Sunday, May 28, 2017

Spring Bucket List - Update #2

Welcome to Progress Report #2 of how I'm doing on my 20 Things Spring Bucket List. My second month in to this challenge has been interesting, a bit funky even, in that I've been very, very distracted with first, evaluating whether or not to move from our current location in order to achieve a decades long dream to live by the ocean, then second, deciding to go for it and list our current 22-miles-inland home for sale.

P.S. - We received a solid offer on our home just four days after listing!

So onward to my Spring Bucket list update. And just like the last time, I'm linking up with a group of other terrific bloggers to share Spring Bucket List updates, so be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to see who else is participating, and to visit their blogs for additional spring inspiration.

Progress Report #2 for 20 Things On My Spring Bucket List
  1. Make a batch of low-sugar jam with spring berries. Yes! Completed previously here.
  2. Grill spring artichokes. Yes! I followed this recipe, which featured a delicious lemony-garlic olive oil marinade, and they were absolutely delicious. The key is to boil the artichokes before grilling them. After that, the ideas and recipes on how to serve them are virtually endless. Even a simple rub of olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper added just before placing on the grill is fabulous. Seriously, you can't believe how much flavor a little time on the grill gives to the humble artichoke.
  3. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner outside at least once. Yes! We've been enjoying our front yard patio during California's glorious spring weather as much as possible. And in doing so, we've much enjoyed seeing birds, squirrels and our neighbors, not necessarily in that order . . . ha!
  4. Make three new cocktails. Pending.
  5. Make three new BBQ dinners. Pending.
  6. Try three new restaurants. In Process. I reviewed new restaurant #1 hereFor our second new restaurant we visited one of our pending Top 10 OC Restaurants, Sushi Noguchi, along with another couple. We loved this restaurant! We ordered a variety of shareable items from their award winning menu, and fell head over heels for this delicious Tuna Poke, served in a Hawaiian style spicy garlic ponzu sauce. We will definitely be back.
  7. Take a family picture during our vacation in Kiawah Island. Yes! Completed previously here.
  8. Make three lunch dates with girlfriends. In Process. I met girlfriend #1, Faith, at my place to start things off with lovely chilled glasses of rose from Oregon's Willamette Valley, before moving onto a nearby fast casual place, Mendocino Farms, where we ate, talked and laughed for hours. We picked fast casual, by the way, because we both enjoy the ability to linger for as long as we might wish without being hurried along by a waiter or waitress as can often occur in 'normal' restaurants. And I have a date with girlfriend #2 this coming week.
  9. Join a yoga studio, and go! Yes! I signed up for a two week intro package and attended my first class this weekend. It was both hard and fun, because, whoa, is my upper body ever weak, and I'm already signed up to attend my next three classes over the coming week.
  10. Strength train two times each week. In Process. I did this consistently the week before we left, and also during our stay in Kiawah Island, because it included usage of the resort gym. Distracted since returning home with all things real estate related, now that we are close to opening escrow here, I should be able to get back to it.
  11. Take six bike spinning classes. In Process. A bike spinning membership is included in the above yoga intro package, and I've taken two classes so far. I love them, and they are way easier than yoga 'cause my legs positively rock in comparison to my wrists/arms/shoulders!
  12. Bicycle at the beach. Pending. As a side note, we have been spending oodles of hours at the beach house hunting, but I'm thinking that probably doesn't count???
  13. Kayak. Pending.
  14. Lose 10 pounds. In Process. I haven't weighed myself for a few days, but I've ramped up my workouts and decreased my caloric intake significantly, and I can tell I'm losing weight by both my clothes and the mirror, just not how much. I'll get on that scale very soon though!
  15. Sell or giveaway all our old motorcycling gear now that our motorcycles are sold. Pending.
  16. Clean out garage rafters. Yes! Completed previously here.
  17. Volunteer three times. Pending. Our decision to relocate has impacted this significantly, in that I really do need to wait until we relocate to our new location in order to determine what/where volunteering is feasible. In the interim, I'll be volunteering to input wine competition scores at an upcoming OC Wine Society event. Thinking that counts somewhat, yes?
  18. Read one book for pleasure each month (Book club selections don't count!). In Process.  I reviewed book #1 hereFor my second book/month I read Circling The Sun by Paula McLain. This book is based on the real life of adventurer Beryl Markham, and written in a style termed 'novelized memoir,' which I interpret as meaning that while the facts, characters and situations described are factual, certain details pertaining to the actual conversations and thoughts of Beryl Markham are a bit novelized. It does make  for easier reading as compared to a straight biography, even as the reader may sometimes question whether things were done quite as portrayed. Still, as a result of this being someone's actual life, and not a wholly made up story, I found it to be a very compelling read, even if wasn't quite the level of writing I enjoyed during last month's read of Still Alice. I can say, however, that it left me with a resolve to work harder at living my own life a bit more on the edge, as that Beryl Markham was quite a woman!
  19. Join Spanish discussion group to keep up with my language studies. In Process. A group of interested Spanish speakers is being assembled at my UU congregation, and I've added my name to the list, but no date has yet been set for our first meeting.
  20. Find a new online Spanish tutor focused on Advanced Beginners. Yes! I did an online search, and landed on italki, a well rated website that connects language students with teachers via Skype, that amazing online program that allows people to communicate face to face for absolutely free. I had a trial lesson with native Spanish speaker Rossi, and it went great. I've had two Skype sessions with her since, and plan to continue at a pace of one 60 minute lesson weekly.
My count indicates that so far I have seven of my 20 items completed, seven in process, and six still pending. Putting our home on the market has wreaked havoc with some of my Spring bucket list items, but I'm not giving up yet, so be sure to return on June 21 for my final report, and to also see what's on my Summer bucket list!

