I started with the number five. A group of gal pals each assigned a task that would involve me doing an activity they plan that is new, has a new twist, and is just plain fun. Why? Because it’s my 50th year on this earth and I thought it would be fun to spice things up and encourage my friends to get creative.
So far so good. What am I?
I am nothing more than a piece of art in the making. My first adventure was a paint class in a group of about 8 crazy ladies.
We had snacks. We had drinks. We had conversations. We giggled. We concentrated. Some cussed, a lot. One painted hidden objects in their masterpiece. One flipped the finger while painting. Somebody stole somebody’s crackers while they were so focused on painting. Oh,\ the faces that were captured that night on camera.
And then there was the instructor of the class. A little fruity for me, but it’s who we had for the evening. Our diverse group flustered her for sure. We tested her knowledge. We asked for help but then said no thanks. We took our time when she wanted to stay on task. The list could go on and on for this lady, but I will spare you the touchy freely details.
Now we all had the same instructions but we ended up with totally different variations of the image. This was probably my most favorite part of the night. The finish line. The interpretation of each masterpiece. For example mine had a heart stamp added to keep mine unique. Another had their hidden objects. Some chose to blend colors more than others. In the end they were all amazing.
If you don’t currently have a friends group, I suggest you find one. Expand it when you can and welcome friends vs. limiting your friends. The more the merrier. More friends, more adventures always equals fun memories.
For this post I will toast my gal pal Kim who helped make this event a success. From start to finish no detail was left unturned. It is my hope that somebody reading this will join a new friend group, start a new friend group or just get out with friends and do fun things. We all learn by doing.
Painting was fun but frustrating. The time went by fast and the masterpiece is perfect for a white elephant gift with a gift card taped to the back of it. My friend Sarah gave me that genius idea and I can’t wait to regift my painting over and over again.
The long awaited getaway weekend had arrived. Schedule conflicts hit hard as the time of departure hit. It took some finagling to get all to work out but that was not without added stress.
The take off was planned for early morning with a distance to drive. All attendees were to meet at the destination vs the previous plan of arriving the night before. This special time with friends was a long weekend planned for my birthday. Lots of unknown surprises and adventures were on the agenda. The list was long but there was a PJs party and sleepover, of course. Plenty of sweets to eat for all. Many giggles with the girls took away any of the pre-travel stresses.
One planned event I knew about was a spa day. However, I knew nothing of the venue nor did I really remember what treats were in store for me at the spa. The check in was detailed. A locker was assigned as well as a fancy robe. The cell phone was tucked away for me to adhere to the cell-phone-free zone. Off we went to a waiting room which was more like a grand foyer with a fresh wood-burning fireplace.
The waiting room ended up being a common area or meeting place for us to exchange stories and socialize in between services. At this point I had no idea how much time I would spend here but it was already amazing at this point. This common area had a snack bar with nuts and water and little refreshers which was a nice treat but the log cabin feel of a living room with the fresh fire added to the ambiance. The lounger chairs were placed on the outer edge of the room for reading: the inner area was a plush leather couch and recliners assembled with care for a little closer seating to chit chat. There were so many ladies in and out.
Moms and adult daughters. Girl groups like ours. It was hard to guess the average age or if there were any patterns of ages. While I might have silently people watched or observed my surroundings on my first visit to the common space, I didn’t care after my first moment of zen. I had entered a whole new state of ooey gooey relaxation.
I had a massage first. 85 minutes of aroma therapy, oils, hot stones and a medium level touch. It was just delightful. Head to toe relaxation. After a huddle up in the common area one pal headed to sauna. Another to steam room and shower. Two of us opted for the salt cave encounter. This was a first but a one and done. A novelty experience but one I don’t feel I would ever do again.
Back to the meeting place. This time we shuffled around the corner to a semi-private area for a mini lunch and mimosas. Oh, the treats hit the spot. Grapes for refreshment. Berries to add to the mimosas. Meats and cheeses for protein. A few crackers for crunch and orange slices for some sweet hydration. Some chocolate covered nuts and strawberries, however those were not on my tasting list this time. Each table set up was slightly different in theme making such a cute accent for those gathered for these snack sessions.
Next was the facial. Cute little coverup was worn to allow your arms and shoulders to be free. For yet another massage of sorts. The head. The neck. The face. The shoulders. The arms. The hands. Hydrating massages built into the facial process was beyond amazing, the glow after the service was remarkable. Such a rejuvenating experience.
For this spa had rooms upon rooms. Long hallways. An upstairs and a downstairs. Lots of nooks and crannies. I had never been to such an interesting spa. Many had brought their favorite books for reading in between sessions while others were in small groups chatting away.
I will be back for sure. Another interesting tidbit was there were more males than I expected receiving service however they had their own section for gathering. Oh how I wished to be a fly on the wall in the women-free zone to see their snacks and relaxation stations, now I’m so curious. Maybe I will have to make a phone call to inquire about the difference.
Today was a great time with friends but the most pampering I have ever had. Not sure if it was the time, the kinship, the services or the combination but I will cherish the experience. I chose to write about this day for many reasons.
