Monday, November 29, 2010

What's New? Very Little

Our last blog entry was April 2010, when we got stranded at the end of a fantastic cruise, by a pesky volcano that threatened to bury Europe. It didn't, we got back to Tucson, we spent the summer as usual in British Columbia. Came back to Arizona. And we're staying put, mostly.

I've updated our calendar at http://blessley.net/Travel/Calendar2011.html. It won't win any graphic design awards, but it does give a hint of where in the world we expect to be.

Speaking of "updated pages", after visiting with friends in Zimbabwe, I did a website for him -- check out http://crocsultant.com -- in case you ever need consulting on your crocodile farming business!

Somewhere along the line, all the photos in the blog disappeared. I have about had it with blogger. Understand completely if you don't follow along with it.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stranded in Johannesburg

No updates recently so I thought I'd post a quick note. It's April 18th, 2010 here in Johannesburg. We were supposed to have completed our cruise and land-based side trip (Zimbabwe) 3 days ago. Then that pesky Icelandic volcano intervened. Why should we care; isn't like Europe is much on the way, from South Africa to Arizona -- but the cruise line on which we lecture provides the airfare, but it's quite restricted -- in this case restricted to leaving from a particular city (Nairobi) and through London. Oops. We've bought [relatively] cheap tickets on Qatar Airlines, and will fly from Johannesburg to Doha, Doha to Houston, then Houston to Tucson via Denver. That's actually quite a bit shorter than our original travels, so guess we can't complain.

The cruise (105 days) was wonderful. The full chronicle of it is not finished just now, but you can check it out at http://www.blessley.net/Travel/Cruises/Discovery2010/. See you there?

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Friday, October 9, 2009

How we'll spend Winter 2009 / Spring 2010


Well, our upcoming cruise is relatively set in stone (Jello?). PDF version here; sorry if it looks a bit cryptic with airport codes & such. Shorthand. Oh, thanks Simon, for the photo. "Lesser artists borrow, greater artists steal".

We'll chronicle this trip, as we've done in the past, at http://blessley.net. Check it out!

If you're not on our "ePostcard" list, please add your name -- http://blessley.net/JoinEmailList.html. It's free, SPAM free, and you can always "unsubscribe" if it proves not your cup of tea.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sweet & Savoury Savary

We recently returned from a week on Savary Island, a spit of an island (about 5 miles end to end, and less than 1 mile at its widest point) of the coast of British Columbia. As the crow flies, about 110 miles north of Vancouver to Lund, BC, then a short water taxi ride. Look here for a better idea of where it is.

Savary has no electricity, no internet (horrors!). and delightfully little infrastructure. No paved roads; the "airport" such as it was got its runway disabled after an accident. It is ruggedly beautiful, has a General Store, a restaurant, and "taxi" service (old pickup trucks that fetch you at the dock and deliver you to wherever you're staying). That's about it. Phone service is available throughout (and there's cellular coverage), but 3 public phone booths remain, and are actually shown on the island map! There's no trash pickup on the island, so in addition to packing in most of our food and other supplies, we had to pack out our trash. Three bags for 8 people for a week isn't so bad -- burnables got burnt in the wood stove, compost-ables were buried.

We were invited to the island by our friends Blake & Libby Kelly, who have been visiting Savary for some 3 decades now. We spent the week with the two of them, a daughter (Jennifer) and son-in-law (Merlyn); and two grandchildren -- girl 7 (Reina), boy 7 weeks (Charlie). Here's the lot:

There isn't a lot to do on Savary; we read quite a bit, ate well, drank too much, fawned over the kids, hiked and wandered the shore. Returned to the favorite spot on the beach that the Kelly's had camped back when their kids were young.

Scott ended up preparing most of the food for the 8 of us, unplanned but fun for all. We brought a bit of cookware and ingredients for a couple of meals, and would bring some more equipment if we get the chance to visit again. Merlyn & Jennifer brought a 3 1/2kg coho salmon which fed the 7 of us twice and was gluttonous at that.

More photos available here (click images to advance)

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Beating the "Big C" -- Cancer free after 10 years. Party!

Ten years ago, August 1999, Kathy started an arduous regime of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, for a malignant tumor in her right breast. Metastasized to adjacent lymph nodes, the prognosis wasn't the worst but certainly wasn't the best.

Cancer is nefarious; it wants to consume the body, literally, and getting rid if it seems equally barbaric. You suppress the victim's immune system to the point that the quick-growing cancer cells can't survive, preferably without killing the patient (which would be counter-productive). Excise the bad-bits, dump poisons into the patient's veins, and nuke the affected areas with gamma radiation. Anyone for a little blood-letting? Couldn't hurt, eh?

Ten years later, she's happy, healthy and free of the little buggers. Time to celebrate!
It's behind us, we are confident. Life is uncertain: it offers great joys and significant challenges. Kathy has met one of those challenges and triumphed over it. We're moving on.

