Retirement tips from a Novice | Part 7

This concept didn't come to me easily, as obvious as it seems. It's hard to get past the idea that your week isn't divided in parts anymore: the work part, and the much shorter weekend part. Every day is the same now: wide open. My new mantra is "Any day, any time."

We were working out a plan to get together with friends, and it suddenly dawned on me. The calendar is wide open now, still divisible, but in a different way. Just save Saturday and Sunday for friends who haven't retired, and the weekdays for those who have. It opens up the entire week to see friends, an extremely free feeling!


Sailboats, cabin-style

Aren't these cute? A few years ago during our annual 4th of July gathering at the cabin, someone up the lake was building them and sending them out. They'd been sailing past for the last couple of hours, heading north. After the first one came into shore, the kids started swimming out and bringing them back to shore. They had a blast running for the water, jumping in, and racing each other to be first to the boat. By the time we walked over from our cabin to spend the evening at our friends' firepit, there was a whole line of them on the picnic bench. It was fun to examine the construction techniques, and see how the design of each successive boat was tweaked to make it sail better.

The hulls were all cut from cedar boards, the sails were made from bits of colored nylon, and the rigging was fishing line. Each boat had a working rudder cut from a clear plastic drinking cup. And each boat was different: different sizes, two sails vs. one, different sized keels.

When we headed for home at the end of the weekend, the small boat with the pink sail came home with us.


Cabin Time

We love our little getaway cabin. It's not big or fancy, but it's secure and cozy and we go there year-round. It's on the shore of a small lake, and the panorama views up and down the lake can change in the blink of an eye. I especially love the lake in the early-morning hours, when it's mirror-calm and the mist rises as the air warms up. Year round, if it's not raining, I take my first cup of coffee out to the deck and watch the lake wake up for the day.

It's a different kind of relaxing out here, especially on rainy days. We can relax on a rainy weekend at home, but there's always something that could be done. Laundry, house cleaning, washing dishes, editing photos. Even if you resist temptation and try to just relax, the thought that you could be productive is always there, tickling the back of your mind.

At the cabin, there's no internet, no phone. I keep a bunch of paperback books there, lots of DVDs, cookbooks, some non-fiction books. It's a fun place to try out a new recipe, but if I don't feel like experimenting, after almost 15 years of cabin ownership there are loads of recipes that I know by heart that make perfect cabin fare.  We can go for a walk, or go geocaching, or just relax and cuddle a kittie while we read.

The cats always come to the cabin with us, and they are completely different cats when they're at the cabin. Just as we're more relaxed there, so are the cats. Of course, you need to know the cat to know whether they're more comatose than usual... To the untrained eye, James looks happy and sleepy. I know better. She's way beyond that. She's at the stage where you could tickle her feet or play with her ears, and she'd never even know it.

The cabin is one of my favorite places to quilt. I set up my tiny Singer Featherweight on the 1950s formica table in the kitchen, and spend hours piecing blocks together. It's a cozy place to sew, with no distractions other than the occasional eagle or osprey flying past the windows, ducks and geese on the lake, or fisherman drifting past in a boat.

The cabin is the perfect place for a movie marathon. On one rainy, cold day we watched all the Star Wars movies in order. And because the main floor is one big room, I could bake cookies in the kitchen, tend the woodstove in the corner, and still enjoy the movies and wide-open views of the lake.

I love my little 1950s kitchen. There's no counter, none at all. But it's yellow and bright white, my favorite colors for a kitchen. The 1950s yellow formica table is my counter, and has plenty of room for several people to work. We bought the cabin from Lois and Bob, and she knew I loved the table. So when we bought the cabin, she gave me the table. I also love the mismatched wood chairs. I've thought about painting them all the same color, but can't decide what would be best. So I've left them alone.

