59 Candles, 59 Things – part twenty nine

Thirty seventh thing: My next entry in the 59 Candles series (of things that make me happy) is my maternal Grandma’s china, which I inherited when she moved into a small apartment years prior to her passing.

As a child, I fell in love with this lovely set of china as much for it’s beauty as for the many delicious family meals enjoyed at my grandparent’s table.  She’d purchased this set as a young woman, prior to her marriage to Grandpa.  With twelve place settings and multiple serving pieces, these dishes were packed up and moved countless times over the course of Grandpa’s career. When she offered them to me, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.  Her only request – could she keep two cups and saucers? Of course.

She lived in Florida and wasn’t up to travelling to Michigan but I would write her, describing meals I served to family and friends using these special dishes.  She always told me how happy this made her and that I likely used her china more than she had over the years.

When Mom sold her home in Florida and moved to Michigan last year, she downsized. A few months ago, she asked me if she might borrow a few cups and saucers from Grandma’s china.  She’d met new friends and wanted to be able to offer a lovely cup of tea when they visited.

“Of course” I said with a smile, reminding her that Grandma had once made the same request.  Grandma would be happy.

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The china was made in  Czechoslovakia

“59 Candles, 59 Things” is a series I began last May to commemorate my 59th birthday celebrating things that make me happy.  If you’re interested in this series, check out “59 Things” under Categories.  There is also a series I did last year called “Moving Mom” detailing the weeks spent helping Mom pack up her home in Florida and our road trip back to Michigan, one of the best experiences of my life. 




Steamed Mussels with White Wine

Spence and I love Mussels and can make a meal of them – which we did last night.  They were so good that I had to share this recipe; I hope you’ll try it!

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Steamed Mussels with White Wine – serves 2

  • 2 lbs mussels
  • 4 large garlic cloves – coarsely chopped
  • 1 small sweet white onion – chopped
  • 2 lemons – quartered & seeded
  • 2 c dry vermouth
  • 1/2 c water
  • 4 T butter
  • 1 T sea salt
  • red pepper flakes – to taste
  • 2 t Trader Joes 21 Seasoning Salute
  • 2 T chopped flat leaf parsley

In a large pan add garlic, onion, lemons (squeeze the sections into pot, then add the lemon quarters), vermouth, water, butter, sea salt, red pepper flakes and 21 Seasoning Salute, turn pan on low until butter is melted into sauce.

Turn pan on high. Add the mussels to the pan, stir and cover. During 6-8 minute cooking time, stir twice.  Mussels are done when they open.  Remove from heat, add chopped parsley, a sprinkle of sea salt and red pepper flakes. Discard any unopened mussels, they aren’t safe to eat.

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I served this with fresh italian bread, butter and Prosecco. Amazing!



59 Candles, 59 Things – Part Twenty One


Twenty-ninth thing: I can’t write about the 59 things that make me happy without unabashedly giving a shout-out to the best hotdogs in the world. Right here in Genesee County, Michigan, the family owned Koegel Meats produces Koegel Viennas which are famous and deservedly so.  They are unlike any other hotdogs, just ask anyone who’s lived here and moved away. People weep, realizing after they’ve moved away that they can no longer acquire them. In the past, I’ve been known to freeze them and transport them to family and friends when I go to visit them. It may well be the reason that I’ve lived in the same county my whole life. In fact, come to think of it, it is the reason!

Yesterday, for the 4th of July, we invited Mom for a cookout with Koegels on the grill. OMG! Can I just say, Spence hit a home run with his grilling skills. He grilled extra dogs so that Mom could take a few “to go”.  You make recall from the “Moving Mom” and “Settling Mom” series in the blog, that Mom recently moved back to Michigan from Florida. She may tell others that she wanted to be closer to my sister and I, but I know that Koegel Viennas factored heavily into her decision.

Koegel Viennas are equally delicious steamed if the weather isn’t right for grilling. In a natural casing, there is a distinct “pop” when you bite into them. I can’t describe the joy they bring – it’s foodie nirvana.

If you are in search of that perfect hotdog, now you know where to find them!


