Tuesday, August 7, 2018

The Lazy, Hot Days of Summer

Hello dear readers. Is it hot and dry where you are?  Right now it's 100 degrees outside in the shade.  Hence, I'm inside writing to you!

It's lovely to eat outside in the evenings but the last couple of nights,it's still been in the 90's.  Which, for us here on the west coast, is very unusual.  When the sun sets, the temps drop but not this week.  The photo above is from my daughter; she hosted a dinner party last week with an Italian menu.

The news around here is wild fires.  Unfortunately, one ignited yesterday afternoon in our area.  You can see the smoke above taken from our back yard.  It started in the early afternoon with about 50 to 75 acres. . .

When we retired last night, the fire had scorched 4,000 acres and was still burning.  The was the scene last night from our back yard.  It was scary to say the least.  I called the Sheriff's dept. to ask about procedures for evacuation.  Luckily, we weren't in danger but we slept very lightly last night.  The fire is still burning this afternoon in some very deep, hilly terrain.  The drought conditions from past years has made the perfect storm for a wild fire.

It's enjoyable if I can make it outside early enough to enjoy the setting before the heat sets in.  Otherwise, we find ourselves stuck in the house for the afternoon, away from the blazing sun and cooled with the A/C.  I long for the days when I can turn off the A/C!

I finished the first project from my Craftpod box.  For someone like me, who doesn't know how to embroidery (luckily, I have a huge book showing all the embroidery stitches), I was pleased to make this little needle case.  I turned the raw edges inside as I'm not fond of the raw, fray edges of fabric.  I think it's from those years in junior high when my mother was teaching me to sew.  She was a perfectionist in her sewing and I thank her for that now :)

Yesterday I had an appointment with my dermatologist.  I went thinking it was nothing unusual but I'm so happy that I made the appointment.  Turns out that my normal skin tag that is normally frozen, had to be biopsied.  Although I've not received the results yet, I'm not worried but I do want to share with you that if something seems not right with you  in regard to your health, please seek medical attention.   You never know what could be happening.

Thank you for your kind comments.  It warms my heart (maybe I should say "cools") to hear from you.

Until next time,


Thursday, August 2, 2018

Craftpod Crafting

Hi everyone.  I hope you are enjoying the hot, long days of summer for those of you in the Western hemisphere :)

Awhile back I came across Craftpod via a blog.  It looked like so much fun with everything being included. 
Before I left to go to Turkey in June, I placed my order for the Summer Craftpod.  I thought it was a good deal considering the shipping to the US was just under 5 GBP.  Upon my return home in July, there was my little Craftpod box waiting for me.  Sheer delight!

I couldn't be happier with the contents as it's a surprise as to what you will receive.  How fun is that!  The first little kit will be a needle book.  I had long wanted to make one of these and now I'll have my own.

Also included is a cross stitch piece which was designed by the talented Lucy of Attic 24.  I'm a little bit hesitant to start this as it's out of my comfort zone; I do needlepoint but not counted cross stitch.  Wish me luck. . .

And, to complete the box, here are the little goodies that make it so special.  A beautiful print by illustrator Brie Harrison, a rose enamel pin from maggiemagoodesigns.com, proper tapestry needles, button, and a lovely tea bag.

 It's going to be a fun afternoon stitching my way along to happiness.

Speaking of happiness, here's a photo of Laguna Beach from last week.  It's always a popular place but especially during these hot summer days.  Lilly sends her greetings to everyone, too.  I love hearing from you and reading your comments.

With my best wishes,


Friday, July 20, 2018

Staying in Venice and Istanbul

 Hello my friends.  Sorry I've not posted in a long time but I just returned home from Turkey this week.
My husband and I spent three weeks at our home in Turkey before the rest of the family joined us to continue the vacation.  I've come to the conclusion that our family "travels" as their hobby.  The photo above was taken at a wine tasting we enjoyed in Greece.

We enjoyed our time in the south of Turkey before venturing off for rest of the vacation.

Our first stop was Venice.  It was my third visit to this amazing city but this time I had the pleasure to stay three nights in this magical place.

