Never say die…

I had great success this year in growing jalapeño, shishito and cubanelle peppers in pots on my deck. When the first freeze was forecasted a few days ago I looked at the number of jalapeños still growing and decided to bring that pot inside. Today, in spite of several frosts, I noticed that the pot with my shishitos not only still has peppers growing but is flowering. With that “never say die” spirit, I brought that pot in as well. Though I don’t imagine they’ll fare well for too long, I’ll enjoy every bonus pepper that I get!

 

Another week of delicious meals from HelloFresh…

When I received my box on Tuesday this week I was disappointed to see that the two entrees I received were not the ones I selected. The good news was two-fold 1) the ones they sent were meals that looked delicious and 2) when I called, they immediately applied a credit to my next order. I offered to send photos and it was not necessary. An email arrived within minutes apologizing and documenting their resolution. I couldn’t ask for more.

Especially now that I’ve had both meals – absolutely loved them.

The first one I fixed the day I got the box. Although I’ve enjoyed some pretty spectacular burgers in my lifetime, it would be easy to say this might have been the best one ever.

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The Melty Monterey Jack Burger with Red Onion Jam and Breaded Zucchini. Seriously. This burger rocked my world.

Tonight I fixed the Sweet as Honey Chicken with Green Beans and Jasmine Rice. And again, I had a meal that was delicious and flavorful but also it was one of two 540 calorie meals that were offered for this week which was a nice benefit (others being higher in calories but still balanced and healthy). If I’d had this in a restaurant I would have sent my regards to the chef. As it was, I patted myself on the back.

So far, I’m a fan of HelloFresh and with each new box, I feel certain that my positive experiences will continue.

This blog represents my opinions and enthusiasm but no compensation from HelloFresh. From inception I didn’t want to have advertisements on my blog, (no judgements) simply my preference.

PrivateFly, a truly exceptional company

On February 8th, life took a serious turn. An emergency room nurse called to tell me Spence had been brought to a hospital in Ft Lauderdale where he’d been visiting his BFF for a month. I flew to Florida the next afternoon arriving at 1:00 a.m. February 10th. Little did I know how long we’d be there. As days passed, it became clear I had to get us back to Michigan. I googled “private plane charter” from my iPhone. True of any Google search, the choices were endless but my need was immediate. I chose the first option that appeared. That option was PrivateFly and I believe divine intervention led me to these angels.

Valentine’s Day was my first call to PrivateFly. I connected with Denison, explaining our situation learning he was even based in Fort Lauderdale.  A worldwide company, PrivateFly is world class in every aspect – professional, hardworking and compassionate people that made me feel they cared. When I knew Spence would be discharged Saturday 2/18, it was late afternoon. I feared given the weekend and President’s Day that we wouldn’t be able to  seriously begin the process of putting a flight back to Flint together until Tuesday.

That’s when PrivateFly surprised me as they worked on our behalf 24/7 – all weekend! Denison, Marion, Pierre (who’s based in London) and Jeremiah answered my calls on the first ring, updating me by phone and email as they searched for the right plane and best bid. By Sunday evening, they’d found our flight. In short order I was printing contracts on my hotel’s printer, faxing them back, finalizing everything by 10:30 p.m..  Marion was in constant contact that night, even arranging pickup from our hotel to the tarmac (in a brand new black Town Car no less).  Our flight on Tuesday morning was stress free and pure bliss. Capping a wretchedly stressful thirteen days, these wonderful folks at PrivateFly put smiles on our faces. Denison even came to the airport to meet us. The flight lasted two hours and thirty two minutes from wheels up to wheels down, bringing Spence and I safely home in total comfort, seven newspapers, fluffy blanket included.  With lovely gifts from PrivateFly and refreshments including a delicious fruit and dip platter, we’ve completed another item on our bucket list though not in the way we could have imagined.

Needing to get home quickly under crisis circumstances may not have made us PrivateFly’s typical clients.  I rarely write endorsements on products or companies as you know if you’ve followed this blog.  In a world where we’ve become accustomed to low expectations, I felt compelled to share our experience with PrivateFly.  Every expectation was not just met but exceeded and I’ll be forever grateful for them.

Here’s a slideshow documenting the day we finally flew home to Michigan:

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Safety instructions for our Lear Jet 

 

 

 

 

 

Only in Japan: Hedgehog Cafe

This is fascinating to me and had to share this post from a blogger I follow.

