Friday, March 31, 2017

What's Up Friday 3/31

Greetings from the East Coast, our home for the next month. A lot of ground has been covered this week, literally!
  • Flew to Baltimore, Maryland on Tuesday, picked up our rental car and headed straight to Virginia to see our granddaughter before she went to sleep. We made it with minutes to spare! What a joy to see her face light up as her Nana and Baba got out of the car. Life truly doesn't get any better than this. (Insert heart emoji here . . . )
  • Spent all day Wednesday playing with our granddaughter, which was a glorious, sunny day here in the metro-DC area. Played at the park, had lunch at McD's, went grocery shopping - what an adventure with a 2 1/2 year old that was! - and played ball in the street. Having lots of talking time, plus lots of 'show me' time when we weren't exactly sure what she was trying to say, was beyond precious.
  • Saw cherry blossoms. Because, DC in the spring.

  • Visited the stirring Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine, where The Star Spangled Banner was penned during the War of 1812. We spent almost two full hours walking in and around the fort, and along it's Chesapeake Bay waterfront location. Highly recommend!

The scenic entry to the inner courtyard of Fort McHenry.
  • Bought our last $80 Annual National Park Pass while at the fort, because in just a little over two months my husband will reach the milestone age of 62, and at the top of his list is purchasing his $10 Senior National Park Pass, good for the rest of his life! (Yes, aware the price is going up sometime this year to $80, but hoping not till after his birthday. If it does, it's still a great deal!) In the interim, we think we'll get our $80 money's worth out of this year's pass in that we'll be visiting oodles of national properties over the next two months.
Rainy here this morning, but it's supposed to break, and once it does we're off to Arlington to explore and walk over the bridge into DC for more cherry blossom viewing. 

Make it a great day where ever you might be!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Weekend Wrap Up 3/24-3/26

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!

We had glorious California spring weather this weekend, meaning clear blue skies and temps in the mid to high 70's - a perfect weekend, in other words, for spending as much time outside as possible.

On Friday night we joined our foreign foods dining group for al fresco dining at and Irish restaurant, Macallans Public House. If you'll recall from my last post, I was rather excited about the martini menu I'd seen online, so that was the first thing I ordered when I got to the restaurant - a cherry martini. It was delish - nice and cherry flavored without being sickly sweet. And the hubs and I shared a fish n chips plate because the servings were huge. And the company was great - we had a terrific conversation with two other couples, also retired, that looks like it will turn into a separate get together for the six of us in the not-too-distant future.

On Saturday morning, alas, I sent my husband off to the do the Metropolitan Opera - Live in HD thing alone because our office floor wood installation got pushed one day, meaning Saturday morning, and someone needed to stay back and oversee the project. Though our installers are amazing at their craft, there are always small finishing details that need to be clarified. And it ended up that there were, so I'm very glad I did stay home until the project was completed.

My husband reported back afterward that he very much enjoyed the opera event, so we'll be returning together in May to attend/watch Der Rosenkavalier by Strauss. So the verdict is still out for another couple of months on whether I'll enjoy opera or not .  .  .

Spent the rest of Saturday putting his home office back together, albeit still without countertops. In the interim, we are using random planks of wood laid out over the top of the cabinets, and while it's not terribly pretty, it is functional. I'm sure we'll get confirmation of countertop completion during our trip, so I expect it to be installed the day after we return home in late April. So something else to look forward to!

On Sunday I went for an early morning race walk, then my husband and attended our UU congregation services as usual. When we returned, several of our neighbors were out, so we gave everyone a tour of our 'new' home and then enjoyed spending time chatting and getting caught up on each other's lives.

The evening was just gorgeous, which I was particularly pleased about in that we had reservations for terrace dining at The Resort at Pelican Hill in their Colliseum Grill restaurant. This was a TravelZoo deal I bought the day after dining at another of the resort's restaurants in February. Tonight's $30 deal, included two glasses of wine, plus $50 toward our meal.

The wine was lovely, and not the house wine the TravelZoo deal said would be included. Instead we were able to select from any of the wines on the menu that were sold by the glass. So nice!

