Little Milestones – August Recap

We just passed the one month mark of our transition to being home free. The first three weeks were filled with ‘fix it’ projects and acclimating to our new living arrangement with my MIL. Both of us have had a moment of ‘I miss this or that’, about the old house, but mostly we are adjusting. This past week we began to restore balance to our lives and find our way back to a normal routine. It feels good.

Around the House

During the past three weeks, Malcolm has replaced the kitchen faucet, replaced both drains and a garbage disposal in the dual sinks, replaced the door handles on both the front and back doors, added a French drain to the downspout from the gutters, changed out the florescent lights in the garage to LED, and repaired two broken cabinet doors in the bathroom. The garage is an on-going project, but we almost have room for one car!

With the interior of the house now sorted, (thank goodness Malcolm is handy), we now get to do the things we want to do, like refreshing the overgrown or non-existent landscape materials in the front yard. We took a few bike rides around the neighborhood, snapping pictures of things we like, then set off to the local nursery. It will be at least one month before we can plant, (Board approval), but here are the South Florida hearty plants we have chosen for the front of the property.

We chose three varieties of crotons for their coverage and low maintenance. They will fill the space nicely and still leave room for a few blooming annuals to add color. The bird of paradise will go front and center and hopefully provide beautiful blooms all year long.

Entertaining

We had a couple of friends over for drinks last week, then the four of us went out to dinner. That went well. Keeping it simple was key. My MIL loved the attention from our friends and the beautiful flowers they brought her. It was very easy to include her for pre-dinner and then have separate time with our friends. We won’t entertain as we have in the past, since that would be unfair to impose, but this was a good compromise.

I made this easy Mango Shrimp Salad and served it in martini glasses as an appetizer to go with our drinks. Sorry, no photos of the presentation, but here is the recipe. This is my nod to Donna’s ‘What’s on Your Plate‘ post for September.

  • 1 pound medium shrimp, cooked (boil with salt), peel and chop into small pieces
  • 1 medium/large ripe mango, diced
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 dozen grape tomatoes, cut into halves
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño, (or to taste) finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (for riming the glasses)
  • 1 medium avocado, chop just minutes before serving to avoid brown, mushy bits

Mix the ingredients together except the avocado, season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill for at least two hours prior to serving. Use a lime wedge to rim glasses lightly with the juice, then roll the rims of the glasses in salt. Dip the salad into the glasses just prior to serving and top with avocado as desired.

Family Time

Malcolm’s mom has always enjoyed jigsaw puzzles – the bigger the better. More often than not, there is one sitting on the kitchen table. She assembles them on top of a big sheet of poster board so that it can be easily removed and stored at mealtime. At various times of the day, she and Malcolm drop by the table, choose a few pieces and move the puzzle along. Their sorting system is a thing of beauty and intelligence. Sometimes they get stumped and swear that a piece is missing. But, miraculously it always appears. They just finished this 1000 piece puzzle and are already on the hunt for a new one.

With all the disruption to her home and lifestyle, it is nice to see her returning to herself as the dust settles around her.

White Mountain Puzzle Company – Scene from New Hampshire

In case you are wondering, she used to save the puzzles by applying Mod Podge to them and putting them in frames, but when the number topped a dozen, she started breaking them apart and donating them to local senior agencies. Seems like a good way to pay it forward to me.

Out and About

In addition to establishing a daily exercise routine at the community gym, Malcolm and I also managed one scenic bike ride together this week. We loaded the bikes onto the car and traveled to our favorite place to ride – Jupiter Island. We offloaded the bikes at the beach parking lot and road the island for about two hours. Truthfully, I spent much of that time hopping off the bike and taking photographs. It was good for the body and soul. We will do more of that as the days begins to cool and turn into fall.

Folks on Jupiter Island love to create grand entrances! These are just a few of the driveways we passed as we rode the main street down the center of the island.

