Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Few Things Making Me Happy Today

You know how when life gives you lemons, if you are a positive-leaning type person, you try and make lemonade? Well, I thought that would be a great exercise for me to practice today in that this happened yesterday:

They forgot to make the countertops for our new office cabinetry. :-(

This really is a reputable company that we have done business with multiple times before. What occurred was that a change order for our countertops midway through the project got filed away instead of being processed. The good news is that they are rushing through the remaining order, though it may not make it in time to be done before our upcoming trip back east.

So onward to A Few Things Making Me Happy Today!

  • The State Park up the street from us finally opened after being closed for weeks and weeks due to California's ongoing winter rains. We did an eight mile hike there a couple of days ago, and it was glorious! The greenest we've seen it in over 25 years.

  • I found a group of active women to bicycle with one day a week. I love bicycling, but it is not something I care to do alone due to all the things that can go wrong - flat tires, accidents, remote riding areas - so to stumble on a group of female riders that go at my pace and wish to start training together for long road events is so exciting!
  • Tonight is the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour event we've been attending for almost five years now. I always come home from this event fired up to do more in my life!

  • I've been waiting all winter for the Red Bird of Paradise in my front yard to do what my landscaper said it would do when he planted in last August - to go from the photo on the left, where it's been since then, to the gorgeous photo on the right. Well, as of yesterday it's finally starting to send out new shoots. Excited!

  • And finally, just one week from today we will be happily playing with our granddaughter once again. Can. Not. Wait.

Plans and Goals for Today
- Racewalk six miles
- Pick up baseboards for home office project. (New hardwood flooring goes down on Friday, yeah!)
- Drop off a load items at Goodwill.
- Do ironing
- Read a chapter in April Book Club selection, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
- Do 30 minutes of Spanish study
- Hair appointment
- Attend Banff Mountian Film Festival World Tour

Monday, March 20, 2017

20 Things On My Spring Bucket List

Happy First Day of Spring!

Under the category of Spring Has Sprung! I'm joining in with a host of other bloggers to share 20 Things on my Spring Bucket List. After months and months of desperately needed, but still wet and gloomy, winter rains here in S. California, I'm ready for our more-normal sunshine and warmth to return, and therefore can't wait to get started on this list now that spring is finally here.

Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post to see who else is participating,
and to visit their blogs for additional spring inspiration!

20 Things On My Spring Bucket List
  1. Make a batch of low-sugar jam with spring berries.
  2. Grill spring artichokes.
  3. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner outside once each month.
  4. Make three new cocktails.
  5. Make three new BBQ dinners.
  6. Try three new restaurants.
  7. Take a family picture during our vacation in Kiawah Island.
  8. Make three lunch dates with girlfriends.
  9. Join a yoga studio . . . and go!
  10. Strength train two times each week.
  11. Take six bike spinning classes.
  12. Bicycle at the beach.
  13. Kayak.
  14. Lose 10 pounds.
  15. Sell or giveaway all our old motorcycling gear now that our motorcycles are sold.
  16. Clean out garage rafters.
  17. Volunteer three times.
  18. Read one book for pleasure each month (Book club selections don't count!).
  19. Join Spanish discussion group to keep up with my language studies.
  20. Find a new online Spanish tutor focused on Advanced Beginners.
More Things On My Spring Bucket List participants:

Plans and Goals For Today
Six mile racewalk
Clean garage rafters (bonus for being a Spring Bucket list item!)
Attend afternoon lecture by US Senator for California, Barbara Boxer at our university
Book club reading
Spanish study
Enjoy hot cocoa and just-for-me book after dinner, while my spouse is away (and yet another Spring Bucket list item!)

Friday, March 17, 2017

What's Up Friday 3/17

Happy St. Patrick's Day! May the leprechauns smile kindly on you all today!

What a week over here at Casa My Retirement Project! We kicked off the last of our remodeling projects, a complete remodel of my spouse's home office. After a few weeks of not having tradespeople in the house, it was a bit of a shock to my system to once again have to open up the house, lay down protective floor coverings, and deal with noise and dust. Seriously, once we are done with this go-round I'm thinking I'd rather move than go through it all again. It's been much more stressful then I remember from our last remodel go-round in 2003.

So here's a peek at the office progress to date, starting with the Before.

The Before looks better by photo than it does up close. The built ins were done by one of those 'quick' closet installation companies about 15 years ago, and they were showing their age because of the fairly cheap materials that were used. Additionally, my spouse is not as OCD as I am, and the open shelving was looking increasingly cluttered as time went by, so I was yearning for more doors to hide his stuff. Otherwise, however, the basic layout is still pretty solid, continuing to address the majority of his needs.