Our meal was lovely. We ordered a shared appetizer and two entrees, and came in at $50 on the nose, so $0 over our TravelZoo deal. But the very best part of the meal was the incredible views out over the resorts amazing circular pool to the ocean. And the sunset was absolutely knock-our-socks off gorgeous. So gorgeous that most of the diners got up from their seats to watch it, cameras in hand, myself included:

It was hard to pull ourselves away afterward and return home!

Plans and Goals For Today
Seven mile race walk
Pack for our trip
Weed the front and backyard
Put away front yard patio furniture
Incorporate remaining fresh produce into today's meals

Friday, March 24, 2017

What's Up Friday 3/24

Very busy week here at Casa My Retirement Project as we wind down from home remodeling projects and gear up toward our upcoming east coast trip to see family, and travel around the Carolinas. Hardwood flooring goes down tomorrow in my husband's home office, with the accidentally-overlooked countertops not likely to be completed until our return in late April. But once those are in, which should be a quick half-day job, we are officially done, hooray!

In other news:
  • We attended the always-awesome Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour this past week. I am inspired every single year we attend to do even more in my own outdoor life. This tour travels all over the USA and Canada, plus internationally, and if you have even the slightest yen for adventure, this event is definitely for you! 
  • We are continuing to eat down the refrigerator in preparation for being away. The closer we get the more, ahem, interesting our meals are becoming. Bless my dear husband for being so darn flexible about what he eats for dinner. It may be scrambled eggs and toast by the time we get down to our last night here at home.
  • We attended a dress rehearsal community theater event last night with our Lifelong Learning group, a production of Steven Sondheim's A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. I was prepared to sort of just get through it, in that it sounded rather campy and old fashioned, but darn if it wasn't completely delightful! The lead actors and actresses were fabulous, with terrific comedic timing and I roared with laughter. I love it when my expectations are exceeded!
  • Woke up extremely tired this morning for some reason, so I gave myself the morning off from working out. Instead I organized all the materials we'll need for our upcoming trip, booked our airport shuttle, painted the baseboards that will go into place during tomorrow's hardwood installation, had a Starbucks coffee date with my husband, and cleaned up my home office.
We have a terrific weekend on tap, with just the right mix of activity and at-home time, starting off with a dinner out tonight at an Irish pub with our Foreign Food group. In peeking at the menu online, it looks like they have a smashing lineup of martinis which I'm much looking forward to.

Life is short, so make it a great weekend!

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 plain-looking plant below, to the more gorgeous plant in full bloom. 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 at least once.
  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.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Weekend Wrap Up 3/4 - 3/5

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!

Last year my spouse and I decided it would be fun to identify ten of the top restaurants in Orange County, where we live here in California, and slowly work our way through dining at each one. 'Slowly' in that we do need to be mindful of the calories involved in this effort! So after doing a little research, we came up with this list courtesy of those food lovin' folks at Gayot:
  1. Andrea
  2. Broadway by Amar Santana
  3. Leatherby's Cafe Rouge
  4. Provenance
  5. Splashes
  6. Sapphire Laguna
  7. The Ranch
  8. Sushi Noguchi
  9. Raya
  10. Studio
Since launching this endeavor last year, we've dined at Splashes, Sapphire Laguna and The Ranch. Saturday night was tagged for our fourth, Leatherby's Cafe Rouge at the Segerstrom Music Center in Costa Mesa. So convenient in that the restaurant was located in the same building where we'd be attending a Pops Symphony concert afterward featuring the Beach Boys. Yes, those Beach Boys!

We live a quick 20 minutes away from the music center, and with ample free parking at across the street South Coast Plaza, we go to performances there on a pretty regular basis. And it's our routine when we do go, to get dressed up and enjoy a glass of wine together before leaving the house, which we did this time as well. It sets a real 'date night' tone for the evening even before we've departed.

Dinner at Leatherby's Cafe Rouge turned out to be so, so lovely. We had a starter of summer beets served with a variety of interesting nuts, lettuce and cheese, then seafood entrees. Both entrees were prepared to perfection - charred crispy on the outside, moist and flavorful on the inside. Something I can never, ever manage at home. And again, no dessert, as I continue to chip away at my sugar addiction.

