Falling For Fall

Cool temperatures, a little rain, shorter days, and…flowers???

The seeds of this wild journey to live in Portugal started when Won and I met in 1996. We were both living in Southern California at the time. Our paths crossed at a Taekwondo studio. As a 4th degree black belt, Won was one of several visiting masters who had been asked by my master to assess the skills and abilities of his students during their belt advancement tests (your master isn’t supposed to do that to ensure no bias creeps into the skill assessment and advancement process). At the time my 16 year-old son Matthew and I were both testing for our red belts. One thing led to another and Won and I fell in love. After we married in 1999, we bought a house in Pacific Palisades, a coastal town in Southern California. We lived in our sweet little 1925 bungalow for 13 years before moving to New Jersey in January of 2012 when I went to work for Johnson and Johnson. We lived in New Jersey for eight years. If I had never met Won I don’t know that I would have moved out of the US; he’s the bold, brave one.

While New Jersey certainly had its charms, I loved living in California. The weather, especially along the coast in Southern California, was pretty mild year-round. New Jersey, on the other hand, experiences all four seasons in the extreme; cold grey winters, cool rainy springs, and hot humid summers. Fall on the other hand, can deliver days that feel like spring, summer or winter, but there are many days that are crisp, cool, and blustery. On the days that were classically fall-like, and certainly those that felt like winter, it would remind me that dreaded winter was just around the corner making me cringe.

The thing is, I really hate cold, harsh winters. In fact, I detest them. It depresses me when the landscape becomes nearly devoid of color for months on end. And, I hate it when it hurts to go outside because it is so cold. I hate that I worry incessantly about the animals who never get a break from the elements, especially the tiny birds and the deer with their spindly little legs who have to trudge through snow. They don’t have burrows that they can crawl into to get some relief from the bitter cold, freezing rain, or unrelenting wind. I had to educate myself on how they survive winter so that I could stop obsessing about them (I never did). Poor babies…

Each year when summer came to an end and fall began, my dread of the impending winter took all the joy, happiness and fun out of that lovely transitional season – and New Jersey is beautiful in the fall! Like everyone else, I loved seeing trees change colors and snuggling up to a roaring fire. We had several oak trees in our yard and enjoyed watching the acorns drop to the ground and the squirrels come to gather them. But, the changing of the season only meant that another cold, dreary winter was bearing down on us. Ugh. And, don’t get me started about the snow! My stalwart husband and son, Matthew would tackle shoveling the snow off the very long driveway, front porch, back deck, and walkways. (I’m not exactly sure why Won is holding a golf club in the picture below. He was most likely practicing his swing or using it to spur Matthew on – could be either or both.)

When we decided to move to Portugal, I was elated knowing we were going to leave all that behind. Funny enough, we arrived in Lisbon on January 13 of this year; practically the very beginning of winter and I barely noticed it! There were days of cool weather and some were rainy and windy, but I loved that it didn’t hurt to be outside. Thinking back, I don’t recall ever wearing a coat. Of course, everything was new and exciting to us. Who knows, it might have been really cold, but we were just happy to be here so we probably didn’t even notice. It will be interesting to see how this winter goes.

However, before that happens, I get to enjoy the fall for the first time in years. The deciduous trees have been losing their leaves for weeks now, but there are many trees that are still green helping to keep the landscape pretty. The temperatures are mild (still haven’t had to put on a sweater) and are very similar to Southern California, in fact. Of course we are in the middle of the country. There are parts of Portugal, especially in the north that are much more like fall on the east coast of the US, there is even a place where you can ski!! (Thankfully, we don’t live anywhere near there…)

This past week, Won and I took Sweet Pea on a 5k hike through the Cascais-Sintra national park. It was really peaceful and we never saw anyone else on the trail. The smell of the forest was heady and had that unique fall scent. We saw many eucalyptus, olive, and cork oak trees. I learned that the cork oak is considered to be one of the most endangered and emblematic species in all of Portugal and has been legally protected since the middle ages. Wow!

The weather was so nice that day, we both pared down to our t-shirts pretty quickly and enjoyed watching Sweet Pea romp and explore. She would skip ahead and then look back, as if to say, “Are you coming? This is great!”

It was such a delight to see how green everything was, even in early November. We found carpets of what, I think, was clover…

…a variety of interesting flowers…

…a plant that reminded me of holly with spiked leaf edges…

…interesting mushrooms nestled under the plants…

…pyracantha bushes with their bright red berries…

…and cork oak acorns. Apparently, they can be cooked and eaten like chestnuts.

