Week 52 : Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Wrap-Up Edition

This last year has quickly passed and, like everyone else, it wasn’t the year I expected. Since Covid-19, I think we’ve all had more time for reflection. In thinking about my bucket list experience, there has been so much positive that has come from it. First of all, I have always been drawn to self-improvement projects that span over the course of a few months or a year. For instance, I’ve done Simple Abundance and I re-do it every few years and I am alway surprised at the different perspective a few years can bring. I’ve also embraced The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I’ve done P90X to get in shape, which is a workout program which spans 90 days. I’ve done Gretchen Rubin’s Happier at Home and the Happiness Project with time spans ranging from 9 months to a year. There is something intriguing about taking a chunk of time and using it to re-shape yourself. I also feel, as an obliger, publicly acknowledging a goal makes me more accountable. So the year has come to an end and now it’s time for the reckoning. Let’s go back to the year’s beginning and I will try to do a quick summary of my successes and failures.

Here are my results:

  1. Create a blog to document my year. Obviously, mission accomplished on this one. For the first 31 weeks, I posted weekly. As my list dwindled, my post frequency lessened as there was less to write about. So I give this one a big checkmark!
  2. Go skydiving. Checkmark here as well. (week 15) What an experience. To be honest, I didn’t do it to conquer a fear, I’m not afraid of heights. I did it for the adrenaline rush. I especially loved sharing the experience with my daughter. Now quite a few years back, I faced a fear by scuba diving. That for me, was a much scarier experience!
  3. Do 50 random acts of kindness throughout the year for family, friends and/or strangers. Check mark here. I did not share each act of kindness because I am a believer in keeping the nice things one does a little more private.
  4. Finish modernizing our house. Checkmark. We modernized our lower level and remodeled the bath. We still need to redo our wood floors on the main floor. That was waylaid by Covid. Hopefully we’ll be able to do it soon.
  5. Do a 5k. No check mark here for two very good reasons. One is I waited too long and Covid canceled the runs. The second reason is I was recently diagnosed with arthritis in my hips and my doctor recommends no running or high impact exercises. As it hurts when I run, I will be following that advice.
  6. Keep up my Duolingo streak. Well I’m not sure what magic allowed this to happen but on my birthday, May 13th, I have a 1,000 day streak on Duolingo! I have completed the whole program but go on it every day to refresh my skills.
  7. Lose 10 pounds- hahahaha. Ok, Covid, I see you. I was VERY close to reaching this goal and then….Covid. Damn you! I am back to watching my weight with Noom, but I am not sure I am going to continue with it. I am committed however, to getting the weight back off!
  8. Complete 50 workouts on my Nordic Track treadmill. Gold star here! I have completed 76 workouts on my NordicTrack. The last few were very interesting. One was a walk through Salt Lake City Utah with a couple of comedians. They weren’t hilarious, but made they did make interesting guides. The other was a meditation walk through southern Utah’s Scout Cave Trail with Dr. Shauna Shapiro. I did enjoy being able to walk and meditate and check off two of my daily line items in one fell swoop.
  9. See Stonehenge. This was done early on, week 3. What a wonderful trip for so many reasons!
  10. Keep attending French Class at the Alliance de Francais, Detroit. Well I’m giving myself a checkmark here. When I traveled to our Florida home over the winter, I switched to private FaceTime classes with my instructor David. And of course, all classes are online still with Covid. I definitely enjoy one on one classes though they are a little more expensive, they are worth it. I’m able to converse with and ask my questions of my instructor, a native French speaker. I think this is one of the things that I enjoyed the most this year. It definitely took me out of my comfort zone!
  11. Try one “new to us” restaurant a month. Well, check, until Covid reared it’s ugly head.
  12. Organize our storage room. Proud to say that Mike and I worked together to get this done! (Weeks 44, 45&46)
  13. Meditate daily. Check but I have to be transparent and say that I may have missed a day here and there. I am enjoying it though and plan to carry it forward. I use Headspace and also meditate on my own.
  14. Create my own signature cocktail. Yep. See Week 18 for the recipe for “The Tropical Bae.”
  15. Learn the alphabet in sign language. Done! Here it is.
  16. Decorate our Florida retirement home. This was such a joy to do! It is spread over several different posts. I am still working on selecting a few paintings and decorative items. Week 19, Week 30 and Week 37
  17. Go hiking. See week 13 for this one. We hiked to the Au Sable Pointe Lighthouse and the Pictured Rocks area.
  18. Read 50 books in 2019. I read 72 books. I’ve set my new goal for 2020 to 75 books. I am currently 5 books ahead of schedule. I am currently reading “Love and Ruin” by Paula McLain. It is a fictional account of the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and journalist Martha Gelhorn. I’ve always been intrigued by Ernest Hemingway and have visited his home in Key West. I enjoyed reading The Paris Wife also by this author which imagines the relationship between Hemingway and his first wife Hadley.
  19. Build a capsule wardrobe for Florida. Done, though I won’t say I’m entirely finished. I’ve enjoyed adding a few more pieces into the mix. If you want to see what I selected, check out week 22.
  20. Entertain friends and family in said Florida retirement home. Check! We enjoyed visits from our kids, our new neighbors, my parents and our old friends. It’s been amazing! Weeks 40 & 41.
  21. Complete the complicated puzzle that my husband Mike bought me at Christmas that sits untouched. Week 22 saw the completion of this puzzle. If only I had waited it would have made an excellent corona virus activity.
  22. Bake a loaf of bread from scratch. I completed this on week 25. I’ve made a couple loaves since then. It’s a lovely skill to have acquired! (Thanks Deana!)
  23. Try a new recipe at least 1-2x a month. I’m giving this one a provisional check. I was rocking it all the way until Corona virus hit. I feel like I am blaming this miserable virus for quite a bit but it complicated my methods. I usually select my menu for the week and then go shopping. Well, with shopping being hit or miss, I am having to come up with menus around what is available. I still enjoy trying new recipes though and will continue to do so.
  24. Find and attend a French Meet-up event. Again, enter Corona Virus. I saved this for my return from Florida and meet-ups are currently out of the question. I did attend a virtual Zoom Happy Hour with some of my classmates though, so I’ll give myself credit after all.
  25. During our annual family trek to the Les Cheneaux islands, take a day trip to somewhere we’ve not been before. Check! See week 13.
  26. Organize and catalog all of the photos sitting in a jumble in the storage room. A great big project that I was happy to wrap up! See week 28.
  27. Re-enact the Beatles walking on Abbey Road. Done! See week 2. I was so tickled to be able to check this one off on our awesome trip to London.
  28. Reach out to a friend or extended family member in person or online at least once a week. This has been even more so since Covid. We are zooming with family and friends probably at least as often, if not more so than usual.
  29. Daily Visualization. Done!
  30. Finish a course in the Masterclass online teaching series. I have finished several Masterclass courses and have enjoyed them all! My most recent was an interior design class by Kelly Werstler. I also did a Storytelling and Humor class by David Sidaris and am looking forward to taking a gardening class and a Mixology class. Perhaps I’ll come up with another new signature cocktail!
  31. Teach our dog Kobe a new trick. Check and here it is! His new trick is playing dead.
  32. Ride my bike from the Lower Huron Metro Park to Lake Erie and back (about 40 miles). Done, see week 14.
  33. Host a fun event for all of the ladies in my family. Well this one did not get done, sadly. Again with the Covid thing. But I am really looking forward to doing this at some future point. I am envisioning a Hallmark movie night sometime before Christmas, with cookies and cocktails!
  34. Learn to play a simple song on the piano. OK. Here’s the thing. I did make a HUGE discovery. I haven’t any talent or ability here. I also have no desire to try to acquire any. I am happily crossing this off my bucket-list and placing it in the “don’t ever do this” list.
  35. Learn how to use the Overdrive app to borrow books from the library. I have been enjoying the heck out of Overdrive/Libby. I use it almost exclusively, unless there is a book I am dying to read and the wait time is too long. I’ve also showed my mom how to do it and hope to help Mike’s mom with it as well. It’s a money saver and really allows me to indulge my reading without feeling guilty about spending the money on yet more books.
  36. See Buckingham Palace. Again, this was done early on when we made the trip to London. Week 3
  37. Work on our Family Tree through Ancestry.com. Done! Well, I’m not actually done with the family tree. It’s still a work in progress. But the interesting thing is extended family I’ve not met in person on both sides of my family have reached out asking to be in touch. I’ve been emailing back and forth with a couple of them. Such an unexpected benefit!
  38. Try the restaurant The Woods on our annual family trip to Mackinac Island. We were happily able to do this on our family trip to Mackinac Island. Week 9
  39. Take our kayaks on a romantic paddle leading to a picnic in the park. Yes! I discussed this one on week 15.
  40. Keep an herb garden and use it in cooking. This was done over the summer. What is surprising is the chives that I planted wintered over and I have a full crop already. I didn’t realize they were perennials. Week 6
  41. Try something new I’ve never done before. My spontaneous thing was asking my mom to pick a destination for her birthday for her and I to travel to. We had an awesome time in Williamsburg. (See week 17)
  42. Actually take out the jet-ski instead of letting it sit in the hoist un-used. Nope. This did not get done. I did take it out once. But we didn’t end up bringing it up north and I usually preferred a boat ride over the jet ski. I am hoping to get some use out of it this summer.
  43. Plan a sunrise breakfast on the pontoon. Done on week 8. Mike and I often enjoy spontaneous last minute boat rides. Having our boat at the dock, uncovered except for the canopy on the hoist makes it easy!
  44. Take our dog Kobe on a walk through a nearby park. Kobe was delighted with this one. He also enjoyed a whole lot of walks when we were in Florida as there is a dog park in our community located about 3/4 mile from our house. (See week 12)
  45. Watch a movie in French. Done. In fact, I’ve watched several and through the course of the year, my comprehension has definitely improved, though I still use the subtitles as I don’t pick up every word.
  46. Discover a new favorite wine. I was happy to have been gifted this wine aptly called Shady Lane. Alas, it was a limited edition from a private vineyard. I will stay on the look out for more wines of this varietal from their Shady Lane vineyard. Week 11
  47. Do a high-ropes course. So fun! If you remember it took two attempts due to inclement weather. But if you are thinking of doing it, I highly recommend Treerunner. It was fun for our whole family. (See weeks 17 & 20)
  48. See Liverpool. Again, I tackled this early on during our memorable trip to England. Week 2
  49. Go sight-seeing in Boston. We loved Boston and I discussed our trip during week 10.
  50. Do yoga at least once a week. I may have missed a week or two in here but especially now with arthritis, I am planning to practice it even more regularly.

