Weeks 44, 45 & 46 : Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Quarantine Edition

Wow, thanks to COVID-19 the world is a different place than it was a few short weeks ago. I hope you and those you love are all safe and healthy and taking precautions to stay that way. (ie social distancing and wearing masks/gloves if you go out) We were home briefly, but decided to return to Florida once businesses were shut down in Michigan. So after Mike tended to some important details with his staff and practice, we headed out. Mike and key team members are able to do virtual appointments so thankfully they can stay in touch with patients and address needs as they arise. We did not fly, we drove down. We drove straight through and packed our own food with minimal stops for gasoline, using a glove or plastic bag when pumping gas and wearing a glove on one hand if we had to use the restroom. Some gas stations had placed out of order signs on their restrooms. I am assuming they were reserving it for employees and to minimize transmission to those cleaning the facilities. Thankfully, we were able to reliably find bathrooms in the rest stops. The day we arrived in Florida, the governor here finally issued a stay home order. Here at The Place, all amenities are shut down including the gym, pickle ball courts, pool and the take out they had recently instituted at the restaurant, which is fine as we are planning to cook at home anyway.

My goals for myself before turning 60 seem trivial in comparison to what we now face, however on the plus side, it has given me something to focus on other than the horrible state we all find ourselves in and something positive to do other than watch compulsively for updates and take our poor dog on yet another walk. With that said, here’s what’s been going on with the bucket list.

Here is the link to my original list. I am keeping up with my French classes virtually. They have actually switched all classes to virtual, but for now, I am still doing private lessons as my current level doesn’t seem to match with anyone else’s right now. I am continuing with Duolingo and am at day #960 today. I am still getting pleasure from learning French, however I’m ’bout to have a throw down with the French subjunctive. It’s a concept that is still a work in progress for me. I have also watched a movie in French (with subtitles) on Netflix, Un + Une and would recommend it.

Some of what I had deemed a goal will be undoable now given the world’s current situation. For instance, try a new restaurant every month has been suspended. And life has intervened with # 5, Do a 5K. While new health circumstances would require that I walk it instead, it is unlikely anyone will be holding any 5Ks soon. Also, no fun gathering for the ladies in the family, but at least we can do so virtually, though we may have to include the guys for this one too now.

However it has also given me time to tackle a few things that I was neglecting, such as organizing the basement storage room. It was long overdue! Also staying in contact with friends and family has been converted to virtual happy hours via Zoom. We are probably talking more now than we ever used to and it’s been awesome. Another positive, I’ve had more time to work on tricks with our dog Kobe which I will share on a later post.

Before, so you can see just how messy it had gotten!
After, maybe not perfect, but a lot less messy!

As far as my weight loss journey, it’s a hard fought battle. I am using Noom but certainly not to the best of my ability. I, like probably most of you, have been snacking more than normal. I am in the process of getting back on track. In the “unfortunate” column, I was recently diagnosed with arthritis and bone spurs in my hips and I have some stiffness in my lower extremeties which limits my flexibility so my doctor has instructed me to eliminate high impact exercises. While in Florida, I plan to walk, bike, swim and do yoga. All of which are all less stressful on the joints. I did manage to use my NordicTrack a few more times when we were home. I discovered a new workout series. It is lead by an Egyptian Archeologist who brings you on walking tours of several Egyptian pyramids. I also managed to do a warm up and a cultural walk set in front of Niagara Falls and some flexibility yoga in Kauai, Hawaii, making a grand total of 72 NordicTrack work-outs. My original goal was 50. I also plan to take advantage of the video workouts our awesome bootcamp trainer is posting with modifications.

Walking the pyramids of Egypt with an Egyptian archeologist.

I am guessing my reading will pick up a bit more. I am currently on book # 21 of my 75 book goal. I am reading the last book in a Nora Rogers trilogy, The Perfect Hope. It’s escapism at it’s finest. Since I last posted about my reading goal on February 26, I have read In A Dark, Dark Wood, The Turn of the Key, Evvie Drake Starts Over, Olive Again, The Giver of Stars, Turbulence, The Last Boyfriend, and The Chocolate Thief .