My daughter rented two different apartments for the family and we stayed in this unique place where we had our own private courtyard.  It had been completely renovated and was very modern and comfortable but I missed the old world charm a bit. 

Venice is an interesting city.  The population now is around 55,000 residents; it used to be close to 175,000.  As the people have left, the homes have been bought up by investors who can rent them at a high rate of rent. Thereby, the average, younger Venetian cannot afford to live in Venice anymore.  It's a very sad case. Also, many Venetians are against the cruise ships coming into their city.  I totally agree with them.  Cruise ships can ruin the unique atmosphere of a place.

The apartment my daughter and her family stayed in was a perfectly styled Italian apartment with Venetian glass chandeliers.  It overlooked a canal and the light that came into the room was amazing.

Here's the beautiful hallway with the wood floors and a wall of framed handpainted watercolors.

I'm hoping to recreate one of these watercolors. . .

On our last night in Venice we had a family dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant.  It was in a square but there was a private courtyard behind.  We had spied this place a day earlier when the waiter told us about the menu.  The waiter from the restaurant next door saw us and told us "You don't want to eat there - it's owned by Pakistani's and is not Italian food".  My husband was shocked and told him "I'm Pakistani".  He isn't but that wasn't the point. Later that day, we went to lunch at this restaurant and it was the best Italian food I've ever had.  The owner is Italian but all the servers are from Bangladesh.  They were so kind to us and offered superb customer service.

  Hence, the last night in Venice we returned to the same place for dinner with all the family.  I didn't realize until later that Rome and surrounding areas of Italy has the second highest population of Bangladesh immigrants outside of London.  They are an integral part of Venice and I admire their ability to learn a new language and adjust to a different cullture.

We left Venice on a cruise and upon our return, we took a flight back to Istanbul.  I love this city, too.  

Again, my daughter had booked two different homes for us to stay in the area of Balat/Fener.  This area is off the Golden Horn and is the old Greek and Jewish part of the city.  Of course, now the demographics have changed.

At first look, the neighborhood can look a little rough in parts but it was quite charming and we felt safe too.  They were putting in new streets with beautiful pavers.
The home we stayed in was actually five floors; the bottom floor being a separate studio apartment.  It had been completed renovated to a classic style with beautiful period furnishings.

One of the unique features was this stunning, original wooden ceiling.

And, the stairwell continued to wind up each floor. Our Greek friend, Dmitra, joined us in Istanbul and told us about the Greek community of Turkey from the turn of the century who would have lived in these kind of homes.  They were well off merchants and other successful traders.  After World War I, many of them returned to Greece where they were thought of as a kind of aristocracy among the other Greeks.  Many  more left in the 1970's over the issues with Cyprus.  

The neighborhood is transitioning and becoming a very artsy area.  There were some lovely little cafes a few steps away where they served their style of "Turkish breakfast".

From the top floor balcony, we had a great view of Phanar Greek Othodox College.  It was built by an Ottoman Greek architect beginning in 1881.  The red tower is a well known landmark.

Also nearby, is the  Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople where the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I resides.  

It was an enjoyable time to be with the family.  However, it's always good to return home and get back to my routine.  Lilly was patiently waiting at the door for us when we arrived Tuesday night.

I hope you are enjoying your summer.  It's been unusually hot and humid here for this week but our normal, dry, hot weather is expected to return on Monday.

My best wishes to you,


Friday, May 25, 2018

The Long Weekend Has Begun

Hello dear friends.  It's Friday afternoon here and the weekend has started with a boom!  The pool replaster guys arrived with their jackhammers and have begun attacking the pool.

In August, we will have lived in this home for eight years.  It's the first home we've ever had with a pool and hopefully the last.  It's basically a hole in the ground that takes a lot of money and upkeep.  We are "do it yourself" people but this time, we had to hire a proper company to replaster the pool.  You can see the total discoloration and erroding of the plaster.

