Hello, Spring!

signs of spring: allium

No signs of snow here. It’s spring  and International Day of Happiness. It’s easy to be happy on the first official day of spring. (Big cozy hugs to those still in the snow.) For me, with the official spring calendar day, I cheerfully say, “Adios, winter!”

The streams are bubbling — bubbles sighted! — along the trail. The brave spring flora are emerging.

A harbinger of spring, my garden alliums have been a longtime favorite; their statuesque beauty always ignites joy. I was so worried their relocation last fall to another garden bed would disrupt their cycle. Worries, begone.  Bring on the happy!

Zany for Zinnias

After settling into our new home 16 years ago, I planned my garden of flowers and veggies. My kitchen window gave me a perfect view of happy, brightly colored flowers. At the first opportunity, I asked my neighbor what she was growing. Beautiful zinnias! My affection for zinnias and annual sowing of the cheerful flowers in prime viewing placement in my garden began. Now zany for zinnias, I buy the seed packets as soon as they pop up in the stores. The Garden Mill was stocked last weekend and I stumbled upon a 10% off seed sale. Sweet. Once any frost concerns are gone, zinnias will be sown.

Mutual rescue, mutual unconditional love

This sweet doggy is 10 today. Moose came into our lives after our previous rescue dog, Libby, passed away from old age. Never in doubt that we would rescue another dog, we kept our eyes out for adoption day opportunities. We found Moose at an adoption Moosie - 10 years oldevent in downtown Pinckney. She was the only rust haired puppy in a litter of mutts, most of which resembled German Shepherds. (We learned mamma was likely a party girl with two suitors.) Her given name of Ginger was apropos, of course. There was something about her sweet eyes and shaky little body that drew us in. She was petrified. We decided to give her a big name of Moose, named for the tiny village amid the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, a favorite family destination. Truthfully, we call her Moosie 99% of the time.

Ten years later, and she still has some anxiety around people coming into our home, though she is deeply loyal, loving, vocal, and protective. She loves kids and popcorn. She has no fear of hiking in below freezing temperatures, but has a hard time walking in the heat. Tug of war is her game of choice.

A morning hike after breakfast and a birthday treat from The Brown Basset Baker started her day. Another treat later today, some tug of war, of course, and an off leash run around the yard will wrap up her birthday fun.

Ice is not nice, but nature’s setting prevails

I left my hiking boots in Holland (MI) this weekend, so I had to resort to an old pair that took a beating during my plantar fasciitis days. A bit discouraged, I almost skipped my planned hike. Fortunately, I was determined to walk Moose this morning. The sun was vibrantly beckoning, the morning wIcy trailas a toasty 23 degrees requiring less layers and the doggy and I needed exercise after an indulgent weekend. (Who can resist homemade bread???) We went to our easy access trail system at the Discovery Center and found ourselves the only adventurers this morning. Quickly heading to the Lowland trail, I stopped in my tracks when I saw the trail of ice. Not discouraged, I headed to another trail entry… and another. Unfortunately, the ice was prevalent. Determined to never have another injury in my life, I realized today was not going to be a trail day after all. The lower lip started to fatten and a frown started settling in, but damn that sun was bright and the air’s purity quickly flipped that hint of a frown.

I’ve learned a trick over the years: when I feel discouraged or sad for whatever reason, I quickly say, “I am grateful.” I am grateful to be alive. I am grateful I can walk. I am grateful for nature that surrounds me. I am grateful. Moose and I walked the ice-free drive through the park and basked in the sun’s glow as it shimmered through the trees. I am grateful.

Going to the gym

Years ago, I committed to the gym with a zealous passion. Aerobics, Zumba, strength and spin classes, pilates and floor routines were tackled with verve. One solid year. I enjoyed the vibe, the social interactions and the variety. And then I was done. I thought, “What the heck?” I could be inhaling fresh air and feeling that soulful deep cleanse after a hike in the woods. Bye bye gym, back to nature. For me, being outside is the best mental and physical workout. While I greatly admire those who commit to early morning swims and spins within four walls, I have not missed the gym at all. So last night, when I stumbled upon an outdoor gym at a park near my daughter’s evening activity, I thought, “Hey, now this I can do.” After squats, arm presses and some rowing, I walked through crunchy snow toward the sunset. Thanks, Hamburg Township!