I also tackled # 15: Learn the alphabet in sign language. Here is the poster for the hand motions.

And here I am, signing the alphabet. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sjsEHqdjul0

I also completed another Masterclass(#30) while driving down to Florida. It featured David Sidaris on writing. It was highly entertaining even if you aren’t a writer. I am working on learning Silent Night on the piano(#34). Let me just say it’s harder than I thought it would be and now I am in Florida with no access to a keyboard, so this particular goal may be carried over into my 61st year.

My birthday is mid-May and as there isn’t much left on my list to accomplish, I will be posting just once more at this project’s conclusion. I thank you if you’ve stuck with me throughout the year and look forward to summarizing all that I was and was not able to accomplish.

Remember to embrace the things you love that you are still able to do and enjoy keeping socially close while physically distant. I hope you all stay safe and healthy and that my next post finds us all in a much better place. ((hugs))

Week 39: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Sometimes I really do have to pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming. The weather has been fabulous all week here in Florida and the weeks go by so quickly. My days have been filled with appointments for the house, visits from friends and dinners out. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind that shows no signs of slowing down. It seems Wednesday has become my preferred blogging day down here. So if you happen to be following me, look for Wednesday posts from now on.

So let me dive right into my bucket list. Item # 20 (Entertain friends and family in our Florida retirement home.) We had a fabulous time with our friends from Michigan. They were staying with our friends Dave and Kim but we were able to spend a lot of time together. We had lots of delicious dinners out, fun girls’ shopping day and relaxing by the pool. We were sad to see them go. I also was blessed to have Sammi’s boyfriend Andrew’s parents over for a visit during their stay on Sanibel. It was great to meet their sister and brother–in-law and I had fun showing them around. I also had a visit from another Belleville family who is in the process of building a home in Florida so they popped in with Dave and Kim to check out our house and pool. I really enjoyed everyone’s visit. My daughter Jenna and her husband Kristianth are driving down and arriving on Friday evening. Kristianth will be flying back and Jenna will stay behind for a month with her two dogs. She works from home and she is about to “work from pool.” And bonus: Kobe will be so happy to have friends to hang out with. Mike returns next week and my parents will be coming for a long weekend as well. It has been so nice seeing everyone and I was happy to discover that I really love the way the house lives. The big kitchen island is nice for putting out appetizers and the large doorwall really makes the lanai part of the living space.

#16 (Decorating our Florida home.) Kim and I have done a lot of shopping in search of the perfect home accessories. I think we’ve canvassed most of southwest Florida! It’s been fun but I still have a lot of artwork to select. I did manage to find a nice vase for the front bedroom dresser and some cute desk accessories. I also ordered a digital photo frame online. Digital frames have sure come a long way. It has it’s own email address and friends and family can send photos that you can include in your frame. It can play music, tell you the date and the weather as well as showcase your photos. I plan to fill this frame with photos of friends and family that visit us here so it will be a rotating gallery of memories made in our Florida home.

Digital frame by Pixstar.

#6 (Keep my Duolingo streak intact.) #10 (Keep attending classes at the Alliance de Francais.) I thought I would have a lot more time to devote to French here but it has proven to be the exact opposite. I have managed to keep my Duolingo streak intact though. I am on day # 909. My treat for making it to day #900 was watching a French film. I watched Sarah’s Key on Netflix, which was a combination of French and English. It is based on a book I read a few years ago by the same name. It was good but the book was better. Isn’t that usually the way of it? My FaceTime French classes continue weekly and I am enjoying conversing, however limited my abilities. What an awesome opportunity to have a native French speaker be able to answer my questions. The French that is taught and written isn’t exactly the French that you will find spoken if you are lucky enough to go to France. One funny thing I learned this week is the French term for a six-pack (the abs version) is le tablet du chocolat. I would much prefer a bar of chocolate to a six pack of beer, so I embrace and salute that terminology!