Because we're surrounded by nature at the lake, there's always something to do if we get bored with relaxing. Mountain biking, right from the cabin. Or we take the canoe out. There are lots of hiking trails, new geocaches to hunt for while we explore some back roads. There are wetlands trails to walk, and in the fall, we watch salmon spawning in nearby streams and rivers.
The best thing about our little cabin is that it's different each time we go there. In winter, the lake is pristine under a shroud of ice, surrounded by snow-covered trees. In spring, the ducks and geese take their new families for a swim around the lake, and the fishermen descend in droves. Summer, we watch ospreys and eagles fishing, and we can sit on the deck from dawn until way after dark. And after Labor Day, most people pack up for the season, and we have the place to ourselves for the fall and winter months. That kind of peace and quiet is pure heaven.


Retirement tips from a novice | Part 6

This one should really be a pre-retirement tip.

Long before you retire, start thinking about how you want to spend your days after retirement. Not just the mental list, the one where you'd dream about retirement and the things you'd finally have time to do. Make a real list, and write it down.

I always had a "mental list," with the usual stuff on it: travel, spend more time with family, finally do those projects I never had time for. I suspect most people have these three things on their retirement list.

But when I started to write things down, an interesting thing happened:  my list snowballed as I expected it would, but the more I wrote down, the more I realized just how possible it would be to achieve my goals once I had control of my time. It seems obvious, but I just didn't see it until I wrote down every possibility.

And that, my friends, made all the difference in my own attitude about retiring and when to take the plunge. The more I added to my list, the more anxious I was to get started.



I've been quilting a lot lately, another benefit to having my days all my own. I do all of my sewing these days on my Singer Featherweight, and it was exactly eight years ago today that I bought this antique and wonderful machine at an estate sale. How I became the lucky buyer is one of my favorite stories.

I don't usually go to estate sales, especially those run by professionals. But this particular morning I took a chance on a local sale, because the ad said they had a Singer Featherweight sewing machine. I’ve been looking for a Featherweight for years. It’s very small and light, and quilters love them because they’re easy to maintain, make perfect straight stitches, and light enough to take to classes (or in my case, back and forth from home to the cabin). Featherweights in perfect, working condition sell for $300-500 on eBay, and I’ve never seen one at a yard sale.

I expect this will be a huge sale and I won’t even get close to the Featherweight. But I was surprised—when I got my number at 20 minutes before the time, I was #12. I peeked inside and spotted the machine and its case on a table in the living room. I was standing on the porch, chatting with a woman while we waited for the start of the sale, and a few minutes before they started the sale, I asked what number they were—#2.  So I took a deep breath and asked:  “Do you have any interest in the Singer Featherweight?” And when she said they didn’t, I asked if she was willing to grab it for me. I pointed it out so she'd know exactly what to look for. Her husband grabbed a roll of masking tape from the cashier's table and wrote “Sold” on a piece, plus my name.

And when they went in they went straight to the Featherweight and slapped the Sold sticker on the case, and it was mine. I didn’t even know the asking price, but figured if it was more than I wanted to pay, I’d just peel the sticker off.

In less than 5 minutes they called the next batch of numbers, and I made a beeline for the sewing machine. The asking price was $200, but I decided to buy it anyway. They’re going for much more than that on eBay, and this is the first one I’ve ever seen around here.

As I browsed through the rest of the sale, I overheard at least two women asking where the Featherweight was, and when one of the employees walked over to check out the sold sticker, I thought I should probably tell her that I'd claimed it. She showed me the bits and pieces that were in the case, including a box of attachments, bobbins, and the original owner's manual. And to my surprise, the price also included a wood-topped card table designed to hold the machine.

When I came back through the house to pay for my purchases, I heard another woman say, “The Featherweight is sold and that’s the only reason I came to this sale.” I grinned to myself, proud of my quick thinking. So, $249 later (thank goodness, they let me write a check!), I started lugging things down the hill to my car. The woman who got the Featherweight for me was outside enjoying the sunshine, and I stopped to thank her again for helping me out.

Once I got home, I logged into eBay to check out my purchases. I paid $200 for the Featherweight, which included the carrying case, a box of attachments, a few bobbins, and the original instruction book. It also came with the original wood-topped table, which was a real bonus. I already knew I had a great deal, just the machine was worth more than $200. But I was surprised to learn that the tables are quite rare… and expensive. There were two tables listed on eBay, selling for $150–175, and both were hotly contested. The tiny instruction booklets were selling for $25.

