Go Go Gadget ~ Great gifts for your favorite traveler

It’s hard to think about buying anything when you are in the midst of paring down all of your worldly possessions.  I’ll tell you, downsizing takes the shine off shopping in a big way.

All this downsizing creates a challenge for those wonderful folks in your life who want to shower you with lovely gifties at Christmas or on your birthday, too.  Suddenly, they’re unsure.  To buy or not to buy?  That is the new question.

So, Little Miss Helpful (that’s me) has started a list of travel must-haves that would make brilliant gifts for any traveler or retirement gypsy.

Here are my current favs:

1.  Travel Clothesline.   Don’t think you need one?  Either did I, until I washed a pair of my expensive moisture-wicking socks in the sink of our hotel room in Santiago and having no place to dry said socks, I ever so carefully laid them out on the sill of the open window in our room.  Hubs and I went out to lunch and upon our return, one lonely sock was there to greet me.  The other had apparently flown away.  I scanned the rooftops and ledges of nearby buildings.  No sock.  So I dashed down the stairs and along the cobblestone streets to the alleyway below our window.  Two trips up and down the alley (chased by a crazy old woman who thought she knew me) and still no sock. Never found it.  Maybe a bird took it to puff up its nest.   A travel clothesline will be in my pack on the next trip.

2.  Kindle Paperwhite – It’s small, lightweight, holds a charge for a long time (unlike your iphone or ipad), it’s easy on the eyes and works well in low/no light or with bright sun streaming through your window.  Add an Amazon gift card and life is good.

3.  Noise Cancelling Headphones –  Crying babies, loud talkers, the annoying squawk of Angry Birds all fade away when you put on a really good set of headphones.  Bliss on an overnight flight.

4.  External Battery Pack –  This can be a life saver if you can’t find a place to plug in.  It can also be used as a flashlight.  How cool is that?

5.  Cocoon – I spend way too much time digging through my purse or may bag looking for something I had only minutes earlier and now has suddenly disappeared into the cosmic vortex.  Organization like this could save my sanity.  Or my marriage, because hubs always has a helpful comment or two. 215_xlarge

6.  Nap Anywhere –  Hubs can nap anywhere and in any situation.  I’ve tried the blow up pillows, the tiny silica ball pillows, rolled up blanket pillows.  Nothing holds my head in anything remotely resembling a natural position.   This handy-dandy device might be worth a try.  It was launched through a Kickstarter campaign and who doesn’t want to support start-up innovators.

7.  SCOTTEVEST –  With a variety of styles including shirts, vest and jackets there’s a pocket for every device, your money, your passport – you name it – there’s a pocket for it.  And, although it’s not much in the fashionista department, the Scottevest does not make you look like the Michellin Man (or woman).  Trust me, nobody’s going to pick your pocket. category_tile_chloe_hoodie_normal category_tile_tvm_normal

Travelers, what’s on your must have list?  Let us know in the comments.

See you on the road.  I’ll be plugged in wearing my stylin’ Scottevest fleece hoodie.

Nancy

Retirement Reality Check

I wrote this in my very first blog post…

The backpack and rollie is really a good metaphor for life and all the baggage we accumulate, both the real stuff and the emotional stuff we carry around. What’s really important goes into the rollie bag and all the old unnecessary crap… just let it go. I know, so much easier said than done. However, I’ve decided to jump on the bus to wherever and embrace the possibilities of being a citizen of the world and all that might mean.

What would I keep? How much stuff can you fit into a couple of carry on bags anyway? I’m about to find out. This blog is my exploration of my experience in letting go of the old, and at a time when it appears I’m becoming “old” myself, letting go in search of finding new joyful adventures. Green lights and full speed ahead!

That first post was written on March 3, 2012.  Nearly two years ago.  So much has happened since I put words to those thoughts.  I’d certainly like to think the writing has improved, but that’s just ego getting in the way (again and still).  We’ve sold stuff on ebay, made many trips to Goodwill, sat through garage sale hell, and here we are, still swimming in stuff.   Still making the big house payment.  Still waiting to win the Lottery so we can cash in the chips.  In short, we’re in limbo.  We’ve slipped back  into our old, comfortable groove and it’s starting to wear on me.  It doesn’t fit like it used to.