The wallpaper also had to go. It was beginning to curl, and I'm just completely and totally over wallpaper at this point. Nicely, this is the very last room with wallpaper, hooray.

The carpet flooring was a problem as well, in that this is the room my spouse spends the majority of his time in when at home, and the wear pattern showed that. So, we'll be carrying our new hardwood flooring into this room, eliminating any concerns about heavy foot traffic wear-and-tear going forward.

Here's what it looks like now at the midway point, with old cabinetry, carpeting and wallpaper removed, a new plywood subfloor in place, and new paint on the walls.

Completion by end of next week . . . so excited to see the new custom cabinets go in beginning on Monday. And doors. Lots and lots of new doors

Other things that have occurred this week:
  • Swapped out our previous white lighting fixtures on the front of the house for new black lighting fixtures. They really do seem to 'pop' compared to the old white ones, and a very inexpensive update at just $34.00 each from Home Depot.

Some of the Pop Art we saw. I enjoyed creating this collage
at PicsArt. Feel free to follow me there or on Instagram
via @westcoasttamara

  • I finally broke down after years of resisting, and am now the owner of an iPhone 7. It's a love/hate at this point. Love that we can now Facetime our granddaughter wherever we travel going forward via WiFi. Love the camera and the ability to upload photos on my own instead of having to rely on usage of my spouse's Smart phone. Love that I can now workout to Pandora instead of my increasingly stale iPod play list. Don't love having to learn a new operating system in that this is our first Apple product other than iPods. Don't love the 24/7 distraction having a Smart phone enables - am determined to limit my usage. And don't love how expensive Smart phones are vs Basic phones! 
  • Had a wonderful meeting last night with my Chalice Circle. The topic was forgiveness; both how we apply it to others and to ourselves. In that this is a hughly unresolved issue in my life as it pertains to my mother, I appreciated the input and wisdom provided by many of the people in the group.

Plans and Goals for Today
Six mile walk listening, yeah, to Pandora on my new phone.
Do arm strength training here at home upon return from walk.
Remember to wear green when I leave the house today to run some errands.
Return unused light fixture to Home Depot.
Write article about OC Museum of Art visit for Art Alliance newsletter.
Get my car smog checked.
Enjoy dinner out on our front yard patio since it should be a beautiful evening.
Utilize free Red Box rental code to reserve and watch Fences after dinner.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Few Frugal Things 3/15

Inspired by the wonderful Kristen over at The Frugal Girl, I enjoy trying to do five frugal things each week to offset those parts of our life where frugality doesn't necessarily reign.

So cute and just $2.13!
  1. Used a $10 off $10 JCPenney coupon to purchase a cute spring outfit for my granddaughter. Final cost after coupon was $2.13.
  2. Remembered to bring and use a $5 off coupon for a local restaurant we meet at each month with our movie group.
  3. Used a $25 savings coupon on dinner for four at Buca di Beppo, where food is served family style (another savings), plus a second coupon for same restaurant to have a free birthday cake delivered to our table in celebration of my sister-in-law's birthday.
  4. Took a nice bottle of our own wine to 3. above and paid a small corkage fee instead of buying it at the restaurant for everyone, which would have run at least three times the retail price of the bottle, plus tax and tip on the inflated value. 
  5. Menu planned, including utilizing what I already had in my freezer. As a result, this week's grocery spend came in at just $45.23, $54.77 under our $100 weekly budget. We set aside all grocery money not utilized in an envelope that we then donate to a local food bank each quarter.
That's it for us this week!

Goals and Plans for Today
Get spouse's office ready for painters to do their thing today.
Sixty minute workout at the gym.
Menu planning and grocery shopping.
Completion of Art Alliance articles for upcoming Spring newsletter.
Begin reading April book club selection The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle.
More detail planning for our upcoming East Coast trip.
Attend monthly dinner and movie discussion of Lion.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Weekend Wrap Up 3/10 - 3/12

As I work to live each day more consciously, I much enjoy crafting fun weekends for my spouse and myself.
Even in retirement weekends are still weekends!

Monday morning here, and I am oh. so. tired.

Our weekend was jam packed with fun events, and as we turned in late last night for the third night in a row, the phrase 'Party like a rock star' went running through my head even as my body was clamoring at me to knock it off.

So much fun, but no way could we do this on a regular basis!