Reading

I’ve have recently read a couple of really good books. The first was ‘This Tender Land‘ by William Kent Kreuger. It is the story of a group of runaway orphans and the experiences they encounter as they set out to find a place to belong. Set in the 1930’s with the Great Depression as the backdrop of despair, it is a compelling and educational read.

The second book I chose to read is ‘The Midnight Library‘ by Matt Haig. It was recommended by Deb at Deb’s World as a part of What’s on Your Bookshelf. She and a few other bloggers have combined efforts to make this presentation monthly. If you like to read and share reviews, please check out her post and follow her links to the others.

This book is based on the fascinating premise of parallel lives. When Nora decides to end her life, she is transported to ‘the library’ and presented with a book of regrets, which is massive, but somewhat unfounded, along with infinite possibilities for alternate outcomes. If you have ever considered ‘what if’, you will love this one.

Binge Watching

This week we watched all of the currently available episodes of Nine Perfect Strangers, now airing on Hulu. The final two will be released shortly. The show has been getting a lot of buzz and being a fan of psychological thrillers, I wanted to see what it was all about. I didn’t read the book (written by Liane Moriarty) and based on most Goodread reviews, I won’t.

From all accounts, the mini-series is not following the book, and I imagine that might be a good thing. Nicole Kidman is perfectly diabolical as Masha, the director of a wellness retreat, and the remaining cast of characters are sufficiently messed up. Can’t wait to see where this one is headed.

We watched all eight episodes of Clickbait, with Adrian Grenier as Nick, a good looking guy with profiles on multiple dating websites. Problem is, he’s married and has two kids. Things get messy, Nick gets dead. With more twists than a Philadelphia pretzel, you will love this series!!

Travel

Malcolm and I will move to a townhouse at the beach for one month starting mid-September. This was part of the plan since the day we contracted to sell our home. The idea is to travel and enjoy different environments for both short and long periods of time, while maintaining a comfortable base to come home to.

Also on the list of possibilities is South Carolina, (booked) coastal Georgia, (booked) Nevada, Michigan, Nova Scotia and the Pacific Northwest.

We were optimistic one year ago, when we booked travel plans for our family to visit London and the Cotswolds in November. But, it now seems prudent (based on CDC guidance) to cancel and regroup, which is exactly what we did. We have replaced the UK trip with a week in Nantucket and although disappointed, it will still be the family Thanksgiving we had hoped for.

And there we have it. How was your August?

Sharing with Natalie’s Weekend Coffee Share

Boomerang Kids

It has been nearly three weeks since we moved into Malcolm’s mom’s home, and almost every waking hour of that time has been spent creating a new normal. We are making progress but adjustments, like the three of us are making, require compromise, patience and time.

When we considered a ‘shared residence’ with Malcolm’s mom we were prepared for the physical adjustment of living in a smaller space and the changes that would follow. We strongly considered the disruption to her life but felt that the eventual upside would make it worthwhile. What we underestimated was the level of anxiety that the initial upheaval would create.

At ninety-one, she is a highly functioning, mostly independent individual who has created a comfortable space for herself within very small boundaries. We have interacted frequently in the past and have noticed normal signs of aging , but nothing alarming. What has surprised us lately is how much of her confidence and sense of security is tied to her environment. Our challenge has been to mitigate her confusion and allay her fears by tuning in to her tolerance levels and communicating changes carefully.

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moving – not for the timid

Malcolm and I have always valued experiences over stuff, but lately we have been forced to face reality. We have a lot of stuff! While most of it enhances our lifestyle and is valued, a lot of it is simply excess.

We have always been diligent about ‘spring cleaning’ and managing our clutter; or so we thought. As it turns out, it was all an illusion and mostly we are just really good at hiding things. That is both the blessing and curse of living in a big house. There are lots and lots of hiding places.

