Saturday, October 28, 2017

Safely Home

The flight from London to San Franciso was scheduled for 11 hours - but only one runway was open at Heathrow so our departure was 50 minutes later than scheduled.  They made up the time (by going faster) and we arrived at SFO as scheduled and were at the gate at 5:21PM.  The flight passed quickly - I watched 4 movies and slept a couple hours.  Upon arrival, we headed to the Global Entry interview station - already in 'conditionally approved' status, we received notice that instead of going to our scheduled in person interview in January (the earliest dates available), we could finish the process as we went through customs following our next trip.  The system was down when we arrived and the border agents did their best to try to convince us not to wait - 'it might be 2 minutes or hours - we don't know' - but we waited.  The inconvenience of having to take a day of Winter Break to drive to SFO made the wait worth it.  Luckily, the system was back up very quickly and we were done and getting our luggage by 7PM.  Super blessed to have our friend R. pick us up at the airport.  We drove to Livermore to take him home (he was driving my car which he parked at his house when we were gone) and then headed to Tracy.  Late enough in the evening that traffic wasn't too bad.  We were home by 9PM.

We did a couple quick things and headed to bed around 10PM.  I was wide awake at 4AM but forced myself to try to go back to sleep.  Woke up again at 6 and had to call it done - J. was ready to get up then, too.

Kept busy with some unpacking, laundry sorting, making breakfast (eggs, toast and bacon) and enjoying our coffee.  We headed back to Livermore to pick up Chloe at 11.  She was her usual super excited self to see us - and her caregiver filled us in on how she's been doing since B. (caregiver) took her to the vet the first day of our trip - bladder infection.  There was another dog there - a 1 year old schnauzer - who kept going after Chloe and 'biting' her ears.  Poor Chloe.  She wanted us to pick her up and while it was 'playful', that dog was a pain and I'm sure Chloe is glad to NOT be subjected to constant play.  She's zonked out in her bed most of the day, catching up on sleep.  The $500 vet bill was a trip expense we weren't expecting so that's a zinger - but oh well.  She's better and home.

I've got the cold J. had in Europe so I'm not feeling all that great.  I tried to take a nap but I'd finished the (regular) Coke that was in my purse from the airport and also had a Starbucks iced tea so too much caffeine to make sleep likely.  It's just after 7PM and I'm super tired and planning to go to bed early tonight.  Praying it won't be a night of coughing.  [Note:  I rarely drink sugary Coke - but when I'm tired and exhausted and have a long-haul flight ahead of me, it's my 'go to' pick me up.  I'm back to water, my morning coffee and my one iced tea per day starting tomorrow.  Sugary drinks are a 'no' the majority of the time].

Tomorrow we will do the laundry we've sorted and finish unpacking.  I'll be psychologically prepping for returning to work - though I feel ready.  I feel totally fine with it until my 'to do' list flashes through my mind and I think 'it's going to be a very crazy month'.

Looking forward to winter break already - oh, and Thanksgiving break.  Though I'll have to 'work' a couple days of each because our Payroll person is officially on maternity leave now and it's likely I will need to help ensure we get people paid on schedule.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

No to L'Ami Louis

Planning where to go for dinner.  L'Ami Louis was 'the best roasted chicken' on 'I'll Have What Phil's Having' - on PBS.  I've been looking forward to dining at this place since we planned the trip -

Just read a bunch of reviews on Trip Advisor - and decided not to go.  It's one of the 'must do's' for many Americans, apparently - and reviews are all over the place.  The one common surety among all is 'pricey'.  We'd be looking at $400 (euros) for the two of us and sorry, but no.  We can eat closer to our hotel and enjoy a bottle of wine for way less than that.  Heck, we could eat for a few days on that much.  The snack J. procured for us included a ham and cheese croissant, a bag of chips, a diet Coke and a bottle of water and it was only $9 (euros). 

We enjoy great food and good wine very much - but we're more thrifty than not.  Plenty of places here on our street (Rue de Rivoli) and this neighborhood feels like home to us. 

A quiet dinner and then we'll head to bed early.  J. needs some extra sleep and so do I.  Tomorrow will be busy day #1 of 4 in this wonderful city - can't wait!

Trip Update Long Overdue

Plans to post daily haven't worked out - the day is full of visiting and walking and eating and immersing ourselves in all things British...and I am typing this from our hotel room in Paris.  The Eurostar safely delivered us here a few hours ago and Paris feels so much like home.  It's all familiar and wonderful and makes my heart full.  How blessed we are to be able to enjoy trips like this. 

