Wednesday, June 21, 2017

20 Things On My Summer Bucket List


Greetings, and welcome to 20 Things On My Summer Bucket List! This is my second list, and I think I learned from my first one, 20 Things On My Spring Bucket List, that I need to keep things just a tad simpler going forward, because, well, sometimes life happens!

We are in the home stretch of attempting to transition from our current home to a home by the beach, which will make a lot of the items on my summer bucket list super convenient to accomplish . . . wish us continued luck that we can actually pull this off!
And P.S. - Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this post to see what other wonderful bloggers are joining in on this challenge. In addition to getting lots of wonderful ideas on how to add a little something-something to your upcoming summer, a few of the participants are from Down Under, meaning their lists are season reversed, which should be veeery interesting!

20 Things On My Summer Bucket List 
  1. Read by the pool.
  2. Bike to the beach for breakfast.
  3. Watch a sunrise.
  4. Attend a concert-in-the-park.
  5. Read three fluff-books (I generally lean toward slightly meatier material :-).
  6. Make sun tea.
  7. Blow bubbles with my granddaughter.
  8. See fireworks. 
  9. Have a picnic at the beach.
  10. See a summer blockbuster.
  11. Make three new summer cocktails.
  12. Make three new summer salad.
  13. Make a new BBQ recipe.
  14. Make real-fruit popsicles.
  15. Lose five pounds.
  16. Buy two new sundresses.
  17. Get a pedicure (my first, would you believe?!?).
  18. Volunteer at a beach clean-up day.
  19. Go backpacking.
  20. Visit a Farmers Market.


Monday, June 19, 2017

Project Retirement Relocation - Weeks #4 & #5


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

This was a doozy of a couple of weeks, with a lot of unexpected stress (thank you home inspectors!), but also with a lot getting accomplished:
  • Researched, interviewed and selected an A+ Better Business Bureau moving company to pack and relocate us.
  • Contacted an insurance agent in our new area and got three new policies (auto/home/earthquake) quoted and ready to go. The home will go up slightly, but the auto will go down in an equal increment, and the earthquake is much, much less expensive at our new address, which was great news.
  • Contacted a pest control service for our new home. In that we back up to a wilderness area, we expect pests to be a bit more of an ongoing issue than at where we currently live.
  • Received the inspection report back on our new home, which was frightfully detailed . . . and long.
  • Had our home termite inspection here, which came back completely clear, hooray.
  • Determined order of home improvements, which we plan/hope to begin just a few days after we move in; re-piping first, then new windows, then new floor coverings, then new paint. 
  • Shortened our upcoming trip to visit our granddaughter from two weeks to one week, so we'll return a few days before our close of escrows on both properties. We'd originally planned to leave our daughter's home and go traveling for a week, so the net time with our beloved granddaughter is actually the same in spite of the shortened trip.
  • Located a well rated handyman via Yelp.com, and will surely have a long list of to-do's to provide upon his first service visit.
  • Contacted a sprinkler repair company to assess repair needs, which turned out to not be too bad at all.
  • Met with my landscaper to see what he might envision doing to our backyard and he had some great ideas, the very best being to drastically enlarge our second story backyard balcony, which has unobstructed views of the ocean. Loved this idea so much that we moved it way up in the queue of things we'll be doing to the house.

There was progress on fun relocation items as well, which really do help balance out the above to-dos or stresses:
    • Completed and returned applications for the lifelong learning program at our new location, so we can hit the ground running the moment we arrive.
    • Added summer concerts-in-the park for our three immediate communities (Laguna Niguel / Dana Point / San Juan Capistrano) to our calendar. So excited to attend these without heat concerns this summer. :-)
    • Added local Farmers Market dates to our calendar for these same three communities.
    • Visited the nearby Ocean Institute in Dana Point to learn about volunteer opportunities. Such a wonderful organization!
    • Added summer Concerts In The Green at the nearby Festival of the Arts in Laguna Beach to our calendar as well, one of our favorite summertime events that was too far away to visit more than one time per summer. Now we can easily go weekly, if not more often.
    • Visited the library and learned about the various book clubs going on in the area.
    • Visited a tennis club, where yours truly will probably become a member after we settle in and get the first wave of upgrades completed.
    • Met our immediate neighbors on both sides and learned our new neighborhood is very friendly, and very, very quiet. They both saw fit to mention this, so we took it as both a promise and a warning, ha! (We're quiet too, so no problem on this front. :-)
    Just two weeks to go and we will, hopefully, be in our new home!



