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

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

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

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

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

I signed up for the next semester of French at Alliance de Fran├žaise. We are moving onto the next workbook and this course will be more conversant. I am still doing daily Duolingo. I’m meditating, though I haven’t been faithful to it, it’s been hit or miss since we came back from Florida. I’m hoping to get in the swing a bit more this week. I’m still doing Noom, but at a plateau with still 1 1/2 pounds to go to my 10 pound goal. I am sticking with it! Our carpenter is working on putting up some trim in our Florida house. The light fixtures are in and look great. Things are coming together there. The pool is slated to be started the week of Thanksgiving though we’re hoping for earlier. I completed two more NordicTrack workouts, both through London. One was a royal tour and the other a square mile tour covering the Tower of London and various buildings in the city proper of London. I learned something that I didn’t discover on my actual visit to London. Apparently Londoners give most of the modern buildings nicknames, like the Cheesegrater, or the Gherkin based on their appearances. I always learn something on my NordicTrack workouts. I also am still doing the Anna Wintour Masterclass. She is an interesting person and I am enjoying what she has to say though I do wonder if I would like her if I met her in person. After all, The Devil Wears Prada was supposedly loosely based on her.

I finished The Summer Wives and it was excellent. The writing was really well done and a pleasure to read and the narrative was interesting. Now I am reading Happy All The Time by Laurie Colwin. It’s a different sort of read with several odd characters. I’m still deciding what I think about it. I’m over half way done with it. I’ll let you know.

Happy All the Time. I’m still deciding what I think about this one!

I made several Noom recipes and thought I would share this one because it was so yummy. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a photo. As my girls sometimes say, no photo and it didn’t happen. I’m here to tell you it did and it was awesome.

Here is the Noom image as I neglected to take a photo.

Baked Pork Chops and Sweet Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled

1 large onion

2 TBSP canola oil

2tsp grated fresh ginger

.25 tsp salt

4 thin cut boneless pork chops (12 ounces total)

.25 tsp ground cinnamon

ground black pepper

.25 cup hot chicken broth or water

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Coat a large shallow baking pan with cooking spray. Cut the sweet potatoes and onion into halves. Cut each half into 8 wedges. Transfer the vegetables to the pan.

In a small bowl, whisk the oil, ginger, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the vegetables and then use clean hands to spread the mixture evenly on the vegetables.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, tossing occasionally or until the vegetables start to brown. Reduce the heat to 375 degrees. Add the pork to the pan. Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly on the pork. Roast for 10-15 minutes or until the pork is no longer pink and the juices run clear. Remove the pork and vegetables to a platter. Add the broth or water to the the pan juices. Stir to combine, scraping any browned bits in the pan. Drizzle the pan juices over the pork and vegetables. Enjoy!

301 calories/serving

The other thing keeping me busy is decorating for Christmas. Yep, I’m one of “those” people. I love decorating early because it extends the season for me. I love the fellowship and the good feelings of the Christmas season. I like to take my time and put it all up a piece at a time. So far I have two of our three trees up and the garland on the stairs. I still have a lot to do, but I’m fine with that. It probably will all be done sometime this week unless the weather doesn’t cooperate enough to put up the outside lights. I still use the month of November to reflect on gratitude for my many undeserved blessings and the joys of Thanksgiving. I just do it surrounded by Christmas decorations! It also helps me feel less stress and better able to focus on selecting meaningful gifts for those I care about. I just LOVE Christmas!

Until next week, whether or not you are an early decorator, may you carry the joy of the season in your heart!