So, if you are keeping track, I consider myself to have completed 46 of the 50 things I set out to do. Some things simply couldn’t be done thanks to Covid and others were interrupted. In the case of piano playing, I decided it really isn’t something I actually wanted to pursue. For me, this has been a worthwhile endeavor. In looking back over my 59th year, it has been filled with travel, novelty, leisure, enjoyment, learning, adventure, along with the unwelcome surprise of Covid-19. I think creating a list of desired goals and activities definitely added a richness to my year.

What have I learned from this year? I’ve learned I’m made of sterling stuff. I’m tougher than I thought. I am happy to welcome my 60th year, along with all it brings, both the joy and the challenges. We’ve got a new reality and while we are all learning how to adapt and adjust, I am going to keep reaching out to try new things. I’m going to push myself to look at things with different eyes, to challenge my body as well as my mind. I wonder what my 60’s will bring. What new challenges will be presented and what new opportunities will arise, or are they one in the same? Being diagnosed with arthritis makes me wonder about my genetic lottery, what other illnesses may yet reveal themselves? I hope my 60s are as wonderful as my 50’s have been. To tell you the truth if they are only half as good, it would still be more than I could possibly hope for. And for that I am so grateful. As my 50’s have drawn to a close, this will be my last post. Whether you tagged along for the whole trip or just popped in here and there, thanks for following me. You are appreciated. Stay well my friends. Cheers to the next decade!

Weeks 40 & 41: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – The Family Edition

It’s been a fun and busy two weeks! Most of my activities have centered on bucket list item #20 (Entertain friends and family in Florida house.) Here’s quick reference back to the original bucket list for anyone interested. With both Mike and my parents in town and my daughter Jenna staying with us here for a month with her two pups, we had a full house. We were missing my daughter Sammi and Jenna’s husband Kristianth but they will be coming down very soon. I was very happy with the way our home lives. Even with a full house, it never felt crowded. Now onto a few of our activities in and around Estero.

Mom and Dad arrived this past Wednesday evening. Our home is a scant 15 minutes from the airport, so after a quick pick up, I gave them a tour of the house and community and we headed to The Barefoot Grille which is the restaurant on property. We had a low key evening in preparation for a busy Thursday.

My parents! Aren’t they cute?!

The next day, Mike landed at 9 am and soon after we headed to Bonita Springs to Everglades Wonder Gardens. This was a nice attraction recommended by a neighbor who has been a year round resident here for a few years. It’s been a local attraction since 1936 and is reasonably priced at $12 for adults, $10 for Seniors and kids 3-12 $7. Children under 3 are free. You can see the native flora along with the animals who reside in Florida. You can feed the alligators through a fence, though they must be pretty well fed as they weren’t interested in our Alligator cookies. Unlike the gators, the flamingos were very interested in the flamingo food, and Jenna was happy to oblige. Another cool thing was the lorikeet experience. They would come and land on you and drink nectar from the shot-glass looking cup we held. The unfortunate group before us had the “what goes in must come out” experience, which was one that I was happy to have missed. There was all sorts of wildlife to observe, including a butterfly house which wasn’t particularly well occupied, though there were a string of chrysalises, so there may be quite a few more in the near future. We headed to Naples for a bite to eat, landing at Barbatella’s on the patio. We enjoyed a leisurely meal before heading home to relax a bit before ending the day with a spaghetti dinner at home. All in all it was a fun day.

Cute sign!
Jenna feeding the flamingos with Mike trying to catch the shot.
One of the beautiful creatures we saw.
My daughter Jenna with the Lorikeets!
Spaghetti dinner pool-side.

Friday was a low key day. We relaxed a bit, explored the model homes here in our subdivision then the ladies went shopping and the guys just hung out. We had 5 pm reservations at DeRoma’s which is normally fantastic. Unfortunately the majority of their seating is outdoors and it was the coldest it’s been since we’ve been down here, about 58- 60 degrees. No one wanted to eat outside! We waited 45 minutes in the hopes of an inside table but were led to an outdoor table. We declined the first one because it was unprotected in the wind, with no space heater. We were then led to a second table which was a little better. The manager was helpful in locating us a table side heater which turned out to make it warm enough. At least everyone’s meals were yummy.

Saturday, we went out to breakfast at Skillets (would recommend) followed by a trip to Tin City. Tin City is a cute little collection of boutiques in tin buildings right along the water. We strolled around the shops and marina and then we drove on to Sanibel and Captiva Islands. This was recommended by my daughter’s boyfriend’s mom, Kathy and her sister-in-law. It was a little over an hour away. We headed to the Mucky Duck which is an English type pub and popular as a sunset destination because the view is amazing. We were there initially for a drink on the beach, as they have indoor and outdoor bars with outdoor picnic tables. We decided instead to do a late lunch/early dinner. Everyone’s food was good and it was really nice to see another part of Florida. The island was beautiful with a lot of really lovely homes. It had a low key, relaxing vibe. I definitely want to head there for sunset one evening. If you plan to go, plan ahead and pack your patience as the traffic on the island seems to be confined to one lane roads with a speed of 25 mph. Also make sure you have the $6 causeway toll. You pay only on the way in.

Tin City with this crew.
Mom and Dad outside of The Mucky Duck on Captiva Island

Sunday we relaxed. Mike made us a yummy breakfast and we had a casual late lunch of hamburgers, hotdogs, and side dishes before driving my parents to the airport. Mike’s flight was a couple hours later. All in all, it was a successful visit. We had beautiful weather all but one day. I very much hope my parents will be returning in the future.

In other bucket list items, I am continuing with French and am making progress. My teacher is so encouraging and fun to talk to. Face-timing has added a whole new dimension and being the only student definitely ramps up the involvement in class. My Duolingo streak is at day 923. I haven’t missed a single day, knock on wood!

The home decorating is coming along. I love Z Gallerie and have purchased quite a few things through them. Everything has been delivered and I am waiting for Mike’s return so we can hang the remaining items. I bought a bowl and floral arrangement for our bedroom dresser as well as paintings for our bedroom. I went to the store to exchange a pillow that I had ordered online that was sticking out of the box when it arrived. It had a bit of grease on the corner. Of course, I saw a few more things I “needed” while there: a vase for the bath with stems of flowers, a glass ball for the bathroom counter, and some lavender colored potpourri for the amethyst bowl I had ordered for my dresser. I still have a few more pieces to decide on. But I am going to take my time and enjoy the process. It is all coming together.

Still awaiting the art work for over the tub. I did get this vase and flowers though!
Latest additions to our bedroom, the bowl with potpourri and the faux floral arrangement. (Doesn’t faux sound better than fake?! haha)

Noom was suspended during my parents’ visit but I am back at it. I did manage to get my steps in as we walked the dogs twice a day, 1.5 miles each time. I average at least 15,000 steps daily here, going as high as 20,000. Jenna and I have been using the gym though we’ve not taken any classes yet, but we hope to this week. We’ve also been enjoying bike rides in the afternoon or early evening. My meditation slipped while we had company but I am doing it again. Dan Harris’ book “10% Happier” was interesting and it did motivate me, I need to re-skim it a bit though.

Morning dog walk. this was the chilly morning.
In case anyone is wondering, the 3 dogs are all getting along great! Here’s two of the triple trouble trio.

I am currently reading Nora Roberts “The Next Always” which is good so far. I am a little less than 1/3 of the way through. My next book is Ruth Ware’s “In A Dark, Dark Wood,” which has finally come up in my Overdrive app. My reading has been slipping down here as well. I expected it to be the exact opposite! I am on book #13 of my 80 book goal, which only puts me one book ahead of schedule. I need to get a buffer zone here!

