Simple Pleasures ~

Since I appear to be the only one working while all around me my peers are, one by one, slipping quietly into retirement, I still enjoy the simple pleasures of knowing which day of the week it actually is and feeling that wee spark of happiness when Friday finally rolls around again.  Count your blessings…however small they may be.

Mr Ricky

Mr Ricky

Here’s what Mr. Ricky and I will be doing this weekend while hub’s watches football, football and more football – snuggling under the covers to stay warm and dreaming about all of the things that make us happy.  Oh, and we’ll probably eat something tasty too.

Happy Friday!

Happiness is not a goal…it’s the by-product of a live well lived. 
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Those Magic Moments

photoThe mad march through the month of December is winding down at last.  We tried to keep Christmas low-key this year and I think we succeeded pretty well.  This blog is in part about re-evaluating our lifestyle as we approach our next adventure – retirement.    We’re pondering the deep questions like how all the “stuff” we’ve acquired over the years will fit (or not) into our upcoming new lifestyle.   We’re a couple of geezers on a new path and we’re loving the challenge and the change.  This year we began the process releasing our attachment to things and instead looking for the magic in the moments of our lives rather than the next shiny thing.  The most frequently asked question around our house these days is “Do we really need it?  Will it fit in the backpack and rollie?”  It’s a very interesting exercise and I highly recommend it, but it isn’t always easy.

This Christmas, after years of piling the presents high around the tree, it feels good to say that all we really need is family, friends, our health, and a few bucks to sustain us in our old age and keep us traveling.  It’s been a year of exploring “the new/old ways” and the re-discovering the value of moments and memories vs. stuff.   Taking photos with my little digital pocket camera helps me stop and pay closer attention to the tiny details that make our lives richer.  You catch the hope in someone’s eyes, the playful smile in the joke, the hundreds of shades of grey in a Portland winter sky.  Magical everyday moments I would likely take fore-granted and quickly forget.  I’m hoping that in the year ahead both my skill and my camera will improve and my snapshots of our experiences will enrich these posts.

For now, I’m just grateful for the memories.  Here are a few of my favorites from the past year.   Taking a little quiet time this afternoon, I sat with a cup of tea and my laptop and experienced the magic of these moments all over again.  Now that’s a real gift!IMG_3390IMG_0489IMG_0452IMG_0137IMG_3570IMG_3365 May your moments be filled with great joy and grand adventures.

Happy New Year!

Cheers ~  Nancy

To Violet ~ with Gratitude

Ensconced in her window seat in the front of the plane, tray table down, sorting through all of the treasures she had stashed into two cotton carry bags, a most delightful slip of a woman looked up as I moved in to take the aisle seat.  She smiled at me and her blue eyes twinkled.  Wispy white hair peaked out from the sides of her knit cap and a fringed pom-pom danced on top.  The word elf came to mind.  I sensed this was going to be more of an adventure than my usual Portland to Phoenix flights and boy was I right.

Her name was Violet and when I sat down next to her on that flight a few years ago, she was 86 years old.  She wasn’t an elf at all.   She was a treasure and a very special gift.

For the next two hours and twenty minutes Violet regaled me with stories of her life and the wisdom of her years.  She talked and talked.  I listened and learned.  For Violet, life had always been, and still was, one hell of a grand thrill ride.  At 19, as a young war bride, Violet and her baby moved to Portland where she found work in the shipyards.  Yes, she was the real-deal Rosie the Riveter.   Husbands, jobs, kids, moves, grand kids, births and deaths – the daily act of creating a live well lived that often seems so mundane to many of us – came vividly to life as my new friend spun out tale after tale.   Just an ordinary life some might think, but oh not so.  What Violet knew and what so many of us miss – what makes every life special and unique and amazing – is when we pay attention to the details, embrace the challenges, open to the opportunities. It’s in how we choose to experience each of our moments.  Violet chose to see adventure.  She chose joy and she chose to stop and savor the tiniest details.  She has never stopped exploring or learning.  She loved meeting new friends.  And, at 86, this beautiful lady was just beginning her latest adventure as she flew across the country to Oklahoma City to take up residence in a new apartment.  She couldn’t wait to settle in, get herself a computer and start using the internet.

