Category Archives: vacation

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Well, we arrived seven days late, had to cancel a planned 5-day stop between South Padre Island and here, but have finally arrived in sunny Tucson, Arizona.  In a way it doesn’t feel like Christmas.  There is no snow on the ground, the average temperature is around 65 during the day and upper 30’s at night.  I have a meager supply of Christmas decorations which I was finally able to put out upon our arrival, but it just doesn’t have the Christmas feel I am used to.

One thing we will remember in the future, when traveling and doing a quick overnight in a Walmart parking lot, the lot is very busy and very full on the last Saturday before Christmas!  The one we stayed at in El Paso, Texas had a Texas Roadhouse restaurant within walking distance, so we did have a good, but very noisy dinner.  Shop-till-you-drop shoppers get hungry!

The positive side is the KOA campground we are in has citrus trees on every site and while staying here you are welcome to walk around and pick whatever fruit you can use.  Yesterday I went out and picked a couple grapefruit, four oranges and about five lemons (I’m going to make old-fashioned lemonade).  Boy is fruit fresh off the tree way better than store-bought!

Cactus with Christmas Hats

Photo found on internet

As Murphy’s Law would have it, we arrived Sunday in a city that has 360 days of sun per year.  Today, Christmas Eve, it rained a good portion of the day and is forecast to rain again this evening, and then again tomorrow.  Thursday should be partly sunny, and then rain is predicted for Friday and Saturday.  Go figure I would get four of the five days of yearly rain almost immediately upon arrival.  On a positive note, the remaining 98 days I will be in the this state should be bright and sunny.

My Christmas Eve has been quiet, as will Christmas Day tomorrow.  I will miss having my kids and grandchildren coming to the house to open gifts.  The noise, chaos, and mess as gifts are opened and paper strewn around are what makes the holiday.   The positive is that I do not have to deal with snow, ice, or bitter cold.  Everything has a negative and a positive.

Whether you are experiencing Christmas in a winter wonderland or a tropical paradise, I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas.

 

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Filed under celebration, children, Coping, events, Family, Full-Time RV, grandchildren, Holidays, Life is a Melting Pot, reality, travel, vacation, Weather, winter

Nature’s Palette

As you drive to the north end you encounter drifts of sand on the road, then a small sign points to Beach Access #6.  This access is outside the city limits and not maintained, but people use it every day.  The sand is thick, so a 4-wheel drive is necessary.  You maneuver through sand piles that will make you think of maneuvering deep snow if you are from the north.  Once you break free you are on a beautiful beach that you can drive for about 3 miles south and 26 miles north on the Gulf of Mexico.

It is the north drive that has the most to offer.  Every day is the same but different.  Nature creates an ever changing palette intermixed with human elements.   We enjoy driving in the edge of the water, but there is always a possibility a larger wave will come in and leave you a bit wet.  That is what happened to us one day when we had top off the jeep.  A wave hit the side coming in the driver’s side window and splashed so high it came down through the roof opening.

A trail of shells leads you down the beach, not only on the water’s edge, but also up near the dunes.  This is because during high tide the water is considerably higher on the beach, and high winds bring it in even further.   If you are lucky enough to be there on a high winds day not only will the waves be higher, but there will also be sand swirling off the dunes and flowing across the surface of the beach until it meets incoming waves,  giving a soft, mystic feel to everything.   The pounding waves provide a rhythmic music of nature as you drive.

Fishermen line their poles up along the water, sitting in lawn chairs waiting for their catch. some with BBQ grills set up to cook up their meal fresh.  We stopped to watch one bring in his catch, but it was soon discovered he had hooked a sting ray, which he cut his line from so that it could work its way back into the water.  Herons, gulls, pipers and pelicans congregate along the water’s edge, satisfying their hunger with the offerings of the water.

Visitors walk along with a bag in hand, searching for the perfect shell.  On occasion you will see a group of horseback riders from a nearby stable.  We came upon a driver in a car who was stuck in the soft sand along the surf.  We pulled him out with the Jeep’s power wench.  You may sometimes encounter nude sunbathers or swimmers.  Everyone is friendly, everyone waves.   The beach is a relaxing, fun place to be.

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Landmarks, both natural and human-enhanced, mark your way.  Mile marker signs are mounted on the edge of the dunes so you know how far you have gone.  Some of my favorites include a log decorated to look like an alligator, a log with an upside down boot on it, a buoy that washed ashore, a container anchor that has been covered in graffiti, a piece of driftwood shaped like a sea serpent, and even a water rescue pod that has been decorated.  These items are constantly changing, impacted by nature and man, so each day brings a new look.  Sands drift and cover parts while winds uncover new discoveries.  The sea serpent log that was open and clear on our first visit now has sand over parts of it.  The water rescue pod was moved further onto the beach by the US Fish and Wildlife workers as it was sitting on the edge of a wildlife preserve.  A buoy that had drifted ashore was complete one day and missing its top a few days later.

I have enjoyed the time spent on the beach of South Padre Island, Texas.  I will miss nature’s palette of beauty and change when I have gone.  It will be interesting to see what items remain the same, what has disappeared, and what has been added by the time I return next year.

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Filed under Activities, Discoveries, environmental, exploration, impressions, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, time, tourism, travel, vacation, Weather

Driving the Chesapeake Bay Bridge- Tunnel

While in Virginia I was able to ride across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel twice – once going over, once coming back.  This is an experience worth a special trip.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel opened on April 15, 1964 and was selected as “One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World” in a worldwide competition.  In 1965 it was described as an “Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.  From shore-to-shore the bridge-tunnel measures 17.6 miles and is the world’s larges bridge-tunnel complex.  It consists of 12 miles of low-level trestle, two 1-mile tunnels, 2 bridges, almost 2 miles of causeway,  4 man-made islands and 5-1/2 miles of approach roads for a total of 23 miles.   The clearance below the bridges varies from 40 feet at the Fisherman’s Inlet to 75 feet over the north channel.

I took the drive, which crosses over the Chesapeake Bay,  from the City of Virginia Beach north to Cape Charles, Virginia on the Delmarva Peninsula, then a few hours later made the return trip.  I shot photographs from a moving vehicle, which show driving across the bridges, going through the two tunnels, and on the way back I was able to capture a ship passing over the tunnel and between the bridges ahead of me.

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Once you cross over onto the Delmarva Peninsula be sure to stop at the Visitors Center for information and directions to the 1942 Bunker of the Winslow Battery from WWII.  It is within walking distance from the visitor center, or if you prefer you can drive to the location where handicap parking is available.    It is a unique treasure hidden from view and well worth the side trip.

Artillary Memorial_GLG0588_0109

Bunker from WWII

Despite the official name change to Lucius J. Kellam, Jr. Bridge Tunnel in 1987, honoring the man who spearheaded the building of the project, to preserve the bridge-tunnel’s identity and name recognition it continues to be known as the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.  The bridge-tunnel is one of only ten bridge-tunnel systems in the world, three of them are located in the water in the Hampton Roads area of Tidewater Virginia.    I went through the Hampton Bay-Bridge Tunnel on my way to the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel.  While it gives you a small taste of what is to come, the overall experience is small in comparison.  If you get the opportunity to experience the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, do not pass up the opportunity.

 

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SEVEN WEEKS AND ROLLING

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Hard to believe it has been seven weeks since I started my new lifestyle of living on the road full time in a motor home (a/k/a full-time RV).  In that amount of time I have visited Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, Canada and Bar Harbor/Acadia National Park, Maine in the United States.

