Saturday, April 29, 2017

Our New Home Office (Almost!)

Yesterday was 'the day' - the long awaited day of 1) home office completion, and 2) home remodeling in general completion. My husband and I were so excited in that he'd been working off of folding tables ever since the cabinetry installation in mid-March left him with new cabinets, but no counter tops. A great big 'oops' that occurred when a change order for the counter tops got filed away accidentally, instead of processed.

So imagine how we felt yesterday morning upon discovering that just one, not two, of the missing counter tops was being installed. Because, somehow the correction change got messed up and only one of the two remaining counter tops got made. Oy vey.

The good news is that the missing counter top is for the least important element of the two - the one that tops the three-drawer window seat. The critical counter top - the one that supports my husbands computer, printer, work space and TV, was here and ready to go.

Here is where we started back in January:

Old peeling wallpaper, carpeting and inexpensive box store open shelf cabinetry.

Halfway through, with wallpaper, carpeting and cabinetry removed, and a new coat of paint applied.

And here's what it looks like now, with new custom cabinetry and hardwood flooring installed:

My husband really enjoys having his own home office, as I do mine just down the hall, and so I know it's been painful for him to not have full usage of it during the remodel. It's close enough to completion that he's very happily settled back in as of yesterday afternoon. One of his favorite elements is the new file drawer to the right of his chair. His old file drawer was in the adjacent closet, and thus the filing would build up until he got around to it. Now, papers can go from processing at the desk right into the drawer without him having to get up.

I love two things the most. The first is all the new doors, which make the room look neat as a pin. Behind those doors it might be chaos, because my husband's not as anal tidy as I am, but that's A-OK as long as I don't have to see it. I also love that there are two grommet openings drilled into the top, not just one, so we no longer have unsightly cords stretching across the back of the desk.

The cabinets are cream with a light glazing of espresso, and they play beautifully against our new mid-tone maple hardwood floors. All that remains is to find a fun rug to brighten up the space a bit.

And, of course, get that elusive, last counter top installed:


Plans and Goals For Today
Fast walk five miles, running the last half mile.
Stop in at the gym to do strength training on the way home.
Pick up a 2 lb package of strawberries from Sprouts, on sale over the weekend only for $1.98.
Take a nap to compensate for waking up at 2:00 AM this morning. (!)
Attend a Unitarian meeting this afternoon in order to brainstorm events for the upcoming year.
Finish weeding the backyard.
Meet friends for dinner at Sushi Naguchi, one of the Top Ten Best in OC list that we are slowly working through.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Spring Bucket List - Update #1

Welcome to Progress Report #1 of how I'm doing on my 20 Things Spring Bucket List! In that we just got home from our recent one month stay on the east coast last night, I think I made a decent amount of progress. And had lots of fun doing so - I am an extraordinary lover of lists so this project was right up my alley and I'm having a whole lot of fun working my way through them, one by one.

And just like the last time, I'm linking up with a group of other terrific bloggers to share Spring Bucket List updates, so 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.

Progress Report #1 for 20 Things On My Spring Bucket List
  1. Make a batch of low-sugar jam with spring berries. Yes! I snatched up four 6 oz containers of fresh blackberries when they went on sale for $.88 each, and made Sunset Recipe's Blackberry Lime Jam, a super easy and super delicious refrigerator jam. It freezes beautifully, so I put one jar in the refrigerator, and the rest in the freezer to enjoy later. 
  2. Grill spring artichokes. Pending.
  3. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner outside at least once. In Process. Ate lots of meals outside during month one, particular during our week at Kiawah Island Resort, so I just need to be sure to keep this up over the next two months.
  4. Make three new cocktails. Pending.
  5. Make three new BBQ dinners. Pending.
  6. Try three new restaurants. In Process. We visited lots of new restaurants while on our recent trip, but I'm only counting 'at home' restaurants for this Bucket List item, so the first new restaurant that qualifies is The Coliseum Grill at The Resort at Pelican Hill, which we visited in March. The food was very good (not quite excellent), but the wine and views were outstanding. I'd return for drinks and appetizers for sure, but likely not for dinner. (Coincidentally, as I was searching for the restaurant's URL to create the link above, I received an e-voucher good for a free appetizer simply by signing up for their e-newsletter. Sweet!) 