Opinions?  She had (more than) a few – on the health benefits of dark chocolate and avocados.  That most doctors didn’t know what they were talking about and nobody would benefit in the long run from popping prescription drugs.  She told me she loved people but was pretty much over sex.

Two hours flew by (pun intended), we landed in Phoenix and reluctantly I had to leave.  I gathered the paperwork that I not even bothered to look at and stuffed everything into my travel bag.  As I stood in the aisle waiting to de-plane, Violet called out “Goodbye Nancy!  Goodbye.  And say hello, say hello to all the people I haven’t met yet.”

Over the next few days, Violet kept coming into my mind.  Not her words so much, just a  feeling.   You could say this was just a chance meeting with a lovely old lady on a plane.  I choose to believe that Violet was a gift to me on that day.  A beautiful reminder of things that I often forget in the busyness of being – I forget to remember to PAY ATTENTION.  If you ask me what I did last Tuesday, I’m not sure I can recall.  It’s all so much, so fast, so busy and it often feels like I’m just sliding through.  Getting it done, but not savoring it, not really seeing it, sometimes not feeling it.   The magic is in the moment and Violet knew that instinctively.  Me?  I’m still learning.

It’s that time of year when we pause for a few moments to remember all that we are grateful for.   Today I am grateful for the special “elfs” that pass through my life sprinkling the wisdom I need, just when I need it most.

Thank you Violet, wherever you are.  I hope we meet again someday.

Happy Thanksgiving to All.

From the Travel Confessions File ~

Lifestyles of the Not So Rich or Famous… but the Really Lucky

Although I’m relatively new to the blogging world, I have noticed that sometimes bloggers entertain their creative spirit and each other with a variety of writing prompts, tagging games and blogging awards.  I haven’t won any awards as yet, but last week I was tagged to participate in a “travel confessions” game.  Someone tags you, you write a post and tag other blogs.  It sounded like fun and my friend Lois who blogs at Playing a New Game tagged me, so I thought I would play along.

Way back in 1987 I became a corporate meeting planner.  It was a job marriage made in heaven.  I love people, entertaining, creative design, good food, and travel.  We planned large (1,000+) international sales meetings, press junkets, customer events, and sales award trips.  Hotel site inspections were part of the job and they wined, dined and rolled out the red carpet for me on more than one occasion.   I’m afraid I became a bit of a hotel snob.  I know it’s how the 1% live all the time, but when another meeting planner and I stepped off the elevator on the 14th floor of a San Francisco hotel to find two very large suites – and one was ours, I have to admit we were rendered speechless.  And, yes I know that’s hard to believe.   And yes, we had our own butler.  It was simply spectacular.  Unfortunately we were working 10+ hour days and too busy to enjoy all of the luxuries provided.  We did the best we could.

As any single mom who travels for her job knows, the issue of who stays with the kids is always in your mind. I was very lucky.  My company often allowed my son to travel with me.  Let me just say that he adapted to la dolce vita very quickly.   When my work scheduled site inspections for an achievement trip in Hawaii over his 14th birthday, I planned the ultimate surprise.  “Wake up! It’s your birthday and hurry up because we’re going to Hawaii.”  That 14 year old boy, who is now a young man about to build and live in his own “tiny” home of 130 sq. ft., had absolutely no problem settling into the Presidential Suite at the Hilton Waikaloa.  It was larger than our entire home and included a baby grand piano, a dining room with seating for twelve, a kitchen for the catering chef and a balcony that overlooked  the Pacific ocean.  The sunsets were breathtaking.   Our three day working trip included horse back riding, a sunset cocktail cruise on a catamaran, swimming with the dolphins, daily massage, a birthday cake made in the hotel kitchen, and other adventures.  Rich and famous?  No.  Lucky?  Oh my, yes we were!

I must “confess” that my glory travel days are long gone…along with the in-room gifts, limo drivers and luxury linens.   My travel experience has at times made it challenging to stay in the Shady Inn Motel – even if they do leave the light on for you.  I am very grateful I had the chance to taste that kind of luxury.  I can truly say,  “Been there.  Done that.”