    Thursday, June 15, 2017

    Final Report - 20 Things On My Spring Bucket List


    Oh my goodness what a month! So, so distracted by first working to list and sell our current home, then searching for and buying a new-to-us home in coastal Orange County. And it definitely shows with regard to how many items I left undone on my Spring Bucket List. But, I am not deterred, and I am looking very much forward to posting my Summer Bucket List on the first day of summer, June 21.

    The good news is that we are definitely approaching the home stretch, and I should be back to normal in just another couple of weeks. We are scheduled to close both escrows in early July, and so far everything is going smoothly. Fingers crossed it remains that way for just a couple of more weeks.

    So onward to my Final Spring Bucket list update . . . be prepared to be underwhelmed!

    Final Report 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! Completed previously here.
    3. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner outside at least once. Yes! Completed previously here.
    4. Make three new cocktails. No! I blame this on the relocation endeavor.
    5. Make three new BBQ dinners. No! I also blame this on the reloaction endeavor.
    6. Try three new restaurants. Two out of three, so almost! I reviewed new restaurant #1 here and new restaurant #2 here. Once we launched ourselves into home searching, our meals out deteriorated into quick lunch grabs from Subway and Corner Bakery.
    7. Take a family picture during our vacation in Kiawah Island. Yes! Completed previously here.
    8. Make three lunch dates with girlfriends. Almost! I I reviewed lunch out with girlfriend #1 here and met girlfriend #2, Mary at the same restaurant today, Mendocino Farm, because we likewise wanted to talk without interruption for as long as we wished. And I did have a lunch date with girlfriend #3, Barri, scheduled, but I had to cancel last minute in order to spend the day looking at houses due to selling ours so fast. Nicely, this did all happen on the day we found 'the one' so my girlfriend Barri came over for celebratory wine instead.
    9. Join a yoga studio . . . and go! Yes! Completed previously here.
    10. Strength train two times each week. No! I also blame this on the reloction endeavor.
    11. Take six bike spinning classes. Almost! I managed to get in two before getting swept up in relocation activities.
    12. Bicycle at the beach. No! We've been at the beach multiple times a week house hunting, and we did walk to the beach one afternoon, but no, no biking. Once we move in, however, we are planning to ride our bikes weekly to the nearby Dana Point Farmers Market, so again, I will get this one marked off, just not quite in time for my Spring challenge.
    13. Kayak. No! Again, I have to blame this on being completely distracted by our pending move. Once we are relocated, however, we'll be just a couple of miles from Dana Point Harbor, a wonderful place to kayak, and we are definitely planning to do so as soon as we can.
    14. Lose 10 pounds. In Process. I've lost five so far, primarily due to the stress of moving if I'm completely honest, but I'm determined to keep it up even when this is all behind us.
    15. Sell or giveaway all our old motorcycling gear now that our motorcycles are sold. No! Instead, sigh, we'll be moving it all to the new house to be dealt with there.
    16. Clean out garage rafters. Yes! Completed previously here.
    17. Volunteer three times. Almost! I volunteered at an all day wine competition, which I know sounds a little suspect until you understand that all proceeds raised go toward a scholarship program for college students focusing on viticulture studies. OK, so maybe still a bit self serving, but I have plans to do much better once we relocate. 
    18. Read one book for pleasure each month (Book club selections don't count!). Almost!  I reviewed book #1 here and I reviewed book #2 here. Once we decided to move, however, my reading became primarily focused on Realtor.com and the MLS. 
    19. Join Spanish discussion group to keep up with my language studies. Almost! 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! Completed previously here.
    So, while not a total success, not a total failure either. I completed seven of my twenty, made terrific progress on another seven, and ended up with six completely undone. Regardless, I absolutely loved the idea and the challenge of it all, and I can't wait to return on June 21 with 20 Things On My Summer Bucket List, so be sure to check back.