The last task of the day was an e-mail to my friend, Linda. I call her the Yard Sale Queen because she not only loves going to sales, if there's anything of value to find, she'll find it. She has a sixth sense when it comes to finding the best sales, and unerringly goes straight to the things that are the most rare or valuable. I think she'll be proud of me!

I recently learned about a website that keeps records on Featherweight serial numbers, and mine was manufactured in 1943. Researching all the different attachments that came with my machine was also fun. There's a surprising amount of information on the Internet, and you can still buy a lot of original equipment for these machines. My sister has our mom's 1940s Singer that  we all learned to sew on, and it would be fun to find attachments for her, too. I've found a few at yard sales and antique stores, and the range of these devices is amazing.

There were attachments for braids and trim, for making ruffles, for covering cording with fabric and attaching it. There's a cool piece that helps you sew a straight seam, adjustable to different seam widths. There's a quilting foot, and a piece that helps make tiny tucks in the bodice of a dress (perfect for baby clothes). Some of these look like finely tuned pieces of machinery. It will be fun to figure out how they work; maybe there are user's guides for each attachment; that would be very cool!


Retirement tips from a novice | Part 5

Learn to embrace the "one thing." Don't try and do it all at once... you don't have to. Multi-tasking was for your old life, the one where you had way too much to do with not enough resources and no chance of succeeding.

Leave that life behind in your too-small office cubicle, and change your perspective. No more cramming all the weeks' chores into a couple of days. Try doing one thing a day instead, and let the lack of urgency help you learn to relax. (But if your idea of freedom is running around the county doing errands and visiting friends, shopping and sightseeing, by all means go for it!)

For the first month of retirement, I was content to carry on with my usual tasks each day, but also gave myself time to read, to answer e-mail, to browse through the stacks at the library, and I finally got my shopping done at Ikea. If the sun was out, I worked in the yard. If it was raining, I'd inventory the wine cellar or do some sewing, or maybe just catch up with my journal and write for my blog.

Being content with one thing worked great for me... give it a try.


Natural Bridges

We're almost at the end of our 10-day vacation in Hood River. Today we spent the day on the Washington side of the Gorge, sort of a nostalgic trip into the past. Dave & I used to hike and backpack in the mountains near Trout Lake, notably the Indian Heaven wilderness area. We didn't get even close to those old stomping grounds today, there's still too much snow on the ground, and a lot of forest service roads are still closed. But we did visit the ice cave, picked up some nearby geocaches, and went to an area called natural bridges. Not sure how long this signage and trail have been here; we didn't remember it from our earlier visits.

Up a short walk from the parking area are two bridges that span a deep gully. These are remnants of the top curve of a massive lava tube, two pieces that didn't collapse when the rest of the tube fell in. The gullies were full of huge bolders, but we found some fairly decent "trails" to use to scramble down the side. Behind Dave is the second natural bridge, and the area is networked with trails along both banks.


In the name of geocaching

We've hiked, biked, scrambled, and crawled in the interest of grabbing a geocache, but this was a first: tree climbing. Yesterday was a full day of caching around Hood River, Oregon, traveling the logging roads high in the hills above town, and south toward Mt. Hood. There's a whole series of caches here that is completely devoted to those folks who are tree-climbing kids at heart.

Grabbing a few of these was fun and a little bit nerve-wracking. But Dave was up to the challenge, as long as we could see the container before his feet left the ground, and it wasn't outrageously high up in the tree. This one was about 20 feet high, in a completely climbable pine tree. A couple of quick photos as proof, then he slid down, ready for the next cache.


Parkdale, Oregon

There are many places in the Hood River valley to enjoy views of Mt. Hood, but one of the best is from the tiny village of Parkdale. It's just a few miles south of Hood River, and we drove through town in search of a place to grab a quick beer and maybe a sandwich, after a day of geocaching.

Parkdale has old houses and buildings, always a draw for us... we love old architecture. As we drove through town we spotted the Solera brewpub, with a parking spot right out front. So we claimed it, went inside, and were charmed by the big open room with long bar, wide plank floors, and soaring ceiling, right up to the original timbers of this turn of the 20th century building.