During this past month we have unearthed hidden stashes of craft supplies, cooking gadgets, collections long forgotten (DVD’s, CD’s and children’s books) and hobby paraphernalia to ridiculous extremes. Did I really need 6 bottles of Elmer’s Glue and eight spools of floral tape? Did I need to save every scrap of fabric, extra ribbons, trims and buttons left over from sewing projects? Why do I have ten lids but no matching plastic containers? We have a pasta machine?? When did that happen?

It all happened during our thirty-three years of enjoying life together, with the past twenty of them in the home we are about to sell. To say we have lived abundantly would be an understatement. That word is not just a reference to our excessive compulsions, but is also a reflection of our lifestyle.

Making the decision to sell and downsize was not considered lightly, but at our age and stage of life, it feels right. We no longer want the responsibility of a big house and have come to view it as a burden rather than a blessing. We have things that serve no purpose in our lives and will never again be used. Those items were easy to donate or throw out, but there are many things that we are not quite ready to part with.

When we moved into this house, we didn’t do a fine sift and sort of our previous thirteen years together. We just packed boxes and moved. It wasn’t important then to decide if we would ever again need or want a thingamajig or doohickey. Now it is.

Sorting

I mentioned in the last post that our sorting process includes ‘pitch, donate, keep.’ We have had a few disagreements about what that means so we further defined the process. Basically it comes down to one question. Can I envision this item fitting into the next chapter? The sorting gets much easier after that. Just to be clear, we LOVE our stuff and are not those brave people who sell everything and start a new life. We are however, amiable to streamlining.

Moving Forward

As we near the end, sorting becomes less important and expediency has taken precedent. The three boxes on the right were packed a few years ago and stacked in a closet, presumably with things we weren’t ready to part with, but there is no label indicating contents. Not wanting to take the time to unpack and deal with it all, I am sending them to storage – as is. Yes, I know that is akin to ‘kicking the can down the road’, but it is the best I can do right now.

As stressful and physically demanding as this time has been, it has also been cathartic and extremely liberating. Whether you plan to move or not, I highly recommend taking stock of your situation. It was long overdue for us.

The plan going forward is to donate a few rooms of furniture from Malcolm’s Mom’s home and update/redecorate her home with some of our furniture. We will also send a few pieces to storage along with about 75 boxes that will be moved into an apartment or possibly our ‘forever home’ at some future date.

In the meanwhile, we will have a room at Malcolm’s mom’s house and will bounce around among short-term rentals, her place and travel.

First up is a one month stay in a Vrbo condo at our favorite local beach. That stay will begin mid-September. After that, we have plans to fly to the UK with the family in November to celebrate Thanksgiving and after that, who knows.

Taking a leap of faith is not uncommon to us and we are optimistic that the future will evolve as it should. This home has served its purpose well, but now it’s time to move on – with a lot less stuff!

Abundance is not something we acquire, it’s something we tune into.

Wayne Dyer

From Play Time to Reality

Even as the heat and humidity descended upon South Florida, June got off to an entertaining start. A belated Mother’s Day celebration in Palm Beach, followed by a weekend in Boca Grande quickly became our first and likely our last hurrah of the summer. Life happens.

In early June our daughter treated me to an overnight stay at the Colony Hotel in Palm Beach. Our weekend included dinner, shopping, cocktails by the pool and a fun bike ride around the island. It was the perfect girl trip.

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Miles of Smiles

After traveling forty-seven hundred miles in eighteen days, we safely arrived back home on Tuesday. Since then, I have washed several loads of laundry, processed photos from the later part of the trip, updated our annual Shutterfly book, and pondered how to approach this post.

First of all, there is nothing more satisfying than having plans you’ve meticulously made unfold beyond your expectations. Great weather had a lot to do with that, but I also like to think that attention to detail, such as allotment of time in each destination and tailoring the trip to our interests contributed as well. Be warned, this post is fairly long and photo intensive. I have tried not to bore you with too many details, but I did share a few specifics, some personal opinions and some valuable links, for readers who might want to plan a similar trip.