#13 Meditate daily #18 Read 50 books in 2019. I am combining these two because I have been having trouble getting my meditation in and I am reading “10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works.” That is one heck of a long title. It’s by news anchor Dan Harris. He relates how he had an on-air melt-down and how he subsequently found inner peace, despite his initial skepticism. I am half way through and enjoying it tremendously. I am hoping it will re-motivate me to get my daily meditation sessions in as I definitely feel more focused and productive when I do. That alone doesn’t seem to be motivation enough though so I am hoping this little book will work some magic for me. This is book # 11 of my 80 book goal for 2020 putting me 2 books ahead of schedule.

#7 (Lose 10 pounds) I am sticking with Noom and am STILL 1 pound over that goal. I’ve been walking a lot, regularly exceeding my daily goal. I also squeezed in a work out at the clubhouse. I hope to do a lot more working out when Jenna comes down.

I promised to update you on the landscaping. It’s done! It was done in a day and a half. Here are a few photos of the job “in progress” and a few “after” photos. I added a couple of potted plants which I will plant outside once we close up for the season. The red plants on the side between the houses is Red Tie. It is native to Florida and will grow to be tall enough to provide us with some privacy on our lanai. We also will be adding lanai lights to finish off the space and make it more usable in the evening.

I posted this last week, but thought I’d repost for anyone who didn’t happen to see it.
Work in progress
From the right side,
The view from the inside.
The pots I added with Salvia.

I am going to wrap it up here because I have a little online shopping to do! One of my favorite home accessory stores, ZGallerie, is having an online sale. I hope to find a few things to share in a future blog. Have a great and productive week.

Week 36: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties- The Achilles Incident

My bucket list quest has been a bit side-stepped this week in order to help care for my husband post-operatively. Here is the link to my original bucket list for anyone interested. For those that have been following the saga of my husband Mike’s ruptured Achilles tendon, he had a successful surgery on Tuesday afternoon. He does indeed have a non-weight-bearing cast and it looks like he will be hobbling about in it for quite some time. He has a scooter, crutches and a “peg leg” that allow him several options for getting around. The peg leg was loaned from a friend who had the same surgery a while back. Mike likes the scooter and the peg leg as it gives him use of his arms. He finds the crutches to be a bit cumbersome and restricting. I will say he has some of the fanciest crutches around though as one of our artistic team members decorated them with the office logo and colors. He relies on them usually if we are going out to a restaurant because he can sit without worrying about the scooter or taking off any equipment. He will have to have his cast changed periodically, as they progressively take the foot from slightly pointed to flat to avoid putting too much pressure on the tendon. Despite the fact that he is an excellent patient, taking care of Mike has occupied a lot of my time early in the week. But now that his wound is healing and he is off of pain meds, he doesn’t really relish being fussed over. As the week has progressed, he’s become increasingly independent and things are getting back to our new normal. He’ll still let me run grab something from another room for him as a matter of convenience, but other than that he is like a two year old, “Me do it myself.”

Blinged out crutches
Knee Scooter
Mike and the Peg leg. I will say this thing sounds a little scary when Mike comes thumping along. It reminds me of Poe’s Tell-tale Heart. Thump-thump, thump thump!

Another thing that has bumped my bucket list off of my priority list this week is the fact that we celebrated my oldest daughter Jenna’s birthday. Her birthday is actually at the end of the month, but as we will be in Florida then, we asked to celebrate it early. We had a yummy lunch at Crispelli’s Bakery and Pizza. My daughter Sammi, her boyfriend Andrew, Jenna and her husband Kristianth were all there. We ordered 3 pizzas as well as cheese bread. Apparently cheese bread is from a “secret menu” that my daughter is familiar with as it’s not on the menu. My daughter Sammi’s boyfriend had a yummy rueben sandwich and my husband supplemented the pizza with a bowl of Minestrone. Everything was delicious and I would definitely recommend this place. We all agreed the pizza was just the way we like it, thin crust with just the right balance of sauce, toppings and cheese! We ended with ice cream cake at Jenna’s house, admiring her new office space and watching her pets play with one another. It was wonderful just being together! She will be going to Spain for a wedding and taking a side-trip to Paris this summer, not to see the Eiffel Tower but for a trip to Disneyland, Paris. Anyone that knows her knows that she is a Disneyphile! So for her birthday, we got them 2 day, 2 park Disneyland Paris tickets. One of her life-time goals is to visit every Disney park in the world so we were happy to oblige in her personal bucket-list adventure.