There’s an old saying about progress being two steps forward and one step back and there is a lot of truth there.   Hubs and I have spent the last few months on auto pilot.  I won’t bore you with the excuses.   I won’t even bore myself with the excuses (often disguised as very good reasons).   They aren’t important really.  Truth is, it’s time for action and that isn’t always easy or comfortable.   In that post two years ago I said I was “jumping on the bus to wherever, green lights and full speed ahead”, but it feels more like being trapped in a rush hour traffic jam.  Nobody’s moving.

My Leap Date looms.  It’s marked on my calendar and it’s starting to flash like a beacon.

We’re rounding the turn and heading for the home stretch.  So set the countdown clock. It’s time to:  Find a way.  Make the plan.  Get off the pot.  Sell the stuff.  Rent the house.  Pack the bags.  Send the cat to live with his Auntie Ann.  Quit the job or figure out how to do it on the road.  In short, it’s  just do it or shut the hell up time.

It’s time to get on the bus to wherever before it leaves the station without me.

A lot of people I know choose a word at the beginning of the year to set their intention and focus their priorities around.  My word for 2014 is BELIEVE.  As in believe that I/we really can do this.  This I know is true:  If your fear of the unknown is stronger that your belief in your abilities to achieve your dream, you’re going to get stuck in the traffic and sit there spinning your wheels, wasting fuel, getting frustrated, doubting yourself.  Fear:  I’m not sure either hubs or I would have called it that out loud, but I’m pretty sure that’s where we’ve been stuck these past few months.  Call it busy.  Call it fear.  Call it the inability to truly believe.  Call it carting around some unnecessary baggage that’s weighing heavy in my backpack.  I’m done being stuck.  I choose to believe we can do this.  Hell, I know we will do this.  So let’s just do it then.  And, sooner rather than later.  My travel feet are getting itchy.

believeinchange

Now, I believe it’s cocktail time…somewhere.  And I’ve got work to do.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

 

 

 

Female Nomads ~ retired women are taking to the open road

My friend Lois is a nomad.  She’s also single and pretty much retired.  Lois doesn’t have a huge income or the security of a well-stocked trust fund.  And yet, Lois has one of the richest, fullest lives of anyone I know.  This delightful, spirited woman lives in a 10 foot 1965 vintage Aloha trailer that she pulls with her aging Mercury Montero.  Freedom?  Oh my! She’s got that in spades.  A couple of weeks ago, Lois waved goodbye to Portland’s rainy winters and headed south with “Li’l Homey”.   She shares her travels and nomad lifestyle on her blog Playing a New Game.  Thank you Lois for  inspiring the gypsy hiding in me.Lil Homey

These days more and more senior single women are taking up life on the road.  They are firing up the RV or hitching up the trailer to explore the highways and back roads all across the country.  They are creating new communities and making friends as they go.  And, while there are are some very interesting challenges in this lifestyle, these gals are rising to the challenge and loving their new home on the road.

If you are feeling the call of the open road as a retirement option, check out these very informative links for more information and a some stories that are guaranteed to make you smile

Unlikely Nomads ~  the Christian Science Monitor

Happy End of the Road for RVers – Assisted Living on Wheels ~ AOL Real Estate

And, finally, if you are not sure the RV life is for you, perhaps you like to give it a try for a night or two in one of the beautiful vintage trailers at the Shady Dell Resort in Arizona or one of the eight cuties available in Bend, Oregon at Cowgirl Cabins.

Who’s in for a Wild Women’s Weekend this summer at Cowgirl Cabins?  Sounds like fun, doesn’t it.

See you on the road.

Nancy

The Mother of All Garage Sales ~

 It looks like everybody’s downsizing and simplifying these days.

This Spring, eager to keep up our downsizing efforts, hubs and I participated in our community garage sale.  We rolled up our sleeves and jumped in with wild dreams of passing along gently loved goods to loving new homes and, in return, gleefully holding a big pile of cash at the end of the day.

