Wednesday

Truly Scrumptious

I am excited that another European vacation is in the works. It has been five years since James and I have been "across the pond." We will only be gone for 2 weeks this time and will mimic the Rick Steves Southern Italy tour. His itineraries are so good and well thought out.  It just makes sense to follow along that route.  I am finding our own hotels though as we tend to like a little higher quality lodging in general.

We will start in Rome and end in Rome.  The first stop outside of Rome will be Tivoli where we'll tour Hadrian's Villa.  That will just be a day thing and we'll move right along to our night-time stop somewhere in the middle of the Molise area in the mountains on our way to Vieste on the Gargano Peninsula.  Vieste is a beach haven with sun, beach umbrellas and will be a nice relaxing spot before heading on south and back to the interior a bit to Alberobello.  Alberobello is a UNESCO World Heritage site with unique trulli buildings where we'll stay at the Trulla Holiday Hotel (picture shown above). It is definitely not anything like what we've stayed in before (love the name - reminds me of Mary Poppins).  While we're there we will visit another UNESCO site: Matera.  Matera was founded around 3 B.C. and, believe it or not, Troglodytes lived here.

From Matera, we move on to the Amalfi coast, which is one of my all-time favorites.  This is where we discovered Pasteum in 2004.  Pasteum has some of the best preserved Greek ruins of all time that still exist.   I'm not sure we'll make it to Pasteum this time or not, but I highly recommend it to anyone visiting that area.  We are planning on staying in a small town near Positano called Praiano.  A friend from Boeing had family from there and recommended we stay there as it is only a few miles away and MUCH cheaper and has the same spectacular views.  She was right.  We stayed at Hotel Holiday when we were there before and I've booked us the superior room there again.  The balcony rooms overlook the most incredible views of the Tyrrhenian Sea.  The slider leading out to the balcony stretched the entire length of the room; we left it open each night and let the sea breeze blow in and cool the room.  It was heavenly.

Here is what our route looks like. We'll rent a car for about a week of it and then use bus/train for the part along the West coast.


We plan on visiting Mt. Vesuvius and probably Pompeii when we head up to Sorrento to stay a couple of days.  We also will do some shopping in Sorrento.  Sorrento is our splurge hotel city where we'll spend more than normal.  Even with the splurge city, our average cost per night still is only $150 U.S. due to several of the town having inexpensive rates (off the beaten path).

All-in-all this will be a great trip.  We'll have some relaxing time at the beach and historic sightseeing.  I am very hopeful that we can have a great romantic trip.  We've had a tough last year and a half and we both need the time to reconnect.

I'm excited about planning this trip.  It is fun watching videos on the history of where we're going, making plans, looking at maps, picking hotels, and generally dreaming about taking time off.

I wish it we were leaving next week; sigh...

Saturday


If silence was golden, I’d be rich.  Or maybe only the recipients of the silence would be rich; that means you, the reader – if there are any of you. I guess the fewer the readers the more gold there is to split amongst you.

So the question is to blog or not to blog?  I love to write, but so many times either my initiative to write, or my blogger agenda wobbles such that it is unclear to me what to write about. Do I write about the state of the world we live in?  Goodness knows I have very strong opinions on that, but fear of “big brother” retribution sneaks in.  Mental videos of my front door being bashed in and me being carted off for subversive behavior doesn’t strike me as something I’d like.  Initially it was about travel and other funny stuff, but then my ability to travel (funds) and illness meant life being not so funny for a long time kept that lineup out of the picture.  Baring one’s soul is painful and I can only bleed so much on the paper of blog. 


Maybe I should consider it though.  I know that there were two years in the recent past where I didn’t say much, except to my husband, and even then not to complain much, but keeping it held tightly inside was probably an unhealthy placebo of martyrdom.
Anyway, that period is done.  I’ve gotten mostly healthy again.  We have moved away from the house situation we were in (beautiful home, but bad commute).  Unfortunately, my beloved daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren moved far away to Florida. 


