Saturday, December 28, 2019

My 2019 Year Rehashed

The year began with a New Year’s celebration in a warm climate, far south of my hometown, compelled to don attire that does nothing to disguise my round figure. I spent the entire first month of 2019 idling in sunny balminess, although the month was not totally devoid of toil. I worked at avoiding the news throughout the year, aiming to be uninformed, ignorant, and unaware of goings on inside the Beltway. Never checked tweets for Presidential platitudes. My way of preserving mental health.

February I ventured further south and sailed around the tip of South America before returning home in time to experience a few days of winter, observe signs of spring, and visit all the doctors who missed me while I was away. Too busy traveling and lounging in doctors’ suites to pay attention to the latest news, I did not care where Amazon decided to build its megacorporate center or when Britain will Brexit or who won Academy Awards. I watched only a couple of nominated movies. My pop culture IQ has sunk to the low double digits. 

With a hint of spring in the air at home, I headed up north where spring doesn’t arrive until summer, to visit family. Rummaging through the closet for my warmest clothes, I loaded up with layers and walked around like a zombie, unable to move limbs weighted down by Arctic apparel.  

I was a bouncing ball this year, home for a while, then on the road, home again and soon off once more. In April hub and I drove the dreaded Interstate 95 to Boston, the New York to Boston route one of the worst in the country. Too much traffic and too many trucks. But we saw our son run in the Boston marathon and took a quick trip to Martha’s Vineyard before seasonal crowds descended and prices skyrocketed. 

Returned home for a short time, then took off on a Spirit Air flight to witness grandkids’ activities. Southward ho!

The weather warmed and the month of May meant really, really cheap flights to Florida – twice - for family events.

June arrived and the state of Maine called. Boarding a Windjammer for a six-day cruise island hopping across Maine waters, hub and I shared the tightest quarters in the history of tourism. And shared toilets. Shared by lots of people...We connected with our grandkids in Boston and Cape Cod. And while on the subject of travel, I noticed the President visited the next tourist hotspot - North Korea. I think he negotiated a hotel deal, but that is officially top secret.

I observed another birthday. The following day I carefully examined my hair, face and figure. No changes from the day before. What a relief! 

July brought family knocking on our door at the shore. I spent lots of time on the sand, in the sea, and at our favorite ice cream and bagel shops. Meanwhile in the wider world a slew of politicians and wealthy men declared their desire to be the next President. The debates proved music to fall asleep by, and by the end of the month hub and I needed a break. Thought about exploring Greenland, possibly the 51st state, but instead flew off to Scotland.

August ushered in much needed quiet time. Never made it to Popeye’s for one of their best-selling chicken sandwiches. 

Suddenly September. I briefly considered a visit to Ukraine. The country dominated the news and I felt a kinship for the far, far away land that relatives bolted over a century ago. Opted for another trip to Florida. And Vermont. Family beckoned!

I stayed home October and November. Prepared a Thanksgiving feast for a select group of eight family members. Served peach pie in a nod to current events. My taste buds thanked me for the holiday repast but my waistline did not.

Cold weather swooped in, days grew shorter and skies grayer. Catalogs clogged my snail mailbox, ads jammed my email box, and product commercials temporarily replaced drug ads on TV. I spent the last month of the year viewing vapid Hallmark Christmas movies, all three seasons of the Crown and season three of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, dozing through The Irishman, occasionally exercising, NOT shopping, languishing in true couch potato fashion, and eating – especially eating.

Whew. I’m exhausted. Time for a long winter’s slumber.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Winter Festivities Foreshadow the Season Ahead

The winter solstice arrived December 21st, a non-event for most people, briefly mentioned but probably not noticed or cited at all. Most of us no longer live in agricultural communities and the change of seasons does not significantly affect our lifestyle. Outdoor exercise routines may have to be adjusted. Some folks, teachers for instance, mark the days until summer. 
A seasonal outdoor activity in Cape May, NJ.
 For most people living in the Northern Hemisphere the winter solstice is one more gray day in a string of overcast days. I do not look forward to more of the same – cloudy, cold, not always dry days. But the winter solstice does portend hope that change eventually occurs. For the better. More hours of daylight, the sun’s warmth replacing chilly shade, teasing us, promising brighter days. 

Alas, the worst of winter is yet to be experienced. But first there are holidays to celebrate, a tradition reaching back ages, a ploy to turn the reality of long, cold winter days ahead at bay a little longer. Homes and buildings glisten with holiday lights, businesses bustle as folks shop, eat, and socialize before a modern form of winter hibernation sets in. The somber quietude of January has almost arrived, so enjoy a few days of festivity first!

In honor of the holiday season and hub’s birthday, and thanks to a birthday gift card, we patronized a restaurant in Cape May, New Jersey, a resort town that has discovered how to celebrate the holidays in style. The restaurant was packed with groups enjoying each other's company and the festive occasion. Blocks of Victorian homes, many B&Bs, decked out in lights and decorations inside and out, captivate visitors. Holiday-themed events are scheduled throughout the month of December.

The festive lights will be turned off after the first of the New Year, the decorations carefully packed away until next year. Many businesses and restaurants will close their doors so the staff can take vacation and prepare for the next tourist season. Locals may temporarily take off for places offering warmer waters and sunny days. Including hub and me...

