Monday, December 31, 2012

My 5 Favorite Paris Books

I have debated for some time now just what are my favorite books about Paris and/or France.  There are an abundance of books both fiction and non-fiction about my favorite city.  I have read MANY of them, which is why I have been so indecisive about which are my favorites.  For the sake of keeping my post short, I have come up with 5 that have been a joy to read.  These ended up all being non-fiction, I suppose because I cannot get enough of the Parisian way of life.  I am always hoping some of that will rub off on me.  All of these books I look back at from time to time.  Guess it is part of the attempt to relive visiting Paris.  I have hard copies of all these as a result.

These are in no special order and each has its own purpose.

In preparing for my trip in 2011 I was obsessed with knowing as much about Paris as I could.  I bought Rick Steves Paris 2011.  I didn't realize what a help that book would be to me.  I carried it everywhere.  Even though I was with a tour, I wanted to know what I wanted to see on my free time. Note how I still have all those post it tabs to mark interesting things!  Also it was a god send to have after my trip when I was preparing to make my photo book and fill in my travel journal. It made it easier to recall monuments and other things that I thought I would remember but didn't

Being the committed Francophile that I am these next two taught me much about French culture.  French Or Foe by Polly Pratt explains what makes the French so different from us. From the working culture to family life, this book is a must read for anyone interested in traveling or moving to France.  Say what you want about the French, but their lifestyle makes for some interesting reading!  Along with that,  French Toast by Harriet Welty Rochefort is a wonderful memoir by a woman who grew up in Iowa but had an attraction to France.  I always admire people who can take a leap of faith and follow their dreams.  Even if those dreams take them half way across the world.  She tries to make sense of the Paris lifestyle. Not so easy for someone from Iowa!

To me the king of American expats living on Paris is David Lebovitz.  If you have never read his blog you have to take a look.  His book The Sweet Life In Paris is full of recipes done the French way and funny insights into the city of light.  As a lover of all the food Paris has to offer (especially of the sweet kind!), this book is a perfect match for me.
My last favorite book is Parisian Chic by Ines de la Fressange.  This book is a step by step guide to create that unique Parisian style. It is full of colorful  illustrations.  Not everyone in Paris shops at Hermes or Louis Vuitton.  There is style to be found at (gasp) your nearest Monoprix.  Buy the best you can afford for the classic pieces and have fun with the rest.
So that does it for my list.  Like I said there are lots of others that I loved (saved for another blog post perhaps).  I am always looking for books about Paris and the French.  You may have some suggestions for me.  Please let me know!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Ode To My Favorite Fashion Accessory....The Scarf

Oh dear scarf, how I love you.
I can wear you countless ways
Around my neck, or on my bag handle
You sure do aim to please

 Okay I know I am not a poet, but my love of scarves is well known.  I have always loved what a good fashion accessory can do to liven up an outfit.  Really no matter what your clothing budget is, there is always room for a colorful scarf.  You can find them in all different price ranges.  Believe me, I do not own a Hermes (although I would LOVE to). I believe the most expensive one I own cost about $25.00.

I think my love affair with the scarf began many years ago in on my first visit to Chicago on a bus trip to see Donny Osmond in Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Chicago Theater.  The theater as you may know is located right by the famous then Marshall Field department store on State Street.  Our bus arrived several minutes early before the show started and I could not pass by the fact that the FAMOUS Marshall Fields was right there.  So being the shopaholic that I am, I just had to go in that store.  Of course we didn't have much time so we could only scan the accessories floor off the street.  Looking for something to catch my eye, I came upon this silky leopard print rectangular scarf!  Well it was love at first sight complete with the beam of light from above and the sound of a chorus singing awwww! Well, you get the idea.  I found my token that would forever remind me of that day.

My very first scarf bought in Chicago

That started the beginning of a very good relationship.

Then came my Paris trip!  Well I was is scarf heaven!  Everyone wore one, even the men.  They were everywhere.  I knew in my research before my trip that all Parisians owned scarves and I knew I would fit right in.  I went and bought more before I even left just so I would not feel left out!
The very first day in Paris while everyone else was strolling through Notre Dame, I took off to the little shops right along there and bought my very first scarf in Paris!  I ended up buying three more for myself and some for gifts for friends when I returned home.

My Paris scarves

I wear scarves all the time especially in winter.  I just love how they can jazz up a white blouse or a plain sweater.  Sometimes I tie my smaller ones onto the handle of my handbag for a little French flavor.
They are fun to experiment with and if you are stumped as to how to tie one, just go to Pinterest, type scarf in the search box and I guantee you will find more ways to tie a scarf than you dreamed possible.  You can be creative and tie one in your hair as a headband too.
I probably own about 15 scarves in all.  Some heavy winter ones and some lightweight silky ones like my  Chicago leopard.

So don't be afraid of the very versatile scarf.  It can add a dash of color and texture to your outfit!  It's a great way to let your personality shine through!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Friday Night Frolic In A Small Town

I have to say that I don't always like living in a small town.  Sometimes I long for the hustle and bustle of a big city.  Always something to do no matter what time of year it is.  Chicago is my favorite go-to city when I crave that excitement.  I'm just 3 hours away via car and train and I'm right downtown.