  7. Take a family picture during our vacation in Kiawah Island. Yes! Our son-in-law had to return to work early, but we managed to get a photograph of everyone else. From left to right we have our granddaughter, youngest daughter, me, husband, and oldest daughter. So happy we did this!
  8. Make three lunch dates with girlfriends. Pending.
  9. Join a yoga studio . . . and go! Pending.
  10. Strength train two times each week. In Process. I did this consistently the week before we left, and also during our stay in Kiawah Island, because it included usage of the resort gym. Now that we're home again, I plan to get right back to it. 
  11. Take six bike spinning classes. Pending.
  12. Bicycle at the beach. Pending.
  13. Kayak. Pending.
  14. Lose 10 pounds. Pending. We just returned home from our trip, so if I held steady with all the eating we did - I'm talking to you Charleston - I'll consider that job well done for the time we were away.
  15. Sell or giveaway all our old motorcycling gear now that our motorcycles are sold. Pending.
  16. Clean out garage rafters. Yes! And bonus points for finding a box of old photos from back in the day when I turned film in for developing, receiving not not only prints, but duplicates back in return. One set of prints were always placed immediately into photo books, but the duplicate sets simply got tossed into a box for 'later' in the event that anyone needed to use, glue or cut up them up for misc school projects. In that my daughters have long since graduated from high school, I was able to toss out pretty much the entire box.
  17. Volunteer three times. Pending.
  18. Read one book for pleasure each month (Book club selections don't count!). In Process.  For my first book/month I read Still Alice by Lisa Genova, which I very much enjoyed. I did not see the recent movie, so I came to this with no prior knowledge of it's content, other than that it was about a woman with Alzheimers. I was surprised to learn that it was actually about early-onset Alzheimers (not a plot spoiler, honest - it's part of the basic novel jacket description), which I didn't even know existed. I therefor found the book extremely compelling, and I thought the author did a terrific job of allowing the reader to experience Alzheimers from the perspective of the person inflicted, vs the perspective of the caretaker. A bit like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, which allows the reader to experience autism in a similar manner, i.e., from the inside out, rather than the outside in. 
  19. Join Spanish discussion group to keep up with my language studies. Pending.
  20. Find a new online Spanish tutor focused on Advanced Beginners. Pending.
My count indicates that so far I have three of my 20 items completed, four more in process, and 13 still pending. Keeping in mind we traveled almost the entirety of the first month of spring, I'm confident that now that we are back home I'll make steady progress prior to my next update in May, so be sure to stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Push-Pull of Long Distance Grandparenting

For the first two years of our granddaughter's life, we were but a 90 minute drive away. Not only that, we actually lived with my daughter before, during, and after delivery while our son-in-law was deployed out of the country, then provided day care for six months after he came home and my daughter returned to her teaching position. All of which is to say we were/are very, very close to our now 2 & 1/2 year old granddaughter.

When we first got the news that my son-in-law was being transferred to the Pentagon in Metro-DC, literally the other side of the country, we were devastated. We understood, of course, and absolutely wanted them to do what was best for their family, but personally we went into mini-mourning, though we kept it just between us.

When they actually moved, I flew east with my daughter and granddaughter to assist with the physical move-in, and my husband drove one of their two cars east in tandem with my son-in-law, plus two dogs. It was both exciting and painful to help them get established in their spacious new home, about three times the size of what they could afford previously in very, very pricey San Diego. Their new Metro-DC home even had a fully finished out basement with a private apartment where we could stay when visiting.

