What a Gorgeous Michigan Weekend! #summertime

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For the last month, I – along with many other Michiganders – have been toeing that line of demarcation between winter and spring. Moaning and groaning and carrying on about the lingering cold weather and even April snow has been a constant theme of every day. Last Sunday I drove to the beach, and I had to put on a parka to go out on the pier. As I drove away, I wondered how many of the tourists had planned on spring-like weather but had been forced to bundle up. So…. we’ve … been … waiting ….

We were set free yesterday! The temps neared 80 degrees. Count – ’em .. not 60 not 70 … but 80 degrees! Okay, it was only 77, but it’s close enough. I had to clean my house because it was disgusting after 6 weeks of focused study on my certification and then vacation. But I did it early and late and hit the road like a Chicago tourist all the damn weekend.

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I got a massage. I ate out for breakfast …. TWICE. I drove up to Saugatuck. I ate out for dinner. And I took a long run on a short pier. I ate tacos and tamales on a picnic table in Coloma. I drove down country roads with country music blaring out of the speakers. I bought delicious morel mushrooms.  Every tree in every orchard is in full bloom. The dandelions dot the landscape with little yellow kisses. Snowbirds are returning from Arizona, Florida and New Orleans with their tans. All the stores and restaurants are opening their doors for the season. As far as I’m concerned, the switch is flipped. It is summertime in Michigan!

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So, we have about 6 months of carefree lovely weather before we start bundling up again. Yeah, it’ll be chilly again yet this spring, and it’ll start cooling down for fall in September. But the snow better be gone for the time being. This year, it has worn out its welcome!

Sunday Night Check-In: Winter Fest

 

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When I lived up here last time, I don’t remember doing much in the wintertime. My ex was a wuss when it came to cold weather, and he thought winter was made for waiting for spring b*tching about the weather. I didn’t know any different. As a southerner, you hunker down and drip your faucets when it gets cold enough for water to freeze. But it’s a lot shorter wait in the south for springtime.

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Last year I walked downtown with Ashok in February and noticed a big festival going on.  (You can read my blog here.) Ice carvers filled the streets, and onlookers drank hot chocolate and shopped. In the middle of the square was a massive ice cube, and they lit a bonfire inside it. The fire burned out and my hot chocolate turned cold before the ice melted. I would never have imagined such a thing.

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So, this year I promised myself I’d get out and experience the winter festivals. I ran a 5K in the Magical Ice Fest in Saint Joseph Saturday morning, and then drove up to the Icebreaker Festival in South Haven. The 5K was really fun. It was cold. I mean, it’s February in Michigan, right? We had snow on the ground, and plenty of it had turned to ice. The announcer told us to watch our footing as there were a couple of slippery places on the course. I looked under my feet, and I was standing on a solid bed of ice. Hmmmmm….

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The race was beautiful and uneventful, and I didn’t even look at my time when I came in. I just enjoyed the day and the event. We got a fabulous big mug instead of a shirt, and I could not wait to get home and fill that baby with hot cocoa. The post-race food was divine. Sliced fruit, homemade chocolate chip cookies, pretzels, marshmallows and popcorn were placed in front of crockpots of melted chocolate for dipping. The South Bend Chocolate Factory provided trays of their finest chocolates. Biggby Coffee provided coffee and hot chocolate with plenty of whipped cream for topping. I will definitely sign up for this one again!

After watching some ice carvers, Ashok and I headed up to South Haven for their Icebreaker festival. I’d seen the billboard a hundred times, and I really wanted to go. This was a much bigger festival, and it took awhile to find parking. I finally decided to park down by the lighthouse and walk into town. The lighthouse catwalk was covered in snow and ice, and we walked around with a few other adventurous folks enjoying the scenery and the challenge of standing upright.

It was a beautiful day, and there were lots of people about. The festival featured cardboard sled racing, ice sculptures and a Frozen Fish Fling. I wish I’d gotten a picture of the Frozen Fish Fling, but my phone died before it started. A large crowd gathered round and cheered and jeered as adults and children flung big frozen fish as far as their arm would propel it. Laughter filled the air, and a good time was had by all.