    Or better yet, create your own Summer Bucket List and join us!

    Monday, June 12, 2017

    Our Revised Summer Plans


    One of the things I've truly looked forward to and appreciated since retiring is the ability to escape our hot southern California summers. The heat ramps up here starting in early July, and remains pretty warm until about mid-September. Since starting what I call 'sunbirding' in 2012, we've spent most of our summers RV'ing up and down our beautiful coastline, from San Diego, California, all the way up to Port Angeles, Washington.

    Cannon Beach, Oregon, summer of 2015

    Morro Bay, California, summer of 2016

    San Juan Islands, Washington, summer of 2013

    Sigh. It just never gets old.

    Last summer all that changed because of my younger daughter's move to the east coast with her husband and our granddaughter. (Hrumpf!) In trying to grab as much time with our granddaughter as we could, we volunteered to help drive cars and pets across country (my sweet husband, along with my son in law) and help with move in and unpacking (me). That meant that instead of cool Pacific Northwest breezes and coastal hikes, we were battling heat and humidity and unpacking lots of boxes. Still, we were more than happy to do so knowing that we had next summer to return to our beloved California coastline and Pacific Northwest.

    But then we decided to move closer to the coast here in Southern California.

    So now, in addition to needing time to make a series of immediate improvements to our new home (re-piping, windows and floors) we are thinking we won't necessarily wish to travel or RV all summer long going forward, because July through September should now be spectacular where we are moving. Clear blue skies, cool temps, and tons and tons of summer-at-the-beach festivities that will be literally in our backyard.

    So here's our revised schedule, before and after move:

    Before
    Three weeks back east to visit our granddaughter, including a week long road trip to explore Delaware (State #31 for us).
    One week RVing in Mammoth Lakes to go hiking and enjoying their summer chamber concert series.
    One week RV'ing in Newport Beach going hiking and attending the several summer concert and festival series we enjoy.
    Weekend yoga retreat with my oldest daughter.
    Three weeks RV'ing and backpacking the California coastline and wine country with our newly retired best friends.

    After
    One week back east to visit our granddaughter, no road trip.
    Weekend yoga retreat with my oldest daughter.
    Two weeks RV'ing and backpacking the California coastline and wine country with our newly retired best friends.

    We shortened our trip back east, we pushed our Mammoth trip back to 2018, cancelled Newport Beach altogether because we don't need to flee to the coast in our RV to enjoy summer concerts any longer, as we'll be living in the midst of them, and shortened the portion of our California coastline RVing trip that was going to be done after our best friends headed for home.

    We are truly very happy to direct the resources that would have been pointed toward these trips to fixing up our new coastal home instead. Plus, we've been hearing rumors that we'll be able to see multiple firework shows from our new backyard. If that turns out to indeed be the case, I see a new 4th of July tradition already shaping up!

    Plans and Goals for Today
    - Sixty minutes of cardio at gym
    - Prepare menu and grocery list
    - Pick up wood flooring samples
    - Book club reading (Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte)
    - Sixty minutes of Spanish review
    - Set up appoints for re-piping (bid #2) and pest control at new house.
    - Attend evening couples program

    Friday, June 9, 2017

    Project Retirement Relocation - Weeks #2 and #3


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

    When last we left off, we'd selected a realtor for our current home and undergone the pre-listing activities of staging and photography. We had no idea what a whirlwind of activity was about to come our way one our home went up on the MLS. And Realtor.com. And RedFin.com. And Zillow, and about a dozen other home listing sites we'd never even heard of. Selling a home today is a whole different ballgame from the last time we did so for sure!

