Week 31: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

It’s been a fun and productive week! The holidays always seem to add a layer of extra busyness. My shopping is only halfway done, which is very unlike me. I am normally 99% finished by this time. On the plus side, I know what I am buying, I just need to get out there and do it. I’ve already ordered everything I intended to order from online, so all should arrive in time. It’s just the real life shopping that I’ll need to complete.

So let’s dig in. In regard to item # 7 – Lose 10 pounds, I have plateaued with about a pound to go. I have decided my best option is to try to hold steady through the holidays and resume reduction efforts after we return from Florida soon after the first of the year. I believe that will be difficult enough. I am still using the Noom app and have found it helpful. On a related note, I am slacking a little on the NordicTrack workouts. I did two this week, bringing me up to 62 workouts of the 50 work out goal. One was a stroll through Dubrovnik, Croatia and the other a stroll along the Champs Elysees in Paris. We have visited both of these cities IRL (in case you aren’t familiar, you may see this abbreviation in your kids’ texts, it means “In Real Life”). I’m probably too old to be using these abbreviations but IDC. I’m pretty sure that means “I don’t care.” And if it doesn’t, it should! The Dubrovnik one was interesting as despite having visited this city, there were still new things to learn. I didn’t know that at one point in their history a kilo of salt was as valuable as a kilo of gold. They would harvest it from the sea and use it to “pay off” their aggressors to retain their autonomy. I learn something new almost every time I hop on the treadmill!

Item #10- Keep attending classes through Alliance de Francais. This Monday’s class is the last for this year. I will be setting up private FaceTime or Skype classes after the start of the year when classes resume. I hope this will allow me to keep up while traveling and pick right up where I left off in class upon my return. My Duolingo streak is intact and I am so excited that they’ve recently added additional content which gives me some new things to learn! I am also revisiting Pimsleur French IV and V, which is an audio language learning course.

Item # 11 – Try one new to us restaurant each month. This time we were out on the western side of the state meeting friends from that area. My husband is a private pilot, so we flew and shortened what would have been at least a two hour car trip to a short 45 minute flight. We were even able to fly over the Big House in Ann Arbor. Our friends picked us up at the airport and we went to a nearby restaurant called The Four Roses Cafe, in Plainwell. It is rather unassuming from the outside. In fact, it looks a lot like someone’s home who suddenly decided to open a restaurant, but oh my goodness! What a treat. Everything is made with the freshest ingredients and menus are changed daily based on the best locally available produce. I had a grilled romaine salad for my entree which was wonderful but the best was saved for last. They make some really scrumptious home made desserts on site from scratch. Between the four of us, three deserts were ordered and they were all amazing. My husband had the Coconut Cream Pie, our friends ordered a brownie sundae type desert and another chocolate desert whose name I can’t remember but it was reportedly delicious. I just had a bite of Mike’s pie and it was worth whatever calories were in it! If you are ever in the area, I would recommend seeking this place out. We arrived at 11:40 am on a Friday and had a half hour wait, so be prepared. They will, however, take reservations for parties of six or more.

Flying over the Big House!

Our Florida house is coming along. The couch, desk and end tables for the den should be delivered on December 31st. As far as furniture goes, we will just be missing our barstools. Curtains for the dining room and den are hopefully to be hung sometime this week. I still have a lot of accessorizing to do, along with fabric selections for bedroom curtains, and bathroom valances. The bedrooms do have blinds in place for privacy. They have dug the pool and poured the walls. They back filled and leveled the yard. Next comes pavers, and tiling/gunnite as well as a lanai surround. I can’t wait to watch it all come together!

Walls are poured and ground is back-filled and leveled. Making headway!

I am currently reading “This Is How It Always Is” book #70 of my 50 book goal by Laurie Frankel. It is a Reese Witherspoon book club pick. It’s a little early to decide if it’s one I’ll recommend but I’ll let you know.

This book is a selection from Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club. I’ve just started it, so I’ll keep you posted.

In item #26 – Organize and catalog all of the photos sitting in a jumble in the storage room, I have made great headway. There were way more photos than I originally anticipated and I keep finding more caches of them all over the house. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel though and hope to complete this project before year’s end.

The large plastic container and the smaller boxes are still being sorted and filed. The smaller plastic boxes are almost all filled. Thankfully the end is in sight!

