Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Out With The Old

This time of year can be especially difficult with all the extras.  There are extra goodies and candy, extra parties with adult beverages, and extra rich food in general.  Somewhere along the line, and I'm not even sure when, I made up my mind I would not let those things control me this year.  I think it had something to do with realizing that I feel so much better physically when I don't overdo it on any one of those things.

So, even though all of the above mentioned, plus more, has been around, I've been doing fine.  I have been able to allow myself two chocolate covered cherries  or one piece of peppermint bark, and then let them go.  Maybe it's knowing that I can and will have them anytime I choose again?  I'm not sure but it has been working out very well for me up to the point where I've had a couple days with no extras at all.

Christmas Day went very well, even with the extra people.  I even figured out how to get everyone seated in my tiny "dining room." It's sort of funny to me that I was so super stressed in the days leading up to this.  The seating was really worrying me a lot and out of nowhere on my drive home from work Christmas Eve, I figured out what to do.  If I have this same group next year, I'm sure I won't feel stressed in the least.

Getting everyone a seat meant I was able to use my beloved Christmas china (rather than paper plates), except for 1 plate.  I planned to use the non-matching, but still pretty plate myself but sweet, independent Gracie claimed that plate as soon as she saw it.  She was actually proud that she had the only peacock plate lol!

We had our usual meal of a tenderloin roast with gorgonzola sauce, brown sugar cured spiral ham, our special holiday potatoes, spoon bread, rolls, green beans almondine, Caesar salad, and blueberry salad.  To say we dined sufficiently would be an understatement.   I also made my usual champagne cocktail that several of us enjoyed.

This year, for the first time in forever, I did not receive one piece of jewelry or new bottle of perfume. That was a bit my doing though.  About 2 months ago, my food processor didn't want to work unless you pushed down on the bowl while it was on.  Something broke in the mechanism that was created as a safety feature so it didn't think the bowl was seated properly.  I found the receipt for it while cleaning files and turns out, it was 20 years old!  I'd say I got my money's worth.  So, I had put that on my list, along with a new product called the Ninja Coffee Concierge.  It's a machine that will either brew a pot of coffee or a travel cup or a smaller cup. This appealed to me because sometimes I just want one cup of coffee after dinner or on a cold Saturday afternoon. I know a lot of people have gone to Keurig but we drink too much coffee to make that cost effective.  I had also asked for new running shoes, and a new led nail light as I've been doing my own gel nails for a few years now. Well, between Mr. Helen and Little Helen, I got them all!   Plus I received a bunch of other smaller items and the aforementioned seasonal candies I love.  While it might have been the year of practical, I was every bit as happy as if I'd been given a diamond.


This week has been a week of getting back to somewhat normal - at least the mall is closing at regular hours again, though it's full of teenagers at night since there is no school this week.  It's very quiet at my regular job as well, which always makes me wish I'd taken time off.  On the other hand, why take time off when the weather is so-so? I'd rather save it for summer.

We have no plans for New Year's Eve so that usually means we fall asleep on the sofa trying to make it to the ball drop at midnight.  I still need to take down the Christmas tree and de-holiday the house, so maybe I'll do that in an effort to stay up later!  

This new year looming feels very different than our last year filled with big events. Though Christmas seemed to be themed "out with the old," there are no specific plans or goals towards that in 2016. In fact, the older I get, the less I seem to like resolutions or very specific goals.  I think I've learned you never know what life will throw your way. So, for the Helen household, we'll just plan on a continuation of seeking our best happy, healthy life.  I wish that for all my friends too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Light Running

I love Christmas and I have truly sucked at it this year.  I didn't send out cards or make any goodies or anything I normally would do.  I feel like I've just been trying to survive from day to day.  So, please accept my apologies if you usually get a card from me and know it doesn't mean anything other than over-busyness on my part.