I went to yoga this morning, had lunch at a local deli-bakery, took a nap and then took Ashok out to Grand Mere State Park for a walk in a snowstorm. It was the perfect end to a perfect weekend. Well, actually it wasn’t all perfect. When I got out of the car yesterday, my beautiful mug fell out and broke into several pieces. I am heartbroken. I guess I’ll just have to do it all again next year.

Y’all have a good week, and quit b*tching about the weather. If you have ice, channel a Michigander and make ice sculptures.

 

 

 

CoffeeHouse #1: Something New for 2018

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I’m looking for a blog project. I want to be writing more frequently, but I’m struggling with topics. When I lived in Baton Rouge, I did a project called Love Baton Rouge where I wrote daily about something I loved in Baton Rouge. In part it was a way to shift my mind about Baton Rouge, but the benefit was largely creatively. It helped me write more. My feet were held to the proverbial fire. I had no excuses for not writing.

After some feedback from friends on Facebook, I’ve decided to try something new everyday and blog about it. In addition, I’m going to honor my 57th birthday this year by going to 57 coffeehouses throughout the year. I don’t know where I’m going to find them, but I’m going to find them.

To combine those two goals this morning, I decided to start my birthday holiday with a morning breakfast visit to Caffe Tosi in Saint Joseph. I know. I’ve been to Caffe Tosi’s before. But I’ve never hung around for breakfast – at least not this time around in Michigan. I got dressed, drove downtown, parked in the bitter cold and snow and cozied up to a table for some Cinnamon French Toast and coffee. I’m not supposed to have either but it’s my birthday holiday. Screw it.

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Back in December I walked in Tosi for a scone, and I told the guy behind the counter that I was going to come back and sit for awhile. It was so cozy and beautifully decorated for the holiday. He said that would be great, and I actually never made it back. I got seduced by other coffeehouses, and it just never happened. This morning, I walked in, and he said “Sharon, isn’t it?” I was blown away that he remembered my name from that short interaction. And then I was so embarrassed that I didn’t remember his. But I thought it was really sweet that he remembered me.

He brought out this beautiful round homemade cinnamon bread french toast with maple syrup, and I ate it. I ate every bite. No exaggeration, it was delicious. I watched a table of runners come in from out of the cold and cozy up for coffee at a table. I only looked at my phone to take some pictures, and I enjoyed the sparkly Valentine’s decorations that adorn the windows. I decided that I quite like Caffe Tosi. For my coffeehouse #1 in 2018, it was a good choice.

Note: I later met a group of friends for coffee on the way to Chicago. I told them I had breakfast at Caffe Tosi, and they asked me if I saw Paul there. “Paul?” I asked. Then it clicked. He didn’t remember my name because he was some superstar barista that recalls the names of every ordinary customer that walks in the door. We have mutual friends. 🙂

 

A Beautiful Snowy Evening

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One of my coworkers walked over to my desk today and informed me that we were getting 20 inches of snow in the next couple of days. “What?” I asked incredulously. I knew it was possible because I’d lived here before, but at that time I wasn’t having to shovel my own snow. I lived in a condo where snow removal was not in my list of responsibilities. I can’t even imagine how many times I’d have to shovel for that much snow. My arms are going to be cut by spring.

Today’s snow was fluffy and light. Snow has many, many personalities, and the light stuff is very glittery and special. It floats and sparkles across the sky and piles up on the ground in fluffy piles that go “poof” when you walk through them. Shoveling is easy because it moves and floats to the side. But all day it kept falling and falling and falling some more. Lake Michigan kept sucking up water into the atmosphere and tossing it on top of Saint Joseph. Meanwhile the below freezing temperatures keep us in the deep freeze with no melting in sight.

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I went to the gym for a spinning class and ate some of Tosi’s Minestrone soup for dinner. The snow had stopped, and it was a balmy 20 degrees with no wind. It has been so cold lately that Ashok and I have not taken a walk in a long time. “You want to go for a walk?” I asked her. She jumped off the sofa and ran circles in the living room. We both got dressed for the cold and headed outside.

