Weeks 40 & 41: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – The Family Edition

It’s been a fun and busy two weeks! Most of my activities have centered on bucket list item #20 (Entertain friends and family in Florida house.) Here’s quick reference back to the original bucket list for anyone interested. With both Mike and my parents in town and my daughter Jenna staying with us here for a month with her two pups, we had a full house. We were missing my daughter Sammi and Jenna’s husband Kristianth but they will be coming down very soon. I was very happy with the way our home lives. Even with a full house, it never felt crowded. Now onto a few of our activities in and around Estero.

Mom and Dad arrived this past Wednesday evening. Our home is a scant 15 minutes from the airport, so after a quick pick up, I gave them a tour of the house and community and we headed to The Barefoot Grille which is the restaurant on property. We had a low key evening in preparation for a busy Thursday.

My parents! Aren’t they cute?!

The next day, Mike landed at 9 am and soon after we headed to Bonita Springs to Everglades Wonder Gardens. This was a nice attraction recommended by a neighbor who has been a year round resident here for a few years. It’s been a local attraction since 1936 and is reasonably priced at $12 for adults, $10 for Seniors and kids 3-12 $7. Children under 3 are free. You can see the native flora along with the animals who reside in Florida. You can feed the alligators through a fence, though they must be pretty well fed as they weren’t interested in our Alligator cookies. Unlike the gators, the flamingos were very interested in the flamingo food, and Jenna was happy to oblige. Another cool thing was the lorikeet experience. They would come and land on you and drink nectar from the shot-glass looking cup we held. The unfortunate group before us had the “what goes in must come out” experience, which was one that I was happy to have missed. There was all sorts of wildlife to observe, including a butterfly house which wasn’t particularly well occupied, though there were a string of chrysalises, so there may be quite a few more in the near future. We headed to Naples for a bite to eat, landing at Barbatella’s on the patio. We enjoyed a leisurely meal before heading home to relax a bit before ending the day with a spaghetti dinner at home. All in all it was a fun day.

Cute sign!
Jenna feeding the flamingos with Mike trying to catch the shot.
One of the beautiful creatures we saw.
My daughter Jenna with the Lorikeets!
Spaghetti dinner pool-side.

Friday was a low key day. We relaxed a bit, explored the model homes here in our subdivision then the ladies went shopping and the guys just hung out. We had 5 pm reservations at DeRoma’s which is normally fantastic. Unfortunately the majority of their seating is outdoors and it was the coldest it’s been since we’ve been down here, about 58- 60 degrees. No one wanted to eat outside! We waited 45 minutes in the hopes of an inside table but were led to an outdoor table. We declined the first one because it was unprotected in the wind, with no space heater. We were then led to a second table which was a little better. The manager was helpful in locating us a table side heater which turned out to make it warm enough. At least everyone’s meals were yummy.

Saturday, we went out to breakfast at Skillets (would recommend) followed by a trip to Tin City. Tin City is a cute little collection of boutiques in tin buildings right along the water. We strolled around the shops and marina and then we drove on to Sanibel and Captiva Islands. This was recommended by my daughter’s boyfriend’s mom, Kathy and her sister-in-law. It was a little over an hour away. We headed to the Mucky Duck which is an English type pub and popular as a sunset destination because the view is amazing. We were there initially for a drink on the beach, as they have indoor and outdoor bars with outdoor picnic tables. We decided instead to do a late lunch/early dinner. Everyone’s food was good and it was really nice to see another part of Florida. The island was beautiful with a lot of really lovely homes. It had a low key, relaxing vibe. I definitely want to head there for sunset one evening. If you plan to go, plan ahead and pack your patience as the traffic on the island seems to be confined to one lane roads with a speed of 25 mph. Also make sure you have the $6 causeway toll. You pay only on the way in.

Tin City with this crew.
Mom and Dad outside of The Mucky Duck on Captiva Island

Sunday we relaxed. Mike made us a yummy breakfast and we had a casual late lunch of hamburgers, hotdogs, and side dishes before driving my parents to the airport. Mike’s flight was a couple hours later. All in all, it was a successful visit. We had beautiful weather all but one day. I very much hope my parents will be returning in the future.

In other bucket list items, I am continuing with French and am making progress. My teacher is so encouraging and fun to talk to. Face-timing has added a whole new dimension and being the only student definitely ramps up the involvement in class. My Duolingo streak is at day 923. I haven’t missed a single day, knock on wood!

The home decorating is coming along. I love Z Gallerie and have purchased quite a few things through them. Everything has been delivered and I am waiting for Mike’s return so we can hang the remaining items. I bought a bowl and floral arrangement for our bedroom dresser as well as paintings for our bedroom. I went to the store to exchange a pillow that I had ordered online that was sticking out of the box when it arrived. It had a bit of grease on the corner. Of course, I saw a few more things I “needed” while there: a vase for the bath with stems of flowers, a glass ball for the bathroom counter, and some lavender colored potpourri for the amethyst bowl I had ordered for my dresser. I still have a few more pieces to decide on. But I am going to take my time and enjoy the process. It is all coming together.

Still awaiting the art work for over the tub. I did get this vase and flowers though!
Latest additions to our bedroom, the bowl with potpourri and the faux floral arrangement. (Doesn’t faux sound better than fake?! haha)

Noom was suspended during my parents’ visit but I am back at it. I did manage to get my steps in as we walked the dogs twice a day, 1.5 miles each time. I average at least 15,000 steps daily here, going as high as 20,000. Jenna and I have been using the gym though we’ve not taken any classes yet, but we hope to this week. We’ve also been enjoying bike rides in the afternoon or early evening. My meditation slipped while we had company but I am doing it again. Dan Harris’ book “10% Happier” was interesting and it did motivate me, I need to re-skim it a bit though.

Morning dog walk. this was the chilly morning.
In case anyone is wondering, the 3 dogs are all getting along great! Here’s two of the triple trouble trio.

I am currently reading Nora Roberts “The Next Always” which is good so far. I am a little less than 1/3 of the way through. My next book is Ruth Ware’s “In A Dark, Dark Wood,” which has finally come up in my Overdrive app. My reading has been slipping down here as well. I expected it to be the exact opposite! I am on book #13 of my 80 book goal, which only puts me one book ahead of schedule. I need to get a buffer zone here!

I will leave it here for now. I hope everyone has plenty to keep them happily busy this week and I hope to have more to share with you next week. Friends and family, if you’re ever down this way, be sure to stop by for a cocktail! We’d love to see you!

