Week 30: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Florida House Update

I am writing this a bit bleary eyed as we just made it back home from Florida at 1:30 am. My husband Mike and I decided to squeeze in every last minute by taking a late flight and we are both paying the price this morning. Mike is off to work and I am peddling madly trying to catch up to my normal Monday routine, so I will keep this brief. If you want to see my original bucket list, you can do so here.

A quick bucket list report: My Duolingo language streak is intact. I have French class tonight. I hope I don’t nod off during class. In bucket list item # 18 – read 50 books, I finished reading “The Oysterville Sewing Circle” which I enjoyed very much and also finished “Wild Game: My Mother, Her Lover, and Me,” a troubling memoir that’s being compared to The Glass Castle in regard to family complexities. I was riveted and finished it in two days. Thank you plane rides. That was book #69 for the year. Not quite sure what my next read will be. I am open to suggestions so please send them my way!

The comparisons to The Glass Castle prompted me to read this book. I would recommend it.

In item #8 – complete 50 NordicTrack work-outs, I managed to squeeze #60 in before we left for Florida, a studio interval workout. I did use the treadmill at the clubhouse in Florida and while I didn’t like it as much as my NordicTrack, I did get in a good workout with a spectacular view of the pool. We also managed a couple of walks through our neighborhood, stopping to greet neighbors and their dogs. I think our dog Kobe will enjoy it down here. I see a lot more walks in his future. The weather was beautiful, mid 70’s and plenty of sun.

We were in Florida from Thursday to Sunday and the trip was a productive one. We arrived early and were met in the driveway by workers. This pretty much set the tone for the visit. We had lined up a few things to be done while we were there and were able to check most of them off!

So happy to report that our pool is underway. They set up the external structure on one of the days we were there and poured it on Friday. It’s fun to see the skeleton of the pool and watch it come together. Can’t wait until it is done and the lanai is up. We are looking forward to coffee by the pool in the morning and cocktails in the evening. I can just about feel the steam off the hot tub.

We had fun checking out our new light fixtures and the furniture that had arrived since our last visit. We still need our sectional, our barstools and the desk and side tables for the den. We had also ordered a few accessories to be delivered while we were there. Actually the delivery window was a day before our arrival to the day after. We got really lucky because almost everything arrived while we were there. We were informed that our sectional has shipped so we are hoping for delivery before we return. There is still a lot of decorating to do, curtains, wall art and other design elements but I am going to take my time here. I am in the process of selecting accent colors and am waiting for some fabric options to complete things. We had selected a few things without actually seeing them, from a catalog. So far, we’ve not been disappointed in anything. Below I’ve posted a couple of the rooms in progress.

We added a backsplash and under and over cabinet lighting as well as changed out the standard light fixtures to customize the home and make it a bit more to our tastes.
We added the light fixture and Mike added lights under the console and around the television. We are waiting for our sectional.
Happy to report we have dining room chairs this time around!

We had envisioned a bit more of a relaxing trip but our days were packed. We met a couple of our contractors to pay them after taking a look at the jobs. We scheduled to meet a painter to give us a bid on our added trim work. In a happy surprise he came in at a good price point and was able to not only start it, but finish it while we were there. He and his two sons did a fantastic job. When does that ever happen? With the trim painted, our electrician came in and did the recessed lighting in our bedroom ceiling. He also added a couple of smart switches. He had already done some under cabinet lighting for us in the kitchen. We are really happy with the way it is turning out.

I did a lot of shopping to equip the house with the basics. I always think I’m done and then we notice something we’d forgotten, like shampoos for all of the bathrooms and extra beach towels. Target and Bed Bath and Beyond are starting to feel like my second home. I half expect to be greeted by name.

Mike has been happily making our home as high-tech as possible. It is already a smart-home with a ring doorbell. Mike has set up an Echo dot in many of the rooms, blink cameras for the front driveway, back pool area and main living areas of the house. He’s also added a few hue accent lights. He’s really in his element!

We are happy with the progress that’s been made and are looking forward to sharing it with our kids and extended family and friends in the near future! I also have to give a big thank you to my daughter Jenna and her husband for watching our dog, Kobe while we were gone. They have 2 dogs and 2 cats of their own and I am sure Kobe will very much miss all the excitement once he is back to our quiet house.

Cheneaux, Kobe and Roary all settled in to watch Lady and the Tramp. Kobe is going to miss these guys!

We topped off our visit with a quick stop at Mike’s mom’s house where we brought in dinner before heading to the airport. Our trip ended up being 80% work and 20% leisure.We were disappointed that we couldn’t visit with Mike’s brother who was unable to join us but we know we’ll have a bit more time in the future as we are hoping the work/leisure percentages shift to a bit more leisure.

I haven’t done a bit of Christmas shopping except for a few “Angel tree” gifts. Our neighborhood club adopts some families and everyone takes an angel or two off the tree with gifts written for the family members. The deadline required I get that done, so I did. Looks like I may have to give myself a deadline to get the rest of my shopping done. Until next week I hope that your work leisure ratio is looking good. May the odds be ever in your favor!