These days we’re traveling on a rather small budget.  I’m happy to trade five star for unique and interesting and charming.  I love the challenge of digging up the hidden gems.  And they’re out there.  You just have to look a little harder to find them.  Really who needs a butler?  Not me, but I am always tickled with the little extra touches when we find them.That’s my travel confession.

I’m tagging two bloggers who I read regularly and always enjoy.  Please play along only if you wish.  Have fun!  I’d love to hear one of your travel confessions.  Suzanne at Boomeresque who writes a great travel blog sharing her adventures and point of view as she travels with her working husband.  Astra, a Canadian blogger at The Dust Bunny Chronicles and self-described “zamboni fumes inhaling soccer mom” isn’t exactly a travel blogger, but I’m betting she has a few very interesting travel stories as the mom of three boys.

Mama Mia and Luigi the Linguine Maker

Luigi

In times past birthday celebrations always involved expensive restaurants.  We enjoyed the luxury of a good meal while someone else cooked, cleaned and served.  I loved it then and when the time is right I still do.  But, as we pare down to the essentials of what makes us happy, we’re circling back to the old joys of coming together in the new/old ways I mentioned in my previous post.

Last week we celebrated our special birthday girl’s 29th year in grand style.  Not in a 4 star restaurant, but gathered around the kitchen island – laughing, sharing, cooking, sipping, eating, eating, eating and talking about important issues.  Wow!  If we’d had time to throw in a board game, it would have been perfect.

How great is it when you go to the mailbox and mixed in with the bills, political ads and offers for credit cards you find THE KEY.  The key means you have a box waiting.  In this case, the box held a bright shiny new pasta maker.  I can’t begin to say how tickled I was – still am actually, by this lovely little guy.  We call him Luigi the Linguine Maker and this guy is good.   Ok, I have to admit that if you are simplifying and reducing, a pasta maker is not going to fit in the backpack and rollie.  I know that and still, I wanted him.  What could be better than making pasta from scratch to go with the luscious tomato sauce my friend and I spent so many hours canning over the summer and the fresh parsley/walnut pesto I made from the dark green Italian parsley the hubs grew in pots on our back deck.

Hand pressing the raviolis – not as easy as your Italian grandma makes it look.

I wanted to test this baby out right away, so I invited our son and the birthday girl over to make their own birthday dinner.  I’m thinking home-made spaghetti with tomato sauce.  They say “Okay, let’s make ravioli”.  Oh to be 29 and fearless in the kitchen.  So, of course, we made it all.   We started at 3 o’clock, stopped to taste a bowl of our fresh fettucine at around 5 o’clock and finally sat down to our birthday feast at 7:30.

The final menu?  Fresh garden salad, freshly baked foccacia bread, cheese ravioli, delicata squash ravioli, mushroom ravioli with a mushroom cream sauce, tomato sauce, parsley pesto sauce and an olive oil/walnut/fresh parm sauce.  “This is the best pasta I have ever eaten!” said my husband, his cheeks bright red from the warm kitchen and two hours cranking the pasta maker.  I couldn’t agree more.  Four cooks in the kitchen was a crazy dance.   Two dogs snoozed just far enough away to keep an eye out for anything tasty that might hit the floor.  I was pooped beyond belief.  I think we used every pot, pan and dish we owned, but we mastered the art of pasta rolling, sort of mastered ravioli and created a birthday dinner we will always remember.

The birthday girl finally sits down to enjoy her favorite – Mushroom ravioli in a mushroom cream sauce and she made it all herself. Yum-o!

So, who’s up next for Pasta Night at Casa Sims?

Oysters and Pearls ~

Want to hear a secret?  I love to rock out in my car.  CD blasting, hands drumming, head bopping and lips moving in an all out sing-along.  And I know all the words too.  Tune?  Well let’s just say people prefer that I sing alone.  Yep, I’m that crazy old lady singing to herself in her SUV.  You know the one.  Oh, I know what they’re thinking when they pull up beside me at a stoplight and I do not care.  I’m in my own little sound booth on wheels and laissez le bon temps rouler.