More Things On My Spring Bucket List Update #2 participants:

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Project Retirement Relocation - Week #1

I've decided that one way to keep myself calm under what will surely be a most stressful process would be to track our progress each week in order to assure ourselves that, yes, we really are achieving forward momentum!

Week One
  • We signed a broker sales agreement on Tuesday, spent Wednesday signing disclosure forms in order to have them ready in advance of receiving an acceptable offer, and had the For Sale sign delivered and installed (gulp!).
  • Had a home stager come by on Thursday to assess our home prior to having professional photographs taken. The stager had only one small suggestion, which I already knew (remove half the books from a built in bookshelf in my home office).
  • Called our insurance agent to inquire about the process for replacing our HO and Earthquake insurance policies at point of purchase.
  • Researched moving companies and contacted two rated as A+ on the Better Business Bureau site to get rough estimates on the cost of packing, moving, unloading and possible short term storage. 
  • I made a list of things I felt needed to be done prior to placing our home onto the realtor's MLS this coming Wednesday. It turned out to be a pretty small list - yeah for being pretty obsessive about my the state of my current home over the years. Not to mention having recently purged every room and closet in the process of having our entire home re-floored.
    • Replace some burnt out lightbulbs in our multi-light bathrooms.
    • Dust cobwebs from rafters over front door.
    • Clean backyard fountain.
    • Remove one small dead plant from backyard and replace with a large rock.
  • Made an appointment with photographer for tomorrow (Monday).
  • Received a batch of shoe covers (i.e., booties) for realtors and prospective buyers to place over their footwear before tromping through our pristine home. I checked with my 30-something daughter about this first, since she and her husband just bought a home, to see what her thoughts were. She said it seemed to be a fairly common practice when they were househunting, and she didn't really give it a second thought other than appreciating the condition of the homes that were requesting this. We've encountered booties as well in our recent home searching, and I for one appreciate the sense of cleanliness they seem to imply. so there you go - we're putting out booties!
  • Practicing living an an altered state of tidyness meaning, 1) I make our bed the moment I get up, even before getting my morning coffee, 2) My husband leaves his home office spotless every single time he sets foot out of the house, 3) Dishes get washed, dried and put away immediately rather than air drying, 4) All clothes and jewelry get put away/hung the moment they come off, rather than getting slung over a chair until bedtime, and 5) I sweep and dust daily the moment something catches my eye as being off. The hardest part is making up the bed right away when I'm still a bit groggy, but the rest is actually pretty easy in that it's just us with no pets or little people.
  • Am scanning the MLS new listing notifications I'm receiving daily in our search areas - Dana Point, Laguna Niguel, Aliso Viejo and San Clemente. I am loving, loving, loving what I am seeing, which are view properties with between 1800 and 2600 sq feet of living space, and low maintenance yards. Here's a sample of a few that are making me very, very happy currently. They'll probably be long gone before our home here goes into escrow, but it's still fun to dream.
    That house! Those views! This home is in the hills of San Clemente, so a few miles back from the ocean, meaning we'd get a bit more home for our money.
Location, location, location. This home is in Dana Point, less than a mile from the ocean, which makes me very happy in spite of the trade-off in interior/exterior space.
Our home here goes live on the MLS on Wednesday and we are on pins and needles with anticipation. I'm also looking forward to seeing how Monday's photos turn out, and I will be saving copies in our family blog so that we'll always have them to look back on.

