Wednesday, December 12, 2018

One step towards 60

November 17 was my 58th birthday.  I had a few friends come over for a dinner party, but no one really knew it was my birthday, I removed my birth date from social media so no one was sending birthday wishes that way.  It's fine, after this many I'm just happy that I made it.  Eventually the guest knew when a toast was announced.  I also announced that in 24 months I would be retiring from working full time.  I plan on ending full time employment when I hit 60 years old.

You see, Kevin and I have been very good about creating that retirement nest for when that day comes.  We had some terrific news from our financial adviser a couple years ago that we could actually do something about retiring sooner than we expected.  Imagine the feeling you get when you see your grades school report card and you see A's when you were only expecting C's?  Ya, that feeling.  One thing Kevin keeps trying to drive home about retiring is "what will we do once we do retire?"  He's worried that we'll just sit around and not stay active.  I say we won't have nearly the stress we have now so that's already a super positive for me!

We've been talking for years now about Italy.  There's a draw to Europe for both of us, Paris France more for me than Italy but Kevin is really leaning more towards Italy.  I'm fine with Italy, but not southern Italy, it's way too hot during the summer and I miss real winters after having a few while living in London.  My preference is Milan, Brescia, Verona, maybe Parma or Bologna.  No way will I want to live in Siena unless we have air conditioners.  We were there during July and about melted!  Thankfully our hotel had air conditioning so it made for sleeping very comfortable.  I haven't pinpointed where yet but still looking around and doing research.  People in different FaceBook groups offer insight into their experiences and it makes for fun reading.  There's lots of material available on the internet about what it takes to relocate anywhere, the challenge is to sort through what is accurate or what is just more stuff to clutter the content. 

I'm a member of an Expat group for Americans living in Italy.  They let me join as I said in the request that I'd be moving there at some point.  My hope is to connect with someone in an area that I will narrow in on over the next year so that I will build a relationship with them and once there I will have a 'friend' to help us out.  I've read that some landlords of apartments won't rent to just anyone even if they have impeccable credit.  They require recommendations!  You could be dirt poor but if someone they know recommends you for the apartment then you're probably going to get it. 

Yes, there are many strange nuances about living in Italy.  That recommendation thing is one of the.  Another is how to actually get 'IN' the country legally.  There's many bits and pieces of Italian Red Tape that needs to be completed before applying for a Visa to move there.  Thankfully other expats who have done this are offering up those experiences to help others with a smooth process, well as smooth as it can be.

Today, one of the items on that long list of things you need to have is Codice Fiscale, which is an Italian Tax ID, something like an American Social Security Number is best I can think it would compare to, mine arrived today! 

You don't need it to apply for the Visa more than you need it when you try to open a bank account.  We're headed to Italy in April next year for a few days.  We scored a very inexpensive coach airfare from LA to Rome and while there I will see if I can open a bank account if I can't open one sooner.  My plan is to start funding it very slowly and keep it under the taxable limit.  Having this account will make for getting other things lined up easier once we're there like utilities and cell phones. 

Next step is to do some financial research about opening a bank account.  Also, I need to get back to my Italian language lessons.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Hello old friend

I won't lie, I miss you.  It's been way too long.  Hopefully you're like all my other old friends and we can just pick up where we left off or maybe catch up real quick over a drink. 

Wine?  Yes, red, please, thanks.

I don't think I need to go over all that's happened since I was last here, right?  Maybe I'll just recall a few things as we catch up and I won't bore you too much with some of the stupid things that most all of it has been on some kind of social media outlet.  I'm going to rely on you to help me through this next phase in my life.  I hope you're up for it and can help me work out some of the challenges along the way, too.

I know I have a few old friends who are just like this....they don't mind that we don't connect every day....week....month....year?  They know I'm thinking about them even if we're not really picking up the phone to even send a text message.  That's the part about having those kinds of friends that make it worth having those kinds of friends. 

If you're up for it, lets get started.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What's new?