Since then, we have returned four times, roughly every two months, for two to four week visits. Even though we Skype religiously each week (even two times a week the first couple months after they moved), we were constantly worried between visits that our granddaughter would forget us. This did not seem to occur, although there was always a short warming-up period before she'd be on our laps with a pile of books for us to read. And now that she's closer to three years than two, her memory capability is clearly sufficient to hold onto Nana and Baba between visits, so we're no longer as worried as we first were.

Still, it is so hard to say goodbye, as we'll have to do tomorrow morning. Even as being with her for long periods of time is exhausting (she's two and 1/2 . . . ), it's also utterly precious. So many words, phrases and actions to hold onto; "I cook with Nana!," "Baba, play piano!," "Nana, sit here and color with me," twirling my hair when I hold her close, patting us both on the back as a way of expressing her contentment at being held, squeals of laughter when I blow up a balloon and release it to go careening around the room, dancing together to Sia, doing 'pieces' together, her word for puzzles. And so much more.

And yet, we are also looking forward to our lovely empty nest lives back in California, and all that goes with that. Our many social circles and activities, our very long and satisfying daily workouts, hikes and bike rides, reading on our front yard patio, our very clean and tide house (oh how messy two year olds are! :-).

So while neither end of the spectrum fills 100% of the gaps, we're making due, and so far it is working OK. Our granddaughter continues to love us, we 'fill in' very quickly when we are together again, and the older she gets the better and quicker the re-connects are becoming.

What makes our world go round these days.

Plans And Goals For Today
Fast walk six miles.
Begin trip planning for our return visit in June, which will include a week of traveling through Delaware.
Old Town Alexandria for lunch.
Return in time to grab our Southwest line up order exactly 24 hours in advance of our flight.
Pick up our granddaughter from daycare.
Stop at the park on the way home.
Make dinner for everyone.
Pack for our departure tomorrow.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Road Trip Wrap-Up & What's Next

We are back with our daughter, granddaughter and son-in-law in Alexandria, VA after almost three weeks of road tripping through the Carolinas. We had an incredibly interesting time visiting Wilmington, NC, Kiawah Island, SC, Charleston, SC, Congaree National Park and, finally, Richmond, Virginia. We learned about the battles of the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Civil War up close and personal. We toured mansions, plantations and forts, walked miles and miles and miles, took walking tours, boat tours, canal tours and one very memorable ghost tour, enjoyed a bevy of craft beer, wine, and cocktails, and literally ate ourselves silly. In other words, we had a great time!

But we both agree it's nice to be back in familiar territory here at our daughter's for the last few days of our trip. This is our fifth time visiting since she and my son-in-law moved here in July, and it is feeling increasingly like our second home. Today, Sunday, we attended the Alexandria branch of the Unitarian congregation we attend in California and felt immediately welcomed and at home, so we have yet another activity to add to our list of things to do when we are here. And then there is our granddaughter, who continues to be the light of our lives, and who seems to love us as much as we love her based on her happy screams of recognition when we drove up yesterday.

Our thoughts are starting to turn toward California, however, because we have a lot of lovely things to look forward to once we return. We have our newly landscaped yards, front and back, and I'm so excited to see what has come into bloom since we left. We have our office project completion scheduled for next Friday, and that is going to be terrific to see completed because that will be the absolute end of the journey of six back-to-back projects we kicked off last December - new entry way flooring, new hardwood flooring, new backyard, new vanity and flooring in powder room, refinishing of existing floor, which turned into wood flooring replacement when the refinishing stain failed to match the newer flooring stain, and then, finally, my husband's home office project.

We also have a lot of fun social activities to look forward to when we return, and then in a few more weeks, the first of a series of California out-and-back trips involving our RV. Most of our trips will center around physical activities - biking, hiking and backpacking - so my plan is to dive back into strength training the moment we get back. We did a pretty good job of logging walking miles during our trip, and I even ran a bit of my walk this morning, although I made myself return to walking after just a 1/4 mile because I don't want to go to fast and re-activate the repetitive use issues I've been battling since last January 2016. As eager as I am to return to running, I know I absolutely have to go slowly if I want to avoid re-injury.