Last night was my last shift at the mall until next week.  The shifts this week have been madness made worse by the fact that the mall's credit card pin pads completely died last Saturday so we've only been able to take cash sales for the gift cards.  By the time I left my 9 hour shift on Sunday I considered it a victory that I'd only been sworn at twice and yelled at twice.  Most people realized it wasn't my personal fault, and I am happy to say that I let the swearing and yelling roll right off me because I knew it wasn't my fault either lol!

Very glad the holiday madness is behind me!  Now I'm just on to my personal holiday madness of trying to figure out how to set everything up for Christmas day.  One area of relief is the parking. Our neighbor is gone for a week and told me we should use her driveway for the extra guests and cars. That's a relief in and of itself.

Little Helen and husband are arriving tonight but we'll be sleeping by the time they get here.  Poor thing is going to be shocked when she walks in and there is nary a Christmas cookie in sight! As usual the entire time they are here is filled with family get togethers and activity.  One good thing about all the get togethers is that I don't have to do any cooking other than Christmas day itself.

While it's looking quite a lot like Christmas, it certainly isn't feeling like it around here.  No complaints from me as far as the temperatures go, but I sure do wish it would stop being rainy and grey and foggy every time the temperatures get around 50.  In other words, sun please!

The moderate temps have made for a nice fall/early winter running season (except for the rainy mornings).  When my running is going like this I day dream about maybe committing to training for another race.  Then I really start thinking about what that would take and I realize that nope, I really don't want to.  Maybe if there was a regular running group around here and I could find a great running partner like my former buddy Pete.

Speaking of Pete, he just turned 90 and he's still running races!!!  I ran into him at our local Greek Food Festival and he looks terrific.  It's those good Greek genes combined with having taken care of himself.  I did get him to agree to let me come and do a long walk with him some time after the holidays.  I hope the weather cooperates so we can do that.

The other morning while out running, I took some photos of light displays that are left on all night. Sometimes I purposely route myself along these streets - it's nice to see the displays and it's pretty peaceful at 5 am.

I'll share these with you and sign off for now - Merry Christmas!









Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Bad Blogger

I have just been so overwhelmed lately that the thought of writing a blog at the end of what have been very long days didn't even cross my mind really.  There's nothing special to report and I'm not sure what I have to say except. "busy" is my middle name.

December is a super busy month at my full time job.  Lots of holiday cards sent out from the various companies, plus we have to get the invitations out for our annual Winter Gala.  Then there's shopping and wrapping corporate gifts and of course, all my regular work as well.

Plus, I have my part time job at the mall. Four more shifts and the holiday frenzy will be over at the mall for me. That's how I get through December lol.   I chose to work 2 Sundays because this time of year we split the shifts.  I asked for the opening shift so that I could be home by 5 p.m. or so.  By working the Sundays, I only do one weeknight shift and I'm glad for that as the hours have now extended to 10:30 p.m. which means I'm not home until 11.  My hardest shift will be the one on December 22 because I will be alone and it will be super busy.  That last week people begin to frantically buy gift cards for anyone they couldn't find a real gift for. Four more shifts.

This past weekend we went and got our tree.  We still go to a tree farm and cut one down.  Every year Mr. Helen says no more fresh trees, let's get an artificial one.  Then I find one and tell him how much it costs and he says, ok one more fresh tree.  Anyway, it has been a crazy mild fall here and Saturday was no exception.  We were cutting a tree and it was 55 degrees.  I told Mr. Helen had we stayed out there any longer, I might have gotten a sunburn on my face.