We pulled out long forgotten treasures from deep, dark and dusty corners.  Polished each item to a shiny perfection.  Carefully researched, priced and tagged every precious piece.  And had more than one hearty laugh.  Hubs pulled out a big box of instant food items that he’d been saving for 30-odd years.  Even in the event of a nuclear holocaust, I’m pretty sure I would not have eaten this stuff, but he was just as sure it was “still good” and somebody would be thrilled to have it.  It wasn’t.  They weren’t.  This digging, sorting, and reminiscing process took weeks.  Treasures were piled everywhere.  Finally, the big day arrived.  When the garage door rolled up at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, we were armed and ready to make our millions.

Crickets!

To put it mildly, our garage sale efforts were not handsomely rewarded.  So much great stuff.  So little money at the end of the day.  “Will you take a Dollar for that?”  was the question I heard most.  “Um, No!” became my battle cry.  I got more than a little testy.  It was a very long day.  And one that will not be repeated anytime soon.

Which leads me to why it is still so very good to be Oprah.  Yes, Oprah recently had a garage sale.  And, as you can see in the video, Oprah’s garage sale experience was world’s away from the Les and Nancy experience.  Of course it was!

By the end of her garage sale day, Oprah had netted over $600,000.  Which she donated to charity.  Pretty much like us.  We did keep the $350 we made in cash and then hubs (bless his heart) took four carloads of priceless possessions to the Goodwill.  Our donation.

On another note, it’s good to hear that we’re not the only ones downsizing and simplifying our lives.  Way to go Oprah.

Cheers!

Nancy

Collect Experiences Not Things ~

cars Why is it we seem to put such a high value on the things we have or hope to acquire?  It’s the American way and most of the people my age learned the lesson well.  We aspired.  We worked.  We purchased.  And we upgraded our purchases in one long cycle of acquisition.  How else did you mark success?  You knew by the place you lived, the cars you drove, how many pair of shoes in your closet and where you vacationed.  Bonus points if you actually owned a vacation home.  Remember the mantra of the 1980’s?  “He who dies with the most toys wins”.  It makes you feel a little bit nauseous to think like that now doesn’t it?

A few very smart people didn’t go down that road, but many of us did.  Even if we were driving a Toyota, we still wanted the Beemer.  We might have even gone into hock for the beemer, but what the heck.  We knew our jobs were secure and we’d get a raise and … well, we deserved it.   Keeping up with the Jones (definitely NOT the Kardashians!) has kept the American economy humming for a very long time.

Little did we know what a house of cards we’d been building with our hard-earned dollars.

Until it all collapsed.

Nothing like the cold slap of reality to make someone see the light!   Many of us lost a lot of things we had always taken foregranted – jobs, cars, homes, dignity and perhaps even our sense of entitlement.

But we gained something and we’ve learned a lot.  Especially the generation about to retire and the generation just starting out.  We’ve been given a whole new perspective on what’s really important and it isn’t stuff.  I talk to so many 20 and 30-somethings these days who are more interested in the experience than the stuff.  They refuse to jump on the outdated bandwagon of work, work, work so you can buy, buy and then pay, pay.

It’s the same with lots of soon-to-be retirees.  We’re figuring out how to live on less and with less.  We’re carting truckloads of our oh so important stuff to the Goodwill.  As hubby says:  “If it doesn’t fit in the backpack and rollie, do we really need it?”  Heck no!  But we’re also doing some soul searching about what truly is important.

And, guess what.  Not the stuff.  It is the experiences and the memories and the friendships and the kindness of strangers we meet that enrich us.  It’s continuing to learn and grow and be vital.  It’s seeing the world through softer eyes.  It’s about blooming wherever you plant yourself.  It’s about laughing til you almost pee your pants.

My niece Melissa knows this at 32.  She’s into her third week of a six month solo backpacking adventure in South America and she already has shared some amazing stories.   My daughter and her family know this.  They just packed up and moved to Colorado so they could enjoy a more balanced pace of life in a smaller town where family values and neighborly relationships trump the big house and fancy car every time. And my son and his sweetie know this too.  At 28 they began planning and saving so they could build their own tiny house on wheels and become apprentice farmers.  They began building two weeks ago. tinybuild2

And hubs and I are finally learning it as well.   If it hadn’t been for the bad economy, we might have missed this opportunity.   Life as we knew it changed with one phone call.  It has taken me a while to say this (and especially to believe it) – Best phone call we ever got.

It changed our way of thinking and now we’re putting the wheels in motion to completely change our life.