Week 34: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Welcoming 2020 from Florida

I am currently writing to you from Florida though I will be back in wintry Michigan by the time you’re reading this. We loved kicking off the New Year here in Estero! I am happy to report that I’ve checked off item #20 on my bucket list: Entertain friends and family in our Florida home. I hope this is just the beginning of many more wonderful times shared together with our family and friends here in sunny Florida. We gifted our children and their spouse/significant other with a trip down here as part of their Christmas present. They all stayed at our home in Belleville overnight so we could make a 6am flight on December 31st. That left us pretty tired for ringing in the New Year that same evening but we managed. Our clubhouse had a ticketed event with the popular theme of Roaring into the 20’s. We all dressed as flappers and gangsters. We didn’t quite make it to midnight though and ended up heading home a half hour before the clock struck 12 where we rang in the New Year in our jammies. It was a lot of fun.

My daughters and I flappin’ it up!
The gentlemen.
Mike and I ready to ring in 2020. We were teasing Mike that he was a cross between a gangster and an Amish Orville Reddenbacher.

I will share a few of our activities in case you are ever in the Estero/Naples area. We hit the Miramar Outlet Mall which is maybe 10 minutes from our house. It is a very pleasant little outdoor mall with a lot of great shopping options, like Kate Spade, Vineyard Vines, Ann Taylor, Loft, Banana Republic and more. The next day, we did a little shopping in Naples, stopping to dine al fresco at Barbatella’s, a cute little Italian place which served the best Caesar salad I’ve ever had. Then we headed over to Naples Beach, which was crowded, but not unmanageably so. We ended the day with ice cream. We enjoyed walking around old Naples and the newer areas of Naples. We still have so much to learn and discover here and I am very much looking forward to it! The kids took a day trip to Universal Studios which was about a 3 hour drive each way. They loved the new Harry Potter ride, Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, despite the long wait in line. On their arrival, the wait time for this ride was over 6 hours. They managed to get in line later when it was a “measly” 2 1/2 hour wait. They said it was worth it. While they were busy having fun, we ran errands and met our dear friends for dinner at Cirella’s Italian Bistro and Sushi Bar (IKR? Italian AND sushi!) topped off with liquor infused ice cream (say what?!) from the Tipsy Cow. This little shop had super cute branding and the ice cream was yummy. They also had a non-alcohol option. It’s something we will definitely do again!

We also enjoyed having Mike’s mom over for a nice visit. She came bringing Mike’s favorite home-made cookies, which of course were a big hit. We brought her out to lunch and the kids had fun quizzing their Grandma on what kind of child their dad was: a good one, much to their dismay.

The girls with Grandma Barb

Mike’s thoughtful team gifted us a Tiki cruise departing out of Naples. I can not recommend this enough! It was one of the most memorable parts of our trip. The limit is 6 attendees so we were a perfect group. We elected to do the sunset cruise departing at 4:30. We boated past fabulous multi-million dollar homes while enjoying a cocktail or two. It is BYOB and we brought a nice selection with us. Captain Steve was experienced and an enjoyable narrator. The highlight of the trip though was spotting a couple of dolphins just swimming around. We were able to follow them for a bit. It was relaxing and enjoyable. We followed that with dinner at Watermark Grill which was also very good!

The gang ready to set sail
Sunset Cruise
We hooked up with another tiki bar boat to borrow some bug spray for Jenna who was the only one getting bit!
Just one of the beautiful homes we saw along the way.
Dolphins for the win!

In other activities, the guys got in some golfing and we ladies did some shopping. We enjoyed spending time with our long-time friends who started the ball rolling by building down here in the first place. We squeezed in a few work outs at our amenity center and Mike and the kids enjoyed laying by the pool. All in all it’s been a fabulous time. We’ll be back in wintry Michigan soon enough though.

Here is a link to my original bucket list, if you want to have a peek. As far as item # 16: decorating our Florida home, our sectional was thankfully delivered the day of our arrival, along with our den desk and side tables. We are still awaiting our barstools which will be delivered on our next trip down. Mike and I also bought table lamps for our living room and our bedroom. The last layer of decor will be fabric selections for the all of the bedroom and bathroom curtains. I have an appointment with our awesome designer, Janet set up to select fabrics on our next trip down. We will need paintings, decor, and outdoor furniture for the lanai, once the pool is complete, which will hopefully be sometime during our next visit. It seems to go quickly once they begin each phase. They laid our patio pavers in one day while we’ve been here. Next up is the cage and gunite for the pool and hot tub. I am really looking forward to utilizing the outdoor area!

Living room sectional has arrived. It is large and comfy and allowed our group of 6 to watch TV with room to spare!
The den has a pull out sofa to accommodate overflow guests.
Pavers in, awaiting phase 2 of the pool installation.

Moving on to other bucket list items, my year-end wrap up on reading for 2019 amounted to 72 books, which totaled 27,143 pages. Of the books I read, Goodreads rated the most popular at The Great Alone, which I also highly recommend. The highest rated book that I read was The Hate U Give. I exceeded my goal of 50 books by 22 books. I hope to have more time to read in 2020 so my goal will be 80 books. I am currently reading my first book of the year, The Guardian by John Grisham. I hope to finish it on the plane.

I am still on track with Duolingo. My streak is 872 days, I learned 10,301 words, completed 2,943 lessons and spent 197 hours on the app this year. I will be starting private lessons via Facebook live after the holidays through Alliance De Francais as I will be spending a lot more time in Florida and unable to regularly attend classes.

The unfortunate topper to our trip was a calf injury my husband Mike sustained while playing pickleball just hours before our scheduled departure. My son-in-law made a quick trip to CVS for crutches and with a little help from ice, an ace bandage and a wheelchair, we managed to catch our 9pm flight. I am still working on convincing him to go to the doctors but at this moment on Monday morning the man has hopped off to work with a swollen ankle and the inability to bear weight on it. I am working covertly with his amazing office manager Cathy to get him to go to Urgent Care at the very least. Not the best way to end our trip, but certainly a memorable one.

On to happier things, aside from my reading and language goals, I am still thinking over what I want to accomplish in 2020 and that is where I will leave it for now. So far my “lesson” has been to expect the unexpected! Happy New Year all! I hope the coming year brings new goals, new insights and amazing opportunities for growth and happiness to you all.

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 21: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties: Toronto Edition

Toronto with my love!

OK, you got me. Toronto wasn’t part of my original bucket list. But since we’ve traveled to this lovely city of international culture and beauty, I thought it would only be responsible of me to share our adventures. So here it goes.

First of all we were in the city because my husband, as a high volume user and faculty member for Invisalign, was invited to lecture here. We arrived a day early so we could explore a little. We checked into a lovely corner junior suite at the Marriott Delta. It had big windows on two sides overlooking the city. It was also unique in that the bathroom had a floor to ceiling window that looked out at the foot of the CN Tower. Of course, there was a shade to pull for privacy but it made quite an impression when we first walked in.

Very comfortable room with windows looking out over the city on two sides!
Taken at a bit of an angle, but that is the top of Ripley’s Aquarium and the tall gray column on the right is the base of the CN tower, had I taken the photo a bit more centered you would see more of the tower.