He put the lights on Saturday night and as usual, we watched A Charlie Brown Christmas while he did that. Sunday morning, I got up, had coffee, and got to decorating.  Had to, as this was my last "free" weekend until after Christmas.  Mr. Helen works on Sundays so I'm alone and I have to say I really enjoyed my day.  I had pressed myself during the week so that Sunday was completely free with no obligatory chores except to decorate the tree.  As usual, I put Elf in the dvd and watched/listened to that while I decorated. And as usual, just about the time Elf was done, I had finished the tree.  I need to use my real camera to take a photo of it, but here's an iPhone shot


And here's my favorite ornament ever for both Mr. Helen and me.  Little Helen made it when she was in second grade and brought it home.  That's when Mr. Helen and I met so this is really how he remembers her as a little girl.  When we got a bit serious he told me he wanted to buy her a new coat.  I was a single parent working 3 jobs and I'm sure the coat she had probably wasn't the greatest and he was trying so hard not to hurt my feelings because he knew I was doing the best I could.  So, he took us shopping and let her pick out any coat she wanted.  She chose a purple coat (because that was her favorite color) with a fur-lined hood.  It was so much nicer than the one she had, and that's the coat she's wearing in this photo.  Not to mention her missing teeth.  Wonderful memories that we relive every Christmas!


As you can see from the photo above, as soon as I had that tree decorated, I wrapped gifts.  I actually managed to wrap everything I'd purchased so far. As usual, I watched Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Miracle on 34th Street while I did that.  Let me tell you what, I have to be organized between now and Christmas or I will drown!

As it turns out, everyone except 1 brother and his wife are coming to my house Christmas Day for dinner.  This will be the biggest crowd we've ever had and my house is small, unless we're doing a casual thing.  So, we're trying to figure out if we can actually seat everyone or if we're just going to go more casual.  Doesn't matter, I'm sure it will work out just the way it should.

I'm struggling with exercise right now.  It happens every December.  I should clarify that by struggling I mean I'm managing about 3 workouts a week vs. the 6 I normally do.  I just need my time in the evenings for shopping or wrapping or other obligations (i.e. working at the mall), which means I do not get to bed in the right time frame I need to in order to get up at 4 am.  Oh well, experience tells me this too shall pass.

One good thing about the busy-ness is that I'm eating normally.  I haven't been a bit tempted by extra goodies.When I realized this the other day I made up my mind that I would not casually partake of any holiday extras unless it was homemade and fabulous.  I haven't run across that yet so I'm good (so far!).  Honestly, I think I almost struggle more with wanting a glass of wine every single day than I do with the food extras.  But I'm not partaking of that either because the few days I can get up and workout, I want to feel ok and not dragged down by the alcohol.

So, that's all the news that's fit to print -  nothing special and life just going on at Doing A 180.  Which is perfectly fine.

Monday, November 16, 2015

What's Going On

I've been too busy living to write.  I keep thinking I need to update the blog but then I seem to have no time.

I've started to work some Sundays for the holiday season. This requires extremely good time management on my part so that all the things I normally would do on Sundays are handled.  I did have yesterday off and distinctly thought about how my flow changes come fall.  In the summer all I want to do on the weekend is go to the beach.  I'm pretty sure my housekeeping suffers for that.

In my efforts not to sit at home a sulk in the dark, I've made so much progress that this week I have no evenings home.  I'm sure there's balance there but this is not the week for it.

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I'm really enjoying the 100 days of healthier eating challenge I've been doing.  With the mini challenges I've found it makes me consider other things around food.  It's like there's an awareness there that I was blindly pushing past.  I've also enjoyed this graphics our leader is putting up every day.  This has been one of my favorites so far!


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I LOVE my new exercise class!!  In fact, I love it so much I am sad that I cannot take it two times a week right now.  The instructor is great - lots of personality - but also really good at teaching this class.  It's a true cardio kickboxing class, which was fun for me as I pretty much know the moves from doing Muay Thai Boxing.  We end with lots of ab work and stretching, including some yoga moves during the cool down.  Love, love, love!  I will definitely be signing up for two days a week when the session restarts at the end of January. Even though it means I will be out of the house 4 nights a week for a month, I think that will be good for me as January-February are the worst months of winter to me.