If you’d like to read more of my series, “59 Candles, 59 Things”, click on the “59 Things” category or search box.  This series was started to commemorate my 59th birthday (in May) and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoy writing about these things that make me happy! 

2015 Mid-Year Assessment

The BUGS (Blogging University Graduates) bi-weekly prompt is to track our 2015 New Year’s Resolutions at mid-year.

  • FILING: Starting after the New Year, I combed and sorted through countless boxes, piles and bags of paperwork that have accumulated for more years than I’m willing to admit. A supposed “priority” upon retiring in 2014 – until I committed to “just do it” in 2015, it seemed overwhelming. Once started I nearly burned up our shredder, found things that were important (and ridiculous) even discovering a little black velvet drawstring bag of quarters ($20).  For someone who is a control freak, this felt out of control but once completed, I felt euphoric.
It's liberating!
It’s liberating!
  • MOVING MOM: Not a resolution per se, but a significant commitment for three weeks in March was flying to Florida, helping Mom pack up her home of 26 years and share the drive north to her new home in Michigan. Having my MacBook in tow and the blog established, I chronicled this in my 20 part series called “Moving Mom” (I’d be honored if you wish to check it out).  It was a once-in-a- lifetime experience and I’m glad I documented it since in the moment, it was a blur of activity. What could have been contentious and stressful was in fact exhausting but a bonding experience unlike anything I can imagine. I’m so glad we took that journey together.


  • NEW BED AT LAST: I bought a bed after at least six years of bitching about my too soft bed. Procrastination and misconceptions had kept me from even starting the process, prolonging my insomnia, aches and pains. In my series “59 Candles, 59 Things – Part Twenty” I wrote about this experience. What I learned is “you don’t know what you don’t know”. I’m grateful I took a rainy day with nothing on the agenda and DID IT ALREADY.
With a good night's sleep, I now awake with pretty thoughts in my head.
With a good night’s sleep, I now awake with pretty thoughts like this in my head.
  • FIND ALTERNATIVE HEALTH SOLUTIONS:  I finally sought out alternative treatments for my aches and pains after realizing that pain meds were simply a bandaid. Besides my yoga and meditation practice, I recently found a doctor who is an osteopath, acupuncturist and physical therapist. At 59, a lot of my “structural” issues can’t be fixed but can and do seem to be responding with better flexibility, toning and some improvement with pain. At 59, I’ve accepted that “we’ve all got something” and feel blessed that any and all health challenges I’ve had are just part of living this long. And given the alternative, I’ll take living any day.


  • GARDEN – DONE AND SCALED BACK (well sort of) Completed my garden for 2015, and scaled back on my typical annual expenditure. Yes, I’ve given myself tennis elbow (which incidentally is very painful), strained my back and both shoulders from what I called “extreme gardening” pushing to the point of “feeling the burn” then usually 30-60 minutes more to finish up. But hey, the garden looks fabulous and from here out it’s just weeding and dead-heading.
Good for the soul.

I still have the following things to complete be they resolutions, goals or simply my to-do list:

  • Lose weight
  • Perfect my gnocchi recipe
  • Learn to make crepes
  • Learn to make tamales
  • Learn to make “bath bombs”

I’d love to hear how you’re doing with your resolutions…….leave me a comment!

59 Candles, 59 Things – Part Seven

Twelfth thing: This random happy thing is something that nearly everyone in the world has on their list.

The sound of the ocean, the feel of sand under your feet and between your toes and the waves as they hit the shore and suck the sand back into the ocean. All this while standing under our glorious sun, balmy temps with a bluer than blue sky. They say “life’s a beach” and I agree. I captured this moment when I was on Sanibel Island while moving Mom in March 2015 (check out my “Moving Mom” series if you’d like).

I posted this video then but it was so cool; each time I watch it and hear those waves, I’m transported back to that day. It instantly makes me happy and since I’m doing this series on 59 Things, it made sense to share it again.

And yes, those are my feet at the end and my pedicure peeking through the waves!

Moving Mom Part Twenty – or The Last Leg of the Road Trip

March 20th – part 2 – We checked out of our hotel at 10:00 fairly certain that we’d waited long enough for the heavy fog to burn off.  By and large it had but as anyone knows who’s driven through the mountains on I-75 in Tennessee or Kentucky, fog is serious.