I will leave it here for now. I hope everyone has plenty to keep them happily busy this week and I hope to have more to share with you next week. Friends and family, if you’re ever down this way, be sure to stop by for a cocktail! We’d love to see you!

Week 35: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Thirty five weeks into this project and almost half way through January of 2020 so I’ve been reflecting on my year and assessing my progress on last year’s New Years Resolutions. Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? Did you make any this year? I have been making New Year’s Resolutions for years, but not very effectively until a few years ago when I started journaling every day on each resolution. I’ve found much greater success in accomplishing them since I started doing that. Do you have a “word for the year?” Last year’s word was “Refresh.” I focused on refreshing our home with our basement renovation as well as refreshing myself with meditation and self care. It was a successful year for the most part, though my meditation practice needs to be more consistent. This year’s word is “Streamline.” I intend to streamline my routines for visiting our Florida home, for caring for our Michigan home, as well as streamlining my exercise routine, my morning routine, my diet and myself! That’s a whole lot of streamlining! Well, on to the bucket list. As always, here’s the link to the original list.

Things have been a little topsy turvy around here as my dear husband Mike suffered a complete tear of his Achilles tendon playing pickle ball on our last Florida trip. Yes, it was a complete rupture! He is scheduled for surgery this week. He has been placed in a walking cast until surgery and will most likely be in a non weight bearing cast post operatively for 6-8 weeks. We were scheduled to go on a Bahama cruise with Mike’s team, but that ship set sail without us. We were concerned about increase risk of stroke with flying. We hope we will still be able to drive down to Florida in the near future. With this development, there hasn’t been a lot of focus on my bucket list. I still managed to maintain my Duolingo streak. I am at 879 days and am looking forward to my upcoming FaceTime lesson. I’m hoping to stay on track so I can rejoin the class in March.

Despite this unfortunate event, Mike has maintained his good sense of humor. Hobbling into the New Year like….

I ended my reading goal for 2019 with 72 books. I set 2020’s goal at 80 books. I am on book #6. I’ve read: Crazy Ladies by Michael Lee West, Twisted Twenty-Six by Janet Evanovich, The Guardians by John Grisham, Nemesis by Agatha Christie, Finding Chika by Mitch Albom and I am currently reading The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter by Hazel Gaynor. I will say all of the books were good, and Janet Evanovich is always hilarious, but if you are highly curating your reading, from these I would recommend Mitch Albom’s book. Just be sure to have Kleenex handy!

Beautiful but heart wrenching read.

I am still using Noom. However, despite my ability to stay within two pounds of my goal through the holidays, my weight has crept up post holiday! Nothing that can’t be remedied though. I am pulling focus and re-commiting to my goal. I did make an awesome Noom recipe last week which I will share below.

Pork and Pepper Stir Fry

2 TBSP apricot all-fruit spread

2 TBSP soy sauce

0.5 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1/2″ strips

4 tsp canola oil

0.5 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 TBSP cornstarch

6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 TBSP fresh ginger

2 large red bell peppers, cut into thin strips

2 large green peppers, cut into thin strips (I used yellow/orange/red)

1 large onion, cut into wedges

In a medium bowl, combine the all-fruit spread, 1 TBSP of the soy sauce and 1/4 tsp of the red-pepper flakes. Add the pork and toss to coat well. Cover and marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature.

Heat 2 tsp of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the pork mixture and cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes, or until the pork is slightly pink in the center. Place in a bowl and keep warm. Wipe the skillet with a paper towel.

In a cup, whisk together the broth and cornstarch and set aside.

Add the remaining 2 tsps oil to the same skillet and place over medium-high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and the remaining 1/4 tsp red paper flakes and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes or until the garlic is golden.

Add the bell peppers, onion and the remaining 1 TBSP soy sauce and cook, stirring for 6 minutes or until tender.

Add the pork and any accumulated juices to the pepper mixture. Stir the cornstarch and add to the skillet. Cook, stirring constantly for 1 minute or until thickened.

4 servings/29 minutes/276 calories per serving

Pork and Pepper Stir Fry served with rice

I squeezed in a NordicTrack workout. This time it was an interval walk through Bolivia. It was workout #66 of my 50 workout goal. I have found myself scrolling through Tik Tok through my cool down. This app is popular among middle and high-schoolers (and my 20 something daughters). It’s a time suck and very easy to get lost in. On the positive side, I find myself doing a 20 minute cool down.

I also spent some time taking down and putting away Christmas. With a hop along hubby this was mostly a one woman job. I started cleaning out our storage room a little, but there’s a long way to go!

Here’s my before picture! It’s a work in progress! (item #12 – Organize our storage room)

Well, that is where I will leave it for now. Have a great week and I hope, if you made any New Year’s Resolutions, you are still on track! Here’s to an awesome 2020.

Week 28: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Photo Archive Edition

Where has November gone? We are rapidly approaching Holiday Defcon 1 here. My home is decorated, the trees are up but sadly not a lot of shopping has been completed. In my defense, my husband, my dad, my best friend, my daughter and my son-in-law all have birthdays in late November and early December, so birthday shopping has taken precedence. Sorry, not sorry. Nevertheless, the holiday spirit abounds! On to the bucket list. For those that are curious, here is the link to the original list.

Language learning continues. My 830 day streak in Duolingo is intact at a crown level of 982. I missed class last week because I had a situation with my tire on the way to class. I turned around and headed back home but I did get this week’s assignment and homework done which I emailed to the teacher. I have class tonight. Wish me luck!

I’ve completed 56 NordicTrack workouts, going to geographic extremes with a walk through Alaska and then Hawaii. I also did a NordicTrack core yoga class set on a Hawaiian beach. I believe this workout has been recently added as I’ve never noticed it before. I really like it and hope to repeat it soon. It’s great for a recovery day!

I am still using the Noom app and am just 1/2 pound away from my initial 10 pound weight-loss goal. This has been a slow go but I am still enjoying using the app. To be honest, I am a little surprised that I was down this morning as we attended a couple of birthday celebrations over the weekend. Maybe that was what I needed to do to break the plateau. If that’s the case I would have started celebrating a long time ago!

The biggest project I’ve undertaken this week has been addressing bucket-list item #26: Organize and catalog all of the photos sitting in a jumble in the storage room. This is a work in progress that is still underway. I will say the anticipation of the project is far worse than the actual doing. My first decision was to decide if I was going to digitize these photos. I decided against that because I already have the photos and I already have so many photos in my online photo album. It would be less complicated and far less time consuming just to physically organize what I already have.

This is a very big container and it was filled to the brim!
Here is a laundry basket full of photos.
I should have shot this from the side so you could see the depth of the basket to better tell how much there is here. Of course I have been finding little caches of photos in cupboards, closets and cabinets to add to the stack!

The next decision was how exactly to do it. Should I scrapbook them (oh hell no) or perhaps put them in photo albums? I thought about the cardboard shoe box type photo boxes but ultimately I did what any sane person would do. I googled it. After a quick search, I decided to go with plastic boxes that contain other smaller plastic boxes that you place your photos in by year. This is perfect for keeping photos safe from flooding or water damage. But where to find these boxes? I started with the “easy” answer and hopped on to amazon, where I found this beauty for $25.99.

However, I did not order it because I knew I would be out running errands that day and being the frugal person that I am, I thought I would take a look around first. The errands were local and I didn’t want to venture too far, so ended up at our local Walmart. I found an excellent option for just $10. It was a large plastic box with clip closure which contained 5 smaller boxes, perfect for 4X6 photos. Each smaller box holds about 250 photos, so the entire box holds approximately 1,250 photos. I bought 4 of them, thinking with 5,000 photos, that might enough – or at least I would be off to a good start.

I started by taking just one basket full of photos upstairs and began sorting through them. About a quarter of the photos had the date printed on the back or front. That made those easy to place. The rest became a guessing game. If my kids were in the photo, I could “guesstimate” how old they were pretty accurately and figure out the year based on their birthdays. I also know my niece Michelle was born 20 years after myself and I know how far apart she is from her two sisters. So I would determine Michelle’s age with the help of looking at her sisters for reference to date the photo.

Of course, physical clues helped as well. I would try to remember, what years we were in a certain house or office or what year we took a specific trip. It is a time consuming process and I felt like yelling “Jackpot!” every time there was an actual date on the photo. That being said, it hasn’t been as onerous as I anticipated. In fact, it’s been rather pleasant, giving me the opportunity to look at photos from when my girls were small, photos in some cases, I hadn’t revisited in years. I put on the Hallmark Channel and grabbed a cup of chocolate peppermint coffee and started sorting. It was easy to slip down the rabbit hole and linger a little too long over a photo or two. But it’s been quite a lovely way to spend a few afternoons.

As you probably guessed, I ran out of boxes. I needed to run errands in a neighboring community and decided to stop at their Walmart to pick up the same boxes. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the same ones. They did have these, which were at a much better price point than amazon. They were just $14.99. I bought two.