Have I forgotten anything so far? Please let me know in the Comments section below if so!

Plans And Goals For Today
Two mile run/fast walk (still building my running mileage).
Attend Sunday service at our UU Congregation.
Prepare and bring snack items for the post-sermon social gathering.
Lunch in Santa Ana at new-to-us The Gypsy Den.
Meet daughter at Fashion Island in Newport Beach to watch/help her with swimsuit shopping.
Attend an evening lecture on the state of Israeli relations in the Middle East being given by a former Israeli news reporter.

Monday, May 15, 2017

We're Listing The House!

This is going to be a brief post, because as you might imagine, it is quite the whirlwind of activity over here, but yes, after looking at homes in a variety of coastal Orange County areas, and thinking long and hard about the lifestyle we see ourselves living in this next chapter of our retired lives, we have decided to put our current home up for sale.

We have seen enough properties to be fairly confident we'll be able to locate a home in our price range within two - four miles from the ocean, depending on what activities and amenities we ultimately elect to prioritize (the closer to the ocean, the more compressed the housing and farther away from major roads, and the direct opposite for homes a bit farther from the ocean)

We have located enough activities online in our selected areas to have a good sense of confidence that we can replicate the things we much enjoy about our current lives - lifelong learning program, spiritual community, performing arts, yoga, ballroom dance, hiking and biking - plus evolve toward many more not currently available, or at least not easily so - easy access to the ocean for daily walking, biking, and kayaking, a plethora of restaurants, surfing contests, whale activities both learning and teaching, boating, almost daily public events in the surrounding communities, art programs, and so, so much more.

So after losing a good amount of sleep agonizing over making such a big change, the dust has finally settled, and things are feeling increasingly 'right' to move in this direction.

I know we have a lot of turmoil, work, stress and doubt ahead, but we're prepared to work through each thing as it comes, and we are deeply excited about what awaits us at the end.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Five Things Making Me Happy Today 5/9

So much silence over here! We've been very, very distracted with house hunting, not to mention amazed at the different price points between various communities. And so that you can share our pain fun, here is a comparison of what a $1,000,000 will buy you in the OC:

In near-the-coast Aliso Viejo.

In at-the-coast Newport Beach.
Location, location, location, if nothing else, this search has been an overwhelming reminder of how very important that is here in California. In the meantime, the two realtors we've had in here have fallen over themselves telling us how nicely our current home is appointed, and how quickly it should sell. Which has caused it's own set of issues as we ask ourselves why exactly are we moving, and what exactly are we hoping to accomplish?

We have much work to do before coming to a final decision on whether to stay put, or move closer to the coast (22 miles away from where we live currently). Either way I think this will have been a good process for us. If we move, it's because we think living near enough to the coast to access it by foot, not to mention car and bike, will improve our day-to-day quality of life. If we elect to stay, or move to a different home, but in the same general area, it's because we'll have realized how much we value what we already have in our current location.

So onward to Five Things That Are Making Me Happy Today!
  1. Avocados - With eggs at breakfast, with a sandwich at lunch, in a salad or on enchiladas at dinner, this single seeded fruit (I looked it up!) is like a little bit of heaven each time I slice one in half and see it's creamy green lushness. Yum.
  2. Bananas - Ironically, they are not my favorite fruit in general, but when added in frozen chunks into my daily acai bowl they absolutely rock.
  3. My granddaughter - From calling stars 'twinkles,' to asking me to play 'pieces' with her (puzzles), to telling me excitedly via Facetime recently that she saw 'dos, tres, siete bunnies,' (i.e. too many to count Nana!), this little girl is my sun and my moon. 
  4. Being able to run again without pain, even if it's just a mile. Forward progression, I keep reminding myself, forward progression.
  5. Mexican food, ``'nuff said. 