The neighborhood was quiet. I suppose most people were staying off the roads, so traffic was almost non-existent. A few folks were shoveling or running their snowblowers, but for the most part, we were the only ones on the streets. It was the first time I slowed down today to take a deep breath and relax. Ashok was energetically running from one pile of snow to another, wading in drifts almost over her head. She leaped like a rabbit until  she resurfaced and then rolled on the ground before shaking herself off. Her playfulness made me laugh out loud, and I felt pretty happy to be outside on such a gorgeous night.

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The weather forecast looks daunting, and we won’t see temps above freezing until next Monday. The little break in the weather tonight was a real treat. I hope we see a few more surprises like that in the near future and that I can take advantage of them.

 

The New Normal

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With the lake effect snow we had last weekend, I had to pull out my snow boots and heavy coat and get used to the “snow” drill again. On Sunday, I put on my boots and bundled up for a trip to Sawyer for some coffee and biscotti. It took forever to get out the door. I forgot my mittens. Then I remembered I needed my computer. Oh yeah, then I had to shovel snow to get the car out of the driveway. Finally I was off!

I spent some time reading and drinking coffee and then decided I should do my grocery shopping. I’ve been trying to save a bit of money, so I thought I would try shopping at Meijer, a Michigan-based Walmart-type store. I hate that store, but it is cheaper. This week it would be good to save some money.

Bundling up for the early morning routine…

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As I said in my Yummly blog, Yummly is changing my life. I got out my shopping list and began checking off items. Meijer’s produce is wildly disorganized, and I couldn’t find any rhyme or reason to the setup. I even asked an employee how it was organized, and she couldn’t tell me either. All she could do is point out the items when I’d read them off my list. “I hate this store,” I mumbled under my breath. “Breathe… you are saving money,” my saner brain countered. I continued my shopping which seemed to take approximately 3 hours because I couldn’t figure out where anything was. The lotion was completely across the store. It was a mile and half walk through molasses to get it and then walk back to the dairy and frozen foods. “I’m never doing this again,” I said. “Relax,” my saner self said. “It’s almost over.”

It’s 5 AM. Go shovel!

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I finally got in the line, and it was like being in a slow motion movie. The woman in front of me had purchased food for the entire state of Michigan, and the cashier was in no hurry to get finished. I tried breathing. I attempted meditating. When it came to the point where I wanted to scream and leave my basket in the lane, I had to talk myself down off the ledge. “You don’t ever have to come back here again,” I bargained. “It’s worth $100 to shop somewhere else.”

Yep… gotta shovel…

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I walked out to the car, loaded my groceries in and left. I had to go the local bookstore to pick up some Christmas gifts, and I realized that I didn’t have my phone. I had it when I was checking off my list in Meijer. I drove back over to see if someone had turned it in. I trudged through the parking lot looking close to where I parked to see if I dropped it. Snow and slush and water covered the area, and I knew that phone could be covered up under that or run over by a car. The customer service desk (and I use that term loosely) had no better news, and I drove back home empty-handed.

To make a long story short, I ended up having to cut off my phone and get a new one. But the whole saga took about 4 hours and $300 off my Sunday. Going to Meijers did NOT save me any money, thank you very much. I will never go there again.

It’s been one frustration after another this week. I get up, check the driveway to see if I need to shovel. Shovel if necessary. When I get ready to go to work, I have to get boots, pack a pair of shoes for work, pack my lunch and bring mittens along with my purse and phone. I inevitably forget something. Once I’ve been outside in my boots, I can’t wear them inside because they are wet. So I have to take the boots off and go back inside to get what I forgot. If I forget something in the car, I have to put my boots on to go outside … and my coat … and my mittens. Everything just takes so long!!!!

My friend Ann and I went downtown to look at the Christmas lights. We bundled up, bundled up Ashok and headed down Main Street. When we turned on the street toward the Christmas lights, the cold north wind off Lake Michigan roared right through us. It took my breath away. We walked about 10 steps, and Ann said, “I don’t think I can do this.” “Maybe we could drive by the Christmas lights”, I said … and we did.

