Overwatch

Overwatch — that’s what we used to call the team which had the best vantage point and sufficient power to keep an eye on anyone operating at a lower level. That’s the team who never tired, you could always count on, had the most creativity, communication skills and knew when to act and when not to.

Here at Casa da Sonho, we currently have a great overwatch team commanded by a great friend and neighbor… and her team:)

Bumper Junior and Easy E
Bumper Junior and Easy E stand Overwatch
Donkeys on nearby Captain's Mountain overlooking Casa da Sonhos
Donkeys on nearby Captain’s Mountain¬† (Pico do Capitao) overlooking Casa da Sonhos

“Happy wife, Happy life…” so the saying goes. Happy wife has more flowers around the house…

Ladies cleaning up after planting new flower bed.
The warden and her friend clean up after we put in a flower bed lining the walkway between our front door and the front gate at Casa Da Sonhos. So when you come visit, you’ll be greeted by beauty, warmth, and love.

Thank goodness, we have more flowers, a new flower bed on each side of the front walkway, and a more difficult lawn mowing job…do you detect just a little sarcasm?

Things here on the island run slow. Very slow. Sofia planned the flower beds last January, we ordered the cement borders from mainland, they arrived in August, and we planted them yesterday. Our wonderful neighbor helped, and we spent most of the day working on flower beds in our yard, in the street in front of our house (a turn-around overlooking the bay and a popular place for tourists) and in Christina’s yard.

One stereotype for retirees is “working in the garden.” I wasn’t expecting that to be part of my retirement. Hmmmmm, expectations and life don’t always balance out, right? But…. Happy wife, Happy life:)

Traditions at Casa da Sonhos

Like our family, Casa da Sonhos is a mix of traditions from the US and Portugal. Many of the homes here, some dating back hundreds of years, boast hand-painted tiles by the door with the name of the family living there. Our hand-painted tile (made by one of the oldest tile painters in Praia da Vitoria) was embedded into the wall by an excellent craftsman and friend, Domingos;¬† it’s literally the last thing we needed to complete construction on Casa Da Sonhos (still have things to add, but home construction is complete now!)

Another tradition is the morning coffee, hand-ground by the grinder my father used when I was born (long, long time ago:). This grinder has travelled the world and is now still grinding beans into a fresh cup of joe very morning. One of my earliest memories is this grinder sitting on the old blue kitchen cabinet which moved with my family from Ada to Iron Mountain, Mansfield, and many points in between. Now it sits in the kitchen window in Porto Martins, Azores and reminds me each time of mom and dad.

Friend Domingos putting up our traditional Azorean Tile nameplate

Sofia and Rick by new Azorean nameplate at front door
Sofia nad Rick showing of the final element of home construction, the traditional hand-painted tile nameplate embedded into the house by the front door. It identifies the residents for hundreds of years, and will also remind us of our names as we get old and forget:)

 

Coffee grinder in kitchen
My father’s coffee grinder still making our morning cup of coffee

Terceira – sharing fresh ingredients makes several families happy:)

Cows in field beyond yard, displaying a FRESH pitcher of milk.
Fresh milk from our neighbor’s cows…and Sofia made her famous Sweet Rice to lower back down to the farmer while he finished milking chores for the day:)

Neighbors and sharing are truly a way of life here. Latest example involved our neighboring field, where we’ve gotten to know the farmers, the cows, and enjoy one of the farmer’s serenading the cows with hymns while he’s milking them…rain or shine.

Today Sofia said Hi (Actually she said ‘Ola’) to the brothers and offered them some of her favorite dessert here…fresh Arroz Doce, or Sweet Rice. While I am not crazy about it, many people in her family beg her to make some for family picnics, gatherings, etc.

So she lowered a pitcher, Jose sent up fresh milk (I mean right from the cow fresh!) and she fired up the Bimby, made a batch of Arroz Doce, and lowered it down the wall to the field below where Jose, and his brother Manuel, were just taking the cows home.

Sofia handing off some Sweet Rice to the farmer who gave her the milk.
Sweet Rice or Arroz Doce is a very popular, easy to make dessert here, and can be used for bartering for many things on Terceira.
Our neighbor taking his fresh Sweet Rice out of the basket made with the fresh milk his cows provided.
A hook up, lowering fresh Sweet Rice to a happy farmer who just milked his cows and gave the warm milk to Sofia to cook the Arroz Doce in the Bimby.
After a hard day of making milk for Sweet Rice dessert, the cows head home for the night.
Heading home after a hard day making milk in the fields next door to Casa da Sonhos.

Praia Festas…Let the Good Times Roll!

Float during Praia Fest Opening 2019
One of the majestic floats during Praia Festas 2019 Opening parade

This is the beginning night of Praia Festas, when thousands of Azoreans, European, American and Canadians converge in our happy little burg. Nightly parades, concerts, restaurants from all regions, large quantities of wine, gin, caipirinhas, and other adult beverages, and friends and family for one glorious week.

