A surprise picnic. The weather wasn’t great. We didn’t even really know the area. The option to hike it in would have been too much to carry.
A friend scouted a park with a pavilion. We wandered in tandem with the vague directions we had, then finally stumbled on the spot.
The coolers, tucked in the back of the jeep for hours, and boxes and bags were ported out. Then the spoiling began.
A white tablecloth was the foundation. Topped by a fall-themed tablecloth with muted hues. Draped with care over the metal picnic table. Then, fancy bamboo plates and utensils. Yellow napkins folded at each place. Then, the finishing touches…jewel-colored velvet pumpkins that later doubled as party favors / remembrances for each of the women there. A fall candle bought brand new for the occasion, glowing and sharing a hint of apple scent. A table worthy of special guests. Even out in the middle of the soccer fields and playgrounds. Then, a build-your-own lunch spread courtesy of Trader Joe’s. Nothing too fussy. Just nibbles to try.
In recent years, I have grown to love surprising people…not in the sense of surprise parties, but more about delighting people with over-the-top unique details. Whether it be decorations, unexpected custom cookies that match their party theme, party favors that make people giggle, artist-created invitations, or a meal fit for a queen, it feeds my soul to make people feel special and make occasions memorable. People are worth celebrating.
This also extends to presents I may drop on porches on a random Tuesday. Life is a challenge for many. Why not make people smile?
I hope when they pull out that pumpkin each fall they smile and remember a great day, and someone who cared about them enough to plan something special. Spoil people a little sometimes. They are worth it.
Alarm set: 5 am. I did not want to wake up on a Sunday sleep in day at this hour. Quick shower to wake up. Reality hits. Starbucks isn’t open yet. Arrived at the planned meeting spot for 6 am. Party of six women off to adventure the unknown. Two know the plan. Four only know it’s a surprise. A packing list was assigned. Car shuffle occurred. 2 cars head out with random people assigned to each. Off we go. Oh wait I forgot to lock the car. Back we go and the caravan is broken immediately. Are we lost?
We are not exactly lost but we are a bit behind. Glad we went back to grab my purse as I had left the car unlocked. Potty break in car two. The car that started out behind added to their delay. It’s about an hour into travel, And we just completed our first car ride activity. Mad libs virtual edition. We each filled in the blanks and did a FaceTime chat to share answers and giggles. One might have been raunchy while the other one family appropriate.
Now the downpour starts. Visibility is low in the car. Our activities are supposed to be outside. Will we survive the weather? The packing list called for a poncho and change of clothes. Who actually planned to use them? First stop was breakfast and the coffee art was a big hit. The food was good too, but the coffee art won me over.
Off we go to the next stop. Lula Lake, Tennessee was the destination spot. Only open a few days a month to the public and we were on the list for today.
The first view was the mini falls into a nice pooling area. The picture doesn’t really do it justice but it was breathtaking in person. As we left this area the downpour came. It was like buckets and buckets of rain drops. We were drenched but it added to the fun of the day.
The main event was the big water fall. It was beautiful from the top with the mist and the fog but the real amazing view was at the bottom. A little wet from the rain but the mist of the falls sprayed you when you were up close. It was an experience to say the least.
A lot of wet fun was had on the hike but we then ventured off to the park for a cute fall picnic. Thank you to Trader Joe’s, a ton of fall delights that we all grazed on. Some pumpkin spice hummus, a tasty charcuterie tray, everything but the bagel chips, pickles, moist cinnamon bun cookies, pumpkin white chocolate brownies, nuts, pumpkin flavored seeds, green goddess dip, pumpkin granola bark, cranberry chicken salad, spinach and kale yogurt dip, chocolate almond spread, crackers and so many more treats. It was a feast of sorts in the park. I am so ready for my next picnic. Anyone can make the best of a cloudy day.
Hopefully you are not hungry after reading this but I am in a food coma thus I must end this post right here.
Ah the sounds of the city. It’s been a while since I’ve been in the city without distractions to just soak in the sounds of the city.
It was a Monday morning. I don’t have an alarm set but I was awoken by the church bells. A very distinct sound. A sound I just had not heard in some time up close, early in the morning. Shortly after, the jack hammer started. Then the car traffic. The city was awake and so was I.
The city sounds are so very different from my home setting. I wake to birds chirping. I almost never hear a car pass at the time I rise. I definitely don’t hear jack hammers. What a difference on this Monday. I continue to hear the sounds of people in the hallway of my hotel in clusters. No sleeping in for this girl. Hammers are starting to bang. Leaf blowers are going full force. Air conditioning units are making sounds. I think I even hear the pipes flowing water in neighboring rooms. Large trucks are shifting gears in the roadway.
As the day turns into night the city sounds a bit different. The sounds of the horses on the cobblestone paths. The sounds of tourists navigating a ghostly tour. The sounds of a wedding taking place in the hotel. The cars passing by. The walkers giggling on the street as they go towards the ice cream shop.
The church bells continue to ring. As I focus on the sounds of the city I can’t ignore what lies beneath within the city. The poverty. The homeless community that appears in both day and night. Looking for something, anything. A side of life I again hadn’t seen in a while because Covid has kept me out of the city for the most part. My world is so small in comparison to what’s largely going on elsewhere.
Just a 24 hour pit stop in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1 full day is what I had but I planned to see and do a ton.
The first stop was to feed my belly of course. A quick stop for cheese steak at the famous corner in Philadelphia where you will find Geno’s and Pat’s. Which would I choose? I opted for Pat’s. I had to learn how to order which was harder than it needed to be. Then off to find a seat to enjoy the foodie treat. My belly was full. Steak, provolone cheese, onions, and peppers were loaded to the max on big hoagie bun. Maybe not my favorite meal of my trip but overall I can said I had a Philly cheese steak from one of favorite local hot spots.
