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 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!

Week 25: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Bread-making and Florida House Update

25 weeks, just one more week to the half way mark. I am writing this in sunny Florida, the weather is lovely and I wish we were able to stay longer but it’s time to return home this afternoon. We were able to accomplish a lot and I would say this particular trip was more work than leisure, but what a pleasure!

I am excited to share our Florida house update with you all! Only some of our furniture has been delivered. Ironically just one chair, which we had to share. So yes, a dining room table, no chairs, a coffee table, no couch. We did receive the bedroom sets. I think the universe was telling us there was no time to sit down this time around but thankfully, we were allowed to sleep.

Finished!
The house from the back. We will be adding a pool and lanai soon.

The trip started by heading to the house right after landing. We were greeted by our awesome friends, Dave and Kim, who had put up a congratulations banner for us to cut and some Prosecco which we opened on our last day there. We also had to break open the Dom Perignon that had been gifted to us by a dear friend to commemorate our move-in day. Having been through this themselves, they were kind enough to leave us with some paper plates, paper towels, napkins, scissors, and toilet paper, the essentials! They also had lunch waiting. Did I mention they are AWESOME? What a welcome!

Cutting the banner, our grand opening!
We couldn’t ask for better friends. Toasting to friendship and being neighbors in two states!

Then I was off to meet our designer to work on curtains and bedspreads. Part of the adventure is learning the area. I haven’t really driven much around here, so of course, I got lost and ended up arriving late. Darn GPS! I am excited about my selections and can’t wait for the rest of the furniture and all of the bedspreads and curtains to arrive. I made a quick trip to Target for some basic food supplies to get us through the weekend and of course a Keurig! There are a lot of things we can do without, but coffee isn’t one of them. While I has busy hunting and gathering Mike was meeting with the electrician Scott, our Comcast rep, Adam the glass installer, and the Best Buy installer. Because so many of the houses are the same and there aren’t really opportunities to customize much with our builder, many of the residents change certain things to make their house more to their taste after closing. We don’t want shower curtains and didn’t like the shower door in our master bath, so we are changing it out to frameless. We are adding some architectural detail to several of the ceilings and a bit more molding. We will also be adding a pool and hot tub with a cage lanai. They’ve not broken ground on that yet but hopefully will soon. Our new light fixtures will be coming in this week.

After a quick shopping trip, I had to scoot home because it was Halloween. We are the first people to build on our section of the street as we are phase 2 of the development, so we weren’t expecting trick or treaters but were invited to pass out candy at our friends home. We sat in the driveway and trick or treaters came by foot and by golf cart! As there was no Michigan weather to contend with, you were able to see their costumes and everything. Imagine that!

The next day at 8 am, Mike and I met with Rebecca, a sales representative who happens to live in our neighborhood, to order some black-out shades for our bedroom windows. Then we were off to the amenities center to get our orientation to the facilities here. After that, Mike awaited his various appointments first with the carpenter, Kyle, then Joe who will be doing our backsplash (another one of those customization projects) and a representative from Home Team pest defense. Meanwhile, my awesome friend Kim and I were off to Bed Bath and Beyond where we FILLED 5 shopping carts full of necessities to set up a home, things like glasses, dishes, vacuums, brooms, mops, towels sheets, and the list goes on…and on! We managed to get most everything we’ll need, though there are still a couple things on my list that I’ll tackle next time. I want to be fully equipped when friends and family come to visit! It was probably the biggest shopping trip I’ve ever done but the total came in less than either Mike or I anticipated. I had been advised (again by my wise and experienced friend Kim) to purchase a Bed Bath and Beyond plus membership. I saved well over $500 doing this. Highly recommend if you anticipate fully furnishing a new home.

5 baskets full of stuff! I had to document this because I think this is the only time in my life this has ever or will ever happen! We literally had a parade to the car with workers helping us load it all in!