I did exactly what I said I would do:  as soon as I got home, I changed into my exercise clothes and did some cleaning.  That kept me busy right up until I needed to leave again and made all the difference in the world for me getting back out of the house,  Also helps with that time management thing I mentioned before.

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In other exercise efforts, one of the things I have always enjoyed is some form of step aerobics.  I have have the old Step Reebok tape from the 1980's and do it about every 10 days.  I have long wished someone would update step.

I found out about this guy via the woman who is doing our healthy eating challenge.  He came to where she lives in Maryland and she loved the class.  I've been following him on Facebook and YouTube and have been impressed that his groups seem to have regular people in them (i.e., not exercise "models" or obviously super fit people who do it for a living). Yesterday he had a prerelease of his first DVD.  I ordered it - can't wait for it to come in!  If you want to see more of his stuff, search Extreme Hip-Hop with Phil on You Tube.


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I saw this on Facebook and thought it worth repeating.  In fact, I thought it worth printing out and sticking it with my exercise notebook.  I wish we could teach our young women each one of these!


10 FACTS EVERY WOMAN SHOULD KNOW
  1. Everyone has rolls when they bend over.
  2. When someone tells you that you're beautiful, believe them. They aren't lying.
  3. Sometimes we all wake up with breath that could kill a goat.
  4. For every woman unhappy with her stretch marks is another woman who wishes she had them.
  5. You should DEFINITELY have more confidence. And if you saw yourself the way that others see you, you would.
  6. Don't look for a man to save you. Be able to save yourself.
  7. It's okay to not love every part of your body...but you should.
  8. We all have that one friend who seems to have it all together. That woman with the seemingly perfect life. Well, you might be that woman to someone else.
  9. You should be a priority. Not an option, a last resort, or a backup plan.
  10. You're a woman. And that alone makes you pretty damn remarkable.

And that's all the news that's fit to print!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Hashtag Fail... But All Is Not Lost

Why is it that when you put your best foot and intentions forward it seems like the universe gathers everything to slay the dragon... and YOU are the dragon?

Not that I needed them, but I got a lot of reminders that just because something fails, all is not lost.

I did much better with my food than I have been, I suspect because I committed to honestly tracking every single bite.  Funny how if I have to "admit" eating that handful of chips I suddenly can find something else to do besides shove food in my mouth.  Well most of the time anyway.  On the one occasion that I #failed I went all in.  I would like to blame Mr. Helen for the wine he put in front of me and the Cheez-It/Triscuit snack he made but you know, I am an adult and all I had to do was say no.  But the situation did give me the chance to remind myself that just because that's how it went down Tuesday evening after work didn't mean that even my very next meal wasn't a chance for a do-over.  As the week went on, that got better.  So, I'd give myself an A for effort and a solid B for reality.

As I mentioned I signed up for a class through my city's rec department and spent all of last Thursday looking forward to going to the class.  Even the fact that I was home for well over an hour before I had to leave did not deter me.  I know that sounds weird, but 4 p.m., when I'm walking through the door (unless I've run errands), is my absolute brain-hazed, "boy am I tired" time. For me to come home, change into workout clothes, then have 45 minutes to an hour to sit means I also have 45 minutes to an hour to contemplate how tired I am and how I do not want to go back out.  I expect this to be worse this week now that it's dark so early.

I did decide, based on last Thursday, that once I'm changed into workout clothes, I'm going to clean something so I can keep moving until I move myself out the door.  But I digress...

I changed, then sipped on some water and watched a DVR'd show before I left.  Drove to school gymnasium where the class was being held and walked in wondering how many people would be there.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the door to the gym and there was... no one.  I looked at the clock on the wall and it said 5:25.  Huh, the class starts at 5:30 so where is everybody?  At 5:45 I dejectedly walked out and drove back home.

You can just imagine what my brain did with that. I'm sure I don't even have to explain how utterly disappointed I was.  I called the Rec department and left a message for them to call me on Friday, all the while feeling very sorry for myself.