We had plans to head up to the top of the CN tower, but the day was rainy and overcast and there would have been very little to see. Instead we decided to check out the Ripley Aquarium of Canada. It doesn’t appear to be very big from the outside and at a ticket price of $39 per person, I was thinking we might be disappointed. However, because it has lower levels, it actually is a pretty extensive aquarium. It did a lot to educate visitors on the need to be mindful of our wasteful ways to preserve the integrity of our natural resources for generations to come. Mike and I both enjoyed it and spent a few leisurely hours strolling through the exhibits. There were two high points, one was a scuba diver that could be observed feeding stingrays while a narrator discussed these animals. Surprisingly, the diver was also equipped with a headset that allowed her to join in the conversation. The other cool part was a very long tunnel made of glass going through the exhibits, including the predators of the deep. I have been in others like it, but this one was by far the best. It was very long and it actually appeared the fish were flying over our heads, like something from a surrealist painting. It was pretty cool. If you are thinking of a visit, tickets can be bought online and even purchased as a combo with a ticket to the CN Tower.

The ticketing area of the aquarium.

The following day, Mike started his day bright and early and while he was lecturing, I headed out to explore the city. Somehow, my internal radar brought me directly to a mall, just a short .75 miles away. Hmmm, go figure. Eaton Center Mall had some great stores, Nordstrom’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, Kate Spade, Ann Taylor and even Old Navy. I spent some time strolling around, and following lunch at the Nordstrom’s Bistro, headed back to the hotel, logging plenty of steps and seeing much of downtown along the way. I felt perfectly safe strolling the city by myself. I made it back in time to read a little and then dress for dinner. We were having dinner at Aria with the attendees of the conference, along with the other speakers and Invisalign representatives. We met some lovely Canadian orthodontists and as a bonus, Paul, a Toronto rep (and very nice guy) gave us some awesome suggestions for restaurants to try and areas to visit. Aria, our restaurant for the evening, was also very good. Great appetizers, great dinner, great conversation and a lovely way to end the evening.

Saturday, Mike was up early again, but the lectures were confined to the morning and he was free for lunch and the remainder of the afternoon. We ended up heading to the Distillery District at the recommendations of Paul, enjoying lunch at Mill Street Distillery. I had some yummy crab cakes and Mike ordered a chicken pot pie and an unusual orange flavored beer whose name escapes me. Then we did some shopping and strolled through a few of the many art galleries before heading over to Balzac’s for coffee.

Distillery district. We saw several wedding parties taking photos while we were there. It was a visually rich environment!
Mill Street Brewery, cool vibe, good food and drinks!
Lots of art galleries and unique installations that made it a popular spot for instagrammers and photographers alike.
Funky coffee shop. We sat upstairs on the balcony and enjoyed a leisurely latte.
Cool chandelier in the coffee shop.

After our Distillery area adventures we headed out to dinner via Uber to Patria. Patria was a small plates Tappas restaurant, tucked away just a little off the street, again recommended by Paul. It was amazing, though I didn’t navigate the menu as expertly as I’d hoped. In my defense, it wasn’t in English and I ordered two dishes that both basically ended up being fried cheese. One was porcini mushroom with manchego and the other, goat cheese and figs. Delicious! Mike ordered three things, spicy meatballs, a savory shrimp, and bacon wrapped dates. All were yummy. I also tried a new white wine Torres Viña Esmeralda, Cataluyna. Just as an aside, my favorite wine, if you followed that particular post, was a Michigan wine called Shady Lane made with Moscat grapes. However, as it was from a small vineyard, it was produced in small batches and it is no longer available. I would say this wine is another winner. It is a well-balanced Spanish wine, and it looks like it is available on the open market at a price point in the neighborhood $15 dollars a bottle (which is one of my favorite neighborhoods!) Though at the restaurant it was $13 a glass, very typical of the general mark-up on wines at restaurants, I suppose. This meal didn’t do much for my weight loss attempt and it was difficult to quantify what was exactly in it to determine calories. Whatever it was, it was worth every bite! Not to make excuses, but we had a lot to celebrate. Mike did a great job with his speaking engagement and they suggested at a future point they’d love him to come to Vancouver to lecture. We’d love to see that part of the Canada so I hope it comes to fruition. We were also celebrating getting a closing date on our Florida house! Very exciting! 

Go through the archway and head towards the back, following a lantern path to the restaurant.
Patria, I wish I had taken a photo inside, it had a cool and romantic vibe. For Mike’s cocktail, my glass of wine and our 5 small plates the bill came to $135 Canadian. It’s definitely a nice place to celebrate a special occasion!

Sunday was the warmest of the weather we encountered, edging up to the low 60’s, most of the time the weather had been in the 50’s and overcast. We headed out to Lady Marmalade, a little restaurant that was recommended as a brunch spot for locals. It was about 3 miles from our hotel, a short Uber ride away. It was a rather small place, very narrow, just one table wide, but two floors. Very unassuming from the outside. The line was up the stairs by the time we arrived at 9am. It moved quickly though and it was worth the wait. Interestingly enough, they only prepared eggs two ways, scrambled or poached. I tried poached, never having had eggs prepared that way before and they were quite good. Mike had a waffle with fresh fruit that looked luscious. The serving size was adequate and the service was very good.

Very unassuming exterior, danish modern interior with lots of light wood. Great menu, great find.

After breakfast, because the restaurant was bordering on Chintatown, we decided to do a little exploring. There were a lot of fresh fruit, flower and vegetable open air stands. We walked almost all the way back to the hotel.

After checking out at 12 noon we headed to the CN tower, which held the title of the tallest free-standing structure in the world for 32 years, until 2007. We were able to pre-purchase tickets through our concierge to avoid the line, which ended up being a smart decision. They offered discount coupons as well, which would have saved 15% if you didn’t mind having to stand in line for your ticket, but because we were pressed for time, we opted to pre-purchase tickets through our hotel to expedite things. We purchased the ticket that takes you all the way up to the top, all 1,465 feet. There is another less expensive option that allows you to go up fairly high, about 1,135 feet. This area is the one with the glass floor. I was surprised to see an option for adventure seekers,  you could walk out on the out ledge on the 2nd highest level, 1, 135 feet above the ground. You’re hooked to a rail with a carabiner and walk around the ledge before leaning over dangling from the edge. We were able to observe this from above. I wish we had more time, I might have tried it. One of the people doing it was celebrating her 60th birthday! Mike assured me this is NOT what he wants for his upcoming birthday. Me, on the other hand, if we are ever back in Toronto, I’d love to try this! We had planned to stroll around near the hotel, but it had started raining so we decided to head to the airport early instead. We took an Uber which cost about $40 from our hotel. We had planned to go to the Delta Sky lounge but unfortunately it wasn’t located in our terminal. Again, a big THANK YOU to Paul for hitting it out of the park on every recommendation. 