It wasn’t all work. We did manage to squeeze in a nice dinner at the Barefoot Bar and Grill, our neighborhood’s restaurant with our friends. We knocked out a quick morning work out at the club facilities and managed to have dinner in Punta Gorda at the Blue Turtle again with friends. We enjoyed meeting our friends’ friends as well, a couple that I’m surprised we’ve never met before. They know a young woman we know through the Lion’s organization and they also vacation up in Hessel, just like us and even show their boat at the boat show we attend annually. In fact, we found out last year their boat was right next to a friend of my husband’s. We probably were standing right next to them and didn’t even know it. Small world!

The weather the whole time we were there was in the 80’s, sunny and humid. We were told this is unusually warm and muggy for this time of year. Apparently, it’s typically in the 70’s with less humidity. My husband’s brother Ken and his wife Chris surprised us by flying in from Lauderdale. Ken is a recreational pilot and it’s a short 45 minute flight from their home to ours. Unfortunately, I missed them because I was out filling my cart. I am looking forward to seeing them on a future trip when we have time to sit and visit and entertain them, you know, with actual chairs and everything! It was so nice of them to swing by!

I will save the photos of the inside for when we receive all of our furniture, which should be before our next visit in December.

I did want to share a couple of other accomplishments. I made bread from scratch using the recipe in the book sent to me by Deana. The unusual aspects of this technique are that it requires using a kitchen scale to measure as opposed to measuring cups and spoons. The bread dough is folded and pinched instead of kneaded and you cook it in a dutch oven instead of a loaf pan. Despite the fact that I muddled through the process, it came out yummy! Super crusty on the outside and moist and delicious on the inside. If you are into bread making, check out this book: Flour Water Salt Yeast – The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish. It wasn’t too difficult, but it does require a time commitment as you have to keep an eye on the dough and decide when to fold and when to let it rest, especially for me as a beginner. I am looking forward to trying more recipes from this book.

So good!
Crispy on the outside, and yummy soft on the inside!

In other bucket-list items, I am currently reading book #64, The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams. I am about half way through and enjoying it very much! I finished An Anonymous Girl which I also enjoyed. It was a psychological thriller which holds the readers’ interest. I had read another book that I had enjoyed by this author, The Wife Between Us.

The Summer Wives. Enjoying it so far.

I have also finished my goal of fifty workouts on my NordicTrack! #50 was another walk through the Scottish Highlands. So yay! That is a checkmark for me! My wallpaper had arrived before we left for Florida, and I began the project of papering the back entry way and hallway only to find out that I had under-ordered. I had to re-order more. Lucky for me I am using it in two separate areas, so it won’t be awful if the dye lot isn’t perfectly matched. I completed the hallway off the kitchen and the rest of the paper showed up while we were gone, so I should be completing my back entry way soon. I hope to be able to share photos by next week.

I am still using the weight loss app Noom. It wasn’t hard to do in Florida as we were so busy, and it was pretty easy to stick with it! I have 1.5 pounds to go to my 10 pound goal. I think I may try for another 5 pounds or so after that. We were so busy, I didn’t get to meditate in Florida at all. I hope to pick it back up this week. My act of kindness was helping a lady struggling with her luggage trolley while she was pushing her mom in a wheelchair at the airport today. Well that’s it for this week! I will be on the look out for more opportunities to be helpful and kind during this busy shopping and travel season and I hope you will too! See you next week.

Sunrise from our backyard in Florida. Goodbye for now Florida. Hope to see you soon!

Week 23: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties- The Wabi Sabi Edition

Happy Monday! We are well into Fall and I am happy to be getting into the more “homier” aspects of my bucket list. I’m wrapped in a warm blanket, I’m wearing fuzzy slippers and I’ve got a fall scented candle burning. So let’s dive right into the messy but beautiful leaf pile that makes up life and take a look at this week’s progress.

Kicking it off with a big check-mark on completing that wonderfully complicated puzzle! I have to give a shout out to Mike and Sammi here because they were intrigued enough to join me and together we knocked it out in a couple of days. It was fun, challenging and unique and I would definitely try another puzzle made by this company.

Loved working on this with Mike and Sammi. Fun seeing how the unusually shaped pieces ended up fitting together.

