Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Checking In!

Just a quick note to say, yep, still here, but hampered by having left the laptop at home this trip. It's a bit difficult to put up a comprehensive post on a tablet or smart phone!

We're enjoying ourselves tremendously, mixing it up with a blend of backpacking, hiking, wine tasting, dining and sightseeing. We'll be home in just a few more days, but in the meantime, here are a few photos of our trip so far:

During our four day backpack we saw the most wonderful things,
 like this moss draped oak tree surrounded by vivid orange flowers.

The exquisite Point Reyes shoreline.

Point Reyes Lighthouse on a wonderfully cold and foggy summer morning.

Stacks and stacks of wine barrels at Cline Cellars in Sonoma.

Having too much fun one afternoon with our best friends at Williamson Wines in Healdsburg.

I'll be back on September 1st with my August In A Sentence A Day post. See you all then!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Summer Bucket List - Update #2

Pssst - I am currently away from all things electronic, backpacking through Point Reyes National Seashore, 
so please do understand if I'm a bit delayed responding to any comments accordingly!

Welcome to Progress Report #2 of how I'm doing on my 20 Things Summer Bucket List! I've been more productive at tackling this list now that we are fairly settled in, and it's been a joy to check off each fun activity.

And just like the last time, I'm linking up with a group of other terrific bloggers to share Summer 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 summer inspiration.

Update #2 for 20 Things On My Summer Bucket List
  1. Read by the pool. Yes! Kind of pathetic that I had to leave home to do it, in that we have an HOA pool right up the street, but something else always seems to call my name when at home. But at a recent yoga retreat I managed to relax enough to read by the pool not once, but two times, and it was lovely. Plus, when I got too warm I just jumped in the pool to cool off!
    Proof that I finally managed to read a book while poolside!
  2. Bike to the beach for breakfast. Pending. (Note: We've walked, hiked and run to the beach for breakfast multiple times since moving here. It's the doing-it-on-a-bike part we need to work on!)
  3. Watch a sunsetYes! Completed previously here. 
  4. Attend a concert-in-the-park. Yes! We've attended two, actually. One was a tribute to U-2, and one was a tribute to No Doubt. They were both terrific, and it was wonderful fun to sit outside listening to music while rubbing shoulders with our new community.
    Gwen Stefani working the crowd.
    OK, OK, not, but the No Doubt tribute band was pretty darn good!
  5. Read three fluff-books. Yes! I finished all three fluff books this month, two cozy mysteries and one current best seller. Loved the cozy mysteries, Tall Tail and Tail Gait, both by the always-entertaining Rita Mae Brown and here trusty feline sidekick, Sneaky Pie Brown. This is a long running series about a mystery solving sleuth named Harry Haristeen who solves mysteries with the assistance of her canine and feline critters. These books are a fun, easy read, and the conversation between the animals are often hysterical in that they poke fun at humans from the perspective of animals.

    Less pleasant was the bestseller The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel. It sounded like an intriguing family drama per the book jacket discription, and it was on my library's Hot Books shelf, so I checked it out in pleasant anticipation. The book was not pleasant at all, as it turned out, instead it was very, very disturbing. I'll just leave it at that.

  6. Make sun tea. Yes! Completed previously here. 
  7. Blow bubbles with my granddaughter. Yes! Completed previously here. 
  8. See fireworks. In Process. We have tickets to a concert and fireworks extravaganza that will occur in September.
  9. Have a picnic at the beach. Pending. I have identified the perfect beach, so now just need to get this onto the calendar.
  10. See a summer blockbuster. Yes! We saw Dunkirk and thought it was absolutely terrific.
  11. Make three new summer cocktails. Pending.
  12. Make three new summer salads. Yes! In addition to the Asian Spinach and Shrimp Salad I reported on during Update #1, I also made a new-to-me Taco Salad and a Warm Spinach Salad with Feta and Pistachios. Both were excellent! I did fiddle a bit with the Taco Salad, subbing in pinto beans for the ground turkey, but it turned out great, so I now have a good vegetarian version as well.

    The Warm Spinach Salad with feta and pistachios was really delicious as well, and unique enough that I am thinking of serving it over the winter holidays as a starter. It's different from anything I've made or tasted before, and I think it's definitely a dish special enough to serve to guests.