What things are making you happy today? Please share with us here!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

To Move Or Not To Move

You all are going to think I'm crazy. Didn't I/we just barely complete a big home update? Well, yes, we did, but it didn't cure me of my decades old itch to live closer to the coast than we do now, meaning 4-5 miles inland vs 22 miles as we do now. A difference of 15'ish miles doesn't seem like much, but from a lifestyle standpoint it's a world of difference.

  • Temperatures: 84 currently in my town, 73 in Laguna Niguel, the town we are eyeing for relocation. Generally closer to a 12-15 degree difference in the summer. (I know because I looked up the differences constantly last summer!)
  • Ability to access the beach: About 25-30 minutes from where we are now, vs 5-7 minutes in Laguna Niguel. Additionally, we have to think about traffic patterning every time we go down currently, which would be a non-issue if living in Laguna Niguel because we'd take surface streets.
  • Amenities: Pretty much a draw for things like restaurants, shopping, banking, entertainment. Our current community includes an HOA pool and spa, plus tennis courts. Most of the communities we are looking at in Laguna Niguel would appear to afford the same if not even more.
  • Cost of Living: Identical, other than the difference in housing prices. We can mitigate this by purchasing a slightly smaller home.
  • Property Tax: It depends. If we stay under, at or within 5% over our current home's selling price when we sell here, we can transfer our current property tax base under two California provisions established to help seniors move within high property value counties. If we elect to buy up then we could potential pay up to $5,000 more a year in property taxes, which while not necessarily desirable, is not a deal breaker.
  • Quality of Life: It's is wonderful where we live currently - good schools, low crime, plentiful parks and outdoor areas, well-funded city government. It appears to be very similar in Laguna Niguel, but with apparently even lower crime statistics.
  • Lifelong Learning programs: We have a terrific Lifelong Learning program within four miles of our home at a cost of $550 a year for two people. Laguna Niguel has an equally robust, though slightly more spread out senior learning program, in that it holds classes in a variety of facilities around south Orange County. And the Laguna Niguel program is completely free, to our surprise.
  • Impact on our current array of activities and clubs: Negligible, other than the time needed to build new friendships within the activities. Many of our activities are already countywide (hiking, biking, running, wine club), so no impact there. Every other activity - religious/spiritual, gym, service organizations - have counterparts in or near Laguna Niguel.
  • Suitability of homes: Similar to what we have, though slightly newer, and I am happy to do the same sort of updates to a new home as we just completed here. Additionally, there are lots and lots of view homes in Laguna Niguel because of the town being located along a series of rising hills, and that would be a definite improvement from what we have currently.
  • Ease of exiting: Key when towing out with our travel trailer, our current town has the advantage when it comes to exiting out of greater-LA for parts north or inland. However, Laguna Niguel would have much greater ease of access to San Diego county, another of our preferred RV'ing spots.
  • Where I Could See Myself Living Out The Rest of My Life: Hands down a coastal community like Laguna Niguel - I can already see my 80 year old self taking a careful walk along the beach each morning, then stopping for coffee at a beachside shack, before heading back up the hill to my home.
I had a realtor in a few days ago, and advised I wanted a realistic sales price, not a wouldn't-it-be-great price. I have that in hand, and we have an appointment the week after next to tour single family dwellings in our targeted price range. If I can get my husband to see the magic in lifestyle change this move would generate, we are both setting our sites on Fall of 2018 to make this change - I need to give him time to wrap his head around this, I would like to enjoy our newly updated home for just a little while, and we'd rather not be looking to buy during the spring and summer rush. 

To Be Continued . . .

Monday, May 1, 2017

April In A Sentence A Day

Greetings! Today, and each month going forward, I'm joining in with some other fab bloggers to share how we spent our month in just one sentence per day. I had a blast doing my first Sentence A Day review in March, and am uber excited to share April with you all today. April was a particularly picturesque month in that we were traveling for most of it, so I hope you enjoy the many photos I've included.

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to see who else is participating,
and to visit their blogs for additional April Sentence A Day inspiration!