I haven’t been as good with item #13 – Daily meditation. It’s been a rather hit or miss proposition lately, primarily due to the busyness of the holidays, the extra get-togethers, cooking, shopping, baking, birthdays and events. I know they say that is when you need it the most, to calm a busy mind, so I am going to have to double down on my efforts to fit it into an already jam packed day. I think perhaps starting the day with a short bit of meditation ideally followed by a brief bit of yoga should help bring clarity that will let me tackle whatever lies ahead. Well, at least I hope so.

I have been working on my family tree a little through Ancestry.com. Recently a second cousin reached out to me via messaging and we have been exchanging helpful information for our family trees. It’s an interesting thing to have someone who’s shared a common history yet we don’t know each other and I doubt either of us had heard of the other before genetically matching on the DNA testing and determining that we shared a few relatives. I look forward to doing a deeper dive soon, perhaps after the rush of the holidays.

In item # 30 – Finish a Masterclass, I’ve finished the Anna Wintour Masterclass and have recently started one with make-up expert Bobbi Brown. I’m really enjoying it so far. She is kind of the antithesis of the Kardashians, very understated and natural. So far, I’m liking what I see. This will be the third Masterclass for this year. Before Anna Wintour, I took the Margaret Atwood Writing class. I’ve enjoyed each and every one of these courses.

Well, I believe I have a few presents to wrap and there is a glass of Moscato calling my name. I am taking the next two weeks off from the blog to revel in the holidays and enjoy spending time with my family. I will rejoin you on January 6th. Until then, I’ll leave you with my favorite holiday quote from Burton Hillis , “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” I hope the same will be true for you this season. Cheers!

Merry Christmas!!

Week 29: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Detroit Edition

The Christmas season is upon us with it all of the busyness and social commitments that come along with it! Unfortunately for me, it means I don’t have a lot of time to concentrate on tackling my list so this week’s post will be short and sweet! For those who might want a refresher, here is my original bucket-list.

This week, I’ve maintained my Duolingo streak of 837 days. I’m still attending French classes at Alliance de Francais of Detroit. Because I am planning to spend a lot of February and part of March in Florida, my instructor suggested I take a private class with him remotely so I can advance more quickly. I think that will be an excellent idea and may even afford me a bit more flexibility. I will miss the classroom setting and my classmates though.

I just finished Isaac Mizrahi’s book “I.M. A memoir.” He is just one year younger than I am and hearing about his ascension through the 70’s and 80’s was a stroll down memory lane. He mentions Studio 54 and celebrities from that era. As a Jewish gay man, he had a lot to share about the difficulties he faced when there was far less tolerance of those with a different sexual orientation and his fear through the height of the AIDS epidemic. It was an interesting read and I topped it off with listening to his interview on one of my favorite author’s podcast, “Happier with Gretchen Ruben.” If you are interested, here is his interview. Now I want to watch the documentary on him, “Unzipped” filmed as he put together his 1994 runway collection. I have unwittingly been doing a deep dive into the business of fashion lately and the book was a nice complement to the Masterclass with Ann Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue and artistic director of Conde Naste. I am still really enjoying the Masterclass series. I finished Anna Wintour’s class and have now started watching Bobbi Brown’s masterclass on make-up.

In regard to reading, I’ve finished I.M. and am currently reading “The Oysterville Sewing Circle” book #68 of of my new goal of reading 75 books before the year ends, which may be overly ambitious. I am using the app Overdrive for this one and will need to complete it in a timely manner to prevent it from disappearing before I’m finished with it.

