Category Archives: Travel and Leisure

America’s Top Ten Flower Festivals

The first day of spring is this Monday, on March 20th. As I write this blog from the California desert, with temperatures currently soaring to 90-plus degrees (too soon, too soon!), the northeast is being pummeled with a massive storm and blizzard conditions.

spring flowersBut, as we all know, this crazy weather shall soon pass and we all have some gorgeous spring days ahead of us.

So, let’s think spring! What better way to celebrate this wonderful time of year than visiting one of America’s top ten flower festivals?

In Southern California, thanks to this winter’s abundant rain and snow, we’re looking forward to explosive colors as wildflowers begin to spread across our desert, coastline, and foothills. Other parts of the country, from grassland prairies to alpine meadows, are also anticipating nature’s colorful display of flowers, guaranteeing us delightfully longer, warmer days.

With that in mind, I’m sharing 10 popular spring flower festivals from different parts of the country. If you get a chance, don’t miss an opportunity to enjoy nature’s wonders at a festival near you!

DALLAS BLOOMS

Where: Dallas, Texas

When: Now through April 9, 2017

The largest floral festival in the Southwest features 66 acres of gardens at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. Enjoy every spring color imaginable as 600,000 tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, Dutch irises, poppies, and other flowers bloom in a spectacular way.

This year’s theme, “Peace, Love and Flower Power” will appeal to you baby boomers as the festival celebrates the headlines, music, TV, fads, and fashion from the 1960’s and includes amazing topiaries built on a classic Volkswagen van and bug.

Click here for more information, a list of events, and to purchase tickets.

EPCOT INTERNATIONAL FLOWER & GARDEN FESTIVAL

Where: Orlando, Florida

When: Now through May 29, 2017

If you have children or grandchildren, this is just the ticket for some whimsical fun. At Epcot, you can enjoy more than 70 Disney-themed topiaries from every era brought to life through flower sculptures and manicured trees.

Flower towers, wildlife habitats, and vibrant gardens add to the beauty. Exhibits, seminars, and how-to demonstrations, outdoor kitchens with pint-sized plates, and outdoor concerts add to the fun.

Disney horticulturists are onsite each weekend to help those interested in learning more about gardening. Admission to Epcot is required. For more information, click here.

cherry blossomsNATIONAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Where: Washington, D.C.

When: Now through April 17, 2016

One day I’m going to see this famous flourish of pink blooms in the nation’s capital. If you plan to go this year, however, you better hurry! According to its website, the National Park Service has updated its peak bloom prediction from March 19 to March 22 due to recent temperature trends and the weather forecast for the next seven days.

Today, on March 16, the annual Pink Tie Party, a fundraiser benefiting the festival, kicks off the season in style. Several events follow. The opening ceremony will be held on March 25 to celebrate the gift of trees from Japan to the U.S. The Blossom Kite Festival takes place on April 1. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, featuring lavish floats, giant helium balloons, and marching bands is on April 8. To wrap up the season, Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival will feature live music and entertainment on April 25 with fireworks at 8:30 p.m.

For more information, blooming updates, and/or tickets, click here.

DAFFODIL FESTIVAL AND PARADE 

Where: Tacoma, Puyallup, Sumner, and Orting, Washington State

When: The parade begins Saturday, April 8, 2017 in Tacoma at 10:15 AM; Puyallup at 12:45 PM; Sumner at 2:30 PM; Orting at 5:00 PM

Maybe this festival is not quite as famous as the ones I’ve listed above, but it’s one of my sentimental favorites. When I lived in Puyallup, Washington about 20 years ago and worked as a newspaper reporter, I covered this heartwarming traditional, family- and community-oriented parade.

This event features floats decorated with thousands of fresh-cut daffodils as well as high school marching bands in celebration of daffodil flowers that have grown in the Puyallup Valley for the past 80 years. Come on, who doesn’t love cheerful daffodils and parades! For more information, check out their website.

tulipsTULIP TIME

Where: Holland, Michigan

When: May 7 to 14, 2016

When Holland residents brag about tulip time, they’re not kidding! Nearly 5 million tulips are planted throughout the town which awakens in the spring with bright spectacular bursts of color.

Since traditional Dutch dancing is popular in this old-world town, the festival hosts dancing events practically non-stop throughout the weekend. Be sure and take in one of the three parades, where participants brave the pavement with wooden clogs and traditional Dutch outfits.

Their website has posted the following update regarding blooming time: “Tulips are on track for a typical bloom time here in Holland, Michigan (late April to mid-May.) While the weather here has been slightly warmer than usual overall, the forecast has us back to cold weather for the next two weeks. The early blooming varieties have just started to sprout but the cold night temperatures keep their development at bay. We will have a more accurate estimate of bloom timing (which is highly dependent on the weather over the next 2 to 3 weeks) by the first week in April.” For blooming updates, events, and tickets, click here.