  13. Make three new BBQ recipes. Yes! In addition to the Grilled Beef Kabobs with Chile-Lime Rice I reported on during Update #1, I made new BBQ recipe #2, Country Cook's Bacon Burgers with Carmelized Onions and Blue Cheese. Again, neither ATK or Country Cook (same entity), publish free online recipes, but this one is easy peasy. You simple process one strip of bacon per burger in a food processor, then cook the finely processed bacon bits on the stove until just past pink. You then blend the drained bacon into the raw hamburger meat before forming your patties. Save a bit of the bacon grease in order to slow cook some thinly sliced onion, then top your cooked burgers with both the now-carmelized onions and some crumbled blue cheese. They were delicious!

    I also made BBQ recipe #3, America's Test Kitchen Garlic, Herb and Olive Oil Marinated Chicken Kebobs with veggies, and they were equally delicious. The marinade is simply 2/3 cup of olive oil, 1/3 cup mix of your favorite fresh herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, chives or tarragon) and two minced garlic cloves. Drop in about 1 1/2 pounds of kebob-sized chunks of boneless, skinless chicken thigh, then skewer with cut of chunks of red onion, red bell pepper and 1/4 inch slices of green zucchini squash. BBQ till done, about 10 minutes each side. So tender and full of flavor!

  14. Make real-fruit popsiclesYes! Completed previously here 
  15. Lose five pounds. In Process. I lost the first five pounds as part of my Spring Bucket List of Items, primarily due to the stress of the move - I pretty much stop eating when highly stressed. I attribute this next pound that has been lost to the physical labor required to unpack about a gazillion moving boxes! Nicely, however, with our backpacking training underway, the next four should come off as easily/quickly as long as I mind my sugar consumption and continue to eat 'real' food. I can definitely feel the loss of the six pounds already, however, whenever I slip on skinny jeans or shorts - they both fit and look so much better!
  16. Buy three new sundresses. Fail! I did go into TJMaxx to look for sundresses only to discover I'd waited too long, and most of the summer items were being replaced with items for fall. I then got completed sidetracked by serving buffets, and came home with this instead, oops!
  17. Get a pedicure (my first, would you believe?!?).Pending.
  18. Volunteer for a beach-oriented organization. Yes! We are now official trained volunteers for the Dana Point Ocean Institute, and expect to work two 4-hour shifts a month. Such a wonderful, gorgeous, positive place to volunteer! And we even get some perks in spite of being volunteers, like attending lectures, getting invited to several annual volunteer social events, and going out a couple of times a year on one of of the institute's research or whale watching vessels.
  19. Go backpacking. Yes! Even as you are reading this update, we are in the midst of a four day backpack through Point Reyes National Seashore. We'll be sleeping under the stars at three different campgrounds as we make a loop through the southern end of the park. And we should experience the solar eclipse as well in that it will occur on our first day on the trail.
    One of the scenic seashore campgrounds we'll be overnighting in.
  20. Visit one new Farmers Market. Yes! We visited the Dana Point Farmers Market and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. One of the vendors is labeled simply as 'The Fruit Guy' and his stand was packed with folk sampling and purchasing gorgeous summer fruit. We sampled and purchased two enormous, delicious white peaches, and sampled but didn't purchase some amazing Champagne grapes. We still have some grapes in our fridge, so I hesitated to add more to our stash, but the Champagne grapes were truly amazing, so I'll definitely be back! 
My count indicates that so far I have 13 of my 20 items completed, two more in process, one total fail, and four more still pending. I still have a full month of summer to go, so I think I just might get the remaining items checked off this time around!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Rare Catching Up Day

In checking my Google Calendar this morning, today is the only totally clear day I see on my calendar until the middle of October. How and when did that happen, exactly???

We've been in our home for just over a month, and little by little we've been working to improve the house, join clubs and organizations, meet our neighbors, and meet and contract with flooring, painting, window and window covering vendors, which has culminated in our calendar beginning to crowd up. Add in two upcoming trips that are two weeks long each, and suddenly life has gone from seemingly zero to one hundred mph. (I know, I know, when was it ever zero??? But I think you get my drift.)

In some ways it feels like we've been in a period of waiting since moving in here early in July. I think that is largely due to our not being able to fully settle in due to the large amount of work remaining to be done in the house. For every nicety we've put into place since arriving - new plumbing, new plumbing fixtures, new lighting, new sod, new sprinklers, new ceiling fans - there is an equal amount of ugliness still needing to be rectified/replaced - ugly carpet, damaged wood flooring, hideous old single pane windows, sliders and screens, and walls and ceilings that all need to be painted. Today, however, is the last day that I'll have to be bothered by these remaining items, because starting tomorrow we'll simply be too busy to ruminate further.