While I was out, I checked Michael’s just for comparison sake, and came across something very similar here, the dimensions are the same, but a much different price point, $41.99. I think I got the better deal.

I will say hindsight is 20/20. If I were to do it again, I would insist on getting all the same type of boxes. As I’m filling up the small plastic cases, I am labeling them with the year. However, some years require more than one box. That’s something I found out late in the game. My recommendation is to get all the same type of boxes, label them with a sticky note with the date until you are entirely done with the process. At that point, permanently affix the year on the box. Having used both types of boxes, the colored ones are prettier, but as I have so many photos, I think the clear with blue interior boxes work better for my project. There are fewer boxes but each box holds more.

When I was looking online, another source indicated that it was smart to take your photos out of the magnetic type photo albums as your photos can degrade. (Protip: You can thread dental floss behind the photo to remove it if it is sticking to the page.) I haven’t decided yet if I will be doing this, as I have a ton of photo albums. On the plus side, they are all dated so it would be an easy process to store them in the correct box. I will however, be putting the girls’ larger dance and school photos into albums.

I am deep into the process, but still have a long way to go. On the plus side, once I am done, I will never need to do this again, as nowadays all of our photos are digital! IN fact, archiving physical photos probably isn’t something anyone under 30 will every need to worry about. Not sure how much time this week I’ll have to tackle this as we have Thanksgiving, a Lions football game and I have jury duty on Wednesday (dang-right before Thanksgiving) of this week. Right now, I am going to grab that cup of coffee and sift through a few more photos. I will leave you with a couple of my sweet memories from when my girls were small and the hope that this Thanksgiving you make a few photo-worthy memories of your own. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Week 26: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Reflections at the Halfway Point

I am exactly at the halfway point of my bucket list quest and feeling a bit reflective. Here is the link to my first post, with my original bucket list items, if you’re curious to revisit it.

Am I happy to be doing this? Heck yeah! Having a bucket list adds a sense of fun and whimsy to life. It has given me things to enjoy, like discovering new wines, new restaurants and new recipes. It has allowed me to put a twist on things we’ve done before, like selecting a restaurant we’ve never tried on our yearly treks to Mackinac Island or discovering a new place to visit when we are up north. It’s challenged me (high ropes course) and exhilarated me (skydiving). It has also encouraged me to take trips that we’d dreamt of but never taken (London, Stonehenge, Liverpool, Boston, Williamsburg, Toronto). It’s expanded my mind (learning French through Duolingo and taking classes at Alliance de Francaise, reading 50+ books in a year). It’s challenged my body (NordicTrack workouts and yoga) as well as my mind (meditation and visualization). And it has given me a sense of accomplishment (building and decorating a home, riding my bike on a 40 mile trip through the metro parks, losing weight.) And it’s taken my mind off the fact that I’m getting older. I don’t feel older, though I admit to more aches and pains than I used to have (I’m looking at you, shoulder and hip flexor!). I think you are never too old for a new challenge, a new goal or to discover a new way to look at the world. Whatever our age, I hope we never stop striving to live our best life, to have personal goals and to feel that sense of accomplishment once those goals are met.

Enough reflecting already! Let’s get down to business. This week I finished wallpapering the back entry way. It’s far from perfect but I am satisfied with the way it came out. The secret for me was selecting paper with a random match and no repeat. I didn’t use pre-pasted paper so wallpaper paste was a necessary part of the equation. It was far less messy than I imagined it might be. My husband added 5 hooks and we placed a bench at the back door. This takes up less space than the locker which was useful when my kids were younger. The locker has been passed along to my daughter, Jenna, who has put it to good use in her entryway. I also cleaned out the back closet and donated several coats and a bunch of hats, scarfs, and snow pants. I really like the space now and I believe it will function better for us. The last thing on the modernization/renovation list will be to refinish the wood floors in the kitchen/family room area. We’ll look into that probably after the first of the year.

Before by the back door.
Before, the mudroom. This was always a tangle of coats, shoes, packages, leashes, umbrellas, etc.
Wall paper stripped, painting the trim. Project in progress.
After, linen look wallpaper. Washable, and durable! Easy to match as there was no repeat pattern. Very forgiving to work with!
Very functional. The drawers and baskets hold gloves, hand warmers, leashes, collars and umbrellas. The mess is contained and it even provides a place to sit down and put on or take off your shoes/boots!

I signed up for the next semester of French at Alliance de Française. We are moving onto the next workbook and this course will be more conversant. I am still doing daily Duolingo. I’m meditating, though I haven’t been faithful to it, it’s been hit or miss since we came back from Florida. I’m hoping to get in the swing a bit more this week. I’m still doing Noom, but at a plateau with still 1 1/2 pounds to go to my 10 pound goal. I am sticking with it! Our carpenter is working on putting up some trim in our Florida house. The light fixtures are in and look great. Things are coming together there. The pool is slated to be started the week of Thanksgiving though we’re hoping for earlier. I completed two more NordicTrack workouts, both through London. One was a royal tour and the other a square mile tour covering the Tower of London and various buildings in the city proper of London. I learned something that I didn’t discover on my actual visit to London. Apparently Londoners give most of the modern buildings nicknames, like the Cheesegrater, or the Gherkin based on their appearances. I always learn something on my NordicTrack workouts. I also am still doing the Anna Wintour Masterclass. She is an interesting person and I am enjoying what she has to say though I do wonder if I would like her if I met her in person. After all, The Devil Wears Prada was supposedly loosely based on her.

I finished The Summer Wives and it was excellent. The writing was really well done and a pleasure to read and the narrative was interesting. Now I am reading Happy All The Time by Laurie Colwin. It’s a different sort of read with several odd characters. I’m still deciding what I think about it. I’m over half way done with it. I’ll let you know.

Happy All the Time. I’m still deciding what I think about this one!

I made several Noom recipes and thought I would share this one because it was so yummy. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo. As my girls sometimes say, no photo and it didn’t happen. I’m here to tell you it did and it was awesome.

Here is the Noom image as I neglected to take a photo.

Baked Pork Chops and Sweet Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled

1 large onion

2 TBSP canola oil

2tsp grated fresh ginger

.25 tsp salt

4 thin cut boneless pork chops (12 ounces total)

.25 tsp ground cinnamon

ground black pepper

.25 cup hot chicken broth or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large shallow baking pan with cooking spray. Cut the sweet potatoes and onion into halves. Cut each half into 8 wedges. Transfer the vegetables to the pan.

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, ginger, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the vegetables and then use clean hands to spread the mixture evenly on the vegetables.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, tossing occasionally or until the vegetables start to brown. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Add the pork to the pan. Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly on the pork. Roast for 10-15 minutes or until the pork is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Remove the pork and vegetables to a platter. Add the broth or water to the the pan juices. Stir to combine, scraping any browned bits in the pan. Drizzle the pan juices over the pork and vegetables. Enjoy!

301 calories/serving

The other thing keeping me busy is decorating for Christmas. Yep, I’m one of “those” people. I love decorating early because it extends the season for me. I love the fellowship and the good feelings of the Christmas season. I like to take my time and put it all up a piece at a time. So far I have two of our three trees up and the garland on the stairs. I still have a lot to do, but I’m fine with that. It probably will all be done sometime this week unless the weather doesn’t cooperate enough to put up the outside lights. I still use the month of November to reflect on gratitude for my many undeserved blessings and the joys of Thanksgiving. I just do it surrounded by Christmas decorations! It also helps me feel less stress and better able to focus on selecting meaningful gifts for those I care about. I just LOVE Christmas!

Until next week, whether or not you are an early decorator, may you carry the joy of the season in your heart!

Week 18: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Progress Report Edition

I can’t believe I’m a little more than one third of the way done with this journey! With summer almost in the rear-view mirror, I thought this might be a good time to take stock of where I am on the bucket-list and dive in to what remains to be accomplished! Everything that’s been highlighted has been completed. If it has an asterisk by it, it has been started but is something that is ongoing.

So I’ve completed twenty-two items on the list so far, and an additional fourteen items are ongoing. Many of the remaining items left to be done were intentionally saved as an indoor activity for cooler weather, such as organizing photos, cleaning the utility room, or baking bread for instance. I am very happy with my progress, though sad to report that #42, use the jet ski more, has probably reached it’s expiration date. The best I can hope for there is a fun day on the jet ski during summer’s last gasp or maybe early May if we get lucky with the weather and we are organized enough to have the jet ski back in the water. We’ve been traveling a lot this summer so we’ve actually not had as much time on the lake in general. There’s always next summer!

Tropical Bae : Molokai Coconut Bai with Pineapple Vodka

New items for the week included creating a cocktail for myself. I actually didn’t use Disaronno, as I had mentioned earlier. I’m tempted to create a new cocktail for each season though, so perhaps fall will bring something based with Disaronno. I am calling this cocktail Tropical Bae. It is super simple and very tasty. I simply combined Bai Molokai Coconut Antioxidant drink with New Amsterdam Pineapple Vodka. It was the perfect summer drink! Bai only has 5 calories a serving, so it’s a little easier on your waistline than some of the sweet and fruity cocktails and oh so very yummy! What the heck, I may even drink this in winter when I am yearning for summer weather, cue up the Jimmy Buffet.

