Thursday, April 25, 2013

It's The Little Things!

The Gardens at Biltmore Estate - Asheville, NC
April 21, 2013

Depending on whether you are a "glass half-full or glass half-empty" kind of person, you may have looked at the title of this post and decided it was either going to be a gripe fest or an uplifting few minutes of all good things.  Well, its going to be BOTH!  For me, little things do mean a lot.  I'm a very simple person who chooses to look at life through a simple lens and am grateful to have cultivated the habit of letting simple pleasures mean a lot.  It doesn't take much to make me happy, but on the other hand, neither does it take much to make me sad.  Little things add up, so here a few things that are making me happy these days along with a few that are making me pause!

Little HAPPY things........
 1) Tulips - It's a toss-up between tulips and gerbera daisies as to which is my favorite spring flower, but when at Biltmore Estate during their spring Festival of Flowers, it's tulips no doubt.  The primary reason we hold on to our season passes from year to year is to visit their amazing gardens during each growing season.  The tulips were amzing!

2) A view like this.............

...........that was all mine for an entire weekend.  

3) Coffee - I'm an all day coffee drinker, but in keeping with my mantra of enjoying simple pleasures, I'm not real picky about it.  In fact, I'm not sure I've ever met a cup of coffee I DIDN'T like!  But as you can tell from this picture taken among the tulips...... cup of coffee is never far from me.  And for some reason, on this particular day, I was savoring every sip of that simple cup of coffee from the nationwide gourmet coffee brewer AKA McDonalds!

4) A sense of anticipation - Bill is on his final countdown before the end of another successful academic year.  Only a couple of performances remain and he will be finished.  We are both excited about our summer plans (which will be revealed on Monday) and that quiet sense of excitement permeates our days and hours.

5) All things outdoors.  Need I say more??  When you read this, I will likely be on one of my favorite hiking trails with my good friends, Gene and Judi.  That makes me happy!

And the NOT-SO-HAPPY things..............

1)  A friend in need (and the helpless feeling that comes with not knowing how to help)!

2) Pollen (and red, itchy eyes that go along with it).

3) Watching my mom (who is 85) and otherwise healthy, suffer through acute bronchitis.

4)  Painful wrists/hands that will likely keep me from biking this year.

5)  A world where so many seem to have lost all hope.

And so you see what is on my mind as I write this on a rainy, windy Wednesday afternoon in East Tennessee.  So many more things come to mind, but I am most grateful for the fact that yes, in the whole scheme of things, these are "little" things.  And for every little "sad" thing, it takes me only a matter of seconds to balance that with something equally joyful!   I hope you see it the same way.

Tell me some of the LITTLE things on your mind today!     

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Thursday Tidbits

Porter's Creek Trail - GSMNP
April 12, 2013

I loved all your wonderful responses to My Next Big Thing post.  It was fun to write and I promise to keep you updated on the progress towards our RV purchase or not!!  One thing I did want to clarify is that we still thoroughly enjoy the way we travel now.  We highly recommend renting cabins/cottages/house/apartments directly from the owners especially for longer terms stays when having more space and a kitchen fits in with your plans.  In fact, we have five such stays booked for ourselves between now and the end of August.  It is just that the process itself has become more tedious and rigid since we first began planning travel this way.  If you weren't a part of it ten years ago, you'd never expect anything different.  In August, we will be returning to Colorado for our third multi-week stay at a place we found on in 2009.  The place in Flagler Beach, Florida where I return every January was originally found on that same website in 2006.  I could name several others that we now return to repeatedly and consider the owners as friends!  So if you are curious (or uncertain) about trying out this method of finding travel/vacation accommodations, don't hesitate to email me if I can answer specific questions or help in any way. 

My life won't seem to slow down and that's just the way I like it except I'd like to make time to write more often.  I'm way behind on my list of things to talk about, but keep finding myself putting it off thinking I'll have more time later.  But later never comes.....   It's something I'm working on as a higher priority because I discover that when I don't write as often, I truly miss the camaraderie, support and encouragement that I find here.  I'd like to force myself to write shorter posts more often, sit down and simply WRITE rather than trying to plan it out.  So we'll give that a whirl.  In the meantime, here are just a few tidbits that have been on my mind.