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Downshifting to Winter

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Almost as soon as Labor Day rolled past, the Lake Michigan winds started to blow. The temperature has dropped slowly but steadily since then. Sunday, we’ve got highs in the 30s, and there’s a chance of snow in the forecast tomorrow. Thanksgiving is next week, and that is what I’ve always considered the marker of winter here in Southwest Michigan. Tonight Saint Joe has their Luminary Festival, and, of course it is spitting rain outside. I’ll probably head over there a little later if the rain hasn’t doused the event.

My coats are hanging on my porch for ready access, and I’m starting to bundle up for my walks with Ashok. This year I’m running, so I’m starting to remember how many layers I need when it is 50, 40 or 30 degrees outside. I haven’t seen the 20s yet, but it’s coming. And snow is just on the horizon. I’m trying to decide if I’m going to run in snow and ice or take to the dreadmill in the gym. I hate that damn treadmill. But, it’s better than busting my arse.

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My energy changes in the winter, and my mood begins to drop. I find myself changing my self-care regimen a bit. I still need to exercise, but I find myself wanting to come home and curl up on the sofa with a couple of fur babies and a cup of hot tea. I still do my fit camp circuits, but I’m trying to add more yoga to the mix. I signed up for a yoga workshop Saturday, and I attended a friend’s yoga class last night. My body feels like it needs to stretch and breathe more in the winter. And I try to listen.

I’ve made the switch from coffee to tea. I drink lots of chai, and this year I started making my own homemade almond milk. It tastes lighter and sweeter than cow’s milk, and it perfectly compliments my chai. Lately I’ve been drinking gallons of green and black chai and a herbal turmeric chai. Turmeric seems to help my achy knees and joints and the ginger in this one is very warming. I’m having steel cut oats for breakfast instead of summer’s granola and yogurt, and I’m preferring cooked apples and pears to chilled fruit.

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I’m enjoying the warmth of being in the presence of people. I like the yoga class instead of practicing at home. The comfort of sitting in a coffeehouse is more attractive than being at home. And I’m craving the holiday lights in busy Chicago. I hope to make it over there next week.

I feel more reflective in general. I have the urge to blog and have long conversations with friends. My friend Ann and I have spent a good deal of time together the last few weeks, reflecting on our lives and our friendship. We’ve eaten soups and pasta and warm toasty bread. We’ve both shed tears. I sleep more and better this time of year, and there are mornings when I don’t want to get out of bed. I never really sleep late, but I certainly do enjoy cuddling under a warm wool blanket when it’s cold.

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When I was in the Upper Peninsula this summer, I saw lots of sauna dealers. It occurred to me that people up here probably like saunas more than we do down south. I remembered that the women at the spa were always asking me if I wanted to sit in the sauna for awhile before I got my facial, and I didn’t understand the draw to that. After spending 3 years in Louisiana, the last thing I wanted was to be hot. But I realize that the warmth will probably be good for my skin, my joints and my mood. So, I’m going to take advantage of that this winter.

I plan to talk long walks in the snow among the twinkling holiday lights with the roar of Lake Michigan waves in the background. Ashok loves rolling in the snow, and we’ll head out to the woods where it will be still and quiet. The deer in the neighborhood will start grazing in my yard again, and I’ll watch them from my yoga room upstairs. I hope the Collective has a toasty meditation or gong bath at the winter solstice where I can curl up and rest among friends. Winter sets its own pace in Michigan. Let the downshifting begin.

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Summer’s Sensuous Kiss

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Image from Michigan Beachtowns website

After an early dinner, I decided to take Ashok for a walk downtown. The muggy, rainy morning had transformed into a gorgeous sunny afternoon with just a hint of a breeze. And I had time to kill.