We didn’t visit any new restaurants this week but I have to give a shout out to The Shinola Hotel. We stayed there the evening before Thanksgiving and it really was wonderful. The evening didn’t start out awesome as the roads were mostly closed in anticipation of the Turkey Trot the next morning and the Thanksgiving Day parade. The evening rapidly got better when our room was upgraded to a suite. It had a distinct mid century vibe and even had a beautiful Shinola turntable in the room with several albums, including The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and John Coltrane. I loved the robes that were hanging in the closet. They looked like a boxing robe with Detroit written on the back! After dropping off our luggage, we had dinner at Parc. It was a short walk from our hotel and it’s my favorite restaurant in Detroit which is even more magical this time of year. It sits in the shadow of the beautiful Christmas tree which glimmers through the restaurant windows. You can also see the skating rink and the trees all aglow in white lights. The food is amazing and they also carry my original favorite wine, Grand Traverse Riesling. The evening was perfect! In the morning, we ordered room service and sat and watched the runners go by dressed as everything from Santa Claus to the Grinch and everything in between. Once the race was over, the parade began. It was cozy sitting at the window with a wool blanket on my lap and a hot cup of coffee in my hand. This just might be the start of a lovely tradition. The best part is it was just a short walk to Ford Field to watch my girls cheer on the sidelines at the Lions football game and perform in the half time show. Then on to my parents where we all enjoyed a yummy Thanksgiving meal lovingly prepared by my mom, just as she has every year for as long as I can remember. One difference is that now my young nieces are grown with children of their own. It’s a tradition I wouldn’t change for the world!

Check out that awesome turntable!
Love the robes!
Dining and “bar area”
I somehow didn’t grab a photo with the running Santas or the dinosaur or any of the other crazy costumes that were out there! It made the race very entertaining!
Room service!

I also have to give a shout out to The Caucus Club, where I brought my husband and family to celebrate an early birthday for my husband Mike this past weekend. The Caucus Club is really a throw back to the rat pack era, complete with a piano player and fun fact, which I may have mentioned before, it’s reportedly where Barbra Streisand got her start! It was so nice to have our Samantha, Jenna and Kristianth all together to celebrate Mike’s 60th birthday. He is an amazing husband, father and human being and I am lucky that I’m the one he’s sharing his life with. It’s been an eventful week and my heart is full to bursting.

Birthday Celebration at the Caucus Club
The crew at dinner
Our girls at Campus Martius
Love Detroit’s holiday vibe!

But my heart isn’t the only thing that’s bursting. As I’m sure you can surmise, with all these eating opportunities I’ve not managed to make it to my goal. However, I am happy to report that I am holding my own. I still use Noom daily, though I may have missed logging a meal or two here and there. I am back on track and determined not to gain any weight over the holidays. Wish me luck! I have done a few more workouts on the NordicTrack. I am at workout #59 of my 50 work out goal. I did the core yoga workout and a walk through the Balkans as well as an interval incline walk through Lake Tahoe.

I am still neck deep in organizing our photos but the end is at least in sight. I am strongly leaning towards removing photos from their photo albums and filing them all away using this storage system. I think I’ll need to run out and get a few more storage containers though.

Mike and I are heading to Florida sometime this week and I will update you then on our Florida house. On the plus side our pool is finally underway! However there is still no couch and one does not appear to be on the horizon. Surprisingly, they didn’t have enough fabric and had to order more. In fact, none of the remaining furniture is in yet. This is a lesson in patience. At least this time we will have dining room chairs and a couch in the den. I ordered a few lamps on Black Friday from Wayfair as they were very much on sale. They should be arriving while we are there. Our new backsplash is in and our wine refrigerator has been ordered. I will be so happy when it is all complete. We still need curtains for a few of the bedrooms, and we need to select art work and accessories which Mike and I hope to shop for while we are down there (fun!) I was hopeful it would be completely decorated and furnished before the end December, but sadly, it’s not looking like that will be the case.

That’s where I will leave you for now. I hope to have a little more to share about our Florida place next week. Until then, may you enjoy every minute of this busy, messy beautiful season!

Week 27: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Love pulling out my Christmas decorations! I made this box at AR workshop a couple of years ago. Fun family field trip!

The holiday season is upon us with all that it entails. The fact that we in Michigan were graced with 8 inches of snow certainly helped the season along. That and the Christmas carols I’ve had playing non-stop since November 1st. Can you tell that it’s my favorite time of year? Don’t be surprised if you catch me smiling from ear to ear and if you are one of those people with resting grinch-face, my apologies. And almost nothing makes me smile more than decorating for Christmas! My trees (yes plural) are up and the inside of our home is fully decorated. That hasn’t left me with a lot of time to tend to my bucket-list so today’s post will be fairly short.

I love our eclectic tree. It holds sentimental decorations, photos of my girls throughout their childhood, handmade ornaments and a few ornaments picked up from vacations we’ve taken. It’s always awesome to savor the memories while putting up the tree, and lingering over them throughout the season.