The Eurostar is super fast and incredibly smooth and quiet - it is the reason J. thinks high speed rail needs to come to America.  It is a very civilized way to get from place to place and considering it travels in the mid-200 km. per hour, it's amazing - you hardly notice that you are on a train - it's like you're floating on air vs. any feeling of tracks.  Love it. 

Upon arrival at our hotel in Paris (where we've stayed before), it appeared that I had booked a double bed - that is the room they took us to.  Not that we can't share a bed but that would result in very little sleep, likely for both of us.  A queen for the two of us is not a great idea - I use so many pillows to keep myself comfy, it would be ridiculous.  They said that at that point, our only hope was to wait and see if someone who had booked a twin cancelled.  I showed them that our confirmation said 'Twin Deluxe' - but apparently, the 'bedding' chosen was a double?  Even the picture showed two twins.  We excused ourselves to the salon (the living room next to the check in desk) and I promptly got on my phone, went to the hotel website and found one twin available tonight - 'last room left'.  I walked to the check-in and said 'I'm on your website and you have a twin available' and she said 'yes, madame, we are preparing that room now'.  I think we were in a deluxe room - larger and more expensive?  And the room they had available is a 'standard' room - still comfy and $180 Euros less per night.  And we're fine with that - saved some money and this room is fine.  Beds are close together but they are two beds and that's what we need.

J. has a horrible cold.  He sounds like Johnny Cash and I'm staying the heck away from him and his germs because I don't want to get it.  Flying home as stuffy as he is would not be fun. 

He is trekking out to get our Paris Passes and to hopefully find us a bit of a snack.  We had breakfast at the hotel and breakfast on the train but we're still starving again.  Exercise requires fuel.  He's also hopefully getting himself some Mucinex because though I packed practically every medication known to man, I did not pack that - and as usual, his cold is now in his chest and he needs something to help break up the congestion, big time. 

We aren't sure of our itinerary for our days here - we have to work that out over dinner this evening.  My only request is that tomorrow, no alarm clock.  None.  I want to sleep until I'm ready to wake up on my own - 'cuz we've been setting an alarm most days and I am in need of more sleep.  I have circles under my eyes which I've never seen before and I don't like that one bit.

London was lovely.  Day 1, we really packed in too much - went to Kensington Palace in the morning and the Kew Royal Botanical Gardens in the afternoon.  Sooooo much walking - we were both sore and exhausted.  I was able to see the Diana exhibit at the palace with so many of her outfits and gowns on display - I will post pics here as soon as I have time to get them off my phone and onto the computer. 

The Kew gardens were spectacular - and the Hive (which is an exhibit announced shortly after we were in London in 2014 and something I definitely wanted to see) did not disappoint.  There are lights inside and they respond to the bees in the garden hives - so you get a sense of how they communicate in the hive.  It was really cool and hard to describe and the pics don't do it justice.  Stay tuned for those as well. 

I have managed to do a couple posts on Facebook.  We visited Westminster Abbey and had tea in their restaurant - lovely and fun.  We also visited Buckingham Palace (the queen was home!) and the Royal Mews (stables) - which also houses all the carriages and cars used by the royals.  It was fascinating and really amazing and I was surprised how few people were attending.  Definitely worth the stop.

We got word from Chloe's caregiver that she's sick - went to the vet the first day we were in Europe.  Hopefully a bad bladder/kidney infection - they have her on antibiotics and so far, they are helping.  They did blood work and cultured her urine to be sure they get the right antibiotic.  I'm super glad she's staying where she's staying because if she'd been at our previous kennel, I'm honestly not sure her symptoms would have been noticed as quickly.  The ladies caring for her are both vet techs so they know when a dog isn't up to snuff.  We're keeping in touch and hopefully, she's on the mend.  (And I have no idea how much that vet bill will be but it is what it is).  J. says 'we'll cash in something if we need to so don't fret about it'.  I love that man.

We have four full days here starting tomorrow and we're going to make the most of them.  Musee D'Orsay, Louvre, Mormatten and other stops are on the list along with a bunch of restaurants and patisseries.  We're going to walk as much as we can but we're also going to use cabs if/when needed - oh - and the metro.  We got super good at using the underground in London and can do the same here, too.  Though London is super easy given English vs. French - Paris metro is doable but not quite as 'comfortable'.  But we're not going to wear ourselves out on Day 1 like we did in London - it's taken days to recover from the beating we gave our bodies that day.

I'm going to turn on the TV - we really enjoyed watching BBC in London so hopefully there's some channels in English here.  Just passing time waiting for my love to return from his errands.  He's super. 

Monday, October 16, 2017


Jet lag plus two children's Benadryl equals the best sleep ever - 10 hours long! 

