Week 28: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – Photo Archive Edition

Where has November gone? We are rapidly approaching Holiday Defcon 1 here. My home is decorated, the trees are up but sadly not a lot of shopping has been completed. In my defense, my husband, my dad, my best friend, my daughter and my son-in-law all have birthdays in late November and early December, so birthday shopping has taken precedence. Sorry, not sorry. Nevertheless, the holiday spirit abounds! On to the bucket list. For those that are curious, here is the link to the original list.

Language learning continues. My 830 day streak in Duolingo is intact at a crown level of 982. I missed class last week because I had a situation with my tire on the way to class. I turned around and headed back home but I did get this week’s assignment and homework done which I emailed to the teacher. I have class tonight. Wish me luck!

I’ve completed 56 NordicTrack workouts, going to geographic extremes with a walk through Alaska and then Hawaii. I also did a NordicTrack core yoga class set on a Hawaiian beach. I believe this workout has been recently added as I’ve never noticed it before. I really like it and hope to repeat it soon. It’s great for a recovery day!

I am still using the Noom app and am just 1/2 pound away from my initial 10 pound weight-loss goal. This has been a slow go but I am still enjoying using the app. To be honest, I am a little surprised that I was down this morning as we attended a couple of birthday celebrations over the weekend. Maybe that was what I needed to do to break the plateau. If that’s the case I would have started celebrating a long time ago!

The biggest project I’ve undertaken this week has been addressing bucket-list item #26: Organize and catalog all of the photos sitting in a jumble in the storage room. This is a work in progress that is still underway. I will say the anticipation of the project is far worse than the actual doing. My first decision was to decide if I was going to digitize these photos. I decided against that because I already have the photos and I already have so many photos in my online photo album. It would be less complicated and far less time consuming just to physically organize what I already have.

This is a very big container and it was filled to the brim!
Here is a laundry basket full of photos.
I should have shot this from the side so you could see the depth of the basket to better tell how much there is here. Of course I have been finding little caches of photos in cupboards, closets and cabinets to add to the stack!

The next decision was how exactly to do it. Should I scrapbook them (oh hell no) or perhaps put them in photo albums? I thought about the cardboard shoe box type photo boxes but ultimately I did what any sane person would do. I googled it. After a quick search, I decided to go with plastic boxes that contain other smaller plastic boxes that you place your photos in by year. This is perfect for keeping photos safe from flooding or water damage. But where to find these boxes? I started with the “easy” answer and hopped on to amazon, where I found this beauty for $25.99.

However, I did not order it because I knew I would be out running errands that day and being the frugal person that I am, I thought I would take a look around first. The errands were local and I didn’t want to venture too far, so ended up at our local Walmart. I found an excellent option for just $10. It was a large plastic box with clip closure which contained 5 smaller boxes, perfect for 4X6 photos. Each smaller box holds about 250 photos, so the entire box holds approximately 1,250 photos. I bought 4 of them, thinking with 5,000 photos, that might enough – or at least I would be off to a good start.

I started by taking just one basket full of photos upstairs and began sorting through them. About a quarter of the photos had the date printed on the back or front. That made those easy to place. The rest became a guessing game. If my kids were in the photo, I could “guesstimate” how old they were pretty accurately and figure out the year based on their birthdays. I also know my niece Michelle was born 20 years after myself and I know how far apart she is from her two sisters. So I would determine Michelle’s age with the help of looking at her sisters for reference to date the photo.

Of course, physical clues helped as well. I would try to remember, what years we were in a certain house or office or what year we took a specific trip. It is a time consuming process and I felt like yelling “Jackpot!” every time there was an actual date on the photo. That being said, it hasn’t been as onerous as I anticipated. In fact, it’s been rather pleasant, giving me the opportunity to look at photos from when my girls were small, photos in some cases, I hadn’t revisited in years. I put on the Hallmark Channel and grabbed a cup of chocolate peppermint coffee and started sorting. It was easy to slip down the rabbit hole and linger a little too long over a photo or two. But it’s been quite a lovely way to spend a few afternoons.

