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 31: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

It’s been a fun and productive week! The holidays always seem to add a layer of extra busyness. My shopping is only halfway done, which is very unlike me. I am normally 99% finished by this time. On the plus side, I know what I am buying, I just need to get out there and do it. I’ve already ordered everything I intended to order from online, so all should arrive in time. It’s just the real life shopping that I’ll need to complete.

So let’s dig in. In regard to item # 7 – Lose 10 pounds, I have plateaued with about a pound to go. I have decided my best option is to try to hold steady through the holidays and resume reduction efforts after we return from Florida soon after the first of the year. I believe that will be difficult enough. I am still using the Noom app and have found it helpful. On a related note, I am slacking a little on the NordicTrack workouts. I did two this week, bringing me up to 62 workouts of the 50 work out goal. One was a stroll through Dubrovnik, Croatia and the other a stroll along the Champs Elysees in Paris. We have visited both of these cities IRL (in case you aren’t familiar, you may see this abbreviation in your kids’ texts, it means “In Real Life”). I’m probably too old to be using these abbreviations but IDC. I’m pretty sure that means “I don’t care.” And if it doesn’t, it should! The Dubrovnik one was interesting as despite having visited this city, there were still new things to learn. I didn’t know that at one point in their history a kilo of salt was as valuable as a kilo of gold. They would harvest it from the sea and use it to “pay off” their aggressors to retain their autonomy. I learn something new almost every time I hop on the treadmill!

Item #10- Keep attending classes through Alliance de Francais. This Monday’s class is the last for this year. I will be setting up private FaceTime or Skype classes after the start of the year when classes resume. I hope this will allow me to keep up while traveling and pick right up where I left off in class upon my return. My Duolingo streak is intact and I am so excited that they’ve recently added additional content which gives me some new things to learn! I am also revisiting Pimsleur French IV and V, which is an audio language learning course.

Item # 11 – Try one new to us restaurant each month. This time we were out on the western side of the state meeting friends from that area. My husband is a private pilot, so we flew and shortened what would have been at least a two hour car trip to a short 45 minute flight. We were even able to fly over the Big House in Ann Arbor. Our friends picked us up at the airport and we went to a nearby restaurant called The Four Roses Cafe, in Plainwell. It is rather unassuming from the outside. In fact, it looks a lot like someone’s home who suddenly decided to open a restaurant, but oh my goodness! What a treat. Everything is made with the freshest ingredients and menus are changed daily based on the best locally available produce. I had a grilled romaine salad for my entree which was wonderful but the best was saved for last. They make some really scrumptious home made desserts on site from scratch. Between the four of us, three deserts were ordered and they were all amazing. My husband had the Coconut Cream Pie, our friends ordered a brownie sundae type desert and another chocolate desert whose name I can’t remember but it was reportedly delicious. I just had a bite of Mike’s pie and it was worth whatever calories were in it! If you are ever in the area, I would recommend seeking this place out. We arrived at 11:40 am on a Friday and had a half hour wait, so be prepared. They will, however, take reservations for parties of six or more.

Flying over the Big House!

Our Florida house is coming along. The couch, desk and end tables for the den should be delivered on December 31st. As far as furniture goes, we will just be missing our barstools. Curtains for the dining room and den are hopefully to be hung sometime this week. I still have a lot of accessorizing to do, along with fabric selections for bedroom curtains, and bathroom valances. The bedrooms do have blinds in place for privacy. They have dug the pool and poured the walls. They back filled and leveled the yard. Next comes pavers, and tiling/gunnite as well as a lanai surround. I can’t wait to watch it all come together!

Walls are poured and ground is back-filled and leveled. Making headway!

I am currently reading “This Is How It Always Is” book #70 of my 50 book goal by Laurie Frankel. It is a Reese Witherspoon book club pick. It’s a little early to decide if it’s one I’ll recommend but I’ll let you know.

This book is a selection from Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club. I’ve just started it, so I’ll keep you posted.

In item #26 – Organize and catalog all of the photos sitting in a jumble in the storage room, I have made great headway. There were way more photos than I originally anticipated and I keep finding more caches of them all over the house. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel though and hope to complete this project before year’s end.

The large plastic container and the smaller boxes are still being sorted and filed. The smaller plastic boxes are almost all filled. Thankfully the end is in sight!