The one good thing is that I reminded myself that THEIR fail did not mean "I" failed and I did not go home and comfort myself with food.  I ate a sensible dinner and called it a night, going to be bed early enough to get up Friday morning and work out.

They did call me Friday and apologized profusely because they had changed the venue to another school and absolutely no one could figure out how I was never notified.  They also said I could make the class up so that means one week I'll be taking the class Tuesday and Thursday.  I'll take that as a win.

On to another good week.





Monday, October 26, 2015

Serendipity

Ever since I got that bad cold weeks ago, even after the cold was pretty much gone, I haven't felt well.  I've been dragging myself through days and nights and jobs and life.  I know darn well this does not bode well for me to be going into Daylight Savings Time with this hovering around me all the time.

Saturday morning, I got up while the house was still quiet and sat down for a cup of coffee prior to my workout.  Once again, I didn't feel like working out and did feel like I was tired of pushing myself to work out when I don't feel like it.  I do feel like I've spent all of 2015 battling it in a vicious cycle of knowing I should do it, thinking I want to do it, doing it, it sucks (my performance, the weather, whatever), I cut my workout short - or suffer through it, berate myself for sucking, skip it the next day because that day was so bad, berate myself for skipping it.  And on and on and on and on... and that's just one of the many things I feel like I've been battling.

I don't know why but for some reason, on Saturday morning, this hit me hard and as I sat sipping my coffee. I decided to really be honest with myself and acknowledge whatever I needed to in order to get myself out of this funk.

In truth, I haven't felt "well" in a long, long time - much longer than just the last few weeks. Pieces of it go all the way back to 2012 when I broke my foot.  Those things have just never been right since.

I actually had the thought, "The choices I'm making overall are not working.  I don't like myself, I don't like the way I look, I don't like the funk I seem to be spiraling further into.  I'm mostly miserable. Something has to change."

So, I sat and I thought and I thought and came up with a plan.

1.  Exercise most days.  It doesn't have to be hard or fast or anything other than a couple mile walk.  No comparing the past to right now.  Just do it and accept it for whatever it is, even if I have to pretend I've never exercised before and I'm starting all over.

2.  Find an exercise class to take a couple times a week over the winter.  Something inside, with other people involved.  To this end, I picked up the Parks and Rec magazine and looked at what they were offering.  My immediate reaction was that nothing worked with my part time job schedule.  But then I said, "Helen, snap out of it, that's an excuse.  Find something that works!"  Well, when I read the fine print, I found out that they have several classes where you can either pay $40 for two nights a week, or $25 for 1 night a week.  I picked up my lap top and signed up to start Amped Up this Thursday.  It's a floor class that starts with a cardio kickboxing element and then goes to the floor for strength training.  Because of my schedule (and the dumb holidays) I can only go 1 day a week for this session but when the January session starts, I can make sure I can do something 2 days a week.

3. Get on the scale and see what is going on from my up and down and all around eating.  Well, yes, it was a gain since the last time I weighed myself - December 31, 2014.  But it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought - 6 pounds.  That's fixable.

4. I don't have to diet but I do have to eat better. This one is interesting because in general I make very healthy, good food for us.  I cook from scratch more than anybody I know and that's the truth. We go through periods where we eat out once a week or so, but we also go through times when we eat all meals in for months.  For me, eating better is going to have to do with choosing more vegetables and choose less snack-type foods like crackers.  I love vegetables, but when I get in a funk like I have been, I choose not to eat them and instead eat crackers, pasta, rice, bread and potatoes. Those things are fine in the correction portions, which is the second part - this is also going to have to do with me eating smaller portions.  The end.