That being said, when we have some excitement in my small town of Kiel, Wisconsin I like to check it out.  This year a group of downtown businesses got together to host a new event called Frolic On Fremont.  This took place Friday night from 4:00 to 8:00 pm. These businesses along with some others had in-store drawings and specials and the participating ones get together to donate gift certificates for one lucky winner provided you visited all the businesses and got a card initialed from each one and then it was thrown in for a big drawing.

My new favorite store Sneak A Peek Boutique

One of these participating businesses is one of my new favorite places called Sneak A Peek Boutique.  This shop is made for me.  Inside you will find lots of my favorite things including handbags, scarves (LOTS and LOTS of scarves), jewelry, hats, lots of gift items and even special occasion cards.  This place is packed with cleverly displayed things!  I had just stopped in and made some purchases last weekend and I made some more purchases Friday night.  Best part is, everything is reasonably priced so you can buy lots! The only bad thing is you need your checkbook or cash.  No cards excepted!

All in all it was a nice night and even the hubby came along with Megan and I!  We purchased a few items, stopped in to visit the new barber in town and got our entry stamped with all the businesses.  The best part was seeing all the people out and about enjoying what our small town has to offer.  I can remember growing up in the same small town whent Friday nights were spent downtown shopping.  Not only grocery shopping, but back then we had a few clothing shops, a shoe store, the local hardware store (which is still going strong) and when you were done with your Friday night shopping there were plenty of restaurants to fill the empty stomach!  We hardly ever went to any of those bigger cities like Green Bay or Appleton.  Everything was right here.

Ornament display inside Jess's Floral & Gift

Okay so maybe it's not so bad living in a small town.

If you are in town sometime and want to stop in Sneak A Peek, it's on the west end of Fremont Street which is our main street in town.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Five Holiday Survival Tips......NOT

With the Thanksgiving holiday behind us I would like to share my 5 tips on how I survived the holiday without gaining weight.......ha! fooled you!  I am totally kidding since yes, I did survive, but no I did not come through unscathed.  In fact I ended up GAINING 4 pounds!  I really should be happy that it was only 4 as I put aside my no dessert/extra sugar pledge and splurged on Thanksgiving with a piece of pecan pie (my absolute favorite, go figure since it is probably the most sugar-laden pie there is) and a small slice of a decadent chocolate cheesecake my cousin made.

I should backtrack a little.  I found myself pretty much alone for 7 days because of the Wisconsin gun deer hunt season that my hubby and darling daughter drive 4 hours to the western part of the state to participate in. By choice I didn't plan much for myself to do those days.  I had a lay-off from work that whole week and I wanted to regroup and recharge my batteries after some stress filled weeks.  Time to indulge in my favorite pastime-reading! So off to the library I went for my fill of feel-good and self help books.  I also started reading the Fifty Shades Of Gray series for a little "light" reading.

In the end I figure I had way too much free time by myself especially at night because I became victim to the 5 gallon pain of ice cream I had in the house for my family.  Up until then the ice cream did not bother me one bit, but I think being alone with my demons took over my sane mind and the end result? Insanity!!

My only saving grace in all this was the fact that for most of my time off it was gorgeous outside and I did lots of walking until the Friday after Thanksgiving when it turned cold.

So my sad holiday tale ends with an extra 4 pounds, and I wish if the only reason would be the holiday I could live with that.  My struggle is way more than that and I work everyday to push those old demons back down to the basement where they belong.  We all have to remember that our past does not define us today!

Enough of the glass half empty stuff, because I am not that person in reality!  This is a new week and I do feel very good.  Even though I had an unexpected day off today I am making the best of it.  I already got a nice walk in today, am eating right, and I am doing some I really enjoy to do by writing.  So to my extra 4 pounds I say "off with you" so I can feel great in my skinny dress for Christmas!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Plateau Sets In but Wait.....

Hummmmm...heavy sigh!!  I have not posted in awhile on purpose.  Yes, I hit the fearful plateau.  For two weeks I struggled with the scale pretty much staying the same,  then it slowly began to creep up.  This called for drastic measures.
 I pretty much dealt very well with the no dessert pledge, but I began to eat larger portion sizes than I should have and I let my exercise routine slack a little too.  What I was left with was a 6 pound gain and a big self defeated attitude.  Here I was accomplishing something I had little strength to do before (the sugar thing) but I just couldn't seem to loose anymore weight.  I knew I needed to up the anti or I was not gonna get to my goal.
So almost two weeks ago I went back at it full force with a stricter eating regimen, a diet cleanse that has me eating just protein and veggies at meals and two fruits along with my amino acids. No wine!(gasp), but I have been allowing myself one square of dark chocolate after 2 of my meals. Plus I make sure that I am getting at least 30 minutes of exercise in daily and I have begun doing some toning to get the flabbiness down.
Eureka!  I have again jump started my weight loss and am back on the right track!  As of this morning, I am back down to my 157 and am working on just 7 more pounds!
The best thing that happened this week was I got my health assessment back and I was elated to see my total cholesterol went from 240 down to 204.  This was done only 4 weeks after I gave up all that sugar!!  I am now on 8 weeks so I may wait awhile and have it retested.  Actually my weight was okay, I just need to work on the flabbiness.  I am proof positive that a small lifestyle change can really do wonders.  Do I miss the sugar?  at times, yes, but I made it through Halloween when there were lots of tempting treats at work!  I imagine the upcoming holidays will be the ultimate test.  Thanksgiving is coming up and my favorite pie-pecan!!  I will take it as it comes.  They say it takes like what 26 days to break a habit?  I am way past that now and my confidence grows a little each day. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday Morning Weigh-In