The plaster team arrived just a little bit ago, all five of them with their air driven jackhammers and they are getting the job done of taking off the old plaster.  Unfortunately, the whole pool system of heater and filter are over 25 years old, so we're having that system replaced too.  This is for a couple (myself and husband), who maybe get into this pool twice a year.  It reminds me of the boat we once owned.  Luckily, we sold that boat.  The pool I'm afraid is here to stay :)

I had a lovely week as my daughter took me to tea.  It was part of my Mother's Day gift.  I didn't tell you but my dear husband was in the hospital over Mother's Day.  He's fine now - long story short he had been prescribed too many doses of antibiotics and it effected his system.  Thank goodness for great medical care.  He is fully recovered.  It was scary.

My daughter and I enjoyed a lovely tea at the Tea House in an old house in San Juan Capistrano.  We've gone there before and my it was a busy place that day.  

On Saturday, I attended my Daughters of Norway lodge meeting.  It was held at the Women's Club House in Dana Point.  I love going to this club house as it's so old school from many, many years ago.  Our dear member, Myrna, wore her Mother's bunad that was made by her family in Norway back in the 1960's.  It's all hand embroidered; such fine detail, too.  I loved the jacket that she also has as part of the ensemble.  Myrna will be wearing this lovely bunad to the Grand Lodge Convention later this summer.

On Sunday, I hosted a dinner for some dear friends.  We had a good time and my husband bar-b-qued steaks but the bar-b-que decided not to cooperate.  No fear, as we finished them in the broiler.  It was a nice evening.

I'm still working on finishing my knitted scarf but in the meantime I started this little needlepoint.  I'm so late in coming to discover this wonderful needle art.  I absolutely love needlepoint!  However, the canvases can be quite pricey.  So far, I've bought them on eBay and have had great luck.   This is just a smaller one that I'm making from leftover tapestry wool.  I changed up the colors a bit as I don't like bright colors.
I found this canvas design on eBay through two different sellers.  It's a very large canvas and when I decided to purchase it, it was gone.  Luckily, after looking on the web, I found the exact same canvas at Goblen.com which is a Turkish website of all things.  It is 60 cm x 125 cm.

And I also bought this little canvas as I love the oval design.  In addition to the two shown above, I bought one more for my daughter.  And, guess what I paid for all three?  $61.00!  It was a steal.  Here's the catch; Goblen offers free shipping in Turkey so I had them shipped to my son's home there.  But, if I were to have them shipped to the US via DHL, is would have been $24.00 shipping.  It is still a great deal as the large swan canvas above was $99.00 on eBay.

The company offers all types of needlework products.  I didn't buy the tapestry wool as I wanted to see if I had some of the colors in my stash.  As it turned out, I was in need of some black tapestry wool and I hate to pay shipping charges.  I found DMC Laine Colbert tapestry wool online at WalMart and had it shipped to my local WalMart store for free where I picked it up. It's quite puzzling to me why WalMart would carry such an item such as French tapestry wool?  

Anyway, that's the update from Lilly My Cat.  Lilly is as sweet and sassy as ever and she sends you all her meows and good wishes for a safe Memorial Day holiday!

With my best wishes,


PS - I hope I didn't bore you with my last two blog posts about investments and buying a home.  I just have a real passion about these things and if I can ever help someone in some way then that's a good thing!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Don't Give Up on Buying a Home

Wow, my last post was so popular I'm back again with another!  (Not really, it bombed but that's OK as it's out there in blogland for someone who might be enlightened).

Really guys, I want to tell you about something that is now and present.  Buying a home.  You'll say,"we can't buy a home because we don't qualify for a loan".  I totally understand that.  But, there's always another way.

If you've read my blog, you'll know that I've invested in real estate for many, many years.  Throughout those years, many times I've sold a piece of real estate to a buyer through a real estate contract.  Here's what happens.  When you want to buy a home, you go to a bank or mortgage lender and apply for a loan.  If you get approved, that bank or lender will give the money to the seller of the property and then you will pay back the lender at a set interest rate over a period of usually 30 years.  OK....but you don't qualify for a loan.  No worries, you just need to find a property where the seller will be your lender or your bank so to speak.