In other bucket list items, I managed to read a few more books. I am currently on book #59. I read “Crazy Cock” a book by Henry Miller given to me by a friend, which was unremarkable and in fact the language was clumsy at times, but what distinguishes it is that it characterizes the process of a writer finding his voice. Henry Miller was a censored author in the sixties, his work was ultimately vindicated and subsequently  allowed to be printed in the United States. This book apparently is supposed to epitomize his early writing. I want to read “Tropic Of Capricorn” which is written in what ultimately came to be known as his “voice” and compare it to this early work. I also read “The Lost Girls of Paris” while in Toronto,  an excellent read.  I am currently reading “Sold on Monday,” by the author of “The Orphan Train.” I hope this book is just as good!

Excellent work of historical fiction based on factual happenings during World War II.

In other items, I have done one more Nordictrack workout before we left for Toronto, an interval workout around Lake Bled, Slovenia. I am still deciding on the next series of workouts I want to try.  Yoga work outs continue at home, along with meditation and visualization. French class continues as does my uninterrupted Duolingo streak. 

This is where I will leave it for now. I am writing this sitting at the Toronto airport waiting for our flight to board. Looking forward to landing back in Michigan and getting back into my normal routine and the opportunity to chip away at a few more items on my list. But of course,  I am ever hopeful another adventure awaits us all just around the bend. 

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!

Week 14: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Bonjour mes amis (my friends) and welcome to week 14 of my quest to check off fifty items before I turn 60 next year. (Have I said YIKES! already?) I really am curious as to whether I will be able to complete them all. The clock is ticking towards summer’s final days and I still have a few warm weather items left to complete, all for the sweet reward of a simple check mark.

Well let’s see how I did this week. I would say, all in all, I am well satisfied! In continuing items, Mike and I made it to a new restaurant for the month of August. For my Belleville friends, we tried out Shakers Bar and Grill on Canton Center road, very near Antonio’s Cuccina Italiana. I was surprised at the extensive and creative cocktail menu and draft selections. They offered various labels of rum, tequilas, cognacs or vodkas. I opted for a glass of a German Urban Reisling. The menu was varied and Mike and I both enjoyed our selections, his being a pepperoni flatbread and mine, California grilled chicken breast, with bacon, Swiss , avocado, poppyseed honey mustard over greens with savory coconut ginger rice and roasted vegetables. They offered quite a few gluten free options, such as lemon butter grilled North Atlantic salmon or sweet chili chicken breast and a nice selection of steaks. They also have pizza! Portion size was good and service was very good as well. You can dine inside or outside on the patio. Cheers to finding another nearby restaurant to add to our list of favorites.

Outdoor seating area with space heaters for those cooler evenings.
Cheers to new places!

Moving on to French. French class for the summer semester continues but is ending at the end of August. I have already enrolled for the Fall semester. Summer classes start and end later and have been 2 hours long (7:30-9:30). I much prefer the earlier start of Fall classes and the shorter duration (7:00-8:30pm). I am also very grateful to our teacher David, who is from France and helps us in a friendly way that keeps us laughing together at mistakes and helps us to not take everything so seriously. As we progress, he moves along with the class as our teacher. I will say classes make all the difference because there is a certain immediacy to having to formulate a verbal response to a question that just doesn’t happen while listening to Pimsleur language learning CDs or using Duolingo. Speaking of Duolingo, I achieved my 2 year streak! For anyone unfamiliar with Duolingo, it is a free language learning app. They offer several languages. I have it set to a medium setting, primarily because I intended to go for a long streak. The medium setting allows for a moderately short time commitment which allows me to complete it even when traveling. Otherwise, on an average day, I usually exceed it by a little or a lot. For those familiar with Duolingo, I am at a crown level of 947. I have completed the entire tree as well as all of the stories and listened to all of their podcasts. I still review several categories each day using their Practice option to stay sharp. I’ve also continued to supplement my learning by re-listening to Pimsleur French V CDs in my car. To cap off achieving my two year streak, I watched a movie in French (item #45) and now that I’ve discovered Netflix offers a menu of French speaking films, I believe I will be taking advantage of this much more often. Merci to Amber, a friend of my daughter Samantha, for that little nugget! Much appreciated! The movie I watched was Cèzanne et Moi (Cezanne and Me). I enjoyed it though I certainly didn’t pick up on all of the dialogue, catching a few words and phrases at best without looking at the closed captions. It was great to hear the language spoken with passion and the appropriate inflections that language learners sometimes lack. The film was an historical drama released in 2017, which at times resembled the beautiful paintings of the Provence countryside the artist was so well-known for. I would recommend this film even if you aren’t studying French. It was a visual treat!

I enjoyed this historical drama. If you are an art lover or love foreign films, this one is for you!

In other good news, our house Florida is well underway! The windows are in and the drywall has been delivered. We are a few steps closer to furnishing it and have scheduled a Florida visit in September with great thanks to our dear friends Dave and Kim. They are our neighbors both here in Michigan and soon in Florida. We fell in love with this area when they invited us down for a visit. With their help and encouragement our vacation home will soon be a short walk away from theirs!

Who is this male model demonstrating that our new window is in?
View from the back.

And the big thing we accomplished this week was bucket list item #32, riding our bikes from Lower Huron Metro Park all the way to Lake Erie Metropark and back, a 40 mile round trip. We left at 8:30, later than we’d hoped but early enough to beat most of the crowd. We saw lots of wildlife along the way. The trip involves primarily bike trails spanning three metro parks, but there is a stretch, and really, a rather dangerous one along surface streets, which sometimes lacked shoulders or had very poorly maintained shoulders requiring a quick dart out into the well-traveled road (after looking carefully of course) due to a pothole, loose gravel, or enormous puddles.

Ready to head out!

Along the park trails, we saw plenty of wildlife: bunnies, birds, herons and assorted water fowl. Here’s a link to some awesome footage of what I believe to be a heron sitting along the shoreline of Lake Erie. We suspect there was a nest nearby because she was reluctant to leave at first, allowing Mike to creep pretty close to her before she headed out in flight only to alight a few feet further down the shoreline. https://youtu.be/HvqfK85lQ7c And despite earlier forecasts, the weather was perfect! With a mile to go before completing the trip, we made a pit stop for lunch by taking the trail that leads in to Flat Rock. We went for a late breakfast at Tony’s Coney. The ride itself took just short of 4 hours. I thought I would have back issues because I injured myself doing an Ab challenge earlier in the week (don’t ask). But no, my back is fine. What I did do was injure my hip flexor. As a matter of fact, I am writing this with an ice pack in place. Maybe these injuries are my body’s way of saying, “Sit the f*** down. You’re old now.” Nevertheless, however stupidly, I persist. One thing for sure, getting older is not for sissies. I have to give credit to my husband for being such a good sport. He’s not only been an enthusiastic supporter of mine, but a willing participant and even more remarkably, he never seems to get injured while participating in these bucket list tasks. As an extra perk for me, he is an excellent photographer and allows me to use a few of his photos or videos if I ask very nicely. He’s also a proof-reader extraordinaire! I’m a pretty lucky girl. He’s also handsome. hehe (hmmm…looks like someone’s been busy “proofreading” here.)

