Thursday, November 30, 2023

Merlot: Our New Car

Here's another for-the-record post, lest we forget (and before November flies off the calendar)!

It was an unexpected decision, to be honest.  Astrid had just completed a major maintenance on our 2013 Škoda Citigo on September 19, including a new battery and brakes, making us feel like the car was good to go for at least a couple more years...until out of the blue, a couple of days later, I asked her if she thought this might be a good time to trade it in on a new car.  Surprisingly, she had been thinking the same thing the day before, without telling me.

So, there you have it.  Both of us were on the same page and our guy, Pedro, said that at 80K km, we were at the sweet-spot for selling it.  

BUT, Škoda stopped making the Citigo after 2019!  Bummer.  We really liked the car and didn't fancy anything else...until Pedro said that the VW UP! car is almost exactly the same car, which we might be interested in?

Fast forward to quick decisions and Astrid LOVING the merlot-red he showed her, followed by us visiting him to make the deal the week before we left for America and picking it up 2 days after we returned, on November 10.  

The red car on the dealership floor the day we made the deal was the car we bought...
with only 17 km on the odometer.  It's a 2023 car and the last year VW is making this model.
European car makers are now gearing up for their electric cars.

This is the 3rd car Pedro has sold us
and, each time, he has presented it to us like this.

It really WAS like opening a present!  How fun.
And until we decide otherwise, we're calling her Merlot.

The reason why I say this is for the record is because we really DO forget...until we look at the past posts and remember:  "Ahhh, yes, THAT'S what we did and THAT'S how it happened."

I arrived here in the Netherlands on December 5, 2009.  We got married on February 5, 2010, and bought our first car, a 2010 Daihatsu Cuore, from Pedro on March 5, a month later:

We called her Granny Towanda
because of Granny-Smith green apples and Fried Green Tomatoes.

Fast forward 4 years to January 2014 when, at 48K km, we decided to trade her in for our second car.
No longer cost-effective, Daihatsu had stopped making the Cuore.
So Pedro was now selling Škodas and sold us a 2013 demo that had 6,500 km on it.
Her official color was silverleaf but quickly became our Sand Dollar, 
never a true silver, especially when parked next to silver cars.

There you have it, again.  Our guess is that this will be our last car before we're forced to go electric.  Right now Europe is way behind America in infra-structure readiness, so that could easily be several years from now.  Our Škoda Citigo lasted us 10 years, so we expect nothing less from our VW UP!  

Of course, maybe by then neither one of us will be driving anything anymore!  HA!  (We really aren't getting any younger.)

BTW, 16 years ago today I met Astrid in real life for the first time.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Our Atlanta Trip 2023

Just like clockwork, it's that time of the year again, when we look back on our annual reunion with my kids in the Atlanta area, which just happened October 19-November 7.

We've settled into a 3-part routine, now that son Mark has his own house:  Amy's house, the cabin, and Mark's house.  It works like a charm, 3 years in a row thus far.

1.  Amy's House in Roswell, GA, October 19-26 (Thursday-Thursday):

It was a 24-hour travel day for Astrid and me on Thursday, arriving late at Amy's,
which, for the record, will change going forward (says she who is too old for this sh**).
So, Friday was our day to settle in before Angie joined us for Mexican that evening.
Angie has been Amy's BFF for years and finally got to meet Astrid.

[credit:  Astrid]
Astrid, btw, had a chance to walk the neighborhood that day while I went through mail, etc.

Saturday was game day (MICHIGAN football), so Amy helped get me in the mood.  HA!
We hadn't even had a sip of her Bloody Marys before something set me off laughing.
It was probably the celery "trees."  😁

The good news is that son Mark joined us at Amy's for a 'wings" spread before the evening game...
and also that MICHIGAN blew out the game against rival MICHIGAN STATE, 49-0.
For all the times I've sat through nail-biters, it felt good to finally just relax.

I neglected to mention that Amy treated us to brunch that Saturday morning
at her favorite Kona Grill, continuing a tradition she started with us last year.

Also, because Mark was there, this was when I gave both kids my new book, Hart Whispers.

Sunday was grocery shopping, playing games with Amy, and watching an evening movie.
At some point Astrid and I also took walks in the lovely neighborhood.

Monday morning we took a walk at the park along the nearby Chattahoochee River,
a tradition started 2 years ago, and a favorite of ours.