Here's the real life scenario that happened just two years ago.  Years earlier, I had invested in some property in an area of California when the prices had dropped.  I secured an excellent tenant for one of the homes and he paid on time as agreed.  Less than three years ago, I decided to sell my real estate holdings in this area.  I asked my tenant if he was interested in buying the home he was renting.  He said "yes, but I don't have money for a down payment and I don't qualify for a loan".  I told him no worries as I would be the banker for him.  The following took place:

1.  We agreed on a purchase price and interest rate with a thirty year amortization.
2.  A preliminary title report was ordered as the buyer needs to confirm that the property he is purchasing is free of all encumbrances. (The seller owns the property free and clear).
3.  Our local title/escrow company drew up the legal documents which included a Real Estate Contract, Promissory Note and the Deed of Trust, held by safekeeping with the escrow company.
4.  There are closing costs involved in purchasing/selling real estate.  The buyer's closing costs were around $2,000 and I did not take any down payment on the sale.
5.  The legal documents were signed and recorded with the county.

In a nutshell, my tenant became the homeowner for less than $2,000!  He pays me on a monthly basis, and his monthly payment includes principal and interest on the loan, along with taxes and insurance.  The local escrow/title company services this loan for both the seller/buyer at a small monthly fee.

YOU can be a homeowner.  You just need to find someone out there who is willing to sell you the property on a real estate contract.  That seller is basically going to by your lender.  It's good for the seller too if he doesn't want to sell, get all the cash in hand and pay out a large portion to the IRS for his share of taxes.  This way, as the money comes in, his taxes to the IRS on the sale of this property are proportional.

Don't give up yet...you can also LEASE TO BUY.  I have an investment property now that I am negotiating this scenario.  You agree to lease the property at X amount of dollars for a term of X months/years.  A portion of that rent can be credited back to you if you decide to exercise the option to buy.  Again, it should all be in the contract you draw up with the seller.

Now my tenant is a homeowner.  He and his family are thrilled to be able to own a home in which they show pride and take extremely good care of the property.  Already, his home has increased in value and if he were to sell today, he could walk away with a profit of approximately $50K.  Not a bad deal after all.

What I want to say is that if there's a will there's a way.  It doesn't matter where you live in this world, don't resign yourself to thinking "no, it won't work".  You don't know until you try.

I hope this can help someone out there in this huge world.  And, I'd love to hear your feedback.  If you have questions, I'll be sure and try and answer them.

Sending you my best wishes,


Thursday, May 17, 2018

Planning for the Future

Sometimes I wonder why I didn't name my blog differently because it's about so much more than my cat Lilly...

As many of you, I enjoy reading different blogs.  Many times I get creative ideas than I can use. Other times after reading a blog, I'm left puzzled.  Everyone is entitled to his or her ideas as that's what makes it so great.  But, there's always more than one way to accomplish something. 

Case in point, there's a few blogs out there whose premise is to "give people fish instead of teaching them to fish".  We're talking about money here.  A very touchy subject indeed but a very important subject the older you get.

I really wanted to direct this post today to the younger generation; those in their 20's or 30's or even 40's.  It's not too late to start on your path to financial independence.  After I got married, my husband had this idea to be financially independent.  Yes, it was a much different time back then, but we were young and lived in a small agricultural town.  Much of the town had not been developed and we started on our quest with real estate.  Rentals to be exact.

Now, I know a lot of you will immediately say, "we've had rentals and they were a disaster".  Yes, I can totally understand.  But, there is a way to not have a disaster.  It's all about location and screening your potential renters.

We were like any other working couple back then.  We had purchased our first home and two years later we decided to build a home on some property we had bought.  So, we rented the first home. A couple of years later, we sold it for double than what we had paid for it.  We then bought a large parcel of undeveloped land and gradually build multifamily rental units on it.  Little by little, we continued along this path.  We had success during this time because the small community we lived in needed housing and land prices were cheap at that time.

We lived in this community for 22 years before we decided to move across the state to the "big city".  After being in the big city atmosphere a couple of years, we sold all our real estate in our small town.  And, we reinvested this money into new properties in the big city we lived in.

