If there’s one thing the US Picks can be counted on to do during vacation, it’s to take a narrated bus tour of a big city.  Chris and I did the Boston tour and learned, and saw, a lot more than we would have done on our own.  Our tour guide was a little too heavy on Patriots-related commentary but that was okay.

After the tour we visited the Boston Public Library, which was…unusual.  There were perhaps 100 people inside, all apparently tourists, wandering around taking photos of the artistic interior of the building.  We saw only two rooms with any books in them, and there were not a lot of books.  Not a lot of people in those rooms, either.  Very odd.  Perhaps this one is just a showplace now, and the real library, with the books, is housed in another building?

Got a bit of premium shopping done at Lilly Pulitzer and Fluevog.  This was the first time I’d visited a Fluevog store since Diane came to Seattle in the fall of 2016!  Chris was very generous in the matter of Fluevogs 🙂  Since we had absolutely no extra space in the luggage, let alone for a pair of shoes and a pair of boots, we had them shipped.  They’ll get here Monday.  I’ll post some pics.  At Lilly I got some things in their big After-Party Sale.  The prices there were so good that I’ve decided to only shop at Lilly when they are having one of these sales.  No point in paying their regular prices, and no point in hanging around other retailers waiting for things to go on sale.  But their things are lively and cheerful and they suit me very well.  They’ll also look great in gloomy Seattle winters.

We stayed at the Fairmont; this was our Big Hurrah hotel after staying in the Airstream camper in Bar Harbor, a small Adirondack-style cabin in the woods in Rockport, and Best Westerns in Portland and Portsmouth.  The Fairmont was our treat time.  The restaurant got only middling reviews, but we loved it so much we had dinner there all three nights, and snacky lunch on one of the days, also!

But…another thing the US Picks can be counted on to do is to cut the vacation short.  We have done this so often that it’s kind of a family tradition now!  Chris had been thinking about it because he felt everything after Boston would be anticlimactic; I had been thinking about it because the hotel beds had been bothering my back and shoulders (even at the Fairmont).  We finally broached the topic with each other and decided to fly home on the day we were scheduled to leave Boston, instead of continuing on down the coast.  The hassles we had trying to change the flight – well, don’t get me started.  But we got safely home, and have been loafing around with the cats and Alex all day, doing laundry and sleeping in a proper, supportive bed.

The parts of the planned trip that we missed were a visit to the Pinehills community in Plymouth, MA (a place we’d talked about for retirement); a visit to the Brahmin handbags outlet in Fairhaven, MA; then our next hotel in Mystic, CT.  We would have been in Mystic for 2 nights, followed by a night in New Haven, and then headed to JFK for departure the following day.  But we loved the coastal towns of Maine so much that the idea of a moving to a place like the Pinehills – which is a lot like the developments in Northern VA – didn’t fill us with excitement.  The Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus (known as EEE) had an outbreak in southern Massachusetts a few weeks ago, and we didn’t want to risk it.  And Connecticut is very expensive.  All sorts of reasons why it didn’t seem worth bothering with the second leg of the vacation.

So here we are, happy, educated, and back on the diets.  Pfft.

This is in Portsmouth, NH.  We didn’t eat at this restaurant, but I was really taken with the color play in the live plants growing on trellises.  I’ve since retouched the photo to get the subtle overcast-day look.  My iPhone has a tendency to brighten things up, and I have to mess with the pics afterwards to get them to look like real life.


A Few Days Later

Lobster, blueberries, lobster, blueberries, lobster…it’s tough to find a salad around here!  We have had surf & turf, lobster mac & cheese, and lobster roll, and blueberry muffins, blueberry wine, blueberry beer (!), fresh blueberries, blueberry cobbler, and blueberry pie!  Maine potatoes are apparently fairly famous also, but the only potato thing we tried was french fries.  We saw chocolate-covered potato chips (ugh) but didn’t eat any.

Tonight we’re in York, in an inland Best Western, because Amex didn’t show me any of the beautiful coastal inns when I booked the trip.  We’re having some down time; this was not a location we had wanted to consider, but it was a good stopover point between Portland and Boston, so we booked it.  Did some laundry, picked up some groceries.  Found a restaurant with salads 🙂  Tomorrow we’ll be driving to Portsmouth, NH, to spend some sightseeing time.