Here's a quick overview of what we did, and what we ate, after leaving Charleston, using the same one to three asterisks rating system. One asterisk for so-so, two for good, three for great. Also, I broke up the activities by day in that Richmond is very large, and we therefore grouped our activities by geographic region.

What We Did

Congaree National Park (on the way to Richmond, VA)***
Monument Avenue**
Richmond Battlefield National Park Visitor Center** Free!
Historic Tredegar**
Civil War Memorial Footbridge Across James River*** Free!
Canal Walk** Free!
Historic Canals Cruise**
Shockoe Slip* (More touristy than I expected)
Hollywood Cemetery** Free!
Virginia State Capital*** Free!
White House of the Confederacy***
Museum of the Confederacy**
Historic St. John's Church*** (Hearing Patrick Henry's famous 'Give me liberty or give me death!' speech acted out by docent while sitting in the same location where it occurred was unforgettable.)

What We Ate (All three of these were outstanding - thank you TripAdvisor!)

East Coast Provisions***
Greek on Cary***
Mama J's Kitchen***

And from Richmond:

Virginia State Capital, where we enjoyed an excellent, free, 90 minute guided tour.

Beautiful downtown Richmond views enjoyed from our historic canal cruise.

And more beautiful views along the memorial bridge walk of the Class 4 rapids along James river.

Make it a memorable day wherever you are!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

We're Going to Hamilton!

Thanks to our AmExpress cardholding son-in-law, we were able to snag two tickets yesterday for the Los Angeles leg of the upcoming Hamilton World Tour a full ten days before they go on sale to the general public. Whatever block of tickets were being held for AmExpress cardholders were apparently snatched up in minutes, so we are over-the-moon excited that we were in the group that was able to get through.

Oh, and we did not purchase the $650 or $750 tickets(!), in fact I didn't even know they had tickets in that price range until looking up our seat assignments this morning online.

And I thought the price we paid was high!

We aren't going until November, so we still have lots of time to become familiar with the soundtrack, and in my case, the history. My husband was a history major in college, focusing on American history, so for him this will be a breeze. In my case, I know Alexander Hamilton to be the guy on the $10 dollar bill, and that's about it, so I have a lot of brushin' up to do between now and then!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Charleston, SC - What We Did, What We Ate

One of the things I get the most enjoyment from is doing detailed trip planning for the many trips we take each year. Since joint retiring in 2012 (me 2011, spouse 2012), we have spent approximately 50% of our time, about two and a half years, traveling. We have had some amazing, amazing experiences, and eaten at so many restaurants I couldn't possibly keep count - somewhere around 150 would be my best guess. And though every so often an activity or meal doesn't measure up as expected, I would slot those as being less than 5% of the overall things we have done and eaten.

All of this to explain why our time in Charleston, which comes to a close this morning, was jam-packed and unforgettable. We can rest when we're dead, right?

Rather than belabor each and every thing we did, I'll just list them as links, and include either one, two or three asterisks as an indication of how we rated them on a scale of one (low) to three (terrific).

Things We Did (in alphabetical order)
Aiken-Rhett House **
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge Walk *** Free!
Cathedral of St. John the BaptistFree! (Plus we attended Easter Mass here, which was quite lovely.)
Charleston City MarketFree! (We are not shoppers. If we were, this would be deserving of two asterisks.)
College of Charleston ** Free!
Drayton Hall Plantation ***
Fort Sumter National Monument***
Historic Charleston Walking Tour ***
H.L. Hunley Submarine **
Middleton Place Plantation ***
Nathaniel Russell House **
Old Slave Mart Museum **
St. Michael's Episcopal Church *** Free!
Unitarian Church *** Free!