The map below is the same as the one I shared in the last post, but with two return stops added. One week before we left, we decide to break up the trip home by staying two nights each at Bethesda, MD and Kiawah Island, SC. We covered a big chunk of the Eastern US during our time away and while some areas are old favorites, others were completely new to us. We both agree that we love the excitement of making new discoveries, but there is something comforting about returning to a familiar place and seeing it with fresh eyes.

First Stop – Georgia

We generally categorize our destinations as primary and secondary, based on level of interest so Alpharetta, Georgia was a logical one night stop in route to Louisville, Kentucky. Alpharetta is a beautiful suburb not far from the hustle and bustle of Atlanta and was the perfect location to enjoy an outing at Gibbs Garden, great accommodations and a nice meal among a youthful crowd of local residents. This stop kicked-off what would be a very scenic and comfortable road trip. The surprise here was the little waterfall in the first photo below. Who knew?

Louisville, Kentucky

We found our first ‘real’ waterfall in Corbin, KY, located within Cumberland Falls State Park. The destination was conveniently (by design) on our way from Alpharetta to Louisville and easily accessible. Some waterfalls are earned and some are simply there. Cumberland Falls is in the later category. We pulled into a parking lot, walked a few yards and boom! There she was is all her glory. On this day, the water flow was heavy and with a powerful 69 foot drop, the mist floated through the air, blanketing everything and everyone in its vicinity. Welcome to beautiful Kentucky.

Pronounced Lool vull, by locals, and Lou e ville by the rest of the US, we were quickly enamored with this city. Having never visited the state of Kentucky, Malcolm and I relied on its iconic reputation for race horses, bourbon and bluegrass to choose Louisville as a destination. Wow, did it deliver all that and more. We have been to some very picturesque states; Texas, California, and Oregon, to name a few and the vistas here were comparable and beyond. Big skies, rolling hills covered in bluegrass, wild flowers, horses, long horn cattle, mammoth caves, magnificent waterfalls and of course Bourbon were highlights of our time here.

We shared our time here equally between sight-seeing and bourbon tasting, with the surprise outlier being a visit to the Louisville Slugger Museum, (Malcolm’s pick). Until our museum visit, I thought that Louisville Slugger was a famous baseball player. For those of you who also fall into that category of ignorance, it is actually a baseball bat. In fact, it is THE baseball bat and we got to see how it is made. For $15, the forty-five minute tour included a souvenir mini-bat for each of us.

Having been in manufacturing for twenty-two years, Malcolm appreciated the process well beyond the typical feelings of boyhood nostalgia. I have to admit, it was intriguing to watch and I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend the tour.

Continuing the theme of ‘little boys and their toys’, we visited the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY. Malcolm enjoyed this self-guided tour through the facility and I basically tagged along. Highly recommended for ‘car junkies enthusiast.’ Fee $15 for unlimited time.

Bourbon tasting is in a league of its own here and we visited a couple of our favorites, along with a new-to-us distillery. Lux Row is the featured bourbon at a culinary event we will be attending next month, so it was our first choice for a tour and tasting. Their facility is beautiful, the tour was informative and very professional and our time ended with a tasting of four of their products. Fee for the tour and tasting was $13 each.

We had a free tasting at 1792 (Barton Distilleries) and our last tasting of the day was at Willett (fee $12). I should mention that Kentucky’s distilleries are located miles apart from each other so if you go, plan your reservations carefully, pace yourself and enjoy some amazing drives.

Our home base here for four nights was the Brown Hotel, located in downtown Louisville. Covid restrictions were still in place and hotel services were limited. There were also some closures and reduced operating hours for restaurants around town. We quickly noticed this to be a recurring condition throughout our travels. We never felt inconvenienced and made necessary adjustments to our expectations, considering it a small price to pay for being able to travel again.