    Week Two
    • Helped with the ad copy to be used in the MLS, a result of my sales and marketing background. I write pretty good ad copy. ;-)
    • Vacated the house for a realtors walk and received our first showing request later in the day as a result.
    • Vacated the house again for an Open House over the weekend, day four of being listed.
    • Received multiple offers for our home the next day.
    • Countered three of the above offers, keeping hold of the strongest, number four.
    • More showings, more offers.
    • More counters while still receiving offers.
    • Confident our home was sold, even if not sure exactly to who quite yet, started home shopping in earnest down in south Orange County.
    Week Three
    • More house searching as we continued to refine our search - no to Aliso Viejo (not coastal enough), no to San Clemente (too far away from many of the activities we enjoy in central Orange County), yes to northerly Dana Point (felt tidier than the more southerly side) and a continued yes to Laguna Niguel (still coastal close, but homes a bit more spread out).
    • Accepted an offer on a buyer for our current home.
    • Placed a bid on a home in Laguna Niguel and nervously awaited to hear if our offer was accepted.
    • Responded to a counter offer on the above home, and again nervously awaited to hear if our counter was accepted.
    • Learned our counter-counteroffer was accepted!
    • Got word that our home here had just fallen out of escrow. Gulp.
    • Got word six hours later that our home here was back in escrow, same terms, but different buyer. Relief!
    • Researched and set appointments at the new house for a home inspection, termite inspection, and geology inspection (the new home is on a hill and we'd like to make sure it stays there!), plus for new flooring, windows, and plumbing.
    • And finally, we walked to the beach from our new home, which immediately reminded us why we'd started all this craziness to begin with. Because once we arrived we saw surfers, and dolphins, and pelicans. Kids playing in the water, teenagers sunning, lifeguards keeping an eye . . . pretty much all the stuff we'd dreamed about.


    Excepting that last, magical item, in looking over the above lists, I'm thinking it's no wonder we've been feeling so utterly exhausted at close of each day. So many emotions are being engaged throughout this process it's a wonder we are still standing - trust me when I say that tears have been shed by yours truly on more than one occasion. 

    We are going to try and disengage from all things pertaining to moving over the upcoming weekend, and just focus on enjoying our life as it is in this moment. The summer heat has not yet arrived, so the days are just perfect for hiking, and that's the plan for the weekend, along with attending services at our spiritual community, and meeting up with our Pacific Symphony group on Sunday for a concert and dinner. Cumulatively, a big dose of much needed relaxation!

    Plans and Goals for Today
    - An appointment with our selected moving and storage company in order to get a bid.
    - Gym for sixty minutes of cardio.
    - Sweep and dust inside.
    - Rake and weed outside.
    - Register for Lifelong Learning program at our new location, so we can enroll in summer courses ahead of our move.
    - Make a 'real' dinner for the first time in a week: Rosemary topped pork roast, mashed sweet potatoes, sauteed broccoli and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

    Sunday, June 4, 2017

    We Bought A House!


    Remember this post? Well, what a swirl of a couple of weeks since it has been! I really had no idea, as in absolutely no idea, just how stressful selling a home and buying a home would be when it's not being coordinated or assisted by an employer, as our prior five moves were. I was also surprised to discover that although we thought we were somewhat flexible about what home we bought next as long as it had a backyard view, turned out we were actually quite picky about the type of home we saw ourselves living in.

    Selling our home here turned out to be quick, but still stressful. We had lots of showings out the gate because the market here in Orange County is red hot, and people are eager to buy while interest rates are still low. We began receiving offers by day four, and when all was said and done we think we received nine offers altogether - we honestly lost count in and amidst all the counter offers, the best and final offers and the really, really best and final offers. Craziness!

    So when it was our turn to try and buy a replacement home closer to the ocean, we were rather nervous. We looked and we looked, but nothing felt precisely right. If it had proximity to the ocean it didn't have enough square footage. If it had square footage, it felt too far inland to really feel coastal, in spite of the lower temps and cool ocean breezes assuring us it was. If it was a fixer, it was too much of a fixer. If it was turnkey, it wasn't necessarily my kind of turnkey. If it had a view it had a tiny kitchen. If it had a large kitchen it didn't have enough bedrooms. And so on and so on and so on.