The Birthday girl.
Sparkler candles and ice cream cake!

Workouts have slipped a bit as doctor appointments and post-op recovery interfered with bootcamp. I did discover a 20 minute NordicTrack HIT (high intensity interval) workout that I loved. This is going to be helpful on those days when I am running non-stop. Surely I can find 20 minutes somewhere! Between that and the abbreviated core yoga class, I will have a few options.

I had my first french class via telephone on Friday. It went surprisingly well. I thought it would be difficult to speak for an hour, but we just talked about what was going on in our lives. My instructor, David would correct me as necessary but both he and I were pleased with the outcome. I am really excited about this because speaking has been my weak link. I can read French and write it somewhat better than conversing and this forces the issue. I hope to go back to regular classes once I am back in Michigan. We set up another telephone conversation for next Saturday. I am still doing Duolingo. They added new content not too long ago and I just finished it and am now back to reviewing. I am on day #886. I’ve really surprised myself on my ability to keep the streak intact. I guess when you’re motivated enough, anything is possible.

As far as item #18, I am currently reading “A Dangerous Act of Kindness” and am about 1/4 way through. This is book #7 of my 80 book goal for 2020. We are heading to Florida at the end of the week, and I am looking forward to having a lot more reading time there! It is definitely my preferred way of enjoying my free time. I’m not much for TV but I will say I enjoy picking a series and watching it with Mike. Our current series are: YOU. This show is on Netflix and we are really enjoying it. Great dialogue, clever characters, though the storyline is a bit disconcerting. We binged season 1 and are currently in the middle of season 2. The other series that we’ve been watching lately is The Politician (Netflix). Our daughter recommended it and we binged our way through season 1.

Well, as I said earlier, we are driving to Florida later this week. Mike got the all-clear from his doctor as long as he’s back in time for his re-cast. I will remain in Florida with Kobe and Mike will fly back after a short stay. He plans to fly down a few times while Kobe and I are down there. My daughter Jenna and her 2 pups plan to come down for a long visit too. As she works from home, she can work from anywhere, so why not pool-side? Speaking of pools, our salt-water pool should be done and filled by the time we get down there. I feel awful for Mike though as he has really been looking forward to the pool and hot tub and since he has a cast, this is going to prove difficult for him. He’s a clever guy though, so I’m sure he’ll figure something out.

The last few things for our Florida house include finishing the paint on the newly installed trim around the foyer mirror and selecting furniture for the lanai. We are thinking we want a round dining table with 6 chairs, 2 chaises, 4 chairs as a conversational area and possibly a fire pit table. We are expecting delivery of our barstools shortly after our arrival and I have an appointment to select curtains for the bedrooms and valances for 2 of the bathrooms. We hope to do some decor shopping for artwork and accessories while we are down there too.

I am happy to report that my remaining bucket list items are dwindling but I have selected a few items to work on while I am in Florida. I hope to get a little more accomplished with my family tree(#37), to teach my dog Kobe a few more tricks(#31), to practice random acts of kindness with regularity(#3), to get better at practicing weekly yoga(#50), and daily meditation(#13) and visualization(#29). I will definitely be staying in contact with friends and family(#28) and work on my reading goal for 2020(#18). I’ll continue learning French (#6, #10) and start learning sign language(#15). I also look forward to putting some finishing touches on decorating the Florida house(#16) as well as hosting friends and family there(#20). I will work on re-capturing and maintaining my 10 pound weight-loss (#7). I will work on strengthening my left hip flexor and calf muscle in hopes of being able to do a 5K(#5). I also hope to take advantage of the pilates and yoga classes offered at our clubhouse and I am excited that Jenna has already volunteered to come along. I hope I can convince my good friend Kim to join us too! I can’t wait to explore the Naples, Fort Myers, and Bonita Springs areas. New cities, new adventures! Of course my list has a few remaining things that can only be done in Michigan, so those items will be waiting for me when I return.