Friday night found us at an OC Wine Society winery tasting event in reasonably nearby* Costa Mesa. These events, held several times a year, combine dinner and wine tasting from one specific winery, tonight's featured winery being Brander Winery from Los Osos in the Santa Ynez wine region. (If you've seen the movie Sideways, you're familiar with Santa Ynez, because that's where the movie was both shot and took place.) Because these events involve either the owner or wine maker giving a talk about the process of making each of the wines being sampled, there is always a large turnout. And it has been our experience that people who enjoy drinking wine enough to actually join an organization about it tend to be very fun. So, yes, we had our usual very good time, returning home just a bit after 10:30 PM. Very late for us these days in that we like to start our mornings on the early side.

*All midweek events, particularly Friday evenings, involve careful assessment of whether the traffic patterns will be working for or against us . . . such is life in a popular urban area!

Enjoying one of the Sauvignon Blancs the Santa Ynez region is known for.
Saturday started off with a nice long Skype session with our daughter, son in law and granddaughter. At almost 2 and 1/2 years, the changes in our granddaughter's language and motor skills are rapid and apparent with each weekly Skype session, and we just revel in the deliciousness of it all. Today she wanted Baba (my spouse) to play the piano here, while she did same at her house. I joined in on the recorder (yes, I'm sure you're impressed :-), and it was rousing good fun. We played while she pounded, of course, but it's all music to our ears. Always hard to say 'goodbye,' but we'll be seeing her in just a couple of weeks, which makes my heart very happy.

Had a lovely slow rest of the morning making this fabulous Blue Cheese Herb spread and prepping the house for company. I had particular fun staging our two new outdoor areas for the first time. I really love to entertain, and getting the house just so is one of the things I most enjoy, so nothing about it ever feels like a chore to me.

Front yard patio staged and ready for company.

Back yard patio ready to go as well.
It was a gorgeous evening, with temps in the low 80's, and we had a wonderful time sitting out front talking, noshing and enjoying some good wine. We had 60 minutes allotted for our house before moving on to Moscow Mules at house number two, followed by dinner at a new-to-us restaurant in old town Placentia, Mi Casita.

Mi Casita is famous for their molcajetes bowls, described like this in their menu, A big rock bowl filled with homemade salsa, grilled leaf cactus, melted cheese, grilled green onions, chorizo, grilled jalapeno, and diner's choice of pollo or carne asada, plus handmade corn tortillas, rice and beans. They looked pretty unusual when they arrived, but they were absolutely delicious, and different from any Mexican food we'd had before. Here's our best attempt at trying to capture the uniqueness of the dish, apologizes in advance - food shots are tough and best left to professionals I think!

The evening ended with dessert at the third couple's home, meaning another late night, close to 11:00 PM by the time we got home.

Sunday started with a lost hour, thanks to the start of daylight savings time, always my least favorite morning of the year. We did make it to our UU service on time, and we were happy we made the effort. What a wonderful addition to our lives joining this congregation has turned out to be - we're so very thankful to have found a place to come together with other people in a spirit of inclusion during a time in our nation's history that feels so definitively the opposite.

After returning home, as much as we longed to change into comfortable clothes and while away the rest of the day doing a whole lot of not much, we couldn't. We had contractors arriving on Monday to begin the demolition of my husband's current office cabinetry, and needed to empty everything out in advance. Once done, the office looked pretty darn sad, which should make it's upcoming transformation all the more exciting.

Not done yet, we had one more event to attend  - a Mardi Gras party held by The Friends of Jazz.
Again, another group we had no idea existed until just last week, when we were offered seats at a table being hosted by our university music department. The group has been around for decades, and conducts frequent jazz concerts that act as fund raisers in order to provide recorders and music classes at a variety of local elementary schools. The music was terrific and now we have yet another activity to add to our ever-growing list of retirement options.

So, while the weekend's combined fun almost did us in, we are incredibly thankful to have so many options to enjoy in our retirement. Each new activity results in our meeting more new people, some of whom will become actually friends over time. Cumulatively it is adding up to an increasingly satisfying retirement.

Plans and Goals For Today
- Wait arrival of office demolition team, and delivery of our new office cabinetry (yeah!)
- Prepare dinner for tonight's Book Club meeting, which we are hosting. On the menu is Clam Chowder, salad, sourdough bread and homemade brownies. (Book setting was an east coast harbor town, hence the clam chowder)
- Prep house for Book Club meeting
- Study Spanish for 60 minutes
- Take a four mile race walk with my spouse

Friday, March 10, 2017

What's Up Friday 3/10

Things are really picking up around here lately - as I was plotting our my menu for the week (my week runs Wed - Tue, since Wednesdays are double deal day at Sprouts, where I get the majority of my groceries), I realized that I only had to meal plan out dinner for two nights because we were going to be out for the other five. This would have never happened prior to retirement because we would have been too tired, so yeah for the ability to take middle of the day naps, which allow us to keep going until as late in the day as needed. 

