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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday’s Blooms – May 29, 2016

 

In Michigan, we’ve had summer like temps but little to no rain. As a result, the garden is growing quickly, everyday yielding new blooms. This morning I was thrilled to see even more blooms in the garden, including my Dwarf Korean Lilac.

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Much to my surprise, under the lilac bush, I found two of the feral kittens born about seven weeks ago on our porch.  I imagine that the fragrance of the lilacs is relaxing for them.

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Clematis, one of three varieties I have around the garden
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This first of many Clematis blossoms to come
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The first of my poppies!

Lots of shades of purple and yellow abound.

As I strolled around this morning, I found several “volunteers” that I didn’t plant but am happy to see all the same.  My rule is, if it’s growing in a crack but it’s a flower, vegetable or herb – leave it be!

59 Candles, 59 Things – part fifty & end of this series

As I finish up the final two entries in this series, I’d like to thank those of you who’ve followed along. Your interest and comments on 59 Candles, 59 Things has been so appreciated and it’s made me happy to share it with you.  It’s reminded me that there are many things to be grateful for every day and that life provides moments large and small that offer happiness.  

Fifty eighth thing: The next thing that makes me happy will come as no surprise – retirement!  A few months ago, I passed the two year mark of my retirement and it has gone fast.  I knew I’d enjoy it but never would have expected to have accomplished so many things that I’d wanted to do nor would I have guessed how busy I would be.  The biggest bonus is getting to hang out with Spence every day.  That time together is a gift and something I longed for when I was working full-time. I’ve picked up new hobbies, traveled, read tons of books, tended my garden and cooked my way through these last two years. There is still much more to come (God willing) and I look forward to embracing every moment and smelling all the roses!

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Fifty ninth thing: For the final entry in this series, I’m choosing to be happy about getting older – and here’s 10 reasons why:

  1. I’ve recently marked my 60th birthday and 60 is the new 50!
  2. I have everything I need (and more)
  3. I’m pretty darn healthy and am taking steps to be healthier.
  4. I’m happily married.
  5. I can and do travel frequently.
  6. I’m able to garden vigorously.
  7. I still dance – mostly in the kitchen.
  8. I have many interests and hobbies that I’m exploring.
  9. I can snuggle with the cats in my pj’s till noon if I want.
  10. My alarm clock rarely is set.

Okay, I’m sure you were expecting something more profound in that list or for the final post for this series.  But truly, getting older does make me happy.  I’m wiser now but still feel like a kid most days.  Yeah, there are aches and pains, surgical scars and a pacemaker that I’ve picked up along the way but I’m still here.

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Still here, even if I’m a bit crispy.

Thank you for following this series, I’ve had a blast blogging about these things that make me happy! 

 

 

59 Candles, 59 Things – part thirty eight

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“Hey kids, you’re as old as you feel!”

Forty sixth thing: For this entry in my series, I’m celebrating getting older.

What???” I imagine that someone in the blogosphere is saying.  Stay with me.

I’ll turn 60 in May.  I’m pretty sure that whatever I thought that age would feel like, it’s not at all what I expected. My mindset, likes and energy are better than when I was in my thirties.  I’m blessed with good health and a sense of fun, a love of dance and travel, getting to hang out with Spence everyday. I’m constantly learning and exploring new interests

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I frequently break into dance…..

Getting older for me has been enlightening. I worry less about what others think about me and am not so hard on myself.  For example – earlier this year I signed up for a guitar class. Unaware that being left-handed would be a “challenge” with a right-handed guitar (which had been gifted to me) as well as my surgically repaired right shoulder, I was certain I could do it. I attended 3 classes and practiced each day. It was dismal, painful, awkward.  Though it had been a bucket-list item for me, it was clear that it wasn’t meant to be and I quit!

As a child, my Dad used to say “no one likes a quitter” and that was good advice for a kid.

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A time-out isn’t so bad….

The freedom to let myself off the hook with guitar lessons in favor of not aggravating my shoulder and accepting that it wasn’t fun was part of my journey.

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Better a unicorn than a guitar player for Spence’s Girl!

Here’s to embracing my inner child and celebrating the aging process!

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Hence the reason I married an older man!
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Hilarious!

For more in the “59 Candles, 59 Things” series, click on “59 Things in Categories.

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On friendships

You know how sometimes you have to ask yourself that question, really honestly, about your relationship with somebody?
“Does this friendship make sense?”
Maybe it made sense once, but it doesn’t now?
Maybe one of you has changed too much?
Maybe one of you hasn’t changed enough?
It’s a tricky question. But an important one. Our lives are short and who we share our time and energy with matters.

By Author Elizabeth Gilbert

Funny when you see a quote that just speaks to you. My yoga/life coach Jules and I recently discussed these very questions. I’ve always been blessed with wonderful friendships. Retirement has brought about changes I expected and new experiences I couldn’t have imagined. With more time to spend with Spence, I’ve also taken my passion for travel, cooking, writing, gardening, photography to new heights. I’ve rediscovered my love of reading. I decided to try yoga and meditation and ended up embracing those practices into my daily life. As a result of those studies, I’ve grown in a spiritual direction.  I’m busy but focused.