Until next week, I hope you all have plenty to keep you busy and that all of your Achilles tendons remain intact. Seriously, that is a monkey wrench you really don’t want to deal with. Have a wonderful week.

Week 35: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

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

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

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

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

Beautiful but heart wrenching read.

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

Pork and Pepper Stir Fry

2 TBSP apricot all-fruit spread

2 TBSP soy sauce

0.5 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

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

4 tsp canola oil

0.5 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 TBSP cornstarch

6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 TBSP fresh ginger

2 large red bell peppers, cut into thin strips

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

1 large onion, cut into wedges

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 servings/29 minutes/276 calories per serving

Pork and Pepper Stir Fry served with rice

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

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

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

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

Week 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 24: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Monday again? Guess what? We closed on our Florida house! It’s been a busy week getting everything scheduled for when we head down sometime this week. We are meeting with various trades to further customize our home. Furniture delivery happens the day before we arrive, though not all furniture is in yet. They are so used to snowbirds down there, they even have a service that actually accepts delivery and sets up your furniture for you so when you arrive, your home is furnished and ready to go! So excited to see the what everything looks like all pulled together. My husband Mike and I will need to divide and conquer with him doing most of the tradespeople meetings while I am out shopping for towels, linens, dishes, kitchenware, and other essentials. I will be relying on my friend Kim’s help and expertise as she has already been through this process and has done a stellar job with her own home. I promise to post a few pics of our house in progress. Wish us luck on getting everything we’d like to accomplish done in the few days we’re there.

Progress reports on one of our last house modernization projects; the back entryway. The wallpaper is stripped and the trim is painted. As far as wallpapering, I have the wallpaper and supplies but will need some uninterrupted time to start on the task. Besides stripping the walls and painting the trim, I am working to clear out the closet of old coats, scarves, etc which I will donate. I also cleaned the grout with a product called Magic grout cleaner. It worked pretty well, though it didn’t completely lift all the staining. I would say it is 95% improved. We had ordered a bench for the back entryway from Grandin Road which arrived broken. I am happy to report customer service for Grandin Road was amazing. They sent someone to pick up the broken bench the next day and two days later the replacement was on my front porch. I will post pictures of the whole project when it is complete.

This product worked pretty well. I would recommend it. It does require letting it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing with a nylon brush.

Duolingo continues with an 801 day streak. I was delighted to hit the 800 day mark! French class is underway and I’ve purchased the second book Alter Ego A2. We have almost finished our first book and the semester ends in a few weeks. I am really enjoying the challenge of orally conversing in French. I am still working on overcoming my “stage fright” when asked a question. It’s definitely a process.

I am at 49 work outs on my Nordictrack, almost up to my 50 workout goal. A migraine slowed down this week’s progress. This week I did a studio interval workout and a walk through the Scottish Highlands with Scottish actor Graham Mctavish (The Hobbit). This was the first time that a walk was conducted by a celebrity rather than an actual trainer. I am still concentrating on walking programs rather than running. However the studio interval incorporated a slow but tolerable intermittent jog that was manageable. Noom continues, 7 pounds down 6weeks in. My clothes are more comfortable and I am trying to be patient through this process. Only 3 more pounds to goal!

A nice stroll through the Scottish highlands to see a waterfall.

Meditation, affirmation, visualization and short yoga stretches continue. I am still using the app Headspace for Meditation. I look forward to talking more about working on our family lineage through Ancestry.com. I will go more in depth with that on another post.