I am continuing with Nordictrack, French Class, Duolingo, meditation, visualization and weekly yoga, though the search for a class continues. I have started working on # 7, lose ten pounds. I am using the Noom App and so far so good. It’s only day #4, so I will keep you all posted and give you more information on it if I continue with it after my two week trial. I hesitated to start because we still have a few trips ahead of us, but there is never a perfect time to start so why not start now! I also want to mention a fun read I just finished by Sophie Kinsella, “My Not So Perfect Life.” It was a funny and engaging read, just as we’ve come to expect from this author. I am currently reading “We Were The Lucky Ones,” a novel relating the experiences of a a Jewish family separated at the beginning of WWII, based on a true story. A much different book, but historical fiction is my jam so, despite the tough subject matter, I am enjoying it.

I am also excited that my husband and I will be heading down to Florida to check on the status of the house we are building. I hope to start working on #16, decorate our Florida house, while we are down there. Well, at least I’ll be taking measurements and doing some furniture shopping. We should be able to get a handle on closing dates soon. We are so thankful to our dear friends, Dave and Kim, who have helped us every step of the way. We are beyond grateful and are looking forward to being Florida neighbors!

In other items, I’ve started cleaning out our storage areas. I’ve taken photos of some furniture that we’ve been holding on to, and put it up on Facebook Marketplace. I have used this before with great success, though so far, it’s been two days and no bites. I am also going through my daughter’s closets to see what they’ve left behind and what they still want to hang on to so I can clear out some space. There’s still quite a bit to do. So far, two big bags are headed for the Salvation Army. The storage room will be next up.

I have to thank my friend Kelley for reaching out with suggestions on ways to use my herbs. She suggested making herb butter by mixing softened butter with chopped herbs ( any combination) then place either in ice cube trays or make into small balls and freeze. Once frozen transfer to a ziplock or freezer safe container. You can use it to added richness to sauces or place on top of cooked steak/ fish/ potatoes/ pasta. It makes a great finish. She also suggested making an herb vinegar. Start by getting a pretty bottle with a stopper, one that can fit in your fridge. Fill the bottle with herbs. Keep them whole and on stem as they are easier to remove and look beautiful. Then fill the bottle with white vinegar. Let it sit in your refrigerator for at least week. Use on salads or warm greens. You can keep topping off the bottle with additional vinegar to keep this going for months. Note: herbs must be fully covered by vinegar or they will start to mold. As long as you are using smaller amounts it is easy to top off and still keep the great herb infusion. These are awesome ideas. I will try to post photos if I am able to make either of these. As you can see from my photos below, one pot is thriving but the second pot with the basil plant appears to be on it’s last legs. The stems have become woody which can make the leaves bitter. They aren’t yet, but I fear they soon will be. I will need to get to harvesting right away. Thanks to Kelley for these awesome ideas!

Mint, Cilantro and chives still looking good.
The basil stalks have gotten a bit woody as the plant bloomed during out last trip. I need to harvest the basil before it’s too bitter.

I am so grateful to everyone that has followed along for any or all of this journey, and especially to those that have reached out to me with ideas or simply words of encouragement. This blog started as a means of accountability for myself and I have to say it has added so much fun and adventure to the inevitability of becoming sixty. As John Barrymore said, “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.” I intend to keep on dreaming and I hope you do too. Until next week.

Week 17: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – The High-Ropes Course and Williamsburg Edition

Good morning! I’ve got a few more things checked off of the bucket-list this week and I am excited to share them. First, we did the high-ropes course at Treerunners in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Well, sort of. After being all suited up, getting our orientation and doing a medium level course, we were lined up for a double diamond course (the highest level of difficulty, much like the hill designations for skiing). We were then told the course would be closing due to thunder. Because we were only an hour or so in to our visit, they issued us all rain-checks and we will be returning at the end of September to fully experience it. So this week’s post will be part 1 of our experience.

Registration is online but you check in here!
Ready for our adventure!

Treerunner Adventure Park was a little difficult to locate initially. It is just off the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center. It had something for everyone, from kids above 3 to grown kids like myself. I went with my 23 year old daughter Samantha, my 26 year old daughter, Jenna, her husband Kristianth and my husband, Mike. After receiving an orientation you proceed out on your own. It’s very safe as you are always secured with a carabiner to a line, much like belaying in rock climbing. There are a variety of different level courses to choose from and there are staff members floating around should anyone require assistance. I think it is fair to say, despite being there for only an hour, it exceeded everyone’s expectations. We are looking forward to part 2 of our adventure and I will definitely be sharing a bit more in-depth about the experience afterwards. If this is something you would like to do, here is a coupon code to get $5 off your visit: TRWRC18. It is not combinable with any other coupons or discounts. Reservations are required. It can be booked online and here is the link. https://www.treerunnerwestbloomfield.com

You can see a few of the lower courses here.
A few courses of various levels.
We headed to lunch after our rain-out and were treated to a double rainbow!

Last Thursday, I headed off to Williamsburg, Virginia with my mom. So here’s the back story: For her birthday this year, we let her pick anywhere in the continental US or the Caribbean for a trip. As my dad isn’t a big traveler, my mom’s adventures have been mostly limited to those she takes with her kids so this was to be a girls trip with yours truly. Initially I was thinking maybe mom would pick the Caribbean, but after hurricane Dorian, I ended up extremely grateful that she didn’t. Williamsburg contains the historic triangle comprised of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. This was right up our alley as we are both history buffs! We stayed at the Williamsburg Inn which was a beautiful splurge and one I highly recommend, especially for a trip without kids. It is a beautiful 62 guest room/suite hotel in a Colonial Revival style, elegantly appointed in 19th century Regency decor. The design and construction were overseen by John D. Rockefeller in 1937 and it has served guests such as Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan, among other notable dignitaries. Our room overlooked the fountain and golf course. One of the little luxuries is a turn down service, complete with chocolates and Disaronno liqueur each night. We felt totally spoiled! Hey, I could get used to this. If you remember, # 14 on my list is to create my own signature cocktail. I am planning on using this lovely liqueur as a base! The other wonderful thing about this hotel is that it is located in historic Williamsburg and an easy walk to most of the things you might like to do there. The whole of the street is about a mile, so not too demanding an undertaking.

Mom in front of our hotel.
This is our hotel from the back. Our room is the middle three windows on the second floor in the curved section. Our view was this terrace with the fountain and the golf course. In nicer weather the patio is open for dining. It was open the Saturday evening of our stay.
Mom with her birthday present from the hotel. Delicious gourmet chocolates which she was kind enough to share!
Evening turn down included two chocolates (one milk, one dark) and my new favorite liqueur!

As far as dining, the hotel also offers several dining options. We dined in the Terrace Room for breakfast and we also enjoyed the Rockefeller room for our last evening meal. The service was great and the food was amazing.

Love the Nespresso machine in the room!

Thursday, our first day, we explored Williamsburg. I had gotten a package that included most of the things to see and do in Williamsburg. Rather than give a day by day play by play, I’m going to give a quick overview of our visit.

There was a lot to see in Williamsburg. We dined at Kings Arms Tavern one day for lunch for an authentic colonial experience. I enjoyed peanut soup, a dish I’d never had, which was amazing. Our servers were all dressed in colonial garb. As a matter of fact, while strolling through historical Williamsburg, all of the workers were in period costume. Historic Williamsburg is a little like Greenfield village here in Michigan. There are cobblers, weavers and coopers at work on authentic equipment. As you pass various employees in full garb, they may tip their hat and say, “Good day to you!” We saw the Art Museum and went into the Governor’s Palace. The entrance hall looked more like an armory! I am sure the town was well-convinced of the Governor’s ability to defend their city. We also toured Basset house with a knowledgeable docent. This was the personal home to John D. Rockefeller and his wife Abbey during the time they were building the Williamsburg Inn and helping restore Colonial Williamsburg. It is an 18th century farmhouse with 586 acres of lawn and garden. It has been lovingly restored to the 1930’s, the era that Mr. Rockefeller and his wife lived here.

Peanut soup, rich and delicious! I need the recipe!
Lesson in Flexibility. You can make a plan, but Mother Nature may have other ideas!

Day two, we decided to do all of the indoor museums as we were under a tropical Storm watch due to the remnants of hurricane Dorian. It sounds far worse than it actually was. We ran between a few raindrops, nothing a raincoat and umbrella couldn’t handle. And bonus for us, the museum was practically empty and we had the place to ourselves. We hit the American Revolution Museum first in Yorktown. We were even given a raincheck to return to see the grounds so that is what we did on the following day. The grounds included a re-creation of a soldier encampment as well as a revolutionary era farm. My mom grew up in the south, so this actually brought back some early memories of her grandparent’s farm. It was priceless to be able to share these moments and memories with her. We also visited Jamestown Settlement. By the afternoon Jamestown opened the outdoors and we were able to see the grounds which held an authentic Powhatan Indian village, a fort and two ships. We were unable to go on the ships due to unsafe water levels making boarding difficult on that particular day. We enjoyed every part of our trip, even the road to Yorktown. Colonial Parkway was a beautiful drive, reminding me a little of Upper Michigan’s tunnel of trees, only with scenic overpasses.