It was so luxurious to just stroll out the connecting door between the restaurant and the concert hall once dinner was over. So luxurious we're thinking we'll be doing this again sooner rather than later.

The restaurant location is so wonderful, positioned on the first floor
of the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. We had a table by
the window, and thoroughly enjoyed the people watching it afforded

And the ensuing concert was great! In spite of the remaining Beach Boys - Mike Love and Bruce Johnston - having somewhat diminished singing chops their instrumentality is still spot on, and they had terrific, slightly younger band members with absolutely great voices to elevate the overall sound. I'm telling you, those old guys played their hearts out for over two solid hours. What a night!

As a native California girl, I'm particularly partial to this Beach Boys hit. :-)

On Sunday we slept in a bit, then enjoyed a nice walk under gorgeous skies before heading out to our UU services. Afterward we joined a group from our Lifelong Learning program at our university to attend Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Having taken up the study of Shakespeare in retirement, we had previously read this play, and also seen it performed at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival up in Oregon, so we were much looking forward to it. And it delivered - the performance
was absolutely terrific, far superior to the one we'd seen in Ashland in 2015 in our humble opinion. Afterward we enjoyed a stage talk with the director, then everyone trooped over to the university cafeteria for dinner. Talk about a contrast from last night's dinner! But what the food may have lacked, the conversation with our fellow Lifelong Learners more than made up for, and we ended up staying in the cafeteria for well over two hours as we all talked away.

For those just starting out in retirement, I want to say that after a couple of years of trying to figure out how to structure our 'new' lives, we are now having the most wonderful time day after day after day. Little by little we've gotten involved in more and more activities, which have introduced us to lots of new people, many of whom are now friends we socialize with on a regular basis. And though, yes, we absolutely have the occasional bad days, they are the exception, not the rule. We truly are having the time of our lives, even as we work hard to not take any of it for granted. We recognize at this stage of our lives things could change virtually overnight.

Plans and Goals For Today
- Four mile race walk.
- Lunch out with a friend dealing with a life threatening cancer.
- Target to return some items, sans receipt. Dreading this one!
- Read another 10% of our March Book Club selection, The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck.
- 60 minutes of Spanish study
- Contact Road Scholar to 1) Move our 2018 New Zealand hiking trip from February to January, and 2) Add a second trip to Australia. So excited that we'll be 'Down Under' for two full months in 2018, with a stop in America Samoa on the way home to visit American Samoa National Park, one of the remaining parks on our 'Visit All 59 National Parks' Bucket List!

Friday, March 3, 2017

About That Bucket List . . .

The topic at last night's Chalice Circle pertained to bucket lists. We were asked to make one ahead of time, and bring it with us prepared to discuss. Going in, this is what mine looked like:
  • Visit all 59 National Parks. 
  • 'Live' in a variety of cities around the world via one month apartment rentals. On that list would be the USA cities of Portland, Seattle, Chicago, Boston, and NYC, plus the foreign cities of Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid, Berlin, London, Auckland, and Sydney,
  • Live within walking distance to the Pacific Ocean, preferably in either San Diego or Orange County here in California.

When we got to the meeting, we were presented with a list of questions related to our bucket lists. These are the questions, along with my answers:

  1. What kinds of emotions came up for you in creating your list? Excitement! Every. Single. One.
  2. Looking at your complete list, do any of the items point to some underlying unmet needs? Does your list in some way reflect some larger or broader longing within, perhaps a particular aspect of your individual spirituality or orientation to life? Hmm, good question! I have a great longing to visit places that awaken something in me, either because they are new, or wild, or different from my norm at home. I've often said that I must have been either a dog or an explorer in a former life, because I have a very difficult time remaining in one place for too long. So, attempting to better understanding why I have such a longing to roam would probably be a worthwhile exercise. (Input here welcomed!)
  3. If a stranger found your list somewhere and read it, how would the stranger describe who you are in terms of your beliefs, values, and priorities? Would that be consistent with how you would like people to remember you after you have died? That I was adventurous, restless, a seeker, and a lover of wilderness. And yes, that would be consistent with how I would like to be remembered, other than that I also adored, adored, adored my spouse, children and grandchild. And, in truth, they are the obstacles standing in the way of my completing the above bucket list - the trade offs in time spent with them all are simply too great at this time.
  4. If it were possible to find out what the exact day and time of your death would be, would you want to know? I would absolutely NOT want to know this. It would taint my entire life and rob me of the ability to simply enjoy the time I do have. Increasingly as I get older I find that ignorance is bliss, even while understanding that many things cannot remain hidden if we wish to progress as humans.
A tremendous meeting that was filled with personal insights I'll likely be pondering the rest of today, even as we gear up for an exciting, event filled weekend.

Plans and Goals for Today
Prep the house for company arriving tonight.
  -  Vacuum
  -  Dust
  -  Bake muffins and cookies for my carb-loving company
Attend the funeral of a dear friend's mother. She lived good and long, and left an amazing legacy of family and friends, so I expect this to be a quietly celebratory event of a well-lived life.
Oversee completion of our backyard project - hooray!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

So Close! Plus Wednesday Words of Wisdom

So darn close . . .

The crew arrived to lay our new artificial turf (sample of which is sitting tantalizingly on our patio to the left) on Monday as planned, and got right to work. The project involves putting in two layers of under materials, the first of which is shown in the photo above, with the turf going in last as the third and final layer. All went well for the first two hours, but then, alas, it started to rain. Again. No!!!

They waited it out for about half an hour before calling it quits for the day, and told me they'd return later in the week to pick up where they left off once the ground dried out. The weather is currently warm and dry, so fingers and toes crossed that they show up soon, as we have out of town company arriving on Friday and it would be sooooo nice to have a pretty, completed yard to enjoy when they do.

In other news, I experienced two situations recently that left me with some very wise words to ponder.

The first occurred this past Sunday, when the speaker at our congregational meeting suggested that the way to determine whether our individual actions are 'good' or 'bad' is to ask ourselves the following:

Do I participate in systems that cut off human potential?

I've been keeping that in my forethought this week as I move through my day. It's one of those brilliant, easy-to-apply truths that I appreciate being able to grab onto.

And a little less direct, but no less wise, yesterday we attended a TED talk at our Lifelong Learning program featuring Dr. Quartulain Bakhteari, a Nobel prize nominee for her pioneering efforts to educate females in Pakistan. Most excitingly, Dr. Bakhteari was with us in person to discuss her works in greater detail and answer audience questions after the TED showing. Dr. Bakhteari, a female Muslim, encountered many obstacles in her efforts to not only educate females, but also to train some of the older students in midwifery in an effort to bring down Pakistan's maternal mortality rate, one of the highest in the world currently. When asked how she did this, after we watched the video below in it's entirety, Dr. Quartulain responded:

Remove the obstructions one at a time by bringing them inward.

Some of us, myself included, needed a little help understanding exactly what Dr. Quartulain meant, so she explained that after identifying a specific obstacle she would approach it directly and attempt to solicit help, rather than applying force, in overcoming it. In my life, I interpreted that to mean that if I hit a roadblock, rather than trying to blast my way through it, I should take a step back and ponder how I might incorporate the roadblock into my ongoing effort instead. I think we have an American expression that is somewhat similar to what Dr. Quartulain is suggesting, that being to kill them with kindness.

Here is her inspiring TED talk:

Plans and Goals for Today
Menu plan
Grocery shop
Do 60 minutes of cardio at the gym, plus ab and upper body strength training
Book Club reading for 30 minutes
Spanish study for 60 minutes
Finish dusting shutters (I keep kicking this one down the road . . . )
Laundry (This one too  . . . )
Line Dancing class
Evening off in that my spouse will be gone. Plan is to enjoy the last homemade tamale out of the freezer, and read for pleasure afterward in bed with a cup of hot cocoa. Decadent!