As you probably guessed, I ran out of boxes. I needed to run errands in a neighboring community and decided to stop at their Walmart to pick up the same boxes. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the same ones. They did have these, which were at a much better price point than amazon. They were just $14.99. I bought two.

While I was out, I checked Michael’s just for comparison sake, and came across something very similar here, the dimensions are the same, but a much different price point, $41.99. I think I got the better deal.

I will say hindsight is 20/20. If I were to do it again, I would insist on getting all the same type of boxes. As I’m filling up the small plastic cases, I am labeling them with the year. However, some years require more than one box. That’s something I found out late in the game. My recommendation is to get all the same type of boxes, label them with a sticky note with the date until you are entirely done with the process. At that point, permanently affix the year on the box. Having used both types of boxes, the colored ones are prettier, but as I have so many photos, I think the clear with blue interior boxes work better for my project. There are fewer boxes but each box holds more.

When I was looking online, another source indicated that it was smart to take your photos out of the magnetic type photo albums as your photos can degrade. (Protip: You can thread dental floss behind the photo to remove it if it is sticking to the page.) I haven’t decided yet if I will be doing this, as I have a ton of photo albums. On the plus side, they are all dated so it would be an easy process to store them in the correct box. I will however, be putting the girls’ larger dance and school photos into albums.

I am deep into the process, but still have a long way to go. On the plus side, once I am done, I will never need to do this again, as nowadays all of our photos are digital! IN fact, archiving physical photos probably isn’t something anyone under 30 will every need to worry about. Not sure how much time this week I’ll have to tackle this as we have Thanksgiving, a Lions football game and I have jury duty on Wednesday (dang-right before Thanksgiving) of this week. Right now, I am going to grab that cup of coffee and sift through a few more photos. I will leave you with a couple of my sweet memories from when my girls were small and the hope that this Thanksgiving you make a few photo-worthy memories of your own. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

Week 27: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties

Love pulling out my Christmas decorations! I made this box at AR workshop a couple of years ago. Fun family field trip!

The holiday season is upon us with all that it entails. The fact that we in Michigan were graced with 8 inches of snow certainly helped the season along. That and the Christmas carols I’ve had playing non-stop since November 1st. Can you tell that it’s my favorite time of year? Don’t be surprised if you catch me smiling from ear to ear and if you are one of those people with resting grinch-face, my apologies. And almost nothing makes me smile more than decorating for Christmas! My trees (yes plural) are up and the inside of our home is fully decorated. That hasn’t left me with a lot of time to tend to my bucket-list so today’s post will be fairly short.

I love our eclectic tree. It holds sentimental decorations, photos of my girls throughout their childhood, handmade ornaments and a few ornaments picked up from vacations we’ve taken. It’s always awesome to savor the memories while putting up the tree, and lingering over them throughout the season.

My Duolingo streak is intact at 823 days. The new session of French classes start tonight. We will begin book #2. Our teacher, David, has informed us that class will now be conducted entirely in French. We are not to speak English in the classroom. This will surely prove challenging. However, he emphasized that mistakes WILL be made and that is perfectly ok and a part of learning. I think that will take some of the stress out of it for me. I’m looking forward to stretching my linguistic muscles, as anemic as they may be.

In reading, I’ve finished “Happy All The Time” and “Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker” and have just started “IM A Memoir” by Isaac Mizrahi. It was a book selected by Gretchen Rubin for her online bookclub, so I thought I would check it out. This will be book #67 of my original 50 book goal. I think perhaps I set the bar too low. I made a new goal of 65 and have passed that too. I’m now shooting for 75 which I think is reasonably ambitious. If you have any suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed reading, send them my way please! I’ve had my first hiccup with Overdrive. I never received notification that the book I’d had on hold (Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker) was in my cue until a couple days before it was due back. Despite my attempts to read quickly, it was returned mid-read. Fortunately it was only gone for a day as I’d requested to put it on hold again and it was soon returned to me. So just a heads up to check your holds to check if you’ve got something loaded up and ready to read.