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 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 24: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Monday again? Guess what? We closed on our Florida house! It’s been a busy week getting everything scheduled for when we head down sometime this week. We are meeting with various trades to further customize our home. Furniture delivery happens the day before we arrive, though not all furniture is in yet. They are so used to snowbirds down there, they even have a service that actually accepts delivery and sets up your furniture for you so when you arrive, your home is furnished and ready to go! So excited to see the what everything looks like all pulled together. My husband Mike and I will need to divide and conquer with him doing most of the tradespeople meetings while I am out shopping for towels, linens, dishes, kitchenware, and other essentials. I will be relying on my friend Kim’s help and expertise as she has already been through this process and has done a stellar job with her own home. I promise to post a few pics of our house in progress. Wish us luck on getting everything we’d like to accomplish done in the few days we’re there.

Progress reports on one of our last house modernization projects; the back entryway. The wallpaper is stripped and the trim is painted. As far as wallpapering, I have the wallpaper and supplies but will need some uninterrupted time to start on the task. Besides stripping the walls and painting the trim, I am working to clear out the closet of old coats, scarves, etc which I will donate. I also cleaned the grout with a product called Magic grout cleaner. It worked pretty well, though it didn’t completely lift all the staining. I would say it is 95% improved. We had ordered a bench for the back entryway from Grandin Road which arrived broken. I am happy to report customer service for Grandin Road was amazing. They sent someone to pick up the broken bench the next day and two days later the replacement was on my front porch. I will post pictures of the whole project when it is complete.

This product worked pretty well. I would recommend it. It does require letting it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing with a nylon brush.

Duolingo continues with an 801 day streak. I was delighted to hit the 800 day mark! French class is underway and I’ve purchased the second book Alter Ego A2. We have almost finished our first book and the semester ends in a few weeks. I am really enjoying the challenge of orally conversing in French. I am still working on overcoming my “stage fright” when asked a question. It’s definitely a process.

I am at 49 work outs on my Nordictrack, almost up to my 50 workout goal. A migraine slowed down this week’s progress. This week I did a studio interval workout and a walk through the Scottish Highlands with Scottish actor Graham Mctavish (The Hobbit). This was the first time that a walk was conducted by a celebrity rather than an actual trainer. I am still concentrating on walking programs rather than running. However the studio interval incorporated a slow but tolerable intermittent jog that was manageable. Noom continues, 7 pounds down 6weeks in. My clothes are more comfortable and I am trying to be patient through this process. Only 3 more pounds to goal!

A nice stroll through the Scottish highlands to see a waterfall.

Meditation, affirmation, visualization and short yoga stretches continue. I am still using the app Headspace for Meditation. I look forward to talking more about working on our family lineage through Ancestry.com. I will go more in depth with that on another post.

The new to us restaurant we went to this month is Griffin Claw Brewery in Birmingham. We were looking for a place to eat after attending the Lions game with friends. It was a special game because it was a “Crucial Catch” game, honoring cancer patients, survivors, those who have passed and caregivers. As I’ve mentioned before, my daughters are both Lions Cheerleaders and they were dancing in honor of their Grandfather Les. It was very moving for us. I know their Grandpa Les would have been so proud of them both. So, we were looking for somewhere to relax and share a meal with our daughter Jenna, her husband Kristianth, our daughter Samantha and her boyfriend Andrew, his lovely parents and his good friend Jacob. We considered a few places before settling on Griffin Claw Brewery in Birmingham. They were busy but able to accommodate our party of 9. They offer outdoor seating with heaters and a fire pit along with indoor high tops, tables for 4, and long picnic tables pushed together. We were lucky to snag a picnic table for our group. They specialize in their own beers, offering seasonal brews as well as specialty releases. I passed on the beer and ordered the Apple Harvest Salad which featured apple slices, turnips, greens, goat cheese, sugared walnuts with Balsamic dressing on the side. Our group had a variety of orders ranging from shrimp tacos, burger and fries, jambalaya, macaroni and cheese, grilled chicken sandwich, with appetizers of fried pickles and pretzels with mustard dipping sauce. I may have missed a couple in there but everyone enjoyed their meals. They all came out at roughly the same time and everything was hot on arrival. This is a very noisy, lively place and great for after a sporting event. If you are looking for a quiet place for a private conversation, this is not it. I would definitely recommend it for a fun evening and will return if the opportunity presents itself.

The girls with the sign they held up during their dedication dance in honor of their grandpa.
Sammi acting as my model in front of Griffin Claw Brewery. You can see the outdoor seating directly behind her to the right.

Item #18: Finish 50 books in 2019. I finished the book “After the Flood.” I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it. I am currently reading book # 63 “An Anonymous Girl” by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen. So far, I am really enjoying it. Here is something not on my bucket list but I feel like I need to give it a shout out. If you haven’t seen the Netflix Series The Blacklist, do yourself a favor and check it out! It has seven seasons and we are only part way through season 1 and we are riveted! If you do check it out (or are already a fan) I’d love to know what you think!