About the time I noticed my ears pop, we’d reached higher elevation and I had to drop our speed as the fog created pockets of no visibility as the cars and semis in front of us seemed to disappear.  As had been our rule on this road trip – no talking if we hit 1) rain 2) heavy construction 3) fog or 4) heavy traffic.  Once through the fog, the roads were drier than we’d expected and traffic was not too bad until we neared Cincinnati.  Never a fan of driving this stretch of intense traffic, multiple bridges and exits while crossing the Ohio River, Mom had volunteered (as she did with Atlanta) to drive this leg of our road trip.  As mentioned, she’s a very safe driver and while I could have done it, it is her car.  We arrived at our third Country Inn and Suites by closer to 4:00 (this night in Dayton) and dragged our stuff into the hotel (this part was getting old for both of us).  My plan for tomorrow is to rearrange so that everything of mine will be in the backseat making for easier unloading tomorrow.

I set up our now-traditional cocktail hour:


We chilled for a bit and then headed to The Chop House for a celebratory dinner.  At 2:30 my iPhone had gone off (Bruno Mar’s Uptown Funk ringtone does get one’s attention) and I handed it to Mom. We expected a call from her realtor and indeed, the closing had happened, giving finality to the sale of the house.

With Rocky as our server, we ordered more wine – a Pinot Grigio for Mom, Malbec for me.  Lots of toasting – to the closing, to the last night in a hotel, to being home for me and to the move into her new home for Mom.  And to Peggy – her realtor.  And to family, dry roads (you get it right – lots o’toasting)

I ordered the appetizer Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes for my meal having had this before and recalling that it was a big plate of food.

Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes  with chipotle mayo, pico de gallo and avocado.  Amazing.
Sweet Corn Tamale Cakes with chipotle mayo, pico de gallo and avocado. Amazing.

Mom ordered the small plate Crab Cake with Sugar Snap Peas:

Mom proclaimed this,
Mom proclaimed this, “Delicious”

Served along with these plates was a half loaf of crusty bread, hot from the oven, and honey butter. It was a perfect place and meal to celebrate.

Back to the room, we were exhausted.  Tomorrow, we’re home!

March 21st – After rearranging the car and checking out, we got on the road with about four hours to go.  Traffic not bad, little bits of rain but mostly dry roads.  We turned into my driveway at 2:30. Home, sweet home.  I nearly tackled Spence with a hug before unloading the car and then hugged Tipper and Biscotti.  There really is no place like home and nothing like arriving safely, we are blessed.

This is the end of the “Moving Mom” series for my blog.  I’m grateful that so many enjoyed this journey with us.  It’s been a gift to chronicle our experiences; thanks for sharing it with Mom and I.


Moving Mom Part Nineteen – or The Day Mom’s House Officially Changes Hands

March 20th – Yesterday’s drive in the rain was physically draining; both Mom and I were gripping the steering wheel, shoulders tense. Add to that the mental exhaustion of safe driving while watching for drivers taking less care and for road signs to make sure we didn’t go wrong on our route. I’m grateful we broke this road trip into 4 days/3 nights.

After a great dinner at locally owned Cabin Restaurant (we both had variations of a hickory smoked pulled pork sandwich – outstanding), we came back and polished off the bottle of Malbec (maybe that was just me?).  Mom read her Kindle until she could no longer keep her eyes open (8:15).  I made it through Grey’s Anatomy, read for 5 more minutes and was out!

This morning we woke up at 6:00 and turned on the local news only to see what I’d expected, HEAVY FOG.  With all the rain yesterday, the local weatherman called the air “JUICY” which must be a meteorologist term for “wet air” (as he later explained that comment). On a positive note, while roads will be wet it would appear that the rain has shifted to the east and that we won’t be driving in rain today (fingers crossed).

At 2:00 today, the new owner’s close and Mom’s house officially becomes their house.  Her realtor will text me to let us know that the trigger has been pulled and the $$ will be wired.  And so that chapter has ended and a new one officially begins.

