The Happiness Tag

This morning I found that I’d be given The Happiness Tag by a favorite fellow blogger, Becky Ellis at beckysbubblesblog.wordpress.com – here’s the link: https://beckysbubblesblog.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/the-happiness-tag/

Becky’s blog encompasses information about my favorite bubbly adult beverages and frequently pairs them with amazing recipes; I hope you’ll check her out!

To accept The Happiness Tag:

  • 5  Things that Make Me Happy
  • 5  Songs that Make Me Happy
  • 5  Bloggers who Make Me Happy and Notify those Bloggers

5 Things that Make Me Happy

Being married to my soulmate.  Spence and I spent 18 years together before making it legal. As we approach our 7th wedding anniversary in a few weeks, I’m grateful knowing how lucky we are to have found each other and made this life together.

Being Cat Mom to Tipper and Biscotti.  Our two kitties were born in our back yard. Once they’d made eye contact with us we had to make them a part of our lives. Seven years later and each day they show me love with snugggles, purrs and playfulness.

When they were kittens…

Cooking. If you’ve followed my blog you could have predicted that it would make the list. There is something soothing and zen that happens to me during the creative process of preparing delicious food.  Learning new techniques, trying out recipes, tantalizing aromas filling our home and of course, sharing the meals with others who enjoy them all equal happy to me.

My garden.  In the first warm days of Spring, my hands start itching for contact with the dirt and with each week that passes, I’m in some stage of planting, pruning, gathering blooms and herbs, weeding and photographing it. Since retiring I’m able to spend more time enjoying it, stopping to smell the roses.

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Travel.  A goal of mine since retiring two years ago was to travel with Spence as much as possible. Our travel is comprised of new destinations and returning to places we love.  I have chronicled many of our trips in my blog and hope to share many more!

5 Songs that Make Me Happy

  1. Uptown Funk – Bruno Mars – no matter how many times I hear it I can’t resist the urge to break into dance. Every.Single.Time.
  2. Locomotive Breath – Jethro Tull – a throwback to my teenage years, this has remained a classic rock favorite that never loses it luster for me. The beat, the lyrics, the imagery plus the power to transport me back in time, simply brilliant.
  3. September – Earth, Wind & Fire – doesn’t this song make everyone happy? I defy you not to smile and stay in your seat.
  4. God Only Knows – The Beach Boys – one of the greatest songs about love. Ever.
  5. Sweet Caroline – Neil Diamond – so many great memories of this song, seeing Neil Diamond perform it when I was a teen, singing and dancing along to it in the ensuing years at numerous parties with great friends.

5 Blogs that Make Me Happy

tastingeverything.com – Chef Anne is not only responsible for creating healthy, delicious recipes but her food photography is unequaled.  She plates like an artist and I only wish she was in Michigan so that I could try her food.

storyshucker.wordpress.com – Stuart M. Perkins has a writing style that is honest, touching and his stories make me slow down to savor each word.

badcatchris.com – This blog may have begun with Chris, The Baddest Cat You’ll Ever Love (and he looks like my Biscotti) but he shares this blog with his siblings including recently adopted and adorable kitten, Floki.  Cat lovers, this blog is one you need to check out.

https://purrseidon.wordpress.com – Purrseidon is the star of this blog and is a cat. A cat who a fearless lover of water and a water sports enthusiast. But more than that, many posts written to Purrseidon’s “Furiends”  feature stories of siblings, selfies and everything that is good, informative and helpful for cat moms and dads.  “Purr-fectly fun”!

lovingleisuretime.wordpress.com – Frances is a breath of fresh air, pairing beautifully photographed flowers with perfect quotes and sharing delicious recipes.  Retired since 2013 her posts are like a welcome visit with that friend that truly “gets” you. Simpatico.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perfectly Beautiful Saturday

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With the first of our three day Fourth of July weekend, the weather here in Michigan couldn’t be any more perfect.  In fact ever since Wednesday this week it has been gorgeous including cooler nights and even a pretty solid and much needed rainfall in the wee hours Friday.

Spence and I choose to stay home on holiday weekends as the majority of the state heads “up north”.  The Great Lakes State, Michigan has much to offer the farther north you travel and it’s stunning.  However, there’s also traffic, construction and people pulling boats, jetskis and various other toys.  We’re retired and can travel anytime plus when everybody else leaves town, it’s quiet and laid back.

With a soft breeze, brilliant blue sky and fluffy white clouds drfting above us we’re enjoying the garden.  I picked the first 5 raspberries earlier, eating them right off the bush, like a bite of warm raspberry pie. In a bit, Spence will fire up the grill and I’ll open a bottle of wine and we’ll be chillin’.

Indeed, it’s a perfectly beautiful Saturday.

 

 

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part fifteen

On our October 2015 trip to Aruba, the spa at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts was undergoing renovation.  As we prepared for our trip in May, I perused the menu of services offered by their new Purun Spa.

At check-in, we were given a welcome packet including a discount on spa service. I reached out to Nicole in Guest Services/Concierge and set an appointment for a Purun Happy Island Massage.