I am still using and enjoying the weight loss app Noom, though I am stuck at a plateau with only 1 1/2 pounds left to go. I hope to drop a few more pounds after I reach goal, however long that may take. I’m fine with it taking a while, as long as it eventually happens. It’s not a hard system to stick with and surprisingly my motivation has remained strong. I made several Noom recipes this week and while they were all good, I’ll share our favorite one from among those, below.

Curried Chicken With Coconut

2 tsp peanut oil or walnut oil

1tsp butter

.5 large chopped onion

2 cloves of garlic, minced

.75 cup chopped celery or fennel

.5 large green or red bell pepper, chopped

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (6 oz each) cut into 1″ cubes

.5 tsp salt

.25 tsp ground black pepper

1 TBSP curry powder

.667 cup canned crushed tomatoes

.5 cup chicken broth

3 TBSP chopped peanuts

3 TBSP shredded unsweetened coconut

Heat the oil and butter in a pot over medium heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the onion, garlic, fennel or celery, and bell pepper. Cover and cook just until translucent, stirring occasionally, 8-10 minutes.

Stir in the chicken, salt and black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently until the chicken has lost most of the pink color, 3-5 minutes. Sprinkle with the curry powder and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Add the tomatoes and broth, and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the chicken is tender, about 30 minutes.

Serve with the nuts and coconut for sprinkling on top.

158 calories/serving – 4 servings as prepared

I did only one additional NordicTrack workout this past week. It was an Alaskan hike. That puts me at 53 workouts of my 50 workout goal. Shooting too low seems to be the theme here. Maybe therein lies the lesson: Aim higher!

I’m working on a few bucket list items # 31 (teach our dog a new trick) and #34 (play a simple song on the piano). But I have nothing I’m ready to share yet.

I will leave on a fun note. Since November holds Thanksgiving and is typically a month for gratitude, I am having fun expressing gratitude to those who are in positions of service. Even if it’s something small. I always put a jar of candy canes on my kitchen counter and grab a handful for my purse when going out. I offer one to harried clerks behind the counter who are doing their best in the middle of the holiday rush, or servers who are busy juggling the needs of several tables. This past week, I gave one to the usher at the Lions game who we see weekly, the parking lot attendant who always saves us a spot, and the waitress at Chili’s who did a great job with our party of six. It always brings a smile when we are so gratefully thanked for our gesture. I usually feel like I made their day and you can be sure they’ve made mine. It’s a little thing but it brings me joy. My husband has even taken to reminding me, “Did you remember your candy canes?” before we go out. Of course, we try to tip generously too, especially around the holidays .

Dinner at Chili’s after the Lions’ game with our girls. (not shown but equally important, my fabulous husband Mike, Jenna’s husband Kristianth and Sammi’s boyfriend Andrew)
Candy cane for our server.

And that will wrap it up for this week. I hope you, like me, are on the lookout for opportunities to be a kindness ninja, sprinkling a little of the magic dust of the holidays wherever you go!

Yes, Kobe is on Santa’s naughty list. Don’t ask!

Week 11: Farewell to My Fabulous Fifties – The Bathroom Edition

Hello on this beautiful Monday. I am not sure what the weather is doing but it is a beautiful Monday to me because my bathroom is done! There are no painters, plumbers, contractors or workers of any kind. As nice as they all are, it’s great to have our home all to ourselves again! In fact I think I’ll do a celebratory lap in my jammies!

So this edition, week 11, will primarily focus on our bathroom reveal. Our home is 21 years old and the bathroom is original to the house. The before photos don’t show it well, but the tile was cracked in spots and the space was in need of a general update. Our contractor Tony did a great job from start to finish and I would happily recommend him without reservation. He was honest, hardworking and always showed up on time. He was also priced fairly. We really felt lucky! We are delighted with the way it turned out. This bathroom is used as our back-up bathroom when time is tight and we both need to shower and it also serves as a guest bathroom. We had a new steam sauna installed. Our old one had been broken for quite a while, so we are really looking forward to putting that sauna to good use. So here are a few before and after photos.

Surprisingly, we found this vanity at Lowes and it was exactly what we had in mind. It came with the sink and marble vanity top. We decided to eliminate the wall mirrors and just place one individual mirror above the vanity.
I stripped off the wallpaper (not fun) and we opted for wainscoting along the walls with a tile border running around the room. It also serves as a backsplash to the vanity.
We opted for a rain shower and a hand held shower. We had a niche built in for bath products.
Side view entering from the guest room.
Hand-held shower in addition to rain shower and bench for using the steam sauna.