And then there was the food. Oh, my, the wonderful, incredible food and drink of Charleston. We enjoyed each and every morsel and drink we ingested! And before I list where we ate and drank, I do want to assert that we walked everywhere, easily over 25 miles during our stay, and for that reason our clothes fit the same tonight, at the end of Day Four, as they did at the beginning of Day One. As I indicated, we travel a lot, so we really can't use the excuse that 'we're on vacation' as a reason to lose caloric control. Don't I wish though!

Similar to above, below are links to where we ate, along with the same asterisk rating system, and a couple of notes on what we felt the standout item was.

Where We Ate (also in alphabetical order)
Callie's Hot Little Biscuit** (We've had better, but did appreciate that they had eight different types.)
Caviar and Bananas*** (We shared a fabulous Cuban panini for lunch one day.)
The Darling Oyster Bar*** ($5 Bloody Mary's)
Husk*** (Everything!!!)
Jestine's Place*** (Fried Chicken)
Kilwin's*** (Ice cream)
Leon's Fine Poultry and Oysters*** (Fried Chicken Sandwich)
Poogan's Porch** (We ate here Easter Sunday evening, and our choices of open restaurants accepting reservations was slim. We would likely not have chosen this restaurant otherwise based on Trip Advisor reviews.)
The Rarebit*** ($5 Happy Hour Moscow Mules, Chicken and Waffles)
Tebow's Hot Boiled Peanuts*** (Cajun style!)

There aren't enough words to indicate how wonderful this city is, nor how much fun we had, so I'll leave you with a few photos instead:

Drayton Hall Plantation, one of the only plantations in South Carolina to have been left undamaged by the Civil War, the earthquake of 1886, and Hurricane Hugo.

Timbo's Hot Boiled Peanuts were ahhmazing!

Flowers everywhere because, Spring.

Looking out at Charleston Harbor from Fort Sumter.

Bloody Marys at The Darling Oyster Bar. See the hush puppy on a stick that came with? So good!

Someone could make a book about Charleston doors!

We walked over Arthur Ravenal Jr. Bridge and back, five miles round trip.
St. Michael's beautiful interior with Tiffany stained glass.

We're off to Congaree National Park this morning, one of the newest national parks, and number 36 to be visited by us. With 59 national parks in total, we'll have just 23 left after tomorrow.

Make it a memorable day wherever you are!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Five Frugal Things - Family Vacation Version

It's not as easy to get value for our money when traveling, particularly when we are with family, as we have been this past week, but here are five frugal things we did manage to do:

  • We waited in the cell phone lot to pick up our family over two different flights, saving short term airport parking fees.
  • We ate most of our meals in at our Kiawah Island Resort cottage. We had a three bedroom house reserved for our family trip, and one $130 trip to Super Walmart covered six people for seven breakfasts, seven lunches and four dinners. With the beach one block away, and the resort pool across the street, we rarely had need to leave the property.
  • We bought our gas off the resort's property, saving 30 cents a gallon.
  • Asked about, and received, a student discount for my visiting niece when we visited one of the area's large plantations, shaving 50% of her admission fee. 
  • We used Trip Advisor to find fun, tasty, casual southern BBQ joints to treat our family to three dinners out. Each one delivered, but the winner, hands down was Swig and Swine Wood Fired BBQ. It was insanely delicious, very reasonable at $9.00 per meal, and we are still all talking about our pulled pork sandwiches days later.

Bonus Frugal Thing:
  • Related to the last item above, we told our family the first round was on Mom and Dad, the second and subsequent rounds were on them. I feel like beverages and alcohol can sink a budget faster than anything when dining out! (PS - No one ordered second rounds. :-)

And one frugal fail:
  • Bought our granddaughter a cute ball covered with butterflies at the resort for a ridiculous $13.00. Saw a similar-enough ball at the market outside the resort for $2.99. But, granddaughter . . . need I say more?

We are off to the city of Charleston this morning, after dropping the family off at the airport. We have a VRBO reserved right in the center of the historic district, and we are excited to finally see this southern city by the harbor that people seem to love so much.

Make it a memorable day wherever you are!