Beautiful scenic drive along Colonial Parkway.
We learned how meals were made for revolutionary armies. Each group of 6 men had a bucket with a stew type food in it. This group of men was called a mess, go figure. There were separate fires built for each mess. They were responsible to keep the fire going and for making their own food. The fire pits were dug in a trench below ground level, like the one above, to be unaffected by wind.
Fun Fact: The Governor’s Palace at one time was home to both Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
Mom and I on the grounds of the Governor’s Palace.
Mom with George Washington in front of the Revolutionary Museum at Yorktown.

While Williamsburg wasn’t exactly on my bucket-list, what WAS on my bucket list at #41 was “Try Something new I’ve never done before.” And in that spirit, mom and I decided to do an evening ghost tour. I bought tickets for Haunted Williamsburg on our last evening. We planned an early dinner so we could make it to the Playhouse Stage where our 8:30 pm tour began. Our tour guide was named Iris and she was amazing. We talked with her a bit and found out she was a dramatic literature major in college. (who knew that was a thing?). Well, she certainly put her degree to good use! There are other ghost tours in Williamsburg but this one was recommended by our hotel and is the only one that brings you inside of buildings for the story telling. We stopped by Wythe house which is supposedly haunted by a woman in a blue dress who has lost a shoe(?). We also went to the Governor’s Palace as well as Randoph House which is supposedly haunted by a child. Most, but not all, of the stories involve employees who encounter things when they are alone in the houses. As I am a skeptic, I wasn’t convinced. Iris said she used to be a skeptic too and worried she wouldn’t make a good ghost guide. Her colleagues said to wait long enough and she would have an encounter of some sort. She did, she heard a baby crying in one of the empty historic homes. (twice). Iris was a great guide, and despite not leaving as a believer, I enjoyed myself tremendously. My mom was on the fence about ghosts before taking the tour, where I believe she still remains. While I don’t believe in ghosts, I do believe in signs from our loved ones that have passed on. But that, is an entirely different story.

This plaza in front of Jamestown Settlement has flags from all of our states with pertinent information.
Michigan’s plaque at the Centennial Plaza. I would like my family to note it was explored and settled by the FRENCH!

If you are thinking about going to Williamsburg, I would do it! It makes history come alive, though perhaps for smaller kids, some of the museums may not hold their attention. I have to mention another option for staying in Williamsburg which sounded intriguing, you can stay in one of the colonial era homes. That sounds like it might be nice for families with children. I was very delighted with our stay at the Williamsburg Inn. It would be a great place to go for an anniversary or special occasion. Make sure you tell them if you are celebrating something! They gave my mom a lovely little box of chocolates and a welcome gift of a small porcelain box on check-in. Our visit ended with a very nice thank you note to thank us for staying there. All in all, it was an awesome experience and one more checkmark on the bucket list!

Mom at the Jamestown Fort

As far as remaining items on the bucket list, I completed book #50! If you know me, you know I love to read on vacation, especially on the plane ride. I managed to finish two more books, The Road to Bittersweet (excellent) and The Friday Night Knitting Club (light and fun). I am currently reading My Not So Perfect Life (by Sophie Kinsella) with We Were the Lucky Ones in the on-deck circle. French class for the fall semester resumes tonight. My Duolingo streak remained intact throughout the vacation. I am happy to report they’ve added additional skills so now I have more to do than just review. I’ve completed 35/50 NordicTrack workouts. I am still working on the MasterClass series from Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s Tale). I’m still meditating, though I didn’t while on vacation. And speaking of vacation, upon my return I was absolutely delighted to discover a surprise package I didn’t order. THANK YOU to Deana for sending me “Flour Water Salt Yeast The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza” along with a dough bowl. She had received the book as a gift and it changed her bread-making life. I am so excited to crack it open and check off item #22, “Bake a loaf of bread from scratch.” I will be happy to share the recipe I end up using. (Deana, recommendations please?) So thank you, thank you Deana! That was such an amazing surprise!

Thank you Deana! Can’t wait to try this!

Here is the link to my original bucket list if you are curious. I am thinking of posting an updated list showing those things I’ve managed to check off at some point in the future. https://wordpress.com/block-editor/page/farewelltomy50s.home.blog/10

Well, that’s it for this week. Here’s to amazing surprises. I hope your week has a few in store for you as well!

Week 15: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Skydiving Edition – Wut?!

What a rush!

What a week! With summer winding down, I’ve been busy trying to check off those summertime boxes. This week’s blog post is going to be focused on the two things I managed to pull off this week. Let’s start with #39, a kayak ride and picnic.

We live on a lake, so kayaking is a fairly easy proposition and one I enjoy immensely. Unfortunately this summer has been crazy busy and I haven’t managed to get out paddling before now. We picked a gorgeous day and my husband Mike and I headed out, picnic packed and paddles ready. It’s about a half an hour paddle from our house to the park. To add to the sense of adventure, we were on the look out for an alligator that has reportedly been seen in Belleville Lake. Yes, really. Here’s the link: https://www.clickondetroit.com/news/weird-news/another-day-another-alligator-resident-sees-alligator-in-belleville-lake

And IF there is indeed an alligator here somewhere, I have no doubt this is where we would find it. You get to the park by going under a low-lying bridge which means no pontoon boats can navigate this area. This is an extremely tranquil part of the lake, no houses at all, loaded with wildlife and an occasional fisherman, and quite possibly an alligator with an impaired sense of direction.

Water lilies in the background.
Look at the size of those water lilies!
Mike paddling towards the landing to beach his kayak.
Beached and ready for lunch.
Lunch is served. Simple but yummy!
Not an alligator. (photo credit: Mike Lanzetta)
Water lily up close and personal by my request (photo credit: Mike Lanzetta)
Perfect water for kayaking!

This year there happens to be an unusual amount of water lilies. It always surprises me how large they get. On our way to the park, before reaching the channel, we had to stop for a few photos. Once you reach the park, there is an area to beach your kayak. There are picnic and restroom facilities and it really is a great spot for a pleasant afternoon break. We spread our picnic under the shelter and enjoyed a leisurely lunch before heading back home. If you paddle just a bit further down, you’ll see the dam on the lake. We did not spot any alligators, just a few ducks, a heron and a turtle or two. If you have the opportunity to kayak out this way, it is an easy paddle from the DNR access located off of Rawsonville road. It makes a nice way to spend an afternoon.

Next up, bucket list item #2: Skydiving! Sunday morning started out with a light breakfast, serenaded by Sammi’s custom skydiving playlist, including Freefalling by Tom Petty and Live Like You Were Dying. Then at 9am, Mike and my daughters, Jenna and Sammi and I headed out to Jackson to Skydive Tecumseh where Jenna and I would be skydiving. I had planned to do this solo, but when Jenna volunteered to be my wing woman, I readily agreed. She was supposed to have gone skydiving with her husband last year on their honeymoon in Dubai, which is an iconic place to jump. But four hours later, after suiting up and watching several other plane-loads make their jumps, their jump was canceled due to 120 degree temperatures. When this opportunity came up, she was happy to tag along and I was happy to have the company! Unfortunately, she forgot her driver’s license and they require a state-issued ID. They would not budge on that requirement. Jenna offered a photo of her marriage license, and that was not acceptable. Thanks to Kelcie, one of her best friends who also happens to be our neighbor, for saving the day! She was able to text us a photo of Jenna’s license which was sitting on our kitchen counter. So first hurtle cleared and all systems were go!

Jenna and I waiting to get suited up.
Good luck hug from Sammi who says, “Oh, hell no!” to skydiving.
Let’s do this!
Kody being a jerk with the rabbit ears. J/K. He was awesome!
Inside the plane, approaching 14,000 feet. Jenna and I are ready to make that jump!

We met our instructors/tandem partners. Mine was a friendly young guy named Kody. He was an experienced skydiver who had a relaxed way about him that immediately put you at ease. He gave instructions in small bite-sized pieces making it easy to retain. I felt comfortable relying on his expertise to make the jump enjoyable and he didn’t disappoint. We were both suited up and a short while later headed to our ride, a King-Air, especially outfitted for skydivers. There were 10 people in all, 4 of us were sky-diving with 4 instructors and 2 videographers. It was a full plane. The plane is equipped with long bench-like seats along both sides and a plexiglass door that slides open like a garage door. You straddle the bench with your instructor behind you. We rose to an elevation of 14,000 feet, up beyond the clouds. The view was breath-taking! I happily volunteered to go first, so they slid the door open and I edged out to the slim black step that was just outside the door. Kody called out, “One, two, three” and then we jumped from the plane. The harness felt snug and I did as Kody advised, breathing through my nose, rather than my mouth. It was a free fall for what seemed like quite a while, though I’m guessing it wasn’t. We were diving head first until the chute opened, then he loosened up the rigging a bit to make it more comfortable and you could sit back like you were in a chair in the sky. Once the chute opened it was also quieter. The view was phenomenal and the floating sensation was great. I was even able to wear my glasses because they had special goggles that, while very unattractive, allowed you to keep your glasses on. I may have looked goofy, but I wouldn’t have wanted to miss one second of that view! He handed me the controls and I was able to turn left, right and do a spin. The spin did make me a little queasy so I didn’t do it for more than a revolution or so. It was awesome to look around and take it all in. There was also a videographer jumping with us and she was there to capture it all. Jenna jumped right after me and we met up on the ground. The whole thing took about 2 hours total, most of that time was spent in preparation or waiting. It took maybe 8 or 9 minutes to reach the necessary altitude. Final verdict: It was AHHH-MAZING and I would totally do it again. Jenna loved her experience as well. Neither one of us were a bit nervous. If you are thinking about doing it, I would highly recommend it. I’m not sure what I could ever do to top this experience. It really is the ultimate rush!