OK enough drama, let's talk about FOOD. To celebrate this transitional anniversary, we connected with the Chef & Owners of Fuel, arguably the finest restaurant in Vancouver. We eat there from time to time, taking advantage of their "inexpensive" pre-fixe menus. Served at the "bar" (actually a serving area facing the kitchen) , we get to watch not only our own food being prepared, but the rest of the restaurant's -- and we can (and do) ask the Chef about particular dishes. "How was that prepared?", "Was that cooked sous vide?". It is a rockin' good time, as if the food wasn't enough, we're getting firsthand accounts of how it is prepared. A Foodies' wet-dream. Scott having been through Culinary school is both paying rapt attention, and experiencing vicariously what Chef Ted is going through.

It's a Tuesday -- normally the slowest day of the week for fine-dining restaurants (many are closed on Mondays). We made the reservation early -- 6pm, so to minimize the potential interruptions to our dialog with Chef Ted (who is cool under fire too, but definitely more communicative when there're fewer things to attend to). We met with Ted and Tom, co-Proprietor, over what we'd enjoy for our special evening. They are delighted to be part of it: "We live for this", says Tom. He's sincere.

The menu: well, basically everything. We looked at the evening's regular menu after we'd finished our degustation, and we'd eaten pretty much everything they had on offer. Full but not to the waddling stage ("Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation" -- Poor Richard's Almanac). Kathy took copious notes and we've assembled them into a menu. Nine courses, four and a half hours. Individual wine-pairing for each course.

And the menu is... here!

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Monday, June 8, 2009

Tuscon - Vancouver in 4 days or less


We arrived to Vancouver this year in record time: three and a half days from Tucson, AZ. Not that it was a marathon exactly; we just took an efficient route that brought us Tucson to Las Vegas, LV to Boise, Boise to Bellingham, then a short jaunt from Bellingham to Vancouver. Maybe we'll take a bit more leisurely route back in the Fall (friend in Coeur D'Aline, for example), or maybe we'll just repeat the bee-line hither to yon.

Vancouver is our annual "city experience". 11th story view of the waterfront (well, "a" waterfront; the city of Vancouver is kind of a peninsula), yet just two blocks from city life and culture.

Our plan for returning to Tucson is a bit vague at this point -- Kathy and I may return separately, she first with me driving solo a couple of weeks later.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Almost-World-Cruise 2009


In case you're wondering why we haven't written anything here recently, it's because we've been on a long journey ("...and we still have, so far to travel"). At the beginning of February, we flew from Tucson down to Buenos Aires, spent a few days with friends there, then continued to Usuaia, near the bottom of South America (Patagonia). From there we boarded the MV Discovery, and stayed on it until April 26th. Three days in Istanbul then flights (totaling 26 hours...) back to Arizona. At left is but one of the amazing sites we visited -- Petra, in Jordan.

We're finishing up the extended blog of the experience on our travel website. Check it out.

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Tucson Return. The Kitchen Wreck

We recently returned from our 2400 mile jaunt from the Florida Keys back to Tucson (Scott drove both ways; Kathy flew out and we drove back together) [note depending on where the blog software positions this; "recently" means January, 2009]

The trip was... long. But having driven from our previous home in New Hampshire, to British Columbia, and back, multiple times, wasn't unexpectedly long, just... long. The furthest day was when we drove (Scott, actually) drove from Sherman, Texas (about an hour north of Dallas), to El Paso, TX which is about half-way across New Mexico, in the hunk of Texas that's underneath NM. About 710 miles:


One long day

Anyway, we're back. We are also in the midst of a kitchen renovation, and this wasn't a surprise (we've been in touch with the Contractor throughout) but it was still a bit of a shock to come home to a giant black plastic wall separating the "job site" from the rest of the house. The only think of use left in the kitchen is the microwave. Lean Cuisine R' Us for a couple of weeks yet.

When you travel a lot (and I apologize for probably saying this over and over), being "home" carries special meaning. When you drive for a week, arrive "home" and find it isn't "like home", it's rather disconcerting. This exacerbated by being "cumulatively tired" from 7 days of driving. I'd have broken down and cried, but I was just too tired. Better now.

The Kitchen Wreck:

A giant wall of plastic isolates us from the work (mostly the dust). A couple of giant zippers serve as doors. This leaves us with bedrooms and something resembling a studio apartment. The only functioning part of the kitchen is the microwave -- our new frig sits in the middle of the construction site and we're using our old one in the garage.













Tom Tuloss, Arizona's Best Contractor and, not-surprisingly, a fine human being. Here he's relocating some electrical switches for a wet bar we'll have installed as part of the kitchen renovation. Behind him is our heating/air conditioning; since Arizona homes don't have basements, the system lives in the attic.














The "new" kitchen as of 1/10/09. The existing cabinets are temporarily in the garage as are the old countertops and the old range. Everything from the kitchen cabinets is filling the dining room -- table, floor... everywhere.

The trench is just a couple of inches wide and about a foot deep (hence the rubble in the left side of the photo) is for a gas line for the new cooktop that's on order. The concrete slab had to be "radar-ed" to determine where the reinforcing bars are located; this technique of slab design is called "post-tension" and while my inner-Geek finds it fascinating I won't bore the rest of you with it.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year -- 2009

Thought that for once, I'd write about something prior to it happening. It's easier when you can pretty much predict a New Year's Eve where you'll eat wicked food, drink too much, and struggle to stay awake until midnight. So, in advance, "Happy New Year".