To this end, I have a friend who is doing a 100 days of healthier eating thing via Facebook.  I joined that about two weeks ago (which just goes to show you that some of these thoughts have been swirling around in my brain anyway).  She is also doing a series of mini-challenges within the 100 days.  Our first one was drink more water - easy for me most days since I mostly only drink water. Right now we are in the middle of the eat more fruits and vegetables challenge.  These challenges have been good for me, not only to bring realization to how I am eating, but also because even when I've had days that weren't "perfect" the group is supportive.  My tendency to beat on myself isn't really allowed.  That's good for me.

Also, to keep myself in check - not calorie limited - but to force myself to look at my choices, I am going to start using a food tracker again, at least for a while.

5. Drink less alcohol. There was a time when I only ever had a drink if we went out.  Then I would have a drink on the weekends.  Then it turns into a glass of wine while cooking dinner and the next thing you know, nearly every day some sort of adult beverage is being ingested. Even though it hasn't been like this every week, it's still not necessary any week, at least not for me!!  I'm feeling this is just a habit that has developed and it's stopping.  I'll be helped by the fact that I work two nights a week at my part time job and by adding in the exercise class (I never have any desire to drink anything but water when I exercise in the evenings).  I'm sure my liver will thank me.  I also know that this will help tremendously with my desire to exercise as well as ridding myself of downward spiraling thinking.

6. Be more social.  I told Mr. Helen that my goal was for us not to hibernate (unless snowstorm-bound) this winter.  We need to get out and about and I don't care if it's just to go visit parents or something.  I have a huge tendency to be a loner.  Couple that with the fact that I work all by myself at my full time job and then some nights Mr. Helen isn't home, and I am alone a lot.  I need to be out and about and meeting up with friends more, if at all possible. The new exercise class will certainly help with that.  I suspect this will be one of my hardest tasks.

After I wrote most of this blog, thanks to a Facebook share, I found this blog written by Wil Wheaton, the actor: Seven Things I Did to Reboot My Life.

It was so serendipitous I laughed right out loud.  Thank you universe for the confirmation! Read it, he says it better than I ever could.

As of Saturday, I pushed reset.  I had a phenomenal run and body weight workout.  I ate a veggie filled omelet for brunch and we were out of the house the whole day.  We got to see Little Helen and meet her for dinner because she was at Yale University speaking at a conference.  We ate out but I ate half and took the rest home.  I had one glass of Sangria and drank 12 cups of water.  I slept well Saturday night and got up Sunday and took a nice walk and did some pushups and situps.  I batch cooked food for the week and drank only water all day and night.  I slept like a rock Sunday night and had a great run this morning.  It will be a long day because I'm working both jobs, but I'll get to be social and out and about by being at the mall tonight.

So, we shall see what the next months bring.  I'm only a few days in and I already feel better and more hopeful.  I'm taking that as a good sign.

I am a commitment to refresh, recharge, reboot.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fall Frolic, Part 2

We decided to go to Sharpe Hill Winery because it's one of the Connecticut wineries we hadn't visited yet.  The winery itself is beautiful, built into a big old barn (you can see some outside shots in yesterday's post).  They also have a Zagat-rated restaurant there. While familiar with their Ballet of Angels wine (it's the best selling CT wine on the market), we had never tried any of their other wines.

Once you go inside, you go to a desk and choose what type of tasting you want (half or full) and where you want to have it. This winery is unique in that once you choose your spot, they come to your table and serve your tastings.  Sort of fascinating to watch the servers keep track of all the different clients. The inside tasting room is small, especially compared to the tasting room at Jonathan Edwards (our more local winery) but they have two outside areas with seating where tastings are done.  We chose a half tasting (6 wines, which is equal to a bit over one glass of wine) and to stay inside because the sun kept going behind clouds and it was a blustery, chilly day.

We thought the decorations and setting of the tasting room were unique - more like you were sitting in someone's home vs. a big open room.






After our tasting we decided to walk to the top of the hill as our server had told us there was a point at the top where you could see both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  The views were beautiful, even if the vines were bare of grapes!