This weeks Monday morning weigh-in is going to be short and sweet I'm afraid.  Two reasons for this, today was a very busy day so I am short on my writing time, and  probably the biggest factor is the fact that I did not lose this week.  Yes, that is right I gained 3 pounds!!  What happened you ask?  Well I blame it on a slip in my eating habits and the downturn in my exercise time.  I ate out more than usual this past week and instead of taking half my meal home, I made the mistake of cleaning my plate.  A big no-no for me.  Plus I didn't have the best choices on my plate.  A huge mushroom Swiss burger with fries Friday night was a caloric nightmare I can only guess!  Then there was the Mexican for lunch on Friday.  Saturday I made a huge pot of beef stew, but ate half a French baguette with it.  I did walk this week, but since the weather turned cooler, I didnt walk as much as I usually do.

On the upside, I had no sweets for the sixth week.  I am really doing okay with that.  That being said I shall focus on the positive.  I wasn't a bit surprised when I got on the scale this morning. I never expected this to be easy.  I know there are always bumps in the road

Now  I can move on with my week.  Tomorrow I am getting my health assessment done.  Hopefully that will show things are on an upswing.  I am going to lunch with friends again this Friday and what will I do?  Only eat half of what is on my plate.  Normally when I am out with friends this isn't much of a  problem since I am doing more talking than eating..

So maybe I was overly self confident after last weeks loss.  This week sure was a wake up call to keep focused and keep my eyes on my goal.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Monday Morning Weigh-In

Fall is definitely in the air here, but today I had a huge spring in my step!  This morning I stepped on the scale and to my total delight it came in at a nine pound total weight loss.  Yes, that is NINE pounds!! I was doing a happy dance in the bathroom at 3:30 am.  Starting weight, 168 current, weight 159!!

I have been doing fairly well following my food routine Monday through Thursdays.  The weekend I deviate somewhat, but I still feel triumphant when I can bypass sugar.  Take this past weekend for instance.  Saturday myself and a couple of friends of mine volunteered to help out at a K-9 Cancer fundraising event at our local Vet Clinic.  We worked the food table, and ended up standing behind the table with all the donated baked goods.  It was our job to push these delectable delights.  Are you kidding me?  A sugar addict pushing bakery?  Proudly I have to say I was only slightly tempted by the mouth watering brownie bars with frosting and crushed oreos on top.  I refrained, you can ask my friends who were busy stashing goodies away for themselves to take home. Instead I grabbed a loaf of Parmesan herb bread! 

No thanks!  I don't want any!!

Anyway I do have a basic food routine that I try to stick to. Breakfast usually consists of a large serving of low-fat cottage cheese, 6 triscuit crackers, and a greek yogurt.  Mid morning snack is an apple and string cheese.  Lunch varies between a Smart Ones frozen dinner, a sandwich on multi grain bread with deli turkey or other deli meat, lettuce, and mayo or hummus.  Mid afternoon snack is either a handful of almonds or a chocolate rice cake with natural peanut butter.  Dinner is whatever I make for my family or whatever I want if we go out to eat on the weekends.  I try to get in my 4 cups of veggies a day.  I know some of these things have sugar in them but I am not really that strict when it comes to non desert items.  The rice cake and the peanut butter have minimal sugar content. I have been more mindful of my white flour intake also as I know this converts to sugar rapidly in the body.

Since I have lots more energy taking the amino acids and cutting out all those sugary treats I have been able to stick to a walking routine.  Still, my goal is to do more resistance training.  I am thinking of joining a local Zumba class with a friend.  I also would like to try Yoga.  I find I do much better in the exercise area if I am doing it with a friend.  Going to a gym on my own does not seem to work for me.  Walking does since I have an energetic dog that is practically waiting for me everyday when I get home with her leash in her mouth!

I feel great, have tons of energy, and I know I am on the right track.  I am very pleased with what I have done so far.

If you have not read the Diet Cure yet, next week I will explain the role the amino acids are playing in my weight loss.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Morning Weigh-In

Going into my 5th week of my amino acid regimen has me feeling positive about the results I am achieving so far.

 I managed to make it through one of the biggest festivals in Wisconsin, Cranberry Fest in Warrens, on Friday and a wedding on Saturday without one slip. This was a huge victory for me. After all at Cranfest there was temptation at every corner, turtle sundaes on a stick, ginormous elephant ears, everything cranberry you can imagine including one huge whoopee pie and I managed to bypass them all!

The wedding on Saturday night brought more temptation. Dessert right in front of me when I sat down which I kindly passed onto another person seated at out table, and a huge platter of yummy looking cupcakes gracing every table. We ended up taking six of those home with us. I have not had one!!

I find it almost scary how easy it has been for me to bypass all this temptation.  I keep waiting for the floor to drop out from under me.  If I feel even the slightest inkling of a feeling of temptation I just take an extra L-glutamine and the feeling passes. 

