me a little while to find a photo of our Scotland cruise barge captain, Mick.  He was usually in the wheelhouse and not often available to chat.  The last night of our trip was his time to relax and enjoy a meal with us all (and plenty of wine since he wasn’t on duty the next day).  And we got to know Mick, just little bit. 

Always a few degrees of separation, we learn he captained  in the Caribbean for The Moorings—the same outfit our travel partners, John and Wanda, sailed with on a couple of occasions.  It was probably just by chance that Mick didn’t captain their trip and they knew many of the same people.  Mick is now in Scotland to be closer to his hometown of York and captain a larger vessel with European Waterways which allows him enhance his captain’s credentials.

P1010513Our captain expertly got us through a number of small locks (photo at right), the narrow canal channel, large lochs (past the Loch Ness monster), and ancient tiny bridges (including a swing bridge still hand-cranked open).

P1010492Our lodging for the week was on the barge, Scottish Highlander.  Originally a cargo barge operating in Holland built in 1931.  It was 117 feet long and converted to a hotel barge in 2000.  A maximum of 8 passengers to 4 staterooms and 4 crew members (captain, tour director, chef and hostess—also worked as deckhands!) assigned to a private stateroom each.  Each stateroom had a private head or bathroom. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Classic Scotland Cruise

Returned from Scotland about a week ago.  Jet lag and the flight took a toll this time, so my writing has lagged behind a bit.  Scotland is wonderful—people, location and history.  Checked all my boxes. 

IMG_3303This trip was aboard a barge.  Built in the 1930s as a working barge and renovated now as a luxury passenger vessel cruising the Scotland Caledonia canal.  But, the best part of the trip was the staff and other passengers—4 staff members and 8 passengers, and the Scotland Highlanders we met.  The two kilted fellows in the photo right were attending a wedding near our hotel in Inverness (our two days pre-trip).  “May we take your picture?”  With a laugh, they both replied, “Aye!”

IMG_3391The barge staff included Mick, our captain; Paul, tour director; Danni, host, and Sasha, the chef.  Each one with a story, personality plus, and outstanding service.  Let’s start with Danni and Sasha (Danni on the left, Sasha on the right).

Danni is 28 years old originally from Dublin, Ireland and an aspiring circus performer.  She attends specialized schools in the off-season to improve her craft.  Her skill includes a combination of dance and acrobat.  No doubt, we will see her in Cirque du Soleil some day.  Depending on her school location (this year will be Spain), she also teaches English to help pay for school.  Last year she was attending school in Argentina and teaching youngsters English (with an Irish accent, mind you).  She tells a story of setting up the movie, “Up”, for the kids—only they learned it from Danni pronounced as Ooop (the Irish way).  The headmaster was baffled what movie they were actually seeing until Danni showed him the DVD cover.

Sasha is the best cook I have ever encountered.  I gained five pounds in the 7 days we stayed on board.  Each meal was a classic Scottish dish, but with a modern twist, i.e., Haggis with a whisky reduction sauce.  Sasha hails from Slovakia and hopes to open a restaurant there someday.  I plan on going…

Tomorrow, I will highlight Day 1 on the cruise and introduce Mick and Paul.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Another Passing

SCAN0847Jackie was my best friend in junior high and most of high school.  Someone described her as a “spark”.  And she certainly was.  Athletic.  Energetic.  Big Blue Eyes with eyelashes out to there.  Tiny, standing a little over five feet and maybe 95 pounds soaking wet.  One early spring day, circa 1970, I took her as my guest on a family outing to Lehman Hot Springs in Oregon.  Still snow on the ground, she was the first one to jump on the slide; a slide covered with 2 feet of snow.  Down she went with snow exploding all around her and into the hot, steamy water.  I thought this girl was the coolest being walking the earth.  I adored her.

PicnicNDesert-1The last year of high school and beyond we grew apart.  Nothing went wrong; we just took different paths.  Only occasionally seeing one another.  A couple of years ago we reconnected online.  We now only lived less than 100 miles apart—so we promised to meet for lunch someday with a couple of other school friends.

Yesterday, I learned she died from cancer.  Never making it public—I never knew.  Always the picture of health, she maintained her trim, muscular figure and energy.  To say I was shocked is an understatement.  Although she has not been a close friend of late, she was such an important part of my life during those difficult adolescent years that a piece of me died yesterday,  too.  She was special and I will cherish her memory.  I love you, Jackie.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why We Travel

Yesterday, we walked on the Kingston ferry to downtown Edmonds.  Beautiful sunny day.  Tree/flower laden little town square lively with people enjoying a Saturday. 

scotlandbargeThe purpose of our trip was to attend a Rick Steves travel presentation about his company “Europe through the Back Door” and the philosophy of his travel approach.  Rick actually gave the talk (I sat in the front to see him—Rick is one my heroes—for many reasons).  The travel company is quite large, employing over 100 people.  They are not a travel “agency”; they do not arrange air transportation, rental cars or hotels.  Instead Rick Steves & Company inspires us and informs us how to experience European trips that are not only historically educational by viewing locations and structures, but more importantly broadening culturally by interacting with the people and their way of life.  We can accomplish this by taking a Rick Steves tour and/or applying his travel philosophy.

I came away from the presentation once again energized and primed for another trip to Europe.  This summer we plan to visit Scotland and see the Highlands and Highlanders by floating down the Caledonian Canal on a barge.  Only 8-passengers and lots of Scottish whiskey with an occasional bagpipe.  We will make our way through Loch Ness and past preserved and ruined castles.

I once had someone scoff at traveling by saying they could see just as much sitting in front of the television.  Really?  Maybe they catch a glimpse of a place, but they certainly do not experience it.  For me, it is inspirational experiences and broadening my outlook of the world, that make life so exciting—not just Europe, but everywhere we visit.  Come on!  Get out there!

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