One thing you have to do when living this way is be conservative, be flexible, and enjoy life.  Sometimes things go well, and other times the best laid plans can be foiled.  Highlights of my travels and learning curve:

  1. The best laid plans can be foiled when you make a day trip three hours away only to discover that town’s power is out and all businesses (including museum you wanted to visit) are closed.
  2. Pulling off for a quick lunch break takes more planning in a 35-foot motor home towing a vehicle than it does in a car.
  3. Ottawa, Ontario is the capitol of Canada and is a very interesting city, but bring your walking shoes.  There is one parking lot in the entire city and a lot of area to cover.   If you take a double decker bus tour it is a great way to get around, but you may end up with a tour guide who has a strong French accent and is difficult to understand.
  4. Canadians are very pro recycling The question in grocery stores is “Do you have your own bag?” not “paper or plastic?”  Some stores charge you for use of their bags.
  5. You can not stock up when items are on sale.  There is no extra room beyond the refrigerator and pantry.
  6. There is a large percentage of people in Canada who hang their laundry outside to dry….many on pulley-style clotheslines.
  7. When living in an RV, laundry is a necessary evil that must be done in a laundromat (most campgrounds have them) every 2-3 weeks.
  8.   You can live in a house for years and never wave at your neighbors, but in a campground everyone waves at everyone else.
  9. The architecture and culture of Quebec City, with its fortification wall, Citadelle, and French influence is like taking a step into another country.
  10. When you travel full time you need down time.  This is not a vacation, it is a lifestyle.
  11. When you give up on the road signs being true and think you will never see a moose, one shows up on the side of the road and you do not have the camera ready.
  12. No matter how many times you see them, the difference between high tide and low tide at the Bay of Fundy is amazing.  This is where you see the world’s largest tides.
  13. Getting your mail an average of once every four to six weeks takes planning so it arrives in a city where you plan to be at the appropriate time.
  14. A GPS can be your best friend and your worst enemy.  Our Trucker GPS in the RV took us down a road that had been re-done two years ago and no longer goes through — it is now a dead end.  When towing you cannot back up because it damages the tow unit, so we had to disconnect the jeep, turn the RV around and then re-connect before we could continue.  Of course it would have helped if Ellsworth, Maine had put up a “Dead-End” sign, as a woman on the road said it happens all the time and they have been after the city to do something.
  15. In many spots what is promoted as a “scenic drive” is overgrown with nothing to see.
  16. Convection oven cooking is not difficult, just different.  The three burners on the stove-top is much harder to adjust to as it does not easily accommodate large pans.
  17. I have not adjusted to the feel of the motor home when driving in high winds or uneven pavement.  That one is going to take some time!
  18. This is an awesome way to live and I’m glad I took the plunge and jumped in with both feet.

As time goes on I look forward to sharing more of my travel adventures with everyone.

 

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My First Week as a Nomad

My first six days as a Nomad were interesting, fun, and sometimes frustrating.  In many ways it feels more like a vacation rather than a lifestyle change.  It is relaxing and interesting, and sometimes not at all what is planned.  If I can experience all this in six days, I can’t imagine what the future will bring.

On Monday we left Port Huron, Michigan and traveled to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada.  Our original plan was to stay only two nights, but after reviewing travel information about the surrounding area decided to extend our stay to a total of four days.

On Tuesday we visited the Bush Pilot Heritage Centre in Sault Ste. Marie.  Paul was a bush pilot when he lived in Owen Sound, Ontario as a teen so this was on his “hit list.”  The museum was interesting, with several planes on display inside the hanger where the museum is located.  We viewed two movies, the first was an “on board” experience with a bush pilot, and of course took the rider through a series of mistakes and mishaps that can happen on a plane, including an unexpected storm, dozing off with the plan on autopilot, and more.  The second movie was in 3D and took you into the heart of fighting forest fires.  You experienced time in flight with the commander of the entire firefighting operation, in flight with a pilot doing water drops, and on land with a ground firefighting crew.  Both movies are well worth the time it takes to view them.

A small town about four hours northwest of Sault Ste. Marie is the home of Winnie-the-Pooh, and houses a statue of Winnie, as well as a Winnie-the-Pooh and Railroad Museum.  I wanted to go there so a day trip was planned.  Part of the trip goes along the shore of Lake Superior, and we figured we would find photo ops along the way.  A visitor guide worker had told us about an off-road trail on that stretch which Paul wanted to check out.  We didn’t locate the trail she used, but did access a logging trail, which about 20 minutes in we decided was not offering any photo ops so turned around and continued on our journey.

We did find a couple spots to stop and take photographs of Lake Superior, and a small rapids and river we walked in and photographed.  It was interesting that this entire route had very few towns, gas stations, or any other type of business or rest area to stop at.    So scarce they were practically non-existent.  We saw a rest area/visitor center which made a good stop for a few minutes.  They had a small gift shop where Paul decided to pick up a couple energy bars to tie us over until lunch, which we planned to eat in White River.  That purchase turned out to be a very good decision.

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We munched on our energy bars, and decided to stop for gas as we rolled into White River, because we would need it to make the full journey back to Sault Ste. Marie.  There were barriers up across the gas pumps and an attendant walked over and informed us that the pumps were not working because the entire town of White River had lost power and nothing was open.  We drove through town and took pictures of the Winnie-the-Pooh statue.  The attendant was correct, absolutely everything, including the museum we had just driven four hours to visit, was closed so we started our journey back.

Not too far south of White River was a small gas station with full-service pumps.  The attendant there shared that the last time White River lost power they were out for a week.  He also let us know that there was a restaurant on Hwy 17 just south of Wasmus where we could get lunch/dinner.  By now it was after 2:00 pm and we were definitely getting hungry.

We drove the two hours south and located the restaurant.  Our luck had not yet changed; on the front door hung a sign that they were closed until 5:00 pm.  It was only 4:30 so we decided to drive on.  We were not far from our campground when we found The Voyageur Lodge, which included a small restaurant.  The menu was limited, but the food very good.  Paul had an open face hamburger, which had gravy to which he added mushrooms and onions.  It normally included fries and coleslaw, but he switched the fries for onion rings, which he said were very good.  I opted for a fish sandwich which also came with fries.  The sandwich was made with whitefish which was lightly breaded and very nicely done.    We shared a butter tart for dessert, also very tasty.

Our final day in Sault Ste. Marie we drove into town and visited the historical canal sight.  At the end of the island was a swing damn, one of only nine built and the last in existence.  It is used in emergency situations if there is a problem with the lock.  This is also where the lock is located for small boats, and we were lucky enough to see two of the Soo Locks Tour boats use the lock at the same time.  The difference in elevation between Lake Superior and Lake Huron is 21 feet, so quite interesting to observe the lock in operation.   A nice way to finish out our stay.

Friday morning we said goodbye to Sault Ste. Marie and drove east through Ontario, stopping at a small campground in Lavigne, Ontario.  We are here only for two nights.  One day of rest and computer work before continuing our journey to Ottawa, the capitol of Canada, where we plan to spend four days.

We did take some time from our paperwork to photograph some very decorative scarecrow displays around town.  These have been prepared as part of a plowing competition in September. I finished out our last night in Lavigne with a walk around the park, taking a few photographs of Lake Nippising, which the campground is located on.

So far my life as a nomad has been interesting and relaxing, even if Winnie-the-Pooh’s hometown did leave me a bit frustrated.  I guess in this lifestyle you simply have to go-with-the-flow when rocks appear in the river.

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Filed under Activities, Canada, decisions, Discoveries, education, exploration, impressions, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, Michigan, nature, summer, tourism, travel, Upper Penninsula, vacation

Life is not meant to be lived in one place

I have reached the point of excitement.  My new lifestyle will soon be moving from life in an RV in my local area to actual life on the road.    I am now on my last two weeks of work, with the 16th of August being my final day.  I am training someone to take my place at work, will soon have the closing date on my house, and once that is completed we will set off on our new lifestyle.

This past weekend Paul and I opened up the “basement” storage in the motor home and got the last boxes out of my car and into the RV.  Not everything is sorted and organized the way we want, but I am at least officially in the motor home totally and completely.  The next two weeks will be a whirlwind of finishing up things at work and training my replacement, a doctor’s appointment, turning in my lease vehicle, finishing up paperwork, listing the second home I own for sale, and closing on the home I was residing in.   In someways the day when I can “hit the road” seems so far away, and yet so close.  Time passes quickly when trying to get everything finished in the final moments.  Trave as far and as long as you can

We are now starting to plan the first leg of our travels, and it is exciting and a bit nerve wracking at the same time.  I am semi-retiring prior to retirement age, so will need to do remote or seasonal work while on the road to supplement  the spousal pension I receive.  Until I have a steady income from remote or seasonal work  I will be concerned about finances.  That is just me.

At the same time, if I didn’t jump at this opportunity now to travel full-time I know I would regret it for years to come.  You only live once, so might as well make the most of it.  What are that chances that I will ever again run across the opportunity to live full time in a motor home traveling Canada and the United States with a person with whom I am compatible who is also a fellow photographer?

I hope this is a life style we can enjoy for several years.  The opportunity to experience a variety of cultures and the diversity of nature as we travel cross country is something I am looking forward to.  As I travel I plan to keep a journal about my travels.  I enjoy freelance writing and hopefully you will see my writing and/or photographs not only in this blog, but also in published magazines and journals.