We've got a busy year planned. We leave for Buenos Aires at the beginning of February, and start a cruise about a week later from Ushuaia Patagonia, on a three month cruise. The cruise will take us from to Antartica to Istanbul, via the east coast of Africa and the west coast of India. The complete itinerary is here.

After we return from Turkey, we'll spend about 3 weeks back in Tucson before heading up to British Columbia for the summer. That takes us to October, which can still be pretty toasty as Vancouver starts to chill. We're missing our favorite southeast Asia, Thailand in particular, so winter there is a possibility. Haven't really discussed it.

Oh, and the cruise costs us nothing (we pay for on-board alcohol but at a discounted rate). They even provide the airfare. We're traveling as Technology Lecturers, and we'll help the cruise line in their Internet Centre.

Watch the blog for our continued adventures. We'll probably do a full series of pages on our website for this tour, like the last one.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

The Case of the Buddihst Launderer

After 30 years of travel to 70+ countries, I have come to believe that the things that are special in a place are the really mundane, and the ones that are completely unexpected. Everything else just "is".

I'm in New Orleans, Louisiana. I'm "passing through", traveling between our home in Arizona and Kathy (my wife) Dad's place in the Florida Keys. It's a 2400 mile trip that I'm doing over 7 days. Its about at mid-point now, and I'm on my 2nd evening in New Orleans tonight.

I've been to N.O. a dozen or more times. I can get by without a map. I know the good neighborhoods and bad. You'd think "Great! Time to expand the repertoire -- expand horizons -- new areas. New experiences". And I do -- but also find especially when traveling alone, that it is nice to "re-experience the old". I walked a couple of miles to a restaurant I've been to over and over -- "Mother's" and had basically the same meal I've eaten there 10 times before. It is sooooo good. Comfort food for the body and for the mind.

Wandering the streets, trying to take decent photos on a crappy day, at noon when the light is at its worst, one of the things I also needed to do is get laundry washed. Ever try to take pictures with a big SLR camera while carrying a bag of dirty laundry? I didn't think so. My bed & breakfast doesn't offer the service, but wash-dry-fold laundry services abound. Dropped off the bag and the proprietor told me in broken English that I should come back at 4:00. If I had know that school would be in session, maybe I would have arrived earlier.

I'd asked him "where his family is from". This is more diplomatic (and less ambiguous) than asking simply "Where are you from?" ("Cleveland") and it obviates any racial overtones ("Where are your people from?"). "Cambodia", was the succinct reply.

When I went to pick up the clothes, I asked the polite questions about his coming to the US. The relationship between the US and Cambodia has been tenuous at best (younger folks may not know that we bombed the crap out of them in Vietnam era, during my formative years). He seemed to have this serenity about him -- little did I know, he was the Buddhist equivalent of a born-again-Christian -- wait -- Buddhists believe in re-incarnation -- maybe he was born-again?

After I paid him, he launched into the Buddhist equivalent of "have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior?". It would have been interesting -- it was interesting but it would have been more interesting, if I had understood more than every 3rd word. He had unlocked the front door of the shop to let me in, and it briefly flashed through my mind "What if I'm locked in with this guy?". I listened politely for about 10 minutes but I guess he got the message that... I wasn't getting the message. But he was sincere so I try to be the attentive student. As I was listening I noticed that he had a glove on one hand -- he was missing several fingers. When he raised his arm I noticed the underside was all scar tissue, wrist to elbow. This guy had not had an easy life.

Tomorrow is another 500+ mile day, so I have to be a good boy ("party hardly" rather than "party hardy"). Photos to follow.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Sedona Weekend

After years of attempts, Kathy succeeded at scoring us an upscale vacation (cheap... about the only way we travel...) via Luxury Link. Sedona Arizona (location of one of ex-presidential-hopeful John McCain's many homes) is a lovely resort town north of Phoenix, know for stunning views, hiking, biking and back-country tours, and strangely enough, Psychics/Mystics and the "Crystal and Crunchy Granola" set.

The deal we "won" through luxury-link was three nights at a resort hotel plus $400 in services (meals, spa treatments) and a couple of trolley tours -- all for $650. Kathy got the spa treatments, the food was great. Not sure I'd do it again just the same way, but nice experience.

"Toto, we're not in Tucson any more". At about 50 in the morning, you'd think frostbite was imminent. Bought a long-sleeved shirt at the local thrift shop. Now, onward!

Highlights were some stunning views and a jeep tour. Low points were downtown Sedona (Tourist Town Anywhere), and getting rear-ended by a little old lady, about 15 minutes into our return drive. Sigh.

Photos to follow...

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Solo Southbound

Our summer in Vancouver is coming to a close; my wife Kathy has headed out for a visit with her family in Michigan (and will also continue out to friends in upstate New York) then fly to Tucson. I'm here for another couple of weeks and will drive back to Arizona by myself.

Prior to moving to out west, Kathy and I drove across North America each summer out to British Columbia, but I have been doing a bunch of solo driving for a variety of reasons, as I will this Fall from BC to Tucson. I've come to enjoy the time alone, even though the days are long.

