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

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

Here are my results:

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

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

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

Week 35: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

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

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

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

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

Beautiful but heart wrenching read.

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

Pork and Pepper Stir Fry

2 TBSP apricot all-fruit spread

2 TBSP soy sauce

0.5 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

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

4 tsp canola oil

0.5 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 TBSP cornstarch

6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 TBSP fresh ginger

2 large red bell peppers, cut into thin strips

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

1 large onion, cut into wedges

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 servings/29 minutes/276 calories per serving

Pork and Pepper Stir Fry served with rice

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

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

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

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

Week 27: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

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

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

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

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

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

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

Curried Chicken With Coconut

2 tsp peanut oil or walnut oil

1tsp butter

.5 large chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic, minced

.75 cup chopped celery or fennel

.5 large green or red bell pepper, chopped

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

.5 tsp salt

.25 tsp ground black pepper

1 TBSP curry powder

.667 cup canned crushed tomatoes

.5 cup chicken broth

3 TBSP chopped peanuts

3 TBSP shredded unsweetened coconut

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

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

Serve with the nuts and coconut for sprinkling on top.

158 calories/serving – 4 servings as prepared

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I signed up for the next semester of French at Alliance de 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 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 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.