2015 is winding down and I've not been here for 3 years!   WOW!  Ok, so here's a brief catch up.

2012 ended we were still living in London but that was changing.  My position with Travelfusion became a bit of a farce mostly because I my ideas of what needed to be done there weren't what was in the mind of my boss, who was never there to tell me what was expected.  I guess they didn't see that I wasn't clairvoyant on my CV.  Also, Disney came calling for Kevin to come work for the Mouse in Burbank.  The relocation package was too incredible to pass up so we called it quits in London.  We hung around for another month while we had time but it was time to focus on getting us and the doggies and our things back to Los Angeles. 

We got back to LA in early February 2013, Kevin went right to work.  I played with the dogs in the apartment that Disney provided while we waited for the renters to pack up and move out.  Once we got them out we still had another few weeks before our container on the boat came so we were cleaning up after the renter's cleaning crew and sleeping on an air mattress.  Didn't matter, cause we were home!

I started looking for work.  I had every opportunity to reinvent myself in London and no matter how many places I applied, even Starbucks, they weren't interested.  So I reverted to my techie background again and found work there.  This time, back home with much more courage and confidence I did make the move.  I restructured my work history to reflect the direction I wanted to go and made it happen.

Being 'new' in a sense, meaning I just returned from a foreign land where their methods for seeking employment are slightly different than the US, gave me and my resume a bit more interest than those who only had domestic work experience.  I used that to my advantage!  The recruiters came in droves!  I knew I'd be working as a contractor/temp for a while and that was ok on every level. 

2013, 1st I went to Farmers Insurance where I was able to dazzle them with my capacity to multitask and visit a fab shopping mall right next door every day for lunch.  One of the perm employees, who eventually left there, asked me if I'd be interested in staying.  I responded that they couldn't afford me.  She giggled and knew that I meant everyone here is under paid. 

2014, Next up was Wells Fargo Capital Finance.  I waltzed in for the interview and blew everyone else out of the water.  Faking how much information I knew was easy!  Well, ok, so maybe I DO know SOME things about technology and how to manage people.  After all, I learned by watching how not to do it during my last few years at Directv.  That's right Sandi Phillips, you suck as a manager but thanks for the tips!  Sadly as much as I really liked WFCF and especially the commute the project came to an end and not by my fault or lack of experience.  The project switched course and the funding was cut.  It's fine, I won't miss my sleeping office mate.

2015, Now I'm commuting much further than I had expected.  The location is Burbank, 45 minutes in the morning and an hour in the evening.  But it's ok.  I like it here, the people and the project seem to be the best yet and I've only been here for 3 weeks. 

What I did during the process of working now on my 3rd contract role is to increase my hourly rate each time!  *phew!*  It's not appropriate to openly discuss how much money we make but I'll say this.  I'm finally back up to the pay level I was at when I left Directv in 2009.  Things are looking up!

Kevin is making head way with the Mouse.  Their devotion to standards set a hundred years ago keeps even the best people in the industry from jumping to the top of the totem pole.  But he's making it work.

We've traveled a bit.  NYC, Memphis, Peru, Italy to name a few. 

Doggies are doing well, older and a little slower but they're good. 

We've lost a few family members since we've been back.  My oldest nephew, Kevin's Dad, Stepmother and Step dad and Uncle.  These things happen as you get older. 

We've made some new friends and some improvements to our house that we love so much.  I'm glad we were smart enough to keep it when we left for London.

London.....that is a whole different blog posting to come.

Ok, so I need to be better and I'll give the effort to post again.  I've got so much to post!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

The day is finally here! All the prep work to get everything together and here's where you spend hours in the kitchen to bring it all together for that magical moment when everyone is stealing small pieces of carvings from the turkey, licking the spoon from the dressing or potato salad and drooling over the home-made pumpkin or apple or both pies. But not here....not in London. 

The Brits know about this holiday, they've had to understand that it's because of their ancestors wanting a better life than what they had in dreary, soggy England to live in the New World brought them over and voilĂ , Thanksgiving and Black Friday were born! 