Back to friendships. Jules and I discussed the natural attrition that happens over time. Ever wise, Jules made these statements that resonated with me. To paraphrase, “Warrior, (her nickname for me) you are on a new path. Friends may follow you and others, on their path, may no longer recognize you. Don’t step off your path or feel guilty about going your own way. Know that not every friend is meant to be in your life forever.”

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We all follow our own path…….

This presented an opportunity for introspection. Accept that we all change. Whether by mutual interests, proximity or just organically, we meet people who become friends. Some stay awhile, play their part in your life and drift away. Still others are long lasting and even when you don’t see them often, you pick up where you left off.

So for all those friends who’ve been a part of my life, I thank you. If we’ve lost touch, I wish you well and remember you fondly.

And enjoy whichever path you choose. Namaste.

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Tonight we say goodbye to Jon Stewart & The Daily Show

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I awoke this morning with a feeling of sadness. After 16 years, Jon Stewart will do his last Daily Show this evening. I don’t begrudge him retiring, don’t get me wrong. I retired last year and love it. He has certainly earned this time to rest, relax and enjoy his family.

But Spence and I and countless others will miss him terribly.

Jon Stewart has been the touchstone for our news and politics for years. What makes him so popular is his honest, candid, unfiltered and ultimately humorous take on events and politicos. What makes him a true gem is that he isn’t politically correct but shines a comic light on the most sensitive topics without being mean-spirited, causing us to reflect profoundly. He holds people accountable – politicians both domestic and international, corporate bigwigs, financial pundits and others who are in the news – and isn’t above calling them out. We don’t always agree with his perspective, but always respect that he makes us think. We never find him offensive, rather…. refreshing. He feels like a guy you’d like to have drinks with and hope it turns into dinner.

During his tenure on The Daily Show, numerous comedic talents were discovered, among them:

  • Steve Carell
  • Stephen Colbert
  • Rob Corddry
  • Ed Helms
  • Jason Jones
  • Rob Riggle
  • Samantha Bee

And though his career was established before The Daily Show, who can forget the outrageously bombastic Lewis Black and his Daily Show segments “Back in Black?”

Okay, now I’m getting teared up. (sigh)

Thank you Jon Stewart, for every moment you’ve given us. You are brilliant; we won’t know another like you.

Pictures courtesy of Pinterest search

Japanese Cultural Center – Tea House & Tea Ceremony

After strolling through the gardens at the Japanese Cultural Center yesterday, my Mom, sister and I proceeded to the Tea House to take part in the Tea Ceremony.

Awa SaginawAn was designed by renowned architect Mr. Tsutomu Takenaka and constructed in 1985 as a collaborative effort between the City of Saginaw and its sister city Tokushima, Japan. Its foundation rests part on American soil and part on Japanese soil. It is treasured as one of the most authentic tea houses in North America.

Designed by a Japanese architect, the exterior was built by a local contractor. The interior was finished by four Japanese contractors working directly with the architect.  A few interesting facts:

  • There were no nails used anywhere in the interior. Everything was planed and fitted.
  • No paint was used. The material of the walls is natural and has a sandy, stucco type feel to the surface.
  • The ceiling of the Tea House is hand-woven cedar.
  • All the wood is natural and unfinished and includes trees that were fitted into the walls, brought from Japan.

We took our seats shortly before the ceremony was to begin after first being encouraged to take photos, that included a few selfies. (Girl’s Day Out documentation)

Our hostess came in at 2:00 beginning with a brief yet fascinating history of Tea Houses (this one and Tea Houses in Japan) and Tea Ceremonies.  The type of Tea Ceremony we were attending was established only 400 years ago by the 11th Grand Tea Master in 1872 for the World Fair in Kyoto Japan. To introduce the world to Tea Ceremonies, it was determined that the traditional kneeling on Tatami Mats would be too painful and awkward so they provided benches. This is how we were seated. Traditional Tea Ceremonies in Japan, in Tea Houses or Tea Huts, go back many years and the number of Tatami Mats are descriptive of the size of the Tea House (2 Tatami Mats, by example would be a small Tea Hut) and participants would kneel throughout the duration of the ceremony.

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Our lovely hostess was a wealth of knowledge
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Born in Japan, she came to the US in 1957 when she married her husband, a Saginaw Michigan native.

The Tea Ceremony is based on four principles, Harmony, Respect, Purity and Tranquility. Tea leaves are picked by hand in May, steamed, dried and ground into powder for Tea Ceremonies (not brewed as the type of tea you’d drink daily).

There is a hot water pot with a bamboo ladle and a cold water pot should the temperature of the water need to be adjusted. There is a lovely process of cleaning and preparing the tea bowl before the guests. Then using a long implement, tea is measured into the tea bowl and whisked into the steaming water.  The whisk is fashioned from a single piece of bamboo.

Each movement was slow, deliberate, silent and reverent.  Our hostess was assisted in the ceremony by two ladies in Kimonos, one who served the other. The Tea Bowl in which the tea is prepared is highly prized. With a lovely design on one side only, the bowl is turned as it is served so that the guest may admire the design. The guest then turns the bowl and slurps the tea from the plain side of the bowl. The “slurping” is considered a sign appreciation indicating “it was good to the last drop”.