My Duolingo streak is intact at 823 days. The new session of French classes start tonight. We will begin book #2. Our teacher, David, has informed us that class will now be conducted entirely in French. We are not to speak English in the classroom. This will surely prove challenging. However, he emphasized that mistakes WILL be made and that is perfectly ok and a part of learning. I think that will take some of the stress out of it for me. I’m looking forward to stretching my linguistic muscles, as anemic as they may be.

In reading, I’ve finished “Happy All The Time” and “Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker” and have just started “IM A Memoir” by Isaac Mizrahi. It was a book selected by Gretchen Rubin for her online bookclub, so I thought I would check it out. This will be book #67 of my original 50 book goal. I think perhaps I set the bar too low. I made a new goal of 65 and have passed that too. I’m now shooting for 75 which I think is reasonably ambitious. If you have any suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed reading, send them my way please! I’ve had my first hiccup with Overdrive. I never received notification that the book I’d had on hold (Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker) was in my cue until a couple days before it was due back. Despite my attempts to read quickly, it was returned mid-read. Fortunately it was only gone for a day as I’d requested to put it on hold again and it was soon returned to me. So just a heads up to check your holds to check if you’ve got something loaded up and ready to read.

I am still using and enjoying the weight loss app Noom, though I am stuck at a plateau with only 1 1/2 pounds left to go. I hope to drop a few more pounds after I reach goal, however long that may take. I’m fine with it taking a while, as long as it eventually happens. It’s not a hard system to stick with and surprisingly my motivation has remained strong. I made several Noom recipes this week and while they were all good, I’ll share our favorite one from among those, below.

Curried Chicken With Coconut

2 tsp peanut oil or walnut oil

1tsp butter

.5 large chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic, minced

.75 cup chopped celery or fennel

.5 large green or red bell pepper, chopped

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 oz each) cut into 1″ cubes

.5 tsp salt

.25 tsp ground black pepper

1 TBSP curry powder

.667 cup canned crushed tomatoes

.5 cup chicken broth

3 TBSP chopped peanuts

3 TBSP shredded unsweetened coconut

Heat the oil and butter in a pot over medium heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the onion, garlic, fennel or celery, and bell pepper. Cover and cook just until translucent, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes.

Stir in the chicken, salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until the chicken has lost most of the pink color, 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with the curry powder and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Add the tomatoes and broth, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the chicken is tender, about 30 minutes.

Serve with the nuts and coconut for sprinkling on top.

158 calories/serving – 4 servings as prepared

I did only one additional NordicTrack workout this past week. It was an Alaskan hike. That puts me at 53 workouts of my 50 workout goal. Shooting too low seems to be the theme here. Maybe therein lies the lesson: Aim higher!

I’m working on a few bucket list items # 31 (teach our dog a new trick) and #34 (play a simple song on the piano). But I have nothing I’m ready to share yet.

I will leave on a fun note. Since November holds Thanksgiving and is typically a month for gratitude, I am having fun expressing gratitude to those who are in positions of service. Even if it’s something small. I always put a jar of candy canes on my kitchen counter and grab a handful for my purse when going out. I offer one to harried clerks behind the counter who are doing their best in the middle of the holiday rush, or servers who are busy juggling the needs of several tables. This past week, I gave one to the usher at the Lions game who we see weekly, the parking lot attendant who always saves us a spot, and the waitress at Chili’s who did a great job with our party of six. It always brings a smile when we are so gratefully thanked for our gesture. I usually feel like I made their day and you can be sure they’ve made mine. It’s a little thing but it brings me joy. My husband has even taken to reminding me, “Did you remember your candy canes?” before we go out. Of course, we try to tip generously too, especially around the holidays .

Dinner at Chili’s after the Lions’ game with our girls. (not shown but equally important, my fabulous husband Mike, Jenna’s husband Kristianth and Sammi’s boyfriend Andrew)
Candy cane for our server.

And that will wrap it up for this week. I hope you, like me, are on the lookout for opportunities to be a kindness ninja, sprinkling a little of the magic dust of the holidays wherever you go!

Yes, Kobe is on Santa’s naughty list. Don’t ask!

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 Fran├žaise. 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!