If you have any “must see” locations in Canada or the United States, please share.

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Celebrate the Positive!

So here we are, ten days into the New Year.  What will it bring?  Has it been a good start?  What about resolutions?  Were they made?  Have they been broken?

My year started out in a variety of ways.  On New Year’s Eve my daughter and her family were driving north to visit family when she hit black ice and rolled her vehicle twice, ending up in the ditch.  The three children, ages 4, 8, and 12, were fine, as was her boyfriend.  My daughter slammed her elbow into the driver’s window and needed stitches, and she had a couple scratches on her face, but other than that no serious injuries.  Unfortunately the vehicle was totaled, and she only had PLPD insurance, so they are down to a single cab pickup with a family of five.  celebrate-small-success1

Here is where viewpoint is important.  Is it horrifying that they rolled….well, yes, the outcome could have been far worse.  Should everyone be upset that they are without a car and don’t have the ability to purchase another?  Of course that is a dilemma that must be dealt with.  However, the overall important thing is that no one suffered any severe, life-altering injuries, especially the children.   So, with that we can say that their New Year got off to a good start.  They came through a scary, dangerous accident without anyone being seriously hurt.   Celebrate the positive!

As for me, my New Year weekend was both work and relaxing.  I had a four-day weekend during which I never left the house.  I took down my tree, sorted and packed items to go to my kids, and also sorted and packed items for me to take when I downsize and others to go into my estate sale.  I came across things I had forgotten about, and spent some time looking at some old pictures of ancestors.   Some would consider a long weekend home alone and working on household tasks a lonely, sad existence.  I am on a time frame to get through all my belongings in preparation for downsizing and an estate sale this spring, so having a long weekend to work on my project was positive.  Celebrate the positive!

Every year I keep a list in my “notes” section on Facebook of the books I read that year.  My goal is always 52 (one per week), but I have never made that.  The best I have done is around 26.  Last year on the 14th of March I had only just finished my second book of the year.  This year I finished my first on the 4th of January and am more than halfway through my second.   I’m not holding my breath on making 52 for the year, but the odds are favorable so far.   Celebrate the positive!

So now ten days into the new year I sometimes look around me and wonder how I am ever going to get through everything I need to by the end of March.  I also worry about my son, who is trying to find a place to live as he is currently staying with me, being able to find a home and move out by the time needed.  On a positive note, he also has quite a few tubs packed with his belongings.  We can only hope that it all falls into place without a problem.  I’m not ready to celebrate yet, but I am trying to think positive.

How is your new year going so far?  Regardless of whether you have had downfalls or things to celebrate, remember to keep thinking positive.  A good attitude can get you through anything.

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Filed under celebration, communication, Family, grandchildren, Holidays, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, reality, spring, vacation, winter, work

Vacation Destination: Calgary, Alberta

Looking off into the distance, the peaks of the Canadian Rockies can be seen, drive a couple hours north east and visit Drumheller, a town sunken down into the earth that just happens to have the world’s largest finding of dinosaur skeletons and a huge museum displaying them,  but the main purpose of this destination was to attend the Calgary Stampede, the largest outdoor event on earth.

It is exhilarating to travel somewhere you have never been before.  To experience the beauty of nature and the excitement of a world-renown event.   To visit areas famous for their natural beauty.  That is what I did this past July when I flew from Detroit, Michigan to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for a 10-day vacation.    To me travel and vacations are an opportunity to partake in the areas surroundings, take photographs, and experience the culture of the area.

Calgary is surrounded by a vast array of attractions, and I was only able to experience a small amount.  I arrived at night and did not have the opportunity to view the Canadian Rockies from my plane, but when I awoke the next morning they could be seen in the distance from where I was staying.   About 1-1/2 hours drive west from Calgary is Banff National Park.  Canada’s First National Park comprises 2,564 square miles and is located in the Canadian Rockies.  Banff is the home of Lake Louise and Lake Moraine, glacier lakes with a beautiful, distinctive emerald/turquoise color water.  The breathtaking scenery makes this park makes it well worth the time to visit.

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A day trip to Drumheller, northeast of Calgary, is a “must see”.  Located in the Canadian Badlands, this unique town is built in an area of land that at some point in time sunk down into the earth that now houses the badlands and an entire town.  This is where you will find the Royal Tyrrell Museum, which houses one of the world’s largest displays of dinosaur skeletons and fossils.   I spent several hours inside the museum, taking a break to lunch at the on-sight cafeteria.

The plan was to visit the Royal Tyyrell Museum in the morning and spend the afternoon driving the Canadian Badlands taking photos.  The Canadian Badlands covers a 35,000 square mile region where dinosaur bones were discovered in the late 1800s.  Nowhere on Earth has there ever been found the quantity and quality of dinosaur remains as have been discovered in the Canadian Badlands.   It is speculated that for some reason this area of land sank down into the earth, creating a drastic drop in elevation and that stampeding dinosaurs fell over the age and died.  The result is one of the world’s largest dinosaur fossil regions.  Since the late 1800’s more than 1,000 complete skeletons of dinosaurs have been found and digs continue to this day.  The Royal Tyrrell Museum contains over 130,000 skeletons and/or fossils from this area.

In addition to dinosaur finds, the Badlands is also where gangsters would run and hideout in the “wild west” era.  The terrain of the area was dangerous due to its sunken area, allowing for an easy ambush and law enforcement would not pursue gangsters once they entered the area.  The history of the badlands combined with the gorgeous rock formations makes the area a “must see” on a trip to the region.  Unfortunately a rainstorm prevented the planned exploration of the badlands from taking place.

The main purpose of my trip to Calgary was the Fantasy RV Tours 7-Day Calgary Stampede event.  The tour group arranged RV parking in a stadium parking lot and participants  took a short walk to the train stop for a ride into the town of Calgary and/or to the  Calgary Stampede Grounds.   In addition to the stampede, the tour included a visit to Heritage Park and Gasoline Alley, attending the Calgary Stampede Parade, breakfast in the rotating restaurant at Calgary Tower, and a visit to the Glenbow Museum in downtown Calgary.

Heritage Park Historical Village includes Gasoline Alley, a “must see” car museum.  I spent so much time in Gasoline Alley that my time was very limited on viewing the rest of this living history museum.  A train ride around the park gave me a nice overview, and because of the way stops are scheduled you circle the park twice before you can disembark at the location you boarded.  The majority of visitors get off and on to visit various attractions.

Our tour included breakfast at the revolving restaurant in the Calgary Tower.  The observation deck of the tower provides a 360° view of the city and surrounding area.  One area has a glass floor you can walk out on for a true view down.   I found the glass bottom very disconcerting, and had to use the rail to walk out onto it.   Across from the tower is the Glenbow Museum, which is a combination art and history museum.  I spent quite a bit of time viewing the historical exhibits and taking photographs.

The Calgary Parade is a kick-off to the Calgary Stampede.  This parade displays the heart and sole of Calgary and the Stampede, with horses, carriages, bands, and more.  Many follow the parade down to the stampede grounds for the opening of the event.  The Calgary Stampede grounds is a huge venue, including barns, a midway, an Indian Village, and the main highlight, the stampede grandstand.   You definitely want to take in both an afternoon rodeo show and an evening grandstand show, which features chuck wagon races, performances, and fireworks.  You will not be disappointed!

My trip to Calgary went way too fast and before I knew it my ten days had ended and I was at the airport and on my way home.  I hope that someday I will get back to the area and have a chance to visit more thoroughly some of the areas I only touched on lightly.

 

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Filed under Activities, Discoveries, events, Festivals, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, Photography, tourism, vacation

When was the last time…

…..you did something for the first time?

That is a line in a song I enjoy by Darius Rucker, just click here to hear it.  I was listening to the song and it got me to thinking about how we all develop set patterns of life.  We get up, go through the same routine during the day, go to bed, get up and repeat.

The song goes on to say “Yeah, let yourself go, follow that feeling, Maybe something new is what you’re needing, Like a real life, let your hair down, feel alive, When was the last time, you did something for the first time?”

Those are thoughts we should all put into action when our life is feeling a bit ho-hum.  It can be something major or something minor.  Just spice it up a bit to re-build your energy and enthusiasm for life.