Images from our time in Kiawah Island this past week, from left to right, 1) Middleton Plantation, 2) Angel Oak Tree, and 3) Beautiful Kiawah Island beach.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Greetings from the Carolinas!


We are in the midst of a family stay in Kiawah Island, and in that that includes our two and 1/2 year old granddaughter, things have been busy, busy, busy! But we are having a wonderful time, and I know it's going to be sadly quiet once she heads home, so we are embracing all the noise and activity of her while we can.

Here's a peek at what we've been up to since departing Metro-DC last Wednesday:

A new state for our list, #29!
Enjoyed a spooky Ghost Walk in Old Town Wilmington, NC.
It thundered and rained the entire walk, which made for even more spooky fun!

Our Wilmington VRBO was right across from this river walk, which made it so easy
to leave our car parked  and travel by foot and water taxi during our entire three night stay.

This turned out to be an unexpected highlight - a full top to bottom tour of the USS Battleship North Carolina. Traveling there and back by water taxi added to the fun!

We toured our first antebellum mansion while in North Carolina.

Then onto South Carolina, another first, #30 on our list. leaving just 20 more states to go!

Our first stop in South Carolina - Kiawah Island Resort, and this sign!!!

What brought us to Kiawah Island is this little cutie. As a family we enjoy getting together as often as we can, even with our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter newly settled on the east coast, and Kiawah Island Resort was driveable for them, plus full of activities for both grown ups and kiddos. 

The family that vaca's together stays together!
We're here for another few days, then the 'kids' all go home, and we move onto Charleston for some serious eats along with our sightseeing. I had been checking daily for last minute cancellations at Charleston's hottest restaurant, Husk, and something opened up yesterday that works perfectly into our stay there next week, so 'yeah' for diligence!

Make it a memorable day wherever you are!

Sunrise on Kiawah Island this morning.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

What's For Dinner Wednesday - On The Road Version

Today is Wednesday, the day I normally do my menu planning and grocery shopping when we are at home. In that we are not at home, but are instead traveling on the east coast, I do things a little differently, and I thought it might be fun to review how meal planning works on the road vs at home.

At home, I budget a flat $100 a week for groceries, and have found that adequate for almost six years now, using my first year of retirement in 2011 as a starting baseline. It's easy to stay on budget at home in that I cook most of our dinners from scratch, we generally end up with leftovers to incorporate into other meals, and the majority of our meals are built around the low priced and abundant legumes, grains and produce available year round in S. California.

On the road, this is obviously much more of a challenge. First and foremost, once we leave S. California produce availability seems to diminish, and prices to rise. Plus it's much less convenient to cook from scratch most of the time in that I don't have access to the plethora of herbs, spices, utensils and prep space I do when at home. And while, sure, we could eat out each and every meal, that's really not practical for a couple of reasons - 1) it's expensive to do so, and 2) it's calorie prohibitive!

And that 2nd reason scares me far more than the first!

So when we are traveling around like we are currently, I simplify and scale back to accommodate our desire to eat healthy and stay on budget, while still allowing ample opportunities to enjoy the wonderful regional foods that help make travel so much fun.

Shopping day on the road consists primarily of stocking up on easy, healthy breakfasts and snacks. Breakfast for me on the road is generally yogurt and a banana. For my husband it's generally a granola bar and a banana. Day after day after day, yep, but it's easy to accommodate, grocery wise,and it's easy to travel with in that yogurt can handle being non-refrigerated in between VRBO's and hotels.

Road food!
Coffee in the morning is a must, and anywhere we might stay is going to provide either a coffee pot or a way to heat water, so we purchase both ground coffee and instant coffee packets, plus powdered non-dairy creamer.

I also grab a couple of sets of plastic utensils from the first place I can, and keep those in my purse as we travel along. Super handy to have on hand, along with napkins. Lots of napkins!

Road snacks are bags of nuts, usually almonds, and bags of baby carrots. Baby carrots are pretty darn sturdy, and seem to be able to go a good long time without being refrigerated similar to yogurt.