One experience at a time.

See you on the road.

Nancy

 

 

 

http://www.bootsnall.com/articles/13-07/collect-experiences-not-things.html

http://www.lamag.com/citythink/wellbeing/2013/07/16/proof-positive

Moving into Retirement ~ Have I got a deal for you!

Everything must go!

Everything must go!

We’re at it again.  Moving stuff out of our current life to make space for our new life ahead.  For the past month, we have been up to our shoulders in boxes, bags, piles and more piles.  Like olden day explorers we’ve been searching through dusty corners, under stairs and deep into the dark cavernous storage room to dig out long forgotten treasures (and a LOT of what were we thinking trash).  Hubs’ everything must go mindset had faded slightly since his initial eBay ferver of last year, but he quickly sprang back into action.  This man loves to sell things.  Price is no object.  You want it for $5.00?  Sold!   Apparently none of our long-held treasures are going to add much “fluff” to our thin retirement nest egg.

Note to self – Get over it and move on because now that the actual Leap Date is set, everything really does have to go.

We started with participation in our community garage sale.  In my humble opinion, the garage sale should be the second to last stop on the downsizing trail, just ahead of taking it to the Goodwill.  I found the entire process irritating and slightly demeaning.  I also found myself taking things off the table and putting them back in the house.  I developed a somewhat Jeckyl and Hyde personality as the very long day wore on.  I would give things to kids, but when someone wanted to pay $3 for a perfectly good item worth $50 that I was selling for $10, I found myself saying NO!  Because I would rather give it to Goodwill.   There was absolutely no logic to my madness but these people were irritating me and somehow offending my “stuff”.  Go figure.  Hubs thought I had lost my mind.   Garage Sale Day could not end quickly enough for me.  When we celebrated later with a frosty beverage and counted our fistful of dollars, I shouted a hearty “NEVER MAKE ME DO THIS AGAIN!”

Next up was Craigslist.  You have to find the right venue for what you have to sell.  I had tables, chairs, 88 champagne flutes, wine glasses and plates left over from the Flourish event days.  I made several young couples who were planning summer weddings very happy.  That made me very happy.  Win/Win.  I like you Craig – and your List worked perfectly.  Although if anybody needs a 3 section electric buffet chaffing dish with domed lids used only once, please call me. BugsBunnyS&P

But Craigslist doesn’t work for everything.  Try selling your Bugs Bunny as Carmen Miranda salt and pepper shakers on Craigslist and … Hear the crickets chirping?  Nothing.  Nada.  Nobody cared.

On to eBay.  Hubs is the King of eBay so I’m turning Bugs, the Pillsbury Doughboy and all the others over to him for disposal.   Oops, I mean sale.  A little research on ebay showed the Bugs/Carmen S&P might bring as much as $60.00!   Fred Flintstone riding Dino was around $35.00 and the Mary Englebreit Cherries a whopping $25.00.  Whoo Hooo!

Nobody’s getting rich here.  That’s for sure.  But we are really clearing and cleaning.  Big time.  We’re sending our treasures out into the world to make other folks happy for a while.  And maybe that was the point I’ve been missing all along.  It’s not really “mine”.  I’ve just been borrowing it anyway.  Let someone else find pleasure in it.  That’s where the richness truly is.

I love this story!  It is indeed a very small world and we are all connected in more ways than we can imagine.   Here’s hoping some of our recently departed stuff has many more interesting journeys ahead.  Just like us.

Cheers!

Nancy

Garden Lust ~ and a little link love

If only we had a garden to plant.

If only we had a garden to plant.

Happy Friday!   It’s raining (again) but rainy weather doesn’t stop Oregonians.  They will be out in full force again this weekend at the many plant sales, yard, farm, and garden shows.  Every spring I drag hubs through acres of seed starts, fancy garden tool displays, yard art, and literally hundreds of fancy pepper plants and even more varieties of tomatoes.   Why?  I have no idea because at Casa Sims the veggie garden looks something like this ~

My exotic lettuce garden

My exotic lettuce garden

And that is why I always come down with a serious case of garden lust this time of year.  Fortunately, it’s only temporary.

