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.

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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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/

Japanese Cultural Center – The Gardens

The Japanese Cultural Center in Saginaw Michigan is less than an hour’s drive from home. There are gardens and by reservation they do a Tea Ceremony one Saturday per month.

My sister called. “Girl’s Day Out?” Absolutely.

Mom, my sister and I drove north, arriving at 1:00. The Tea Ceremony commences at 2:00 giving us time to enjoy the gardens which border water across from Ojibway Island along Lake Linton.

The Japanese Cultural Center, Tea House, and Gardens resides within the town of Saginaw, MI to promote intercultural understanding and peace through a bowl of tea.

It was a most enjoyable day, mid 80’s and a soft breeze.  First we strolled through the “strolling garden”.

It is a quiet, safe haven to view weeping cherry trees, authentic stone lanterns, hand crafted bamboo gates, an Asian-inspired gazebo, and an arching vermilion bridge over a winding stream.

Its gate opened in 1971 as designed by Mr. Yataro Suzue and Lori Barber.
He stated then: “beauty is not trickery, not illusion … but arranging elements like trees, water and rocks in a way that there is no crowding, no competition for attention.

All italicized quotes are directly from the Japanese Cultural Center’s website:

http://www.japaneseculturalcenter.org

Related posts:

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

https://spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2015/07/12/japanese-cultural-center-tea-house-tea-ceremony/

59 Candles, 59 Things – Part Twenty

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Twenty Eighth thing: Learning new things makes me happy.

This was not always so.  I didn’t particularly like school. That isn’t completely true.  I liked certain topics – English, Drama, Speech, Literature, Art, Oceanography, Psychology interested me.  Math and science – the worst. But I think that’s true of most people, we excel at what excites and intrigues us, wanting to learn more.

What inspired me to choose learning new things as my twenty eighth entry in this series of what makes me happy has to do with life lessons, finding out the extent of what you don’t know and learning from those experiences.

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I have been talking about buying a new bed – for years.  It was a priority when I retired (over a year ago) but I was filled with trepidation over obstacles, certain that the process would be difficult and stressful. I remember buying my last bed when I was forty, thinking “this will be the last bed I’ll have to buy”.  Longevity runs in my family so I’m not sure why this thought stuck in my mind.  Just because I’d purchased a top of the line bed what expectation did I have for how long beds last?

I moved here 30 years ago and my queen size box spring was nightmarish to shove onto the landing, scraping the ceiling before turning the tight corner and getting it up the stairs. When I bought my current bed almost twenty years ago, I moved my other bed to the guest room rather than have to contend with getting it back down the stairs of our two story home. And it was not an easy delivery the second time.  (I recall grunting and scraping sounds.)

But I digress. My biggest obstacle: I was certain I’d have to cajole, bribe or withhold my purchase if I couldn’t get the salesperson’s agreement to move my old bed down the stairs and cart it away. I just knew I’d be told that was my responsibility. As a result, I procrastinated yet still complained about my too soft bed.

Well, I was wrong –  and I’m admitting it.

Not only was delivery free, the old bed would be removed at no charge and carted away. All products in this store are made in the USA (this is important to me).  0% financing for 50 months means I can leave my savings account untapped.  I even learned to my delight that an adjustable bed is not just available from a certain manufacturer but rather is what you buy with any mattress – in place of a box spring and standard frame.  It will attach to my oak headboard which I love. In addition to raising either my head or feet it has other features including MASSAGE.

Yup.  Did not see that coming!

In two hours from the time I entered the store till the completion of the sale, I’d learned how much I didn’t know. (It was substantial). After years of serious sleep issues, two bad shoulders, lower back pain and the like, I’m kicking myself over not having done this sooner.

But as Jules, my yoga guru said “you weren’t ready yet”.  Namaste.

Anytime now the delivery van will arrive, cart away the old bed (buh-bye) and bring my new bed.

And considering I’m only fifty nine, I’m hopeful this isn’t the last bed I’ll ever buy. But next time, I won’t let the amount of things I don’t know impede me. Instead I’ll look forward to learning something new.

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Fun at the Gem Mine

A few days ago, Spence and I did something that we’d never done in 24+ years together. We went panning at a gem mine.  And I’ve got the pictures to prove it.

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At Friendly Falls Food & Stuff – where the beer is cold, the folks are friendly and you too can pan for gems!

We paid $10 for a bucket of “sand” (though we could see some crystals peeking through) and a little spade.  Directed down to the waterfalls, next to an old mill, was the panning area.

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Using these sifting trays to pan, fresh river water is cascading gently from the right.

By the end of our experience which was truly enjoyable, we got quite a haul including some really gorgeous crystals.

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In a huge ziploc bag, ready to be cleaned and remove small leaves…

Once rinsed and all debris removed, here is our treasure! Fun, sun and a bag of gems for $10. Memory of good times with my guy = priceless.

Painting Party at Picasso’s Grapevine

This is what the teacher painted

For those who follow my blog, you’ve seen references to my lifelong BFF who has been integral in injecting fun into my retirement life.

Yesterday, she gathered a group of family and friends for a painting party which is a new trend but the first time I’ve attended one.  Held at Picasso’s Grapevine, the hostess brings in wine and snacks, the venue provides ice buckets, cups, corkscrews and the like.  As we signed in we were given our own easel and canvas.  She’d pre-selected our subject for painting which was on display – a kind of Van Gogh-esque Sunflower scene.  In front of each easel were smocks, a large, medium and small brush, a cup of water (to clean our brushes) and a paper plate palate of acrylic paints in white, black, royal blue, burnt sienna, yellow, orange, red, green and purple.  Our instructor, Heather, started us off with a toast and as we raised our glasses, she explained the process.  At first we were all very quiet as we gripped our brushes with precision, getting the feel of painting.  As time went on and wine was consumed, we loosened up. The painting became more intricate and the laughter ratcheted up as our group walked around to look at how others were interpreting the same instruction.

Our group, lifelong BFF and I are far left.

Over all, it was a blast and even though I don’t think I’m ready to start selling my art, I felt a sense of accomplishment by doing something outside of my comfort zone.  It was fun, relaxing and I have a memento of our painting party as a bonus.

C'est Magnifique, no?
C’est Magnifique, no?