I haven’t been as good with item #13 – Daily meditation. It’s been a rather hit or miss proposition lately, primarily due to the busyness of the holidays, the extra get-togethers, cooking, shopping, baking, birthdays and events. I know they say that is when you need it the most, to calm a busy mind, so I am going to have to double down on my efforts to fit it into an already jam packed day. I think perhaps starting the day with a short bit of meditation ideally followed by a brief bit of yoga should help bring clarity that will let me tackle whatever lies ahead. Well, at least I hope so.

I have been working on my family tree a little through Ancestry.com. Recently a second cousin reached out to me via messaging and we have been exchanging helpful information for our family trees. It’s an interesting thing to have someone who’s shared a common history yet we don’t know each other and I doubt either of us had heard of the other before genetically matching on the DNA testing and determining that we shared a few relatives. I look forward to doing a deeper dive soon, perhaps after the rush of the holidays.

In item # 30 – Finish a Masterclass, I’ve finished the Anna Wintour Masterclass and have recently started one with make-up expert Bobbi Brown. I’m really enjoying it so far. She is kind of the antithesis of the Kardashians, very understated and natural. So far, I’m liking what I see. This will be the third Masterclass for this year. Before Anna Wintour, I took the Margaret Atwood Writing class. I’ve enjoyed each and every one of these courses.

Well, I believe I have a few presents to wrap and there is a glass of Moscato calling my name. I am taking the next two weeks off from the blog to revel in the holidays and enjoy spending time with my family. I will rejoin you on January 6th. Until then, I’ll leave you with my favorite holiday quote from Burton Hillis , “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” I hope the same will be true for you this season. Cheers!

Merry Christmas!!

Week 25: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Bread-making and Florida House Update

25 weeks, just one more week to the half way mark. I am writing this in sunny Florida, the weather is lovely and I wish we were able to stay longer but it’s time to return home this afternoon. We were able to accomplish a lot and I would say this particular trip was more work than leisure, but what a pleasure!

I am excited to share our Florida house update with you all! Only some of our furniture has been delivered. Ironically just one chair, which we had to share. So yes, a dining room table, no chairs, a coffee table, no couch. We did receive the bedroom sets. I think the universe was telling us there was no time to sit down this time around but thankfully, we were allowed to sleep.

Finished!
The house from the back. We will be adding a pool and lanai soon.

The trip started by heading to the house right after landing. We were greeted by our awesome friends, Dave and Kim, who had put up a congratulations banner for us to cut and some Prosecco which we opened on our last day there. We also had to break open the Dom Perignon that had been gifted to us by a dear friend to commemorate our move-in day. Having been through this themselves, they were kind enough to leave us with some paper plates, paper towels, napkins, scissors, and toilet paper, the essentials! They also had lunch waiting. Did I mention they are AWESOME? What a welcome!

Cutting the banner, our grand opening!
We couldn’t ask for better friends. Toasting to friendship and being neighbors in two states!

Then I was off to meet our designer to work on curtains and bedspreads. Part of the adventure is learning the area. I haven’t really driven much around here, so of course, I got lost and ended up arriving late. Darn GPS! I am excited about my selections and can’t wait for the rest of the furniture and all of the bedspreads and curtains to arrive. I made a quick trip to Target for some basic food supplies to get us through the weekend and of course a Keurig! There are a lot of things we can do without, but coffee isn’t one of them. While I has busy hunting and gathering Mike was meeting with the electrician Scott, our Comcast rep, Adam the glass installer, and the Best Buy installer. Because so many of the houses are the same and there aren’t really opportunities to customize much with our builder, many of the residents change certain things to make their house more to their taste after closing. We don’t want shower curtains and didn’t like the shower door in our master bath, so we are changing it out to frameless. We are adding some architectural detail to several of the ceilings and a bit more molding. We will also be adding a pool and hot tub with a cage lanai. They’ve not broken ground on that yet but hopefully will soon. Our new light fixtures will be coming in this week.

After a quick shopping trip, I had to scoot home because it was Halloween. We are the first people to build on our section of the street as we are phase 2 of the development, so we weren’t expecting trick or treaters but were invited to pass out candy at our friends home. We sat in the driveway and trick or treaters came by foot and by golf cart! As there was no Michigan weather to contend with, you were able to see their costumes and everything. Imagine that!