Now for the moment of truth.....drum role please!  I got on the scale this morning and stayed the same as last week.  Okay, so no loss but being the glass half full type of girl that I am, I am happy there was no gain.  The next step is to cut all the white flour and make sure I get my 4 cups of veggies a day.  This means a huge salad at night!  One thing at a time!!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Week Four And Down 2 More Pounds

Week four is coming to a close! I will be honest with you, I never thought that I could go this long and not have one craving for a sugary delight. I have managed to go to a family reunion and not even come close to the desert table. Then last weekend we were at a party that had some awesome looking bars and a cake and I was not even tempted when Rick was eating a piece right in front of me.

Is this some sort of miracle? For me it is! Or is that L-glutamine really working on those cravings. I'd like to think it is, together with the other amino acids I am taking. Whatever it is, I feel great and actually have extra energy left in the day to get a walk in.

I did get on the scale Monday morning and was down another 2 pounds which makes a total of 6 pounds lost! Ive managed about 7 miles total walking this week so far (not alot, but better than what I have been doing)

I'm going out on a limb here and making my total goal official. Down to 145 pounds, which would make it a total weight loss of 23 pounds from my starting weight. It is scary for me to actually type those numbers, cause it makes it very real. I am totally commited now for the whole world to see.

So my weekend begins. I'm planning on keeping the eating out to a minimum this weekend. Focus on making healthy meals at home with the exception of Saturday night when we have a wedding. Yikes more temptation! I am sure there will be the dreaded wedding cake but I am sure I will be able to walk past it and not give it a second glance!! I'll keep you posted and wish me luck!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Diet Cure To The Rescue!!!

I don't make it a big secret that I love sugar,  you could even say I am addicted to it!

 Did you know that research has shown that sugar can be as addictive as alcohol or cocaine? 

Did you know that the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day? 

Do I binge on sugar everyday?  No!

My love of sugary treats....bars, cookies, cakes, and candy have always been my best friends when I had to push uncomfortable emotions away.  The worst is anger, I swallow my anger in the form of sugar.  Does this make me feel better?  Yes, until I have realized I just ate a whole box of Reeses Peanut butter cereal in one sitting! Then I just get this sick bloated feeling and most times the next day I have what I call my sugar "hangover".

Not everyone knows this about me.  I can hide it very well.  Those of you that have had an experience like this know what I am talking about.  It's not  pretty.  Unlike most other addictions there is really no social stigma with it unless you are very overweight or binging and purging. Remember I am not doing this everyday just when I cant deal with certain emotions.

Most of my life I have wrestled with an extra 20 to 30 pounds.  I did have a period of almost 3 years when I was a perfect size 8 and was eating very healthy and exercising.  I was in my early 30s at the time before I became pregnant with my daughter.  I felt wonderful and content with myself.  Now that I am almost fifty, suffer from Hypothyroidism, and on the border of high cholesterol.  I need to really do something to turn my life around. 

Last September I went on the Dukan Diet and successfully dropped 11 pounds and felt terrific.  I did well for 6 weeks and I let myself slip at a wedding in October and had one cupcake.  This sent me on a very slow downward spiral that less than a year later left me with all 11 pounds gained back, feeling terrible and binging on sugar again.

So the question for me is always why can't I just have a little like a normal person?  Everyone tells me that the secret is to allow myself a little and I will be satisfied.  Really?  In my experience that does not work for me.

This is wear the book The Diet Cure comes in.  The thing that caught my eye was at the top of the book were the words No Willpower Required!    The Diet Cure by Julia Ross is an 8-step program to rebalance your body chemistry and end your food cravings, weight gain, and mood swings-naturally.  I was sold. 

So after taking a short quiz at the beginning you find out which of the eight steps you need to focus on to rebalance your body.  This is done through taking certain amino acids!  Best thing was, I could see results for my sugar craving almost instantly through taking the amino acid L-glutamine.  Almost unbelievable!  Since I had none of the conditions listed in the book that would require my doctors approval, I decided to give it a try and ordered a list of amino acids.  What harm could it do since you just stay on them for a short period of time until your body is regulated and you find your cravings are gone without taking them (usually a period of up to 3 months). 

So I take the L-glutamine for cravings, L-tryosine for energy, DLPA to enhance feelings of comfort and pleasure, and 5HTP to improve mood, sleep, and PM cravings.

I have to say that I questioned the speed as to which the L-glutamine was suppose to work, but it did work almost instantly.  My cravings disappeared.  I actually could go to a reunion last week and not even bother to wonder over to the dessert table.  Better yet, it did not bother me one bit when everyone around me was eating dessert! 

I have lost 4 pounds so far and only weigh myself about once a week, but I feel great and have energy to exercise everyday.  I know it is a slow weight loss but I see that as the best kind right now cause I am changing my life and not on a "diet".  The book is so full of all kinds of information and I will go into it more in later posts.  For now though I am really happy with my progress and know that it will not be easy.  If I can get past the 2 month mark it will be a milestone for me.

 I should say not say if, but when!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Back On My Weight Loss Journey

Summer is almost over, vacations are done, only 4 more weeks till Megan starts her first year of high school.  It is about time I stop making excuses and get back to taking care of this extra 20 pounds I'm carrying around. 

Excuses, I have a long list

Too hot
Too tired
I have to spend quality time on Pinterest
I have to cook/clean/wash/clean out the cat box
I dont wanna exersise by myself
My feet/back/legs/pinky finger hurts
I'm on vacation
I love ice cream
My summer clothes wont fit if I lose weight
Ect, ect, ect...