I scoured Instagram for quite a while to collect all the bathroom images I liked and looked for commonalities between the photos to help make decisions. We opted to go from a beige palate to a gray and green palate to coordinate with our recent basement remodel. The green in the photo actually doesn’t translate well. Our paint color was Seasalt from Sherwin Williams with Extra-white for trim and wainscoting. Our tile is a linen-look from Virginia tile with coordinating Agate Bari Pearl with variations for trim and shower floor. Our plumbing fixtures were from Builders Plumbing and Heating Supply and Ferguson Plumbing, both in Ann Arbor. Now that it is complete, I am so happy we undertook the project. It took 3 1/2 weeks from start to finish but that includes a week where nothing was done, the contractor was finished but we were waiting for the painter and shower door. The shower door had to be custom made due to sizing, and was done by Mirror Image. The artwork on the wall adjacent to the vanity was a watercolor we purchased years ago in Saugatuck, which I had re-matted in gray. I found the Bless Our Nest mixed media piece at Bed Bath and Beyond. If you want any names of people or products, don’t hesitate to reach out.

So, that’s a wrap for our bathroom redo! But because owning a house provides a revolving carousel of never-ending projects, our next few undertakings will be having our wood floors refinished and replacing the laundry room countertop. Onward and upward.

In other news, I have found THE wine! Many thanks to Amanda, a member of my husband’s office team, for sending it my way! I have been trying wines from Italy, France, California and Washington, but I should have known that deep down I am a Michigan girl at heart. This 2016 Muscat is from Shady Lane Cellars located in Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula. It’s described as elegant and fresh with aromas and flavors of orange and apple blossoms, tangerine and a clean vibrant finish. It is not too sweet and strikes just the right crisp note for my palate. I still love me some Grand Traverse Late Harvest Riesling but this will provide a nice alternative when I’m not in the mood for sweet. I enjoyed it with barbecue chicken, fresh corn and a salad made with produce from our local farm-stand (shout out to Budd’s Produce). And as a further bonus, I know I will always remember the name of this wine because my family nickname is Lane. I find it pretty humorous or perhaps poetic justice that its name is Shady Lane. I believe I can confidently check off item # 46 on my list (find a new favorite wine) I also believe I see a road trip up to Shady Lane Cellars in my future!

Shady Lane Muscat
Chicken was still on the grill while we enjoyed yummy salad and corn from Budd’s Produce in Belleville. Shady Lane Muscat was the perfect accompaniment to this summer meal.

Moving on, my Duolingo streak remains intact at 712 days. French class resumes after summer hiatus on Monday. I’m still meditating using the Headspace app. I’ve even tried a walking meditation which I liked. I’ve done yoga using my Nordic Track and I’ve managed to squeeze in a total of 30 workouts on my way to 50, including a walk along a Hawaiian beach, and a stroll through both Antarctica and Vienna. I am way ahead of schedule. I’ve read a few more books (Unsheltered, Year One, The Education of Dixie Dupree). Very different reads but all were enjoyable. I am currently reading John Grisham’s new book, The Reckoning, which will be book #43. I am 84% of the way to my goal of 50 for the calendar year, and 14 books ahead of schedule. This will give me a cushion when I dive back into the last book in the Poldark Series, which is entails reading 688 pages of very small print and always seems to slow me down!

We are getting close to the debut of our dog Kobe’s new tricks. (yes, I said tricks with an s!) Turns out you CAN teach an old dog a new trick …or two! In looking over my list, there are still quite a few things that can ONLY be done in warmer weather, so I need to keep plugging away at them. We head up north next week where I hope to check a few more items off of my bucket list and take a few photos of the lovely upper peninsula to share with all of you. Make it a great and productive week and like Kobe, why not challenge yourself to try something new this week too? As always, if you want to check out the original bucket list here is a link to the blog post. Make it a great week. Now where’d I leave that wine glass?

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