At Least It's a Start

Well we made it. I wasn't so sure there a couple of times, but we finally got to our hotel room at about 11:30 p.m. We should have been here at 6:00 p.m.  We had to change our flight from London to Rome 2 times due to delays. I also was scrambling madly (2 different times) to try to notify our B&B in Rome, who had arranged a car service to pick us up, due to the new flight times. I found it impossible to get the free wireless at Heathrow airport to work, so opted to use my credit card in the phone machines they have strategically placed all over. Well, my card didn't work because I hadn't told the bank about England as a travel stop, only Italy, so it was declined. Great. I had visions of the poor driver standing in Rome with his little  "Ochs" signs for hours with no Ochs showing up.

I did manage to find six FREE well-used computers that were free for anyone which I made a bee-line for with great joy only to find I couldn't log into my email for some reason. It took me a couple of tries to figure out the "t" was broken, so I moved on to another one. That one had a broken mouse. The third one worked - kinda; at least enough for me to get a note out to the B&B about our changed plans. Whew. But my anxiety would not go away until I knew it was really taken care of with a reply back from them. I kept checking over the hour...nothing. Oh nice. We finally had to leave my computer umbilical chord to go to our gate for boarding and finish our final leg of the journey. Bittersweet, yes, I know.

While walking through a very quiet hallway (imagine that in Heathrow), I quickly pinged the free wifi again and surprise, surprise, got through! I quickly placed a Skype call and talked to the kind lady at our lodging and verified that we still had car service (the driver had gone and waited for us already and decided to wait for us - 5 hours!). She suggested we give him a good tip. Yeah. One problem averted.

So we landed in Rome, breezed through immigration, literally 5 minutes, grabbed our luggage, found the driver with the "Ochs" sign and headed to the car. Got stuck at the parking Garage cuz his ticket wouldn't work and had a line of cars with drivers yelling in Italian at him for holding up the line with him pushing the attendant button over and over until somehow magically the bar raised (maybe 10 minutes) and we got outta there and headed towards the city. Now, we have been to Rome before, and even exhausted we were excited seeing ruins on our way. We made it.

We checked in and plopped our bags into the room and headed out for a very late dinner, got lost walking back. I did a quick check of email before bed and found about 9 emails from my bank that charges had been made in Luxembourg and did I recognize them? Well golly gee, no I did not. So now our main card that gives me the airline miles is suspended and a new card is on it's way to me within 5-7 business days (Kent of course). Lovely.

This is going to be a wonderful trip. I can feel it in my bones. Oh, and by the way. It is supposed to be 90 degrees today.


Ready, Set, Go!

Trip Route
I am glad to say that James and I are less than 2 weeks away from our next trip to Italy!  I can't believe it has been over 6 years since we've been to Europe.  We have been counting down the days while eagerly awaiting this trip.  We've had this trip on the radar for about 2 years and something always came up where it just didn't work out for some reason or another and finally the time is right.  We vacillated between a one-week river cruise on the Rhein River or a Rick Steves tour or just plan it ourselves like we always have.  We even had a deposit on the cruise at one point, but backed out after much discussion and opted for our own planned trip.  However, we did follow the famous Rick Steves itinerary.  He has such good itinerary suggestions (check them out at  We have visited his Edmonds travel store and attended his seminars and talks many times and have found them to be very helpful when planning and navigating our trips over the years.
Trulli Homes
So we leave early September and are taking a couple of weeks to try out the bottom of the "boot of Italy" this time (see map above).  We are re-visiting a few of the same places we've been before (Rome and Amalfi Coast) because we will be in the vicinity, but we are excited to visit new locations.  We are particularly excited to see Hadrian's Villa with the gardens and then the Eastern coast with beaches in Vieste.  We are going to stay in a cute town of Alberobello with adorable "trulli" houses. There's nothing else out there like it.
Then we will do a day trip to Matera which is the last city in Italy to get electricity and plumbing to the houses (so I've heard), sometime in the 50's or early 60's possibly. It was a VERY poor town literally carved out of the rock.  I'll post pictures on my Facebook as I get them and update on the history when I find out more. It sounds fascinating. So stay tuned there. We will also check out the town of Monopoli (James had to see that one).
Then we will head on over to the Amalfi Coast which has a bunch of towns perched on the hills overlooking some of the best views you can imagine.  One of the more famous towns is Positano.  Well, we're NOT staying there.  We are staying in a gem of a town a few miles away and a little quieter called Praiano.  A co-worker from about 2001 had family there and recommended it to me for our 2004 trip and it was a GREAT find and much cheaper than Positano.  We are even going to stay in the same hotel as last time. After a few days in Praiano we will head to the larger town of Sorrento where we will take a 1/2 day to check out Pompeii/Herculaneum, which we missed last time (we opted to see the island of Capri instead).  The shopping in Sorrento is fantastic, so I'll bite the bullet (I'm not a shopper; weird I know) and buy gifts from here most likely.
The last leg is back in Rome again for our final 2 days and then home.  I am positive the trip will feel too short. Normally when we go to Europe we take at least 3 weeks. One time we took almost 6 weeks!  Ahh, those were the days when neither of us had to worry about bosses and how many vacation days we had.  Maybe some day again (retirement?).
So be sure to check out my Facebook for photos. I hope to post some as I can when wireless is available.