Today it’s warm and sunny.  The sky is a brilliant blue and when I went out at lunch it just felt like a Jimmy Buffet kind of day.   I slipped Beach House on the Moon into the CD player, turned the sound waaay up and we were rocking it all the way to the post office.  Its been a while since Jimmy and I shared a song and I had forgotten that the old guy really is a poet – with his crazy lyrics that speak right your heart.  Just when you need to hear them.   The song Oysters and Pearls is one of my all time favorites. Thanks Jimmy for reminding me to get out there and go for all the gusto this Life has to offer.  “Some make the world go round.  Others watch it turn.”  Guess which one I’d rather be.  You too, I’m thinking.

* * * * *

Some people love to lead
Some refuse to dance
Some people play it safe
Others take a chance

It’s something more than DNA
That tells us who we are
Its method and magic
We are of the stars

Some never fade away
Some crash and burn
Some make the world go round
Others watch it turn

Still, it’s all a mystery,
This place we call the world
Most are fine as oysters
While some become pearls

I chopped the song up a bit to shorten it for this post. (sorry Jimmy) But, here’s the music and all the lyrics if you want to pour yourself a margarita and sing along. 

It was a very good year ~

And that year?  The year I arrived kicking and screaming into this world of, course.  August 29, 1948 to be exact.  So please bear with me because it seems I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to birthdays and aging and how quickly the days are passing.  Yikes!  Not to be morbid.  Just observing.  Perhaps I’m just savoring a little of what has been and wondering what the future holds for the little girl below.

So I thought it might be fun to take a stroll down memory lane.  Here’s what I dug up for 1948.   As you can see, it wasn’t exactly a banner year (well except for me).

  • 1948 was the Year of the Rat.
  • The Frisbee was created by Walter Morrison and Warren Franscioni.  The idea came from college kids who used to toss around empty metal pie plates for entertainment.  Plastic + pie plates = Frisbee.  Times were simpler then weren’t they?
  • Velcro was invented by George de Mestral.  George was a Swiss hiker and inventor.  His idea came from the burrs that stuck to his clothes while hiking. He didn’t exactly replace the zipper as he he hoped, but thanks to velcro my kids didn’t have to tie their tennis shoes until they were old enough to figure it out themselves.
  • Reddi Whip was developed by Bunny Lapin and was first sold door to door by St. Louis milkmen
  • A First Class Stamp cost 3 cents.
  • Ed Sullivan premiered on TV.  The show was Toast of the Town.
  • Bread rationing finally ended in England.  Chocolate was still rationed until 1949.
  • The Wurlitzer Juke Box was invented by Robert Hope Jones
  • Babe Ruth Died.
  • The 1948 summer Olympics were held in London.  The 1940 and 1944 Olympics were cancelled due to the second world war.
  • The State of Israel was created.
  • The first McDonalds restaurant opened.  Ray Kroc bought it 12 years later and the rest is fast food history.
  • Whirlpool introduced the first automatic wringer-washer.  I remember the hand wringer washer in my grandmother’s basement.  It was dangerous – just ask my sister.
  • The biggest hit song of the year was The Woody Woodpecker Song.   The Oscar winning song was Buttons and Bows.  Catchy lyrics I’m sure.
  • The first Polaroid Land Camera went on sale.  It took 1 minute to develop a photo.
  • A gallon of gas was 16 cents, a loaf of bread was 14 cents, and coffee was 85 cents for a two pound bag.
  • You could buy a nice new tract house for around $7,500.

I share this birth year with a few notable (and notorious) folks like Alice Cooper, Kathy Bates, Richard Simmons, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Al and Tipper Gore, Prince Charles, Squeaky Fomme (remember her?) and Clarence Thomas.

What’s the point in looking backward?  I’m not sure.  Maybe it helps you put context to who you are when you understand where you came from.   I don’t think I realized this for a long time.  I was too busy looking forward.  Planning for the future.  These days I find myself in the most intriguing place.  I am still looking forward with interest and anticipation.  I’m excited to be planning a whole new chapter in retirement living,  but I am also spending more time looking at where I’ve already been and holding all those special moments up to the light so I can see them clearly again (or really maybe for the first time) now that I have the time and the benefit of distance.  Seeing that little girl on her horse somehow gives me a deeper understanding of the 64 year old woman I am about to become.  I think it’s time I went out and bought myself a new beret.   Yee Haw Cowgirl!