And here for your enjoyment are a few non garden related links that I really loved this week~

Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens and You Can Buy Happiness (and It’s Cheap) fame, is offering her Spring Writing in the Digital Age online writing course.  As a newbie blogger and writer, I absolutely loved this four week learning adventure.  It’s fun, it’s online, it’s go at your own pace, and you’ll meet a great group of inspiring and supporting people from around the country and maybe even across the globe.  If you are thinking about dipping your toe into the world of blogging – I highly recommend Writing in the Digital Age as a first step.      Click here to view more details and sign up.   Tell Tammy that Nancy sent you and have fun!

A really interesting read on tweaks you can expect to see in Social Security  from my favorite new retirement blog Next Avenue.

And, finally, because it has been a long pain-filled week, here’s a little something from HuffPost and Vinnie the Rabbit guaranteed to make you SMILE.  This begs the question…why didn’t I think of this and what has Mr. Ricky done lately?

Have a grand weekend whatever you do.

Cheers!

Nancy

 

 

Those Magic Moments

photoThe mad march through the month of December is winding down at last.  We tried to keep Christmas low-key this year and I think we succeeded pretty well.  This blog is in part about re-evaluating our lifestyle as we approach our next adventure – retirement.    We’re pondering the deep questions like how all the “stuff” we’ve acquired over the years will fit (or not) into our upcoming new lifestyle.   We’re a couple of geezers on a new path and we’re loving the challenge and the change.  This year we began the process releasing our attachment to things and instead looking for the magic in the moments of our lives rather than the next shiny thing.  The most frequently asked question around our house these days is “Do we really need it?  Will it fit in the backpack and rollie?”  It’s a very interesting exercise and I highly recommend it, but it isn’t always easy.

This Christmas, after years of piling the presents high around the tree, it feels good to say that all we really need is family, friends, our health, and a few bucks to sustain us in our old age and keep us traveling.  It’s been a year of exploring “the new/old ways” and the re-discovering the value of moments and memories vs. stuff.   Taking photos with my little digital pocket camera helps me stop and pay closer attention to the tiny details that make our lives richer.  You catch the hope in someone’s eyes, the playful smile in the joke, the hundreds of shades of grey in a Portland winter sky.  Magical everyday moments I would likely take fore-granted and quickly forget.  I’m hoping that in the year ahead both my skill and my camera will improve and my snapshots of our experiences will enrich these posts.

For now, I’m just grateful for the memories.  Here are a few of my favorites from the past year.   Taking a little quiet time this afternoon, I sat with a cup of tea and my laptop and experienced the magic of these moments all over again.  Now that’s a real gift!IMG_3390IMG_0489IMG_0452IMG_0137IMG_3570IMG_3365 May your moments be filled with great joy and grand adventures.

Happy New Year!

Cheers ~  Nancy

Mama Mia and Luigi the Linguine Maker

Luigi

In times past birthday celebrations always involved expensive restaurants.  We enjoyed the luxury of a good meal while someone else cooked, cleaned and served.  I loved it then and when the time is right I still do.  But, as we pare down to the essentials of what makes us happy, we’re circling back to the old joys of coming together in the new/old ways I mentioned in my previous post.

Last week we celebrated our special birthday girl’s 29th year in grand style.  Not in a 4 star restaurant, but gathered around the kitchen island – laughing, sharing, cooking, sipping, eating, eating, eating and talking about important issues.  Wow!  If we’d had time to throw in a board game, it would have been perfect.

How great is it when you go to the mailbox and mixed in with the bills, political ads and offers for credit cards you find THE KEY.  The key means you have a box waiting.  In this case, the box held a bright shiny new pasta maker.  I can’t begin to say how tickled I was – still am actually, by this lovely little guy.  We call him Luigi the Linguine Maker and this guy is good.   Ok, I have to admit that if you are simplifying and reducing, a pasta maker is not going to fit in the backpack and rollie.  I know that and still, I wanted him.  What could be better than making pasta from scratch to go with the luscious tomato sauce my friend and I spent so many hours canning over the summer and the fresh parsley/walnut pesto I made from the dark green Italian parsley the hubs grew in pots on our back deck.

Hand pressing the raviolis – not as easy as your Italian grandma makes it look.