In July I took a 10-day vacation when I flew to Alberta, Canada for the Calgary Stampede.  While it is not the first vacation I have ever taken, nor the first international flight (I flew to Mexico with a school group in 1978), it was my first time in Alberta, Canada and my first time attending the Calgary Stampede.   It was also the first true vacation I have taken since 2014.when-was-the-last-time-you-did-something-for-the-first-time-quote-1

I am currently in an active sort-of first time events project.  I have started doing some preliminary scouting of homes.  I am planning to downsize and packing and moving an entire home, not to mention selecting and purchasing a home entirely on my own will be a first.   When you have always done things with others, doing them on your own the first time is a different experience.

So, when you hear the question, When was the last time, you did something for the first time?  What is your answer?  What is on your bucket list?  Throw out some ideas….I may want to incorporate your ideas into my list.

 

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If I Received $10,000 That I Had to Spend on Myself…

I saw the thought proving statement, “If I Received $10,000 that I HAD to spend on myself I would…”    That got me thinking, what would I do with that kind of money if I absolutely had to spend it on myself, not save it, not pay bills, but spend it on just me, what would I do?

As my mind started tossing around the possibilities I realized that $10,000 is both a lot of money and only a small amount of money.  It would not purchase a house, a motor home, a boat, or a new vehicle.  On the other hand, if used with a bit of frugality, there is a lot that could be done with that type of “free” money.

I think I would take a few hundred dollars and re-work my wardrobe.    A larger selection and more splashy, bright colored, fun things to wear.  I might even splurge on some new shoes and a purse or two, as I tend to use mine until they are on their death bed, which I have a habit of doing with most of my clothes and accessories.

I might add a few pieces of quality jewelry.   I have some good jewelry, but I have a lot of costume jewelry and I would likely replace some of those pieces.

The majority of the money I would spend on travel.  I don’t know how far that money would take me, but I would think if I watched for bargains I could hit a few places I have never been or adventures I have never taken.    For years I have wanted to take an Alaskan cruise on the inside passage.  I have never been to the Grand Canyon, Yellow Stone, or Mt. Rushmore.   Scenic photos of Wyoming and the Dakotas capture my eye, as do many other places in both the U.S. and Canada.  I love places that are photogenic, so who knows what might grab my attention.

I have never been on a week-long cruise and that might be a wonderfTRAVELul way to kick-back and relax while seeing exotic places.  I would like to get back to Hawaii someday, and I’ve heard the Caribbean and/or other tropical islands are wonderful places to vacation.  I think it would be neat to travel in Europe, possibly visiting some or all of the countries of my heritage, those being Belgium, Germany, Poland, and Netherlands.   Others of interest are Ireland, Italy, Iceland, Greece, and Switzerland…and I’m sure there are more.  Of course there is always the possibility of a photo trip to Africa, or maybe Galapagos Islands.  The possibilities are endless.

Have I spent my $10,000 yet?  I’m sure I have.  I guess $10,000 may seem like a lot, but I’m sure I could handle spending it all on me if I had to.   Now if only that were reality.  Dreaming…..I’m only dreaming…..

 

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Cycle Through Life

As we go through life we develop habits, a way of doing things.  Some of them are our own, some of them are done to accommodate the likes/dislikes of those around us.  As we cycle through life those things change.

We develop likes and dislikes, ways of doing things, and personality traits from our parents, grandparents, siblings, other relatives and friends as we are growing.  Then we become adults and move away from those we have grown up with.  Some move away to attend college, some branch out on their own, living the single life, and others, like me, leave their parent’s home when they marry.   Each of those different events will impact the individual person and their overall personality.51bdc659e738f0ad63064c508af86513

I grew up in a small town far away from distant relatives, I left my parent’s home when I married just before my 21st birthday.  With my marriage I moved about two hours away from home.  The person I married was not controlling, but he was nine years older and had far more life experiences than I.  He had served overseas in the military, been married and had a child, and purchased a home.   Looking back I adapted to his way of doing things more-so than he adapted to mine.   He paid the bills, serviced the cars, did home repairs, and was the driving force in any major purchases.  I was more willing to keep things as they were, to more or less “make do” with what we already had.  That is how we lived for 34 years until he passed away in December 2015.

When he passed away I was living on my own for the first time in my life.  I spent a couple years in a bit of a vacuum, going through the motions of life without really experiencing it to its fullest.  I learned to do things I had never done before, such as yard work, getting cars serviced, and paying bills.  You could say in that way I grew during that period of time, but I didn’t really evolve, I simply functioned.

With the help of a friend I began to re-evaluate where I was at and what changes I needed to make.  I took a good look at the investments I had, and the company my husband had us with was not making me any money, in fact after paying the service charges I had lost money over the course of the two years since his death.  I’m not a math person, but I’m not stupid.  I needed a new financial advisor and I followed the recommendation of a friend and made a change.  It has been a good one and I feel my financial future has a more positive outlook.

What-you-dont-have-you-may-gainIn looking at my investments I also took a good look at my living expenses v. income and realized that while I am making my bills with the assistance of my husband’s life insurance, I can not really consider that “living in the green.”  Let’s face it, the life insurance savings won’t last forever, and living month-to-month is not the way I want to spend my retirement.  I also realized that I can not retire and continue to live where I am at.  The decision, I need to downsize.  Now there is a lot of stuff in this house that I must sort, decide what to keep, what to toss, and what to sell.  That will take some time.  I would like to be out in six months, a year is more realistic, and it may take beyond that.  However the longer it takes the more money I am spending on this house that I could be saving or using for more fun things.

Fun things.  I am going to do some fun things this year.  For the first time in about three years I am going to take a real vacation.  I have to admit, once I made the commitment, put down the deposit and booked my airline flights I had some difficulty sleeping for a couple nights, but now I am looking forward to it.  My first international flight on my own, I will be flying to Calgary, Alberta, Canada for the Calgary Stampede and spending 11 days out there.  I have a friend who will meet me in Calgary.  We will be staying in his motor home and taking in some of the scenic sights of the area, doing photography in addition to attending the Stampede.  It should be an awesome trip and I am looking forward to it.

I have a girl’s weekend planned in Mackinac City.  The weekend is a yearly event with my sister and two cousins, and we always change locations to keep it interesting.  There is also the possibility of another weekend trip into Canada with a friend, but that one is only tentative at this point.  59caa4c54b27d61f6a921ea8a3146eb4

So, where am I in the cycle of life?  I am in a growing stage.  I have broken free of the “me” that I was when married and becoming the “me” that I am as a widow.  I have started to walk around my house doing a visual inventory.  “That was him, it goes.”  “That is me, it stays.”  Sometimes it is “That was us” and with those items, some will stay and some will go.  When I move out of this house it will be a good, clean break and I will be continuing the ride as I cycle through life.

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Maybe I’m related to Lucille Ball

It has been one of those weeks when you could take my life and drop it into an I Love Lucy sitcom and it would be perfect.  For those of you who are too young to remember, Lucille Ball was a wonderful comedy actress who stared in several shows that carried her name…I Love Lucy, The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour, The Lucille Ball Show, and Here’s Lucy. 

The fun part of watching a Lucy show was that you just knew she was going to do something goofy, create a catastrophe out of something simple, and the audience would find themselves laughing hysterically at her antics.  It was a type of “if anything can go wrong, it will” and everyone loved watching.

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Lucille Ball- photo found on internet

Now we take my week.  Sunday I was fixing dinner and blew a circuit breaker.  I went downstairs, reset the circuit, continued fixing dinner and blew the same circuit again.  Before I could make a bee-line for the door the Master Electrician currently residing in my house stopped me.  I couldn’t reset that breaker, he had to analyze the situation.  Never mind that dinner is in the oven and that oven is no longer heating because it is on the blown circuit, the analysis had to be done first.  Once he had analyzed the situation and made his determination I was free to reset the breaker and continue with meal preparation.  However there was a glitch.  I had lost track of how much time the food had been in the oven, and while I was getting a detailed explanation on his process the fish became quite overcooked and hard.   Lets just say that meal left a lot to be desired.

Monday comes and I walk into work.  The bottom of my shoes must have been wet from the snow and when I hit the tile floor of the kitchen area my feet flew out from under me and I went down hard on the tile floor, hitting the back of my head on the refrigerator as I went down.  My startled scream was loud enough it brought all three men who were in the building running.  Why can’t clumsy things happen when there is no one around to see them?  Then once I am again on my feet I open the upper cupboard door to fix myself a cup of coffee and in the process hit myself in the head with the cupboard door.  How could I not have enough sense to move my head out of the way?   I’m still recovering from the injuries incurred that morning.