Currently, we've been living in California for almost 8 years now and we just now sold our last property in Washington.  For the past three years, we have been selling off our Washington property and reinvesting in California property.

What I'm trying to say is that real estate can be an extremely good investment in the long term.  It's been good to us as the rental income has always attributed to our monthly income.  But, this is not a "get rich fast" scheme.  It takes years and years to reap the benefits.  Which means, if you start now, chances are you will have a nice little nest egg when and if you decide to retire.

Here's some things to remember:
Location:  It doesn't matter whether you live in a small town or big city, location is the number one factor as to what kind of renters you will attract.  Good location and nice property makes it much easier to get excellent renters.
Monthly Rent: There's a lot of landlords out there that want to bleed their renters by increasing the rent at every chance. Weve never been that way. We invested in nice property and have excellent renters. Hence, it's very seldom that we increase the monthly rent. We only increase the rent when necessary to offset the increase in fees that we may experience.
Money for Rainy Day: It doesn't matter what type of rental property you have, you have to have a little money put back in case of disaster. It can be anything from repairing an applicance to putting on a new roof.  It's imperative that you have money on hand to keep your rental in top condition.  You owe it to your renters to keep it in order.
Mortgage: You always need to think about the worst case scenario, what is your exposure.  Please do not get an adjustable rate mortgage.  You can't see the future and it could cause you huge problems if the interest rate suddenly increases.  Be safe in your investments.
Home Equity Loan: If you think the real estate market is hot and you want to jump in and buy, please don't take out a home equity loan.  Again, you can have a disaster; especially if the property you buy drops in value.  Then you are in the negative. Be cautious.
Stepping Stones: Looking back over these past 40 years, I think real estate worked for us as it was a stepping stone.  We kept our properties and sold them years later at a profit.  We invested those monies into new properties.  We started out with our first home which we paid $17,000.  I know, that's not possible today.  But, there are some deals still out there.
Negotiate: I live in one of the most over priced real estate markets right now.  At the same time, it's a hot market because of the location.  But, there are still some bargains out there.  Many buyers are wanting to get out of their mortgage and are willing to negotiate.  They can be desperate in that they don't want the property to go into foreclosure. Look for these deals as you can save a lot of money.  Believe me, as my husband and I just purchased one of these properties.
- Screening: Today potential renters complete a rental application whereby the landlord can review and order a credit report on the applicant.  This is very critical; believe me, many times we could have been taken for without getting the credit report.  It's imperative.  And, there are online agencies that you can sign up for to take care of this for you. 

Yesterday, we met with the painter for the property we're buying.  Up until the last few years, I use to paint all the rentals myself.  I enjoy painting and it saved a lot of money.  We managed our own property too as we like to keep a tight ship and control our rental units.  I think this helped us very much.  Now, we have a wonderful real estate professional who takes care of many things for us. At the same time, the final decision making is always left to us.  

What I'm trying to say is we don't know what the future is going to hold.  When my husband lost his job when the sugar company closed many years ago, he was vested but lost his retirement. It was a bad situation. We said never again will we let that happen and we started on our real estate adventure.  Yes, my husband easily obtained another job that he kept for almost 40 years. But, we had our safety net of our real estate which we were in control of ourselves.

Also, please don't forgot about other investment instruments that can add to your retirement such as IRA's, 401k's, and whole life insurance.  It can be a hardship to save when you are young, but believe me, as you get older, you will be so thankful that you've taken this path.  And, for those of you who are young, you can't depend upon Social Security as it may not be around.

My advice  is to look into investing; safe investing that can grow over time and don't be talked into get rich fast. Do your homework and be informed whether you are buying real estate or an investment instrument.  It's your money and you don't want to make a poor investment.  Better to be cautious and not worry.

I hope my rambling on today can help someone out there in blogland.  Thank you dear readers for stopping by today.

With my best wishes,


Saturday, April 14, 2018

Going to Guatemala on Holland America's Rotterdam

Happy weekend my dear friends.  I've been away on a short spring break vacation with my family.  I actually returned home last Monday but I thought it was time to update my blog.