Bonjour, mes amis! That’s all for this week. I look forward to sharing more about our Florida house next week. Make it a great week and see you all next month. (YIKES! It’s almost November!)

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 19: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties -Florida House Edition

We just got in at 1 a.m. this morning from a whirlwind three day weekend in Florida. It’s been productive as we’ve jammed ten days worth of decision making into three days! But oh what fun! Our first stop right off of the plane on Friday was to our pool design center at Superior Pools to make selections for the pool tile and gunite color. Mike had one stipulation, he really didn’t want iridescent tile. There were a lot of cool options but ultimately we selected a lovely blue-gray tile around the edge with a glass tile as an accent on the hot tub area. The floor pavers of the lanai are a pale gray laid in a pattern called Mariposa. The pool however, can not be started until we close on the house which is looking like it may be close to the end of October! Once the title is in our name, they have 120 days to complete the work. I’m hoping they knock it out in even less time.

Pool Selections

Once pool colors were selected, it was on to our friends’ home to meet with Dave and Kim. We dropped off our things then headed over to our house. It is making great progress! The pavers are in for the driveway. The cabinets and counter tops are in and even the tub in the master bath. Our house is built by Lennar and is a smart home, meaning  it has built-in technology features, such as connected thermostats, lighting, and doorbell cameras, that can be controlled through your phone. Mike had arranged for a Best Buy Geek Squad specialist to come out and give an evaluation with recommendations for the best surround sound products to use given the limitations of our open floor plan. And while the geeks conducted their assessment (and by geeks, I mean Mike and Dave along with the Best Buy Specialist) I conducted an assessment of my own, trying to imagine what kind of decor I might like in each room and what sort of architectural enhancements, such as crown molding or wainscoting, might look best in each space.

Driveway is in, windows and doors are in. Awaiting split rock trim in large window area and accenting the garage a bit.
Coming in from the front door.
Kitchen, awaiting appliances.
Side view of the kitchen with the pantry.

Saturday we went to the model houses in our subdivision to get some decorating ideas. Then on to the Miramar Design Center to have a look around. Dave and Kim came along which was awesome because four sets of eyes are better than two and their experience in having done this before is invaluable! Then on to Baer’s Furniture for our 1 o’clock appointment. This was SOOO fun. I don’t know about you but how many times in your life do you get to decorate a whole house at the same time? My designer, Janet, was so knowledgeable. She had tons of experience decorating model homes and helping snowbirds get their places furnished. They also have a turn key service where they receive delivery and set up your furniture so when you arrive, the furniture is already in place! I’ll share just a few fabric selections and two of the furniture pieces I’ve selected. We’re calling my style Vintage Coastal. To be honest, I’m not really sure if that’s a thing, but I love what I picked! I’m just going to give you a little tease with furniture and textiles. I promise to show the whole thing when my project is complete!

Bedroom Dresser
Coffee table for the living room: Lexington’s Oyster Bay line with a brushed stainless steel top and nail head trim.
Some of the fabric selections. I am going with a very neutral color palate with just pops of color brought in through artwork and pillows and possibly curtain detail. I want the space to feel restful and vacation-like.
Nail head trim in antique nickel and the gray stained wood trim for an upholstered chair.

One highlight of the trip was being able to visit with Mike’s mom, who lives not too far away. We showed her the house and took her out to lunch at the Barefoot Bar and Grill which is the on-site restaurant. So that wraps up # 16 for this week. There’s still plenty more to get done there and I will keep you all posted.

Mike and his mom at the Amenities center of our community.

Now for a little housekeeping. A big thank you once again to Kelley for her suggestions for using herbs. So far, I’ve tried infusing white wine vinegar with rosemary. It’s a little young yet but I’m looking forward to trying it on my salads. In reading, I am on book 56 of my 50 book goal. I think I am going to try for 65 books instead 50. I finished “City of Girls” by Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat, Pray, Love). I enjoyed it tremendously! Now I am a few hundred pages in to “The Testaments,” Margaret Atwood’s long awaited sequel to The Handmaids Tale. So far, so good! French class and Duolingo streak continues, Nordictrack workout #38 is in the hopper, with only 2 more workouts left in the Costa Rica walking series. I’ll have to start looking for a new “destination!” In item #4, finish modernizing our home, Tony dropped off some counter top selections today to replace the laundry room counter which is scratched and ready for a refresh. While he’s at it, he is replacing the laundry tub and faucet which has a bit of a leak. The counter top has to come off anyway because the lazy Susan is completely broken and needs to be replaced and the only way to do it is to remove the counter top. You know how it is, one project always seems to lead to another. Hopefully it will be underway sometime this week. I managed to stick with Noom for item #7, lose 10 pounds. It’s been 9 days and I’m down 2.8 pounds. 7.2 pounds to go! It’s dropping a little slower than I’d like, but those scale numbers are going down so I am not complaining. I like the Noom App and will probably continue it beyond the two week trial period.

So, that’s it for now. So many projects, so little time. Hope all you undertake this week is a great success!

Since this photo, I trimmed some more of the stems to keep them below the level of the vinegar.

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.