The new to us restaurant we went to this month is Griffin Claw Brewery in Birmingham. We were looking for a place to eat after attending the Lions game with friends. It was a special game because it was a “Crucial Catch” game, honoring cancer patients, survivors, those who have passed and caregivers. As I’ve mentioned before, my daughters are both Lions Cheerleaders and they were dancing in honor of their Grandfather Les. It was very moving for us. I know their Grandpa Les would have been so proud of them both. So, we were looking for somewhere to relax and share a meal with our daughter Jenna, her husband Kristianth, our daughter Samantha and her boyfriend Andrew, his lovely parents and his good friend Jacob. We considered a few places before settling on Griffin Claw Brewery in Birmingham. They were busy but able to accommodate our party of 9. They offer outdoor seating with heaters and a fire pit along with indoor high tops, tables for 4, and long picnic tables pushed together. We were lucky to snag a picnic table for our group. They specialize in their own beers, offering seasonal brews as well as specialty releases. I passed on the beer and ordered the Apple Harvest Salad which featured apple slices, turnips, greens, goat cheese, sugared walnuts with Balsamic dressing on the side. Our group had a variety of orders ranging from shrimp tacos, burger and fries, jambalaya, macaroni and cheese, grilled chicken sandwich, with appetizers of fried pickles and pretzels with mustard dipping sauce. I may have missed a couple in there but everyone enjoyed their meals. They all came out at roughly the same time and everything was hot on arrival. This is a very noisy, lively place and great for after a sporting event. If you are looking for a quiet place for a private conversation, this is not it. I would definitely recommend it for a fun evening and will return if the opportunity presents itself.

The girls with the sign they held up during their dedication dance in honor of their grandpa.
Sammi acting as my model in front of Griffin Claw Brewery. You can see the outdoor seating directly behind her to the right.

Item #18: Finish 50 books in 2019. I finished the book “After the Flood.” I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it. I am currently reading book # 63 “An Anonymous Girl” by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen. So far, I am really enjoying it. Here is something not on my bucket list but I feel like I need to give it a shout out. If you haven’t seen the Netflix Series The Blacklist, do yourself a favor and check it out! It has seven seasons and we are only part way through season 1 and we are riveted! If you do check it out (or are already a fan) I’d love to know what you think!

Bonjour, mes amis! That’s all for this week. I look forward to sharing more about our Florida house next week. Make it a great week and see you all next month. (YIKES! It’s almost November!)

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 17: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – The High-Ropes Course and Williamsburg Edition

Good morning! I’ve got a few more things checked off of the bucket-list this week and I am excited to share them. First, we did the high-ropes course at Treerunners in West Bloomfield, Michigan. Well, sort of. After being all suited up, getting our orientation and doing a medium level course, we were lined up for a double diamond course (the highest level of difficulty, much like the hill designations for skiing). We were then told the course would be closing due to thunder. Because we were only an hour or so in to our visit, they issued us all rain-checks and we will be returning at the end of September to fully experience it. So this week’s post will be part 1 of our experience.

Registration is online but you check in here!
Ready for our adventure!

Treerunner Adventure Park was a little difficult to locate initially. It is just off the parking lot of the Jewish Community Center. It had something for everyone, from kids above 3 to grown kids like myself. I went with my 23 year old daughter Samantha, my 26 year old daughter, Jenna, her husband Kristianth and my husband, Mike. After receiving an orientation you proceed out on your own. It’s very safe as you are always secured with a carabiner to a line, much like belaying in rock climbing. There are a variety of different level courses to choose from and there are staff members floating around should anyone require assistance. I think it is fair to say, despite being there for only an hour, it exceeded everyone’s expectations. We are looking forward to part 2 of our adventure and I will definitely be sharing a bit more in-depth about the experience afterwards. If this is something you would like to do, here is a coupon code to get $5 off your visit: TRWRC18. It is not combinable with any other coupons or discounts. Reservations are required. It can be booked online and here is the link. https://www.treerunnerwestbloomfield.com

You can see a few of the lower courses here.
A few courses of various levels.
We headed to lunch after our rain-out and were treated to a double rainbow!