One day I may want to reflect on this day with valued friends.
One day I may not be fortunate enough to receive these kind of services this I would want the detailed memories to relive the moment in my mind.
One day I will want my daughter to read my recap for her to understand how she should value self-care.
And for today, anyone reading along who may not ever experience this bliss, I want to share my experience virtually. Not for a bragging type experience rather for an experience to daydream about what can be someday.
Dreaming big is an important part of my life. I live for new experiences and opportunities. If I never had things to look forward to I would remain stagnant. My hope for readers is to reach for those days ahead that seem impossible for I know one can always reach beyond to get what they are willing to work hard or push for.
It was just a few days after my daughter’s incredible showing at her first powerlifting competition. My strong girl, seemingly invincible as she deadlifted 403 pounds, was hit hard by runny nose, coughs, and generally feeling crummy. My sister-in-law, who she had stayed with during the competition weekend, was under the weather, too.
Testing results took a few days, but it was the answer we all feared: positive for COVID.
It was Christmas week.
What to do? For as long as I’ve been alive, both in my own family and my family-by-marriage, Christmas Eve has been the heart of Christmas. It’s a huge party full of food, singing, and a sea of presents. My other sister-in-law also has a birthday on Christmas Eve, which kicks off our yearly festivities. In addition, my husband’s family has a formal dinner on Christmas Day. Suddenly, all that was on hold. Seriously, COVID?
What to do? It is unseasonably warm. Could we celebrate outside? With masks on? Should we just celebrate without the people who are sick? All of that was met with a no.
So, we rescheduled. Our family owns a holiday-driven business. We barely take a day off during this busy, busy time. We finally found days in January where we can try to remake Christmas Eve, sort of. Christmas Day’s steak dinner will just have to wait until later in 2022.
On actual Christmas Eve day, I brought my sick daughter a care package of chicken fingers (we have a platter on Christmas Eve each year), the soup she had asked for, a stuffed stocking, a birthday cake, and my mom’s grits casserole, our Christmas morning tradition. I brought a small birthday cake to the other family houses that day as well.
We got together on google meet that night to sing Happy Birthday and Christmas Carols. Far from my usual glitter and shine as the yearly host, I was laying on the couch in my sweatshirt with my granddog on my lap. I got the giggles changing my background on the computer. The singing sounded terrible with the lag online. It was really just kind of a mess. I went to bed at 8:30 instead of refilling drinks and cleaning up and getting ready for Santa’s visit until midnight. We FaceTimed with our sick daughter as we ate Christmas breakfast.
Today, on December 26, all the presents remain unopened. I am a bag of mixed feelings. I always feel a sense of relief when my hosting duties are over. I also like getting back to normal eating and other routines once Christmas ends. I like to have everything packed up before I go back to work. I’m not sure what to try to carry over and what can be put aside until December 2022.
If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know that I often try to find meaning or purpose in what happens. Find a lesson. Relate it to the bigger picture.
But today I’m just annoyed. Grouchy. I don’t really see the purpose or the meaning. Just sharing in case anyone else is in this place. You are not alone. Judging from my timeline, I know I am not alone.
I just hope everyone is healthy for the reschedule.
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.
I’m fortunate to have quite a few road excursions this summer. When I am out of town, I try my best to find and support local people and places. When I visit, these are some of the things I like to do that help me get to know a place.
1.) Start your day the local way
I’ve written about this before. Find a local coffee shop! Many have interesting traditions and can give you the “feel” of a particular community. If you prefer donuts for breakfast, hit the donut or bagel place, or have a full breakfast if you’re up for it. Yelp is my favorite app to use for local spots. I’m told google searches are more popular, but I’ve had better luck finding unusual and wonderful places with yelp.)
2.) Find a farmer’s market and / or grocery store
As a farmer myself, I love seeing what is in season. Maybe there are local specialties. On a recent trip to New York and Pennsylvania, I had my choice of both permanent farm stands with a variety of local products as well as an “every Thursday afternoon” market. I loved that I got to enjoy local strawberries in Pennsylvania, especially since the growing season for strawberries at home was already over. I also found locally made whoopie pies, pretzels, maple syrup, and other treats. Regional grocery stores can also give an interesting glimpse into different foods and traditions.
3.) Eat the local specialty
When my family took long road trips in my youth, my dad would hand me a book called Road Food, Good Food. Before google, yelp and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Jan and Michael Stern looked for local joints serving regional specialties. I was in charge of using the book, organized by state, and the atlas to find places that were at least sort of on the way to the destination. (But we have been known to drive hours out of the way for special types of pie, barbecue and more.) They now have a website that is still organized by state and will tell you the special dishes a place is known for and give you some small, independent spots to give that dish a try. This website is challenging to use, and reminds me of juggling the index of the atlas, map coordinates, and so on. But, it’s usually spot on with great little places and special foods.
Asking a local is another great way to find things. My aunt and uncle steered us to pink stripe cookies and Bison brand French onion dip in Western New York. Both were top notch!
Whatever you do, break out of the chains of chain restaurants and predictable average while you’re on the road! Experience new places in different ways.