My Duolingo streak continues, currently at level 982 and I have a 794 day streak going. Classes at Alliance De Francais of Detroit continue. I am thoroughly enjoying it and I know I’ve made definite progress. We are ready to advance to the next book soon and the course will have more emphasis on conversation than it has in the past. This is exactly why I took a class in conjunction with my other efforts as, despite being passably familiar with vocabulary, being able to read and understand the simple spoken word, when it comes to conversation, I get stage fright! So send positive vibes my way because I’ll need ’em!

Let’s talk about bucket-list item # 22: Bake a loaf of bread from scratch. I purchased all of the items I’ll need to make bread, according to the book “Flour Water Salt Yeast: Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza (Deana’s bread bible). Deana so kindly gifted me this book and a proofing basket. I only needed a more detailed set of measuring spoons that included 1/16th tsp, a kitchen scale, a kitchen thermometer, a dutch oven and dough tubs. I was able to obtain all items from Amazon. Looking forward to giving this a try! I know I won’t be getting to this until next week, so I’ll report back in two weeks and let you all know how my first attempt goes.

I chose Lodge for my dutch oven because the handles can stand up to the heat from the oven. I was surprised to see that this book advocates using this to bake bread as opposed to a loaf pan. Excited to see how it all turns out!

We have started another modernization project. As Mike and I are empty nesters now, our back entryway doesn’t serve the same purposes it once did. The fact that the wallpaper was ripping expedited the decision to redo this area. I started by ordering wallpaper samples and selected the one I thought would work best in the space. We are getting rid of the black Pottery Barn locker and replacing it with a storage bench from Grandin Road and more hooks on the wall above. One of my pet peeves is the fact that my husband Mike tends to pile six or seven coats on a single hook. We will be adding more hooks and hopefully limiting our number of items per hook. I need to purge the back closet and get rid of old coats and winter gear long outgrown by my adult daughters. The bench has been ordered and the wallpaper is stripped. Next up is repainting the trim. And no, I haven’t repainted the laundry room yet, but that will be tackled in due time.

Before: The hallway leading to the mudroom.
Before: Ready for something different. You can see where we took the door off the hinges leading into the laundry room. We had moved the door to the top of the basement stairs to close it off a few years ago. We still need to repair the woodwork!
Wallpaper stripped and ready to go!

I made two great dishes with Noom recipes this week, so I have a couple to pick from. The rosemary marinated pork chops were great, but the recipe I’m going to share was our favorite, Apricot Grilled Shrimp which I served with brown rice.

Apricot Grilled Shrimp

1 cup apricot preserves

1 lemon

4 tsp soy sauce (I used low sodium)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp black pepper

2 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

Place the preserves in a large microwaveable bowl. Microwave on high power for 30 seconds, or until melted. Grate 2 tsp rind from the lemon into the bowl. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze 2 TBSP juice into the bowl. Stir in the soy sauce, garlic, ginger, and pepper. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Coat a grill rack or broiler-pan rack with cooking spray. Preheat the grill or broiler. (I broiled.)

Remove the shrimp from the marinade; reserve the marinade. Thread the shrimp onto 8 metal skewers, leaving 1/4″ between the pieces. Cook 4″ from the heat, basting often with the marinade, for 2 minutes per side, or until the shrimp are opaque.

Place the remaining marinade in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for 2 minutes. Serve with the shrimp.

208 cal/serving

Apricot Grilled Shrimp, sooo good!

In other ongoing items, Noom continues. I completed week 5 on Friday and am down 6 pounds with 7 1/2 inches lost. I am happy with my progress and plan to continue. I have exceed my 50 book goal. Unlike my other items this one concludes at the end of the year as opposed to my birthday. I have read 61 books so far. I am currently reading “After the Flood” by Kassandra Montag and am really enjoying it. It has been described as a riveting and epic saga set in a post apocalyptic world. It was selected as a Libraries Transform Book Pick. I was not familiar with this initiative, but they make a select book available for download in unlimited quantities. After the Flood is available in unlimited quantities only through today (October 21). Here is a link for more information about this digital bookclub and unique reading opportunity.

Enjoying this great read by an extraordinary new author.