View from a small park we drove through in Flat Rock.
Mike at the bridge, about 1/3 of the way in on our journey.
We made it all the way to Lake Erie!
Tony’s a great little breakfast spot for a biking break.

In a further update, all of the ongoing things I said I would do, I’ve done: meditation, affirmation, yoga, reading a book, among other things. I am currently reading The Devil in the White City, by Eric Lawson, book # 47 for me. I am about 1/2 way through and really enjoying it. By the way, I have been loving Overdrive, the library app that lets you borrow books. I am saving a bundle and it’s enabled me to already be rounding home on my 50 book goal goal! I’m 31 work outs in on my 50 work out goal on the Nordic Track. My new favorite is Walk The World, taking on the beaches and forests of Costa Rica, a lovely country with the “Pura Vida” philosophy. I’d love to get back there one day, but for now, virtually will have to do!

Enjoying this excellent read so far!

This post has gotten rather long so I’ll end here. I am very excited for my next post because by then my daughter and I will have jumped out of a perfectly good plane. I look forward to telling you all about what I hope will be a thrilling experience! Ah, the things I’ll do for a checkmark. Until next week, friends!

Week 13: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Happy Monday! We are back from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and I am happy to say I’ve managed to check off a few more items from my bucket list. The Upper Peninsula is a beautiful part of the state, and we have enjoyed the Les Cheneaux area for many years. If you happen to be following along, you may know that I decided to add tackling visiting someplace we’ve not been before while on our up north vacation to my bucket list (#25). And, what the heck, why not tick off item # 17 (Go hiking) while we’re at it!

But what to do? I looked at a map and looked into what each area offered and I ended up deciding on a day trip to Munising, an area rich in beauty and hiking opportunities. Munising is roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes from our resort, Spring Lodge. We were on the road by 8am heading northwest. Since we are attempting to do things we’ve never done before, we chose to hit up a lunch spot that serves pasties. Despite our many vacations to the U.P., I’d never eaten a pasty (pronounced Pass-Tee). I honestly wasn’t so sure I would enjoy it. We stopped at a cute and quirky little place in Munising called Muldoons. My husband, Mike opted for beef (which according to Mike apparently requires gravy) and I chose veggie which we ate on one of the outdoor picnic tables. We ended our meal by sharing an apple pastie. They are delicious little bundles of goodness wrapped in a pastry crust. Two enthusiastic thumbs up here.

Muldoon also sells maple syrup, fudge and gift items. Plus who doesn’t love a good Bigfoot statue!

Instead of striking out on our own, we ventured into Munising to the Pictured Rocks Interpretive Center where we spoke with a park ranger to plan our visit. We were trying to decide between hiking or taking a boat or kayak along the shoreline. After a brief discussion, we opted to hike (next time we’ll try the boat). We headed up to the Miners Falls area to hike towards Mosquito beach which, despite its name, is perhaps one of the loveliest beaches I’ve seen. And guess what, no mosquitos! We walked along trails, taking in rock formations and waterfalls. After about a mile and a half hike, through both wide and narrow trails full of tree roots and ankle twisting opportunities, we happened upon a gorgeous white sandy beach framed by tall sandstone rocks in the distance. There were a few families there, dogs fetching sticks and children playing along the shoreline. The water was an unreal Caribbean blue. Mike was able to fly his drone a bit to get a better look at the rocks than the beach itself afforded.

Mike ready to hit the trail!
One of the rock formations of Pictured Rocks, called Miner’s Castle.
Wagner Falls
Rock formations in the distance.
Water is such beautiful shades of blues and blue-greens.
Mosquito beach, acres of soft white sand.
We found an awesome piece of driftwood to sit on and a willing photographer!
A piece of nature’s artistry sits at the shoreline.

After hiking back the mile and a half, we drove a little further westward along the coast and parked near Hurricane River for a 1.7 mile hike along the lake to the Au Sable Point Lighthouse. There is a dangerously shallow sandstone bottom that extends about a mile out into the lake which has led seamen to nickname this area Graveyard Coast. The lake has been at a record high and usually you can see remnants of shipwrecks from long ago along the shoreline, but because water levels were so high, there really wasn’t much to see. There was however some very lovely forested trails which provided cooling shade on this warm summer day.

My handsome hubby, camera in hand, heading towards the lighthouse.

We were lucky enough to arrive at the lighthouse at 4:30, in time to take the last tour of the day. The fee is $3 per person for ages 6 and over. The lighthouse has not been lived in since the 1950’s but was redecorated to the period of late 1800’s, when it was first erected. We were fortunate to climb the circular staircase up all 98 steps to the top where we heard a brief presentation and then were allowed out on the narrow upper ledge. It was a beautiful view and a really cool experience I think we’ll both remember. For any lighthouse afficionados, there used to be a kerosene lit lamp which acted as a beacon, though it was a steady light that did not blink or rotate. It had a 17 mile visibility. Today the beacon is electronic and blinks with a 14 mile visibility.

Au Sable Point Lighthouse.
The beacon is now electronic and is located outside of the lighthouse on the upper outer ledge.
View from the top. Photo credit: Mike Lanzetta
Looking down the circular staircase inside the lighthouse.
As a book lover, I found this really cool. There was a supply ship that would arrive every so often with supplies and a different batch of books. They would simply close up the book cabinet and return their books in exchange for new ones. If there was a bookmark in a book they would leave it in place because there was a lighthouse keeper somewhere waiting for that book to get back around to them. According to our docent, their schedules were pretty packed with chores, but they managed to squeeze in a game of cards or a board game in their down time. They were usually here with their families.

We made it back to the resort around 9pm. Spring Lodge has a couple of unique offerings, one of which is yoga on the beach on Monday mornings and Wednesday evenings. A few of us took the Monday morning class. We’ve done it the last few times we’ve stayed here as well. It is always a relaxing way to start the morning!

Family Favorite!
View of the boathouse.
Yoga on the beach

The resort also offers Happy Hour on Friday night which features one of our proprietors, Ernie, on drums. Because my brother-in-law also plays drums, Ernie has him sit in and uses this opportunity to play the horn; the man has talent!

Happy hour includes visitors who stop in or listen from their boats on the water. Carl did an amazing job on drums as always. The caliber of talent in this little town is astonishing! Fun time. They played everything from Bare Naked Ladies to Van Morrison.