Beginning to go up the hill

Near the top, looking back



This is the two state view, three if you count that we were standing in Connecticut

Since we had about a 45 minute drive to our next destination, I told Mr. Helen I was going to stop in the ladies room, which turned out to be a unisex facility.  I don't normally take photos of bathrooms but this one was so unique I had to!  Apologies that these are a bit blurry but I was trying to hurry since there was a line outside.


 Close up of the sink


No need for reading materials in this bathroom with all this stuff to look at!  

We left the winery and headed south to make our final stop at B.F. Clyde's Cider Mill, which you have seen before on this blog.  Honestly it's crazy to me how busy this place is now. But they've added on to the old cider mill by building a general store and now are doing hard cider and apple wine tastings so there really is no good time to go when it's not busy.  We got there around 4 p.m. and though they close at 6, there were hundreds of people in line.  So, while Mr. Helen waited in line, I walked around and took some photos.




The actual cider press is located in this building

Apples ready to go into the cider press


Cider & Apple Wine tasting Area - this building used to house a grist mill

Lots and lots of Clyde's branded goods plus Connecticut maple syrup, which I have never seen on sale here before


Pretty soon, Mr. Helen was standing on the steps of the general store so I went and got back in line with him.  The REAL reason we come to Clyde's is for their baked goods - and a cup of ice cold cider.  I wanted to get a pie but they had sold out of them by 2:00 that day. Mr. Helen loves their apple turnovers, but for me (the non-donut person), it's all about the cider donuts.  They sell them so fast you usually get them warm. Just to be open and honest, I always eat two.  Hey, it's something I do once a year!

The Holy Grail

Our adventure took us 6 hours but it was a wonderful way to spend the day.  I hope you've enjoyed it - and if you ever come to Connecticut, now you know where to go and what to do in the fall.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Fall Frolic, Part 1

Most every year Mr. Helen and I toodle around our neck of the woods to leaf peep when the foliage changes.  Last year we didn't get to do this due to both of us having to work when we would have gone followed by a storm that stripped the leaves off the trees.  This year, I wanted us to take the opportunity to get out but I also wanted to not drive the same old roads.

I did a little research and made plans for us to (sort of) do a big loop of eastern Connecticut driving Route 169 which is a designated National Scenic Byway.  I knew once we were in Connecticut's "Quiet Corner" we would have plenty of other back roads to choose from before we made our way home.

There are a lot of things to see and visit along this drive but hard to do in one day so we set out for a couple of specific stops and decided we'd just mosey along for the rest of the day.

The rest of this post will be mostly photos - I hope you enjoy seeing our fall adventure and I apologize in advance to all you DSLR people for my iPhone and point and shoot shots.

This is a map of our route:  starting from home we took the highway to route 169 (the left road on the map then bear right) because we wanted to start by having lunch at the Vanilla Bean Cafe.  So we drove to the left of the bottom loop then over towards the right. The mileage is correct but disregard the time, this was a 6 hour excursion. Just for perspective, Massachusetts is above the dotted line and Rhode Island is to the right.


I took some shots of the foliage along the way. As you can see it was a beautiful fall day with blue, blue skies.



Once we got off the highway and onto Route 169, we started seeing very typical New England scenes with colonial-style houses and lots of rock walls.  I took a couple photos from the truck then kept insisting we pull over!  Mr. Helen is a good sport but he does get tired of me saying, "Oh no!  That was a perfect shot and we drove by too fast."  Still, 169 was everything we hoped it would be in terms of a lovely drive and views.







In about an hour's time we were at the Vanilla Bean Cafe, a restaurant built into a 19th century barn and the only place to get lunch in Pomfret.  The food is delicious and made with all fresh ingredients but a bit overpriced.  As it's the only game in town, you can imagine the line on a perfect autumnal Saturday.  We ended up keeping our coats on and sitting outside because it was so busy!  No photos but suffice it to say our shared cup of their award winning chili and Mr. Helen's meatloaf sandwich and my roast beef and cheddar sandwich lived up to their reputation. We would to back.