We arrived in London after our 10 hour flights.  The AirBus 380 is an engineering marvel.  Quietest plane either of us have ever experienced.  Engines spin up but you barely hear them.  The flight passed easily enough and I managed to sleep a few hours which helped.  Plenty of movies and TV available as well along with dinner (late - 8:30ish SFO time) and breakfast.

Our first glitch of the trip was our driver who ended up leaving minutes before we finally got through customs.  Long saga in which I lost my temper and decided to cancel - and dispute through our credit card company because we've pre paid.  We ended up taking a very expensive cab to our hotel but oh well.  Lesson learned.  Always verify with your driver while you are in a super long customs line.  Our flight landed at 1:55PM but we didn't get through immigration and baggage until a bit after 3. 

We had dinner at a place we remembered from our trip here in 2014 and called it an early night.  We're up at 7AM and getting ready to head downstairs to breakfast and then off to our day.  Kensington Palace and Kew Gardens are on the agenda.

The weather is a bit chilly with wind - thanks to Hurricane Ophelia which is near.  J. didn't mention anything about her because he didn't want me to worry.  The pilots skirted around her for the most part - there was a little turbulence as we made our way across Ireland but it was mostly smooth. 

We're off!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Super Duper Excited

Up early on a Sunday for the best possible reason ever - we're heading out the door this afternoon and winging our way towards London overnight tonight. 

Had a nice visit with H. - he (sort of) spent the night on Friday night though he was out with friends a lot - guess when you're visiting your old neighborhood, spending time with friends is natural - and no reason for him to sit around here with us all night.  He looks really great - he's gained a little weight back.  He's been doing some finish work for an electrician - doing the patching and painting part of the job - and also interviewed at a gas station he can bike or walk to near their apartment.  Sounds like he's making some progress.  We gently reminded him that we're not expecting him to be at the house while we're away - and he said 'only if I need to come get a movie or something'.  I said 'OK, but you need to text us that you are going to the house before you go....and you aren't to have friends here.  Clear?'.  He said he understood. 

I don't want a repeat of last March - let's just not do that nightmare over.  I'm reminded of it every time I see the red hair dye on my bathroom cupboards - which I can't get off. 

R. came to pick him up in a Chrysler 300 which confused me because H. said her car is working fine..but she's still driving a rental.  Guess her car is still in the shop.  Had a super brief chat with her while I handed off some groceries - some milk, cookie mixes from King Arthur, syrup, etc. - things I know they can use and things that won't keep (or I bought for them like the cookie mixes).  We are going to (fingers crossed) try for a dinner the weekend we return from Europe.  I hope we can pull it off 'cuz I want to meet her kids. 

The Focus is safely tucked away in our garage while we're away - the body shop did their usual great job and it looks brand new.  We will put it up for sale as soon as we return from our trip and fingers crossed it sells quickly. 

My friend C. and her son O. came over yesterday to get keys and get the list of things to do - it's going to be pretty easy.  As we were walking to the car, O. said 'your house is really amazing'.  I said 'thanks, O. .  It's home and we love it'. 

We'll be leaving in a bit to take Chloe to her boarding place in Livermore.  Then stopping by Costco to gas up my car and then coming home to finalize packing.  Trying super hard to pack lightly.  I took everything out of my purse, vacuumed out the bottom of it and put back only what I need for the trip.  My usual makeup bag with tons of products in it that I rarely use?  Not taking it.  Only taking makeup compact and eyebrow filling in supplies - and lip moisturizer.  Everything else is not making it's way with me.  My purse weighs less than half what it did - and when we're there?  I've got an across the body travel purse that will hold my wallet, passport, phone and a couple other little things. 

I heard three gun shots around 3AM and J. just confirmed the neighborhood watch news online has lots of folks reporting the same?  Maybe fireworks?  But they were in rapid succession and seemed too repetitive (timing wise) to be fireworks.  Hoping nothing bad happened in a house nearby - they were really close. 

OK - I've got to go bake three chicken breasts which we will have for lunch.  We planned them for a dinner but we've been super bad (and lazy) and have eaten out the past few nights.  Just no inertia to cook.  We'll be glad our Hello Fresh restarts the week we get back -

I will sign off for now and next post will be over the pond.  With pictures, I hope.  I will try.  I promise.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017


We're working on our London itinerary so I went to the websites of Kew Gardens and Kensington Palace to be sure what we'd planned would work.  The Kensington Palace website warned that tickets are selling out - there is a Diana Exhibit and it's winding down so the month of October is super booked.  Luckily, our day (October 17th) is 'low availability' but we got tickets.  That's technically spending thirty five pounds that we wouldn't normally need to - we're buying the London Pass and tickets to the palace are included.  But I can't risk that we get there and we can't get in - because Kensington is on my 'must see' list and seeing the Diana exhibit will be the icing on the cake.