TRAVELLING THE WORLD SOLO

Japan is well known for having a pretty big obsession with any and all animals that are even remotely cute. In Tokyo, Cat Cafes and Rabbit Cafes have become incredibly popular spots for locals and tourists alike. These cafes offer people the chance to interact with beautiful animals in a cute little cafe setting.

However, Tokyo is the kind of place where things just keep becoming more and more experimental. So it isn’t all that surprising that after not too long, cat and bunny cafes became kinda normal and people were looking for new ways to spice up the animal cafe business.

Enter the new kid on the block – Harry’s Cafe.

A hedgehog cafe.

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Yup – your eyes are not deceiving you – that is a teeny tiny hedgie!

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Harry’s Cafe is located a short one-minute walk from Roppongi Station in Tokyo. If you are trying to get…

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Girl’s Day Project – Bath Products

If you’ve followed this blog, you may recall my five part DIY Bath Products series from late 2015 when I made them for gifts – and for myself. Throughout the year – typically on rainy/snowy days, I’d haul out my supplies and expand my bath products repertoire and inventory.  Working with essential oils is not only fun but the house smells pretty amazing.

My lifelong BFF and I had discussed doing a Girl’s Day of making bath products for the last several months.  To her credit, she set the date and a plan to make: 1) room and body sprays 2) foaming liquid soaps 3) facial sugar scrubs and 4) foaming bath salt scrubs. The coldest day of the year thus far with bursts of snow and wind, it was a good day to be indoors  Shortly before I arrived, she’d texted me a “how about some homemade soup?” to which I quickly replied “Yes!”.

After a very satisfying and delicious lunch (completed with veggies, dill dip and Pinot Noir) we set to work.  Since the wine was opened, we felt it would be wasteful not to finish it off.  This served to enhance our creativity (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it).  When you’ve been friends since you were two years old there’s a history of hilarity, silliness and laughing till you’re crying (or snorting) that is tapped into. For several hours, we embraced our zaniness as we worked on our fragrant endeavors, measuring and blending away like we were chemists. Or stand-up comics.  Or both.

Dont’be fooled, the gin is an ingredient for the products….
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Fun with funnels……

 

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My products

 

The Joy of Discovery…at the grocery store

Earlier this year Spence and I traveled back to Aruba. Unlike our prior visit, this time the endless breakfast buffet included the elusive dragonfruit.

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The splendor of Passion and Dragon Fruits enjoyed each morning – bliss!

I’m obsessed with the Food Network and have seen dragon fruit pop up now and again yet had never encountered it in the flesh (a little fruit pun, couldn’t help myself).  After gorging on it during our trip, I feared I might not see it again for a long time. Upon returning in June, I stalked the produce departments of every grocery and specialty food store in a one hour radius; not one to be found.  I gave up and moved on.

Not unlike finding a good man, the minute I stopped looking – there is was!  Fat magenta beauties with just enough “give” when softly pressed to make me certain that they were ripe.  I bought three (though I considered buying all of them).

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I was giddy with my discovery. I called Spence from the parking lot. Not home. I called Mom exclaiming “I’ve found dragon fruit!”  She was happy for me (what can you say when someone is that excited about a piece of fruit, right?)

These were perfectly ripe, creamy and refreshing, a cross between kiwi and pear in flavor.  They are simply beautiful – and a whole dragon fruit is zero points per Weight Watchers!!  What??? As if I needed more reason to love them.

I’ve since learned that dragon fruit is a type of cactus and comes in three colors – 2 shades of pink and the other yellow.  They are a good source of Vitamin C, phosphorus, calcium, fiber and antioxidants.

The grocery tag on those I purchased says USA though they are mostly grown in Southeast Asia, Mexico, Central and South America and Israel.

Here is a mouth-watering dragon fruit collage for your viewing enjoyment with photos culled from Pinterest!

 

 

 

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!

 

 

59 Candles, 59 Things – part forty

Forty eighth thing – On my latest entry about things that make me happy, I have to share one of my new favorite things – Skechers!

You might be thinking, hmmm really? Are you running out of things?

My sister has praised Skechers for some time and while we were away for a recent girls weekend, I’d commented on a pair she was wearing.  We talked about the pain I have in my toes – so much so that I can hardly bear to wear closed toe shoes, live in UGG’s all winter and then my Merrell sandals and flipflops in summer.  I even bought a pair of seamless socks this winter, made for folks with diabetic nerve pain.  I have one pair of tennies that I can wear but they are getting a bit old and beat up. I knew the time had come to try Skechers.