We always find this vacation so relaxing. Ernie and Carla are fabulous hosts. If you want to find out more about the resort, here’s a link. http://springlodge.com Fun Fact: my husband created the video on their website during one of our past stays. He did a great job of covering the basics in less than a minute. Look for a few familiar faces in it.

Besides hanging out with family, we usually rent a pontoon boat and go out for sunset cruises. We’ll have lunch on the pontoon or take the kids into Hessel for ice-cream at Mertaugh’s in the marina. Sometimes the adults head in to Cedarville or Hessel for a cocktail. For a small town, there are several restaurant options, Snows Bar and Grill is even within walking distance. Hessel boasts the Les Cheneaux Culinary School which is a fabulous dining experience if you are looking to splurge. We didn’t make our reservations in time this year, so we missed out. Ang-ios is a family favorite. The newest kid on the block is the Les Cheneaux Distillery, try the Drummond Sunrise cocktail, you won’t be disappointed. In the spirit of trying new things, we decided to take the boat in to Hessel and have breakfast at the NibbleLungen, something we’d not done before. We went at Jenna’s suggestion and I hope this becomes one of our vacation traditions.

A little market that offers breakfast, ice cream and a nice selection of wine and cold beverages and other household necessities.

We continued our tradition of serving chocolate chip pancakes, bacon, fresh fruit and mimosas on the boat house deck for everyone. Family traditions are important, as our younger family members continue to remind us! I’m so glad.

But the highlight of our stay has always been the Antique Wooden Boat Show in Hessel. We’ve been attending this show for years. It’s always fun to see the boats heading out in the early morning to take their place in the show. After we’ve seen a few boats head down the channel, we start the day by attending a good old fashioned pancake breakfast in Mertaugh’s boat garage, benefitting the Lions Organization for the blind. The boat show itself features classic antique wooden boats. The amazing thing is that many of these boats are actually in regular use as transportation. They are just lovely! I’ll post photos of a few of my favorites. The Hessel marina also has an art show on site with art of all types available for purchase. This year I bought a beautiful hand carved wooden box for my family room and a pen carved from white tail deer antler. We started our day early so we could head back downstate sooner and hopefully miss some of the traffic. By 11 am we were happily headed back home with a heart full of new memories and a few more things checked off my bucket list.

Wooden boat heading down the channel. Notice the water level has this dock completely submerged!
So beautiful! They are like floating artwork!
These cool boats resemble cars with fins!
Well named boat

While we were up north, I also managed to squeeze in a LOT of reading. I finished Less and read the 688 page book Bella Poldark, the last in the 12 book Poldark series. It was such a luxury to read the whole book in just a couple of days! I also read The Wife Between Us, which was a good suspenseful read. So I’ve completed 46 of my 50 book goal. I’m 92% done and 16 books ahead of schedule. I may have to up my goal!

These are the last 6 books of the 12 book series. There is also a PBS show called Poldark based on these books. They were recommended to me by a friend and I highly recommend them. It was an investment of time, but it was time well-spent. I’ll miss reading about these characters!

In other milestones, my husband and I returned home to step over the threshold into our new reality, that of being empty nesters. Our youngest daughter moved to her first post-college apartment while we were gone. We’ve spent some of the last couple of days giving her a hand with getting settled. Having an empty nest was not an item on my bucket list. I’ve had a taste when the girls were in college and I thought I was ready for it. After all, it is a parenting milestone. I told myself that we’ve succeeded at raising two successful, independent daughters! YAY!! High five to us, and pass the Kleenex please. I held it together pretty well actually, just a little mist up. Hey, I am looking forward to having less housekeeping to do, less laundry and less grocery shopping, but I know we are going to miss her and our grand-kitty, Ollie, terribly. It’s already feeling a little emptier here. Oh well, I’m off to figure out what I’m going to do with that empty room. Have a happy week!

Week 8: Farewell to My Fabulous 50’s

Summer on the lake. Backyard views.

Well I am eight weeks in and feeling pretty satisfied with my progress so far. The check marks are flying and the bucket-list items that require ongoing commitment are also doing well. As Mike was off this week, we had a little more time to accomplish some of the things on our summer wish list (and my bucket-list). Fun fact: I thought we were approaching the midway point of summer, so I googled it. And guess what? Summer is not half over until August 7th. We still have a lot of summer left! Doesn’t that make you feel better? So let’s get on with it, shall we?

The bathroom is rounding home plate. Tony, our contractor extraordinaire and jack of all trades came on Saturday to finish up. The last items needed will be a custom glass door, which is scheduled to be measured by Al, someone Tony recommended, on Tuesday. It also needs painting which I’ve lined up for Tuesday. I picked several paint colors and we narrowed it down to the top two contenders. We painted swatches on the wall and have decided to go with Sherwin Williams Seasalt. Did we make the right choice? Let me know what you think! The wainscoting will be Extra-white, also by Sherwin Williams. The last thing we need are all of the accessories, towels, wash cloths, waste baskets, artwork, i.e. the fun stuff! I’ll wait to share bathroom pictures though until the final product.

Unfortunately the true colors didn’t translate well. They are a bit lighter than this appears.

I also used my herb garden to prepare a dish this week, Skinny Teriakyi Pork Chops topped with a few chives from the garden. It’s from a recipe I printed off the internet a few years ago. It was yummy! I wish I could attribute the recipe to someone however, despite an exhaustive internet search, I couldn’t relocate this exact recipe, just variations of it. Here is the recipe:

Skinny Pineapple Teriakyi Pork Chops

20 oz can Pineapple Slices in 100% juice, (reserve 1/2 cup juice)

1/4 cup less sodium soy sauce

2 TBSP brown sugar

2 TBSP rice vinegar

1/4 tsp ground ginger

4 -40z boneless pork chops, trimmed of fat

1 tsp fresh chives, chopped

  1. In a small bowl prepare marinade. Whisk together pineapple juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, rice vinegar and ground ginger.
  2. Place pork chops in a large resealable bag and cover with marinade. Seal bag and place pork chops in the fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight. If possible, turn bag every hour or so to evenly cover pork cops with marinade.
  3. Remove pork chops from bag. DO NOT DISCARD MARINADE.
  4. In a small sauce pan over medium heat, bring marinade to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer sauce for 15-17 minutes until sauce thickens, making sure to stir sauce frequently. After sauce has thickened, remove from heat and place in a small dish. You will use this marinade sauce while grilling pork chops and pineapple.
  5. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Lightly coat grill rack with nonstick cooking spray.
  6. Place pork chops on grill and brush often with marinade sauce while cooking. Cook pork chops on each side for 4-5 minutes or until cooked through.
  7. Delicately add pineapple slices to grill and cook for 1-2 minutes on both sides.
  8. Let pork chops rest for 2-4 minus before serving.
  9. To serve, place a grilled pineapple on top of each pork chop and sprinkle with chives.