James and I are now working hard at recovering from the 2008 recession and scrambling fast to build up our retirement again (we lost a lot of net worth in the real estate bust).  It makes me very nervous about going from making really good money to being on a fixed income (James, not so much).  It might all be OK initially, but if inflation ever were to kick in, then a fixed income would be disastrous.  I saw an article today about Venezuala’s inflation hitting 700%.  I thought it was bad at 275% last year!  If we are able to make 95K a year in retirement, but then even 25% inflation hit.  Our money would only be worth 69K.  I can’t even fathom what the Venezuelan’s must be going through at 700%.  An article on June 22nd said that an iPhone cost $47,000, or almost 2 ½ month’s pay for a worker who works at minimum wage.  And that was last year. Of course, this means the theft of smartphones is phenomenal and you don’t ever pull it out when you’re on the street or someone will mug you for it. Anyway, I hope our economy doesn’t go all “Venezuela” on us. 


I would like to have a vacation home in Florida for the dreary, rainy winter months.  We also have to find some kind of solution for a smaller housing solution here in the Puget Sound; unfortunately, one of the more expensive places to live in the U.S.  We’re not sure how that is going to work yet.  Thankfully, we have time and housing prices are still going up which means our houses are all going up in value – again.

Sunday

2013 Here We Come!

I haven’t blogged for a while; the news just seems to go from bad to worse.happy-new-year-2013-wallpapers-hd-03 Our president got re-elected and then promptly amps up the regulations and refuses to budge on any budget issues.  It truly seems he wants our economy to fail.  Maybe the plan is that he then gets to come in and save the day and look like a hero?  Who knows.

Troubling issue #1: the fact that many companies that hold strong religious beliefs that are counter to new Obama Care laws may be forced to go against those beliefs anyway!  Hobby Lobby, a Christian owned company has stated that they are determined to not institute the portion of the health care law that requires them to offer abortion inducing drugs to their employees.  Catholic schools and business are in similar predicaments.  Their request for an injunction has failed and they will face massive fines each day if they do not comply.

First Amendment—states that “Congress shall make no law that respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

Troubling issue #2: Is our Second Amendment right to bear arms about to get trampled on too?  The rash of recent mass shootings has people all over our country calling for tough gun laws and even outright bans in some cases. How short-sighted can everyone be.  The people who are intent on doing evil will obtain whatever weapon they want, regardless of any law!   Taking guns out of law abiding citizens weakens our nation to no end.  Now, I don’t particularly like guns, but I know historically what has happened in countries where strict gun laws and even confiscation has occurred.  Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy are good examples. Gun confiscation paved the way for the evil tyranny and the inability for the general populace to stand up for themselves.

[Note: One New York newspaper is even publishing the names and information on legal gun owners!  http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Journalism/2012/12/29/NY-Paper-Doubles-Down-Publishing-More-Gun-Owner-s-Names-and-Addresses]

Troubling issue #3: Is our horrible economy.  It continues to surprise me that the famed “Consumer Confidence” ratings show any confidence by consumers – at all.  For some strange reason the general population of the United States believes everything is going pretty OK, maybe not great, but OK.  Well, in 2002, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted 7.4% U.S. debt of GDP in 2012.  Guess what?  It is over 74%!  That is absolutely unsustainable.  When will people wake up and see that we are in serious trouble?  Check out the analysis by James Pethokoukis here from the Public Policy blog of AEIdeas.

We hear about this “Fiscal Cliff” which apparently is going to hit our country in January.  Neither the Congress, nor our President can seem to negotiate any kind of deal to put together a plan that strikes a balance between cuts and tax hikes.  It is all about which side wins.  That means none of us win.

There are more issues; I think of them everyday.  But here are just a few to start out our new year.

In spite of these issues, I’m personally excited about 2013.  Except for a bout of the flu these last two weeks, my health has been fantastic.  My job has been challenging, but stable.  Hubby is back to work and the finances are in great shape.  Our plan to spend more time alone together is set in motion as of yesterday.  We put money down on a beautiful Motorhome (owned by his boss) that we will take possession of probably around May/June, just in time for summer.  I’m excited to take weekends away and explore our beautiful state. We will plan a nice long vacation in 2014 and take my dad with us; I’m thinking Yellowstone, or maybe back to Bryce Canyon.  We loved the scenery and hiking when we were there in 2011.