After lunch we headed down Route 97 to go to a wine tasting at Sharpe Hill Vineyards, best know for their Ballet of Angels wine.  We had never been here and were looking forward to it.

Route 97 as we were leaving the cafe.



At one point we came to a stoplight and when I saw this little store's sign, I cracked up!  Then I asked Mr. Helen if he needed anything... beer? Bible? bullets? books? vegetables?  LOL!


He said he was all set and the light changed so we continued on our way and then we were pulling up to Sharpe Hill.

The buildings and grounds are beautiful - here's a preview with more to come in the next post.


This house is part of their property - not sure if someone lives here.  The area in front of the small fence is herb and vegetable gardens which they use for their restaurant.


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The main building and restaurant.  Mr. Helen is walking towards the tasting room door - he was done with me and my photos hahaha

The entrance to the tasting room and restaurant.

Next post:  wine tasting, winery grounds, and the holy grail.

Monday, October 19, 2015

All in the Dark

I have been looking for a new pocketbook for quite some time.  Like most women, I can be picky about my purse so it takes me forever to find something.  You know what is irritating as heck?  The fact that "designers" are making pocket books out of plastic/fake leather and still charging $200 or more for them.  Actually it irritates me that synthetic hand bags cost more than $20.  It's ridiculous.  I actually bought a couple different ones and returned them both.  Last week I was in Macy's looking for some new black slacks and walking through the accessories department, found this beauty!

This is a leather Tignanello Satchel in Walnut.  It was priced more than I was willing to pay but there was one of those 1 days sales and it was 40% off and then I had a coupon for $25 off $100 so it came all the way down to just $90 and I had that in gift cards.  Jackpot!  I love it and it also is convertible with a strap that attaches if I need to put it over my shoulder.  Perfect.

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I know I have complained both on this blog and on Facebook - and probably IRL to some people too about the ridiculous size of chicken breasts these days.  For me, chicken breasts are one place where bigger is not better so I have been on a search for reasonable sized pieces of chicken.  It has gotten so bad that even some of the all natural and/or organic ones are 8 oz. each.  Mr. Helen came on these at the commissary where he works and I finally got some on sale.  They really are perfect portions - about 4.8 oz. each so they cook down to about a 4 oz. piece of chicken.  Plus they are individually wrapped so I can freeze the bag and pull out how only how many I want. Much more reasonable.  I am willing to pay extra just to have normal sized chicken.



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Preview of what we did this past Saturday - full post on that coming up later in the week.


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Last Friday we had a beautiful sunny day that warmed up to about 68 degrees.  I left work by 3:30 but had to grocery shop, then put the groceries away and by the time I could get outside it was 5:15.  Because the sun angles change so drastically this time of year, the patio no longer gets sun by that time of day and once the sun starts to drop in the sky it's cold.  But with the cooler weekend weather forecast I was determined to sit outside figuring it would be my last chance before the freeze.  I put on a jacket and took my martini out there anyway, just to get the fresh air.  Only lasted about 45 minutes but I guess that's better than no fresh air at all.


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It did indeed get cooler all weekend long and by Sunday night even our area was forecast for a hard freeze.  I thought maybe I'd set out warmer winter running clothes just in case as I couldn't imagine the struggle I'd have this morning trying to find that stuff at 4 am.  Alarm went off and I got up and I grabbed two outfits - one winter, one what I would normally wear in fall and went downstairs to open the back door and do a temp test.  Ummmmmm okay then.  It was 27 degrees.  I put on my winter gear and turned the news on to see places in New York where it snowed 9 inches.  Well, at least I wasn't dealing with that, right?  Still dark AND cold?  Not my favorite running combo.  And I realized this morning that my runs from start to finish on weekdays are all in the dark now.  Sunrise doesn't happen for a good hour after I get home.  Blah.

Just how much is that lottery this week?