Purun Happy Island Massage (Swedish w/ Hot stone):

A gentle stream of warm oil escapes the marble of Purun and reaches the center of energy of the body, followed by a hand and feet massage ending up in neck and face. This truly unique experience calms the nervous system by uniting mind and body.

 

I was ready for some pampering after a long day dragging around our carry-on luggage and being crammed into always-too-small seats on the plane.

After my arrival and check-in I was offered fruit-infused water or ginger tea; I opted for ginger tea – my personal favorite.

My massage therapist was Margarita who was just lovely and her Purun Happy Island Massage left me completely relaxed.

As I was checking out, I was given another discount on services if used before the end of our trip.  Not that I needed any incentive but I booked a facial for the following week on my birthday!

 

Purun Sensation Facial:

Experience a pleasant feeling with our facial of essences that will give you a fresh face that is smooth and toxin-free. This treatment helps to protect the skin from the elements of the environment such as stress and dehydration giving you purification, softness, and anti-aging hydration.

Once again, I had Margarita who gave me a relaxing and amazing facial.  My skin was so soft and hydrated that I think I left looking a few years younger than when I went in.

Needless to say, I would highly recommend the services at Purun Spa and plan to go back on our next trip (God willing) to Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort.

 

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part fourteen

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At Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, there is a very special, fine dining restaurant called Carte Blanche.  Seating only 14 guests per evening, the reservations must be made well in advance and re-confirmed 24 hours prior to dining.  We were celebrating my 60th birthday on this trip and I’m such a foodie that when I was able to secure reservations, I did so.

Promptly at 7:00 p.m., the doors open and the guests are ushered in.

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Hector puts the finishing touches in place as rose petals added to the romantic ambiance

Just a coincidence, when we sat down at the semi-circle, granite topped dining area, I’d chosen seats where the chef would be prepping and cooking right in front of us. Once we were seated Dennis and Glen, our chef, introduced themselves. Dennis would handle the adult beverages, offering a wine pairing with each of the chef’s special courses to come though diners could have anything they preferred. If you’ve visited this blog before, you may have guessed that we chose the wine pairing. Since we’d all be together for the next few hours they asked that we introduce ourselves, where we were from and if we were celebrating anything special.  Not surprisingly, we had anniversaries, newlyweds and birthdays.

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While Glen took drink orders, everyone had a glass of Prosecco (my favorite)  while we got a chance to talk with other guests, anticipating Glen’s first creation.

The Amuse Bouche was Grouper Ceviche, one of my favorite things in the world.  Dennis paired the Ceviche with a Reisling from Germany, Spence’s favorite wine.

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Absolutely delicious and such a refreshing start to the evening.

Glen prepared the appetizer next and to my delight it was a Seared Sea Scallop, wrapped in bacon and served over a Dutch-style potato salad with basil, capers, micro-greens, a dollop of creme fraiche, salsa verde and baby spinach.  Dennis paired this with a lovely Vin D’Alsace, French Pinot Gris.

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Presentation was perfection and the flavors were heavenly.

The next course featured white aspargus, finely chopped hard-boiled egg with ham and a white wine hollandaise with minced parsley and chives served with a Gruner Veltliner Terrassen, an Austrian white wine – perfect!

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Too pretty to eat (but I did)

Glen’s next creation was Red Snapper, Shrimp and Fennel with Carrot and Micro Mustard Greens plated over a Lobster Bisque cream sauce; Dennis paired this with Stag’s Leap Chardonnay.

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Seriously delicious!

Next up I saw the most succulent lollipop lamb chops that Glen was prepping.

The lamb chops were served with eggplant and basil roasted with tomatoes and spinach and paired with Malbec.

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What can I say?  Wow!

Around this time, Spence was nodding off a bit and I glanced at my watch – it was 10:30 and Glen was telling us that dessert was either a cheesecake or a chocolate choice, recommending we each try one and share.  As delicious as we knew they’d be, we were so stuffed, we opted to skip dessert and that last glass of wine.

All in all, a fabulous evening and a meal I won’t soon forget.

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part thirteen

While it isn’t necessary to have a rental car in Aruba, we decided to get one again on this trip.  Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort is in the “Low-Rise Hotels” area.  We love that because there are numerous nice properties – hotels, all-inclusives, restaurants, wine bars, shops, spas, a market and Alhambra Casino, all in walking distance. There are lots of sites to see in Aruba that don’t require tours or a guide. It’s fun to visit the High-Rise Hotel area (much busier and built up) with big hotels, restaurants and clubs, shopping – from kiosk to high-end retail and jewelers as well as numerous casinos and every type of water sport, if that’s your thing. We found it convenient to hop in our car and head out to explore.

One day as we were heading back, suddenly traffic was at a standstill. There must have been several dozen adult and 8-10 baby goats running across the road.  I couldn’t believe my eyes (not something I see in Michigan). I immediatlely pulled over to take photos.  Since my lifelong BFF and I have a running bit about our wanting to have baby goats as pets, I was excited to see them while also worried about them being in harm’s way.  No need to fear, it was apparently a common occurrence and everyone simply stopped to let them cross.