Last Thursday, I headed off to Williamsburg, Virginia with my mom. So here’s the back story: For her birthday this year, we let her pick anywhere in the continental US or the Caribbean for a trip. As my dad isn’t a big traveler, my mom’s adventures have been mostly limited to those she takes with her kids so this was to be a girls trip with yours truly. Initially I was thinking maybe mom would pick the Caribbean, but after hurricane Dorian, I ended up extremely grateful that she didn’t. Williamsburg contains the historic triangle comprised of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. This was right up our alley as we are both history buffs! We stayed at the Williamsburg Inn which was a beautiful splurge and one I highly recommend, especially for a trip without kids. It is a beautiful 62 guest room/suite hotel in a Colonial Revival style, elegantly appointed in 19th century Regency decor. The design and construction were overseen by John D. Rockefeller in 1937 and it has served guests such as Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan, among other notable dignitaries. Our room overlooked the fountain and golf course. One of the little luxuries is a turn down service, complete with chocolates and Disaronno liqueur each night. We felt totally spoiled! Hey, I could get used to this. If you remember, # 14 on my list is to create my own signature cocktail. I am planning on using this lovely liqueur as a base! The other wonderful thing about this hotel is that it is located in historic Williamsburg and an easy walk to most of the things you might like to do there. The whole of the street is about a mile, so not too demanding an undertaking.

Mom in front of our hotel.
This is our hotel from the back. Our room is the middle three windows on the second floor in the curved section. Our view was this terrace with the fountain and the golf course. In nicer weather the patio is open for dining. It was open the Saturday evening of our stay.
Mom with her birthday present from the hotel. Delicious gourmet chocolates which she was kind enough to share!
Evening turn down included two chocolates (one milk, one dark) and my new favorite liqueur!

As far as dining, the hotel also offers several dining options. We dined in the Terrace Room for breakfast and we also enjoyed the Rockefeller room for our last evening meal. The service was great and the food was amazing.

Love the Nespresso machine in the room!

Thursday, our first day, we explored Williamsburg. I had gotten a package that included most of the things to see and do in Williamsburg. Rather than give a day by day play by play, I’m going to give a quick overview of our visit.

There was a lot to see in Williamsburg. We dined at Kings Arms Tavern one day for lunch for an authentic colonial experience. I enjoyed peanut soup, a dish I’d never had, which was amazing. Our servers were all dressed in colonial garb. As a matter of fact, while strolling through historical Williamsburg, all of the workers were in period costume. Historic Williamsburg is a little like Greenfield village here in Michigan. There are cobblers, weavers and coopers at work on authentic equipment. As you pass various employees in full garb, they may tip their hat and say, “Good day to you!” We saw the Art Museum and went into the Governor’s Palace. The entrance hall looked more like an armory! I am sure the town was well-convinced of the Governor’s ability to defend their city. We also toured Basset house with a knowledgeable docent. This was the personal home to John D. Rockefeller and his wife Abbey during the time they were building the Williamsburg Inn and helping restore Colonial Williamsburg. It is an 18th century farmhouse with 586 acres of lawn and garden. It has been lovingly restored to the 1930’s, the era that Mr. Rockefeller and his wife lived here.

Peanut soup, rich and delicious! I need the recipe!
Lesson in Flexibility. You can make a plan, but Mother Nature may have other ideas!

Day two, we decided to do all of the indoor museums as we were under a tropical Storm watch due to the remnants of hurricane Dorian. It sounds far worse than it actually was. We ran between a few raindrops, nothing a raincoat and umbrella couldn’t handle. And bonus for us, the museum was practically empty and we had the place to ourselves. We hit the American Revolution Museum first in Yorktown. We were even given a raincheck to return to see the grounds so that is what we did on the following day. The grounds included a re-creation of a soldier encampment as well as a revolutionary era farm. My mom grew up in the south, so this actually brought back some early memories of her grandparent’s farm. It was priceless to be able to share these moments and memories with her. We also visited Jamestown Settlement. By the afternoon Jamestown opened the outdoors and we were able to see the grounds which held an authentic Powhatan Indian village, a fort and two ships. We were unable to go on the ships due to unsafe water levels making boarding difficult on that particular day. We enjoyed every part of our trip, even the road to Yorktown. Colonial Parkway was a beautiful drive, reminding me a little of Upper Michigan’s tunnel of trees, only with scenic overpasses.

Beautiful scenic drive along Colonial Parkway.
We learned how meals were made for revolutionary armies. Each group of 6 men had a bucket with a stew type food in it. This group of men was called a mess, go figure. There were separate fires built for each mess. They were responsible to keep the fire going and for making their own food. The fire pits were dug in a trench below ground level, like the one above, to be unaffected by wind.
Fun Fact: The Governor’s Palace at one time was home to both Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.
Mom and I on the grounds of the Governor’s Palace.
Mom with George Washington in front of the Revolutionary Museum at Yorktown.

