Retirement is a week filled with Saturdays and Sundays interrupted only occasionally by a holiday.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

My Suitcase RIP

Since so many of you suffered with me as I searched for the perfect suitcase for our trip, I thought you should mourn with me as I bid farewell to the poor thing. As many of you know, I spent a good portion of the weeks before our Ireland trip in search of the perfect suitcase…one which fit not only the airlines size requirements but also the tour company limits. After searching high and low, I finally found one at a discount store for a really good price.

Well…you know that old clichĂ©…”you get what you pay for.” Yep…that about sums up the quality of the suitcase. I must say it seemed sturdy enough and it certainly was large enough to pack all my clothes and accessories. So imagine my surprise when I first spotted it on the luggage carousel at the Dublin airport. The handle at the top of it was broken on one side which made grabbing it off the track really “fun.” Thank goodness I went on our trip prepared. I found the cable ties I’d packed in my carry-on bag and used two to re-attach the strap…call me ingenious. (Oh…I also traveled with two travel sized rolls of duct tape.)

Then about halfway into our trip, our bags were delivered to our room and I noticed that my bag was shmushed on one side. Obviously another heavy bag had been placed on it in the storage area of the motorcoach causing the bag’s plastic frame to partially collapse. Oh well…it wasn’t pretty but at least it was still sealed.

Then, a few days before the end of our trip, the same handle broke again (cable ties apparently are not indestructible) so out came more cable ties.

Thankfully the bag made it through the rest of the trip plus the handling at the Dublin, Atlanta and Los Angeles airports on the return flights. And now it rests in some landfill having done its job during its short but important life.

So a word to the wise...if you're shopping for a suitcase to take on your vacation, spend the money and buy a good one. You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ireland Through the Lens...

I've been going through my Ireland photos which I uploaded onto my computer the other day and sadly I'm a little disappointed. Many of them taken while riding on the motorcoach are far too blurry to print out or share even though I had my camera set to the "Sports" mode. In addition, many of the shots taken inside the various cathedrals, churches, and assorted buildings are too dark and murky even though I'd set the camera for interior surroundings. I knew from the start that my little point and shoot 5MP camera had limited abilities but I wanted something that was easy to use and convenient to carry. Oh well...I guess that's why I bought postcards at most of the places we stopped and toured.

This isn't to say that all my photos are terrible. I'm happy with many of the exterior landscape shots taken while outside the bus and some of my interior photos actually managed to come out reasonably well. Rather than bore you by posting photo after photo, I've decided to upload to the Flickr website a sampling of the various places we saw during our trip. If you look at my sidebar, you'll see a Flickr badge with my photos. If you click on the badge (sometimes it takes one or two tries), it will link you to my Flickr page where you can browse through my Ireland photos. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed taking them. Oh...and "yes" that's me kissing the Blarney Stone...surprise!!!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A Glimpse of Ireland

Okay…I think I’ve recovered from our trip. I’ve unpacked, picked up our mail from the Post Office, paid the few bills which were waiting for us, done the laundry, put all our travel “stuff” into a big pile which will eventually make its way into a storage bin in the garage, uploaded my photos to my computer, sorted through all the papers and receipts I managed to accumulate while away, and got a little sleep.

Now I know some of you are waiting to hear all about our Irish adventures and I truly want to share them with you but I’m having trouble deciding just how to do it. I don’t want to bore you with the details of an 11-day journey so I think I’ll just give an overview and then answer any questions you might have.

Our Flights: Except for the length, all 4 flights (L.A. to Atlanta, Atlanta to Dublin, Dublin to Atlanta, and Atlanta to L.A.) were surprisingly uneventful. While I don’t like to fly, I had no real problems except for the fact that I don’t sleep on planes so it made for very long days. The stop in Atlanta coming home was “exciting” since we had to pick up our bags, go through Customs and then re-check our suitcases for our flight home. Things were pretty chaotic but our bags made it home with us…whew!

The Weather: In case you didn’t read my emails to Lynn (here and here), Ireland was having an unusual wet spell while we were there. It poured when we arrived in Dublin and then rained or showered most days. We did see sun a few times but my photos are mostly gloomy and dark…oh well, at least it wasn’t hot! Thank goodness for our Gore-tex rain jackets…they worked like a charm and made sightseeing comfortable.

The Country: All the photos you’ve seen of Ireland don’t do it justice…trust me. There’s definitely a reason the color green is associated with this country…everywhere you turn, there are green fields and hills. Driving through the countryside was incredible…we saw quaint little cottages and fields with all sorts of livestock…cows, sheep, goats…and beautiful lakes and castle ruins.