Hostess with the Mostest

Now that I have some time on my hands I've decided to become an AirBnB hostess.  My sister, Janet, who lives in Bellingham, has been renting out room for about 2 years using with great success and talked me into it.  She gave me all the tips and pointers she could think of and I finally took the plunge.

But before that, James and I had to finish the room that we would rent out.  The entire upper floor of our home was in shambles after we took possession of the house from 7 years of renter abuse (they had 5 kids).  The walls had holes and were drawn on with sharpie pens (doors too).  The bathroom didn't appear to have been cleaned at all in the entire 7 years.  I was worried we'd have to replace the shower surround it was so bad.  So we fixed holes, repainted, put in new pad and carpet and I did manage to get the shower clean with commercial-grade cleaner and a couple hours of scrubbing.  The toilet was a goner so that was replaced along with a new floor, counter, fixtures, lighting and mirror.  I was pleased to find a quartz counter at a salvage yard for less than $50!  The bathroom fix-up cost us less than $500 and it looks wonderful.

We put a double bed we had stored as well as futon and then bought some inexpensive night stands and dresser. Then off to Ross I went to buy sheets, towels and doo-dads to decorate. It all looks cozy and warm now. Did I mention the room is huge?  I would say it is probably about 300 square feet or so.

I put the posting on AirBnB on Thursday 7/7 around noon.  Within an hour I had my first booking for that same night!  I was shocked.  I figured I would be able to rent it out a few nights a month.  Here we are only one week into this and I've only had one day where we didn't have a guest.  Wow!

The first three visits were one-night visitors, and this last one was a 3 night visitor who is working here in Auburn.  I immediately realized I didn't have enough sheets.  I ran off to Ross and bought more sheets by the third day when I realized I was going to be a slave to the washing machine every single day between check-out and check-in time if I didn't.  There's a lot to learn about this hosting stuff.  I want to get 5 star reviews, so I have to figure out how to be a good host.

I've been reading AirBnB forums, and believe it or not, there are hosts out there who do things I wouldn't dream of doing in order to get "Super Host" status: supply wine (even champagne), flowers, airport pick-up, meals, and more. Amazing. There has to be a middle ground here.

I do keep tweaking my title and description to make sure I draw eyes to my listing.  I have my price a little lower than the others in the area since I only have one review so far. I can probably up it a few bucks once I have a lot of reviews.

This will be an amazing journey, and provide some nice spending money while I'm on my sabbatical.  I'm not sure how long I'll keep it up. 

We'll see.


Squirrels Take Over

We have been loving our RV this summer.  James only works 4 days a week, so we get 3 day week-ends most weeks and we love to head out and go places.  One Sunday evening after returning from one such jaunt and we were putting away our items, I was getting ready to sit down and relax in front of the TV to watch the recorded NASCAR race (big fan).  James was headed in to watch as well and heard a strange noise coming from the kitchen.

"What's that noise?"  James asked.

"Don't Know." I said and ignored it, intent on getting started with the race, knowing James had already sneaked most of it at the Rimrock club house earlier in the day (I was a bit miffed because he had kept giving me hints about the race even though I kept I would plug my ears and say "nah-nah-nah! I can't hear you!!").

He heard it again and headed towards the kitchen, paused and looked up at our solatube skylights.  Shocked he said "You gotta come see this!" 