Here's a little overview of what's coming up in our suddenly busy lives:

Remainder of August
- Installation of three new French door sliders
- Installation of new flooring in all four bathrooms, plus laundry room
- Volunteer training sessions at the Dana Point Ocean Institute, book club meetings, several social events related to our UU congregations, hiking dates with friends and each other, several free concerts in the park, a free Shakespeare in the park production, a return visit to the Laguna Beach Arts Festival, and a visit to the Laguna Beach Sawdust Festival, both free due to having attended the Pageant of the Masters earlier in the month.
- Yoga retreat with my daughter
- Two week RV'ing trip with our best friends that will start with four days of backpacking, then continue on to include visiting and wine tasting our way through the Sonoma/Napa region, and exploring and hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains.

- Continuation of above RV'ing trip, returning home over Labor Day weekend.
- Demolition of all remaining flooring
- Painting of entire interior of house, including closets and cabinetry (excepting kitchen, where cabinetry is newer)
- Installation of remaining windows, approximately 20 in all.
- Installation of new maple hardwood flooring
- Installation of new window treatments - a combination of white 3" shutters, and custom shades, depending. All the non- rear facing windows will be shuttered, all the windows facing our amazing view will get custom roll up shades that will 'disappear' into mounted valence boxes.
- Installation of custom office cabinetry in my husbands home office.
- Delivery of our new living room sofas
- Delivery of my new office furniture.
- Two outdoor concert events, plus the 'usual' assortment of UU services, book clubs, social activities, and club runs.

- Two week trip back to the east coast to see our family and celebrate my granddaughters 3rd birthday.

At that point, in mid-October, the house should be show and company ready, and we have a long list of entertaining invites ready to send out which should carry us right up to and through the winter holidays.

I know it's still only August, but I have to say it feels like 2018 is literally right around the corner, and that it will be here almost before I can blink. As life changing as 2017 has been, I see 2018 as a welcoming return to normal, meaning more travel, more time with family and friends, and less time obsessing over our home!

Plans And Goals For Today
- Return library books, and pick up next month's book club selections.
- Do laundry.
- Reschedule Road Scholar trips (we are changing our two 2018 international trips to two domestic ones, so that we can instead use those funds to redo our backyard, what should be our last remaining major home improvement project.).
- Cancel 2018 New England cruise (see above),
- Plan out days for 2018 RV'ing trip to Utah and Colorado.
- Research companies that do closet organizing builds.
- Update Summer Bucket List blog post.

Make it a great day wherever you are!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Summertime Q & A

Today I'm joining in with some other bloggers via The Blended Blog to answer 23 questions about my summertime likes and loves. Feel free to add your two cents worth in the comments section below!

The Blended Blog Asks:

1. Pool, lake, or ocean? Well I'll bet you can all guess this one . . . clearly it's ocean!

2. Camping, cottage or hotel? Cottage! Yes, we backpack, but if I could roll up to a warm bed and shower each night on the trail, trust me I would!

3. Favorite Ice Cream Flavor? Anything with lots of added stuff - Turtle Pecan Caramel, Peanut Butter Cup, Coconut Chocolate Almond, Caramel Pralines & Cream - you get the drift.

4. PJ's, Nightgown, T-Shirt/Shorts or Birthday Suit? T-shirt/Shorts. I don't know a woman past 50 that can bear PJ's or a nightgown, and my birthday suit hasn't felt quite right since I left my 20's!

5. Fave Summer Beverage? Sun tea!

6. Would you rather be hot or cold. Cold! See #4 above. ;-)

7. Sandals with heels or flats? Sandals with heels. I always feel thinner and sexier when I add a little height!

8. Shorts or skirts? Shorts around the house, because I can bend over without danger(!), but skirts when out and about.

9. Sit in the sun or the shade? The shade, always. See, again, #4 above. ;-)

10. Water, tea or soda? Usually water, sometimes tea, rarely, rarely, like maybe never, soda.

11. Fave summer fruit, vegetable? Fruit: Nectarines. Vegetable: Sweet Corn.

12. Sunrise or sunset? Sunset, because you don't have to get up as early, plus you can watch it with a glass of wine in hand and not get side eye from anyone!

13. Bike ride or walk? Oh, this one is tough because I love both modes, but I'll go with walk because it can be done virtually anywhere without needing anything special beside your feet. Plus, biking clothes are not terribly flattering on most women(!).