We snagged the last stools at the bar and sampled the IPA, then stayed a while to talk with locals and the brewmaster. It didn't take us long to investigate the open back door and found one of the most amazing views of Mt. Hood we've seen so far during this trip. The brewpub, as it turns out, is right next door to the historical museum, with old tractors and barns, which made for a great photo op.

I love how the left contour of the mountain mimics the roofline of the metal-roofed barn. Or is it that the barn mimics the mountain?

Barbed Wire Clydesdale

I can just hear what you're thinking...  but this is a complex and completely amazing sculpture. This life-sized Clydesdale and a little girl with long hair blowing in the wind are entirely made from strands of barbed wire welded together, then painted. It was chilly and windy, and my hair was blowing around just like the girl in the sculpture, but I couldn't stop taking pictures.

If you'd like to check it out for yourself, head south out of Hood River on Hwy 35 to the tiny town of Parkdale, and look for the historical museum on your left. The sculpture stands on the lawn; you can't miss it (any more than you could miss a live, breathing Clydesdale horse). And while you're there, check out Solera, the local brewpub. It's a friendly, local hangout, lots of fun. And they make an awesome IPA.


The tiniest fawn

We were out for a day of geocaching with our pal, Ian, who drove over from Portland. Today we tackled another of the geocaching "power trails," this one high in the mountains SW of Hood River. These were tough, and it was nice to have a third set of eyes (and a third brain) to find some of these caches.

Around one bend in the road, a doe trotted out in front of us, and as we waited for her to cross, out from the brush came the smallest fawn we've ever seen. It could have been just hours old, tiny but spunky as it circled around its mom. We hung way back; this photo was taken with my 300mm zoom lens from inside the Pilot, so it's a bit soft around the edges. Just like the fawn.


Mt. Hood & the Hood River Valley

At the end of a long day of geocaching our way down a geocaching power trail (or whatever it is they call this, when the caches are placed on a dirt logging road and they're not quick park & grabs), we headed down a steep hill and around a sharp bend, and wow! look at that view!

We're actually near the north end of Surveyor's Ridge, where we did some mountain biking a few years back. Mt. Hood is pretty spectacular at any time, but especially poised above the orchards and vineyards of the Hood River Valley. This is one of my favorite shots from our 10-day trip.


The endless road trip

This was a first, in what will be a long line of post-retirement "firsts." It's fitting that the first "first" is all about our love for traveling the backroads. Road trips are the best way to travel, the best way to really see, at ground level, exactly what you're traveling through.

This morning we left for a week in Hood River, Oregon, a great small town on the Columbia Gorge, the home base for world-class wind surfing. It's also home base for some pretty good mountain biking. We've done a bit of the latter, but this trip is for geocaching. There are more than a thousand caches laid out in several strings, most of them on back roads and logging roads.

This road trip is our first... ever... with no end date. We don't have to be back on a specific date, and aren't limited by number of vacation days. If we don't have a good time, we can come back early. If we're having a blast, we can just stay longer. It's an amazing feeling!

Because the trip can be as long (or short) as we want, we can also take our own sweet time getting there. Which means we can indulge our passion for back roads. There's a whole string of small towns just west of I-5 in Washington that are connected by fun twisty 2-lane roads.

Besides, who can resist a detour to see the world's largest egg?


Picking up @ DeLille

We interrupted our packing for Hood River, and went to Woodinville for a bit of wine tasting. We had wine to pick up at DiStefano and at DeLille, and we were lucky enough to find Adams Bench open for the afternoon.

At DeLille, the new patio for wine club members was open, and it we enjoyed sitting in the sun with our wine samples... for about 2 minutes, then it started to rain. Bummer! No worries, though...  we moved undercover, and talked about our upcoming trip, and toasted Dave's retirement (Thursday was his last day).

After logging our presence at DeLille (love this facebook app!), I fooled around with the camera in my brand new Android phone. Even though I never leave the house without my Canon ultrazoom, it's been fun to have a really good camera in my phone, perfect for those unexpected photo ops.