Corning, New York

The Elmira-Corning area and many other areas around the Finger Lakes of New York are a mecca for waterfalls. We discovered Watkins Glen State Park a few years ago and loved it so much that we made it the centerpiece of this road trip. I can’t say enough about the beauty of upstate New York and will let the photos speak for themselves.

A daily routine of hearty breakfast, morning hike, waterfall hunting and late afternoon lunch along the Seneca wine trail is a life I could get used to. I was in waterfall heaven and the anticipation of a new adventure every day was invigorating. Some falls are easier to reach than others and a typical day included hiking approximately 5 miles of easy to moderate terrain. Taughannock Falls, Lucifer and Ithaca Falls are pictured below. There are lots of resources on the internet that will help you plan which ones to visit. As with the distilleries in Kentucky, waterfalls are every where in this region of New York. It is wise to have a plan before heading out or you could end up driving in circles. Click Here for one of the guides we found helpful.

In addition to waterfalls, this region is also known for its Riesling, a light, slightly dry, slightly sweet sipping wine that goes well with anything from cheese to barbeque. We chose the wineries we visited based on the view. Seriously, it’s as simple as that. A nice chilled bottle, a plate of cheese and a killer view of the lake – perfect ending to a perfect day. There were others, of course, but the menu, service and ambiance at Fox Run earned a shout-out.

Home base for four nights was the Hilton Garden Inn in Corning. There are many options for accommodations in the area, including a number of charming B&B’s, but we like this hotel chain. We stayed here on our first trip to Corning and found it to be comfortable and exceptionally managed. Once again, we noticed a shortage of workers and reduced services, but it did not diminish our comfort in the least. One very dedicated employee seemed to be everywhere, from cooking our breakfast, to providing fresh towels to our room. More signs of the times we live in.

Block Island, Rhode Island

Six years ago we discovered Block Island. It is one of those places that compels a return visit, so it was an easy choice to make this our next stop after leaving New York. The last time we visited the island, we left our car behind and rented a scooter for the day while visiting. This time, we took our car over on the Ferry with us. It was the right decision since it enabled us to access many of the island’s gravel roads where scooters are prohibited.

When you think of the islands of New England, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket likely come to mind, but Block Island doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. There are a number of reasons for that, but most likely it’s about size. Block Island is just seven miles long and 3 miles wide. Over 43% of it is a natural preserve, which leaves very little left for development.

The island is hilly, with rocky beaches and high bluffs juxtaposed against flat sandy beaches, unspoiled coves and a grand salt pond cutting through it all. The natural beauty and wildlife habitats encountered here are astounding.

There are a couple of small hotels and a few Inns within walking distance of the ferry. Private homes are also available throughout the island. The tiny downtown area and main street showcase the National Hotel as its centerpiece. It is flanked by restaurants, souvenir shops, and ice cream parlors intermixed with scooter and bicycle rentals. Look further to the left and up the hill sits the stately Spring House Hotel, built in 1852. White Adirondack chairs, neatly displayed in a row on the front lawn, welcome visitors to sit a while. There is nothing pretentious about this place and you are clearly welcome.

From the minute you step, or drive off the ferry, you know you are on island time. Life moves at a slower pace here, with fewer distractions and less noise. Our days begin and end much the same but the discoveries made between sunrise and sunset is what brings us back.

A good place to begin exploring Block Island is with its beaches. There are several notable ones that couldn’t be more different and unique. These are our favorite three.

Mohegan Bluffs Beach

Mohegan Bluffs from the overlook platform

The platform at Mohegan Bluffs beach is just under 100 steps. It’s an easy walk, but beyond the platform gets a bit tricky. Erosion has dissolved the natural path down, so locals have rigged a rope for the remaining trek. Malcolm hung back and cheered me on. It was worth the effort.

Not to be missed just a few yards away is the Southeast light, a national historic landmark built in 1875. Parking spaces are located within a short walk of the structure.

Cow Cove – North Light

This beach is located at the end of Corn Neck Road near Settler’s Rock. Park at the monument and walk about a half mile to the tip of the island. That is where we found the these guys hanging out.

