Hicksville Here We Come ~

I’ve been taking a couple of mini vacation trips with my backpack, my rollie and my lovely family.  I love summer!

Until I’m back to regular posts, here’s another fun and unique travel option that was sent to me recently from my very LA hipster niece.  She knows all the cute and quirky places to stay in California and this is certainly one to add to the travel list.  If you’re traveling in Southern California, you might want to spend a night (or two) in Hicksville.Hicksville is a  “motel” resort with lodging comprised of themed trailers with names like The Fifi, The Pioneer, The Integratrailor, and The Sweet.  It’s located in Joshua Tree, but you won’t see an address on their website.  That’s because you can’t drive by…you only get the address after your reservation has been confirmed.  It’s the ultimate secret getaway.  But wait, it gets better – the whole place, including the swimming pool, runs on solar power.  Their amenities include the pool, a Tipi with a firepit, horseshoes, darts, table tennis, archery and of course a bar.  All the comforts of home.  Well, that probably depends on where you call home, but it would definitely be a great stay for a night or two of fun in the outdoors and under the stars in the California desert. These folks really “circled the wagons” in style.

Thanks Melissa!

Air BnB ~ Another Interesting Option

Here’s another lovely benefit of writing this blog – I hear from so many people who know WAY more about travel than I do and they offer great new ideas for me to check into.  How cool is that?  Very actually!   And that’s how I came to learn about Airbnb from Suzie, a lovely woman with a lot more travel miles on her rollie than the hubs and I have right now.

How about an art filled room in Giacomo’s stone house in Vinci, Italy?

I’d heard of this new player in travel accommodation but, frankly I thought it was sort of a step up from couch surfing and I’ve decided that’s probably not for us (at least right now).  Boy, was I wrong.  According to the founders (three young men in their late 20’s) it all started several years ago when these guys decided to buy some blow up mattresses and offer them (along with a tasty breakfast and local hospitality) to a few of young creative types who were attending a creative design conference in San Francisco where they lived.
Hence the original name Air Bed and Breakfast.  I am always tickled by creative ideas and love it when creativity + passion + vision + hard work = major success.

According to their website, it turns out that a whole lotta people were looking for places to stay where the “hospitality was genuine and the M&Ms didn’t cost $6.  The guests got insight into the city from a fresh, local perspective and an interesting place to stay at a very reasonable price.”  Bingo!   Airbnb took off and now offers diverse accommodations in over 26,000 cities and 192 countries around the world.

So, of course I took myself for a little cruise on the airbnb site and found every imaginable kind of place to stay.   For $71 a night you can rent a lovely domed cave house in Cataluna, Spain from Eve.  Or, for $85 a night you can stay in this yurt in the trees near Ashland OR with Becky and Sidney as your hosts.  We could do this for a long weekend! Or maybe, a small apartment on an agriturismo farm owned by Francesco and his family.  They make sheep’s milk cheese.  You name it, someone is offering you the opportunity to stay in it – cabins, rustic retreats, repurposed buildings, yurts, castles, boats, lofts, apartments – the list is endless.  And, of course, you can always rent a bedroom in someone’s home, often with meals and lots of social interaction.   Brilliant idea!  Let’s get packing.

Girl’s Night!

Why do women live longer than men?  Simple answer – girlfriends.  Women nourish other women.  We spend time together talking, laughing, sharing and sometimes crying – it raises the endorphins (good happy juice) and reduces cortisol (the bad stress hormone).  Throughout history it seems women have banded together in groups of some sort.  The kitting circles and quilting bees of the past have become Girl’s Night or Spa Day of the present.   Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family...  I agree wholeheartedly which is why, when the call came out over email a week ago “Time for Martinis with the MAM’s?” everyone in our little group replied with a resounding YES!!  I was so ready for a little girl time and apparently I was not alone.

This particular group of crazy wild women have been meeting every few months since the late 90’s when we all worked at a certain high tech company just a few miles south of Portland.  It all started innocently enough…interoffice email…Hey, I need an attitude adjustment lunch, can you go?  Sure!  What time?  NOW!  Oh, Okay, I’ll drive.  Back then, attitude adjustment came in the form of a couple of frosty Margaritas and several bowls of chips and salsa at a local chain restaurant – not a dining star in sight – but it got the job done and we were back in our offices feeling much more relaxed for another afternoon of meetings at the “meeting capital of the world”.  For a couple of us that evolved into swilling several glasses of wine before attending drawing class in the evening.  She’s a fantastic artist.  I needed liquid refreshment in mass quantity to put my inner art critic into a semi-stupor.  It was fun.  It was still girl time.