I’ve completed 47 of my 50 workout goal on Nordictrack. This week’s destinations were Bora Bora, Hawaii (again) and my favorite, a walk through New York City which included Central Park, the theatre district and Times Square. It was nice to re-visit NYC, if only virtually! Meditation, affirmation, and yoga all continue, though I’ve not found a convenient studio yoga class yet. I am happy to report we will soon be closing on our Florida home and will be heading down to tend to a few things shortly thereafter. I am grateful for the ability to close remotely. Furniture delivery (at least what’s available) will happen shortly after closing. When we head down, I will be shopping for bed linens, towels and kitchen essentials as well as selecting curtains and bedspreads. We are also doing a little customization after we close, adding a pool, a little custom woodworking, cabinets in the laundry room, new shower doors, and a tile backsplash in the kitchen, among other things. We will be meeting with the trades to get these things underway soon!

Lastly, I am ending with a FAIL. Item #42: Actually take out the jet ski instead of letting it sit in the hoist unused, will remain undone. We pulled out the jet ski on this past Saturday which was a gorgeous day in the mid-sixties here in Michigan. It may be one of the last beautiful weekends here before the chillier temperatures of Fall settle in for good. As my birthday is May 13th, it is unlikely we will have the jet ski back in before that. So I have made peace with the idea that this particular bucket-list item will remain undone. In fact, I am going to embrace the Japanese aesthetic of Wabi Sabi, the aesthetic concept of admiring that which is imperfect. This idea is not unique to Japan. The Navajo also have a concept of leaving an open line in the border of their rugs called a “spirit line.” It makes the border imperfect but it allows the spirit of the weaver to exit the work. As I tend to be a perfectionist, I will take this as a lesson in the beauty to be found imperfection. I am going to see this as my “open line” that allows me to exit my 50’s and enter my 60’s with grace and gratitude.

My sweetie taking one for the team and getting in the not so warm water to pull out the jet ski. And hey, check out those legs. What a fashionista!

Until next week, I hope you are warm, present and taking time to experience everything Fall has to offer. May every blessing be yours.

Summer is officially over for us when the boat and jet ski are both out of the water. Even the kayaks have been stored away for the season. Welcome Beautiful Fall!

Week 22: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties-Capsule Wardrobe Edition

Fall from my backyard.

Is it even fall if I haven’t pulled out the sweaters and hit up the local cider mill for warm donuts and fresh apple cider? Well, yep, I guess it is. Mother nature is in complete disregard of my personal time table as the temperature has indeed cooled and the leaves are all glorious. I’ll have to check going to the cider mill off of my fall list soon before the temperature tumbles too much for it to be enjoyable.

But in the vein of fall, I have come up with a favorite fall cocktail (#14), which I made for my husband. It’s apple cider (sadly purchased from the grocery store) mixed with two shots of Disaronno. I rimmed the glass with caramel and crystalized sugar. He gives it two thumbs up! Perfect for watching football or those cool fall evenings.

Apple Cider and Disaronnno – a perfect fall combo!

I am going to be updating a few items. You may have noticed I haven’t been reporting much on item #3, “Do fifty random acts of kindness throughout the year.” I have been doing a few things that I haven’t reported on because sometimes it’s not necessarily my business to share. Besides, it’s nice to fly under the radar and to do things without “getting credit” for them. But, as the holidays approach, I’ll ramp it up a little and do a few things that I feel comfortable sharing, just in case it might inspire someone else to do a similar act of kindness.

I am not sure when I will be able to do a 5k. Right now I am struggling with hip flexor issues. I do exercises to strengthen that area (when I remember). I still hope to accomplish it, even if I end up walking most of it. It hasn’t stopped me from working out on the NordicTrack and I have completed 44 workouts of my 50 workout goal. This week was a zebra safari in South Africa, a walk through Hawaii past the Kona Ironman starting line for the run/swim and a walk through a petrified forest in Argentina. I still really enjoy doing this in addition to my 3 day a week bootcamp.

I made a couple new dishes this week but neither was share-worthy. They both came from Noom, Old World Goulash, which tasted a bit bland and apple cider glazed pork loin which sounded awesome, but disappointed in flavor. I will only share successes for recipes that Mike and I both enjoyed.

