Weeks 44, 45 & 46 : Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Quarantine Edition

Wow, thanks to COVID-19 the world is a different place than it was a few short weeks ago. I hope you and those you love are all safe and healthy and taking precautions to stay that way. (ie social distancing and wearing masks/gloves if you go out) We were home briefly, but decided to return to Florida once businesses were shut down in Michigan. So after Mike tended to some important details with his staff and practice, we headed out. Mike and key team members are able to do virtual appointments so thankfully they can stay in touch with patients and address needs as they arise. We did not fly, we drove down. We drove straight through and packed our own food with minimal stops for gasoline, using a glove or plastic bag when pumping gas and wearing a glove on one hand if we had to use the restroom. Some gas stations had placed out of order signs on their restrooms. I am assuming they were reserving it for employees and to minimize transmission to those cleaning the facilities. Thankfully, we were able to reliably find bathrooms in the rest stops. The day we arrived in Florida, the governor here finally issued a stay home order. Here at The Place, all amenities are shut down including the gym, pickle ball courts, pool and the take out they had recently instituted at the restaurant, which is fine as we are planning to cook at home anyway.

My goals for myself before turning 60 seem trivial in comparison to what we now face, however on the plus side, it has given me something to focus on other than the horrible state we all find ourselves in and something positive to do other than watch compulsively for updates and take our poor dog on yet another walk. With that said, here’s what’s been going on with the bucket list.

Here is the link to my original list. I am keeping up with my French classes virtually. They have actually switched all classes to virtual, but for now, I am still doing private lessons as my current level doesn’t seem to match with anyone else’s right now. I am continuing with Duolingo and am at day #960 today. I am still getting pleasure from learning French, however I’m ’bout to have a throw down with the French subjunctive. It’s a concept that is still a work in progress for me. I have also watched a movie in French (with subtitles) on Netflix, Un + Une and would recommend it.

Some of what I had deemed a goal will be undoable now given the world’s current situation. For instance, try a new restaurant every month has been suspended. And life has intervened with # 5, Do a 5K. While new health circumstances would require that I walk it instead, it is unlikely anyone will be holding any 5Ks soon. Also, no fun gathering for the ladies in the family, but at least we can do so virtually, though we may have to include the guys for this one too now.

However it has also given me time to tackle a few things that I was neglecting, such as organizing the basement storage room. It was long overdue! Also staying in contact with friends and family has been converted to virtual happy hours via Zoom. We are probably talking more now than we ever used to and it’s been awesome. Another positive, I’ve had more time to work on tricks with our dog Kobe which I will share on a later post.

Before, so you can see just how messy it had gotten!
After, maybe not perfect, but a lot less messy!

As far as my weight loss journey, it’s a hard fought battle. I am using Noom but certainly not to the best of my ability. I, like probably most of you, have been snacking more than normal. I am in the process of getting back on track. In the “unfortunate” column, I was recently diagnosed with arthritis and bone spurs in my hips and I have some stiffness in my lower extremeties which limits my flexibility so my doctor has instructed me to eliminate high impact exercises. While in Florida, I plan to walk, bike, swim and do yoga. All of which are all less stressful on the joints. I did manage to use my NordicTrack a few more times when we were home. I discovered a new workout series. It is lead by an Egyptian Archeologist who brings you on walking tours of several Egyptian pyramids. I also managed to do a warm up and a cultural walk set in front of Niagara Falls and some flexibility yoga in Kauai, Hawaii, making a grand total of 72 NordicTrack work-outs. My original goal was 50. I also plan to take advantage of the video workouts our awesome bootcamp trainer is posting with modifications.

Walking the pyramids of Egypt with an Egyptian archeologist.

I am guessing my reading will pick up a bit more. I am currently on book # 21 of my 75 book goal. I am reading the last book in a Nora Rogers trilogy, The Perfect Hope. It’s escapism at it’s finest. Since I last posted about my reading goal on February 26, I have read In A Dark, Dark Wood, The Turn of the Key, Evvie Drake Starts Over, Olive Again, The Giver of Stars, Turbulence, The Last Boyfriend, and The Chocolate Thief .

I also tackled # 15: Learn the alphabet in sign language. Here is the poster for the hand motions.

And here I am, signing the alphabet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjsEHqdjul0

I also completed another Masterclass(#30) while driving down to Florida. It featured David Sidaris on writing. It was highly entertaining even if you aren’t a writer. I am working on learning Silent Night on the piano(#34). Let me just say it’s harder than I thought it would be and now I am in Florida with no access to a keyboard, so this particular goal may be carried over into my 61st year.

My birthday is mid-May and as there isn’t much left on my list to accomplish, I will be posting just once more at this project’s conclusion. I thank you if you’ve stuck with me throughout the year and look forward to summarizing all that I was and was not able to accomplish.

Remember to embrace the things you love that you are still able to do and enjoy keeping socially close while physically distant. I hope you all stay safe and healthy and that my next post finds us all in a much better place. ((hugs))

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 28: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Photo Archive Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Week 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 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!