This has been an unusual summer in Vancouver. It started out rainy (the frequency, not so much the intensity) and got colder sooner than expected. After the rat race of selling our NH condo, buying a place in Arizona and moving there, we were both ready - delighted in fact - to just kick back and do nothing often. To sit and read for several hours in a day is a huge luxury for me. It's not that I don't have the time, I just never seem to give myself permission.

We did have a few highlights: sister-in-law Sue & niece Sara came up from the US for a week; a continuous adventure, that. Did some boating with our friends Blake & Libby. Completed the process for Canadian permanent residence status. Had a couple of excellent meals out, and a few others "in". Bottled two batches of wine and drank no small quantity of it. Finally got to the Vancouver Fringe Festival as well as the Folk Festival (separate blog entry on that).

All in all, not a bad summer.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Vancouver Pride Preview

Greetings Gentle Readers!

Kathy & I are [still] up in Vancouver BC, and the "big happening" -- yesterday -- was the 30th annual Gay Pride Parade & Festivities. That Kathy's sister (hat-less to the right of Kathy) Sue and our niece Sara (below them) are visiting from the US made it that much more special.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Adventures of "ChickenMan" at the VFMF

I spent 6 months of my advancing middle-age (how many is that in Dog Years?), 5 days/week, 6 hours/day in intensive Culinary and Baking/Pastry School. A couple of years ago. Personal enrichment. Never intended to join "the industry"/"the trade": its a grueling (and not just just when you're making gruel) job, better suited to the "younger generation", a term that would apply to most of my classmates at the time.

Doesn't pay especially well, or perhaps more accurately, few people make big money at it -- and those don't so much cook as manage an enterprise or a "brand". Emeril... Wolfgang Puck...
Its a labor of love -- very much analogous to those "starving artists", except getting to eat is one of the perqs of the job. I mean, do you trust a skinny Chef?

However, I have to admit that having all this exposure to the food industry does leave me with a kind of hunger pang (is this a mixed-metaphor, or what?) for the buzz of the kitchen: "Somewhere I've never traveled". Enter the Vancouver Folk Music Festival:


Well, I'd like to have (entered), but the cost is out of sight (about $250 plus food, over two 1/2 days). Unless you're a Volunteer. Well, I could do a number of things: Safety, Environmental, washin' dishes -- but hey, I'm a "Culinarian", or so they tell me. (Webster's believes that is actually a word, their definitions are simply "Cook", "Chef" -- but hey there's more letters in "Culinarian" than both of those other words combined, so it must be more important).

I apply for a Cook's position. I'm accepted (what were they thinking?). I figured Cooks would be skilled labor, but I found that varied; one of the folks on my team had no experience (but was helpful and flexible, better than skilled but rigid in my book). The other teammate had a "kitchen smart" quality that conveyed a certain sense of confidence.

Calling this food - preparation - area - for - 2200 - people - two - meals - daily a "kitchen" doesn't really conjure up the right image. First off, it's under a tent. A big tent to be sure. A completely portable operation: this kitchen is setup in the middle of an urban park (the Festival area is on the left side of that link's photo)

Divided up as a commercial kitchen (one that wasn't under a tent...) might be (separate areas for prep, cooking, refrigeration, foodstuffs etc.), the space looked pretty organized. The staff, almost all volunteers -- well that was organized chaos. Fun, but chaotic.

If you're a home cook, it might be hard to imagine what it takes to successfully deliver 13,000 meals over the course of 3 days (3 lunches, 3 dinners). What it takes is a lot of organization, a few bosses and a lot of worker-bees like myself. Here're the specs, approximately:

  • 6 prep teams with 8 members (on average) + 1 team leader
  • 5 cook teams with 2-4 members, depending on team with Chef of the Day as cook team leader (3 chefs of the day)
  • 1 BBQ team, 7-ish members + 1 Team Leader
  • Lots of "FOH" servers ("front of house" -- the folks that the customers actually see)
Its like a factory: the "parts" are food. For example, cucumbers need to be thin sliced for a salad for 2200 people. That's 4 people armed with "mandolines" and cases of cukes. Add some salt (flavoring; helps the cukes exude some liquid). Vinegar. Mixing these together is the manufacturing process -- "recipe".

Since many foods will "spoil" (bacterial growth) at room temperature, everything has to either be kept cold, kept hot, or served. Think of this as the warehousing aspect of the "food factory".

Back to the Adventures of Chicken Man. I performed a variety of tasks over the 3 days, but most somehow involved chicken in one form or another. One day my team and I "processed" about 680 chicken leg/thighs. Chicken requires special care: chickens are dirty animals and their meat often carries salmonella bacteria. Because of this risk, the chicken has to be rinsed, cooked (by poaching in this case) up to a certain temperature (measured), then plunged into ice water to chill it down to a temperature (measured again) where it can be safely refrigerated.

You might think "what's the big deal?: poach a chicken leg, cool it down and put it in the frig". The deal is... when you have to do 500 of them in a couple of hours, you're competing for resources (stove burners) -- and if you don't do it right, a thousand people could get food poisoning! And of course, 500 pieces of chicken weigh a fair amount; each case is carried from a tractor-trailer refrigerator ("reefer")

So the process is: wash the chicken. Poach the chicken. Chill in tall "food-safe" containers full of ice water. Plunge your entire arm into the ice water and fetch the now-chilled chicken. I went home with arms glistening from chicken fat. My watch had blobs of chicken fat on it. My thermometer, shoes, apron... all carried something chicken. My Volunteer badge provides a lasting memory of the experience: the edges soaked up chicken fat.

