Wednesday, January 4, 2017

On Chocolate Chips


A rather funky day yesterday, the result of waking up at 3:15 AM for the fourth (fifth? sixth?) day in a row. The early wake ups don't affect my morning routine much, but somewhere around noon I just start crashing. I took two mini-naps over the day yesterday, but managed to stay awake until 8:30 PM thanks to my Tuesday evening Spanish lesson. I use Skype to have weekly one-on-one lesson with my instructor, who is based in Mexico, and aside from the technology that allows me to do so being freaking amazing, I am learning at an acceptable, steadily-forward rate; my brain is no longer young . . . it absorbs new data s l o w l y. Plus the lessons have the added bonus of being stimulating enough to keep me awake for a couple of hours afterward.

It was a good session. I spoke primarily in Spanish, though certainly not without errors, and understood the majority of my instructor's Spanish responses. We covered an error of ongoing confusion - reflexive verbs vs indirect object prounouns vs direct object pronouns. Much work still needed, but a glimmer of understanding is beginning.

Otherwise, my morning workout was great. I did a solid 60 minutes on the stationary bike, finishing 10% of our Book Club read as I did so (e-reader user here - we 'speak' in percentages rather than pages). We're reading Huckleberry Finn, and though I'm not quite the Mark Twain fan I was before reading his agonizingly-longwinded autobiography, Roughing It, I am actually much enjoying this delightful book, long regarded as one of the great American novels along with F.Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. In that Huckleberry Finn is chock full of troubling racial stereotypes in addition to terrific storytelling, I'm anticipating a robust discussion when the club meets in a couple of weeks.

I also started on another book, The Third Reconstruction by the Reverand Dr. William J Barber II. I picked this book up at the Unitarian Congregation (UC) service we attended this past Sunday. The book jacket gives a subdescription of the title as being about a 21st Century moral movement to overcome the politics of division and fear. In that I both personally, and via my book club, have read a good number of fiction and non-fiction books about slavery and black suppression in the USA, I'm intrigued and looking forward to the ensuing discussion that will be conducted by the UC in February.

Oh, and I stumbled across a crazy deal at the supermarket - 10 oz bags of Hershey's baking chips marked down to 25 cents. So I bought $6.00 worth, and now have 24 bags of them stacked in my pantry. Can you say 'obsessive?' I do plan to give more than a few of them away to family and friends though, so there's that.

Plans and Goals for Today
Menu planning.
Move New England Cruise from 2017 to 2018.
Meet with landscaper.
Walk 8 miles with my husband.
Lunch together somewhere fast casual afterward.
Grocery Shopping.
Begin Spring trip planning.
Finish ironing.
Attend Line Dancing Class.
Read Book Club & Upcoming UC Lecture selections.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Our Curtailed 2017 Travel Plans

Just some of the places we visited in 2016
As I indicated in yesterday's post, our travel plans for 2017 reflect a significantly smaller budget than we had in 2016. The reason for the offset is to direct additional funds toward a series of remodeling jobs we have lined up - more new hardware flooring, new carpeting, new office build, new guest bath vanity, new window coverings in our family room, and a total remodel of our backyard. We'll also be purchasing patio furniture and a gas fire pit for our new front yard patio, and having one of our two offices stripped of wallpaper and repainted. Once this is all completed by late March, we look forward to doing a lot of entertaining.

In looking at what we've got plotted out already for 2017, I'm satisfied that we will get a considerable amount of bang for our reduced travel bucks. Here's what has been planned to date:

January
Palm Springs International Film Festival (9 days) - RV Park accommodations
Home overseeing remodeling remainder of the month

February
Home overseeing remodeling

March
Home overseeing remodeling

April
Tour of the South (30 days) - VRBO rental in Kiawah Island, South Carolina with the family, then a series of VRBO's visiting Charleston, SC, Wilmington, NC, Richmond, VA, and Fredericksburg, VA, before heading back to our daughter and SIL's to spend another few days with them and our granddaughter before returning home.

May
Coastal California and Wine Country (14 days) - RV Park and State Park accommodations

June
Host my father for a week in our 'new' home

July
Virginia to spend a week with our granddaughter
Mammoth Lakes (7 days) - RV Park accommodations

August/September
Southern California and Wine Country (10 days) - RV Park and State Park accommodations
Northern California and Wine Country, plus backpacking (21 days) - RV Park and State Park accommodations

October
Tour of the Northeast (30 days) - We'll first visit our our granddaughter in Virginia, then head off to Shenandoah National Park, followed by Gettysburg, the Amish Country, and Philadelphia before circling back to Virginia to see our granddaughter again before returning home.

November
Texas for family Thanksgiving (7 days)

December
Virginia for family Christmas (7 days)

So even with our curtailed 2017 Travel funding, we're still looking at a minimum of 140 travel days, which should be more than enough to keep this travel addict satisfied. Come 2018 we expect to be back to our more normal pace of six months traveling/six months home that we've maintained since retiring six years ago. Already plotted out are trips to Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific, a fall cruise to New England and Canada, and a long RV trip through Utah and Colorado. I'm looking forward to the process of planning all of these out well in advance of their arrival, another project that should help placate my ongoing travel-itch.