OK, so that's it for the boring stuff! But it is important, even if boring, in that it helps keep our nutrition on track, it's all calorie friendly, it's fairly high energy, abd it's certainly budget friendly.

Our approach for lunch, coffee breaks and dinner is much more fun, while still being as true to the above as we can.

For lunch we generally look for interesting, highly rated local joints and then share something, usually a sandwich or burger of some sort. And the more interesting the better! We've enjoyed street tacos, fish tacos, artisan sandwiches of every shape and style, artisan grilled sandwiches (even better!), wood fired pizzas, homemade soups with bread, and fab burgers ranging from black bean to bison. The share is the key here, along with passing on the fries whenever possible, plus avoiding places that involve tipping - we generally have lots to see over any given day, and while we want to enjoy what we are eating, we want to do it relatively fast!

And we walk everywhere we possibly can. Seriously, we walk and walk and walk as much as we possibly can, hopefully at least five miles a day.

Our midday break is usually a coffee stop at the best rated local coffee spot we can find. We try our best to avoid whatever sweet treats might be calling our name, and instead break out some nuts to go along with our fresh brew - moderation, moderation, moderation!

So with all those walking calories burned, food calories kept to a minimum, and the wallet happily accommodated, we are well positioned going into the evening hours. Because the thing we look the most forward to when traveling is dinner! We really, really, really enjoying eating dinner out each night, hoping to find memorable, delicious food unlike what we can eat at home. We've discovered over time that while we are fine, fine, fine with fast and casual for lunch, even standing or walking around while eating at times, we do prefer a more relaxed, sit down setting at dinner. And since we've been so frugal in handling breakfast, snacks and lunch, we can loosen up the purse strings a bit for dinners.

One of our dinner restaurant selection rules is no restaurant chains! Having a couple of restaurant locations is OK as long as one of them isn't on our side of the coast (!), but that's it. My experience in eating at a whole lot of restaurants over the years is that something gives once a restaurant becomes corporate, so we avoid them whenever possible.

So in that we have a solid week of dining out dinners ahead of us, I thought it would be fun to give you a peek of some of the places we'll be dining over the next few weeks.

Cassey's Buffet, BBQ and Home Cookin' - I confess, this one scares me a bit, but it got such terrific reviews on Trip Advisor, I feel like we have to give it a try.

The Fat Hen - This one is a splurge, and I can't wait! A Trip Advisor fan favorite described as refined, French lowcountry cuisine.

Five Loaves Cafe - This cafe focuses on healthy, sustainable, local food.

Pearlz Oyster Bar - My spouse and I are oyster virgins, so we've decided it's time to put an end to all that, and this looks like a great place to do it!

Poogan's Porch - With a name like that, how could we not eat here???

Leon's Fine Poultry and Oysters - According to Conde Nast, this unassuming joint is supposed to have the best fried chicken in the South, and we are so there!

Mama J's Kitchen - Advertised as one of the South's premier soul food experiences, it should be a great way to bring our trip to a close later this month.

So to circle back where I started, our On The Road grocery budget covers breakfasts, snacks, lunches and coffee breaks, leaving just dinners to be covered under our general travel funds.

And our daily walkabouts should balance out our dinner calorie splurges.  Or at least, that's the plan!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Greetings from Metro-DC! Plus Weekend Wrap-Up 3/31 - 4/2

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!

Greetings from Metro-DC, where we are currently visiting with our daughter, son-in-law and positively-delicious 2 1/2 year old granddaughter. We have a few more days left here before departing alone for Wilmington, North Carolina, then into South Carolina after that where the family will rejoin us. As much fun as we're having here, my restless spirit is super excited for next leg of our trip even as we're soaking up the pleasure of spending time with our granddaughter. We've been going back and forth between spending time with her, and having time to tour on our own, which is working out very well. Too many days in a row with her is, well, exhausting! But, too many days on our own while here leaves us missing her, so going back and forth seems to be the right balance for now.