When you poach 500 chix legs, you get... chicken fat. Lots of chicken fat. Fat is lighter than water. Fat rises to the service of the 60 quart stock pot. If it spills over, you get flames. Flame is good... when it is where you want it. At the 5 foot level, flame... not so good. So we had to skim off the fat layer and dispose of it. Again -- dinner for 2, no big deal. For thousands, a challenge.

Multiple teams of people did this work; I can't take the entire credit for all it. But this was beyond doubt, the most chicken-intensive experience of my life. The next day, we baked another 200+ pieces of chicken, and food prep folks (and I) tore it apart, with dishwasher's gloves to protect our hands from the very hot chicken. It became part of a paella later for dinner that night.

BawkBawkBawkBawkBawkBawkBawk!

Strangely, I still like chicken.

"Service"


When you operate a restaurant, at some point in time the place opens for customers, and all the work that went into preparing the meals (not surprisingly, this is called "prep") results in delivering meals to the diners. That point is called, you got it, "service". But "service" is more than a just another instant in time (one minute you were doing prep, and the next moment, "service"). Service is the culmination of the day's labor. It is the point at which the restaurant meets its responsibility to its customer. It is an intense period in the work day. Particularly when hundreds are lining up for the meal you've been prepping. There's a buzz in the kitchen. It's like the starter pistol has gone off and the race begun.

I genuinely enjoyed the time in the Folk Festival kitchen. The "vibe" of dozens of volunteers working toward a common and worthy goal, is quite compelling. Got to use some of the skills I got in Culinary School, got some much needed exercise (was sore for 3 days afterwards) -- and access to a very cool festival. See you next year?

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Moving Experience


I know blogs are supposed to be contemporaneous, but really the last month or so we haven't time to think, never mind to write. Since November 07, we've:
  • Driven from New Hampshire to Florida, spent a month there,
  • Continued out to Arizona for another month, found bought a house there
  • Drove back to New Hampshire. Prepared our condo for sale in a lousy market
  • Sold it in ONE DAY
  • Closed on it and moved in ONE WEEK (the Real Estate agent had never pulled this off in less than a month before)
We're too old for this. We don't plan to do it again any time soon.

Some of the interesting bits along the way: the "staging" -- Kathy did a brilliant job (with a huge effort from her brother, and also our friends Donna & Linda) of revamping and marketing the condo to compensate for the various competition, making it more than attractive but compelling.

The place was bought by, strangely enough, the son of a neighbor. Twenty-one, successful and looking for a home, it just "clicked" for him. He'd looked at at least one other unit in our complex, but Kathy's staging won the day.

So we're off: it's Sunday, May 11th, 2008, we're in Cumberland, MD on a 5 day drive to our new permanent home in Oro Valley, AZ (email az@blessley.net and it'll send you the details). My car (the BMW) is on a car-carrier somewhere between NH and AZ, as are our possessions (we made the new owner a great offer on the furniture). We should rendezvous with them toward this weekend.

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Friday, May 2, 2008

Selling our NH Condo. Stress. Angst. Gnashing of teeth.

You know, "they" have these lists of things that stress one out. Marriage. Divorce. Death of a loved one. Big change in income (either loss or gain). Moving. Fixing up a house, selling it in a crappy market, moving away from the region you've called home for about 50 1/2 out of 51 years? "Priceless" to mix metaphors.

To bring you up to date (on the off chance you actually have other things to do then read our blog entries...): we bought a home, furnished, in Arizona after spending a month or so in the area. Actually we bought it less than a week after we started looking, paid for it, moved into it, then headed back east to the next adventure: selling our New Hampshire condo. That's where we're at (physically & chronologically) at the moment.

We bought the NH place about 5 years ago. Intended as an interim step on the road to a "permanent" retirement place, we didn't invest much time, money or energy into making it spiffy. Until now. In the course of about 2 weeks, with huge help from Kathy's brother John and some "Clutter Management Maven" neighbors (Donna & Linda, aka "People with Taste"), we have transformed this home. If it were just in a warmer climate and a little more exciting town...

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Who said "The road home is never long"?

Maybe it's that the "road between two homes" can be long. But I'll make the story short: bought house in Tucson, Arizona (this happened some weeks ago but we haven't quite finished the "announcement"). Kathy flew from there to New Hampshire. I am plodding along, solo in our Red RAV4, alternately feeling sorry for myself (my driving days have been a combination of 600 and 450 mile days; a couple of each) and reveling in the Near Bachelor Solitude of it all.

I've made a couple of mandatory stops because you can only drive so far -- safely -- in a day. Tucson. Tucson Airport (drop Lovely Wife). Midland TX (GW Bush's hometown, la ti da). Then an-ever wonderful visit with our friends in East Texas, then two nights in New Orleans.

As I write, I'm in Knoxville, Tennessee. Our trip planning software mislead us about the distance so today was another 600 mile day. Tomorrow won't be.