14. Winery or brewery? Winery, winery, winery! I mean, we belong to a wine society for goodness sake!

15. Garden or no garden? In my heart of hearts, I'm thinking 'No garden.' Just give me something pretty to look at that doesn't need to be taken care of, please.

16. Big summer concert or music in the park? Music in the park. I dislike big, crowded venues intensely these days. I'll always default to something more intimate given the choice.

17. Fave cookout food? Slow cooked baby back ribs finished on the grill with BBQ sauce. Yum. Mee.

18. Dine indoors or on patio? Patio! This is the view from our backyard, including that little slice of Pacific Ocean to the right, so, yep, we eat out there as often as we possibly can.

19. Fave summer destination? Prior to our move I would have said RV'ing at the ocean. Now that we are here, and can see it daily from our home, I would drill down and say experiencing Pageant of the Masters every summer in Laguna Beach. Always magical in its gorgeous outdoor setting.

20. Big theme park or local carnival? Truthfully, neither, but if my granddaughter were involved, I would select big theme park simply to watch her having fun.

21. Drinks blended or on the rocks? Blended. I do love me a blended strawberry or peach margarita. Or pina colada. Or daiquiri.

22. Popsicle or freezie flavor of choice? Popsicle, preferably from this amazing list I saw posted at a food stand recently:

23. Hot dog or hamburger? Hamburger! Ideally with blue cheese, caramelized onions and a big strip of bacon.

Bonus question: Drive in or movie theater? Drive in! Oh how I miss those bastions of my youth, where I saw Grease, Saturday Night Fever, Urban Cowboy, An Officer And A Gentleman, and so many other summer blockbusters.

Thank you ladies for letting me play along!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Five Things Making Me Happy Today 8/5

We are finding that it's very easy to get caught up in seemingly non-stop home improvements, so this week we made a concerted effort to step away from our hammers and screwdrivers on occasion in order to get out into our wonderful new community and do a little exploring. Good progress was made in both areas as a result I think, even though it sometimes feels like both will be never-ending projects!

So here are five things making me happy right today:

  1. I ran four pain-free miles this morning with my running club. That makes four runs with no shin splint flare ups, and I'm so happy I could just about cry. After a year and a half of being plagued by shin pain in one of my legs, I was beginning to accept that running might be off the table, so to once again be back at it feels amazing. I'm going to resist the urge to go farther, and stay with four mile runs for at least one more month, if not two.
  2. We are going out with friends tonight to dine at a new Burmese restaurant getting lots of buzz from the dining community. I'm excited to see our friends and to sample a new-to-us cuisine, particular in that we visited Myanmar (i.e., Burma) for a few noteworthy hours in 2014, walking across the border and back from the Thailand side.
  3. We had 12 new light fixtures and three new ceiling fans installed this week. We have now eradicated almost every ugly item in the house, aside from flooring and windows, and the house is beginning to feel like a home.
  4. We explored downtown Dana Point a bit and discovered a wonderful Farmers Market, a bike store that organizes weekly club rides, and several intriguing looking local coffee spots.
  5. It was a gorgeous day, so we put the top down on the convertible and went for a ride along the coast, yet again pinching ourselves that we really do live here now, and can do these kind of things whenever we wish. 

This harbor is now a big part of our lives.
We run here, volunteer here, and oftentimes simply hang out and enjoy the boats and birds going by, plus the occasional seal.

Feel free to share here as well about what's making you happy today!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

July In A Sentence A Day

Greetings! Today, and each month going forward, I'm joining in with some other fab bloggers to share how we spent our month in just one sentence per day.

Turns out that the theme for July was settling-in, as we packed up our old house and moved coastal-close to a new home in beautiful Laguna Niguel. After the first few crazy days of working to clear the mountains of cardboard boxes in our new home, we got to work and started venturing out into the surrounding communities in the hope of building a new life sooner rather than later. And increasingly had a lot of fun doing so, which I think is reflected in my sentences below.