Bustling with summer vacationers and weekend visitors from Illinois, Saint Joe was dressed in its summer finest. With a stroke of luck, I found a a parking spot on Main Street, and we walked down by the bluff and headed to Silver Beach. If shoppers weren’t eating ice cream or shopping for Great Lakes souvenir wear, they were photographing children sitting on the painted fish that decorate every corner. With equal measure, children were laughing and playing or crying from sheer exhaustion after a long day in the sunshine. It is summertime in Michigan.

For months I’ve strolled the beaches and the streets with my dog. Parking was crazy easy to find, and it was rare to see people just hanging out on the benches in town. If you were downtown, you had a reason to be there. The snow and wind and bone-chilling temps of winter kept people inside drinking hot chocolate and visiting with friends. With spring’s approach, every flower burst into bloom, and the people started to come. Summer’s peak arrived Memorial Day weekend, and now I am grateful if I can find a parking spot.

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This morning’s farmer’s market was crowded. I bought fruits and vegetables for the week. As of five o’clock yesterday, I am on vacation. I packed road food purchased at the market. Smoked whitefish, creamy artisan cheese, local blueberries and peaches, homemade pesto and a boatload of just-picked veggies will satisfy my hunger on the long drive. While the crowds arrive here for their vacation, I will head north – as far north as I can drive.

But tonight we walked downtown and out on the jetty by the lighthouse. Tourists who left their dogs at home stopped to pet Ashok. The cutest curly-haired twin girls squealed with delight as they saw her, and hugged and petted her. One of them wouldn’t leave her side as we walked away, and her father finally had to go pick her up and put her on his shoulders. She burst into tears to see her go.

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It was warm tonight, but I didn’t even break into a sweat until I was headed back downtown. I thought about July in Louisiana as I walked down the jetty in the sunshine. It would’ve been brutal to walk around downtown Baton Rouge at 5 PM this time of year. The cabana on the beach had a sign out front that read “reserved”, and a couple stood inside getting their photos taken as they staged flowers for a sunset wedding. White sheers flapped in the breeze as the bride giggled and fell into her lover’s arms.

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I did the math as I was walking back downtown. It’s almost the first of August. In 6-8 weeks, our temps will start dropping a bit as we slowly start the descent into winter. It won’t be long until I need a jacket to walk to the beach. And in a snap, Lake Michigan will be frozen. Summer is fleeting in Michigan. While I love autumn’s crisp air and even crispier apples, it comes too quickly in a northern climate. Summer is more than precious to Michiganders. It is divine.

Today I took the perfect bite of a Michigan summer. Sweet, sweet blueberries and peaches tickling my tongue ….. a bustling downtown ringing in my ears ….. the sparkle and bubble of Lake Michigan and its fabulous boats in my sights …. a sunset wedding tugging at my heart …. it was all here today. As I passed the Silver Beach carousel, I heard the cackle of joyful children over the tune of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”. I giggled to myself. Christmas will be here in a minute.  I live here nowthis is home …. this beautiful place … where summer in its golden finery has at last stolen my heart.

 

 

 

An Evening in Victorian St. Joe

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Artist’s Way: Paying Attention

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I started The Artist’s Way course again. I had such great success with it the last time, and spring just feels like a good time to begin again. So, last week I started with Week 1. Week 1 helps me identify the reasons why I don’t embrace my creativity. I had great success with my Morning Pages and even went on an Artist’s Date to get some stickers and fun things to decorate my journal.

Today, I started with Week 2. Right away, I was caught by the below sentence:

It is important to remember that at first flush going sane feels just like going crazy.

~~ Julia Cameron

This week’s lesson helped describe the crazymakers in our lives. They are the people who want to sabotage you in having your own life because they are either jealous or scared of living their own lives. Misery loves company, so they have all kinds of ways of distracting you from being your very best self and trying new things. I’ve had a few crazymakers in my life, and I’ve probably been a crazymaker at some point in someone else’s too. Life – and relationships – are just messy like that. But often we enjoy the sabotage that the crazymaking brings because it keeps us from getting out of our comfort zone and trying something new.

Three Oaks, MI – Loved the Rain Garden!