Tuesday was hectic but I seemed to make it through the day unscathed.  I fixed spaghetti for dinner and decided to have a bottle of wine with it.  Only I could manage to get the cork stuck up inside the corkscrew…but with a bit of persistence I got it back out.  Only a moment to recover on that one.

Wednesday, hump day, shouldn’t I be on a roll to recovery now?  Oh heck no.  I was planning to take a second car I have into the dealership for service.  A friend of mine gets all the snow off it, I go to hit the unlock button and open the door.  The battery was so dead the car doors would not unlock.  We finally got the door unlocked by inserting the key, but it was frozen shut!  There is only one door on the entire vehicle with a key hole,  so only one door we could work with.   I called the towing service I have, but after about 45 minutes on the phone they informed me that until I got the door unfrozen and open they would not be able to assist me.   I called the dealership and they advised me to pour hot water on it.  Four gallons of hot water later the door seamed to be devoid of ice, but it still would not budge an inch.   I called the dealership again to explain my problem.   The gentleman from service came out and by the time he arrived the hot water had seeped far enough in that the door opened.  The battery was still completely dead and had to be jumped, but at least the vehicle is now at the dealership.  Between a recall, service I scheduled and a warning light being on, it will be there a while.

If that wasn’t enough I had a meeting to attend Wednesday night, and without anything major happening I did manage to call a green frog orange and a woman named Donna I referred to as Phyllis.  I think because she has such a funny personality I was thinking of Phyllis Diller…..that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

So today is Thursday and I didn’t have any disasters, just fumbles.  I was sitting at breakfast talking when my friend says “are you going in to late work today?”  Crap!  I made it…barely!  Then when fixing dinner the potatoes were a bit under-cooked and the seasoning on the salmon wasn’t bad, just something we weren’t particularly fond of.  The bagged salad turned out great!  I think I need a vacation.

Wait!  That is what I forgot about.  I booked a vacation, a real 11-day vacation including airline flights.  Then as I was reading the airline confirmation it said that you should check and make sure you don’t need a visa for the country you are traveling to.  I knew I don’t need a visa, but I clicked on the button anyway and discovered that when traveling to Canada by air they require you to have a passport that does not expire for at least six months after your last flight.  Mine expires five months after my last flight.  I thought I was good, only to discover I have to renew my passport.

Now mind you I have plenty of time, but it did not do the mind and stress level any good.  I found out I can renew by mail and located a local CVS that does passport photos.  I went there after work to have it done, but the girl taking the photos was short and the first two didn’t turn out right, then the camera battery died, then my eyes were looking off to the side.  It was the fourth or fifth photo before we got a good one.  I didn’t think I was ever going to get out of there.   So I now have the application completed and ready to take to the post office tomorrow.  Lets hope that goes as planned.

Tomorrow is Friday and I hate to speculate on what could possibly go wrong.  Hopefully nothing.  With any luck it will be a no-excitement, ho-hum boring day.  I wonder if Lucille Ball ever had an uneventful, boring day?

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Matthaei Botanical Gardens

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  If like me you enjoy taking photographs of flowers and/or nature, this is a wonderful place to visit.

Matthaei has several options to fit everyone’s needs or desires.  There are several trails that are open sunrise to sunset seven days a week, plus the conservatory, garden store, lobby and display gardens are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm.  Admission is free; they do have a donation box inside the conservatory, and there is a reasonable parking fee of only $1.50 per hour or a maximum of $5.00 per day.  With the size of the venue I opted to pay the daily rate immediately._DSC6631

I arrived at 8:30 am.  It was quiet, with only a few people quietly walking out onto some of the trails.  I grabbed my camera and tripod and decided to walk the Sue Reichert Discovery Trail, which circles Willow Pond.   This trail is only 4/10 of a mile, which they estimate to be a ten minute walk.  I meandered slowly, taking pictures and stretched it into almost an hour, taking time to sit down a couple times on benches that were available.

The difference in time is whether you walk like the average person or walk like a nature photographer, skimming the area for possible subjects to photograph.  Doing so can make a fast walk take quite a while and is why I prefer to partake in such places either alone or with other photographers who understand the time frame needed to fully enjoy the area.

I decided to do the outside gardens first, and in looking over the map not only did I not go up into the Children’s Garden, but I also missed the Perenial Garden, Grower’s Garden, MiSo House and Bonsai and Penjing Garden.  I started in the Gateway Garden, a relaxing spot with benches, rocking chairs and fountains.  I took photographs of flowers there, in the Marie Azary Bock Garden and in the Sitting Gardens before meandering down the Commons, which are bordered by two other gardens on the east and bench seating on the west.

The commons leads you into the Alexandra Hicks Herb Knot Garden.  Here you will find chipmunks scampering back and forth amongst the plants and sometimes climbing up on them as well, but trying to capture them in a photo is difficult.  They are quick little guys!  Once I completed my photo rounds of the herb garden I strolled between that and the perennial garden and went through a vine/plant covered tunnel which led to the opening of the children’s garden.  I had the option of going up into the children’s garden or taking a nature trail around the children’s garden.  What I opted to do was take a short trail not shown on the map into the Oak Openings Garden.

There was nothing to attract my photographer’s eye in the Oak Openings Garden with the exception of wild strawberry plants that had begun bearing fruit.  It was the bright red of the fruit that grabbed my eye as I looked down to scan the ground for photo subjects.  I followed the trail through the Upland Woodland Garden and across into the Wet Woodland Garden.  Unfortunately the hot weather we had been having left nothing  wet, it was, on that day, better termed a dry woodland.  Nothing caught my eye for photographs, so I proceeded into the Great Lakes Garden, which led me into one end of the Prairie Gardens, then the Coastal Gardens and back up where I started in the Gateway Garden.   Unfortunately a group was there partaking in the rocking chairs or I would have grabbed one for a nice relaxing break.

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By now I had been wandering for a few hours and decided to take a snack break before visiting the Conservatory.  One thing to keep in mind, the conservatory does not sell meals, only a limited selection of snack food, candy and beverages.  If you plan to be at Matthaei Botanical Gardens for several hours you may want to consider packing a cooler with beverages and lunch or snack food.   I had not planned that far in advance, so I purchased a small trail mix and flavored water.  There are one or two small tables where you can sit inside to consume your snack, and there are also tables available outside on the deck.  Food and beverages are not allowed inside the conservatory.

The Conservatory has three main areas, the Tropical House, the Temperate House and the Desert House.  Here you will find many plants and blooms to view and/or photograph.  On this day there was a water Lilly in full bloom, Cocoa trees, pineapples growing, sausage trees with their “fruit” hanging in abundance, and numerous other flowers and plants.  The Desert House has the majority of their cactus growing in raised display beds, making it easy to enjoy and photograph the wide variety.  I’m sure this was also done to preserve the fingers of little ones who may be touring with their parents.  Some of those cactus spines are pretty long and wicked looking!

I spent about five hours touring the trail, gardens and conservatory, and I didn’t see it all.  Keep in mind I was walking slow, took several rest breaks on the numerous benches that are available throughout the property, and was taking photographs.  The average person might tour it at a much faster pace.

I would like to go back and walk some of the trails I chose to skip, plus with anything growing outside the gardens and trails are a constantly changing canvas with growing seasons and weather.  If going they do recommend appropriate footwear for walking the natural areas and that you stay on paths due to poisonous plants such as poison sumac and poison ivy growing in natural areas.  The Massauga rattlesnake also inhabits the area.  I did not encounter any slithering reptiles, but did enjoy the “music” of unseen frogs as I walked around the pond.

If you are in the Ann Arbor area I highly recommend a visit to University of Michigan’s Mattaei Botanical Gardens.

 

 

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A Murphy’s Law Week

There is a saying “If Anything Can Go Wrong It Will” that is referred to as Murphy’s Law. This past week has had an assortment of bumbles that were not of major proportion and actually had positive outcomes.  When talking to my son on the phone about one of them his response was “so basically you did it all wrong but it was still good.”  Murphy's Law - If anything can go wrong it will

Murphy’s Law #1:  I cut a recipe out of a magazine that I thought sounded good.  Thinking I had all the ingredients except broccoli, which I purchased at the store, I pushed ahead with preparations.  A good plan…or so I thought.  The recipe called for Hillshire Farms smoked sausage; I had their Polska Kielbasa so I used that instead.  Next 2 cloves of garlic crushed, I substituted minced garlic.  A large red bell pepper, I had green so the dish wasn’t as colorful but the flavor is equal.  One package of frozen broccoli; I had purchased fresh.  The fresh seemed like a huge amount so I guesstimated how much to throw in.    Tomato sauce, didn’t have any of that either so I measured out an equivalent amount of condensed tomato soup.  No mozzarella cheese in the refrigerator so I used my taco cheese.  On a positive note I did have the instant rice, olive oil and one yellow onion.