Our 1st Thanksgiving here was such a big disappointment. We heard that an 'American' BBQ was offering a Thanksgiving meal, turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce..the works! So a bunch of us, 10 I think, went there and was eager to see the spread. They served the table on slabs of wood and needless to say it was such a let down. The saddest moment was seeing Kevin's reaction to their pumpkin pie which turned out to be sweet potato-ish pie. Don't try to fool a southern with this, I saw through their rouse. 

The 2nd Thanksgiving was when we went to another 'American' Diner type restaurant as they too had advertised out front they were serving a Thanksgiving Feast! We walked in and thought we'd smell the bird in the oven and well, no. The menu card read: Turkey Burger served with a side of Sweet Potato Fries and that's it. No cranberry dressing, not even dipping sauce. 

However this past year we figured enough is enough. Our dear friend, Mark put his foot down and prepared a roast turkey and well, all the fixings any American Mom would have been proud to put on their table. We celebrated on the Saturday after as the Brits don't have the day off....why not? No matter. We sufficiently stuffed ourselves beyond belief because that is exactly what you do on Thanksgiving. I won't mention how many bottles of wine and other adult beverages we had too. After all, we're not driving! I haven't owned a car for 3 years! No need to have one here unless you're going to Costco or Ikea, but that's a different posting.

This year the 3 of us, Mark, me and Kevin are going to friends of Kevin's from work on Saturday. It's been said this is a Pot Luck Party and 20 people may show up. Could be interesting blog post. 

So with that I want to say that I'm thankful to have this opportunity to be able to write a post from London. I'm thankful to have finally landed a job here. I'm thankful for the new people I've met in this new job. I'm thankful for having the chance to do something completely different than what I've done in the past. I'm thankful to be healthy and that my little family here is as well. I'm thankful that I got to spend time with my nephews and the friends and family I have back in the US even if it was during a sad time. I'm thankful for having the ability to say I was on the right side of history with our recent presidential elections. I'm continuously happy for having met Kevin 16 years ago. 

 Now if I could figure out how to catch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.....

Saturday, November 03, 2012

2 more stamps, almost 3!

I'm falling behind here.  We went to Croatia and I haven't told you about it!



We or rather I wanted to check out something different.  Something that wasn't exactly with a European feel,  something that might get us a little out of the comfort zone.  I said "Lets go to Dubrovnik" and well, we did.  We had heard and read a bunch about this place because of their civil war and all the horrible killings that went on in the 1990's and since it's just out side of the Euro Zone we thought it would give us a chance to experience a different culture as we have with Hungary.

Dubrovnik is amazing!  They've cleaned up and polished up the little walled city and the tourist have found out just how easy it is to get there by plane and especially by cruise ships.  The friendly people there are certainly understanding of what tourist have brought to their area as it's becoming harder to find the scars of war.  However, once you go just a couple miles outside of the walled city you are reminded about it.

We spent 2 days in Dubrovnik walking around, up and down the city walls, to the fort just outside the walls and up to the top of a mountain overlooking the town.  The vistas are amazing, but then it's facing the beautiful Adriatic Sea and when the sun is shining it's blue green waters are warm and inviting!

We spent 1 day on a wine tasting tour with 8 Swedes who really know how to enjoy the finer things in life.  They were such fun!  We've added a few of them to our Facebook friends.  As for the wine, well, its not very well known or at least you can't buy it outside of the area unless it's brought out by specialist.  But it won't be long, this place will rival California and Italy at some point.

We rented a car to drive out to Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina, this place really has scars and is taking a while to recover from the war.  It's a great drive, you actually cross the border twice because Bosnia has cut into Croatia's coastal access.  When you're in the very tourist Old Town in Mostar you'll see how they're trying to have you part with your money, and they'll take what ever kind you want to give them.  But it is charming and the bridge is really very cool to walk over.  The best views are from the top of a minaret of the mosque in the Old Town.  It's worth the price and worth the climb, just be sure you're not afraid of heights.