Soaring, as close as I’ll ever come to human flight.
Heading towards the landing spot, just spotted Mike and Sammi. Giving them a wave!
Landing position, feet up!
High five for landing safely.
We made it!

If you want to watch the short video of my jump, here’s the link. https://youtu.be/wS7NGCTqha

In closing, I can’t believe it’s only been a little over 3 months since I started on this bucket-list quest. I’ve had so many amazing adventures and it’s been an absolute blast! I’m excited to discover what the rest of my 59th year holds. A heartfelt thank you to those who have come along with me for the journey. I hope you all have an amazing week. Until next week, may your chute always open and all of your landings be happy ones!

Skydiving: Check mark!

Week 13: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Happy Monday! We are back from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and I am happy to say I’ve managed to check off a few more items from my bucket list. The Upper Peninsula is a beautiful part of the state, and we have enjoyed the Les Cheneaux area for many years. If you happen to be following along, you may know that I decided to add tackling visiting someplace we’ve not been before while on our up north vacation to my bucket list (#25). And, what the heck, why not tick off item # 17 (Go hiking) while we’re at it!

But what to do? I looked at a map and looked into what each area offered and I ended up deciding on a day trip to Munising, an area rich in beauty and hiking opportunities. Munising is roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes from our resort, Spring Lodge. We were on the road by 8am heading northwest. Since we are attempting to do things we’ve never done before, we chose to hit up a lunch spot that serves pasties. Despite our many vacations to the U.P., I’d never eaten a pasty (pronounced Pass-Tee). I honestly wasn’t so sure I would enjoy it. We stopped at a cute and quirky little place in Munising called Muldoons. My husband, Mike opted for beef (which according to Mike apparently requires gravy) and I chose veggie which we ate on one of the outdoor picnic tables. We ended our meal by sharing an apple pastie. They are delicious little bundles of goodness wrapped in a pastry crust. Two enthusiastic thumbs up here.

Muldoon also sells maple syrup, fudge and gift items. Plus who doesn’t love a good Bigfoot statue!

Instead of striking out on our own, we ventured into Munising to the Pictured Rocks Interpretive Center where we spoke with a park ranger to plan our visit. We were trying to decide between hiking or taking a boat or kayak along the shoreline. After a brief discussion, we opted to hike (next time we’ll try the boat). We headed up to the Miners Falls area to hike towards Mosquito beach which, despite its name, is perhaps one of the loveliest beaches I’ve seen. And guess what, no mosquitos! We walked along trails, taking in rock formations and waterfalls. After about a mile and a half hike, through both wide and narrow trails full of tree roots and ankle twisting opportunities, we happened upon a gorgeous white sandy beach framed by tall sandstone rocks in the distance. There were a few families there, dogs fetching sticks and children playing along the shoreline. The water was an unreal Caribbean blue. Mike was able to fly his drone a bit to get a better look at the rocks than the beach itself afforded.

Mike ready to hit the trail!
One of the rock formations of Pictured Rocks, called Miner’s Castle.
Wagner Falls
Rock formations in the distance.
Water is such beautiful shades of blues and blue-greens.
Mosquito beach, acres of soft white sand.
We found an awesome piece of driftwood to sit on and a willing photographer!
A piece of nature’s artistry sits at the shoreline.

After hiking back the mile and a half, we drove a little further westward along the coast and parked near Hurricane River for a 1.7 mile hike along the lake to the Au Sable Point Lighthouse. There is a dangerously shallow sandstone bottom that extends about a mile out into the lake which has led seamen to nickname this area Graveyard Coast. The lake has been at a record high and usually you can see remnants of shipwrecks from long ago along the shoreline, but because water levels were so high, there really wasn’t much to see. There was however some very lovely forested trails which provided cooling shade on this warm summer day.

My handsome hubby, camera in hand, heading towards the lighthouse.

We were lucky enough to arrive at the lighthouse at 4:30, in time to take the last tour of the day. The fee is $3 per person for ages 6 and over. The lighthouse has not been lived in since the 1950’s but was redecorated to the period of late 1800’s, when it was first erected. We were fortunate to climb the circular staircase up all 98 steps to the top where we heard a brief presentation and then were allowed out on the narrow upper ledge. It was a beautiful view and a really cool experience I think we’ll both remember. For any lighthouse afficionados, there used to be a kerosene lit lamp which acted as a beacon, though it was a steady light that did not blink or rotate. It had a 17 mile visibility. Today the beacon is electronic and blinks with a 14 mile visibility.

Au Sable Point Lighthouse.
The beacon is now electronic and is located outside of the lighthouse on the upper outer ledge.
View from the top. Photo credit: Mike Lanzetta
Looking down the circular staircase inside the lighthouse.
As a book lover, I found this really cool. There was a supply ship that would arrive every so often with supplies and a different batch of books. They would simply close up the book cabinet and return their books in exchange for new ones. If there was a bookmark in a book they would leave it in place because there was a lighthouse keeper somewhere waiting for that book to get back around to them. According to our docent, their schedules were pretty packed with chores, but they managed to squeeze in a game of cards or a board game in their down time. They were usually here with their families.

We made it back to the resort around 9pm. Spring Lodge has a couple of unique offerings, one of which is yoga on the beach on Monday mornings and Wednesday evenings. A few of us took the Monday morning class. We’ve done it the last few times we’ve stayed here as well. It is always a relaxing way to start the morning!

Family Favorite!
View of the boathouse.
Yoga on the beach

The resort also offers Happy Hour on Friday night which features one of our proprietors, Ernie, on drums. Because my brother-in-law also plays drums, Ernie has him sit in and uses this opportunity to play the horn; the man has talent!

Happy hour includes visitors who stop in or listen from their boats on the water. Carl did an amazing job on drums as always. The caliber of talent in this little town is astonishing! Fun time. They played everything from Bare Naked Ladies to Van Morrison.

We always find this vacation so relaxing. Ernie and Carla are fabulous hosts. If you want to find out more about the resort, here’s a link. http://springlodge.com Fun Fact: my husband created the video on their website during one of our past stays. He did a great job of covering the basics in less than a minute. Look for a few familiar faces in it.

Besides hanging out with family, we usually rent a pontoon boat and go out for sunset cruises. We’ll have lunch on the pontoon or take the kids into Hessel for ice-cream at Mertaugh’s in the marina. Sometimes the adults head in to Cedarville or Hessel for a cocktail. For a small town, there are several restaurant options, Snows Bar and Grill is even within walking distance. Hessel boasts the Les Cheneaux Culinary School which is a fabulous dining experience if you are looking to splurge. We didn’t make our reservations in time this year, so we missed out. Ang-ios is a family favorite. The newest kid on the block is the Les Cheneaux Distillery, try the Drummond Sunrise cocktail, you won’t be disappointed. In the spirit of trying new things, we decided to take the boat in to Hessel and have breakfast at the NibbleLungen, something we’d not done before. We went at Jenna’s suggestion and I hope this becomes one of our vacation traditions.

A little market that offers breakfast, ice cream and a nice selection of wine and cold beverages and other household necessities.

We continued our tradition of serving chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, fresh fruit and mimosas on the boat house deck for everyone. Family traditions are important, as our younger family members continue to remind us! I’m so glad.

But the highlight of our stay has always been the Antique Wooden Boat Show in Hessel. We’ve been attending this show for years. It’s always fun to see the boats heading out in the early morning to take their place in the show. After we’ve seen a few boats head down the channel, we start the day by attending a good old fashioned pancake breakfast in Mertaugh’s boat garage, benefitting the Lions Organization for the blind. The boat show itself features classic antique wooden boats. The amazing thing is that many of these boats are actually in regular use as transportation. They are just lovely! I’ll post photos of a few of my favorites. The Hessel marina also has an art show on site with art of all types available for purchase. This year I bought a beautiful hand carved wooden box for my family room and a pen carved from white tail deer antler. We started our day early so we could head back downstate sooner and hopefully miss some of the traffic. By 11 am we were happily headed back home with a heart full of new memories and a few more things checked off my bucket list.