So that was fun!  Another day we drove out to the California Lighthouse which is a fun place for a cold adult beverage and photo opportunities as you are at a higher altitude, overlooking the oceans and High-Rise Hotels. (see my 2015 post for more about the California Lighthouse by following this link)

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From the beach, looking up at the bar/restaurant, La Trattoria El Faro Blanco and the California Lighthouse.

The views from the California Lighthouse

As we drove back, there were little cut-offs where the locals enjoy small beaches.  We pulled off and took a few more pictures.

Stay tuned, more to come on “Travels in Aruba 2016”

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part twelve

Using Trip Advisor as a resource led Spence and I to the highly-rated restaurant, Madam Janette.  Having made reservations as suggested, we hopped in our rental car and drove a few miles to find this gem of a place, tucked into a residential area.  With lots of cars in the parking lot and tantalizing aromas emanating, we knew we’d chosen well.

With indoor and outdoor (covered) seating, Madam Janette can seat many diners. As we were led to our table (we chose outside) there are many little enclaves of seating which make Madam Janette’s feel intimate and romantic.

We had a team of servers who were on top of everything.  The menu is extensive and the food coming out of the kitchen looked and smelled delicious. We both chose the Almond Grouper, topped with a creamy spinach bernaise type sauce and served with Madam Janette’s Potato Gratin. It’s considered their house specialty and rightfully so.  It was one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had, so flavorful and expertly prepared.  I’ve dreamt of it every since!

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I hope you’re enjoying “Travels in Aruba 2016” – there’s more to come. If Aruba is in your travel plans or on your bucket list, check out my October 2015 series, “Travel in Aruba” as well.  

 

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part eleven

This visit to Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, I noticed something new was being offered to guests, a Driftwood Workshop.  Each Sunday during happy hour at the Sand Bar, they feature local artisans which is always fun. It’s where I met Maria Onni, who teaches the driftwood painting class.  One look at her work, you are enchanted and want to try your hand….I signed up the following day for the next class.

Maria is one of those artists who has natural talent and loves to repurpose driftwood, sea glass and other found items. Check out some of her creations:

I arrived for the class, set up in the Tara Lounge and learned it would be just one of the Bucuti and Tara Resort staff and myself for this class.  To my delight, it was Nicole (who I’ve enjoyed getting to know on both of our visits), who was the other student.  I loved the one on one attention Maria was able to give us as we learned how to work with molding clay (making eyes, noses and mouths) and mixing the acrylic paints as we fashioned our driftwood creations.  We each made two works of art and it was such a fun way to spend an afternoon.  Both Maria and Nicole are interesting and lovely, young women who I was fortunate to get to know over the two hours we spent together.  I would take this class again if offered on my next trip and would recommend it to anyone visiting Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort.  A truly fun day to be sure and special memories of this vacation!

Maria Onni sells her works of art in a kiosk in the highrise hotel area (across from Playa Linda) as well as teaching these classes.  She is so talented, if you are in Aruba, check her out!

 

 

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part ten

As mentioned, this visit to Aruba was planned in large part to celebrate my 60th birthday.  Heading down that morning for breakfast, I told Spence I’d like to start my day with a mimosa.  Martin, who greeted and seated us each day said he’d take care of that request.

We proceeded to fill our plates from the phenomenal buffet (see part six of this series for more about our daily breakfasts at Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort).  I’d just finished my first plate of goodies when I saw Martin approaching with my mimosa, followed by Oriana and Sali, singing “Happy Birthday” and bringing me this delicious surprise:

I learned from Sali that Nakarid, who we saw most mornings, had the day off but had asked Sali to prepare this for me in her absence. It was so thoughtful and I got a number of heartfelt hugs as well.

Later that day…

We think Bucuti’s own Elements Restaurant is the best in Aruba so when Spence asked where I’d like to have my birthday dinner, it was my first choice!

Yolanda, our server, was so accomodating and our meals were perfection. She took the picture of us below.

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OMG – I can’t even describe this soup. I’d wanted to try it since our last trip here. Amazing!

On to the entrees:

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My choice, the duck!
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Cooked to perfection.
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Spence had Gnocchi with Roasted Vegetables – yum!

As we toasted and enjoyed a leisurely dinner, the sunset was spectacular.

What a way to celebrate my birthday, from beginning to end.

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part nine

FullSizeRender 314At Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort in Aruba, the immaculate sugar-sand beach is expansive.  While taking in the beauty of the ocean, walking on the beach is a source of exercise and discovery. Here are a few of my discoveries:

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Barriers are set up along beaches everywhere in Aruba, protecting sea turtle nests
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Though we weren’t there for any hatchings, we were fascinated and impressed by the commitment that Aruba has for protecting sea turtles.
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This tiny crab didn’t make it but I wasn’t sure until I got very close to him. 
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A little blossom, right along the water line had traveled some distance courtesy of the tradewinds.

I’m always looking for what I call “hearts in nature” and this trip, found this piece of coral that was shaped like a heart, a lovely discovery.

I hope you’re enjoying “Travels in Aruba 2016” – there’s much more to come.  If you’re even thinking about a trip to Aruba, check out my earlier series, under Categories, called “Travels in Aruba”.