I should be back in New Hampshire on March 27th. The weather is already changing (80 in Tucson, 70 in E Texas and New Orleans... 45 in Knoxville. Brrr.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Scott & Kathy's Retirement Rancho

We done it. I'd say "packed up and moved", but we sort of just moved without actually packing up. Let's recap the last 4 months: we left NH with a car (the RAV4) full of stuff and headed for early-winter in south Florida at Kathy's Dad's. Some of that stuff was just for a stop in Connecticut, others of it were for Florida, and just a few things were destined for our "wintering" plan in Arizona. That might be because weren't actually planning to buy a home there ("here") just yet, we were going to hang out for the winter, check out the sights and the housing market, maybe narrow down, or possibly even arrange to buy a house. But in about 3 weeks, we'd seen several dozen potential homes, made an offer and two additional counter-offers on one, got the money, and closed on our new home. Jeez... Overachievers or what?

Our new home (and this replaces New Hampshire, leaving British Columbia for the summers (which are intense in Arizona) and the rest of the world for our continuing wanderlust. As we've mentioned before, we were looking for a home we wouldn't feel the necessity to leave for the winters (which we've never much cared for, in New England).

So, how did we manage to move into a new home without much more than the clothes on our backs? We bought it furnished -- completely furnished down to the wall hangings and silk plants. The furniture is all Danish-modern style, very chic, nothing we'd ever actually buy for ourselves. I had some favorite kitchen items (my knife set, one good pan, a few other items I travel with) and we'd put a couple-hundred dollars into the sort of things you need for a new household, for the place we were renting. So we were equipped with cleaning stuff, a few towels -- it's amazing how little you can manage with, if you buy a furnished home and know in a couple of months you can have your other favorites (the ones in your other house...).

So there you have it: spirited from frozen New England to sunny Arizona in less than a season.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Moving Day...

We're waiting... we're waiting...

It's 12:45pm Mountain Time on Valentine's Day (it's also Arizona's "birthday", it joined the union today in 1912). We've bought our new home at least on paper; until the title is registered with the state, it isn't really "ours". Drop an email to az@blessley.net -- no subject or body needed -- and you'll get the complete street and mailing addresses and phone. Our New Hampshire number will find us where we travel, so you're welcome to use that if you prefer.

The previous blog entry gave some insight into the place we rented for about a month. Shortly (we hope) we'll give you more into about what will become our new permanent residence. Watch this space!

Want a peek at the neighborhood? Here is is on Google Maps.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Desert Oasis

We've been in Tucson a few weeks now; you knew that from the previous blog, but we really didn't say anything about our "digs" -- we have rented this fabulous house in Catalina, AZ (in the northwest part of Tucson). After sifting through literally hundreds of houses in the Arizona Craigslist.com, Kathy found this great place. A summer home for the family (they live in the Santa Barbara area, but he has a business based in Tucson), the place features gobs of space and is in immaculate condition.

Idyllic location, fantastic views, just a few minutes drive to parks, shopping, restaurants, a few more minutes and you're in downtown Tucson. That is, if you can drag yourself away from the inviting pool and hot tub.

There's a small shopping center just 8/10ths of a mile away with a great supermarket and a couple of places to eat; a mile or so further "up" (north) are several more restaurants as well as a convenient library branch. If eating out isn't your style, the kitchen features nice granite countertops and premium appliances.

We really lucked out on this property. Dave, the owner, has been super helpful and friendly. We're mindful that we're are guests in someone else's home, so we're being especially careful to treat the place with respect -- not that we'd do it any other way -- but it seems right to meet kindness with kindness.


If you're looking for a place to warm up from the nasty weather in a simply lovely setting, do check out Dave's ad on Craigslist (I'll add a pointer to it if I get one). Tell him we sent you!

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tucson at Last

It seems like I've been driving forever. Actually it's just been a few days: after the cruise (which was great) we drove Miami to Pensacola, then to Gladewater TX. We stayed with our wonderful friends there for 3 days -- a luxury. Then San Antonio, El Paso.

The route looked sort of like this:

The weather en route has been cooler than we'd planned for, warm for New Hampshire but we've been in south Florida for going-on two months and kind of got used to 80s. So light jackets but 38 degree rainy weather (in parts of Texas) haven't been pleasant.

But things are looking up! As I write (Saturday, 1/19/08) it's sunny with temperatures in the low 60s planned for Tucson. We arrive this afternoon and will start looking for a permanent home as early as tomorrow.

We've assembled a few photos for your viewing pleasure :) [PDF format, 4MB]

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Becoming Celebrity Celebrities

Over the course of our 104 day cruise we met quite a few on-board presenters, and "learned the ropes" of how the cruise industry works (as far as getting "talent"). Basically, the cruise lines recruit from "talent agencies" like SixthStar Entertainment. Sixth Star separates talent into "Special Interest" and "Destination" speakers, and then there are some special categories like Gentlemen Hosts ("Dance Hosts")

After that cruise, we got in contact with Sixth Star and went through their rigorous screening and interviewing process. Eventually we were approved as Special Interest speakers. We talk about travel technology, technology futures etc., in a format that is light-hearted and easy to digest for older folks who will never be technologists.