Wooden boat heading down the channel. Notice the water level has this dock completely submerged!
So beautiful! They are like floating artwork!
These cool boats resemble cars with fins!
Well named boat

While we were up north, I also managed to squeeze in a LOT of reading. I finished Less and read the 688 page book Bella Poldark, the last in the 12 book Poldark series. It was such a luxury to read the whole book in just a couple of days! I also read The Wife Between Us, which was a good suspenseful read. So I’ve completed 46 of my 50 book goal. I’m 92% done and 16 books ahead of schedule. I may have to up my goal!

These are the last 6 books of the 12 book series. There is also a PBS show called Poldark based on these books. They were recommended to me by a friend and I highly recommend them. It was an investment of time, but it was time well-spent. I’ll miss reading about these characters!

In other milestones, my husband and I returned home to step over the threshold into our new reality, that of being empty nesters. Our youngest daughter moved to her first post-college apartment while we were gone. We’ve spent some of the last couple of days giving her a hand with getting settled. Having an empty nest was not an item on my bucket list. I’ve had a taste when the girls were in college and I thought I was ready for it. After all, it is a parenting milestone. I told myself that we’ve succeeded at raising two successful, independent daughters! YAY!! High five to us, and pass the Kleenex please. I held it together pretty well actually, just a little mist up. Hey, I am looking forward to having less housekeeping to do, less laundry and less grocery shopping, but I know we are going to miss her and our grand-kitty, Ollie, terribly. It’s already feeling a little emptier here. Oh well, I’m off to figure out what I’m going to do with that empty room. Have a happy week!

Week 10: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Hello from Boston where I am tackling item #49 on my bucket list, sightseeing in Boston! Well, actually by the time you are reading this I will be back home in Michigan. Mike and I were in Boston for a long weekend so he could attend a conference of some of the nations’ top Invisalign providers. I got the better end of this deal because while he was pow-wowing, I was out exploring Boston. Well, actually I was “in” exploring Boston. Because of unseasonably high temperatures prompting heat advisories, I decided it might be an excellent day to visit the New England Aquarium and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts topped off by a shopping trip to the Prudential Center. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Actually, we rolled into town on Thursday, and due to a flight delay made a bee-line for our dinner reservation at the Top Of The Hub, luggage and all. The restaurant is located in the Prudential Center on the 52nd floor. Thankfully they were more than accommodating in storing our luggage for us. Apparently this must not be too uncommon. We were fortunate enough to have 7:45 dinner reservations and a window seat to Mother Natures’ finest floor show. This was a perfect way to start our trip because we began with a daylight aerial view of the surrounding area and ended by watching the sun fade below the horizon, changing the city into a dazzling array of twinkling lights. I was somewhat concerned that the view may be the big draw, but that was misplaced as we both agreed our meals were spectacular. I enjoyed Lobster ravioli and Mike had a tuna steak. We topped off the meal with Boston Creme Pie of course, which really helped cement my fan status of Boston. Come for the delightful accent of the citizens and stay for the lobster and Boston Creme Pie!

Mike with the yummy Boston Creme Pie.
Our night time view of the city. It was memorable watching the sky go from dusk to darkness.

Friday, we had much of the day together and decided to explore the beautiful Public Gardens and Newbury street, which we had noticed on our Uber ride back to the hotel the night before. We stayed in Waltham at the Westin which was about a 25 minute Uber ride to downtown, as that is where the conference was being held. I understand that many people stay in the suburbs and opt to Uber in because of the high prices of the downtown hotels.

Public Garden, adorned with statues and it also boasted a small pond with swan boats (if you like that sort of thing.)

We visited their public library. I love seeing libraries in major cities as it reveals so much about the values and intellect of it’s citizens. This library looked much like a museum. It boasted murals by John Singer Sargent, and was engraved with the names of famous authors throughout history, both on the inside and outside of the building. A library is a bit like my personal church, I approach them with reverence and awe, and this particular library deserved both.

If you look carefully you can make out the names of famous authors engraved on edifice of the building.
What an awesome place to study and read!

We wandered up and down Newbury, stopping for lunch at a little sidewalk cafe, MET Back Bay. I had to have a Lobster roll, because, well, we were in Boston! It was yummy but definitely a bit overpriced for the lobster to roll ratio. ($32). We did enjoy sitting on the sidewalk (well a few steps down from the sidewalk, which seemed to be a thing here in Boston) and people watching while sipping our cocktails, which were the best! Mike had a watermelon margarita, and I had a coconut mojito and both were amazing.We did a little shopping at the Prudential Center then headed back so he could make cocktails and dinner with his colleagues.

Lobster roll, sweet potato fries, watermelon margarita and a coconut mojito, well done Boston!

Saturday, Mike was in conference and I did some exploring. I understand they have an awesome Science Center but I opted to go a different way. Both the New England Aquarium and the Fine Arts Museum are world-class. I highly recommend a visit. I was lucky to stumble on to the Toulouse Latrec exhibit, which I enjoyed. The museum also had a Jackson Pollock installation and an extensive collection of John Singer Sargent, an artist I was only slightly familiar with. I left there a big fan of his work.

Jackson Pollock installation.

I ended up eating at the museum’s dining room as opposed to the aquarium and that was a wise decision. I enjoyed a wonderful vegetable tart. The aquarium had the regular fare you would expect, nothing exceptional. You ordered at a counter and found a seat. The museum however had several different dining options, from family friendly to a little more elegant. I ate at the New American Cafe which had table service and a delightfully unexpected menu, offering both wine and craft beer.

Vegetable tart. I’m a fan.

What the aquarium lacked in culinary delights it made up for in an extensive display of both the unusual and the endangered. They did a fabulous job of enlightening their visitors as to the impact of global warming on these animals and what measures we as individuals could take to reduce our carbon footprint (paper straws, reusable water bottles, etc) For instance, penguins feed in cold water, as global warming affects their feeding grounds, the penguins must swim farther out to get food. They feed their young by regurgitating their meal upon their return. With penguins having to swim farther away, many times the meal has already been digested by the time they return, leaving nothing left to feed their chick. This is endangering the penguin population. This is just one of the examples they provided. The aquarium boasts a large center tank which has a ramp going up four stories culminating at the turtle exhibit at the top of the tank. One highpoint was watching as scuba divers entered the center tank and hand fed the fish. The stingrays were pesky fellows, rubbing right up against the divers, basically begging for food like a dog might. It was a remarkable thing to watch! I ended my day with a little shopping at the Prudential Center, which holds not only Top Of The Hub and an observation tower but a mall. Much to my delight Mike decided to skip out of the dinner with his colleagues and joined me for a stroll down Newbury street where we settled on dinner at Joe’s, a blessedly air-conditioned establishment that was able to seat us after a short wait. I enjoyed chicken piccata and Mike had the special, blackened mahi mahi. Both accompanied by the requisite glass of Riesling for me and a cocktail for Mike. Our meals were very good.

The New England Aquarium. Notice the queue for tickets is empty. The line was relocated inside due to heat advisories. It was a good day to be inside!
Diver feeding the fish.

Sunday, we were up early for breakfast and had the hotel store our luggage. We took an Lyft out to the start of the Freedom Trail, which sounds easier than it was. After a mishap with the Lyft App and a change of driver, we finally made it to our destination. We enjoyed watching history come alive, visiting important historical sites that played vital roles in our American history, such as the old South Meeting House, the site of the tax protest that ended with the uprising known as the Boston Tea Party or the Old State House which held the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in Boston. What struck me the most was the numerous locations which served as public forums, and the very strong emphasis on freedom of speech, even unpopular speech. The focus was on the right to speak, even if you didn’t care for what is being said. Our founding fathers recognized the importance of that from the start both, for free speech and freedom of the press. In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Our liberty depends on freedom of the press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.”

The second stop on the Freedom Trail: The State House. The dome is coated in 23 karat gold. My only question is why 23 karats? Couldn’t they spring for that extra karat. “24 karats? Too much, we can’t do it.”

We also saw the site of the Boston Massacre, Paul Revere’s house and the graves of Paul Revere, Sam Adams and several other well and lesser known Patriots. Seeing these historical figures come alive for me was the best part. They were actual people, not the mythical Gods we revered from the pages of our elementary history books. They were brave people that took risks, and I can’t help but wonder what I would have done. Which side would I have taken, Loyalist or Patriot? I like to think I would have been among the Patriots but of course, who can ever know?

Statue of Paul Revere in the foreground. In the background is the Old North Church. The steeple of this church is the sight where the lanterns were hung from the famous “one if by land and two if by sea.”
Paul Revere’s tombstone.

We also made a quick pitstop to check out the Harvard Campus, an event we also shared in Mike’s office’s Instagram story.

Harvard’s library is unfortunately not open to the public.

As this post is rather long, I am not going to overly detail my other bucket list items this week. I will mention that I used cilantro from my herb garden to garnish a big batch of white bean chicken chili. The only other accomplishment I wish to share is my 700 day streak in Duolingo. I am waiting until I reach the 2 year mark at 730 days, to celebrate. Finally, if all goes well, I should be ready to share our bathroom remodel before & after next week.

Signing off for now with these wise words from Benjamin Franklin: “Our Constitution only guarantees you the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”

So get on out there and pursue your own brand of happiness! See you next week.