Serving size is 1 pork chop/1 pineapple slice, 268 calories

Skinny Teriakyi Pork Chops topped with garden chives and a side of my “special” coleslaw.

Yoga lakeside was ah-mazing! (bucket list item #50) Thanks to my sister-in-law Sharon and my niece Ashley, our instructors, for the excellent start to our day. Thanks also to Katherine for sharing her beautiful lake-front with us. Class started at 10:30am and it was H*O*T*. It felt like what I imagine hot yoga must feel like. Sweaty. Despite the heat, it was an amazing class. I know the heat seemed to improve my flexibility, but the best part for me was, as we were resting in savasana, a gentle cleansing rain came and cooled us off. Thank you Mother Nature!

Favorite way to do yoga: Outdoors with friends.

We tried a new restaurant, San Morello (bucket-list item #11). This little gem is located in the new Shinola Hotel in downtown Detroit. We brought Mike’s stepmom, Louise, out to lunch there for her birthday. The atmosphere was lovely and everyone’s meals were delicious. We ordered 2 dips with bread for our starters: Sheep’s milk ricotta with hot honey and garlic and also Italian butter bean wild mushroom sott’aceto. Both were yummy though I especially liked the ricotta dip. Louise ordered a traditional breaded eggplant al forno, (Melanzane for you Italians out there.) I had a classic tomato, mozzarella, basil wood-fired pizza, and Mike ordered Tuna tartare as an entree. Our waitress was very good and I would absolutely go back. We opted to sit inside as it was extremely hot but they do offer patio seating and I’ll bet it’s lovely on a cool summer evening. Here is a link to their website if you want to check it out for yourself. https://www.sanmorello.com

San Morello. You can see the patio dining to the left.
Lunch with the birthday girl.

After lunch, we walked around the city a bit and discovered this cute little coffee shop, Madcap Coffee, next to The Brakeman. It had large windows that open in the summer, allowing you to place your order street-side. We ordered their summer blend, which we enjoyed before heading home.

Awaiting our coffee. Bonus: a good place to people-watch.

Newsflash on the wine front: I may have a contender here for new favorite wine. I gave the waitress at San Morello my likes and dislikes and, after conferring with the bartender, she suggested I try a white wine from central Italy, Verdicchio Classico Castelli di Jesi Felici 2017, Marche. It was $12 by the glass, and I was able to find it online from $14-$20 a bottle depending on the vendor. If you, like me, prefer less dry white wines, with crisp fruit notes, you might like this one. Currently, it is my top contender for new favorite wine!

Top contender so far for new favorite wine!

Bucket-list item #43 was a sunrise breakfast on the pontoon. Mission accomplished. We got up early on July 4th before the lake gets busy and had a lovely little sausage/egg/English muffin sandwich with fresh pineapple orange juice, and fruit. I hope we are able to do this a few more times this summer. What an awesome way to start the day!

Breakfast on the boat. Don’t mind if I do!

On Sunday, we had planned to tackle that bike ride to Lake Eerie but we decided to take a raincheck. Literally. Rain would have affected much of our ride and why make it unpleasant when we don’t have to?

As you can see, it was a busy week. Hope you all had a happy and safe July 4th. Until next week, happy trails!

Week 6 Of Farewell to My Fabulous 50’s Tour

Finally some beautiful summer weather!

The weather has finally been beautiful and we’ve been busy with yard work and cleaning the boat. Of course, when your boat is clean it’s mandatory to take it out for a spin, because, why wouldn’t you? In addition to the chores and pleasures that come along with the nice weather, the bathroom renovation continues to occupy much of my time. It is coming along well and our contractor, Tony, has remained true to his word. He shows up and stays all day and does the work. We anticipate being done in about another 1 1/2 weeks. The drywall is repaired and ready for sanding. On Monday, he continues with the plumbing. Excited for each new phase! Here are a few pictures of the work in progress.

Work in progress: mirror removed, all cabinets, plumbing fixtures and tile removed. This is the “yikes” phase.
Shower stripped of tile
Drywall repaired and ready for sanding

I am excited to report that one of my herb gardens is thriving. It looks and smells great! The other, I’m afraid will need transplanting. As it happens, this pot has no drainage and the plants were too wet with all the rain we’ve had. The chives, a sad little cilantro and a single spindly twig of dill are the only survivors. I will transplant them but I am trying to decide whether or not to replace the herbs I’ve lost. On a happier note, I did harvest some basil and made a mini caprese salad as a side with our BLTS one evening. You guys, if you haven’t tried Rachel Ray’s Drizzle Reduction with Balsamic Vinegar, you are missing out. So yummy!

Thriving! Parsley, basil, sage, and rosemary.
Lost a couple plants and the survivors don’t appear very healthy. Need to give this guy a transplant and then a little intensive care. (Why do cardiac nurses always seem to revert back to familiar terminology? Or maybe it’s just me.)
Mini caprese salad with fresh basil and balsamic reduction drizzle

I have to admit that the recent sky-diving plane accident in Hawaii has me a little spooked. I’ve not scheduled my jump yet, but have been perusing Youtube watching videos to prepare myself. After a bit of reflection and a good self-pep talk, I have decided I just need to do it! I will be jumping tandem instead of solo and plan to use Skydive Tecumseh. If anyone has any feedback on them, I would appreciate hearing it.

On the language front, my French class is now on hiatus until end of July. C’est la vie. I continue with daily Duolingo and have maintained my streak, currently at 675 days. I hope to meet up with a few of my classmates at least once over this break.

In the search for a new wine, I sampled and loved a Washington Riesling (Chateau Ste. Michelle Harvest Select Sweet Riesling, Columbia Valley, vintage 2017) which was delicious. Almost all of the rieslings I’ve sampled have been very good. And fun fact: I’ve learned that the high sugar content of rieslings make them age well. So despite many white wines “going bad,” sweeter rieslings apparently will still do well if left on the shelf for a while. Good to know but somehow they never end up on the shelf very long around here. I’ve come to the conclusion that I would like to find a different varietal, OTHER than Reisling, which I already know I love. All suggestions are welcome!

A comfy chair, good wine and a good book. #winning

I am in the process of teaching Kobe a new trick (#31 on the bucket list). This resonates with me because it is pretty emblematic of my whole blog, teaching an old dog a new trick. He is a quick study! I’m teaching him to play dead (which he’s almost perfected except for the telltale tail wag). He’s a clever guy! Now we are working on getting him to jump through a hoop, thanks to some tips from my bootcamp coach, Shirley, who is also a dog breeder and trainer extraordinaire! She knows her stuff because we are making progress daily. I will share a video of both tricks once we’ve perfected them.