Enough already!!

Its time to get back on the saddle again.  Not only that, but I watched the 60 Minutes piece on sugar being toxic last night.  I LOVE sugar.  I am a firm believer that sugar is addictive.  One cookie is never enough for me. That is some scary stuff.  Sugar leading to all kinds of bad things.  I can believe it.  I just found out I have borderline high cholesterol.  I am convinced sugar is to blame.  Well, I am the one who eats the stuff so technically I am to blame. You know what I mean.

I have been having great success with the Dukan Diet.  It is not easy to do.  I think for  now I will just go the old fashion way.  Cutting calories and exercise!  I have to focus on portion control and NO sugar, no white flour.  More fruits (yuk, I am not a fruit eater!  crazy I know) and veggies.

Getting fit and healthy is one journey that never ends and for this girl who loves travel and adventure , it is my biggest challenge yet.

If you are driving through my town and see someone parked in front of the  Dairy Queen looking longingly at customers walking away from the window with giant size blizzards and a pool of drool under her car, that would be me.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Take A Non-Traditional Approach To Lodging For Your Next Vacation

Trying to find a place to stay when you travel can be stressful. We found this out recently on our vacation to Washington DC. Not only did we have just a week to find lodging, but we also had a strict budget to follow.

So while I was taking the traditional route searching for hotel rooms, Rick was searching for rooms through Airbnb a website that brings travelers and private parties that have rooms, apartments, condos, or houses for rent. I had never heard of Airbnb before, but had heard of Homeaway and Couchsurfing.

While my hotel search was bringing up expensive rooms with an added parking fee of anywhere between $20 and $40 a day! Yikes! Rick came up with a few choices, an apartment right downtown, a room with private bath in the Georgetown area, and a room in a huge house in the suburb of New Carrollton. After contacting the apartment owner through email to no response, and the Georgetown listing disappearing. We took a close look at the bio of the New Carrollton house. Turned out they are a married couple whose children were all out of the house. So they had this huge house and all these bedrooms. She lived in London in the past and he is from Jamaica. They seemed well traveled so they could relate to the needs of the weary traveler.

We were able to read reviews from previous renters and see pictures. Our house had plenty of pictures, but no reviews. This was a little scary but we took a leap of faith and booked 2 rooms at $65 a piece. Plus the fee Airbnb tacked on. One room for Rick and I and one for Megan. We did not have a private bath, which ended up being absolutely no problem. Soon after booking our rooms online our host Ann Marie called to ask us questions. I found her incredibly friendly so I was put at ease. She had said this was a new thing for them and they had just listed their rooms.

When we arrived at their house the next weekend we found their house to be warm and comfortable. Our hosts were wonderful and very helpful. We work up every morning to a big breakfast to start out our day.

In the end it was a great experience! We drove to the metro stop, which was only a couple of miles away from the house, every morning. Parked and took the train into DC to see all the sights. We pretty much were gone all day and would come back later at night. The neighborhood was very quiet and safe.

Would we do it again? Absolutely! I would highly recommend this alternative to staying at the huge hotels which can be impersonal, very noisy, and uncomfortable. Just be sure to read the reviews and have a few places in mind in case one doesn't reply to your inquiry. So next time you are planning a vacation check out this alternative to the big box hotel chains! As I write this I am on Airbnb checking out places to stay in Paris!! Just to put on my wish list.......for now anyway

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Road Trip-Washington DC Part 2....Georgetown

Call me crazy, but I think my favorite part of the trip was walking the back streets of Georgetown. We arrived on Sunday immediately dropped our baggage at the BNB we were staying at in New Carrollton (after we met our most gracious hosts for the week Ann Marie and her husband Glen) and set out.

First we had to figure out the metro. This was gonna be interesting since I was the only one who new anything about riding public transportation. I did have an app on my android phone, which contained a map of the metro so this helped. The only experience I had was riding the Metra into Chicago and using the bus system there a couple times a year and briefly riding the subway in Paris last year.

We ended up figuring out the ticket machines found at every stop and purchase 3 reloadable paper cards to use in our entry and exit at every destination. Believe me I was thankful for our tour leader in Paris, Mike, because the lesson he gave us subway rookies at that time proved invaluable to me this time!

After purchasing our tickets that we used all week to get around, I had my trusty Streetwise laminated Washington DC map and away we went. Now this was a virgin experience for Rick and Megan. They were a little anxious about it and were depending on me to know what I was doing! Boy did I fool them! I knew two basic things-the last stop in the direction we were going and the stop we needed to get off at. I was not going to let them see that I was less than sure of myself.

Anyway we made it to the Foggy Bottom stop even after we needed to transfer to another train to get there. Success! We exited the stop and realized we could walk to Georgetown from there instead of taking the convenient DC Circulator bus. Our first stop in Georgetown was for lunch at the French bistro La Madeleine. Of course I would choose this place over say......Subway! Here I had a classic Croque Monsieur and split it with Rick.

I had just two things that I really wanted to do in Georgetown, go to the famous Georgetown Cupcakes and satisfy my sweet tooth, and see the townhouse JFK and Jackie lived in during the time he was a senator. My Frommers guidebook also suggested to walk the quaint back streets off Wisconsin Avenue for views of the beautiful townhouses and gardens. This had to have been my most favorite thing about the trip other than seeing the Inaugural Gowns of the First Ladies at the American History Museum.