1)  Google Reader Update - After checking out three of the most highly recommended alternatives to the disappearing Google Reader, I have settled on Feedly.  I've been using it exclusively for the past two weeks and I like it.  The transfer from Google Reader was painless, the format actually has some advantages I like better than Google reader and after finding a page of shortcuts, there's only one thing I can find that I DON'T like.  I generally am able to find time to read a few blogs at least once during the day, but often that is limited to those categories I consider favorites leaving many that I only get to once a week or so.  I prefer reading them in the order they are posted and in Feedly, I have not been able to find a shortcut or setting which shows blogs in the order they were posted rather than the most recent listed first.  If I'm missing something, please let me know.  I'm also very interested in what those of you who depended on Google Reader have decided to do.  A few weeks ago, Blogger subtly removed the link to the Reader that was prominently displayed on your dashboard.  That's when I got serious about becoming comfortable with a replacement.  Nothing they do any longer would surprise me.

2)  In the almost three years I've been blogging, I've not yet found a satisfactory method for responding to comments left on my posts.  Especially when you ask a specific question, it is important to me that you know I don't just ignore it.  But for now, please know that if you ask a question in the comment section of a post, I will generally try and leave an answer, but unfortunately, it is up to you to return to the previous post and check.  However, I have decided that I'll put a statement at the beginning of each new post (with a link back to that post) letting you know that I've made some responses to your previous comments.

3)  This is really, REALLY old news, but I had my annual physical back in late February and am happy to report that all my lab test results were EXCELLENT and my weight was less than the previous year.  Now you and I both know that's a tad misleading because I was still in major loss mode in February of last year.  I reached goal in May, maintained it until late fall and then picked up a few pounds which are being extremely stubborn about coming back off.  But no matter, my doctor was really happy.  Two things, however, were a bit out of kilter.  My Vitamin D levels were very low and my sodium level was low.  Now the Vitamin D didn't surprise me a bit as I'm a classic case of SAD (no smart remarks please) and I knew something was out of balance.  The low sodium level caught me off guard, but my doctor assured me that along with the Vitamin D deficiency could certainly keep me feeling less than optimal.  I thought I just had a bad case of winter blues from long days with no sunshine.  I'm to return with  the next week or so for a retest on the sodium and I can tell the extra Vitamin D has already been working.  Anybody out there ever heard of or been told their sodium level was low.  The good news is that with a blood pressure reading of 110/70 and a low sodium level, I can salt my watermelon guilt-free this summer.  LOL!!

3)  I've resumed faithfully tracking every bite that goes into my mouth and just for a change of routine decided to start using My Fitness Pal instead of Calorie Count.  I've been using Calorie Count for several years and have no serious complaints about it.  Just thought a new interface might bring on some additional motivation.  For the most part, I really like MFP.   For those of you who have used BOTH, what did you like and dislike about each and which one did you finally settle on as your go-to.  I've got some things to say, but want to hear from you first.  And really only from those who have used BOTH and then settled on one or the other.

Wildflower season is in full swing and my weeks are full of long walks in my community and long hikes in my mountains.  Our Dogwood Arts Festival began last weekend and this year (for a change) the guests of honor are right on time.  

I hung my hummingbird feeder yesterday afternoon and the first hummer appeared just after daybreak this morning.  Shortly, he was joined by another and they've both been feeding all day.  

And then of course, one more sure sign of spring......I was working away on Summer Trip 2013 plans early this afternoon and the season's first shrieking of the weather radio began blaring.  We are under a Thunderstorm Watch for the remainder of the day.   One of these days I'll tell you the story of the tree that fell through our house in the middle of the night back in 2004.  Then you'll understand why I have a weather radio.    Ahhh, spring - how I love you!   At least I haven't seen a SNAKE yet.  That's only a matter of time, I'm sure.  

Talk to me.......there's lots in this post that asks for feedback!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

My Next Big Thing!

Lunch spot at Backcountry Campsite #37 along Big Creek Trail - GSMNP
April 6, 2013

No apologies for my long absence from BlogWorld.   It's only been two weeks.  And all I've been doing is living life to the max.  Seems I'm on the go non-stop and there just simply hasn't been time for sitting still to write.  I even have to confess that I've done less reading of YOUR blogs lately, but that doesn't mean I have disappeared nor does it really mean anything at all.  I do admit that it makes me feel good to get an email just asking if all is well.  It's nice to be missed.  