My Nordic track work-outs continue. I am doing a bootcamp series on the beach in Bora Bora. I have completed 17 work outs of my goal of 50 for the year, which I believe puts me 10 ahead of schedule. My favorite moment so far is when a group of dogs joined the trainer on the beach while she was running. It felt spontaneous and real and made me smile while running, which almost never happens. Have I mentioned I don’t care for running? I also did a simple yoga stretch class at home to fulfill my weekly goal.

Dogs! They were “fishing” in between running along with the trainer.

I am on book # 35 of my 50 book goal for the 2019 calendar year, which is 11 books ahead of schedule. I finished book #11 of the Poldark series and am going to read a few summer reads before tackling the last book of the series. I finished The Right Time by Danielle Steel. (Thanks April) Ms. Steel is not an epic writer, but she is a good story-teller. I am currently reading a book using Overdrive from one of my favorite authors, Lisa See, Island of Sea Women. I just started it last evening. So far, so good. (Thanks Kelley for putting it on my radar.)

So, that’s it for this week. I need to get that skydive on the schedule. I’ll just keep reminding myself that growth won’t occur in my comfort zone. Let’s hope this beautiful weather continues. Make it a great week and I hope you all continue to find new ways to grow and thrive.

Week 5 Of Farewell to My Fabulous 50’s Tour

This week has been a busy one! Most of my time and effort has been directed towards our kitchen and bathroom renovations. I am happy to report we are making great progress! Much of the kitchen has been done. The only things left to do in the kitchen are to paint the shiplap and to accessorize it to suit the new vibe. Our old cottage kitchen pastel accessories just don’t suit the space. I have to go on record as saying our contractor Tony has been awesome so far. He’s on time, on budget and a hard worker. Mike and I are very pleased with the results. In the kitchen, he put in a glass tile backsplash and a new sink and faucet as well as added shiplap to the front of the breakfast bar area. He accomplished all of this in two and a half days. My job was to be on top of purchasing the sink, faucet, tile and grout. I picked out some new cabinet hardware and Mike and I replaced those ourselves. Overall, we are delighted.

Love my new glass tile backsplash.

Next up is the bathroom space. Can I just say how much I dislike stripping wallpaper! YUCK! What a job. Happy to report that part is finished. After a mishap with a back-ordered tile selection, we finally arrived at our final decision. We are going with a linen look tile and a mosaic accent tile in grays, whites and creams. Mike and I also hauled all 900 pounds (really, 900 pounds!!) of tile down the back steps. He did the bulk of the heavy lifting. I forgot how many little decisions go into a bathroom remodel. I’ve picked out a light fixture and towel bars. Mike and I ended up going to a specialty shop for the shower heads though. We wanted a rain shower and a hand held shower as well as body sprays which we just weren’t finding at the big box stores. Tony returns on Tuesday to start in on the bathroom. Can’t wait for it all to go in and to share the final result with everyone!

Wall paper stripping was not my favorite thing to do. It was hard and I have the blisters and calluses to prove it!
Tile selections.

In other bucket-list items, my random act of kindness for this week was letting an elderly gentleman with just a few items in his cart ahead of me. My Duolingo streak continues with day #670 and crown level at # 817. I’ve jumped a level up to Saphire and my new goal is just to stay in the top 10 on the leader board, which has been challenging. I continue with my French class which is coming to a close this week. My teacher, David, is taking a hiatus until the end of July and classes will resume then for me. In the meantime, I will continue listening to Pimsleur French V in my car and plan to review all we’ve learned in class.

I’ve done a couple more Nordic Track work-outs. One was a stroll along the Seine and the other a walk along a beach in Bora Bora. That puts me up to 12 out of a goal of 50. Daily meditation continues, using the Headspace App, as does visualization.Visualization must work because I have been visualizing ourselves in our Florida home and we just got word that they are breaking ground in two weeks instead of August. We are psyched about that! I also did a relaxing yoga flow via Youtube. We had to postpone our lake-side yoga class but looking forward to being able to do it soon!

Strolling along the Seine and later a view of Notre Dame.

With my reading goal, I am still on Poldark series book #11 The Twisted Sword but happy to report I am rounding home base with a book on deck (thanks to April!). My new recipe for this month was again from The Doctor’s Diet, a chicken vegetable stir-fry which Mike really enjoyed. As usual, I’ve altered it a bit to suit our tastes. Recipe to follow.

Chicken veggie stir-fry with a Rosé.

Chicken Veggie Stir Fry

Olive Oil cooking spray

1 pound chicken cut into bite size pieces

1 yellow pepper cut into 1 inch strips

1 red pepper cut into 1 inch strips

1 cup broccoli florets, chopped

3 celery stalks, chopped

1/2 cup fat-free, reduced sodium beef broth

2 TBSP low-sodium soy sauce

1 TBSP chili paste (more if you like spicy)

Spray skillet with olive oil cooking spray. Over medium high heat, stir fry meat until cooked through. Remove to a plate. Turn off the heat and spray pan with more olive oil spray. Over medium heat stir-fry the veggies and cook until crisp-tender. Combine the broth, soy sauce and chili paste, stir into vegetables, add meat back into the pan and heat for 2-3 minutes. Top with cashews. Make 4 servings.

Adapted from The Doctor’s Diet by Dr. Travis Stork

I’ve reached out to friends and family this week and enjoyed a Fathers’ Day barbecue at my parents. Have I mentioned my mom is amazing and hosts our family almost every single holiday? Now I have!

I am still working on finding that new favorite wine. I tried two. Both sounded promising but neither delivered. The Rosé was in a super cute bottle with a rose on the bottom and a glass stopper but that was where it peaked. Despite the fact that I generally like Rosés, I really didn’t care for this wine. The second wine, San Angelo, an Italian Pinot Grigio, sounded promising in it’s description: fresh fruit-forward bouquet with notes of pear, banana, peach, anise and honey; rich and full-bodied with a long finish. How could I say no to a banana note. I’ve never seen a wine mention banana before, so intriguing! But…uhmmm..no. Not the one. I didn’t taste much in the way of fruit notes, but of course, my palate is not really that developed. I do, however, know what I like! The quest continues. 

Rose bottom of the bottle was the best thing about this wine.
Notes of banana? Nope, at least not for me.

Unfortunately the jet-ski is STILL sitting in the drive-way. Of course, whenever we have time to do it, it’s raining! Maybe next week.

I hope everyone had a fantastic Father’s Day! We brought Mike to brunch at Parc, one of our favorite restaurants. It is located in Campus Martius, Detroit and featured some great menu items and an amazing vocalist. I wish I knew her name (think Jewel).

I am anticipating next week focusing primarily on the bathroom remodel but I do hope to squeeze a few more things in. From our family to yours, we hope you all had an amazing Fathers’ Day! Until next week.

Happy Fathers’ Day from our family to yours!