Speaking of Noom, I am still using it and though progress seems slow, I am indeed progressing. I completed 4 weeks this past Friday and am down 5 pounds. I am half way to my goal so I’m not complaining! It’s been fun reading encouraging and enlightening articles and trying new recipes and Mike’s been very supportive throughout the process. If you want to check Noom out for yourself, here is the link.

Now that we are turning to more indoor activities, I have started on item # 21, “Complete the complicated puzzle that my husband Mike bought me.” This is a wooden puzzle he purchased at a specialty shop in Denver. After working on it for 15 minutes I was left trying to decide if it was supposed to be a present or penance. The pieces are all laser cut, and made of wood. There are only a few obvious edges; points and pieces come together to make a lot of the edge instead of pieces that are flat on one side. I started it Friday. Mike has also been known to fit more than a few pieces. In fact, we’ve even made a fair amount of progress since this photo was snapped. It’s actually a fun challenge and I ultimately decided it is really an awesome present. I will report progress in the future, but this may take a while!

Challenging but fun!
Many of the pieces are shaped unusually, or like birds, people or flowers. You’d think that would make it easier. Not so much.
I love this puzzle board I bought from Amazon. As much as I love doing puzzles, it bothers me to leave it out on the table when I am no longer working on it, like when we’re expecting company. This allows me to store it and pull it back out when I am ready to work on it without losing my progress!

I’m continuing with my French class and Duolingo. I still listen to Pimsleur French V to supplement my learning and also do Duolingo flashcards and Duolingo Stories. I try to do at least a half an hour a day, usually more. I finished the Masterclass by Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale. It was awesome. I really felt that she was enjoying imparting wisdom in whatever time remains to her. In fact, she as much as said so. I also started another course by Anna Wintour, Editor in Chief at Vogue. Her course is on creativity and leadership. So much to learn, so little time!

I am still trying to do daily meditation with the Headspace App and visualization, mostly successfully. I don’t get to the meditation every day and even when I do I sometimes suffer from a wandering mind. I shall nevertheless persevere!

The last thing I want to share is I’ve started on my Florida capsule wardrobe. I purchased a few things, but mostly shopped my closet. I still will add some dresses, shoes and accessories later. My primary neutrals will be black, navy and white.

Black cropped slacks with two short sleeve options and a dressier off the shoulder long sleeve option.
Jeans with a white tea or a floral cami. The black sweater can go with most of the clothing clusters.
White cropped dress slacks with red print cami, or navy or black sleeveless tops.
Black and white checked ankle pants with white sleeveless button front top or black sleeveless dressier top.
White jeans with blush sleeveless shirt or black and white striped cami with a navy light weight open front cardigan.
Navy capris with navy/white striped sleeveless shirt, or navy cranberry patterned shirt or white sleeveless shirt.
Optional tops for the navy, white or jean bottoms.

This wardrobe of 6 bottoms, 17 tops and 2 sweaters will provide me with 81 different outfits, not including the variations the sweaters could provide. Between the two sweaters there is a sweater option for every outfit, especially important in those air conditioned Florida restaurants and malls. Almost everything goes with everything else, with the exception of the gingham pants, and even they have several options outside of their cluster. Once I’ve added shoes and accessories and throw in a few dresses, I’ll have even more options. I’m pretty pleased with the way this all came together.

Speaking of Florida, we should be closing on our house in a few weeks. We were pleasantly surprised that we are able to do this remotely. We are having our realtors do our walk through for us to add to anything the inspector may find. Looking forward to spending a little time in the sunshine, but right now I’m off to enjoy Michigan’s beautiful fall weather. Happy Fall, y’all!

Week 20: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties: The High Ropes Edition