Historically, Tea Bowls were so revered that a Shogun was known to take it as his only possession upon retirement and the value was such that often a Tea Bowl was given in place of land.

The ladies served each of us, delivering the sweets first, one person at a time.  Then bringing our tea, one at a time.

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The sweet on the left, Yokan, is made from a sweetened red bean paste, the consistency like a firm gelatin. (I thought it tasted like dates) The one on the right had a much more complex name and is made of a cookie type crust over a sweetened white bean paste. I thought it tasted a bit like shortbread.

For more information about the Japanese Cultural Center, visit their website at:

http://www.japaneseculturalcenter.org

Did you miss part one of my Girls Day Out?  Click here to go to the first post:

https://spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/japanese-cultural-center-the-gardens/

For a short video of the Tea Ceremony:

https://spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/the-tea-ceremony-at-japanese-cultural-center-a-short-video/

Keepin’ it real (or why I blog)

Since retiring I’ve found myself busier than I could have imagined. My mission when I began blogging was to document what life is like after a frequently stressful career, track new experiences and accomplishments as I check items off my bucket list and other goals.

By blogging, I can share my passion for writing, cooking, travel, cats, gardening and photography as well as reflecting upon my life from childhood to present with humor and poignancy. I choose to keep my blog upbeat. My blogging mantra, “no rules, just write”.

My expectations at the onset were that my audience would be those who know and love me. The reality is that only some of my family and friends are reading what I write – and that’s okay.

What I didn’t expect it is that I’ve reached an audience spanning 38 countries, from teens to seniors, crossing genders, sexual orientation and whose blogs are similar but often wildly different than mine. I’ve engaged with authors, photographers, students, comedians, professional chefs, doctors, fashionistas and world travelers. That’s been thrilling for me – and validating. After all, blogging puts your authentic voice and point of view out there for the world. And that world has been kind and encouraging.

My lifelong BFF and I attended a day long blogging class at Interlochen last weekend. We came away with insights that can’t help but make us better. Over the weekend, we brainstormed how to implement what we learned, generating numerous ideas for content and “best practices”. All while enjoying her fabulous log home on a lake, a sunset cruise on the pontoon, wine tasting at area vineyards, delicious meals and reflecting on nearly 57 years of friendship. This post was inspired by the class and events from last weekend.

Settling Mom – Part One or “On Shopping”

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Blanche says it best.
Just following instructions!
Just following instructions! And helping the economy…

With Mom’s recent move back to Michigan (see Moving Mom series in this blog), the need for shopping has reached a new dimension.  Was it just a week ago that we were arriving home from the road trip from Florida to Michigan?

Mom left most of her furniture in Florida as requested by the buyers of her home.  Good for them and less to contend with for her. Now starts the tricky part – from two bedroom house with large lanai to one bedroom apartment with a “pie” (think alcove making more of a great room). Where to place her sofa, love-seat, computer, desk, TV and then what to buy?  The first day we set out was cold with a steady rain. What we found out immediately?  Mom LOVES the heated seats in my Tucson.

We started by checking consignment stores for a small but contemporary drop leaf table, large living room table for her ginormous lamp and if possible a “statement ” piece, (something really striking).  Less likely would be finding the right dresser and matching nightstand in consignment. A bed she will buy brand new and she’s already on task for that.  She located the bedding online she fell in love with and it’s making it’s in transit, even as I write this.

The first shop we visited yielded a single treasure (the “statement piece”)  but felt almost too easy. Mom wasn’t ready to “pull the trigger” – not just yet.  But we were both struck by it’s uniqueness. As days ensued, visiting numerous stores not finding anything else that compared to it, we kept talking about it. We even agreed on where to place it, clearly it left an impression on us.  Tomorrow we’ll go back, praying that it’s still there in that huge warehouse hopefully undiscovered and waiting for Mom.

Yesterday was another day of furniture shopping – in the snow (seriously – welcome back to Michigan Mom!) We’ve had no luck finding tables in consignment.  At a major retail furniture chain, we’d spotted a table that could work (later on Amazon I found something better which she’s since ordered) but did find a matching dresser and nightstand that she likes.  However, there’s at least one other furniture retailer that we’ve yet to visit making sure we’ve checked their selection. Decision – paused for now.

When not shopping this week, we’ve been moving in those things from the truckload Spence drove back in February, items we crammed into Mom’s car and a number of items from the POD which was delivered Thursday. (Sister, brother-in-law, nephew and a buddy unloading the remainder of the POD today as Spence and I are off to the wedding of dear friends)

Got her new phones, a LAN line, high speed internet and HD cable set up, pairing her Kindle to her new home network.  She looked so happy sitting on the apartment floor able to check emails on her own computer for the first time in nearly two weeks, seeing her HD TV with a picture – knowing both had arrived intact.  (other than the missing power cord to the printer which is bound to show up – a casualty of the hectic last boxes packed)

If you enjoyed this piece, stay tuned as there’s more to come on Settling Mom, including (fingers crossed) our consignment find….with pictures to follow.