On April 1st we sailed out of Tampa, Florida on Holland America's Rotterdam.  It was our first time sailing on Holland America and I must say, it's going to be one of my favorites.

Leaving the port in Tampa, I loved seeing these iconic homes along the shore all dressed up in their pastel colors.  

Our first port stop was Key West, Florida.  It had almost been 20 years since I'd been to Key West.  Last time I went there it was extremely hot, humid and uncomfortable in the heat of an August summer.  This time the weather was quite agreeable but I must say, the quaint town has been damaged by being a cruise port.  I saw the typical cruise shops you will find in any port city.  Loud music and lots of people.  We did take the conch train ride and ventured a little ways outside the main center.  I loved this home that is still wearing it's natural wood color.  It's now a home decor shop over 100 years old.

On the same street was this cafe/coffee shop dating from 1909.  It's amazing that it still is standing and still doing business.

At this same place, this sign was posted on the fence.  Imagine that  President Truman was here in 1946. I'm sure Key West was a charming seaside city back then.

Next up was Roatan, Honduras.  I'd been to Roatan before but never to Mahogony Bay. It was a private beach area for the cruise lines.  The beach was beautiful but crowded with 3 ships in port!

One place I'd never been before was Guatemala and I am in love with this country!  Such natural beauty.  We took a proper tour and drove over an hour through the lush, green countryside.  Our port was in San Tomas de Castilla which is an industrial port city.  But, once outside, it was beautiful.

Our destination was the Castillo de San Felipe de Lara which is on the Dulce River. 

The fortress dates from the early 17th century.  This property was added to the  UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List. 

The canons are still mounted and aimed at the intruders which came via the Dulce River.

This is the inner courtyard of the fortress.

Upon entering the fortress, is was surrounded by a moat.  It was soon time to get back on board the bus and head back to the ship.  It was a most interesting ride back as we went through a little town where the people where making tamales, selling and buying fruits and vegetables and also selling ready made meals for the workers.  Our tour guide had light brown hair and blue eyes; his grandparents were Belgian and English!  He told us it was the Germans who developed the coffee industry in Guatemala and still today there are a large group of Guatemalans with German ancestry.  It was very quite interesting.  My dear son-in-law was born in Guatemala of Guatemalan and Spanish ancestry.  

We stopped at a port in Mexico where I had never been before; Costa Maya.  Here is a replica of a Mayan monument in the city square.  It's a small beach town with a thriving tourist industry.

We ventured off to a private beach club, Maya Chan, owned by Americans from San Diego, CA.  It was really quite lovely and excellent hospitality from our gracious hosts.  They had all kinds of nonmotorized watercraft at our disposal, and all inclusive food and drink.  The only glitch is that this part of the ocean has an abundance of sea grass but it was wonderful being out in the water and enjoying this beautiful, tranquil setting.

Many times I read where people say they will never take a cruise.  My family started cruising 20 years ago and we go at least once a year.  It makes it so much easier as a family since you know where you are going to sleep each night, you can eat whatever your heart desires at anytime, and there are so many activities to do. My little grandson who is 8, just completed his 12 cruise and my granddaughter who is 2 just finished her 4th!  It's a pleasant way to see the world.  As I mentioned above, I was really impressed by Holland America.  Guest Services printed out a list of the art that is onboard.  The above is in the center atrium of the ship.

This is a very poor photo I took of a 17th century Italian desk with all these little compartments.  The parquet design was amazing.

And, this is a lovely marble design in floor of one of the lounges on board.

There was a lovely mix of passengers on board; old, not too old, young and a few youngsters.  Just the right mix.  And I enjoyed the ambiance of the ship.  It was a lovely trip except for our flights.  We had chosen the discount airline Spirit Air and it turned out to be a disaster.  Long story short, our flight home was postponed, we spent an extra night in Tampa and arrived back home on Monday instead of Sunday!  But, all is well and everyone is back to their routine.

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend.  My Saturday was spent at a Norwegian heritage fair where I made waffles!

My best wishes to you,