Dublin: The city is an unusual combination of old world charm and modern day sensibilities. Our hotel was in the heart of the city (on Grafton Street) and it bustled with shoppers, young people partying in the pubs, folks looking for restaurants to have dinner. Walking among the throngs of residents and visitors was exciting and fun.

Our Tour: For the most part, the pace and itinerary of our tour were just fine. Our hotels and castles were nice although I did have our rooms changed several times mostly due to noise…all the hotel and castle staff were very accommodating. There were 36 of us on this tour and, surprisingly, we all got along…no problem tourists on this one! Our one complaint was our tour guide…she was a pip. She stayed aloof from the group and had very little contact with us…by the end of the tour she still hadn’t learned most of our names. The biggest shock was her lecture two days into our tour about tipping. She told us that the $4 per day tipping guideline in the brochure was “bull” (her word) and that the going rate was 8 euros per day for the tour director and 5 euros per day for the driver. Needless to say, we were all aghast at her boldness and crassness. Believe me, I will be writing a letter to the tour company.

Photos: I shot lots and lots of photos and I’m in the process of sorting them out before uploading some of them to Flickr so I can share them with you. I will probably put a Flickr badge on my sidebar shortly which will link you to my Ireland photos. I’ll let you know when I get it done!

All in all, it was a truly wonderful trip and one I will treasure for a long time. Hubby is already talking about going back to Ireland…this time with our golf clubs…so maybe I’ll have more Ireland memories to share in the future. We’ll see…

Monday, June 25, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Let me borrow from John Howard Payne who wrote:

"Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."

I have so much to report but I need a little decompression time to unpack, sort things out, and go through my photos (all 638 of them) before sharing our journey with you. Let me just say it was a glorious adventure and we had a great time! Ireland is truly a magical place and a wonderful destination.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Until We Meet Again…

We’ve just come home from dropping our suitcases off at our friends’ home. Bright and early tomorrow morning, we will drive back to their house to be picked up by the airport shuttle. We will slug our way down the freeway until we reach the airport and our terminal. With rolling suitcases behind us, we will approach the counter, check in our bags, get our boarding passes, make our way through Security, and then head on over to our gate. From there, it’s a walk onto the airplane where we will find our seats and begin our journey. Ireland…here we come.

I’m not taking my laptop with me so, unless I can find my way to an Internet cafĂ© or public library, I will be away from BlogLand until we return on June 24th. If I manage to call Lynn while we’re traveling, she has promised to keep you updated on her blog with the latest news from across the sea.

I want to thank everyone for allowing me the opportunity to share my preparation for this adventure…you’ve all been extremely patient. And I also want to thank everyone for your travel suggestions, pep talks, and good wishes. I couldn’t have done it without you.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Almost There

Less than 48 hours from now, we will be jetting across the Atlantic towards Ireland. I can hardly believe it’s almost here.

I’ve spent the past 3 days gathering items, folding clothes, buying last minute things (e.g. eyeglasses repair kit), photocopying our travel documents, and checking things off my packing list as they’ve gone into our suitcases and carry-on totes. Except for a few hanging clothes (which will go into the suitcases at the last minute), I think I’ve got everything under control and ready to go. And I’m feeling a heck of a lot better than I did Sunday morning when I started this arduous task.

The end is almost in sight.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Let the Packing Begin

No one is allowed near my dining room right now. My dining table looks like the insides of my suitcase have exploded and the contents have landed right smack on it. I’ve been spending the past few weeks out shopping for travel accessories as well as shirts, sweaters and other travel wear and all the bags have been thrown on to the table to keep everything together. I learned a long time ago that, if I used the table as a gather place for travel stuff, it would make the packing process a whole lot saner. I think I’ve reached the maximum capacity for the table though so I guess it means it’s time to start packing. Yes, I know we still have 4 days until we leave but I’ve also learning NOT to leave this chore to the last minute just in case I’ve forgotten to buy something.

So…the first step is to open up the suitcases to let them air out before beginning the arduous task of packing and I did this a few days ago. I have all the large Ziploc bags I use (instead of SpaceSaver bags) ready to be filled with clothes and then tightly sealed. I have my 4 page packing list all set to go. My pen is poised to start checking off items as they go into the suitcases.

OK…so why am I sitting here at the computer instead of in my dining room unbagging all my new stuff, removing the tags on the clothing, folding everything neatly before placing them in the plastic bags, laying the bags in the suitcases? Did I mention I find packing the most loathsome part of traveling? How about you?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

I Want Hair to Fling

Have I mentioned lately that I hate my hair? On Thursday, Mom and I went to the hairdresser for haircuts and, in my case, a weave. This is the second trip to our new stylist and the one I’ve been dreading since it was time to cut my hair super short for my upcoming trip.