Speaking of which, our weekend was both fun and super exhausting. I feel like this is a common refrain lately, and each time I write/say it, it highlights that without a doubt our biggest challenge in retirement is not money, but rather maintaining a sufficient level of energy. Hence why my word for 2017 -Renew - needs to remain top of mind as I continue to work my way through the year which, can you believe, is already 25% over.

Onto our weekend!

On Friday the weather here in the Metro-DC area was cold and wet. In that we'd spent the prior day gallivanting around Baltimore, Maryland, we were fine staying in, reading, visiting with our just-arrived older daughter, and doing more detail trip planning for our upcoming legs to Wilmington, NC, Kiawah Island, SC, Charleston, SC, Richmond, VA and Fredericksburg, VA. So, most of the day was spent on Trip Advisor, my absolute go-to site for trip planning, and the websites Trip Advisor pointed me to. The biggest challenge for our remaining legs appears to be finding enough time to do all of the interesting things I'm locating - from antebellum mansions to retired naval battleships, low country cuisine to southern BBQ, and historic pub hops to haunted ghost tours. Can't wait!

On Saturday we left early and headed to Annapolis, MD. We spent the morning touring the oh-so-impressive U.S. Naval Academy. And, score, we saved $5 each off the usual $11 touring ticket price by announcing "I'm a Fool" to the cashier. Yep, we toured on April Fools Day!

At the visitors entrance - just too make sure you know where you are!

Midshipmen - the official name for Naval Academy undergraduates.

Lots of winning footballs on display from that most ancient of USA rivalries - Navy vs Army!

Coincidentally, Miss USA Cherry Blossom and Miss Japan Cherry Blossom were posing for
photos at the Naval Academy grounds during our tour. 

Bancroft Hall in all it's Greek revival glory; the largest single dormitory in the world, and possibly the prettiest.

Our lunch break was next, at Chick & Ruth's Delly on Main Street. Fun, tiny, crowded, noisy and delicious!

Husband on the left, happily waiting for our name to be called

As you can see, this place was too tiny and crowded to allow for waiting inside!

We did not, I repeat did not, order from this page of the menu!

After lunch, we spent the remainder of the afternoon touring the historic district, which included a walk through the Maryland State Capital, and sightseeing/visiting lots and lots of charming, historical homes and properties.

Approaching the Maryland State Capital, enjoying the blooming cherry trees along the entrance path.

The picturesque Maryland State Assembly Hall.

Fresh oysters at the Annapolis Market Square.
We are virgin oyster eaters, and are determined to enjoy (try?) some before we depart!

Colonial Annapolis, full of charming 100 & 200+ year old homes.

Annapolis sit's alongside the scenic Chesapeake Bay

Spring was in evidence everywhere we walked!

We left Annapolis feeling very, very patriotic. What a wonderful, charming, historic and food-friendly city!

On Sunday we took our granddaughter to the National Zoo in Downtown DC. The drive there, our second, was a little easier than our first visit last summer, but still very winding, traffic-dense and confusing. Seriously, driving around the Metro-DC area is a hoot and a half!

Once we arrived, we spent three fun, invigorating (i.e., tiring!) hours visiting the Farm Animal area, the big cats area, and, of course, the carousel.

Our precious bundle of granddaughter joy.

Lot's of animal time, ice cream time, playground time and one re-visit to the Farm Animal later, we headed for home, with our granddaughter falling asleep the minute she was strapped into her car seat. Nana and Baba were just as tired, trust me!

I made dinner for everyone once we returned home (yeah for Nanas!), and it was pretty fab along with being super easy: Roast Beef and Blue Cheese Paninis, sweet potato fries and fruit salad.

Today, Monday, I'm a bit under the weather due to too many days in a row with a sniffling granddaughter. It's a beautiful day, however, and with the granddaughter at preschool, we have plans to take a walk to a nearby local coffeehouse, and then onto a nature park after that.

Make it a great day wherever you are!