Anyway, the final hoop to jump through to become approved talent for Sixth Star, is to join a short cruise, so they can get feedback from the cruise line on your performance, demeanor and so forth. That time has come for us: we'll be boarding the Celebrity Century in Miami, cruise down to the Cayman Islands, back up with a stop in Key West, and return to Miami 5 days hence. The itinerary is here.

The cruise is for all intents and purposes, free for us. There is a per-day administration fee that goes to the agency, we pay for our alcohol on board and tips and such. Kathy will do two presentations in the course of the 5 days. That's it.

Assuming all goes well, we'll be permitted to cruise on higher-end cruise ships and on more "choice" itineraries. Watch this space!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Keys Christmas '07

At left, our new "pet". He moved into a nearby bush and is a frequent visitor. We named him "Iggy". Comes and goes -- pretty independent lizard.

We're still down in Florida. While the northeast (of the US -- where our primary residence is at the moment) is getting pummeled with snow, we've been having sunny but plenty-hot & humid days, punctuated with some impressive rainstorms. Impressive because they come up suddenly, it rains torrents, and generally they're gone as quickly as they came. Unfortunately, afterward the humidity goes from unpleasant to almost unbearable. It'd be tough for me (Scott) to live in this climate on a permanent basis. Either that or I'd need to win the lottery to pay the aircon bill.

Our lives here aren't much different than any other place we call "home". We get up, have our coffee (Kathy gets hers delivered in bed), breakfast. Spend too much time with the computers (laptops, which occupy a not-insubstantial portion of the dining room table; fortunately with just me, Kathy and her Dad, we don't need the space). I prepare most of the meals for us which is both fun (generally) and of course I pretty much get to pick what we get to eat. Kathy and Jack (her Dad) go fishing on his boat, and generally "bring home the bacon". Oh, Kathy also monitors the canal off the back of the boat, sometimes she brings lobsters back. Try that in New Hampshire in December.



We'll stay here in Florida into the first week of January, take a brief cruise (that's another story) then head off to Arizona for the winter.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

On the road again, just can't wait to...


We're headed to south Florida for a month or so, hang out at the family compound (isn't that what the Kennedy's call their place?). Then come January, we'll continue our drive out to Arizona.

We'll spend the winter there, and with hope we'll find a new home there, moving from the Frozen North (New Hampshire) to southwest.

Summers we still devote to Vancouver, BC -- so Arizona's 110 degree summers don't phase us. We're looking forward to visitors in our new local -- will you be one of them?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Road Home -- BC to NH via TX in 30 days give or take


We left Vancouver on September 20th, 2007 on a "crooked smile" route that brings us out to the California coast, into Arizona, Texas, back to Michigan (which we visited on the way out), Toronto, and back to New Hampshire -- where we'll be for around for about a month before desperately seeking somewhere warmer. As of this writing (Sep 30) we're in the California desert, east of Los Angeles in Twenty-Nine Palms, CA. The red part of the route is what we've covered already -- as of October 8, 2007.

The regular web pages for this trip aren't quite cooked, but here are some of the highlights of the trip so far (we'll update this page once those page(s) are done):

  • The Herb Farm a fantastic restaurant in Washington State, where we celebrated our 50th birthdays -- albeit 6 and 14 months late for him, and her respectively
  • Redwood National Park -- big, beautiful, sometimes-spooky trees
  • The Microsoft Store -- thousands of dollars of software stuff for pennies on the dollar
  • The Computer Museum History Center, previously of Boston, now in Menlo Park, CA
  • Pacific Coast highway -- Twist and Shout highways with 15 mph limits -- but stunning views
  • Elephant Seal Central (a bunch of fat lazy guys hanging out on the beach with their girls -- so what's new?)
  • Kelp Tripping (where you walk down the beach and try not to trip over mutant seaweeds)
  • Visiting my long-time friend David, in Scott's Valley, CA
  • Point Lobos State Park
  • Visiting an old boss (actually pretty young) out in Santa Barbara
  • Brush with Death! We drive across a mountain road. Think rocks. Ravines.
  • Visits to Tucson AZ and Austin, TX as potential new home locations
  • Get together with TX friends and family
Individual links for sections of our trip:

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

San Francisco -- can you go back?


We're in San Francisco, on our way back to New England. The visit is bittersweet: San Francisco has been my favorite city for many years; been here dozens of times, know the streets, the buses, good neighborhoods and bad. But after 5+ years "away", and four years in our new home in Vancouver, BC, I see the place differently. The streets are comparatively dirty, homeless and beggars about. Vancouver has its deadbeats too, but they're almost never aggressive and offer a smile even if there is nothing in return. San Francisco seems more distant, more dangerous than 5 years ago. Is it it? Is it me? Both?

I wandered around this morning (we've been here two nights, we head south later today) revisiting old haunts, looking for familiarity or change. Found both.

The area we're staying (Union Square) is the city's center. Macy's. Bloomingdale's. Whereas Vancouver's "downtown" is fairly well distributed (by plan), this is "city dense" at its best -- or perhaps worst.

We are creatures of habit: we want things that we enjoy[ed] to always be the same. It doesn't work like that. "Time passes on, and the leaves that are green turn to brown".