I have to say I am a sucker for a colorful front door and Georgetown was LOADED with them. The beautiful gardens in front of these homes were magnificent and lush unlike the drought stricken gardens of home.

By this time we had had enough of walking in the sweltering heat so I had to find Georgetown Cupcake next. When we approached the street it was on from the back we notice a tell-tale line up of people waiting for something. Yes, this had to be it. I was told to expect a line out the door.

Rick and Megan thought I finally was hit with heat stroke and said I was crazy, but this was on my list of must do's and I took my place in line. I have never shied away from a long line be it in Chicago for Garretts popcorn or waiting in line for tickets to get in somewhere. Lines do not scare me! They took off and left me standing in line by myself. I knew the closer I got to the door they'd be back, because curiosity would get the better of them. Sure enough after snagging a menu from someone (they pass out menus at the door so you can decide what you want before) and waiting for about 20 minutes my fellow travelers took my side with me! Might I add that even if you decide what you want before you get in the store, be prepared to change your mind when you actually enter and see all those cupcakes on display. I decided on Lava Fudge BTW! We ate our cupcakes which were very yummy!

After that I knew Rick and Megan had had enough and even though I could have wondered around for longer it was time to head back to our home away from home for the week.

We strolled up Wisconsin Avenue looking in the shop windows when I came upon a shoe shop. Something very interesting caught my eye!! These have to be one of the most unusual pair of shoes I have ever seen for real and not in pictures. I wanted to walk right into that shop and touch them- they were so cool. Maybe only for actually keeping on your feet a few seconds but imagine the statement I'd make wearing these puppies!!

Would you wear these??

Enough of shoes already! We made our way up the avenue and since no one wanted to walk anymore, we caught up with the Circulator to catch our metro stop at Foggy Bottom and back to our College Park stop where we parked the van everyday to catch the metro for a new adventure! That was it for day one of our DC trip. Even though my family didn't think much of Georgetown, I sure did!

Still more to come........

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Using Facebook And Twitter On Vacation??

Since I have started using Facebook and Twitter well over a year ago I have used both, mostly Facebook as a means to keep in contact with long lost people in my life. Be it old high school friends, or family that I do not see everyday. In some cases my facebook friends are people I do see almost everyday! (some people you just cannot get enough of!!) you know who you are and yes I am lol-ing right now!

Many times this need to stay in constant contact has gotten me in trouble. I have this little voice in my head that says when you are on vacation you should disconnect and enjoy the time away. Then, that VERY social part of me cannot disconnect. I want my friends to be able to see pictures and read about what I am doing. It's much better in real time than trying to remember things when you get home. If they don't care then they can choose if they want to look at all 40 pictures I have posted or not!

My question is this. Is it right or wrong to be always connected on vacation? I can respect an individuals choice. If my friends who are on Facebook choose to totally disconnect on vacation, I am all for that. Usually I will ask next time I see them or send a personal message. Mostly because I am genuinely curious about what people do and where they go when they travel. Sometimes I have to live vicariously through them!!

On the other end I worry if I post too much when I am on vacation. I do not wanna be that person that posts every little detail of their every move. At least I HOPE I am not that person. I really would think that my Facebook friends are people who like me for who I am. That includes being a very social person.

Where I really get in hot water is some people just refuse to have anything to do with social media and think it is an evil force. To each his own, but I do not think it is right if those people get angry with you for posting pictures and the like in real time on Facebook and then I have to face the wrath of them when I get home and they get upset when they are the last to know or see your pictures from your trip.

Yes, there is a time and place for sharing major news with people in your life. Somethings are better left as a personal announcement. Innocent vacation pictures or posts are not one of them.

I am who I am and I love to be around people. I love keeping in contact with people and sharing things. To me that is what friendships are about.

Maybe I am completely wrong. In any case if you are my Facebook friend and a Twitter follower you can be sure since I am currently on vacation this week that I will be posting pictures and letting you know what I'm up to!!

I am curious-am I the only one that thinks this way?? Let me know!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Road Trip....Fourth Of July In Washington DC

Some people wouldn't dream of getting in their car to drive 15 hours to go on vacation.  Myself, well quite frankly I would get on a skateboard to travel to a new destination.  Well.... maybe not a skateboard, but although I do not mind flying, the rest of my household refuses to get on a plane.  In this case when we decided to head to DC for the week of our nations birthday I was excited for the road trip.

Seems to me more and more families are deciding to take the time to drive to their destinations either going by RV or just hoteling it.  The reasons are numorous. Avoiding airtravel hassels may be a big one.  At the time of our trip gas prices were pretty good (the least we paid for gas was $3.09 in Indiana).  I just love nothing better than watching the countryside roll by.  There is no better way to see things!  Lets face it, you can't round a corner in the mountains only to behold a beautiful valley with a cute town complete with a white steeple church on a plane when you are 2000 feet in the air. You can't be suprised by a bridge that crosses a river that is breathtakeinly 200 feet up in the air and you certainly cannot witness the beauty our vast country has to offer.