Last night we took the Maine Brew Bus tour.  The bus takes participants to two breweries and a distillery in Portland.  I didn’t drink much (and you probably all remember how badly spirits affect me), but Chris had a ball.  I enjoyed it from the educational aspect, learning about the breweries and the Portland area, and of course it was great to have someone else doing the driving for a while.

We’re here until Sunday morning, when we head off to Boston.  This is the Nubble Lighthouse (technically called the Cape Neddick Light).  It was cut off by the tide so this was as close as we could get.nubble


Well, here we are a few days into our Maine vacation and are loving it.  Both Chris and I feel remarkably relaxed, and we’ve found countless little gems to investigate.  We started out in Bar Harbor and liked it so much that we started looking at real estate for retirement, but then went further down the coast and found other areas we liked even more.  Starting at the northernmost one, we liked Lincolnville Beach, but when we saw Camden we exed Lincolnville Beach off the list.  Camden is beautiful and we’ve pretty much decided that this will be our destination, when the retirement time rolls around.  We did a couple drive-by examinations of interesting real estate, but of course we’re not ready to buy yet.

Yesterday we had a walking “foodie tour” of Rockland.  This was fun – we sampled a lobster roll, shopped at a local Maine-made market, sampled mead and specialty olive oils/balsamic vinegars, and ended up at a chocolate factory!  Lots of fun.  The mead guy and especially the oil/vinegar guy were both great to listen to, and very informative about their products.  Afterwards we found a yarn store (big surprise) and I got enough Maine-produced shetland-style yarn to do an intarsia project I’ve had on the radar for about 20 years!  Will cast on when we get back home.

Tonight we’re going on a brewpub tour of Portland!

Some Thoughts about Kaliyana

Kaliyana is a Canadian clothing company with beautiful lagenlook designs. They have some questionable attitudes, though, and my experience with the clothing has not been great. Here are my thoughts after a few 2018 purchases.

Items: most of their items are made of all-natural fabrics, which is good. All the styles are unusual, which is also good.

Pricing: their prices are very high, but with a good exchange rate and their frequent offers of gift cards with purchase, these buys seemed worth it to me. It is getting harder to find natural fabrics around here anyway.

Returns: Kaliyana clearly states that they do not accept returns because it would “raise their prices” to cover their hassles. This seems like a very dubious argument, especially because they only have one store (in Ottawa), and therefore anyone ordering online is taking a risk on ordering without trying the clothing on. This particular policy is the reason I will no longer shop there; after examining, trying on, and in some cases wearing, my new purchases, I’m dissatisfied with enough of them that I will no longer take the risk. Maybe if I ever go to Ottawa, I’ll stop in the store, but won’t order online.

Customer Service: they are all awesome, and when I emailed to change an order before its shipment, everyone I dealt with was pleasant and professional, and accommodated my requests.

Shipping: If you are spending less than $469, shipping to the US is $69 (Canadian dollars). If you go over that threshold, the shipping is only $29. So yes, this is always an incentive to buy more. However, they are rigidly inflexible on this. The first thing I ever wanted to buy was a $99 necklace – just a fun pendant on a cord – and I asked whether they could ship it for the lower fee, since it was a small item and lightweight, and they said no, it would cost $69 more to ship. So I didn’t order, that time.

Spending gift cards: Think about that shipping threshold again. If your cart totals $500 and you use a $100 gift card, that brings you back down below the threshold, and you’re stuck spending $69 to ship again – or else filling your cart so that after the gift card your order is still over $469. Dangerous!

Now, as to the clothing itself. I got a wide variety of things: skirts, dresses, tops, pants. Let’s talk about color first.

Ever since Mom pointed their website out to me in 2013, I’d been loving the “lime Carnaby” color shown on their Fab Coat. When I decided it was time to take the plunge and order, I went for three items in lime Carnaby, but not that coat. I got a dress, a pair of pants, and a skirt.