We started the evening with a Mexican dinner for neighbors. Our patio with a great view, flawless weather (slight breeze, sunlight, mid-80’s temperatures) and Sofia’s fantastic enchiladas, tacos, real American sour cream (thank you Nancy and Glenn), margaritas, Sangria, and fantastic tart (obrigada Lucia). Lots of food prep and cleaning (well, nothing’s perfect) and our fabulous neighbor Cristina’s help, everyone had a great time.

For me, after the margaritas ran dry, I resorted to my favorite Gin and Tonic with one GIANT ice cube which lasted all night (thank you Bill!).

Then we all went down to the festivals, crowds, parades, music, and floats. You can imagine, parking was a nightmare, but we had a great spot reserved for us (obrigado Jose Luis) and by the time we got home, we were dragging, happy, and slept well.

My darling wife wanted to come back to her home, have fun with her family, go swimming nearly every day and have coffee with her father, and enjoy the bullfights and festivals. She designed a house to facilitate large dinner gatherings, and have a magnificent view of the ocean and the town where she grew up. There have been many trials and tribulations (and more to come I’m sure) but last night, it all worked. Missing my girls, but still have a wonderful family night on the island. Muito Obrigada!!!

Gin and Tonic
Gin and Tonic with one GIANT ice cube!
Mexican Dinner
Mexican Dinner at Casa da Sonhos:)

First guests at Casa da Sonhos

First US visitors spent a week seeing the sites
Visiting from the states for their first overseas travel, our dear friends spent a week touring our island and got home safe and sound with many many many photos. What a joy and great memories!

Like nearly everything, retiring overseas has it’s pros and cons. Visiting family and friends often means living out of a suitcase, this time for a month. We visited several old towns, family, friends, neighbors, loved ones acquaintances, and business associates. Some of the “pros” included watching a daughter graduate and meeting her friends, spending some quality time with another daughter, and getting to try several exciting new rental cars. Some of the “cons” include never enough time with everyone, never enough time to add another name to the list of visits, bad Internet connections, spending too much money, and sleeping on several different floors, beds, couches, and air mattresses.

But this trip also brought home with us a couple of friends who we’ve travelled with, ridden motorcycles with, camped with, drunk with, and worried with. Though they never had travelled outside the North American continent, they had pledged to come see our retired life on the island, and they did! We had a wonderful time showing them around, they tried new foods, made new friends, and made us very very happy. They braved days of air travel, TSA lines (Boston…arghhh) and they rode in boats, trains, and numerous cars and trucks. We laughed, cried, and can’t wait to see them again.

We’ve decided that travel back home is great, memories are great, Kodak moments are great…but the best thing by far is realizing how many friends and family are supporting you, even with an ocean or two between you and them! The only thanks they want is for us to be happy and that’s pretty invaluable!

“Visiting” homes…you can’t step in the same river twice, but seeing friends and family is great…so is coming home!

Living overseas offers a unique opportunity to return to where friends and family live, catch up on the good and bad news of everyone’s live, share news of the new life you have, and then COME HOME:) Even with mostly rain in the U.S., we made new friends, saw our daughters grow and excel, hug and kissed dozens of great folks, and then survive several flights, airports, and we’re home, enjoying a great view, a visit from some great friends, and the joys of unpacking.

Coming home always gives me a feeling of accomplishment. I succeeded in pushing myself, affecting lives (hopefully positive) and returning to a refreshed outlook on life.

Travelling is great fun; coming home is greater:)

You’re always welcome to visit…but better call first:)

Neighbor’s alarm system!

We love it when folks come over to visit…nearly every day now. We’re the last house on the left…and to get to us, you have to go past our buddy (I haven’t had the guts to pet him yet, but he does seem to not get SO upset when we come to visit).
Like most folks here, we have an alarm system, we have some cameras, we have some locks, and we have some other protective measures. Not really needed here, we always feel very safe and secure. We have walls around each house, but they’re more for neighbors to lean on and talk (vis a vis Tim Allen’s show “Tool Time”) than for security. (Generations of tradition were when courting, a guy could come lean on the wall and talk to a girl, but there better ALWAYS be a wall between you! In my youth here, I learned that hard way…there is always a watchful maternal eye on you while you’re leaning on the wall). In my day I have lived inside compounds with concertina, barbed wire, glass shards, electric fences, and armed guards. Never, ever, have I felt more secure than I do with my buddy barking when anyone moves on our street.
So always feel welcome, but as you drive down the road listening to the many barking dogs, remember we have our canine companion keeping an eye out for us. Call first…just to be on the safe side:)

More high winds…it’s beautiful!

Moon over Praia Bay Lighthouse -After a hard day of mowing the grass, battling with computers, washing the dishes...this is better than "Miller Time"
After a hard day of mowing the grass, battling with computers, washing the dishes…this is better than “Miller Time”

Sometimes I have to stop and think…or go walking along the boardwalk with my lady in the moonlight.