The Benefit:  Despite all the substitutions it tasted great and I had leftovers to use for lunch at work and dinner when I got home late.  My son asked me if I wrote down my substitutions so I could make it the same way next time.   It might be easier to re-write the entire recipe!

Murphy’s Law #2 happened when my cable TV box stopped working and my provider informed me it would be $35-$70 to have a service call.  This was the second time the box went out and I told them I wasn’t paying for a service call, I would bring in the box and decide then whether to replace or turn in and cancel TV.

The Benefit:  They could suddenly provide me with a free service call and have the technician call me about one-half (1/2) hour before arrival so I could leave work to meet him at the house.    That led to Murphy’s Law #3.

Murphy’s Law #3:   The day I was to have the service call on my cable TV I received an automated call at work giving me a two-hour block for arrival.  I held for a live person and was informed that they do not make personal phone calls, only the automated system does it.   I explained what I had been told on the phone originally and she said tech’s can’t make calls.  I responded that was not what I was told, that no one would be at the house unless I received a call, and if it doesn’t get handled I will bring in the box and cancel the service, at which point I hung up.

The benefit:  Ten minutes later the service tech called and said he could meet me at my house. That lead to Murphy’s Law #4.

Murphy’s Law #4:  The cable technician and I both anticipated this being a quick 20-30 minute service call/repair.  He ended up at my house working four (4) hours to resolve all issues.

The Benefit:  Numerous problems were discovered which resulted in the replacement of all cables coming into my house, replacement of weird splits to the cable when it was run in the basement, adjustment of the bundle of cords behind the TV putting too much weight on the HDMI TV input and causing problems, replacement of the TV box twice.  My original wasn’t working and was extremely hot, and the first replacement didn’t work.  Four hours later the TV and internet were both working faster and smoother.

Murphy’s Law #5:  I received a telephone call confirming my post-op surgical follow-up appointment, but the time they gave me was an hour later than I scheduled.  The girl found where they did give me the 10:30 slot, but they had keyed it into their computer as 11:30, so she confirmed me for 10:30.  A few minutes later someone else called and said that they had keyed it into their computer wrong, but were heavily booked and if I came in at 10:30, I might not get called until 11:30.  I had booked the appointment six (6) weeks in advance and was not happy.  I asked about coming in earlier, which they were able to do.

The Benefit:  I arrived for a 9:15 am appointment and my name was called almost immediately.  I had X-rays taken, saw the intern doctor, saw the surgeon, and was out the door and on my way to work by 9:40 am.

Murphy’s Law #6:  After analyzing and contemplating for over a week I made my decision on which cell phone to upgrade to and went onto the Verizon website to order, only to find that although it is listed on their website it is not available and they do not have an anticipated availability date.  I didn’t want to wait indefinitely so checked to see if that phone was available elsewhere.  It was, but I either had to pay for it upfront in its entirety or pay interest if I financed it and then it would have had to be serviced through them instead of my cell phone provider.  Ugghhh, back to Verizon’s website I went.

The Benefit:  I decided to get the same brand, just one step down, which was a savings.  The only feature I lost in doing so was the shatterproof shield.  It came with free 2-day arrival and I had it shipped to my work location.  Added Benefit:  It arrived one day earlier than anticipated.

Murphy’s Law #7:  I had shopped and planned several meals to prepare throughout the week, but didn’t get them made due to getting home from work late and not wanting to cook at 7:30 to 8:00 pm.

The Benefit:  I made everything over the weekend and ended up with a batch of leftovers:  stuffed peppers, spaghetti, and chicken noodle soup to get me through the following week.

Murphy's Law - the full versionMurphy’s Law #8:  It has been a crazy couple of weeks at work.  Friday was like a triple Monday.  Throughout the week things had come up that took priority and pushed other things back.  I ended the week feeling burned out and more buried then when the week began.

The Benefit:  I work for someone who understands the pressure and commented that we have both been going crazy, are staying afloat but both need to plan vacation time or we will both burn out.  Added Benefit:  I like to take time off in small blocks and have some short outings/trips planned over the next few months.

Murphys’ Law #9:  I went from an IPhone to a Droid, which results in a learning curve.  First problem was when I was trying to make the transfer from one phone to the other.  I got the IPhone shut down and the Droid on, but it told me it couldn’t be used until I completed some set-up steps and I couldn’t get the steps to work.  I ended up spending 1-1/2 hours on the phone with tech-support to complete the steps.   Thought all was okay, but ran into a problem at work when I couldn’t figure out how to answer the phone.  Then on the second day every time someone posted on Facebook or sent any type of message my phone was playing music really loud, and I couldn’t get the notifications to stop or sound to go lower.  Embarrassing!

The Benefit:  I like the new phone and features not available on my previous model.  I am still on a learning curve but will figure it out eventually.

Murphy’s Law #10:  Saturday I was going to the drive-thru at the bank so wore a sweatshirt and no make-up assuming no one would see me.  I decided to drive through the lot at the car dealership and see what they had in the models I was considering, thinking the dealership was closed on Saturdays.  Wrong!  I got out of the car and was looking at one car when a salesman walked up.   He must have figured any female standing in the rain looking at a vehicle was likely interested in buying.  So there I was in an old sweatshirt, no makeup, hair frizzy from the rain, pricing out vehicles and test-drove one while my vehicle was being appraised for trade-in.

The Benefit:  I got a good trade-in value on my car, was able to lower my monthly payment by leasing instead of buying, and now have a larger vehicle with more room and more perks.

Remember:  If anything can go wrong it will, but if you look for the positive in each situation you will find it and reap its rewards.

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Filed under Activities, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, habit, Kitchen, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, Meals, nutrician, vacation, work

A Year Of Changes

learn-free-to-be-meIf you have been a reader for a while you know that my husband, Ron,  passed away December 7, 2015 and since that time I have been adjusting to living on my own.  In reflecting on myself now, plans for the future and introspection of the past I have learned a few things.

I am capable of living alone, and doing it comfortably.  When I met Ron I was 19 and living at home with my parents.  I got married,  moved in with Ron and had never lived alone.  I originally found the idea of living solo terrifying but had no choice.    What I have learned is that living on my own has its benefits.  I can set the thermostat where I want and it stays there.  I can blast the radio at 2 am if I chose without having to worry about disturbing anyone else.  I can eat what I want when I want and not have to worry about anyone else.  I can re-arrange and hang photos and other artwork on the walls, removing things that were never my choice to begin with and adding new items that appeal to me.   I can move, add,  eliminate or change anything I chose without wondering if another person is going to like the change.

learn-to-be-happy-aloneAlthough I never paid attention to our finances and had no interest in knowing about them, I am perfectly capable of paying bills, applying for mortgage modifications, listing property for sale, and making decisions on financial assets.   I’m not blindly doing what Ron told me to do as he was dying.  I’m evaluating my own circumstances and making a decision that I feel comfortable with.   My goal for the future is to learn how the stock market and investments work, to understand how to diversify and what everything means  so I can make informed choices.  Hopefully  I will get a grasp on this within the next decade.  I’m really walking in uncharted territory here.

I can now run a riding lawn mower, a weed wacker, call a plumber, take vehicles in for routine maintenance, find and hire repair persons for things such as air conditioning. However I have no intention of learning to run the snowblower.  That thing is just too big.  I’ll kill myself shoveling first.  I even look at the Harbor Freight and Tractor Repair sales flyers now in case there is something I need.  Okay, I’ll admit my big purchase this year was two tarps, but we all have to start somewhere.  learn-dance-in-the-rain

One big surprise, I like to cook.  I know that sounds funny after 34 years of marriage, but I thought I didn’t like cooking.  I have been cooking for myself for a year now and I realize  that I like it.  For the majority of our marriage Ron did all the cooking.  Over the years I told people didn’t like doing day-to-day rush home from work an cook a meal, but I liked doing the larger family meals.  I recently said those words to someone but later in the evening it occurred to me that the statement isn’t true.  I don’t mind cooking for myself at all.  I love grilling entire meals in the summer months.  So why the change in my thoughts?

learn-something-newWhat I have discovered is that it wasn’t the cooking I disliked, it was that Ron always had a criticism of some sort and tended to hover, questioning why I did things the way I did, telling me I should do things differently than I did.  Nothing was ever quite good enough, there was always a “why didn’t you…”  Basically, he thought I should cook just  like him.  After a while I tired of the negativity and simply walked away and left it to him.  He cooked, I cleaned up, and it worked.