Here's to what comes next........
Here’s to what comes next……

Moving Mom Part Eighteen – On The Road Again…..

March 19th – Our hotel room at Country Inn and Suites in Tifton Georgia was very quiet and comfortable.  We were “lights out” by 9:00 p.m. having left N Ft Myers at 8:20 (and up for hours prior) a long day of driving and a couple of glasses of vino.  I woke thinking it was around 2-3 a.m.  I quietly tip-toed to the bathroom and as I snuck back to my bed Mom says “is it about 3:00 a.m.?”  I looked at the clock – 10:55 p.m.  I advised her and I think we both said “what??” – and fell back into a deep slumber.

Mom woke around 3:00 a.m. and just laid there knowing it was way too early to think about getting up but at 5:00 a.m. when I woke up, she said “good morning”. We decided to get up, have breakfast and get on the road.  The parking lot was wet but it didn’t appear to be raining at that moment.  By 7:00 a.m., we were on the road knowing that the forecast for the day was RAIN.  The first 17 minutes were perfection, no traffic and no rain.  Then, as it would be for most of the day, it started raining.  Sometimes heavy, sometimes light and sometimes a couple miles of no rain and then repeat the pattern.  I drove 2 1/2 hours, then switched as Mom (age 81) said she’d feel more comfortable driving through Atlanta.  Since it is her car after all, I said “go for it”.  And she did.  Traffic now (of course) was intense and the rain (of course) picked up.  But she went for it and is an excellent driver.  Around 11:00 we were ready for lunch and I saw that we were approaching a Cracker Barrel.  Never one to miss a Cracker Barrel on a road trip, we stopped.  The temp had dropped and out came the jackets and we ran in, in the rain.  Country Fried Steak with mashed potatoes, sawmill gravy, fried apples and pinto beans for me with a diet Stewarts Root Beer (hey a gal has to save a few calories right?). Mom had the Thursday lunch special of turkey, stuffing, gravy, biscuits and jam, sweet baby carrots with a milk.  Delicious – and then we went into a food coma.  More driving in and out of rain but we already had our reservation in Loudon TN and it wasn’t too long before we were pulling around 2:00 p.m.

While Mom checked in, I grabbed the cart and unloaded the car.  Got into the room and set up our new afternoon tradition:

Cocktail Hour for the Road Warriors
Cocktail Hour for the Road Warriors – well deserved I might add!

I thought we might need a nap but we chatted for a bit, checked emails and drank our wine.  Now we’re off to a local spot, The Cabin Restaurant for what promises to be a lovely home-cooked kind of meal.

Signing off for today,

Spence’s Girl

Moving Mom Part Seventeen – or Point the Car North

One last parting shot of Mom’s street sign

March 18th – This is it!!

Both of us were up at 5:30 without the benefit of an alarm and feeling well-rested.  Moving right along, we loaded up the coolers and after a final walkthrough, closed the garage door and left Sabal Springs at 8:20, headed due north.

Ready to roll baby!
Ready to roll baby!

We had incredibly good roads – low traffic for the most part, sunny and made good time.  I ate lunch while Mom drove 2nd shift.  She ate when I took 3rd shift.  We stopped in north Florida for a bag of grapefruit, a jar of Honeybell Marmalade and a pecan log (hey those billboards are persuasive okay?).  We arrived in Tifton Georgia at 2:45 and checked into our hotel.

Yes I’m aware I already shared this picture in an earlier post today but it’s just how I roll.

Then with the aid of Trip Advisor and Mom’s suggestion “how about ribs tonight?”, I found the well-rated Hog N Bones.


We both got the Pork Ribs, served with garlic bread and two sides – we both chose Mac and Cheese, I had the BBQ Baked Beans and Mom opted for the coleslaw as her second side.  Delicious.

Back to the room for a bit more wine and calling it an early night as tomorrow it seems that we will be driving in rain up to Loudon Tennessee.  But I’m wearing my Guardian Angel Pin so who knows?  I’m preferring to think positive.

Riding on my shoulder, this little pin is my travel buddy.
Riding on my shoulder, this little pin is my travel buddy.