I'm getting more involved in photography, and as a delightful result I am seeing things I never noticed before. While San Francisco's street scene I find deplorable, this morning, our walking, I noticed the city's amazing architecture. Something to really enjoy, while attempting to zone out the Levi's store and all the "modern" trappings of this city.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Two x $250 for Two @ Fifty; Dinner at The Herbfarm

OK it may be the best meal I have ever had; nine courses over about four hours. This was sort of a mutual 50th birthday present for Kathy & I (about a year late for her, 6 months or so for me) at a northern Washington state restaurant called The Herb Farm.

The food is just amazing. They have a single seating per night, they only serve three nights/week. Our menu was the "Indian Summer", for that transitional time when Summer's bounty is waining and Fall's beauty emerges.

More on this a bit later -- photos, the menu. It's a fabulous experience, and if you have $500 to spare for dinner for two, we recommend it. Maybe we'll go back in another 50 years.

9 Years on 40 feet? Oy! Ahoy!


We had the great pleasure of meeting and dining with friends-of-friends-now-friends Anne and Martin. Out in the hinterlands of Port Moody, BC (about 30 miles from Vancouver), these two spent nine YEARS of their lives on a smallish sailing craft, circumnavigating the earth. Oh, and five more on the boat in a Vancouver marina in preparation.

Their website tells the tale better than we could; what we can say is they are gracious hosts, interesting folks, and good cooks too.

Photo from http://www.norsiglar.com. Check out story -- and their interesting book.

This is one of those "six degrees of separation" things. I don't usually put a lot of stock in to this notion but in this case it's worked for us: We met new friends Chris & Ann on a segment of the lengthy cruise we'd made the previous year. THEY'd made friends with Anne & Martin on another cruise. We've got a home in British Columbia, Anne & Martin have a home in British Columbia. "Oh! You must meet them!". The rest is history.

-scott

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Green Be Gone


Punctuating our exciting lives with the absolutely mundane, we're pleased to report that our new condo (1101) in Vancouver BC, is now uniformly-colored with our existing unit, 1102. Kathy put in countless hours at this, saving a fortune, but at a personal cost of some 5 days. Scott helped, but Kathy was definitely the "lead" on this chore.

Monday, September 10, 2007

More-or-less Annual SCUBA diving trip


We're back from the Cayman Islands (my 15 seconds of internet fame, here, the little photo with the big fish). The travel, while convoluted (Vancouver, Dallas [overnight], Miami, Cayman and the reverse back to Vancouver) went without a hitch.

The diving was great, the crew was helpful beyond belief, and the food was unfortunately-excellent (i.e. we all ate too much). We wish that more of our regular dive buddies could have made it this time, but we're already scheming a 2008 outing, so with hope, more of us will be able to make the trip.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Door


This summer we bought a condo unit immediately adjacent to the one we already owned here in Vancouver, BC. So a lot of our time spent here this year has been preparing it for occupancy (furnishings, paint, network and telephone for example). And then there's the door.

The two condos share two walls. One is a closet on one side and the kitchen on the other, the 2nd is a non-bearing wall. Our big project was to install a pocket door within that wall.

We got one quote for the work -- $2300, which, based on current exchange rates between the US and Canada, would be about US$2299.99 -- a lot in any case! However, Kathy's Dad was up for the task, so we "imported" him from Michigan to do/oversee the task. Scott and Jack did most of the "work work", Kathy took care of the substantial clean-up task. Since we're on the 11th floor, all the materials have to go up the elevator, and all the trash back down -- a bag at a time.

The work's almost completed. The dust could still be around for years.

PDF-based photo chronology here. Press ESC (or Mac equivalent) to exit

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Landing in Lund

We got back August 21st from the "end of the road" -- Lund, BC. Friends "from India" (they live in North Vancouver, BC, and they're not Indians, actually) went up the inland waters between the "lower mainland" (the landmass that includes Vancouver, BC where we're spending our summers) in their boat. We drove up to meet them. It's about 100 miles, but requires not one but two ferries -- for a net average speed of about 13 mph. On of the pair is pictured here, on the right side of the photo -- Libby.

The journey was scenic, but this region, while called the "Sunshine Coast", didn't really live up to its name, for our weekend. But we brought dinner for ourselves and our friends, and prepared it on their boat, quaffed wine and swapped tales. Blake and Libby are great folks and we really enjoy their company.

The 2nd day we spent on the water with them, visiting nearby islands and cruising the scenery. Drank too much and talked too much.


Lund is sort of the "end of the road" -- really the last real town (full time population about 800) as you head north on Rt 101 along the Sunshine Coast. It has that small town community feel, no doubt enhanced by it being "Lund Dayz"-- an annual event with a flea market (benefit to the local fire department), music, clowns... apparently a big deal in a sleepy town.

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New? Yes. Exciting? Occasionally

Ever think that you were the last one in the world to do something? Well, we've operated a personal website since "before it was cool". But frankly, creating individual pages for our day to day "adventures" is pretty time consuming. Enter blog software! Sure we read the odd blog or two (check out this one, from a pastry school classmate) but we're a bit late in riding that technology wave. And we thought we were early adopters.

We'll give this a try instead of our home page's chronological "log", and leave the main website for topics with both depth and breadth.

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