I went to Amazon, my go-to shopping addiction, where I’m a PRIME member.  This gets me 2 day delivery, free shipping/free returns and great prices.  Wearing a size 11 makes it challenging to walk into a retail store so from the comfort of my living room, I scrolled through the selection and read reviews.  I settled on two pair and placed my order.

Straight away, I thought they were super cute, light-weight and tried them on.

“Oh no” I cried “This is NOT comfortable!”  Then I found a piece of cardboard packing in the toe……

After that, it was heaven.  I loved both pairs and wore them around all evening.  It may seem silly or as though I’m exaggerating but if you’ve never had terrible shoe-related pain, you can’t imagine my bliss.

I’ve been breaking in my first pair over the last two days and have been complimented more than a few times.  Which also makes me happy!

And pair number two, waiting for their first day in the sun!

 

This series, “59 Candles, 59 Things” was started on my 59th birthday to reflect on those things that make me happy! Spence keeps reminding me that May 12 is now less than one month away and I need to stay on track…..for more entries, check “59 Things” under categories.  And let me know, what makes you happy!

 

59 Candles, 59 Things – part thirty nine

Forty seventh thing: The next entry in this series of things that make me happy is new experiences.  Since retiring, I have had a number of new experiences that have enriched my life, making my new “normal” exciting.

Some experiences, such as taking guitar lessons (a life-long dream) turned out differently than I’d imagined.  It was hard – awkward, painful and clearly not for me.  Others, blogging, yoga, meditation, writing, culinary knife skills – I truly enjoy.

This past weekend, I attended my first opera, “Orpheus and Eurydice”produced by the Opera Grand Rapids. Loving music, theater and dance, I was intrigued and was sure it would be great.  In truth, it was more than I could have imagined, it was magical.

Photos courtesy of Opera Grand Rapids Facebook page

Due to my unfamiliarity with this story I sought out a synopsis via Wikipedia, finding that it is comes from mythology, a subject I’d loved in high school.  The story is compelling, a love so great that after his wife Eurydice dies tragically, Orpheus travels into Hell to bring her back.

The staging was set in modern day, simple yet dramatic and very effective. There were three leads, dancers and a chorus, a small cast I learned (compared to grand operas).  The orchestra (while not visible from the pit) was amazing as was the haunting music.  There was a screen along the top of the stage which supplied translation of the lyrics making the story easier to follow.

“Orpheus and Eurydice” was fascinating and performed beautifully – the singing and acting conveying a deeply moving love story.

I’m so grateful to my dear friend for sharing her love of opera with me.  It was the highlight of an absolutely stellar girl’s weekend and a new experience that I’ll never forget.

Photos courtesy of Opera Grand Rapids Facebook page

For more on this series, “59 Candles, 59 Things” just click on 59 Things under categories.

59 Candles, 59 Things – part thirty three

Forty first thing: The next thing that makes me happy is one that I wouldn’t imagine being on the list when I started this series on my 59th birthday last May.

Weight Watchers makes me happy. 

On December 28th, when Oprah spoke to me (and millions of others) I heard her message “if not now when?” and it resonated.  Loving to cook and eat with the additional freedom to travel since retiring 2 years ago, I’ve seen the number on my scale inch upwards.  I was having so much fun that I’d become complacent. With 2016 on the horizon, I got online and signed up that evening.

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True that….
My expectations were that the first 5-10 lbs would come off with mindful eating and more movement – and that happened.  What surprised me is that I’ve lost 19 lbs in just two months while enjoying food. In fact if I’d been a bit more disciplined with choices when dining out and traveling, I’d have lost more by now.  Part of my success has to do with not depriving myself by having foods I love but in moderation and the other part is being more active.

Purchasing my FitBit has been integral to my acceptance that I’ve been living like a sloth.

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No offense intended, I once held a baby sloth in Costa Rica and it was adorable.
Accepting that I can’t change my past, I’m now tracking every step via the FitBit which syncs to my WW and FitBit apps on my iphone and MACBook.  It also means that if I’m running behind on my daily goal by bedtime, I fire up my ipod to a couple of my favorite tunes and “dance it out” in the kitchen.

Thank you Oprah for getting my attention, to Weight Watchers for an awesome program and great tools and to Spence, your encouragement and support are endlessly appreciated.

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For more of this series, “59 Candles, 59 Things” – click on “59 Things” under Categories.  And I’d love to hear what things make you happy.  

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A bit more animal/diet humor because seriously, haven’t we all been there? 
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