One thing is for sure, fall is no longer something I dread, but something I can truly look forward to. Big, deep breath…ahhhh…

COVID-19 Update

Portugal, like many other European countries, is experiencing a resurgence of the virus. While Portugal’s numbers are lower than its neighbors, the government is doing all it can to stem the spread. We are back under a state of emergency which means all restaurants are required to close by 10:30PM and no groups of more than 5 can eat together. Over the next two weekends, citizens are required to stay home between 1PM and 5AM the next morning on Saturday and Sunday unless there is a critical reason for going out. All freeways will be closed and monitored by the GNR (National Republican Guard). Mask wearing is required in all indoor spaces (except your home), on all public transport, and in outdoor spaces when social distancing cannot be maintained. The prime minister is hoping that these measures, along with many others, will reduce spread enough to ease the burden on the health care system and enable some level of celebratory gatherings at Christmas. We can only hope. What a scourge this virus is.

Missed Post on November 6

I made a commitment to myself at the beginning of May to publish every Friday and I haven’t missed one since that time. Unfortunately, my streak came to an end last week. My apologies to anyone who was expecting one. Even though I tried to write, I couldn’t concentrate because I was completely distracted by the US election and the excruciating days of vote counting that ensued. I was glued to the TV watching US and European news outlets cover the event. There are important people in my life that span the political spectrum so I’ll refrain from sharing my personal thoughts on the outcome, but I just want to say I’m sorry for the missed post. I’ll do my best to stay on track going forward.

Note added immediately before publishing…

Waiting to see the vet…

I almost missed posting today too. Won and I spent nearly the entire day at the emergency animal hospital. Sweet Pea was diagnosed with hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGS). I’ve provided a link so you can look it up if you are curious (be forewarned, the symptoms aren’t pretty). It is 6:30PM local time and we just got home. She’s going to be OK because we took very quick action. HGS can be fatal if not addressed within 24 hours. She’s had an injection to help with the vomiting and will be on two other medications for the next eight days to address the internal bleeding and diarrhea – well, I guess I didn’t end up sparing you the gory details. Sorry about that. The vet said that the fact that we give her a daily probiotic is the reason she wasn’t admitted overnight – it could have been worse. EGAD. I can’t even imagine that. Thank goodness for modern medicine.

It wasn’t how I had planned to spend my birthday today, but we’re just relieved Sweet Pea will be alright – that’s the best present I could hope for anyway. I told Won to cancel our dinner reservations. There is no way I was going to leave this angel alone tonight. Won has gone out to buy champagne and pick up something for dinner to try and salvage the evening. He’s such a sweetheart and I count my blessings every day he’s in my life. I’ve been receiving so many wonderful birthday messages via email, WhatsApp, and on Facebook today. It helped to distract me so I didn’t panic. Big thanks to everyone who sent a note. I truly appreciated it. This one is going down as another “fun” and memorable Friday the 13th birthday. Oh well.

Until next time, please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay in touch.

From Portugal with love,

Beth

Published by Beth Thomas-Kim

After working in corporate America for companies like Mattel, Nestlé, and Johnson & Johnson, I retired and moved to Portugal in January of 2020 with my husband Won and our 12-year old wire fox terrier, Sweet Pea. We now live in Monte Estoril, a lovely seaside town just outside Lisbon. We spend our days happily exploring this beautiful country and learning about its fascinating history, engaging culture, warm and welcoming people, delicious food and wine, and stunning architecture. This blog was started primarily as a way to keep family and friends updated on our transition from the US to Portugal. Now, my subscribers include people from all over the world. Enjoy!

18 thoughts on “Falling For Fall

  1. Poor little Sweet Pea. I’m glad she’s in such loving hands as yours and Won’s.
    Sending you lots of love on your Birthday (and… actually… every other day).

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  2. Your description of how you felt about winter in NJ sounded exactly like me…which is why I moved to FL! Now I am 3 miles from a beach I dont have to buy a beach badge for. Discovering my new neighborhood.
    Happy birthday Beth!
    Ann

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  3. So glad you got help for Sweet Pea in time! And that your birthday was ultimately a happy one🥂

    That feeling of dread of winter is familiar for sure!! I try to stay present, to enjoy every moment of the fleeting fall season – but the dread is a bit heightened this year with the Covid resurgence.

    I’m guessing you’re thankful to be in a country where mask wearing is known to save lives!

    Thanks for posting 😊

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    1. I feel blessed on several levels (that Sweet Pea will be OK, I don’t have to deal with dreadful winters anymore, and love living in Portugal), but I feel most blessed to have a wonderful family. I hope you and Tom remain safe and healthy. Miss you!