(And P.S. - Be sure to scroll to the bottom of this post over the next few days to see who else is participating,
and to visit their blogs for additional July In A Sentence A Day inspiration!)
  1. Did some yardwork at our new home, then changed clothes and drove up the coast a couple of amazingly short miles to Laguna Beach to attend a wine club event at the gorgeous ocean-adjacent home of one of our members.
  2. Attended services at our new UU, then returned to our 'old' home for a farewell pool party one of our neighbors threw for us.
  3. Finalized and recorded the sale of our prior home, big, loud hooray!
  4. Walked to the beach from our new home, enjoying the 4th of July crowds and general holiday craziness once we got there.
  5. Moving Day #1, meaning we pretty much sat around while three brawny guys moved through our home like ants wrapping and packing all of our stuff.
  6. Moving Day #2, meaning we again pretty much sat around waiting to clean while now four brawny guys loaded our aforementioned stuff into not one, but two moving vans(!).
  7. Unpacking, lots and lots and lots of unpacking.
  8. Unpacked all morning, then a very fun evening with our UU group enjoying Broadway singalongs and a Broadway-themed buffet.
  9. Attended services at our new UU congregation then, yeah, furniture shopping!
  10. After sleeping on it, returned to furniture store and bought this yummy sofa, plus two matching chairs, for our family room.
  11. While our home was being re-piped we enjoyed a super fun day walking down to the beach, having lunch at the casual, but wonderful, Pain du Monde, and riding the free Coastal Trolley into Laguna Beach. Cheat sentence: Can't believe we really live in such a wonderful place!!!
  12. Busy, productive day getting our re-piping inspected by city (it passed, yeah!), our sprinklers fixed, a new sprinkler timer installed, and our backyard trimmed up.
  13. First day working out at our new gym, then a return trip to Home Depot for bathroom fixtures.
  14. Our new family room furniture arrived, and it looks great in the room!
  15. Designated driver for hubby at a Scotch and Bourbon tasting event.
  16. UU services in the morning, then trip #101 (or so it seems!) to Home Depot, this time to buy ceiling fans for our four bedrooms.
  17. Unpacked boxes all day, then made bangin' bacon cheeseburgers for dinner . . . so good in that I placed the bacon inside of the burgers before grilling, rather than on top.
  18. Finished unpacking the last cardboard box, hip hip hooray!
  19. First official training hike for our upcoming August backpack through Point Reyes National Seashore, meaning we each carried 15 pounds as starting loads. 
  20. Got a bid to re-grout this rather revolting pinkish grout in our guest bedroom bath to a nice clean white instead, yes, please!
  21. Found a new walking route that afforded lots of opportunities to see the ocean, got interviewed and cleared to become volunteers at the Dana Point Ocean Institute, then finished out the day at our nearby regional park enjoying a U2 tribute band and eating OMG-good The Cut Hand Crafted Burgers.
  22. Joined a new local running club (I'm in the light blue tank and hat) and ran four miles pain free, fingers crossed in that I've been battling shin splints since last January 2016!!!
  23. A gal can only do so much furniture shopping before the brain shuts down!
  24. Lunch date with a girlfriend at our new halfway meeting spot, Javier's Cantina at the Irvine Spectrum, then this new color and cut by my wonderful stylist.
  25. Attended a UU crafters social event in my continued efforts to sink roots and make new connections post-relocation, plus took delivery of five of these fabulous woven chairs, two of which I ordered in counter height for my new kitchen island.
  26. Training hike #2 for our upcoming backpack, with my weight load boosted to 20 pounds, after which we shopped till we dropped for lighting fixtures at Home Depot.
  27. Friends came over to assist with hanging some of the new lighting fixtures, and brought us this absolutely gorgeous bounty of home grown produce, plus homemade jam, which I subsequently shared with some of our neighbors.
  28. An at-home day consisting of a four mile run, followed by hours of work in the garage getting it completely organized, a chore we had both been dreading, but were thrilled to complete.
  29. Another four mile run, this time around Dana Point Harbor with my new running club, (hubby joined us after for coffee, hence why he looks so clean :-)
    then home to make this Old Fashioned Banana Cake for a potluck we're attending tonight, plus a batch of Cookies 'n Cream Ice Cream for a BBQ we're hosting for family on Sunday.
  30. A great day consisting of an early morning fast walk with hubby, a visit from our oldest and dearest friends (who brought these pretty flowers :-), and a BBQ here with our family in the evening.
  31. Longest month ever in that tonight, the last Monday of the month, is when our HOA board meets to review architectural requests, finally giving us a thumbs up to proceed with ordering new double-paned replacement sliders and windows for the entire house, the necessary first step before new flooring can go down.
In comparison to both May and June, July turned out to be a whole lot of fun even as we worked like crazy people to settle in and start fixing up our new home. And already I can see that August is shaping up to be a great combination of home improvements, fun in the sun, and RV travel, so do be sure to check back on September 1 for my update.

Or better yet, join us with your own August In A Sentence A Day!