So we happily set off for our trip on the Saturday before the fourth at 8:00 in the morning and began our family vacation.  We made it to Somerset, Pennsylvania that first day before we stopped for the night.  We were road weary by that time. Over 12 hours on the road.  In the end Pennsylvania was our favorite state to drive through.  I had never been that way before so this was a new experience for me.  What a beautiful country we live in!

More on our trip coming up......

Monday, July 9, 2012

Megabus Continues to Grow, Benefiting Travelers

Megabus Continues to Grow, Benefiting Travelers This link will take you to a great post from Budget Travel on this inexpensive way to travel. Last week on our way to Washington DC we met several of these bright colored busses on the road. I did use the Milwaukee-Chicago service once and although I was not happy with my return trip because of the driver making a mistake and not letting me off at the stop I needed to go to, it still was a economical way to travel.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Advantages To Traveling Solo'

It has been one year since my trip to Paris.  I suspect I will be doing much reflecting this upcoming week on that wonderful trip and what made it so wonderful.  Seven years ago  I set up my own personal "Paris fund" to save for a trip I didn't know when I was gonna take.  I knew I was gonna do it and was hoping I would find someone to go with me.  I knew the hubby would never go, hes not a fan of cities and will not fly, so I knew it would have to be a relative or friend to go with me.  At the time I gave it little thought.  I just new someday I would go.

Last year when I knew I had enough saved up, I started to get serious about making the trip.  There was no one I knew at the time that was interested in going so I started to do research on going solo.  I really figured I could do it after spending countless hours reading the forums on the Foders travel website.  There were dozens of entries saying that Paris is one of the best cities for solo travel.  Especially for women.  There were women  writing about going to Paris multiple times by themselves.  I wanted to go bad enough that I didn't care.

Making a long story short I ended up going by myself but with a tour group, which made my hubby feel better.  He had suggested it after seeing a TV add with our local news anchor Erin Davisson hosting a trip.  It was a perfect idea and I signed up.

I went on that trip not knowing anyone.  Ten years ago I would have never dreamed of doing something so crazy. Its amazing what you can do if you really want something.  Here's some of the benefits to going solo.

You can do what you want-Okay, I LOVE shopping.  Not everyone does (I have a hard time understanding this!!). Solo travel gives you the opportunity to do what you like.  If you are an art lover, you can spend all day gazing at that Van Gogh if you like.  There's no one to worry about.  Everyone has unique expectations when they travel.

You are on your own timeline-Some people have to have a strict itinerary when they travel.  Others are happy just strolling along to discover hidden treasures that the usual tourist misses.

You may be more open to meeting people-This is very true in my case.  When I am with a friend or my hubby, I tend to "hide" behind them.  I can be more reserved and usually will not initiate a conversation with someone I do not know.  Alone I am more outgoing as long as I feel comfortable with the other person.  On my Paris trip I was with 42 strangers and by the end of the trip I think I had talked to almost everyone. Course they all made it so easy for me to feel comfortable with them.

Solo travel may be more cost effective-Especially true if you would otherwise be traveling with a spouse or child!  Some travel companions like to eat all their meals in fancy restaurants.  You may just be happy grabbing something cheap and quick from a convience store or a crepe from a street vendor!

Lastly, traveling solo gives you a boost of self-confidence-Try it and see what happens!  After doing this for a first time you may just feel like you can accomplish anything and there is nothing wrong with that feeling!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Dukan Diet Supper

What to have for supper?  This question is one that is sometimes easy to answer and most times it leaves me clueless.  So I ask the hubby and daughter to give me some suggestions.  They usually look at me with the look that you are talking French to them.  Total bewilderment.  Yah, big help they are.

Meal planning is especially hard when one member of the household is trying to follow a diet.  So when I opened my new Dukan Diet Cookbook for ideas I was pleasantly surprised to see many recipes would work great for the whole house.  

My first recipe I tried was the Chicken With Mushrooms And Asparagus.  What a hit.  The only thing I tweeked was I added a one pound bag of shirataki noodles.  This was also the first time I used these high fiber, low carb and calorie Asian noodles.  They were great and took on the taste of the dish. The great thing is, is that my local supermarket has these noodles. You can order them through the Dukan website also. All three of us loved this dish and I am happy to say there were no leftovers.

Try out this Dukan recipe and let me know what you think!  I think I will love this cookbook.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Back On The Dukan Diet Bandwagon

As you may know-last September/October I started the Dukan Diet to much success.  I shed 11 pounds on it and felt great!  Then the holidays and my busy life got in the way (along with my sugar habit) and the weight slowly crept back up.
Two weeks ago after a terrible Memorial Day weekend I decided enough was enough and I had to jump back on the diet.  I did 6 days on the attack phase and managed to drop 6 pounds.  I also downloaded two apps to help me out.  One is called Slimkicker for my Ipad and Map My Walk for my android phone.  I did blog about Slimkicker in a previous post.  Map My Walk uses the GPS on my phone to track my route, MPH, time, pace and you can share your success to Facebook and Twitter.

I am now on the Cruise phase and have dropped another 3 pounds according to my scale this morning.  The thing is, is that I have been doing great during the week.  Being on a strict schedule with work works well.  Everything is timed.  I pack all my food the night before.  I am on a great schedule with walking our great trail system in town almost every weekday when I get home from work.  It works great having a teenage daughter who is now home for the summer and helps me out doing chores which frees me up to get my daily walk in.