A different version of "tagging" got started in some remote corner of BlogWorld that had escaped my notice until my friend Cammy at Tippy Toe Diet got enthusiastically involved suckered in.  Seems the premise of the tag wasn't really all that difficult.  Just simply write about your "next big thing."  Cammy wrote a great post here and passed the torch to my friend, Lynn at Lynn's Weigh.  Lynn wrote about her "next big thing" here and then ever so graciously (thanks to a senior moment comment I left on Cammy's post) tagged me.  

It turns out that I (we, since Bill would be heavily involved in this "next big thing") do have something big in the works.  This something has been a "next big thing" for us off and on for many years, but it seems we've reached the point where you either make a decision and do it or leave the idea behind for good.  

So without further ado, my NEXT BIG THING is to purchase one of these..........


When I was a little girl (my mother will back me up on this), I was forever telling people that when I grew up, I was going to buy an RV and travel around the perimeter of the United States.  Believe me, RV's back then were not like they are today, but nonetheless, I was adamant that someday, I'd do this.  The travel bug never left me and I've been fortunate to experience many different methods of seeing this wonderful world in which we live, but I've never experienced slow travel in an RV.  

The idea resurfaced with a vengeance shortly after I retired and we began discussing it seriously several years ago.  But by then, we'd established our routine of traveling during Bill's summer/Christmas/fall/spring breaks and we liked renting cabins/cottages/houses along the way.  This concept was relatively new and websites such as and were just gaining popularity.  Thanks to a tip from the owner of the home I rented during my last work contract before I retired, we were using these websites to plan trips long before the general public had ever heard of them.  It was simple, homeowners trusted those who rented from them and business was done with basically a gentlemen's agreement.  We've NEVER and I repeat, NEVER had a bad experience.  I enjoyed the process of finding just the right place to rent, negotiating with the owner, and then experiencing the fun of having a home of our own while discovering a new part of the US.  It's been a win-win situation for years and the RV idea kept being shoved into the background.  We'd always convince ourselves that our current way of doing things was much easier.  We go, we rent, we enjoy, we walk away, it's done.

Sadly, as it seems happens often in today's self-centered, me-first at all costs, world, the popularity of renting directly from homeowners has been discovered and the irresponsibility of some renters has made the process much more tedious for all of us.  I noted differences last year and this year's process has me pulling my hair out.  The price of rentals has skyrocketed, contracts have become ridiculously lengthy with unbelievable lists of rules, huge security deposits are being demanded, payment processes are becoming more tedious, and the list goes on and on.  This isn't so much of a big deal when securing one place.  But when you are trying to coordinate six or seven rentals over an eight week period......well, you get the picture.  

So, the RV idea is back and this time, we are determined to either follow through or forget about it FOREVER!!  Owning an RV is a huge responsibility and not necessarily in line with our family motto of keeping things simple.  It's one more thing to OWN at a time we are trying to OWN less and less THINGS.  It's also something to insure and maintain.  And RV travel isn't painless.  We have lots of people in our life who own RV's of all shapes and sizes who have used them for every purpose from family vacations to living in them full-time.  

We know what we'd be getting into, but we also see the freedom involved in ALWAYS knowing you have a place to sleep, a refrigerator and a bathroom!  We also see the simplicity in being able to just go without all the hoopla and hours of advance planning it takes to get ourselves ready now.  We are much less interested in large metropolitan areas and much more interested in easy access to trails in the National Parks. 

Heck, I'm still quietly using this blog to work on my childhood dream of having a friend in every state.  My RV may be the tool that gets you off the page and into my real life!  I'd like nothing better.

So there you have NEXT BIG THING!   We've set the goal of either purchasing by the end of 2013 or discarding the idea forever.  (Maybe if I say that enough times, it'll actually happen!  LOL!) Going back and forth has taken too much of our time and energy.  We have an idea of what we are looking for and I'd love input from any of you who own or have owned an RV.  What did you like?  Hate?  If you no longer have it, why not?  

Finally, it is my job to pass this along to someone else and my sweet friend, Debby at Debby Weighs In  has something up her sleeve that I can't wait to hear about.  It's been exactly one year since Debby (who lives in northern California) came to visit me here in Tennessee.  As expected, we hit it off and it was as if we'd known each other all our lives.  I can't wait to head out to California to see her neck of the woods.   Hmm....wonder if she's got room in her driveway for an RV???

What "next big thing" is happening in your life?