DOGWOOD-AZALEA FESTIVAL

Where: Charleston, Missouri

When: April 20 to 23, 2017

Take a stroll along the six-mile Dogwood-Azalea Trail when Charleston glimmers with stunning dogwoods and azaleas at their peak blooms.

You can celebrate the floral spring beauty and enjoy the wholesome hospitality of this community with a candlelight tour, arts and crafts bazaar, one of the area’s largest parades, an old-fashioned ice cream social, art show, piano concerts, and an old-fashioned carriage ride. For more information, see their website.

THE 2017 WILDFLOWER FESTIVAL

Where: Crested Butte, Colorado

When: July 7 to 16, 2017

Surround yourself in the symphony of wildflowers in Crested Butte, dubbed as the wildflower capital of Colorado. The mountains and valleys brim with explosive colors in the late spring and summer as magnificent blue columbines, Red Indian paintbrushes, sunflowers, delphiniums, lupines, and other flowers bloom in full glory.

The week long festival offers over 200 events including hikes, art workshops, jeep tours, and photography classes. For more information, click here.

roses

PORTLAND ROSE FESTIVAL

Where: Portland, Oregon

When: May 27 to June 12, 2016

Portland hosts the largest rose show in the nation, overflowing with more than 4,000 blooms in all their glory and rich fragrances.

Enjoy one of three starlight parades with twinkling floats throughout its three weekends, thrilling rides, fireworks, live music, tasty treats, and much more. For more information, click here.

INTERNATIONAL CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Where: Macon, Georgia

When: March 24 to April 2, 2017

Dubbed “the pinkest party on earth,” The International Cherry Blossom Festival in Macon, Georgia celebrates all things pink, including the town’s impressive collection of hundreds of Yoshino cherry trees.

Festival highlights include a bed race, nightly live concerts, fashion shows, a street party, as well as the Cherry Blossom Festival Parade. For tickets and more information, click here.

THE FLOWER FIELDS AT CARLSBAD RANCH

Where: Carlsbad, California

When:  Now through May 14, 2017

This festival is another one of my personal favorites since my father lives nearby and we visit often. Every spring, 50 acres of rolling hills overlooking the striking coastline are transformed into a dazzling display of blooms from early March through early May.

Wagon rides, live music, dinner tours, arts and crafts shows, exotic plant sale, and photography classes are available throughout the festival dates. For a schedule or to buy tickets, check out their website.

Images, in order of appearance, courtesy of twobee, pazham, criminalatt, and nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Golden Boys in Concert: Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian

Can three former teen heartthrobs from the late 1950’s and 1960’s still make an audience swoon?

You bet!

I had interviewed Bobby Rydell via email last year for my blog. So, I was thrilled when his wife, Linda Hoffman (Rydell), was kind enough to send me two complimentary tickets and backstage passes for a Golden Boys concert starring former teen idols Rydell, Frankie Avalon, and Fabian on February 4, 2017 at Spotlight 29 Casino in Coachella.

Excited to be backstage with Bobby Rydell!

Excited to be backstage with Bobby Rydell!

I was excited to finally meet Rydell in person and take a photo with him.

And yes, maybe I swooned just a little bit!

The story of how Rydell, Avalon, and Fabian rose to fame is better than any novel. Three Italian boys grow up in the same South Philadelphia neighborhood at the same time – within blocks of each other. Then, stranger than fiction, all three boys go on to rise to stardom as teenage heartthrobs.

What are the chances?

The three friends, now in their 70’s, have been touring together since 1985, packing venues throughout the country.  Countless television appearances, a special performance for the President of U.S. and a Golden Boys PBS special followed.

Golden BoysIf you get a chance, be sure and catch their show. Click here for upcoming dates.  If that’s not possible, I’ll share a review of the concert along with some photos.

At the concert, I sang along, swayed, laughed (yes, these guys are super funny), and listened to the three reminisce about their days as teen idols and all the famous people they met along the way. The three also shared bits of their personal lives.

The show began with old clips of the three singers during their heyday. Then, the trio of stars came on stage to sing the theme from the Dick Clark show, American Bandstand, on which all three appeared in their youth. Afterward, they feigned exhaustion and heavy breathing while making jokes about their old age.

Then, Rydell took center stage.

Bobby Rydell

You baby boomers will remember that Rydell became famous with hits like Wild One, Kissin’ Time, and Volare, as well as for his role in Bye Bye Birdie with Ann Margaret and Dick Van Dyke. Younger people may remember that the high school in the movie Grease was named after him, Rydell High.

Bobby Rydell“It’s real nice to be here,” he said to the audience. “It’s real nice to be anywhere.”