So, Happy New Year everyone! 

 

Friday

Is There a Storm Brewing?

ID-10039226It has only been a month since I read in the Seattle Times that housing prices here in the Northwest were finally starting to climb again and then we get hit with more bad news.  It seems not a day goes by when I don’t see some economist or another stating dire predictions for Europe and the Euro and the ramifications for us here in the U.S.  It’s a global economy now, so all that impacts us whether we like it or not.

We see things like: the stock market has taken hits these last few months after looking better earlier in the year and overall consumer confidence is down (see article here).  Just today, employment/unemployment numbers came out and the U.S. job situation took a big hit with lower than expected jobs created in May.  Jon Talton, a writer for the Seattle Times states, “With the decline in labor-force participation, the unemployment rate badly underestimates joblessness” and that "average hours and weekly wages fell.” These job numbers resulted in stocks plummeting – yet again.  It seems it is bad news, bad news, and more bad news. 

Are we in for a triple dip recession?  Did we ever come out of the one we’ve been in? I don’t think so.

So what am I going to do about it?  I’m going to continue my quest to become more self sufficient. I like what Phil Burns called “standard of living insurance” in his Five Principle of Preparedness article. He says, “we can provide our families with the assurance that we will be able to maintain a certain standard of living.  This standard of living is dictated by the level of preparedness we are able to achieve and maintain.” He reminds us all that we have house insurance, car insurance, life insurance, health insurance and other types of insurance to help us get by when something ill befalls us.  But have you thought about food, water, electricity, and other bare necessities if something occurs to disrupt the supply of those crucial items?  As Phil says, “a hedge against calamity”. It doesn’t even have to be a economic, natural or other type of disaster even.  What if there were a job loss, or someone got ill and couldn’t work to the point it impacted your ability to purchase these necessities?  Being prepared is a lifestyle choice not many people make; however, I urge anyone reading this to consider stocking up on essentials. 

Our modern world has seen us become a nation of people who live week to week off of what we can buy in a store.  That, my friends, is not being prepared.

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Saturday

Ouch!

For the last year I’ve been blogging about economic struggles that I believe will only get worse for some time to come.  I to continue to encourage frugality, learning how to be self-sufficient by getting back into baking, canning, gardening.  It is important to keep our vision clear about the truth of where our economy is headed and not keep our heads in the sand – in denial – about the fragility of our situation here in the U.S.

For the last few years the alarm bells were being rung only by a few, usually considered conspiracy theorists. Today we hear the chime getting louder with mainstream media joining in.  I used to blog about this several times a month, but it has gotten so prevalent that I can’t even keep track of all the gloomy economic news.  Not a day goes by where I don’t see or hear about the fall of the Euro or the decline of the dollar.

I’m not afraid or worried though.  Our family has worked hard over the last two years to get out of debt.  We have been gardening, canning, and learning how to bake.  Those are skills that most of us have lost (or never had) since the by-gone days of our grandmothers.  I can proudly say I can make a great loaf of bread from scratch; in an oven, not a bread maker.  I can make great soup out of dried beans.  I have a  wonderful recipe for butternut squash soup that my daughter and I concocted.  It is truly a comfort food recipe. I even cut my husband’s hair now.

However, it seems we can’t get away from dismal news.  Yeah, the unemployment figures fell below 9% for a change (though I believe that it simply means people “fell” off the unemployment rolls because their benefits expired).  I was tweeted a link to an article in the Business Insider by Joe Weisenthal, 12/3/2011, just this morning about a continued decline in the housing market.  This one really hits home because we have a rental business with many houses in our portfolio.  Michelle Meyer, the well-known housing analyst for Bank of America’s mortgage lenders, says it's "far from over" and that prices still have another 7% to decline.  This is due to the huge inventory of homes in foreclosure with more to come.

Ouch!

So, I’ll tighten the belt more so we can be positioned for success for years to come, regardless of the markets and overall economic outlook.  I’ll make a bigger garden next spring and figure out how to make a better whole wheat loaf of bread.  I’ll work on buying only things I need and of good value that truly contribute to our home; cutting out the frivolous spending.

I needed to lose weight anyway.