I normally wear my hair in a short style anyway but I usually cut it REALLY short when I travel to make it somewhat easier to take care of when we’re up early every morning getting ready to leave for our next exciting day. Now I would give anything to have nice straight hair that I could just brush and be done with but I know that’s just never going to happen. My hair has unmanageable waves and I just have to beat it into submission each morning with my brush and hair dryer followed by tons of hair spray...even on vacation. Ugh!

So we went to the salon on Thursday and I had my hair cut and colored. First off, I love the color. Hairdresser “D” was able to somewhat repair the highlighting disaster done by my now former stylist a few months ago. It’s no longer the brassy, too-light mess it once was…thank goodness. As far as the cut is concerned, let’s just say I’m not happy. Mind you…it’s not anything “D” did. I showed her some photos of me from our trip last year to Alaska and asked her to cut it the same way (a really short “wedge” cut). And that’s pretty much what she did so how can I complain? The back is a little too short (no photos of the back of my head to show her) but I know it will grow out in a few weeks.

If everything “D” did was right, then why am I unhappy? Because I really don’t think I look good in short hair (trust me, I have a big head and short hair makes it look even bigger). My whole life what I’ve really wanted is long, flowing, shiny hair...what I call “automatic hair”…hair you can just fling back with a flick of your head. You know the kind I mean…you see it in every commercial and print ad for shampoos, hair coloring etc. You’d think, after all these years, I would finally come to terms with my hair but, for some unknown reason, I just can’t seem to get past it. Does this make me shallow???

Now I’m guessing most people have some part of their appearance they’re not happy with. Maybe they’re not obsessed with it (yes…some people say I have a hair obsession) but it’s still something that bothers them when they look in the mirror. So, how about it? Are you satisfied with the way you look or is there something you’d like to change if you could?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

It Doesn’t Hurt to Ask

As regular readers know, circumstances required me to purchase 4 new tires last Friday at a Big Box Warehouse in advance of a $60 coupon for those same tires which became effective this Monday (see here).

Empress Bee suggested in her comments (and most commenters agreed) that I should return to the Big Box Warehouse with the coupon and my receipt in hand to see if they would honor the discount and refund me $60. I wasn’t holding out much hope since Big Box stores are not known for their ability to “act outside the box.” Imagine my surprise when I went over there and was told by a very friendly young man in the Tire Center that he would most definitely refund the money. What a surprise!

So now I’m $60 richer and I owe Empress Bee a humdinger of a dinner if she’s ever in my area!!! Thanks Empress Bee!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

No Ma’am…There’s Nothing Wrong

Yesterday as planned, I took my car to the dealership at 7AM to have them re-check the work they’d done 10 days before. If you need a re-cap, just scroll on down to my previous post. David (my favorite Service person) was there and I explained the problem…my gas mileage was worse (21.7 mpg) instead of better than my normal 25+ mpg. He told me to have a seat in the waiting room and they’d check it out.

Okay…here’s my gripe. I was there NOT for a regular service but to have them fix a problem THEY created. In addition, I’d called and made an appointment for Monday so they knew I was coming. So why, at 9AM, was I STILL sitting in the waiting room? How long does it take to check out my little problem? Shouldn’t my car have been the first one taken to one of the service techs? I strolled on out to the Service area and tracked down David to “inquire” (read that as “complain”). He immediately apologized and went off to talk to the dispatcher and I went back to the waiting room.

An hour later (yes, 10AM), I again went over to the Service area in hot pursuit of David. I found him at his desk on the walkie-talkie. He told me they were just finishing my car and the report was that they couldn’t find any problem with it. Excuse me...3 hours later and they couldn't find anything wrong??? He did say they looked to see if maybe they’d left something loose (according to him, they hadn’t) which might explain the lousy gas consumption and they re-set the computer in hopes that would take care of the problem. So now I’m supposed to continue driving my car, check the gas mileage when I fill up, and then return if it’s still a problem. [sigh…]

Here’s my thinking…they probably did find something wrong…either something loose or something (like the timing) not set properly and were embarrassed to admit they’d made a mistake. I drove several miles yesterday and the gas gauge does look like it’s moving toward “Empty” at a much slower rate so I’m hoping this will be the last time I write about it. Keep your fingers crossed.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Sis...Back At You

This morning I traveled on over to my sister’s blog and what do I find…a post blaming me for her sudden car problems. Honest…just because I had a flat tire on Friday and had to buy 4 new ones, it’s no reason to make me responsible for her auto problems. And since we’re laying blame, I guess I should turn around and blame her for my 7AM trip back to the auto dealership tomorrow because my car isn't getting the improved gas mileage I was promised when I was there recently.