Week twenty already? Time has been flying! It’s been a busy and productive week. So I’m going to dig right in. Let’s start with bucket-list item #4- modernizing our house. This week we had our contractor extraordinaire, Tony, back to work some magic in our laundry room. I apologize that I neglected to get a before picture. I am literally kicking myself (OUCH*&%!) It is still a work in progress but I’ll just have to describe what we’ve changed so far. We had navy blue countertops which were scratched and also had needless holes drilled from ancient appliances no longer in use. We had matching navy porcelain knobs on the cabinets and a black and cream patterned rug on the floor. The laundry tub was cream-colored plastic with a few stains and the faucet that went to it was leaking. The lazy Susan in the corner was broken and that is what kicked off the whole project because the counter top needed to come off to do the repair. So, for you moms and dads out there, it was a “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” situation. I still need to strip the wallpaper border at the top and I’m changing the paint color to Platinum by Behr (Marquee One-Coat) and ridding the top of the cabinet from all of the knick-knacks and dust-catchers. We need to repair the dryer vent anyway, so we’ll have to pull out the washer and dryer and when we do, I will start painting. I also changed out the artwork and added a drying bar across the top of the sink area. I kept the longer drying bar that hangs over the floor drain. Since pictures speak louder than words, I will post a photo showing where we are in the project. I promise to post a photo of the completed project later, though it probably won’t look too different.

This is a work in progress. The cabinet top is by Wilsonart Hi-Def in Trinidad Lapidus with a Mirage finish. Notice the knobs are still the navy. On the plus side, they match the washer and dryer, but on the minus side, several were chipped.
Waiting for paint and to remove the knick-knacks from on top of the cabinets. The knobs have been changed out and the sink and faucet replaced.
You can see the old wallpaper border which I will be removing and we will most likely be removing the devices with wires hanging down as well.
I am keeping my hide-away ironing board on the wall. I like being able to do a quick pressing out of the dryer if it is needed. We have one in our master closet as well, highly recommend.

On to this month’s recipe. It comes from Noom, the app I’ve been using to deal with item # 7, lose ten pounds. I’m four pounds down so far. It’s been a slow go but a pleasant one. I will write more on the App at a later date, once I’m further along in the process. Anyway, we’ve tried three different recipes from the App and they’ve all been delicious. Here is the recipe for Lemon Oregano Chicken. Easy and delicious, my two favorite things in a recipe.

Lemon Oregano Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 TBSP lemon juice

1 TBSP butter or trans-free margarine, melted

.75 tsp dried oregano

.5 tsp lemon pepper seasonng

.125 tsp salt

2 tsp finely chopped parsley or chives

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat a small baking dish with cooking spray. Place the chicken in a single layering the dish. Pour the lemon juice and butter or margarine over the chicken. Sprinkle with the oregano, lemon pepper and salt.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until a thermometer inserted in the thickest portion registers 160 degrees F and the juices run clear.

Served drizzled with the pan juices. Sprinkle with the parsley or chives.

202 calories per serving/serves 2

Easy peasy and super delicious. My husband Mike loved it too!

That checked off #23 trying a new recipe at least 1-2x a month and # 40 use my herb garden in cooking. I used chives over the chicken and used parsley to fancy up our plates. This may be the last hurrah for that.

Served with broccoli and a bowl of Italian Wedding Soup. YUM!
Treerunner Adventure Park – high ropes course

On Saturday we set out to tackle the high ropes course again at Treerunners in West Bloomfield. Though rain appeared to threaten again, it held off and we were able to complete our adventure. The assembled team included myself, my husband Mike, daughters Jenna and Samantha as well as Jenna’s husband Kristianth. The last time we were there, as you may or may not remember, we were interrupted by a thunderstorm and were issued a raincheck. So after undergoing the mandatory refresher, we headed out to exactly where we had been when they closed down last time, the second hardest course, the black diamond. We were lucky that there was no one ahead of us so we didn’t have to wait. The black diamond WAS difficult. It required not only balance but really great upper arm strength. At this point, I should tell you that my daughters are in great shape, they are both professional NFL cheerleaders who work out daily and have awesome upper body strength. My husband works out regularly and Kristianth is no slouch either. I, on the other hand, have a bad left shoulder that gives me trouble every once in a while. I’m sure you see where this is going. At any rate, the black diamond and double black diamonds are also the highest. I have to give my husband and daughter, Sammi brownie points because they both are afraid of heights so this added a layer of difficulty for them. About 1/2 way through the course, after balancing on swinging logs which also turn on the wire (what sadist designed this course?) and making my way across using basically your upper body and a great deal of balance, I gave myself a big pat on the back only to come upon what would become my nemesis, some wooden triangles about 2 feet apart or so, suspended from a wire, or as I’ve come to refer to them, the triangles of death. I immediately became entangled and trapped with my own carabiner, enough so that a staff member hollered up, “Hey, you up there. Just go back. You are doing it wrong.” Ok, thanks for that park-wide announcement. Let me just slink back to the platform. I thought, “Nope, I’m going to do this.” So…back at the platform…, after a discussion with my daughter, I decided to tackle it a little differently. I used my trolley to zipline through the wooden triangles. Well, it was a good plan except for one thing. It really wasn’t designed for a zipline so there are no pads around the wooden post awaiting you at the other end. This would have been a good time for someone to tell me about using your glove on the wire to slow yourself down. Alas, no one had. So after being shot into the wooden post like a pile driver, I decided that there’s not much worse that could happen to me. I was wrong.