Well, ladies and gentlemen, I cannot describe this color as “lime” no matter how you slice it. It is a grungy yellowy-green, a bruised pear, greenish mustard kind of color. Diane calls it “acid green” but to me, “acid green” is more clean and vibrant, almost a neon. I have listed these on ebay – and then decided I’ll never make back what I spent, so I should keep them – delisted – listed again. At the moment they are delisted. But I hate this color and will probably not wear them.

All the other colors were as described, although it’s hard to mess up navy, teal, and black.

Pants: I have now 5 pairs of pants from them (including the aforementioned). All of these pants are insanely high-waisted. I’m 5’6”; when I wear the elastic waistband at my natural waist, the crotch seam is below mid-thigh! I’m wearing a pair of them now, and every time I get up to walk around I feel like MC Hammer. If I pull the waistband up to my bra band, the rest of the fit is fine, but it makes me feel like an old man! Plus the pants then become crops, which is okay, but not what I was looking for.

One pair of these is their Button-Cuff Palazzo pants. This pair happens to be crazy-long on me, but because they have cuff detailing, they’d be difficult to alter. Inseam length, or pant length, is not listed on their website for a guideline.

Dresses: here is a general lagenlook thing that I’d never realized, mostly because almost all lagenlook designers show their tops on flat-chested models. A stiffish fabric (like the all-cotton Carnaby, described below) does not flow and drape well around the body. Instead, it slopes down the tops of the breasts, and then continues sloping outward until the hem. This means that when wearing it, I look like the Liberty Bell! (Although in this case, a greeny-mustard Liberty Bell.) Not a flattering look. The other dresses I got are all either jersey or a lightweight weave, and they’re all fine and fun.

“Roma” fabric: this is a rough, scratchy, coarse linen weave. I have 2 pairs of pants and a top in this fabric, plus a kimono jacket from 2016, and they are all unpleasant to feel against the skin. One of these is the Button-Cuff Palazzos mentioned above, so they are bad for me on several counts.

“Carnaby” fabric: it’s a nice feeling. It’s a lightweight cotton weave. Unfortunately in the white, it’s also fairly sheer. I’ll have to get a white tank to go under my white tops.

All of the skirts are fine; the two cotton shirt-jackets I got are fine.

Tops: this is a weird thing I have never noticed with any other brand of tops, ever. Last year I bought the Mykonos top (which in the interim I donated to a women’s shelter). I got the largest size. Instead of flaring out over the breasts (like the dresses do), this shirt, in Carnaby, got sort of pushed upwards towards my throat, so that instead of a nice v-neck top, I had a crop top that was choking me – which is why I got rid of it. As if they widened the top to create larger sizes, but did not lengthen it at all. I have also now noticed this choking effect with the new navy Bubble Tunic. This is in Carnaby and has a great look on the flat-chested model, but not on me.

I can’t think of anything else to write about this experience, except that after weeding out all these unsatisfactory items, I’m still left with a respectable haul – but I really, REALLY wish I could return all the unsuitable stuff (nine items!), even though postage to Canada would be a little steep.  So, for me, Kaliyana is off the list.

Their stuff looks great with Fluevogs, though 🙂




Observations on Cruises

Yes, I just now remembered I’d promised you this post.

Well, since it was our first cruise, we really had no idea what to expect.  Because we purchased the tickets so close to the date, we were able to get a room in The Haven (the upper-deck poncy areas with butler and concierge service) for a reasonable price.  The butler idea worried me before we even got on board.  More on that below.

There were a couple of little things, little niggles, not really problems.  On a ship called the Norwegian Pearl (or Norwegian anything), you’d expect a lot of the crew to be Scandinavian, right?  But no.  Most of the crew we encountered was Asian or Indonesian.  Our butler had such a thick accent that most of the time we couldn’t even understand what he was saying!  But in the end we all did manage to communicate when needed.

What bothered me most about the butler is that he would randomly stop by and ring the doorbell, either to see if we needed anything, or to give us some information about some activity that would be happening later.  We’d be leisurely enjoying the view from the balcony, and then the doorbell would ring; I would hop up to open the door, and the butler would push past me into the main living area so he could speak to Chris.  Nine times out of ten this conversation could have taken place at the door, without the butler entering, but he always came right into the room as soon as I opened the door!  Once or twice I tried to block his passage but he just made some foreign-word remark (that I didn’t understand) with a smile and pushed me aside.  So in that respect I was extremely uncomfortable with this high-level cabin.