    Who knew we were so picky?

    So as we drove down last Friday for yet another day of house hunting with our realtor, we were feeling a bit perplexed about what to do next if we couldn't find our forever home. Right out the gate, however, we started seeing homes we actually liked. Not a one of them was absolutely perfect, but they were each close enough, and we began to relax. We could do this after all!

    As we drove into one of the last properties we were going to tour, I began to get both nervous and excited. The neighborhood was beautiful, the homes were lovely, the ocean was within site in the distance - what was our realtor doing bringing us here? There was no way anything here was in our price range!

    But then we drove up to this adorable-on-the-outside, ugly-duckling-on-the-inside of a home tucked into a long, quiet cul de sac, and we were instantly smitten. As we waked up the driveway and into the home I started ticking off checkbox's in my head - three car garage, front yard patio, quiet street - even as we entered and I started identifying all the things that needed updating - bad carpeting, wobbly stair railing, ho hum bathrooms, wallpaper in every bedroom. As we walked into the, surprise!, large, beautiful and newly updated kitchen, my heart started beating faster. And then, as we walked outside to the tidy, smallish backyard, it positively exploded. The views were incredible - open wilderness behind us, and a slice of the ocean to our right. Immediately the quote from Jerry Maguire came to mind, 'You had me at 'Hello.''

    Open wilderness behind, Pacific Ocean to the far right.
    I immediately knew I simply had to have this house, there was no going back now that I'd seen it. So we did what every nervous buyer does, we checked comps, checked our bank account, submitted an offer, and nervously waited. The first call from our realtor was to assure us that our offer had been submitted, and that the homeowners had received and read our submission letter (yes, there is such a thing as a submission letter in a hot market, where you pretty much throw yourself on a sword and beg the homeowners to pick you to purchase their home), and that they loved the letter. Next was a call to let us know that there was one other bidder, and we'd both be receiving counter offers. Next was the counter offer from seller, and our acceptance. Next was a full day of nervous waiting. Had we done enough? Were we still in the running, or should we reset our expectations and get ready to start thinking about a runner up home to bid on? And then the call we been waiting/hoping/dying/dreaming for - we were the winning bid and the home was ours.

    It's been a full 24 hours since and I still haven't come down from my cloud. The list of to-do's is urgent and long - we have short 30 day escrows of both sides of the equation - but we'll just take it day by day until we get through it all and come out the other side. That's the plan at least, wish us luck!
    The trail to the beach from our new home.

    The coastal park at the end of the trail,
    and where I'm already envisioning us walking day after day after day.

    Thursday, June 1, 2017

    May 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 reviews in March and also in April, and I'm looking forward to sharing May with you all today.

    So the month May, sigh - it turned out to be a rather emotional, tumultuous month. Sell, don't sell, sell, don't sell. May seemed to be all about evaluating our current lives here in inland north Orange County vs. what they could be like in coastal south Orange County. And after much, much, much agonizing, we finally decided that trading in our current lives for a cooler, ocean-adjacent community chock full of ocean-related activities was something we really, really wanted to do.

    But it wasn't all home selling agony in May by a long shot, as a lot of really nice things occurred as well, so onward to my sentences!

    (And P.S. - Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to see who else is participating,
    and to visit their blogs for additional May In A Sentence A Day inspiration!)