When anyone asked me about retirement before I came over here, I’d tell them “Not less problems, just different problems.” I was right. But since I’m a “glass is half empty” kind of guy, I never mentioned “but the rewards are better.”

Different problems. Health insurance isn’t what we thought. More bureaucracy than we ever dreamed possible. Never enough money. Different cultural expectations…traditionally you say to everyone who walks into a shop while you’re in there or they think I’m a stuck up American, little things like that.

But the rewards. Besides gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, winds whipping your wheelbarrow across the back yard (yes, darling, I’ll go move it back after I finish this post!), and the invigorating howl of winds, you get fresh fish for lunch, watch the donkeys on the mountaintop graze, go shopping with your neighbor, and a fresh ham and cheese sandwich and shot of coffee for breakfast.

So I admonish anyone thinking about retiring, moving your family, traveling to a new place…keep things in perspective but be realistic…not no problems, just different problems…and better rewards!

Fresh — the food, the weather, the air…just about everything:)

Lunch - Chuscharro, red and white wine, fresh bread, fabulous company and a great view.
Lunch – Chuscharro, red and white wine, fresh bread, fabulous company and a great view…it’s worth all of the adjustments!
Organic soup fixins .. organic goes without saying. Carrots and broccoli picked about 15 minutes ago up the road in Fonte Bastardo.
Organic soup fixins .. organic goes without saying. Carrots and broccoli picked about 15 minutes ago up the road in Fonte Bastardo.

So sometimes people ask if we miss the fast food in the states. I say “not too much.” The other day the warden leaves me to work on the computer, takes off to get some fresh food for lunch (braving high winds and horizontal rain) and comes home with the lunch above. Everything cost about 10 euros ($12) and was good for about three great meals, my favorite soup (sopa da ceunora – carrot soup). Leisurely lunch, sun comes out, watch last night’s NBC Evening News, and then take a quick walk (before the rain comes back!). Not sure it gets much better than this!!!

One of the finer things in life

A European island has some challenges, some frustrations, and some of the finest traditions I know…a cup of coffee is one of them. Now trust me, NO ONE enjoys a drink or three, some “adult beverages,” a great wine with dinner (as well as before and after), and some just plain hard-charging Aguar Dente (Portuguese drink, often homemade, clear, high-proof, different flavors, similar I think to Brazilian Cachaca) … well, you get the idea. But no matter what the weather, with or without a meal, meeting an old friend, lover, American or not, NOTHING compares to sharing a cup of coffee. I think NOTHING! It can take anywhere from a few minutes break from work to an hour-long conversation, rendez-vous, or a quick respite from pouring rain.

My experience is that many of my friends from Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, France, or Portugal who visit the U.S.A. usually complain, when they return to their respective homeland, that many Americans don’t understand what a cup of coffee does for your mental well-being. And retiring here, I can’t disagree … it is a wonderful tradition.

Try it…and if you like, give me a call and tell me where and when…I’ll be there!

Ahhhhhhhhhhh

Here’s the biggest reason why…

Many friends and acquaintances usually immediately ask why we’re leaving the U.S. behind for a tiny island where my wife was born and raised. We both miss being able to “run down the street” in northern Virginia to buy something, walk among national landmarks, and have a tough time deciding what type of food we want for dinner.

Today, as we’re dashing out for a loaf of fresh bread through the pouring rain and strong winds, we stopped to drop off some bread for the neighbor and ask if she needed us to pick up anything while we’re out. My wife made an observation that perfectly answer the question most ask:

Here’s why we’re here now:

“When we left the island for the United States more than 25 years ago, if someone would have said to me that in 26 years, I’d be living across the street from my sister and next door to my best friend from middle school in a new home with a fantastic view, I would have said you’re crazy.”

Then she smiled:)

That smile is why we’re here now!

No bull–actually four Bulls and Thousands of Neighbors

Picturesque village of Porto Martins, just down the hill from our new house, had a Bull Fight the other day. It Takes A Village…to have a great bullfight, great weather, warm ocean breeze, courageous young fools trying to outmaneuver a young bull, very large quantities of beer, lots of great conversation…just plain fun. For centuries, each village raises their money, hires four bulls (selecting the most entertaining ones is a special event in the mountains days before) and then everyone gathers for a few hours. As one new friend on the beach warned me the day before…be most careful of the fifth bull!” I didn’t know there were five….no, the doctor explained, the fifth bull is the invitation to dinner and drinking with all of the great food, delicacies, and of course wine, beer and Aguar Dente (homemade moonshine). Since you know I always listen to the doctor, I had to try out a little of everything. My favorite is a clear liquid diet…aguar dente:)

The entire village of Porto Martins (and many others) turn out for good times and watching daredevils try to outmaneuver the bulls

First Video Effort of Casa Reibeling & Environs

Here’s my first effort at posting a video – epic fail. It shows the house, pans a 270-degree loop, and shows Sofia in front and the painter painting the air conditioner housing in the back. I’ll get better, so stay tuned. Big inspection next week and we heard that our container has been unloaded in Liexoes, a major port in northern Portugal.

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