Sitting in the round tube going through our kitchen ceiling towards the roof were eight little feet scurrying around and jumping.  Two little baby (maybe half-grown) squirrels stuck in the solatube.  Now, it had been a very warm day and I was worried they had been baking in there for hours and might be half dead from heat stroke. However, they scampered and scurried in that little tube pretty well, so they seemed energetic enough to cause trouble if we opened the tube without a way to keep them contained, so we noodled ideas on how to do just that. 

We ended up getting a chair and a box and another piece of cardboard. I wish I could have recorded the event, but I just didn't have enough hands to hold the box and the phone at the same time.  It would have been hilarious to see.  One of the squirrels went sailing past our heads into the sink and then out the pass through into the family room and started running circles around the corners of the room.  We did manage to put the cardboard cover over the box on the second squirrel and get it out of the house.

For the next 20 minutes the a tiny baby squirrel had us racing around the house with brooms, poking under furniture, shooing and sweeping toward open doors.  Did you know that squirrels growl?  Yes, they growl.  I never knew.  Finally it went out one of the three open doors.  Whew.  We headed outside and looked at the spot we were pretty sure the squirrels were getting in and James plugged the eave with several pieces of brick and stone (knowing they wouldn't be able to chew that).  While he was doing that one of the little critters got with in inches of his face several times trying to get into the hole!  Very persistent.

We then plopped down and turned on the TV and started the NASCAR race, ready to relax.  James headed to his office to catch up on his email.  Thankfully we had the situation solved. 

Not so fast!

Not 10 minutes into my race, I hear a crash and a long growl and four little legs planted square in the mesh on the fireplace door behind the glass.  Whaaaat! 


Apparently, since they couldn't get into the house via their normal route one of them decided to go down the chimney.  Well, we couldn't use the box method this time.  So we opened the doors to the house, got out the brooms again and then swung wide the fireplace doors and got ready to play squirrel hockey again.

I didn't finish my NASCAR race that night until about 11:00 p.m.

But wait!  That's not all!

The next morning (James is at work, so I'm doing this solo, mind you) I heard a strange sound coming from the 2nd floor of our home. 

"Oh great."

I dreaded going up there, knowing there could be dozens of places the critters could hide.  I opened the doors downstairs, got my broom out and headed upstairs.  I hadn't gotten three steps up and I come face-to-face with the tiny little bugger. We're doing a stare-down.  He's on the landing. Neither of us move; who is going to flinch?  I decide to move first.  He goes flying past my head and lands on the floor by my feet and heads into the living room. The chase is on.

I never find him all day.  It appeared he had hidden in the laundry room.  I left the doors open most of the day and could hear him growl off and on.  Finally I had to leave to run some errands and figured that neither my little dog, nor I have gotten bit so far, so I guess we'll be OK until hubby gets home to help in the hunt, so shut my dog in my bedroom and I leave.

Hubs comes home later, we fling the doors come open, brooms come out and the chase is on again.

We haven't seen the squirrels since.

We win.

Busy Bee During Sabbatical

The big news is that I am taking a sabbatical.  The not so big news is that I haven't had much excitement in my life on a day to day basis. since I've been home each day without a busy work schedule to take up my time.  But I can say that the stress level is near zero and it is very nice; with a capital V! I can't remember the last time I've felt so relaxed.  That's not to say that I haven't had plenty to do. 

Boeing had/has and still is going through labor contractions as it is trying to compete better and lower their costs (raise profits).  So every quarter they offer Voluntary Layoffs and when they don't get enough "bites" they start handing out layoff notices.  I didn't bite, so I did get a notice.  It didn't take long for us to decide (less than a weekend of discussions) it became clear that we could come out ahead financially to NOT stay at Boeing, but to go ahead and leave and pocket the generous severance.  My IT Project Manager skills are in high demand here in Seattle, so I can take some time off and then go do some contract work later this winter and work a few more years and continue lining the retirement nest.  I will turn in retirement paperwork and start my pension early next year.  The big question is where to put the money each month, because I don't need it now.  Roth?  Extra payments on one of the houses to get it paid off?  Lots of mental chewing gum.

Prior to leaving in late, I made a long list of things to do while I was off.  I knew I was going to be busy.  Now I'm not sure I'll get it all done!  I already feel the clock ticking away: tick, tock, tick, tock... I still have to paint the small decks, finish the upstairs bathroom, organize the pantry, organize the upstairs storage room...yikes.

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...


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.