The wine of the night - so much less
expensive than enjoying it at a restaurant!
Yesterday we took one of those two dinners over to my eldest daughter's, a monthly tradition we started a year ago. Originally we met at a restaurant, but that started to generate a whole host of issues. Like, who pays? We're retired and technically on a set income while she's an upwardly mobile professional, however we simply don't feel comfortable letting our daughters pay for us, or even themselves when we are all out together. Because, let's face it, set income or no, we have a healthy savings account, while their's are still building. As a result, it began to get a bit annoying dropping $100 on dinner every time we got together (because, yes, wine is always involved :), so I came up with the rather brilliant idea of meeting at her beach-adjacent apartment instead, with us providing both the meal and the wine. She loved the idea of relaxing after work in her own apartment over a home cooked meal and free wine, plus she generally gets a couple of meals worth of leftovers out of it. We enjoy the relaxed pace, the cheaper alternative to restaurant dining, and the fun excuse it affords us to go play at the beach, since we usually time it so that we arrive a few hours before she gets home from work.

Our beach play time yesterday involved taking a long walk along under glorious skies. There were lots of tourists out and about, and one of them was kind enough to take this picture of us.

We also managed to squeeze in a little shopping. I used some of my mad money to pick up these turquoise items, which I can't wait to wear:

Dinner with our daughter, once she arrived home, was lovely. Good wine, good food, good conversation. Making the transition from being the parents of children to being the parents of adult children hasn't necessarily been easy, but the reward of treating her with respect, and refraining from giving unwanted advice(!) is that she appears to sincerely enjoy our company, and seems to go out of of her way to look for opportunities to spend time with us. Which we deeply appreciate!

Oh, and here's what I made for dinner, Taco Fiesta Chicken Lasagna, the idea of which came from blogger Leslie at Once Upon A Time Happily Ever After. It was delicious!

Plans And Goals For Today
- Prep house for a progressive party we're having with two other couples tomorrow night. We've all done recent home updates, so the plan is to do a drink and small app at each 'new' house, before heading out to dinner together. Thinking we may need a DD (Designated Driver) by night's end!
- Decide what to wear to Sunday's Mardi Gras-themed University Friends of Jazz event. Our masks are purple and gold, so that's my starting point.
- Weed backyard slope (I love weeding - so satisfying!)
- Package this week's dinner leftovers into two person packets and freeze for later use.
- Eat consciously
- Practice five minutes of meditation
- Six mile racewalk
- Read 20% of my Book Club book, John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent (I'm behind!)
- Do 30 minutes of Spanish study
- Make three sets of RV reservations for trips we're taking later this year.
- Use a $10 off $10 JCPenney coupon to purchase a $12 on-sale outfit for my granddaughter as a 'just because' gift. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

We Have Grass! Backyard Project Completion.

At end of day, Friday, the crew had the two underlayers of crushed stone and decomposed granite laid down, compressed into a smooth shape, and ready to receive the artificial turf. They were unable to return until Sunday to lay down the actual artificial turf, and with rain in the forecast for Sunday afternoon, it ended up turning into a bit of a race to see which was going to get here first - the completed lawn or the rain. The crew managed to get everything completed other than the last and final step of working in several hundred pounds of silica sand into the laid-in-place turf, which they will return and complete today.

Quite the process! I looked up how to install artificial turn on the DIY site, and found this interesting tutorial.

Steps 13 and 14 of the above tutorial not withstanding, to the naked eye the blessed thing is done! Here are photos at long last (I say this to myself, primarily - this 'easy' relandscaping project stretched out to almost nine full weeks thanks to S. California's non-stop, drought breaking, winter storms.) The patio chairs are sans cushions in the photos below because they've been tucked away in the garage to wait out the rains, but even still I love the way the backyard turned out. And the best part is that it is virtually maintenance free - every plant that was laid is heat resistant and slow growing, so no upkeep needed other than a gentle, once a year trimming of some of the larger bushes.

Still to come is the remodel of my husband's home office, which begins next week. (My office received new carpeting in January, but otherwise continues to function/look just fine. I'm convinced the keys to a happy life in retirement are his and her offices!)

Plans and Goals for Today
8 mile hike with my spouse.
Lunch afterward at our favorite poke bowl place.
Set appointment for window cleaning now that the outside work is all completed - yeah!
Read 10% of our March Book Club read, The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck (this book got much better after the first couple of chapters - I'm now really enjoying it.)
Do 60 minutes of Spanish study.
Begin detail planning of our upcoming east coast trip (air, VRBO and car rentals already in place).
Prep for dinner - Crock Pot Balsamic Chicken.