The trouble is weekends.  My Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays are a REAL challenge.  We tend to eat a couple meals out which is disastrous for me.  Portion control is painful since I am a lifetime member of the clean plate club.  I'm busy doing cleaning , gardening and getting leisure activities in with friends and family.  The last thing I have on my mind is planning meals and exercise. I try to make sure I have plenty of Dukan approved food in my fridge.  If you peek in my fridge now you would see a supply of cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, boiled eggs, and lean meats.  Plus some fresh cut veggies for veggie days.  I have not been perfect on the weekends, and that is where I need to improve.  Why is it so hard to remember how great you feel when you are eating right and working out?

So here we go again...but this time I will do it.  How is it that I have traveled half way around the world without anyone I knew and yet I have such a hard time trying to lose 20 pounds?  Gosh, losing weight and staying healthy is hard!  Hopefully with the help of writing this blog and sharing Dukan recipes plus support from friends and family, I will be a diet success!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Peace And Serenity Right Out My Front Door

 I am very lucky to be living next to one of the most beautiful spots in Manitowoc County.  I look out my living room window and I see a gorgeous water fountain everyday.

We live next to Pondside Gardens.  Pondside Gardens is the home of Dennis and Diane Lenz and not only do they live there, they also have THE spot in the county gardeners love to come to  see and purchase from numerous varieties of hostas they have on display.

Although I do have a few of their hostas in my gardens, the reason I love to go over and visit their gardens is for the peace and beauty that I can take in just by walking down the road.  In summer many weeks I take a Sunday stroll over and walk around or just sit on a bench for awhile.  Megan has been going along to feed the fish in the huge pond since she was a little tyke.

I have always loved the excitement of spending time in the big city and it has always been a dream of mine to live just one year in a city like Chicago, but I honestly have to say that I would not trade living where I do for anything.  I can always take weekend trips to the big city to satisfy my cultural cravings, but I have the best life here right with a mini retreat right next door!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Need Some Diet And Exersice Motivation? Try Slimkicker

Most of us that are trying to get fit and maybe lose a few pounds are always lookin for a little help to reach their goals. I know I certainly am. That is why when Christine contacted me a couple of weeks ago and informed me that the new Slimkicker app that she and her team developed was available in the ITunes store as a free IPhone app I was more than a little eager to try it out.

Slimkicker is a motivational diet and fitness app. It is a point based level-up game where you can earn your points by recording food and exercise. The unique thing about Slimkicker is you can earn most of your points through 7-30 day challenges. Challenges are divided into categories such as nutrition, fitness, emotional, willpower, giveaway, and user created. Points are based on hardness of the challenge. Just check in everyday and at the end of the challenge confirm you finished (be honest here!) and you will earn your points. The challenges are fun to do and as you go up in levels, you unlock more challenges. The first challenges I did were no soda for 7 days, saying a daily gratitude prayer, and 15 minutes of silence each day. These are just example of some challenges, there are many more. It does not take long to earn enough points to go up in levels.
Recording your daily food intake and exercise is easy and similar to other apps. It keeps track of calorie intake and also carbs, protein, fiber, ect.
Slimkicker is more that an app. It's corresponding website is loaded with information. It has all the things the app does and much more. Join a group or set up your own, find recipes, and look for support, it's all there. So even if you don't have and IPhone, IPod, or IPad you can join in the fun. The Slimkicker team is presently working on an Android app too.

So if you are looking for a fun way to motivate yourself to lose some pounds and get fit the Slimkicker free app could be a great tool. I myself can use all the help I can get! Give it a try and let me know!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Style Expert Clinton Kelly At Macy's

When my niece Kelly told me she was gonna go to Southridge Mall today to see What Not To Wear's and The Chew's Clinton Kelly for a book signing and fashion show, I had to make the trip to go too.  I love watching What Not To Wear and love how the people they makeover go from frumpy to fabulous.  They give great advice with a humorous twist to some very reluctant people.

We had a great day of shopping at Macy's. I bought some fun shoes and some colorful tops.  I've been itching to breath life into my basic black wardrobe.

The best part was shaking his hand and getting my book signed
What a fun day!  Oh and while we were waiting for the show to start, we paged through his new book.  I would recommend it.  It is full of great style advice and lots of good humor!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Just A Taste Of Spring From Giverny

As the weather outside gets more like spring I just wanted to share a few pictures I took last April while on my trip to Paris. These were all taken while strolling Monet's gardens in Giverny. Enjoy!

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Cedarburg Winterfest and Midwest Pet Expo

Yesterday brought wonderful winter temps for Wisconsin.  Actually we have been enjoying unseasonably mild temperatures on and off all winter.  Anyway, we decided to take advantage of the warm sunny day and head south to Cedarburg for their Winterfest.  We were able to see some great ice carvings
Some with a fashion twist, like this stiletto.

and a lighthouse

We saw dogs pulling over 1500 pounds

There was yummy food

A parade featuring the famous Klement's sausages

Then we were off to the Pet Expo at State Fair Park in West Allis.  Check out the burger and fries
Look good enough for humans, but these are only for our four legged friends!

Plenty of cute doggies

Rescue booths.  Furry Bottoms happens to be a favorite of ours.  Our furry friend Zoe came from Furry Bottoms Rescue.
Then much to our surprise another appearance of the Klement's sausages!

It was a fabulous day!