AND....drumroll.....I received an email from our Disney credit card offering special rates at select Disneyworld resorts.  Sadly, the one we chose wasn't included.  We/I (it was mostly me, vs. J.) selected the Contemporary resort because it has monorail service.  The only hotels included in the special pricing were only those with bus or boat service to the parks.  Huge increase to walking.

I checked it out, though...and just moved us to the Old Key West resort - which will save us $1,900! SCORE!  That's a HUGE, significant savings in exchange for some walking and will more than cover our meals for that trip - so it was well worth the switch.  Just like that, a 33% savings - and walking more won't hurt us a bit.  We'll be eating delicious food daily so good thing we will walk some of it off.

I'm making lists like crazy and come home nightly and work on checking things off.  I'm moving the shredder in next to my desk so I can start working on the shred bin.  J. went to the bank and obtained some currency for London and Paris - just pocket money since we'll use our foreign transaction free credit card on the trip for most expenses.

And I'm making lists like crazy at work, too - trying to get things staged and ready for folks to work on during the two weeks I'm gone.  I'm sure everyone will have plenty to do - our payroll person starts maternity leave on October 25th so there will be 'extra' work added to other people's plates to help offset for that 'loss'.  And...she's not sure she's coming back - her husband doesn't want her to work.  But I'm hoping (fingers crossed big time) that she will be like I was - love her baby and love being a Mom but also realize that adult conversation is important.  So we'll see.

Haven't heard from H. in over a week - no responses from either him or R. to texts.  He's been in touch with J. occasionally but he is (in typical fashion) not replying to most communications with any urgency.  I don't know what to make of it - I don't understand the dis-courteousness of just plain not replying.  My therapist says that type of behavior is abusive - and that's how it feels. 

It's those feelings - the ones of being ignored and disregarded - and so out of touch - that are the hardest for me to handle...and it's mostly because my instinct is to say 'fine.  Just don't pop back into our lives anytime soon, then, OK?  'cuz I don't like being jerked around'.  That's how it feels.  Constant state of feeling jerked. Only I don't much, most of the time, 'cuz I'm getting to the point where I honestly don't give a crap anymore.

And then I feel my heart breaking a bit.  Worried about H. being in a relationship that is so abnormal.  Worried about us as a family - because it's hard to pretend things are 'ok'...when you're working really hard at not giving a damn.

J. is making our last Hello Fresh meal for the next month.  It's so easy to 'suspend' and reinstate and I'm looking forward to coming home from our Europe trip and picking our meals again.  Easy, quick to prepare, super delicious.  We LOVE the service.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Cake, Anyone?

Whether I've been gone for one night or dozens of nights, the minute I climb into MY bed post nights in another bed, I say 'Hello, bed - I missed you so much'.  My bed is perfect and comfy and my body knows exactly how to get into a good position for sleep - I miss it when I'm away and I feel so happy when I'm back. 

That and I love sleeping.  A lot.

The angel food cakes turned out fine - and my friend (who's celebrating the birthday today) texted this morning that she's going to be out today and I have tons of strawberries, angel food cake and whip cream that won't be needed for a couple days.

Guess we'll enjoy a nice dessert with dinner tonight.  And I'm going to text H. & R. and see if they want to swing by to pick some up - nice dessert for them, too!

J. and I are in the discussion phase about our 15 night cruise in October, 2018.  Penciling that vacation in has resulted in every minute of paid time off being 'booked' - and Majah with no option to take a day off now and then is not a pretty thing to experience.  Just the 'no option' part of it boggles my mind - 13 months of not a single additional day off.  I am planning to work 2 days of Thanksgiving break and a couple days of Christmas break because I'd need to use vacation to be off for those little bits of time (just the way the holiday schedule works for someone in my job classification with the 'calendar' I have) and I can't do that. 

I am going to re-sketch it out today and see.  Dropping that to even a 10 night cruise would help - and we could then skip any trip in March, 2019, and plan for Panama cruise in October, 2019.  We'll see.

We are blessed with many, many options and that's a lovely thing.

During every jaunt to a casino, there's always a point when I am sitting there playing away, Blue Moon in hand, nice people cheering each other on and giving the machines heck....and I just feel so, so blessed.  This life (my life!) is amazing and I am so blessed to have the ability to have fun with no worry.  I wrap myself up in those feelings and close my eyes and just enjoy that moment. 

Gratitude for the life that affords me this fun time - and for all the other blessings like a home, food, loving husband, kids....all of it.

It's Monday morning but the warm blanket of thanks continues - I'm ready for the day! 

Safely Home

The flight from London to San Franciso was scheduled for 11 hours - but only one runway was open at Heathrow so our departure was 50 minutes...