While Williamsburg wasn’t exactly on my bucket-list, what WAS on my bucket list at #41 was “Try Something new I’ve never done before.” And in that spirit, mom and I decided to do an evening ghost tour. I bought tickets for Haunted Williamsburg on our last evening. We planned an early dinner so we could make it to the Playhouse Stage where our 8:30 pm tour began. Our tour guide was named Iris and she was amazing. We talked with her a bit and found out she was a dramatic literature major in college. (who knew that was a thing?). Well, she certainly put her degree to good use! There are other ghost tours in Williamsburg but this one was recommended by our hotel and is the only one that brings you inside of buildings for the story telling. We stopped by Wythe house which is supposedly haunted by a woman in a blue dress who has lost a shoe(?). We also went to the Governor’s Palace as well as Randoph House which is supposedly haunted by a child. Most, but not all, of the stories involve employees who encounter things when they are alone in the houses. As I am a skeptic, I wasn’t convinced. Iris said she used to be a skeptic too and worried she wouldn’t make a good ghost guide. Her colleagues said to wait long enough and she would have an encounter of some sort. She did, she heard a baby crying in one of the empty historic homes. (twice). Iris was a great guide, and despite not leaving as a believer, I enjoyed myself tremendously. My mom was on the fence about ghosts before taking the tour, where I believe she still remains. While I don’t believe in ghosts, I do believe in signs from our loved ones that have passed on. But that, is an entirely different story.

This plaza in front of Jamestown Settlement has flags from all of our states with pertinent information.
Michigan’s plaque at the Centennial Plaza. I would like my family to note it was explored and settled by the FRENCH!

If you are thinking about going to Williamsburg, I would do it! It makes history come alive, though perhaps for smaller kids, some of the museums may not hold their attention. I have to mention another option for staying in Williamsburg which sounded intriguing, you can stay in one of the colonial era homes. That sounds like it might be nice for families with children. I was very delighted with our stay at the Williamsburg Inn. It would be a great place to go for an anniversary or special occasion. Make sure you tell them if you are celebrating something! They gave my mom a lovely little box of chocolates and a welcome gift of a small porcelain box on check-in. Our visit ended with a very nice thank you note to thank us for staying there. All in all, it was an awesome experience and one more checkmark on the bucket list!

Mom at the Jamestown Fort

As far as remaining items on the bucket list, I completed book #50! If you know me, you know I love to read on vacation, especially on the plane ride. I managed to finish two more books, The Road to Bittersweet (excellent) and The Friday Night Knitting Club (light and fun). I am currently reading My Not So Perfect Life (by Sophie Kinsella) with We Were the Lucky Ones in the on-deck circle. French class for the fall semester resumes tonight. My Duolingo streak remained intact throughout the vacation. I am happy to report they’ve added additional skills so now I have more to do than just review. I’ve completed 35/50 NordicTrack workouts. I am still working on the MasterClass series from Margaret Atwood (author of The Handmaid’s Tale). I’m still meditating, though I didn’t while on vacation. And speaking of vacation, upon my return I was absolutely delighted to discover a surprise package I didn’t order. THANK YOU to Deana for sending me “Flour Water Salt Yeast The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza” along with a dough bowl. She had received the book as a gift and it changed her bread-making life. I am so excited to crack it open and check off item #22, “Bake a loaf of bread from scratch.” I will be happy to share the recipe I end up using. (Deana, recommendations please?) So thank you, thank you Deana! That was such an amazing surprise!

Thank you Deana! Can’t wait to try this!

Here is the link to my original bucket list if you are curious. I am thinking of posting an updated list showing those things I’ve managed to check off at some point in the future. https://wordpress.com/block-editor/page/farewelltomy50s.home.blog/10

Well, that’s it for this week. Here’s to amazing surprises. I hope your week has a few in store for you as well!

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!