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 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.