April In A Sentence A Day
  1. Visited Annapolis, MD and had a spectacular day touring the US Naval Academy, the Maryland State House and the historic colonial district.
  2. Took our granddaughter to the Washington DC National Zoo and enjoyed lots of animal sightings, plus ice cream and a spin on the carousel.
  3. Caught a cold from darling granddaughter and stayed close to 'home,' though we did manage to enjoy a short hike at the nearby Hidden Pond Nature Center, where we saw this beautiful wild flower.
  4. Took the Metro into Washington DC to visit the Ford's Theater National Historic Site, where Abraham Lincoln was shot, and then gazed in wonder afterward at a tower of over 15,000 books written about Lincoln that are displayed at the nearby Petersen House.
  5. Traveled to Wilmington, NC, checked into our river-adjacent VRBO, then attended a spooky Ghost Walk of Old Wilmington under rainy, thundering, lightening filled skies . . . so much fun!
  6. Visited the antebellum Bellamy Mansion today, which while absolutely lovely, was a much heavier experience than I had anticipated.
  7. Visited the USS Battleship North Carolina and climbed and explored her from top to bottom . . . so much fun!
  8. Drove to Kiawah Island, South Carolina and met up with our family for a week at beautiful Kiawah Island Resort.
  9. Played with the granddaughter in the resort's kiddie pool all afternoon.
  10. More fun-in-the-sun with our granddaughter, then to the Tattooed Moose Brewery for a family-friendly dinner, remembering to take a family photo before piling into our cars, yeah!
  11. Our youngest daughter and granddaughter left for home, and the rest of us hung out on the screened patio and read the entire remainder of the day in guilty enjoyment of our newly quiet cottage.
  12. Left Kiawah Island for the first time since arriving to drive over and check out nearby Folly Beach, stopping to see this amazing 400+ year old oak tree along the way.
  13. Visited Middleton Place with our niece and enjoyed historic tales, plantation relics, live demonstrations, rice fields, swamps and even alligators.
  14. Last full day at Kiawah Island Resort, so we went for a leisurely eight mile walk along the beach before begin the slow process of packing up.
  15. Left Kiawah Island and headed for Charleston where we couldn't resist stopping and sampling hot boiled peanuts from this one-of-a-kind roadside stand.
  16. Got a wee bit lit drinking these fan-tas-tic bloody Mary's at The Darling Oyster Bar while trying to appear nonchalant that Alan Alda and Joy Behar were seated directly behind us.
  17. Joined a historic walking tour through Charleston, missed seeing former vice-president Joe Biden speaking at a nearby park by mere minutes, and ended the day with a fabulous dinner at award winning Husk Restaurant..
  18. Started our day with a walk over Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and back, a total of five scenic, thrilling miles in that traffic was zooming past us the entire way.
  19. Left Charleston and drove to Congaree National Park for a day of gazing at giant cedars, loblolly pines, and intriguing swamps.
  20. Long day of driving from Columbia, SC to Richmond, VA, but still found enough energy to walk Monument Blvd and gaze at some heroes of the Confederacy.
  21. Walked along the James River, took a canal boat cruise, toured a civil war-era iron foundry, then got lost in massive Hollywood Cemetery trying to locate the graves of two former Presidents.
  22. Spent the day touring Richmond's historic area, with the highlight being our wonderful Virginia State Capital tour docent, who made Revolutionary War history leap to life.
  23. Drove back to our daughter's home in Alexandria, VA, and spent the rest of the day playing with our granddaughter.
  24. We'd planned to take our granddaughter to National Harbor for the day, but she woke up with a fever so we stayed home with her instead, quietly singing, reading and rocking the day away.
  25. Took a lovely walk in a soft, spring-time rain, enjoying the azaleas blooming everywhere along our path.
  26. Said 'goodbye' to our granddaughter and flew home to California, always a wrenching experience.
  27. Came home to bees in our family room, so first on the back-home list was to call a bee removal company.
  28. Our cabinet company returned to install counters in hubby's home office, almost completing this project, because, yep, somehow only one of the two pending counter tops got made. 
  29. Met up with friends and visited Sushi Noguchi, the fifth restaurant on our Best of OC Top Ten quest,  agreeing afterward that the spicy tuna over crispy deep fried sushi rice was totally original and insanely delicious.
  30. Did a late-morning six mile hilly hike in 90 degree heat, which my husband and I agreed afterward probably wasn't the best idea.
And I've already gotten started on May, so be sure to check back here in June!