Today, it’s kinda more like old girl time, but after we get past the first few minutes of hugs and comparing wrinkles, sags where nothing had sagged before… (I won’t bore you with the rest), we forget that we are two retired, one about to be retired and one who hopes to be able to retire sometime in the not too distant future 60-somethings and we become those same wild and crazy gals who still get looks and laughs from other tables for our sometimes bawdy behavior.  But, really having this kind of fun is serious business.  It soothes the soul, recharges the batteries, lowers the blood pressure and brings back that girlish glow by the end of the evening.  In short, it’s just what the doctor ordered.  I’ll drink to that!

And, here’s one I forgot to tell last night … You have reached the breast self-examination hotline.  Please press 1 now.   Now press the other one.     

Zucchini-tini ~

Yes, it’s finally summer in the beautiful Pacific Northwest.   Community gardens, urban farm plots and farmer’s markets are bursting with delicious bounty.  It’s my absolute favorite time of year.  Berries of all kind, cherries sweet and tart.  My fingertips are stained a dark purplish hue from July through August.  I always have big plans for the box loads of berries I buy every week, but mostly I eat them all by myself before they make it into a pie or cobbler or jam.  Last year the hubs and I did manage to distill a very tasty Framboise.  A liqueur made with vodka and fresh raspberries.  This year we’re going big and bottling it for Christmas gifts.  Way better than jam!

But, summer also brings on zucchini.  Lots and lots and lots of zucchini.  Oh, its fun at first, but pretty soon zucchini starts to take over.  You’ve eaten it every day for weeks and frankly, enough already with the zucchini – but it just keeps coming.  Now you start giving it away to your friends and family who don’t have gardens of their own – the pastie-white apartment and condo dwellers with no hint of a farmers tan or dirt under their nails.  At first they’re excited, grateful even, for this unexpected gift.  But it doesn’t take long and soon even these folks are dodging you and your gifts from the garden.  It’s been said that zucchini is the gifted fruitcake of vegetables.

So, with my new frugal retiree outlook on life, I’ve been on the hunt for new ways to use this little over achiever (besides trying to give a bag of it to the gas station attendant for filling up the gas tank).   Interesting side note:  August 8th is officially Leave Zucchini on Your Neighbor’s Porch Day.

Why not plan an entire meal around zucchini?   With all of the fabulous food blogs out there, it wasn’t hard to come up with a whole bunch of creative recipes.  Here’s my menu plan.  Sounds like a dinner party’s in the works at Casa Sims in the next couple of weeks.

Start with a pitcher of zucchini martinis and spicy zucchini chips, and you’ve got cocktail hour covered.  For the main course, I’m thinking this zucchini bread pudding looks absolutely delish.  Pair it with a zucchini carpaccio salad and this whole menu plan just keeps getting better.  Finish it all off with a scoop of zucchini ice cream. I’m thinking a few raspberries on top cuz I’m pretty sure even zucchini goes better with raspberries.  Call me crazy (you won’t be the first) but this sounds like a deliciously fun dinner to me.  Summer’s better tasting version of when we used to make the entirely green dinner on St. Patrick’s Day.  I’ve book-marked the recipes and I’m going for it.  Who wants to join us?

Now, if you still have more zukes than you know what to do with, here are a couple of other interesting ideas.

Yes, folks, its the Zukapult Competition.  Really, what’s better than flying zucchinis?

Zuke Art?  Sure, why not…but would anybody really buy this for $200?

Disclaimer:  I’m one of the pastie condo dwellers and all of my garden bounty including the zukes are gifts from the beautiful gardens of my son and his farmgirl.  Thanks for sharing your bounty with us.

I Did and I Still Do ~

Nine years ago today, on a beautiful sunny morning, I put on my new dress, a pair of dainty little sandals, took  extra care with my hair and makeup and then walked with my best friend out to the very end of the point away from Rosario Resort on Orcas Island.  We stood there under the branches of two huge oak trees whose trunks had grown twined together and looked out at the Puget Sound.  Boats glided by.  Birds soared and swooped.  The ferry passed and we waited.  In the background the hum of lawnmowers and blowers as the head groundskeeper and her crew tended to their daily duties of keeping Rosario lush and beautiful.  We waited and then waited a little longer.  We watched a car approach slowly and come to a stop at the end of the narrow dirt road.  Finally, she was here.  The woman we’d been so patiently waiting for.   Another Nancy, and she had come to join my friend and I in marriage.  Fifteen minutes later we were husband and wife.  Becky (the head groundskeeper) and Barbara (a neighbor of the minister) were our witnesses.  I cried from beginning to end and, of course, never thought to bring a hankie.  An hour later, after a champagne toast, my new husband and I set sail on our first adventure as a married couple – kayaking in the San Juan Islands.   Cheers to this wonderful man who has brought so much laughter and joy to my life.  I loved you then.  I still do.  I always will.