Plans and Goals for Today
Visit gym for biking and strength training.
Eat consciously.
Meet with backyard landscaper.
Purchase State Park Annual Pass as gifted to our oldest daughter for Christmas (by waiting until today, it will give her an additional 30 days into 2018 'free').
Complete Spanish homework for tonight's tutorial(!)
Cancel currently scheduled fall cruise to New England (opted instead for additional new flooring :-)
Begin planning upcoming spring travel.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Day After New Years


There is a long standing tradition that the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl are never held on New Years Day Sunday, and since that's what yesterday was, we are watching both today, Monday. It's been nice to spread the holiday over a full three days this year - NYE party, NY Day Brunch, and now a Day-after visit from our oldest daughter to watch the Rose Parade and Bowl while enjoying lots of good food. I made waffles and eggs for breakfast, we ate leftover ham and potato au gratin for lunch, and dinner is Slow cooker short rib goulash, which will hopefully taste as good as it is now smelling. Seriously divine aroma currently emanating from the kitchen.

Photo of short rib goulash with butternut squash.
Credit: Better Homes & Garden
Otherwise, today is going to be pretty laid back. I'm avoiding my house at the moment, vs the puttering around dusting and re-arranging I normally engage in, in that we have another round of upheaval scheduled to begin in a two weeks when the existing older hardwood floors are removed and replaced with hardwood that exactly matches the new wood. The minute the stain went on the old wood, as we attempted to do a matching refinish to the new wood, I knew I wasn't going to be able to live with it. I suffered through a day of trying to reconcile myself with the different hues, given we'd just paid $2,000 to get them redone, but ultimately decided that life is too short not to love my home. Instead I spent a morning fiddling around with our 2017 Budget and ending up deciding to reduce our 2017 Travel budget by an amount equal to the cost of the additional flooring, which really wasn't too big of a sacrifice given that we're still recovering from all of the international traveling we did last year. We'll still travel a good chunk of 2017, but it will be more car-RV-family than air-hotel-tour.

I feel very thankful to have the resources we do to maintain and upgrade our home.

It was so nice to spend time with my neighbors yesterday. Most of us met when our children were in elementary school, and now many of us are grandparents. Time is passing, yet often it's only when I notice other people aging that it hits me. And I wonder, do they think the same about me? Likely they do, of course.

And I should add that while I didn't add 'Lose 10 pounds' to my list of resolutions for 2017, it's there in my mind nonetheless. These are strictly vanity pounds, as my BMI is a healthy 23.0 based on my current gender/weight/height data. However, I simply feel better in my clothes when I'm in the high teen's/low 20's vs my current weight of 130. Trying hard not to obsess about it, but rather to simply lean in and focus on daily exercise and healthy eating. I find that if I keep processed sugar at arm's length, everything else seems to fall into place, so I'm optimistic that this will be the year getting back to 120 'takes.'

Plans and Goals for Today
Eat consciously.
Research drapery options for famiy room.
Work on Spanish during Rose Bowl.
Enjoy day with daughter, and practice unconditional love while doing so.
Quick 20 minute yoga session in PM, after Rose Bowl.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

My Word for 2017


Back at the beginning of 2016 I selected the word "Seek" as my inspiration for the year. I could feel myself shrinking back from life just a bit as a result of the mid-life physical changes my body was going through, and I wanted to push back out into the world by seeking new adventures and opportunities. Based on yesterday's post, I think I did a pretty good job, so I'm giving myself an 'A' for 2016.

This year, a bit in line with where I was at the beginning of 2016, my word for 2017 is Renew. Mid-life is here, my body and energy levels are changing, and now more than ever I need to nurture myself and make kind choices to ensure this next chapter of life is as vibrant as the first half has been. So this year I will be making choices to Renew my life. I received a gift card from my dear husband for a nearby Yoga studio, and that will make for a terrific start to the year. And I will be committing to doing strength training after a five-year hiatus. With the cardio well covered already, adding stretching and strength training will be renewing gifts to myself.

I will also make an effort to renew old friendships, as well as to continue to invest in those currently going strong. As I get older and I see people begin to pass away, as my children get older and continue to build vibrant lives that don't always center around Mom and Dad, and as my granddaughter hits her whirlwind two's and three's, now is the time to invest as much energy as I possibly can in all three elements.

And finally, I want to renew the spiritual side of my life. While I do have certain books that tap into that side of my life, I woke up a few weeks back wanting to find a community of others to journey with. The challenge is to find the right kind of group - one that is all inclusive, and that recognizes there are many paths toward enlightenment, not just one. So, based on a speaker I heard some years back at our Lifelong Learning Program, my husband and I will be attending services for the first time this morning at a Unitarian Congregation in our community. I've no idea what to expect, so I think I'm approaching this with as open a mind as possible.

Plans and Goals for Today
Start laundry.
Clean microwave.
Do 45 minutes of cycling at the gym.
Attend Unitarian services.
Prepare potato au gratin dish for a New Years Day brunch we're attending.
Come to the above brunch with an open and kind heart.
Make Parmesan minestrone soup and watch the Green Bay Packers football game via Sling when we return.
Set come up to cancel Sling, since we'll be watching the above game via their 14-day free trial.
Work on Spanish homework during football game.