Saturday, December 14, 2019

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream for...Asian desserts?!

I consider myself fairly open to unfamiliar foods and enjoy trying new dishes. This week my kids introduced me to Asian sort-of-like-ice-cream-but-not-really desserts. We visited an establishment called Kasai and Koori, and I indulged.

Kasai and Koori is not the name of the store’s owners. The stores (currently four in south Florida)  are owned by two American guys who, while traveling the globe, discovered these culinary delights and decided to offer the frozen dishes to a new audience. Kasai and Koori are Japanese words for fire and ice, representing two opposing forces that come together for a unique experience.

Asian dessert places are a new ‘thing’. Trendy. Popular. Google Asian dessert locations and up pops: 10 Best Asian Dessert Places in...Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, Austin...and the list goes on. Not being in the loop on trendy stuff, I was unaware of Asian treats of any kind. Except lychees, a dessert served at Chinese restaurants for as long as I can remember.

But dessert offerings have gone upscale (translation: not cheap), trendy (the stores are packed), varied (selections overwhelming), and multinational.

An introduction to some of the eye-appealing and apparently low-cal 
offerings found at Kasai and Koori
and other Asian dessert bars colonizing the country:

Kakigori, originally a specialty reserved for royalty but now available to all commoners with a few discretionary bucks to spend, are shaved ice creations. Available in various flavors, at Kasai and Koori they have exotic names like Tropical Fuji, The Sleeping Dragon, and Up All Night (coffee-flavored. Love that caffeine!). 

Taiyaki are fish-shaped waffle cones (they taste like waffles and not ice cream cones) with a frozen cream filling. Choices include Shake Senora, Summer of 69, and Tree Hugger. The treats are composed of a flavored cream, two or more toppings, and a drizzle, such as chocolate sauce, coconut, or Nutella.

Hot Taiyaki are a popular street food in Korea and Japan. A waffle cone is stuffed with a sweet or savory filling, such as: chocolate and cherry, Nutella, or a dark chocolate, banana and coconut combo.

Mochi are (usually) round, hand held Japanese delights. Traditionally made with glutinous rice, nowadays prepared with rice flour, a hard shell encases a cream concoction. Available in various colors, typically pastel shades, they are sold at Trader Joe’s and Costco. However I have not scouted out the items in either store. 

Hub and I shared one dish. Two sizes are offered: large and humongous (my terms). The store calls the two sizes regular and sumo. The cost will dent your pocketbook: 7.88 and 12.88 (the number 88 symbolizes fortune and good luck in Chinese culture) for the Kakigori we shared. The large/regular was more than adequate for the two of us.

I enjoyed my Up All Night Kakigori - flavorful, light, interesting - but doubt I will become a dedicated fan. I still prefer my decadent dish of Ben and Jerry’s. 

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Boomers Reminisce Holiday Festivities and Preparations

This week I was flying high, not a drug-induced kind of high, the soaring-in-the-sky kind. In a Spirit Air jet. A short ride, comparatively speaking, 2½ hours from the wind-swept cold of the Northeast to the balmy sun-drenched state of Florida. For a few days I am enjoying the company of my grandkids. I have sat for hours in stiff steel bleachers waiting for my granddaughters’ teams to compete in cheerleading. We got manicures and pedicures. Sampled Asian ice cream – a shaved ice concoction, actually. Baked cookies, strolled a craft fair, and witnessed the usual family feuds (of which I did not participate).  

Meanwhile my boomer buddies have spent time this week in end-of-year reflection and holiday preparations.

Carol Cassara ruminates about...stuff. Can you really manifest a Rolex, a Mercedes and great wealth by simply envisioning them? Over at A Healing Spirit, Carol Cassara addresses her issue with so-called "manifestation" gurus in Why Stuff Doesn't Make You Happy & What to Do about It

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer and personal finance journalist, urges consumers to use caution when signing up for “free trial offers.” Companies, using the fine print, may begin charging you for the items after the free trial period is over, even though you haven’t given permission.

Laurie Stone of Musings, Rants & Scribbles is haunted by Christmas trees past. She catches glimpses of large Christmas firs in other people’s living rooms, aglow with lights and shiny ornaments. She pictures wreaths and bows and poinsettas and gives a sigh. That’s what her living room used to look like. But time moved on and her family has gone through three distinct Christmas phases…

Concerning our health and well-being...

During the past 11 months, Jennifer of Unfold And Begin had a monthly post about Cheryl Richardson's book The Art of Extreme Self-Care.  There was a lot to learn, but during a crisis, it's easy to forget what we've learned.  That why it all wraps up in December with this look at How to Make Your Own Extreme Self-Care Tool Kit.  

Tom at Sightings Over Sixty considers the factors that go into our health ... and how long we will live. Some of them are drawn at the lottery of birth -- how healthy our parents were, how long they lived. But in Can We Live Forever? he also finds that there is a lot we can do to help ourselves live longer and feel better, no matter who our parents were -- or however much we may have mistreated ourselves in our younger years.   

Regarding another celebration – birthdays!
Rebecca Olkowski with will be 66 this month and has been thinking about what makes someone young and someone old as a state of mind. How old do you feel in your mind as opposed to your actual age?