Cheesy Quest

When New Year’s resolutions are made, the resolutions do not usually involve giant bowls of gooey cheese and pasta. Of course, I am going to eat well in 2019; I love my morning oatmeal, daily greens, not-too-heavy dinners and weekly salmon dishes. Healthy eating comes easy to me. There is always dark chocolate involved and often a splash (okay, a glass or two) of wine and *healthy* chips that make me human. I have resolved to ensure I am doing strength training, yoga and cardio two days each, in addition to my nature hikes. My 50-year-old bones need the weight bearing exercise, stretching and movement.

lola rose - montreal - mac and cheese
Cheesy-spicy goodness at Lola Rosa in Montreal

Back in the day, my older daughter can attest to nights of Kraft mac and cheese and Tuna Helper with the “cheesy” (was it really cheese?) macaroni — quick dinners on a budget for this newly divorced mom, working long hours and juggling activities. (Julia was also tormented by too many nights of chicken tenderloins, so I’ve been told.) Those days are long gone. Heck, her younger sister by 8 years does not even like cheese — or meat.

My renewed interest in macaroni and cheese began during the week my dad died in September. My sister and I craved mac and cheese. I finally appeased that desire for warm, gooey mac and cheese (real cheese!) at Lola Rosa on Milton in Montréal. My friend Amanda invited me to piggyback on her work trip the weekend of my 50th birthday in October. My hubby Kris so nicely bought me a ticket with his frequent flier miles, so the few days away were a real affordable treat. I walked miles and miles in Montréal and stopped at Lola Rosa for a late lunch. Friends who frequent the historic city thanks to two children at McGill recommended it to me. When I saw a baked mac and cheese on the menu, I sat back and settled in. Twenty minutes later, the most heavenly dish was presented to me. Baked with aged cheddar, Havarti, Jalapeños, and spinach, the mac was complemented with a fresh side salad. This was my first-ever mac and cheese with Jalapeños and I’m never going back. To. Die. For. A slight crunch from the slow bake was followed by the perfect pairing of decadent sink-your-teeth-in cheesy pasta and minced spicy pepper.

With memories of Lola Rosa on the mind, when offered a Make Your Own mac and cheese at Bridge Street Tap Room in Charlevoix over the Christmas holidays, I was lured again into ordering the decadent dish. I had a support team this time with Kris and Michael, my brother-in-law. While Bridge Street’s mac and cheese is a regular on the menu, the Make Your Own is every Wednesday night. The options had me at Gouda and Jalapeños. Cooked to gooey perfection in a four-cheese sauce (Gouda… and, ah, three other cheeses), the mac I custom ordered featured slices of Jalapeños, slivers of red onions and mushrooms. Proteins and other veggies are options, too. The hefty bowl arrived, and I was happy to share the load. To. Die. For. Hooked.

So, along with my renewed health resolutions, I am going to indulge in every mac and cheese Jalapeño dish I find in 2019. Guilt free. Fabulously committed to my New Year’s resolutions.

When the wind blows

IMG_5558During the early hours of November 9, the winds blew in the first snow of the season. The snowfall was surprising; waking up to the chilly billowy blanket prompted spontaneous glee. A native “up north” Michigander, I can never hold back celebrating the first snow.

Quickly, though, the date sank in. This day was supposed to be the 55th wedding anniversary for mom and dad. Dad’s passing on September 11 is very fresh. Though he was 88, he died as a result of head trauma after a fall, so his sudden death was unexpected. As the day progressed, I wavered between joy for the snow and sadness for mom and dad. Additionally, my California family and friends were under wildfire siege after the tragic Thousand Oaks shootings. The wickedly warm Santa Ana winds prodded Southern California fires to spread quickly while NoCal suffered deeply from its own firestorm. The day was a tough one. Memories of dad, fear for my loved ones and concern for mom kept my stomach in knots all day… except when I walked the trails around my house or caught a glimpse of the pretty snowscape from my windows throughout the day. I am thankful the snow stayed through the night.

Today, we’re back to November brown; the shade between the last of autumn’s pretty palette and Aslan’s Narnia. My California loved ones are safe and the fires are somewhat contained. I am hopeful the brave teams of firefighters will be able to rest soon.

I am very thankful for our Great Lakes. The five giant bodies of fresh water provide protection from major weather catastrophes. As long as the snow keeps falling and nature keeps sharing its comfort, I have hope.