Time for the sweet tooth spot. Insomnia cookies for the win. A sampling of sugar, snickerdoodle, macadamia nut, double chocolate, blueberry and chocolate chip cookies went In the box. Nobody needed the cookies, but we all opted to spurge and get the cookies. We all nibbled at each. Sugar was my favorite. Surely we were going to have a sugar overload at any moment after this stop.
On to the city we went, twisting and turning on a million one way streets. Looking up at the magnificent buildings and their architecture on the way to the hotel. Parking in the parking garage was an experience. Super low ceiling, limited turning radius, and very narrow pathways. The next adventure after parking was exploring the area by foot and stopping in on the shops that were open late. An Italian dinner in the city streets. Interesting setups by each restaurant to accommodate outdoor seating. An interesting sight to see including the various designs and creativity involved. This was a side of the pandemic I had not yet experienced. I observed the financial cost to set up power outside for lights. Shelter to be built. Weather proofing elements. And one can’t forget the curbside appeal to make people want to stop. Some had fancy chairs while others had old ones that I’d assume wouldn’t matter if they got weathered or stolen. Interesting walk to say the least.
A good night’s sleep nestled high in the sky on the 16th floor was a great experience. The view was amazing and the location was perfect. Early rise to walk to the Liberty Bell. Photo op one was in the books. A walk in the other direction took us to Love park for a photo op. This was slightly disappointing but also sad. Many homeless people were nestled in this park in the morning as they rose. From young to old. Made me wonder about their stories.
A shift down the road with all the worldly flags was a beautiful sight. It led to the Rocky steps and statue. The one and only Rocky Balboa steps. Of course I ran them multiple times. I took photos. I FaceTimed those who couldn’t be there with me. We even had a virtual run. That was a first for me. But so much fun. We toured ourselves but ran into the walking tour many times thus we felt we did a good job planning our stops.
A little further down the road was boat house row. A picturesque water side view of the row of boat houses and their boats. I enjoyed the waterside view more than the street view but it was a new experience nonetheless. This area was a great place to run, walk or ride a bike. The weather was perfect on this day to tackle a nice flat surface for some light exercise.
As we circled back many miles and hours later we hit the Reading Market. An interesting place full of vendors. Mostly food options. I grabbed a coffee and some sweets. Not a smart choice of fuel for the body but more a celebration of the city’s offerings. We nibbled on:
A colossal cinnamon bun
A chunky slice of white cake
A creamy pumpkin roll slice
An enormous crumb cake
All were full on sugar rushes! All were amazingly good. None of them were finished. All of them were tasted. We tried not to be wasteful but we did opt not to finish our plates. Time to load and go. Off to the airport. One last stop we shall have.
In the last of the 24 hours we hit Chickie’s & Pete’s, a local spot near the airport close to the sporting venue. A massive dining space. An interesting menu. For me it was the lobster roll for my meal. An overstuffed bun toasted to perfection. Slivers of celery, onions and just the right amount of seasoning. A nice treat for the end of a whirlwind 24 hours.
My belly is full as I sit on my flight writing. My heart swells from the memories made. My smile is big daydreaming of my next 24 hours of adventures. Where will I go? What will I see? Who will I meet? Who will I travel with? It’s all a mystery for now. Maybe a story will follow. Maybe it won’t.
I hope you enjoyed my 24 hour summary of Philadelphia. Maybe you will get there one day and choose the same route or travel new route. For now this city is off my list of tourist stops.
This week I did some new things or firsts for me. I decided I should log them and put a little entry in here. Then I decided I’d keep doing it here and there to make sure I’m staying fresh or continuing to try new things.
I hung out in a vintage camper. Don’t know the exact year but I got to think about what kind of life this old trailer had. The memories. The miles traveled. The people who shared the journey. A fun little first for me. Did I mention the camper sat idle while I wondered how it fared on the road in its heyday?
I babysat a Great Dane. More of a horse than a dog. Large in size but more like a mini Dachshund when it comes to measuring its fierceness. Lots of slobber. Some interesting feeding sessions to say the least.
I played tennis with a new partner. Such an experience. We both had to display patience, foster hope, and develop teamwork almost immediately. We struggled in some ways but conquered in others. I’d highly recommend trying something new like this that requires teaming.
I stopped to help an injured animal on the side of the road. It didn’t seem like much but I was comforting the injured animal in his last hours. Not something I’d recommend but I am glad I was able to experience such a moving moment. I certainly hugged my dogs upon my return home. I just knew that puppy’s family was hurting with their recent loss.
I took a group lesson this week. I didn’t have an expectation. I went with the flow and I had so much fun. Getting coached in a weak area is great when you are coachable and I am happy to report that I am coachable.
I cleaned up poop in record quantity. From smears in the carpet to full blown shit stream down the long hallway. You named a spot and there was most likely a shit gift waiting for you. Oh the smell. Oh the consistency made cleaning a real nightmare. As I scrubbed, wiped, sprayed and cleaned I thought to myself I’m lucky to have a dog so I’ll just clean away. Good thing this doesn’t happen everyday! From now on I will not get the dog flu shot.
I went on a hike with my two dogs. First time for not only me but my puppy. At three months old she did amazing and I surprised myself too. The picture below shows my sassy girls Teddie and Bear. This dynamic duo was great on the hike. They were so tired when we were done. Such a great first with them.
These are just a few of my firsts but I’m sure I’ll have future first posts.