I wanted to test this baby out right away, so I invited our son and the birthday girl over to make their own birthday dinner.  I’m thinking home-made spaghetti with tomato sauce.  They say “Okay, let’s make ravioli”.  Oh to be 29 and fearless in the kitchen.  So, of course, we made it all.   We started at 3 o’clock, stopped to taste a bowl of our fresh fettucine at around 5 o’clock and finally sat down to our birthday feast at 7:30.

The final menu?  Fresh garden salad, freshly baked foccacia bread, cheese ravioli, delicata squash ravioli, mushroom ravioli with a mushroom cream sauce, tomato sauce, parsley pesto sauce and an olive oil/walnut/fresh parm sauce.  “This is the best pasta I have ever eaten!” said my husband, his cheeks bright red from the warm kitchen and two hours cranking the pasta maker.  I couldn’t agree more.  Four cooks in the kitchen was a crazy dance.   Two dogs snoozed just far enough away to keep an eye out for anything tasty that might hit the floor.  I was pooped beyond belief.  I think we used every pot, pan and dish we owned, but we mastered the art of pasta rolling, sort of mastered ravioli and created a birthday dinner we will always remember.

The birthday girl finally sits down to enjoy her favorite – Mushroom ravioli in a mushroom cream sauce and she made it all herself. Yum-o!

So, who’s up next for Pasta Night at Casa Sims?

File that in the “When I’m Dead File” ~

To be honest, I don’t have a When I’m Dead File – yet.  But apparently I need one and apparently, as someone who has continued to live with my head planted firmly in the sand, I don’t give as much thought to the “when I’m dead” side of life as I should… at my age, because I’m, you know… getting OLD.  My kids already know not to expect any sudden windfalls when I leave this planet.  In fact, my standard line is something I stole from an old Moms Mabley joke I heard on TV 25 years ago… “It won’t be a happy day for anybody when I die”.  I used to threaten them with talk like “You get the car payment and you get my Nordstrom bill”.  Funny then.  Now, maybe not so much.

This topic came up while driving in the car the other evening with the hubs and my sister who’s visiting from Saipan.  Sis says, casually from the back seat, that she already has lists for me – all over her house.  What do to when she’s dead lists.   La La La La…hmmmm.  I do not want to discuss the possibility of either of us having to sort through the remains of each others’ life.  Too morbid.  Not now.  We’re on our way to dinner for God’s sake.  But she got me thinking and that always leads to trouble.  It’s a whole new world, too, with everything we now do online.  Think about it.   Online banking and bill paying are one thing, but even more important – who takes care of your place in the social media world when you are no longer around to post your own updates on Facebook or Linked In?  How do you gracefully shut down someone’s page and is that even possible if you can’t access their profile?   Does that person live on in Facebook limbo for all time?  Who sends out your last blog post?  Believe it or not, I could not find an answer to these questions when I googled them.   So, add this to the list…

My online search did come up with a great article on the Second Act blog entitled “10 Things For Your When I’m Dead File”.  Some of the things on the list were pretty obvious but, if you’re like me, it’s the little details that you tend to gloss over.  This list is a great reminder (or starting point for some of us). It was definitely the little kick-in-the-pants I needed to start getting my own house in order.

So, I’m working on a plan.  Here’s what I have so far ~

1.  Downsize now.  That’s where the whole “If it doesn’t fit in the backpack and rollie, do we really need it” idea first came into play.   How many blenders, waffle irons and crepe makers that we use once a year do we really need?  I posted about our trip to the Goodwill a while back and we’re still going strong in this area.

2.  Start my own When I’m Dead File.  This file should contain everything from the obvious (Will) to the little things you don’t even think about (gym membership) and everything in between.  The 10 Thing List is now printed and taped on the wall in my office.

3.  Have the Talk.  Let my important people know where The File is and, (note to self) for goodness sake, keep it up to date.

Whew!   Frankly, I’m exhausted just thinking about all of this but I’m so glad my sister brought it up.   It’s not much, but it is a start and a plan where no plan had ever been before.  And, it is much better to get started now, while I can still remember where we’ve stashed all those important papers and numbers.

Oh, and one more thing.  If you see my picture pop up on Facebook long after I’ve left this life, please leave me a comment and let me know what’s new.  Or at least click “Like”.  You never know…