Unsuccessfully navigating the triangles of death.
Kristianth doing a stellar job of not falling.
My daughter Jenna, part monkey, part feminist, part dare-devil. That’s a lot of parts.
Samantha manages to make it look easy. It wasn’t. The logs swing while you are moving on them.
My husband. You basically monkey bar across. This one is all upper body. There is no rope to balance on. Kudos to Mike. This was one of the most challenging ones.
You had to go around the wooden posts on the wire, which made it a bit challenging. There was another one where you had to unclip and re-clip your carabiner several times to advance, while balancing on a single wire. It required even more concentration.

Once we completed the black diamond course, my high achieving family said, “Come on, let’s do the double black diamond. It’ll be fun,” they said. “You’ll like it, Mom.” Well they were half right. I liked the first half, which relied mostly on balance. When we got to the second half, which required what I consider to be an abnormal amount of upper body strength I called bull**** and tapped out. They told us in orientation, if you get stuck or want down just call “STAFF” and someone will be right over. It took all 3 of us calling for a good hour (ok, it was 5 minutes, but it SEEMED like an hour) to get the attention of a staff member who zipped on over and let Sammi, Kristianth and myself down. Mike and Jenna continued on, lunatics that they are. Even though I may be making this sound like NOT A LOT OF FUN, it actually was. From having my son-in-law ask me if I’d seen the movie “Tangled” and making me laugh while I was suspended among the tangle of triangles 50 feet about the ground (hereto referred to as “The Triangle Incident”) to cheering each other on and giving each other tips, it really WAS A LOT OF FUN! I am proud of myself and would definitely do it again, but maybe I’d start by going down a level to the blue level and just do the single black diamond next time.

Kristianth was behind me most of the way, which added a level of difficulty for me because he was constantly cracking jokes while my life is literally hanging from a wire. Funny guy, timing could be better.

After we finished the course, we headed out to grab dinner. I had done a little reconnaissance as I am watching my diet right now, determined to lose those 10 pounds menopause has so heartlessly deposited. I pre-selected Stage Deli in West Bloomfield on Orchard Lake Road for dinner. We all were all delighted with our meals. The atmosphere is upscale for a deli and the food didn’t disappoint. I was delighted to find they offered a Diet Cabbage Soup, so I ordered that to start, followed by a Monterey Salad, which had chicken, lettuce, bleu cheese, avocado, corn, crumbled tortilla chips and green onion, tomato and honey lime vinaigrette. Jenna ordered an omelette, Sammi asked for plain grilled chicken and asparagus, which wasn’t on the menu, but they happily made it for her and Mike and Kristianth had Reubens. The service was great and we all agreed we would come back if the opportunity presents. So that is my #11, try a new to us restaurant each month.

Since I had so much to share this week, I’ll keep the remaining wrap up short. I have completed the Costa Rica series on the Nordictrack and have done 40 workouts of my 50 workout goal so far. I finished reading The Testaments and am deciding on my next book. I enjoyed this sequel to The Handsmaids Tale and would recommend it for any readers out there. Duolingo and French class continue. I’ve selected a few more things for the Florida house and am essentially done with interior furniture. We still have outdoor furniture to select.

My husband is speaking in Toronto, so I’ll be tagging along. I hope to have a few pictures to share with you from that lovely city next week. Until then, may all your adventures require both feet on the ground!