We’re off on Life’s Next Excellent Adventure. July 18, 2003, Orcas Island WA

Trains, Ferries and a Pedicab ~

I’m sitting on the Amtrak waiting to pull out of Union Station in downtown Seattle.  Car 9.  Seat 2.  Seems like the perfect time to reflect on a near perfect weekend getaway.  Seattle is only three hours from Portland, but I find taking the train is so relaxing, especially when I’m traveling solo and a dear friend is picking me up at the end of the line.

I still romanticize riding the rails and, frankly, Amtrak is a world (or two) away from the glory days of train travel.  These days, taking the train is pretty much like taking the Greyhound bus only the passengers aren’t as interesting and generally, they smell better.   All things considered, the train is still a great way to go.  It’s even better when you get to ride the ferry back and forth from Seattle to Pt. Townsend.  What’s not to love about a state who’s ferry system is designated as part of the State Highway System?  I love that!  Thousands of people commute daily from the many surrounding islands into Seattle.  Hundreds of them in their cars.

Seattle Skyline from the ferry

So, what does the perfect girls’ weekend look like when the friend you’re visiting lives in a small town in the Pacific Northwest?  Something like this…

Spending time in the Rick Steve’s Travel Store and trying on his famous backpack and rollie all-in-one!  I’m a huge fan of Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door travel.

Sipping hand crafted fermented cider at the  Finn River Cidery.

Learning the art and science of home canning and making my first batch of dilly green beans for Sunday morning Bloody Marys.  Yum!

Stopping at quaint little towns like this one ~

Drinking a few “Painkillers” – the official drink of the British Virgin Islands – and feeling rather pain free myself by the end of the evening.

Eating my body weight in fresh caught crab at dinner – my first ever Crab Louie.  What rock was I living under that I missed this delicious treat all these year?

Cheering on the strong and the brave at the Hadlock Days Keg Toss at the Valley Tavern.

Hanging with good friends ~ Hours and hours of girl talk time.  Laughing ourselves silly.   

And, we certainly ended our weekend adventure in style … with not a cab in sight to take us from Pike Place Market to the Ferry Terminal (my friend) and the train station (me) we jumped into a four wheel/dune buggy style pedicab and our lovely driver Candy wheeled us away – wind in our hair, cars everywhere and two middle aged wild women laughing like crazy fools caught up in the sheer joy of the moment.  Just the way I like it!

Honey, I’m off to the gym ~

No, not me…the Old Guy, my newly retired hubby who recently turned 66…HE’s off to the gym.  Every morning, you can set your clock by him.  Out the door by 9:00 a.m. – walking up the street to join the rest of the retirees, housewives and non 9-to-5ers who are lucky enough to spend their mornings plugging in their earbuds and “pounding it on the treadmill”.   That’s what the hubs calls it.  While he’s pounding it and cranking weights, I’m at my desk solving the travel problems of one small piece of the corporate world and thinking about my next blog post.  What the heck?

Here’s why this is such an interesting phenomenon.  Until three months ago, his main source of physical exertion (besides getting out of bed in the morning) was walking up and down the stairs to his office, doing the cocktail hour arm lift and bending over to pick up the remote when it fell.  Oh, and the once a year trip with his lifelong buds (other Old Guys) when they get together to hike and play as many rounds of golf as possible in three days.  Other than that – nada.

So, what’s the deal?  Retirement.  It’s that simple.  He is a new man.  He is HAPPY and he is relaxed and he has a whole lot of time on his hands.  Hours and hours and hours.   As the Chief Entertainment Officer (CEO) in our house, I have to admit I was more than a little concerned when retirement suddenly struck.  My office is upstairs and that part of the house was immediately designated off limits from 8am-4pm.  He’s handled it surprisingly well and I am thrilled to discover this seemingly new ability to entertain himself.

Here’s to Old Guys Learning New Tricks – knowing how to let go of the past and move on to new adventures.  Here’s to the fine art of learning how to fill all of the hours that used to be your working day with activities that are healthy and entertaining and new.  Now, if only he’d take a sudden interest in running the vacuum.  He tried it once, but it takes away from his gym time.