On the hike to the tip of the island, you will pass the North Light. The second light on the island and also a historic treasure. It typically offers tours and will be reopening soon.

Mansion Beach

Follow Corn Neck Road toward the North Light for about three miles. The right turn is marked with a sign and easy to follow. Parking spaces are just below the ruins of the old mansion. This beach is away from the crowds near the main street beach and has beautiful white sand.

Our home base on Block Island for four nights was the Darius Inn. Run by two sisters, the Inn personifies laid-back, island hospitality and reflects the multi-faceted eccentricities of the guests who find their way there. Having stayed here before, we knew what to expect of our hosts and were appreciative of their creative solution to providing service to our room. Their attitude was ‘your room, your choice.’ 1)Full service, 2)towels only, or 3)no entry were the options provided. Fair enough!

Block Island can be accessed by Ferry from several ports. We departed from the Point Judith Ferry Terminal in Narragansett. Our Senior Tickets cost $20 round trip (different day) and the fee for transporting the car was $77. Same day RT passes are available for $18. Some ports also offer a high speed ferry for passengers only, and there is a small airport on the island. It is possible to get the flavor of this island in one day, but we highly recommend a minimum two night stay.

As I mentioned, you don’t need a car on the island, but it does make getting to out-of-the-way places easier. We would never have found Grace’s Cove or Dories Beach on foot or by bike as the distance would have been too much for us. Unless you are used to riding on hilly terrain, a bike can be limiting and mopeds are not allowed on gravel roads (of which there are many).

Sunset at Grace’s Cove, just us on a secluded beach – ahhhh….

Homeward

It started raining practically the minute we exited the Ferry from Block Island and did not stop until two days later, when we left Bethesda. It was the first and only inclimate weather we encountered during the trip.

Bethesda, Maryland and Kiawah Island, South Carolina were basically rest stops, intended to break up the twenty-one hour drive home, but since we were there, why not explore a little? Adding a second night in each location gave us a full day to poke around.

The first thing we discovered is that most of the museums in DC are still closed and the ones that are open have limited admissions. Since exploring DC was out, we meandered around Bethesda and nearby Annapolis in a pouring rain. Bethesda is a beautiful suburb of DC and I was enthralled with the red-brick, colonial homes (very different to Florida homes), and the historic district in Annapolis is well worth a full day of exploration. We could easily fill a full week in this area and never run out of things to do. Noted! Tired of getting wet, we headed to our favorite place in Annapolis, Cantler’s.

Cantler’s is fairly famous in these parts and people come from all over for their steamed crabs. There was a forty-five minute wait when we got there, but within ten minutes Malcolm nabbed two seats at the bar. It’s the kind of place where you get to know your neighbors quickly, especially if you don’t know how to eat crab. Thanks Cantler’s for saving a soggy day from ruin.

We spent the next two nights at the Andell Inn on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Although there are some parallels, this island couldn’t be more different to Block Island’s kick-back style. It was truly lovely, beautifully sculpted and landscaped, almost to the point of ‘too much.’

A hotel staff member clued us in that the best way to see the island would be to have lunch at the Ocean Course Golf Club (recent home to the PGA National) which would allow us access through the private gate. Once in, it was easy to drive around and gawk appreciate this Audubon designated island. The vistas are beautiful and there are plenty of scenic pull-overs, walking paths and bike trails throughout the property. We are glad we satisfied our curiosity about Kiawah.

We enjoyed our complimentary two night stay at the beautiful Andell Inn (thank you Marriott rewards program) our self-guided tour of the island, a couple of nice meals, a walk through the village shops, a game of corn hole with a sweet young couple we met on the green and an enlightening conversation with the bartender at Cantina 76.

Next stop – home!

Waiting for the sun to set at Grace’s Beach, feeling satisfied, grateful and simply happy to live this life together. Traveling or not, we are always chasing waterfalls.

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