Ten days ago, I brought my car in for its scheduled 60,000 mile service. I always ask for the same service writer, David, who has always been friendly and trustworthy and, after filling out the paperwork, I went to sit in the waiting room. After waiting for an hour, I suddenly heard my name blaring over the loudspeaker asking me to come to the service office. Now this is normally not a good sign…it usually means they’ve found something else to spend money on. Sure enough, David told me the service tech recommended that I have some “carbon thingy” done to my car and this would help it get better gas mileage. Surprisingly, this procedure wasn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg (it was less than $100) so I agreed to have it done.

Here it is 1 ½ weeks later and, after two fill-ups of gas, I realize that I’m not getting improved gas mileage. In fact, the MPG numbers are significantly LESS than before. Duh…this can’t be right. I called on Friday and made an appointment to bring my car in bright and early tomorrow morning to find out what’s the deal with this. With the price of gas the way it is, I’m just hoping they can get my gas mileage back to at least where it was before they “fixed” it. Won't David be surprised to see me?!?!

So…if my sister can blame me for her car problems, then I can blame her for mine. Take that, Sis!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

I’m Re-tired

Let me say straight out…this post has nothing to do with my employment status. I’ve said enough about that in previous posts. No…this is the story of how I spent a whole lot of money yesterday in a not-so-very exciting way.

My day began as always, trying to decide where to go shopping…yes, another day of looking for “stuff.” I decided to head north to the area, where I used to work, which has lots of interesting stores. I got in my car, got on the freeway and started my journey. My travels were going along uneventfully until I exited the freeway and turned onto the street. Only a few blocks later, I began to hear a thumping sound…Oh, Oh. I looked to my right and saw a big truck and was seriously hoping the noise was coming from that. I pulled into the left turn lane and waited for the red light to change. Once it did, I started to turn and realized the sound was, in fact, coming from my car. Rats! Thank goodness a gas station was right there so I pulled in and parked in front of the station’s mini-mart.

Getting out of my car, I was almost certain I knew what the problem was and, sure enough, I was right. My right front tire was as flat as a pancake…damn! What to do? Thank heavens for cell phones. I called the Auto Club, made arrangements for someone to come out and put on my little dingy spare tire and then waited for their truck to appear. It came quite quickly; the very nice man replaced the flat tire with my spare; and I was on my way.

Thankfully, one of the Big Box Warehouse outlets, where we buy our tires, was only a few blocks away. I drove over there, bought 4 new tires, and paid a whole lot of money. Remarkably, they were able to take my car right away and, within a half hour, my car was ready and I was, once again, on my way. Whew!

All in all, I was one pretty lucky lady. The tire didn’t blowout on the freeway where I could have been seriously injured; there was a convenient place to pull into from the street; the Auto Club truck came within 20 minutes; the Big Box Warehouse was only a few blocks away; they had my tires in stock; they were able to do the work right away. These are all good things. The only sad fact is that the Big Box Warehouse sent out their seasonal coupon books a few weeks ago and there was a $60 off coupon for the tires I bought. The catch…the coupon doesn’t take effect until Monday. Oh well…”it’s only money” as my dad would say.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Packing List Gone Astray

I had a little freak-out last night and I’m afraid it wasn’t very pretty. Hubby and I went out for dinner with our friend “J” who is traveling with us to Ireland. She asked me about my packing list and it reminded me that I needed to add all my handwritten changes from the draft before emailing the list to her.

We got home and I immediately went over to the computer desk where the printed list has been sitting for more than a month. No list. I looked through the mound of papers on the desk, on the floor by the desk, on the bookcase by the desk (OK, I’m not very organized)…still no list. I asked Hubby if he knew where the list was and his answer was “on the computer desk” so that was no help.

I made my way around the rooms of the house searching every table and shelf and drawer I could think of…again, no list. As I went from room to room, my searching became more and more frantic and I know Hubby was keeping quiet and staying out of it for good reason. Finally, after making my way through the entire house, I returned to the computer desk, sat down, and began ranting and raving. Where was that damn list?!?!?!?!

From the den, I could hear Hubby quietly trying to search the house in hopes he could save me from my lunacy by finding the list. His search was as fruitless as mine. At least I have to give him an "A" for effort…he tried.

Once I exhausted myself with my craziness, I took a deep breath, opened up the packing list file on my computer, and tried my best to reconstruct all my handwritten changes. Have I managed to remember all the additions and deletions I’d done before…who knows. I’m going to wait a day or two before emailing it just in case I remember something else I need to change.

I wish I could say this little episode will teach me to do things in a timely manner and to be a lot more organized in my “filing system.” But let's get real here...the truth is I’m a slow learner so the chances of that are slim and none.