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

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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…

Got Stuff? ~

I see so many signs like this when I’m walking or driving around town.  Extra Storage – it’s a booming business.  It got me wondering ~ When did we begin acquiring so much stuff that we can no longer contain it all within the walls of our own home?  What do we do then?  Apparently, we go out and rent our stuff it’s OWN STUFF CONDO.  Really, think about this – and I have lately with all of the attention on reality TV shows like Storage Wars (which was so successful that it has a spin-off Storage Wars: Texas).  In fact, I just checked the local TV Guide Listings and on Tuesday, May 22nd, the A&E channel ran nothing but Storage Wars from 6pm until Midnight.  That’s 12 half hour episodes of people trying to out bid each other so they can become the proud owner of someone else’s unwanted stuff.  Not even their good stuff – no, this is the stuff they crammed into a 6’x6′ cement room, rolled down the metal door and apparently walked away and forgot about!

Here’s a photo (courtesy of the website) of the players on Storage Wars.  These people are now huge stars and everybody and their uncle is running out to storage auctions trying to strike it rich.   The land of the free and the home of the brave has become the land of the super-sized and over-stuffed.  Come on people.  Really?  No wonder the rest of the world thinks of us as “those crazy Americans”.  When did we become so stuff addicted?  If one is good, why is 3 or 4 or more better?  Maybe I can get a government grant to study this.  In the meantime, it is something else to think about in our quest to radically downsize our life and take it on the road.

Ok, soapbox packed up and put away for today.

What’s in a Gift?

Here’s an interesting thought.  If you are in the process of getting rid of most of your worldly goods, what the heck should people give you as a gift – say for Mother’s Day, or Christmas or your Birthday?   On Saturday, my son and his lovely girlfriend invited us over to celebrate Mother’s Day with a little tea and scone brunch in their back yard and a trip to the St. John’s Parade.   My son said something like, “We thought about getting you a gift, but couldn’t think of what you would need that fit in the backpack and rollie.”   They gave me this precious little bouquet of flowers from their garden – perfect!

I was intrigued by the question.   Really, what is the point in giving gifts to someone who’s in the middle of down-sizing and, at this stage in life, what could I possibly need?  Short answer – Nothing.  (Well, I still WANT a pair of UGG boots, but I don’t honestly NEED them).  There is nothing I need and what a great feeling that is.  I do not need more stuff, but I still want more experiences and adventures and good times with friends and family.  Makes gift giving very simple, doesn’t it?   Moments.  Memories.  I’ll always need those.  I think that’s why I carry my little camera everywhere.  I want to remember and savor the moments, the sights, the colors, the unusual in the every day, and I am one who tends to forget.  Just ask my sister…she remembers more of my early life than I do.  But I digress… that’s another post entirely.  The truth is I spent the better part of of the last 50 years in pursuit of stuff and now it holds little or no value beyond the practical.

I took a picture of my “kids” at the St. John’s Parade so I can remember this moment.  The sun was out.  The streets were crowded.  The air was warm – a perfect memory of a Mother’s Day well celebrated.  Oh, and the absolutely delicious home made hazelnut chocolate scones.  That is truly all I needed for a perfectly lovely Mother’s Day.  Life is sweet.  Thanks guys.

Living La Vida Cheapo ~

We’re looking for ways stretch our retirement dollars and have a few more grand adventures while we’re at it, so living in some place like Nicaragua or Mexico (yes it’s still safe), or Panama or even Spain are very intriguing possibilities for living the good life for less.   This recent article in the New York Times is full of great information on the benefits and pitfalls for people who want to explore the option of retirement living outside of the United States.  It looks like there are several interesting locations where you can live for less than $1500 a month – if you are willing to live more like a local and less like a gringo.  Really, why else would you go there?

And, yes, that’s a big pile of chickens lying out in the warm air on the table.  No, we didn’t buy one.   But right after we shopped at this gigantic outdoor mercado, I paid 5 pesos for two squares of toilet paper so I could use the public restroom.  It’s all just part of the adventure.

Three (or is it Thirteen) Bags Full

Friday we cleaned out closets and took an SUV full of black plastic bags loaded with clothes, treasures we thought we couldn’t possibly live without and other assorted things we didn’t even remember we owned to the Goodwill.  How the hell did we acquire all this stuff?  A lot of it was old clothes that were taking up valuable real estate in the closet. Hubby seems to have a strong attachment to his old clothes…he still talking about the outfit with the matching white belt and white shoes and I can tell he’s picturing himself as Mr. Cool Dude, too.  Needless to say, I pick out his clothes for any kind of trip or social outing that I’m involved in.  If he goes out alone…he’s on his own.

So, off we went to the Goodwill drop off station in Lake O.  Here’s an interesting observation –  including us, the cars that were dropping stuff off included two Mercedes, a Volvo, two BMW’s and a Lexus.  People with a wee bit too much money perhaps, who bought a bunch of stuff they really, truly didn’t need and now are off-loading it to make room for more stuff they probably don’t need.  Not, us – we’re REDUCING the inventory.

To bring this adventure full circle, my son and his lovely girlfriend do most of their shopping at the Goodwill.  They live fully the values of reduce, reuse and recycle.  Wouldn’t it be truly perfect if the new bedspread or lamp they scored at the Goodwill came from our guest room!  Circle of stuff instead of the circle of Life!  I love it.

With all of the downsizing going on at our house, I’ve been following a very interesting blog by a guy named Dave Bruno called the 100 thing challenge.   A few years back he took on the challenge of reducing his personal “stuff” to 100 items.  I’m not sure I’m ready for that but it is a very interesting idea.  He talks about his own efforts to reduce our American style consumerism and promotes the concept of reduce, refuse, rejigger.  Re-jigger, what a great word.  This is what our grandparents did.  When something broke, they actually fixed it instead of throwing it in the trash because it was cheaper to buy a new one.  It feels like maybe we’re coming full circle here.  I find more and more that I don’t need stuff “just because”.  Oh, I like it.  I still love to check it all out in the shops, but to tell you the truth, I have less and less desire to buy it and that feels good.  Really good.

Right now a couple of dear friends are going through variations on this theme.  One friend is downsizing to a ten foot trailer so she can travel the US for her 60th year.  Go girl!  Another is helping her aging parents move to assisted living and clearing out 60+ years of accumulated treasure.  At least if we keep hauling our stuff off to the Goodwill or selling on Ebay, our kids won’t have to deal with it.  They can thank me now or they can thank me later.

Disclaimer –  That is NOT our house!  The photo came from Max Patton’s Tips for Decluttering on A&E.