The next day at 8 am, Mike and I met with Rebecca, a sales representative who happens to live in our neighborhood, to order some black-out shades for our bedroom windows. Then we were off to the amenities center to get our orientation to the facilities here. After that, Mike awaited his various appointments first with the carpenter, Kyle, then Joe who will be doing our backsplash (another one of those customization projects) and a representative from Home Team pest defense. Meanwhile, my awesome friend Kim and I were off to Bed Bath and Beyond where we FILLED 5 shopping carts full of necessities to set up a home, things like glasses, dishes, vacuums, brooms, mops, towels sheets, and the list goes on…and on! We managed to get most everything we’ll need, though there are still a couple things on my list that I’ll tackle next time. I want to be fully equipped when friends and family come to visit! It was probably the biggest shopping trip I’ve ever done but the total came in less than either Mike or I anticipated. I had been advised (again by my wise and experienced friend Kim) to purchase a Bed Bath and Beyond plus membership. I saved well over $500 doing this. Highly recommend if you anticipate fully furnishing a new home.

5 baskets full of stuff! I had to document this because I think this is the only time in my life this has ever or will ever happen! We literally had a parade to the car with workers helping us load it all in!

It wasn’t all work. We did manage to squeeze in a nice dinner at the Barefoot Bar and Grill, our neighborhood’s restaurant with our friends. We knocked out a quick morning work out at the club facilities and managed to have dinner in Punta Gorda at the Blue Turtle again with friends. We enjoyed meeting our friends’ friends as well, a couple that I’m surprised we’ve never met before. They know a young woman we know through the Lion’s organization and they also vacation up in Hessel, just like us and even show their boat at the boat show we attend annually. In fact, we found out last year their boat was right next to a friend of my husband’s. We probably were standing right next to them and didn’t even know it. Small world!

The weather the whole time we were there was in the 80’s, sunny and humid. We were told this is unusually warm and muggy for this time of year. Apparently, it’s typically in the 70’s with less humidity. My husband’s brother Ken and his wife Chris surprised us by flying in from Lauderdale. Ken is a recreational pilot and it’s a short 45 minute flight from their home to ours. Unfortunately, I missed them because I was out filling my cart. I am looking forward to seeing them on a future trip when we have time to sit and visit and entertain them, you know, with actual chairs and everything! It was so nice of them to swing by!

I will save the photos of the inside for when we receive all of our furniture, which should be before our next visit in December.

I did want to share a couple of other accomplishments. I made bread from scratch using the recipe in the book sent to me by Deana. The unusual aspects of this technique are that it requires using a kitchen scale to measure as opposed to measuring cups and spoons. The bread dough is folded and pinched instead of kneaded and you cook it in a dutch oven instead of a loaf pan. Despite the fact that I muddled through the process, it came out yummy! Super crusty on the outside and moist and delicious on the inside. If you are into bread making, check out this book: Flour Water Salt Yeast – The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish. It wasn’t too difficult, but it does require a time commitment as you have to keep an eye on the dough and decide when to fold and when to let it rest, especially for me as a beginner. I am looking forward to trying more recipes from this book.

So good!
Crispy on the outside, and yummy soft on the inside!

In other bucket-list items, I am currently reading book #64, The Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams. I am about half way through and enjoying it very much! I finished An Anonymous Girl which I also enjoyed. It was a psychological thriller which holds the readers’ interest. I had read another book that I had enjoyed by this author, The Wife Between Us.

The Summer Wives. Enjoying it so far.

I have also finished my goal of fifty workouts on my NordicTrack! #50 was another walk through the Scottish Highlands. So yay! That is a checkmark for me! My wallpaper had arrived before we left for Florida, and I began the project of papering the back entry way and hallway only to find out that I had under-ordered. I had to re-order more. Lucky for me I am using it in two separate areas, so it won’t be awful if the dye lot isn’t perfectly matched. I completed the hallway off the kitchen and the rest of the paper showed up while we were gone, so I should be completing my back entry way soon. I hope to be able to share photos by next week.

I am still using the weight loss app Noom. It wasn’t hard to do in Florida as we were so busy, and it was pretty easy to stick with it! I have 1.5 pounds to go to my 10 pound goal. I think I may try for another 5 pounds or so after that. We were so busy, I didn’t get to meditate in Florida at all. I hope to pick it back up this week. My act of kindness was helping a lady struggling with her luggage trolley while she was pushing her mom in a wheelchair at the airport today. Well that’s it for this week! I will be on the look out for more opportunities to be helpful and kind during this busy shopping and travel season and I hope you will too! See you next week.

Sunrise from our backyard in Florida. Goodbye for now Florida. Hope to see you soon!

Week 19: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties -Florida House Edition

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

Pool Selections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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