Since Ron’s passing I have discovered that I enjoy cooking.  I like throwing foods together to see what I like, mixing different combinations.  If they are all watching from above there are three cooks in heaven that are probably surprised at what they see.

I would say Ron is probably shocked at the things I fix; that I enjoy the cooking and especially like grilling.  My Mother-in-Law is probably happy to see me not measuring, just dumping in many instances.  I learned early in my marriage that if you called her for a recipe she didn’t measure, it was  “till it looks right.”  My father was a great cook.  When he saw me go into the basement and gather an assortment of ingredients, throw them into a pot and end up with a soup he was probably going “hell ya, that’s the way to cook.”  One of my greatest memories is when he cleaned out the refrigerator and made “chili” with the leftovers.  How many people have eaten chili with spaghettio’s floating in it?  I have!learn-who-you-are

When it comes to traveling alone I have mixed feelings.  It is nice because if I want to wander around and/or make frequent stops to take pictures I can do that without any complaints.  Ron and I were both photographers and did that all the time, but the average person does not take pleasure in such activities or delays.

On the other hand, traveling alone can be lonely.   If taking in a tourist attraction, such as wandering a museum or park, you are always alone.  No one to talk with, share discoveries with.   You are always eating alone, and so I always dine with a book.  There is no one sharing your hotel room, no one to sleep with. Maybe we shouldn’t go there.  Let’s just leave it at that.

So learning about me happened by learning to live alone.  What a difference a year has made.  The good, the bad, the indifferent.  What have I learned? I had a fantastic marriage.  I will have a fantastic future.  Different than I planned, but that’s okay.  I have made decisions that a year ago I would not have made.  I have made changes in my life that a year ago I would not have made.  Life was different then.  I was different then.  I am happy with my life, and that is all that matters.  Whatever happens, whatever life throws in my direction, I am ready.  Bring it on!

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Filed under anniversary, Coping, death, decisions, Discoveries, exploration, Family, food, habit, home, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, marriage, Meals, memoir, mind, reality, time, vacation

Sleep In Old-Fashioned Elegance

I arrived a few minutes past the designated check-in time.  Even though I was late and had to ring the bell I was greeted by Frank with a smile and friendly hello.  He gave me a set of keys to my room and the front door.   There was no pressure to immediately produce a credit card or sign paperwork.  I was told that would be handled at check-out.

Frank gave me a tour of the house so I would know where to find amenities such as a refrigerator, microwave, coffee and tea, and a plate of home baked cookies.   He pointed out a buzzer on the main floor that could be used to alert he and/or his wife, Cheryl, that assistance was needed.  Frank then carried my suitcase up the steps and showed me my room and bathroom.  Because my room had a private bathroom down a hall, plush robes were hanging in the closet to use if needed.

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MacLeod House features a large front porch with seating and group of apple and pear trees in the side yard.  A spacious back yard in this country setting provides a peaceful atmosphere for relaxing or sleeping.  Photo copyright 2016 Grace Grogan.

Cheryl came out to meet me before I left for dinner.  She provided me with the time range for breakfast, told me what she was planning to serve each of the days, and inquired as to whether I had any dietary restrictions and if the planned menu met with my approval.  It was friendly, relaxed, courteous.   There are no frazzled workers, elevator waits, loud kids or drunken patrons navigating the halls at 3 am.  It was peaceful, quiet, relaxing.

The home is decorated in antiques.  Furniture, photos, bedding, lamps, decorations, all reflect a bygone era.  It is as if you have stepped back to a time of elegance and beauty.  The old-style lamps in the bedroom give it a relaxing ambiance that no modern light will ever provide.  I enjoyed relaxing in one of the chairs in my room each night, munching on a cookie and reading for a bit.  When I was ready to climb into bed I flipped on the TV for a bit before dozing off.  There is no street noise, no traffic.  The quiet took me into a deep slumber.

Morning greeted me with a bathroom stocked with home-style towels, washcloths, bath rugs, and shower gel.  None of the harsh white, hotel style bath accessories and cosmetics carrying a hotel logo here.  On a table on the second floor landing are  brochures of local attractions and a basket of toiletries in case a guest is in need of something.

Once I was showered and dressed for my day I headed down to the dining area for breakfast.  I found one couple there enjoying their meal.  Another couple joined us a few minutes later.  Cheryl prepared our breakfasts as we arrived.  French toast with creme cheese and peaches, served with sausage links on day one, omelets and thick toast with jams on the second.  Coffee, tea, orange juice and water were available, as were breakfast breads.    It was pleasant talking with other guests, learning where everyone was from, how long they plan to stay, where they have dined in the area, and sights they have taken in.  A nice pleasant way to start the day.

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By now you may realize that my stay was at a bed and breakfast, more specifically MacLeod House in Newberry, Michigan.  This was my first time staying at a B & B and I loved the experience.  I will definitely look into this type of lodging when traveling in the future.  Being a solo female traveler, I felt so much more secure in this environment than I do in a hotel or motel.    No large parking lots, elevator rides and long hallways to navigate alone.  It is a cozy, friendly atmosphere.

When I made my reservations I was told that I would need to change rooms from one night to the next due to a prior reservation.  It was handled easily with me packing up my bags before I left in the morning for my day out.  When the rooms were cleaned my bags were moved to the new room.  This turned out to be a wonderful opportunity because it allowed me to stay in two different rooms, each with their own unique decorating scheme.   My first night I was in the Rose Room, which I found cozy and inviting.  This room had a private bath down a small hall; room amenities included plush robes to use if needed.  My second night was in the Gold Room, which was a bit larger and had a private attached bath with a footed tub shower.  They also offer a suite, which I did not personally view.  I have no idea which room I will select the next time I visit that area, as each is unique and inviting.

Newberry is near many local attractions such as Taquamenon Falls, Oswald Bear Ranch, Ste. Saint Marie, and Pictured Rocks.  I highly recommend checking them out the next time you are traveling in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

MacLeod House
6211 County Road 441
Newberry, Michigan  49868
Phone:  (906) 293-3841
Email:  fcicala@up.net
Website:  Macleod House Bed and Breakfast

 

 

 

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Filed under Life is a Melting Pot, Michigan, reality, travel, Upper Penninsula, vacation

What is a Vacation?

You may consider my title a strange question, but I think it is worth exploring.  I was recently reading a posting from my Facebook memories feed about the planning of my itinerary for a trip my husband and I were planning to go on.  One of the comments on the post was that I needed to relax, it was a vacation.  That got me thinking, what is a vacation?Vacation - go someplace you have never been

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary a vacation is a period of time that a person spends away from home, school, or business usually in order to relax or travel.  That sounds simple enough, but is it?    People vacation in a wide range of ways, and the trick is to find people who like to travel and relax in the same manner you do.  It also may mean you need to make adjustments to the way you travel in order to accommodate everyone’s desires and interests.

My husband, Ron, and I always traveled with an itinerary.  I read tourist books and mapped out our trips.  I knew what we were doing each and every day, and quite frequently we were up with an alarm clock to make sure we arrived at places when they opened to get a jump on the day.  That is how our kids grew up.    There were many people that thought we were nuts, but then those same people would say “wow, you saw/did a lot on your trip.”  Well yes, that is the result of planning and being on the go.

We would hear people talk about their vacations, traveling somewhere and then spending a good portion of their time sitting around a pool, or on the beach, sleeping in late and doing a lot of nothing.  People would go camping and spend the majority of their time sitting around the campground, chatting with other campers, sitting around bonfires, etc.  When Ron and I heard vacations such as those being described we would think “how boring.”

Vacation - Life is a TripSo which is the proper vacation?  They both are.  A vacation should be whatever you want it to be.  Do what makes the days fun-filled and relaxing for you and your travel companions.   People are unique and everyone has their own set of needs.  What is good for you may drive me bonkers; what is right for me may leave you feeling stressed and exhausted.

Then I started wondering how my vacation plans may be affected by the fact that my husband has passed and I am now alone.  Ron was always a morning person — his feet hit the floor and he was off and running.  I like to get up and see and do a lot, but I frequently start my day at a slower pace than he liked.    I think I will find a balance for myself that is similar to what I have always done, but maybe a bit more relaxed.  Whatever I end up doing, it will be the same.  It will be different.  It will be me.  That is what a vacation should be.