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  4. Beth,
    Enjoyed all the photos of autumn, sort of like what we get in the Southwest part of the USA. So glad that SweetPea is okay thanks to your swift action. That’s got to have been so traumatic for everyone. We give our dogs a supplement (“Longevity” by SpringTime) which has turned my 7 year old dog back into a puppy with lots of energy.
    And YES, I didn’t even miss your post from the 1st week of November as I also needed to be on Xanax to cope with all the run up hype, “delayed” counting, projections of the elections. The good news now that it’s over, I haven’t been self medicating since then with wine! 🙂 But…AZ did pass legalization of marijuana so there’s that….! The main thing, I don’t want anything to harsh my mellow for the moment.
    Happy Birthday to you.
    Leslie

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    1. You’re funny!!! LOL! I’m so happy you found a way to cope and get through these past couple of weeks successfully. I mean, whatever it takes, right? We’ve been happily drinking loads of Portuguese wine to manage (and now we’re both seeing it on the scale…groan). With a vaccine on the horizon, and hopefully the realization that masks can help reduce spread, the world will get this thing under control and we can all find a way to carve out a new normal. Thanks for the birthday wishes and for your kind concern about Sweet Pea – she’s steadily getting better every day. Whew!!

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  5. Again so happy Sweet Pea is going to be ok! And yes, your birthday will be memorable that’s for sure. Even though you’ve actually moved to Portugal, do you ever still feel like, “wow, this is an amazing vacation” and have to pinch yourself? I too disliked fall. Ever since I was a kid. Because seeing that ugly yellow bus meant the end of glorious freedom! No more days of exploring another creek, lazy hazy days of sleeping in, no more cookouts, or swimming etc. But the thrill of snow did make it better. Until I got old enough to drive in it! We moved from NJ to GA 20 years ago and I fell in love with fall. Today it was around 70 degrees, we were in shorts planting pansies and as evening fell at 5:30 (ewwww) the frogs were singing. Since we’re basically in the foothills we get a taste of fall and a nibble of winter. The snow sometimes falls stirring that childlike thrill and then the next day or even a few hours later, it’s disappeared! Well except “Snowmageddon” a few years back. It took our son over 8 hours to get back to his college which is an hour from our home! Skiing in Portugal…who’d a thunk it? Sounds like you have an amazing hubby too! Enjoy each other and your healing puppy! Happy Birthday!

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    1. Just read your note out loud to my husband and he said, “She writes well.” I totally agree! Funny enough, Won and I seriously looked at moving to GA before ultimately deciding on Portugal. And, yes…we do still feel like we are on vacation! (Won just said that very sentence the other day!) Even with the virus and all the restrictions, we are loving our experiences here. I can’t imagine that feeling of being on vacation will go away any time soon. I’m happy that where you live now you get to experience a little bit winter every so often to help stir happy childhood memories (Snowmageddon aside). I had a similar experience to your son once when it took me five hours to drive from a business meeting in Titusville back to Chester in NJ where we lived, which normally only takes about an hour. Talk about a white-knuckle experience (groan). Thanks for your note, Brenda. I always enjoy hearing from you. Take care and please stay safe.

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  6. Happy B-day Beth…your missed here in NJ…the snow has flied already, about a week ago…flurries…I think we’re in for a big one this year when watching all the squirrel activity (a very scientific leading indicator)…cheers, Bruce

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    1. Hi! Thanks for the note, Bruce. Miss you guys! One of the very few things that made NJ winters bearable was hanging out with you and Susan. You guys made grey gloomy days fun and enjoyable. And, as for predicting the harshness of winter, just remember: “Squirrels gathering nuts in a flurry, will cause snow to gather in a hurry.” You might want to put away your golf shorts for a few months. Sending you and Susan big hugs from both of us.

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  7. Happy Birthday Beth! And best wishes for a speedy recovery for Sweet Pea! I love your posts, and I look forward to them every week! They are a much needed distraction during these tough times.

    Many many thanks Katie

    On Fri, Nov 13, 2020 at 3:15 PM From Portugal With Love wrote:

    > beththomaskim posted: ” Cool temperatures, a little rain, shorter days, > and…flowers??? The seeds of this wild journey to live in Portugal started > when Won and I met in 1996. We were both living in Southern California at > the time. Our paths crossed at a Taekwondo studio” >

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    1. Thank you, Katie! What a lovely note. I truly appreciate it. Sweet Pea is progressing and getting better every day. She’s sitting right here next to me, “asking” for a treat (which, sadly, she’s not going to get). My birthday celebration was canceled, but since Sweet Pea came through this health crisis successfully, that was all I wanted anyway. I’m going to look forward to celebrating next year (in a BIG way). I’m so happy my posts are helping you get through these tough times. We all just need to hang in there for a bit longer until vaccines can be distributed around the world and we can all get back to some sense of normalcy. Until then, I hope you will stay in touch and stay healthy! Take care.

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  8. I feel the same way about Fall where we live in the “great white north”. There are a few nice days, but all I can think about is the cold that is on its way! That picture of you holding Sweet Pea and waiting to see the vet brings back sad memories of when our other Mini Schnauzer was sick. It is so terrifying.

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    1. My son and daughter-in-law are still living in New Jersey and we video chat and message nearly every day. They are dealing with that huge storm that hit the east coast this week. Brrrrrr!!! I’ll take breezy, cool and rainy any day of the week over snow.

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