This was Amy's "take" on us.

That evening she treated us to one of her favorite meals:  clam linguine.
It was a first for me and was delicious!

Tuesday's big event was eating lunch at J Alexander's where g'son Nicholas works in the kitchen.
It was a proud moment for Mom and G'ma to watch him work,
as well as enjoying him for a few minutes while on break,
Nicholas is now 23.

[credit:  Astrid]
Another walk from Astrid outside the neighborhood on Wednesday...

as well as restringing the lights on Amy's Japanese Maple tree in her terrace.
She had done this once 2 years ago, lasting 6 months before the squirrels chewed them off.
This year Amy has a mint spray to apply twice weekly to hopefully solve the problem!
I guess we'll find out next year...but talk about a labor of love, twice.

2.  The Cabin in the North Georgia Mountains, October 26-30 (Thursday-Monday):

What we all love about this middle time is that it's neutral ground where we can all live together for 5 days in the same house, forgetting the outside world and just having fun.  "Eat, drink and be merry" comes to mind.

[photo credit:  Astrid]
First of all, it was a new cabin for us this year, in one of the valleys.
We won't choose it again because we all decided we love the huge windows of the other cabins better,
allowing us to overlook the mountains surrounding us.  But for this time, it was was lovely and cozy.

It's hard to say what's most important to us in those 5 days, but my guess is it's the food,
around which we have several hours total at the same table, enjoying each other!
Amy cooks breakfast and dinner, the boys clear the table and dishwasher,
and Astrid and I do the dishes...every year.

Amy's shrimp boil on the porch was the winner this year, added to the "tradition" list.
And then all the rest:  jigsaw puzzle, board/card games, football and movies.

Because the weather was unseasonably warm (in the 70s F each day),
we spent most of our daytime on the covered porch, playing games.
Oh, and Astrid and I learned Cribbage this year, finally.

Astrid and I were the main ones who did the puzzle this year,
on the new (movable!) puzzle case Amy found for us to use each year!

For some strange reason, Astrid and I are almost always the only ones who take walks!
Because we were in the valley, we had incredible options for walks in the forest.
Just what the doctor ordered for us both!

[credit:  Astrid]
But I must say, Astrid does the most walking, beating even me!

[photo credit:  Astrid]
Once Monday comes, it's time to pack up and drive down the mountain back home,
eating a late breakfast around 10:30 at Waffle House.

You can see why this "Middle Time" is our heaven on earth, every year.

3.  Mark's House in Flowery Branch, GA, October 30-November 7 (Monday-Tuesday):

From Waffle House we said our good-byes to Amy and Nicholas and headed with Mark to his home for the duration.

At Mark's, it's MOVIES in his downstairs theater on his full-wall screen.  OMG.
The new Avatar movie was what we had especially been waiting to see (and did not disappoint).

But he's also the food genius when it comes to his pellet grill...another "hobby."
It was my first time to ever eat meatloaf cooked on a grill.

And speaking of the grill, he made another brisket for Dungeons & Dragons night
with one of his 4 campaign teams...another tradition we love keeping, making a potluck out of it,
and still getting our education about that game, while we listen in the background!

Sometimes the good eating was while we were out-n-about at lunch time,
with Mark's special "take" on us, which made us happy.
(BTW, this was the year Astrid and I both bought clothes we needed...a first for us!)

Even Piper, the cat, seems to enjoy the life we live at Mark's.  

More walks for Astrid and me in the neighborhood on beautiful, warm days...

[credit:  Astrid]
and on one unexpected very-frosty morning for Astrid.

[credit:  Astrid]
Astrid wins, hands down, the walking challenge, no matter where we are.
I'm proud of her and am inspired by her.

And then, when all good things come to an end, we have our "last supper,"
with Amy and Nicholas joining us for Japanese hibachi...another tradition.
It's when we all say good-bye to each other until next year.

This trip is the biggest peg on which our year hangs and will continue as long as we're able.
We're getting smarter each year with how we travel, flying direct, for one thing,
using smaller suitcases and taking fewer clothes with us.

And, as Astrid says, we're old enough to finally start being "selfish" about our choices.
I hope that makes sense to you because it sure makes sense to us!

Merlot: Our New Car

  Here's another for-the-record post, lest we forget (and before November flies off the calendar)! It was an unexpected decision, to be ...