 

 

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Filed under Cleaning, exploration, habit, Life is a Melting Pot, nature, play, summer, travel, vacation

Prepping for Vacation is Work

My husband and I are taking a long weekend to attend the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I’ve come to the conclusion that preparing to take a trip is exhausting.  I want to get my desk caught up at work because I will be off Friday and Monday, so I’ve been getting up and going into work an hour earlier than normal each day this week, and then staying 30-45 minutes longer than normal.

Then once I get home I have other prep to do.  We are doing strictly carry-on luggage, so had to pare down our camera gear considerably to make sure we could get that in.  Of course packing for 3-4 days in an airline regulation size bag is tricky, but I think I’ve got it workable.  Then of course the bag to go under my seat with a book, travel vouchers, camera, camera gear, etc.  Could it get any more complicated?

Yes it can, our flight time is so early in the morning that I realized we are going to have to get up and on the road around the time I normally go to bed.  I’m excited, but I have a feeling it is going to be an exhausting trip.  Being photographers we don’t want to miss any photo ops so will be up and on the field bright and early when it opens, and then be shooting all the way through the event.  I’ve discovered I can’t fit my tripod into my carry on luggage, so I’m bummed about that as there will be fireworks each night, but I’ll manage somehow.

So, is travel worth it if you have to wear yourself out in the preparation?  Yes, It always is, and it will be this time as well,  However as I sit here typing this post and realizing how tired I am from this screwed up week I truly do believe that Prepping for Vacation is Work!

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Filed under Festivals, Life is a Melting Pot, travel, vacation

Bear of a Week

Photo taken at Oswald Bear Ranch.  Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan.

Photo taken at Oswald Bear Ranch. Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan.

I hope everyone had a fun, relaxing 4th of July and are rolling into what finally feels like some summer weather here in Michigan.  My life has been a whirlwind.  I haven’t processed the photos from our trip north to Newberry, in Mchigan’s upper peninsula, where we visited Oswald Bear Ranch and Tahquamenon Falls.I’m including a couple teaser photos in this post just for fun.

Tahquamenon Falls.  Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan.

Tahquamenon Falls. Copyright 2015 Grace Grogan.

Of course we had 4th of July last weekend, and now I am only working 1/2 day on Thursday (July 9th) and then heading straight from work to Grayling, Michigan for a girls weekend with my sister and two cousins.  It should be a fun, relaxing weekend and I am looking forward to it.     Here’s wishing everyone a great week.

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Preserve the Memories

Every person has moments that are uniquely memorable.  They are experiences that make you laugh, make you smile, and you think you will never forget them.  To a certain degree you don’t forget, but generally the memory is tucked away, filed in the back of your brain and rarely shared with anyone again. Memories - random memories that make me smile

Writers are the exception to this because they tend to put things in writing.  Journals, family letters, scrapbooks, blogs, articles and books all contain snippets of a writer’s memory.  The average person often looses those memories.  They may post them on a social media sight such as Facebook, but eventually the memory is lost and forgotten.    This is a sad loss, because your children, grandchildren and others should be able to someday enjoy the joy in whatever happened.

I recently flipped though a notebook of newsletters I have sent to family members over the years. Flipping through that notebook I was reminded of things not forgotten, but tucked away in my brain.    I encourage everyone to preserve their memories in written form for future generations to enjoy.  It doesn’t have to be something extraordinary, just a simple diary or journal will serve the purpose.  Years from now you can revisit those memories on your own, or your decedents can enjoy and treasure them.  You may be thinking, what kind of memories do I write about?    It doesn’t matter, it can be the mundane, everyday stuff or it can be a special moment in time.

When my daughter, Caroline, was about three years old she and a neighborhood girl followed the ice cream truck down the street in our subdivision.  They followed it for a long enough distance that the ice cream man finally gave them each a popsicle and told them to go home.  How do we know?  Because my husband and the other girl’s father were talking and discovered neither of them had made the purchase.    Speaking of ice cream trucks, I remember when I was a child my sister having saved up pennies and used them to pay for her ice cream.  I can still remember the look on that driver’s face when my sister handed him that baggie full of pennies.  Priceless!

My son, Patrick, came home one time and talked about he and a friend rigged up a “motor” to propel a boat they had down a canal.  When Patrick told me about it I thought he was making it up until a woman that lived on the canal happened to be telling a story about these two boys who devised a way to  propel their raft down the canal and she was quite impressed with their inventiveness.

Memories - a way of holding onto the things ou loveThe memories you record don’t have to be lengthy, just tidbits of life that reveal personalities, activities, and the joy of living living.    Small glimpses at life, such as Patrick calling me up at work and saying “I’ve got the eggs boiling, how do I double them again?”.  What he wanted was the recipe for making deviled eggs, but I could not convince him it was “deviled” because in his mind once you cut that egg in half, mixed in the ingredients and put them back together they were “doubled.”  To this day he loves “doubled” eggs.  Patrick also loves Fruity Pebbles cereal.  I have photographs of him eating it as a before bed snack, and as he got older the bowl got larger.  Why use a cereal bowl when a large Tupperware bowl that will hold half a box works just as well?  Patrick is now an adult, but a stroll down a cereal isle where Fruity Pebbles are on sale makes me smile because I know if he were still living with me I would be stocking up.

My daughter, Caroline, attended almost all the formal dances in high school and we usually managed to find her formals at very good reduced prices.  It was the most expensive gown we purchased that the spaghetti got dumped on.  Luckily it was a dark red/maroon dress and a quick stop at home to wipe it down between dinner and dance and no one was the wiser.  Then came senior prom.  Caroline was going to attend with her boyfriend but they broke up.  She then had someone else she was going with, but he had a death in the family and had to go out of state unexpectedly.  Caroline had tons of male friends offer to escort her, but she viewed them as friends not dates, so someone set her up with a blind date for prom.  The guy she got set up with did not look like her type at all, and the date flopped.  They attended the dinner, but shortly after he got ticked off about something and walked out, leaving Caroline stranded at prom.   Rather than get upset Caroline figured she was at her prom, knew plenty of people, and would be able to hitch a ride home when the time came, and she did.  Her analysis of prom – best formal she ever attended because once the blind date walked out she didn’t have to deal with any jealous boyfriend/date issues and was able to really enjoy the evening.

We have many family vacation memories as well.  Almost every vacation included playing putt-putt at least once because Patrick loved it, touring an historical home because I love them, and an amusement park.  I remember watching Caroline and Patrick come off an amusement park ride that my husband and I did not want to ride.  As they approached us at the same time we heard Caroline say “I’ll never ride that again” and Patrick  said “that was awesome, can I go again?”.   Patrick loves amusement parks.  Due to a rainstorm at Disney on our last day of vacation we almost missed a plane because Patrick wanted to ride the Mine Ride one last time (he was only four years old at the time).  None of us will ever forget the mad dash from rental car check-in to luggage check-in, through security, and a run down the hall towards the plane.  Once Caroline and Ron had boarded the stewardess came running down the hall at Patrick and I to assist with our carry-on bags, and as we stepped onto the plane the doors slammed at my back and she said “sit anywhere”.

Life is full of memories.  Cherish them.  Little things, like when I sat in the back seat during Patrick’s road test for his driver’s license and the tester’s leg kept getting in the way because he wasn’t used to having someone take their road test in a stick-shift vehicle.   Patrick passed the test.  Caroline having to repeatedly pull forward and try over and over to back the trailer down the boat ramp for the first time.  A huge line-up of boaters developed as they waited.  I had walked over and offered each an every one of them the opportunity to cut in and go first, but they all waited patiently, having at one time been in that same spot themselves.  When Caroline  finally dropped the jet skis into the water the crowd waiting to use the ramp gave her a massive round of applause.Memories are special moments that tell our story

I could continue to write memories for a long time.  Tidbits of life that are fun to remember, such as  my husband and I taking our motor home to a campground for the first time and he mistakenly putting the levelers down as far as they go so it felt like we were climbing into a tree house every time we entered.  Instead I am going to close by challenging each and every one of you to preserve your memories in a written format somewhere for you, your children and grandchildren to someday read and enjoy.    Those memories tell important stories about your life and personalities.  Don’t let them slip away.

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Filed under Family, kids, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, travel, vacation, Writing