The next day we drove to Kotor, Montenegro.  This is where it gets interesting.  We had to cross the border and yes, we got stamps on our passports!  But the interesting part was that right before the border Croatia decided to redo the road.  The night before it rained really hard and the dirt road was kinda washed out for nearly 2 miles.  We had expected a little more rain later and were kind of worried that there wouldn't be a road for us to get back to Dubrovnik.  The drive is basically around a fjord and it's stunning!  We stopped off to take a few shots and made it to Persat, this is a sleepy little town that has probably loads of tourist during the high summer season but we had it all to ourselves.  Kotor is really fascinating.  The historic fort goes up the side of the mountain but we weren't brave enough to make the 2 hour climb up the steep stairs.  We just looked at it from the pizza restaurant and gladly sipped our class of wine.

Yes, 2 more stamps.  We might have gotten one from Bosnia & Herzegovina but the rude-ish border guard in Bosnia wasn't someone we'd want to cross.

Next up, Istanbul!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Curry anyone?

I often watch films where you're taken to some exotic location, Africa, The Amazon, Australia, India, the list is long with me.  This year The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel did that.  I had seen the trailer online for this and knew it was something I had to see.  Besides the amazing collection of cast, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie the location is the true star in my book, India.  Thomas Newman scored the film and, as always, ads a beautiful layer of sound over the stunning location.

Everything I expected from the visual aspect of India is shown here.  The colors and the rawness, the people, the throngs of people.  Anyone who's been there has said the same thing over and over, and it's repeated in the film, 'it is an assault on the senses'.  Sight and sound and of course smell.

Since living here in London we've been able to get some pretty amazing Curry based Indian foods.  The blend of spices and even the color of their food is fantastic!  I could list a bunch of adjectives but basically it's damn good!

We're spoiled I guess, we can have Indian any time we want.  Heck, we've even enjoyed the ready meals from Tesco and Sainsbury as they're very tasty with less wait time due to slow table service.

We have Brick Lane here, or Little Bangladesh if you like.  The place smells amazing!  You can't walk 2 feet without smelling curry.

This is something I want to experience at the source...I want to enjoy, and hopefully not regret, Indian street food IN India.  I want to walk through a market street and see all the beautiful colors from the clothing and the spices.  I could probably even learn how to deal with the offensive smells.

Who's with me?!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Visa Lock Down!

One of the strangest things, and there are plenty of strangest things here in the UK is that in order to live here you need to have the approval of the British Government to stay longer than 90 days.  We went through the initial process back in the summer of 2009.  The process is a bunch of paperwork and then you have to go to some government office where they do electronic finger prints and retina scans of your eyes and take yet another picture of you.  They then have you mail off all the paper work and a check for $450, which is refunded by Kevin's company, to the British Embassy near by along with your passport and have to wait 4 to 6 weeks before you get anything back.  Typically you get back your passport and it's not got a sticker on one of the pages which is your Visa saying "We approve of you".  This time we are here, in the UK and the hoops are just as boring or interesting either way you look at it.  Lots of paper work to go through and then you take a picture of yourself, we went to Snappy Snaps.  But this time Kevin's company hires an attorney to deal with the rest and the company pays the fee, meaning we don't write a check.

We mailed off our thick ass package the week after I got back from the US in mid July and well, now we're on what every expat here calls "Visa Lock Down".  This means we can't leave the country without special approval from the US and/or British Governments.  We're pretty much grounded and this couldn't be better for Kevin.

So we had to do things here....like attend the London 2012 Olympics. 
Awful, huh?
We didn't apply for tickets in the initial lottery but managed to buy a set for 1 event.  We ended up with 3 events!  Our great friend, Mark, managed to get tickets for a Beach Volleyball set, we got to see 4 matches and one was with an American men's team.

 The next event was Men's Diving, our friend, Matthew, from home bought tickets but didn't get enough in their lottery bid to make it worth the trip here so we bought them from him.  The best part was being in the Olympic Park.