Water:  supposedly the tap water on the ship is no good for drinking; we had to purchase bottled water if we wanted to drink water in the room.  This was an annoyance, especially since we were in the high-profile room.  And of course it was more expensive than at Safeway or similar.

Elevators:  totally crowded all the time.  Our deck was only accessible by putting our keycard into a slot in the elevator and then pushing the button for 14, and a lot of times we really had to struggle to get near the button panel to do this.  And then of course there was commentary from the other elevator people:  “I didn’t even know there WAS a 14th floor!” and similar.  There were a lot of wheelchair patrons on this ship, and we almost always had a wheelchair in the elevator also.  We ended up taking the steps a lot, except when we came back to the ship and embarked on deck 4…I was not about to walk up 10 flights after roaming around town all day!

Spruce beers in Skagway.

We are not big drinkers anymore, but we’d paid for the unlimited drinks package just because we thought it would be worth it.  It wasn’t.  Chris and I kept forcing ourselves to order beer and wine just because we knew we had the drinks package.  So there’s that.  Next time we won’t bother with it.

Oh, internet.  Alex and Chris are pretty addicted to it, and even I am falling into that trap sometimes.  We got one “250 minutes free” package with the booking, and had earmarked that for me, and then we purchased the “unlimited internet” package for the boys.  It took us nearly 24 hours to sort it all out, but ultimately we did.

The food was fine, the drinks were fine, the staff was at least all pleasant.  Views were excellent, no matter where on the ship we were.

I found it frustrating that the Norwegian website was lacking in a lot of information.  It seemed that they could have a webpage about this particular cruise, indicating the times restaurants were open, or what activities were taking place at what time, and things like that – but we only got this information on a printed daily newsletter.  Chris pointed out that if you are charging people for internet access, it’s hardly fair to put the information on the internet for them to hunt down!  Which makes sense.  But there were screens all over the place in the common areas, directing people to various locales, and showing cutaway views of the ship to indicate which places were on which deck…etc.  So we got through it, but I still feel the Norwegian site is lacking.  They have a community Q&A page for each ship and I posted a lot of pre-travel questions there, which were answered by people who had traveled before on this ship.  But they were all common sense questions (like, do you need to have your TSA liquids in a clear pouch and accessible before boarding?  A:  No, they can be packed in your check-bag).  There should be some page with all this kind of info for people who have never cruised before and don’t know the protocols.

So, because we liked the cruise, but because some of the Norwegian stuff made us uncomfortable, we will be investigating other cruise lines for our next sea adventure.  Got a recommendation?  Please let me know!


Victoria and The End

I’m so out of practice with this blog I keep forgetting there’s more to tell you!

On our last full day, we sailed to Victoria, BC.  We’ve been there before, and like it.  The ship would only be in port for a few hours, so we decided on a 1-hour horse-drawn trolley tour that left as soon as possible, so we could safely come back and bunk down (the ship docked at 6pm, tour started at 6:30).

As we approached Victoria that evening.  Both the boys referred to this as a computer game landscape!

I have no pictures for you from the tour.  Chris took a few, but he was seated in the fourth row of seats (behind me and Alex) and so the picture is mostly rows of people in front of us, and horse butts.  The tour was informative, but chilly since it was taking place in the evening.  Afterwards we did indeed hasten back to the ship.

The ship as we approached it that night in Victoria.

We did drive past a home with a For Sale sign on it, so Chris snapped a pic of the sign information.  (I looked it up when we got back to the ship.  Small townhouse.  $2 million.)

For the rest of the evening, we organized things, packed, had our last onboard meal, and wandered around out on the deck for an hour or so, preparing to end this great adventure.

Sunday morning the ship docked in Seattle around 7:30 and we departed (in the priority disembarkation group, of course).  Our shuttle was waiting right outside the terminal building, and we were whisked home to the familiar comforts and the very anxious cats.

Overall, we really did love the experience, and are already investigating other destinations for 2019!