    May In A Sentence A Day
    1. Did laundry, grocery shopped, cleaned house and just generally got things organized around the house after being away for so long.
    2. Had dinner with a dear friend that gave me the sad news that she and her hubby were moving south upon retiring in June - boo hoo!
    3. Attended a scholarship awards luncheon sponsored by my Art Alliance group, and so enjoyed the energy and enthusiasm that only college students can deliver.
    4. Spoke to several realtors by phone in the areas we are targeting, then had fun going through the MLS links they subsequently provided to see if we could locate our coastal dream home.
    5. The cabinet installer arrived to deliver and secure the final countertop in hubby's home office, only to realize that, oops, it needed to be cut down first, and he didn't have the correct tools to do so. 
    6. A second set of cabinet installers arrived, did successfully cut down the countertop, and, yeah, finally finished the job to update my husband's home office that had been started way back in March.
    7. Met my oldest daughter for lunch at the Anaheim Packing District and had a really nice time together drinking Mexican-inspired cocktails, and noshing on chips and tacos.
    8. Met with a realtor to discuss listing our home, which was more emotional than I'd thought it would be.
    9. A long, completely fun day in Los Angeles taking a tour of the Music Center, visiting the Broad Museum, having dinner at the amazingly delicious Otium, and attending a performance at Disney Concert Hall.
    10. Spent the entire day obsessing over whether or not to make this dang move!
    11. Met with a second realtor to discuss listing our home, and decided that yes, he was the one, even if we weren't quite ready to commit.
    12. Toured view homes in a nearby community to see if we might want to remain more local, then attended a very fun OC Wine Society event hosted by the owner of Jamieson Ranch Winery, where we tried to spend the evening not obsessing over where to live!
       
    13. After a very restless night decided that, yes, we were really ready to do this, and contacted realtor #2 to let him know we'd like contract with him to sell our home.
    14. Attended a Mother's Day cooking class with my oldest daughter at HipCooks Orange County, making and enjoying a scrumptious brunch comprised of pomegranite Bellinis, chevre-stuffed grapes with pistachio, smoked salmon potato pancakes, eggs benedict wrapped in ham, and hazelnut, lemon & ricotta cake.
    15. Attended my monthly book club meeting even though I ended up boycotting the book, The Sellout by Paul Beatty, about a third of the way through - a brilliant book without question, but also so incredibly distasteful I simply could not carry on.
    16. Met with our realtor to sign selling contract and bombard him with questions about the current status of the market, and what we might expect to occur as a result.
    17. The realtor's For Sale sign arrived, which caused all kind of not-so-happy emotions to arise as I watched it being placed into my front yard.
    18. Home stager arrived and said she had absolutely no suggestions to make because our home was already staged beautifully, and P.S., did I want a job? 😊
    19. And yet another day spent obsessing looking at homes online to determine if we really wanted to go through all the work that was going to be needed to make this happen.
    20. Attended a BBQ at my girlfriend's new home, a gorgeous, drool-worthy 1912 Craftsman home located in an adorable Pasadena historic area titled 'Bungalow Heaven.'
    21. A diverse day, my favorite kind, which started with services at our UU congregation, lunch at The Gypsy Den in Santa Ana, then a fascinating after-dinner lecture about Israel's strategic challenges in the Middle East given by former Israeli television and print journalist, Alon Ben-David.
    22. Entertained friends that dropped by both for lunch and to see our newly updated home, tiptoeing around the professional photographer that was shooting photos for our upcoming MLS listing as we did so.
    23. Attended a theology seminar, which was uber-interesting even as I continue to ascribe to the John Muir way of thinking: "Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt."
    24. Our home went live this morning on the MLS, so we set up a meeting with our tax accountant and financial advisor to review all matters pertaining to the expected proceeds we'll receive from our home once it sells.
    25. Woke up in a panic, convinced we were making a mistake by selling, which my husband (and this article on the internet) assured me we were not.
    26. A terrific, busy day comprised of a Skype Spanish lesson with my Venezuelan-based teacher, yoga class, cycle spinning class, and a married-couples fellowship meeting.
    27. Escaped an Open House here by doing our own house hunting at Open Houses down in South OC.
    28. Got an offer on our house after just four days on the market!!!
    29. Spent Memorial Day hiking, BBQ'ing and countering multiple offers on our home.
    30. Countered more offers on our home here, then spent the rest of the day with our realtor in coastal OC looking 'for real' for the first time.
    31. Spent the entire day with our realtor again, returning home utterly exhausted from trying to take in, absorb and imagine ourselves living in so many different homes!
    My fervent wish for June is that we find a home, open escrow and are forward focused on our next chapter . . . stay tuned!