Her antidote to the crazymaker is to “pay attention” to your life. It sort of reminded me of my Alanon journey. After all, an alcoholic is a King Crazymaker. Drama abounds to get your off course. She had an Aunt with an alcoholic crazymaker, but her aunt minimized his effects on her life because she paid attention to everything little thing in her life. She wrote letters that outlined everything that was going on in her life and included the minute details about the weather, what was blooming and what was going on in her mind. By paying attention, she lived a full life and focused on what was in front of her rather than what was trying to pull her away.

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So, I headed out tonight to “pay attention” down at the beach. I left my cell phone at home and used a camera so I wouldn’t be distracted by social media. I’ll just leave you with the photos. I took one photo tonight that was an accident, but I kind of like the way it looks. I was trying to make a video of the waves and the beach, but I didn’t bring my glasses. I kept pressing buttons and couldn’t see what was happening. I had about 20 pictures of my feet from different angles. So, if you decide to head out to “pay attention” in some way, you can leave your phone but don’t forget to bring your glasses.

What got my attention in St. Joseph….

Have a great week, y’all! It’ll be Friday before you know it.

Natural High

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After I posted last night, my friend Ann from NOLA said she was in the process of quitting sugar, too. My former boss commented that he and his wife are doing Whole 30 right now. In that one, you only eat whole foods which means ALL the good stuff – booze, sugar, grains, dairy and legumes – is out the door. I salute them on that challenge. That’s a whole new level of discipline. One of my coworkers at Whirlpool did it in January. The other day I asked him if he kept any of the habits. “I still eat,” he said.

I’m so lucky that my friend Ann here and my sister are both trying to make positive changes in their eating habits and lifestyles, so we are all supporting each other in the journey. Last night, Ann and I chose a restaurant that would make it easy to make good choices and then took a long walk. Today was a gorgeous sunny day, so I texted her again and asked her if she wanted to join me for the sunset and another walk.

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We chatted enthusiastically about our new eating plans and how much better we felt and even laughed about our day’s temptations. But I’m happy to say we both got another 24 hours under our belt and even exercised to boot. I feel so good when I’m eating right and exercising, but it’s so hard to keep on keeping on. It really is a “one day at a time” gig, and the challenge is always to keep dusting yourself off and starting over. It’s like ice skating. The first thing they taught me in my lessons was how to get back up. “If you are going to learn to ice skate, you are going to fall,” Mindy said. Falling is not a matter of if …. it’s a matter of when.

The sunset on Lake Michigan was amazing but fleeting tonight. And the cool breeze, lovely river and great company put me on a natural high. Who needs sugar when there is such sweetness in life? At least for today, not me.

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Here are the sugar stats for today:

Energy: The slump after lunch disappeared today. My energy stayed pretty steady from the time I got up until now. I’m actually not even beginning to feel sleepy yet, and that’s unusual. When I’m eating sugar, I’m usually exhausted by the end of my workday. But tonight I was totally energized. I did yoga and went for a walk without any resistance.

Sleep: I slept all night last night. When I woke up, it was 10 minutes prior to my alarm set time. I felt rested and didn’t even really need a caffeine boost right away. (I had one anyway, but I could have done without it.)

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Cravings: I had some bad cravings this afternoon around 2:30. I am tracking on Weight Watchers, so I decided that I was going to learn something and make a better choice this time. I took my phone so I could use the barcode scanner and went to the little convenience store downstairs. I checked items for sugar first and realized I’d have to go savory. Even somewhat healthy-looking snacks had sugar. I found a bag of jalapeno tortilla chips that didn’t have sugar. They were baked, so they were low points when I scanned them. I ate them, and they were actually delicious. I felt like a rock star. I navigated that with ease.

Mood: I was grumpy when I got to work this morning. I was irritated by every little thing, and I finally realized it. I’m sure it was the lack of sugar. It always makes me more irritable. I had some green tea and that seemed to help my mood.

Brain Fogginess: No difference from yesterday. I was pretty clear-headed.

Joint Pain: I did yoga tonight, and while my muscles were tight, I did not have any pain in my joints.

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