The audience laughed, but Rydell was only half-joking. After all, he has faced a double organ transplant and double heart bypass surgery. Rydell expressed gratitude for his second chance at life and thanked his donor, a young 21-year-old girl named Julia, who was able to save, not only Rydell, but six other people as an organ donor.

Once again, I was impressed with this man’s thoughtful words, honesty, and kind face, just as I was in our interview and while reading his autobiography, Teen Idol on the Rocks: A Tale of Second Chances.

You may think that after all his health problems and his self-admitted former problems with alcohol, Rydell’s voice and spirit would have diminished over the years. He even confessed that he and his wife were just getting over bronchitis. Nonetheless, I’m happy to report Rydell’s voice was still strong, smooth, and velvety as he delivered his many hits. Rydell’s joy of performing and optimistic heart came shining through.

Noting that although Michael Buble’ and Dean Martin both recorded the famous song, Sway, Rydell admitted with a smile, “I am happy to say that I had the bigger hit with it.” He went on to prove why, belting out the song, his voice still impressive as he hit the climatic end high-note.

Rydell treated us to a few more songs and closed his set with my favorite, Volare, proving once again, his voice could meet the demanding challenge of the classic song.

Fabian 

While all three of the stars were funny, Fabian was clearly the jokester of the bunch. He has an amazingly quick wit and refreshing self-depreciating humor.

“Welcome to Rolling Bones Tour,” he said wryly. “What the hell are we doing here so late?”

Fabian

Perhaps his voice hasn’t held up quite as well as his friend, Rydell, but Fabian could joke about it. “I tried to sing like Bobby and I was in traction for two months,” he teased. “I got a book too (referring to Rydell’s recent autobiography) – oh no – I got booked. There’s a difference there.”

He sang “I’m a Man,” confessing that he was only 15 years old when he performed the song on Dick Clark’s show. “I had a lot of nerve singing those lyrics,” he quipped. Fabian also included a song “a lot of people were strolling to” in the late 50’s, Turn Me Loose, adding that he went to high school with Chubby Checkers.

Fabian got a lot of laughs from the audience when he joked about three wine glasses on stage. “This one is Bobby’s,” he noted. “Look, he forgot to take his little blue pill. You know why you need the little blue pill. So you won’t fall out of bed at night.” (Okay, that was a bit naughty!). “This is Frankie’s glass, it has his teeth in it. Mine has my old pompadour in it. I miss my buddy.”

When he invited several women on stage to do the Twist with him while he sang his biggest hit of all, Tiger, one woman fell on the stairs. After he made sure she was okay, he joked, “It’s been a long time since someone fell for me.” In a sweet moment, one of the women told Fabian she had danced the Twist with him at one of his concerts 30 years ago and still had a photo of them together in her purse. Fabian graciously gave her a big hug.

Frankie Avalon 

Frankie Avalon is a well-known name, featured in numerous movies and TV shows over the years. He had one of the biggest selling hits of the late 50’s and 60’s era, Venus. Boomers will also remember him for the popular Beach Party film series with Annette Funicello. Later generations came to know him from his role as Teen Angel when he famously sang, Beauty School Drop-Out, in Grease.

Frankie Avalon singing a duet with one of the Everly Brother's sons.

Frankie Avalon singing a duet with one of the Everly Brother’s sons.

Along with singing his many hits from the old days, Avalon shared some of his personal life with the audience, noting that he had eight children in 10 years with his wife (they are still married after more than half a century). “Yes, we were busy,” he joked. “My oldest is 53 now. Isn’t that amazing? We’re the same age.” His oldest son, Frank Jr., in fact, was the band’s drummer in the show.

Avalon was quick to dispel any false rumors that he wears a toupee. “I am proud to say, this is my hair, although with a few drops of water I look like a Chia Pet,” he joked.

The audience, full of older baby boomers, happily sang along as Avalon performed the theme to the movie, Beach Blanket Bingo. His set also included duets with his guitarist, Edan Everly, son of Don Everly of the Everly Brothers that included Bye Bye Love, Dream, and Wake Up Little Susie. Clips from the movie, Grease, played while Avalon sang his famous single, Beauty School Dropout.

He strolled into the crowd for a couple of his songs, before returning to the stage for his biggest hit of all and my personal favorite, Venus. “Hey Venus, oh Venus, make my wish come true!”  I was in heaven!

All Good Things Must Come to an End

The three friends then reunited to offer tributes to their musical heroes. Avalon sang a Ricky Nelson song, Fabian offered up an Elvis hit, and finally, Rydell killed it with Bobby Darin’s Mack the Knife.

In conclusion, the trio sang Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock and Roll and closed with the theme from The Mickey Mouse Club.

We all sang along merrily, proving that these three guys can still make our hearts melt a little.

A big thanks to Bobby Rydell and his wife, Linda Hoffman, for the fabulous seats and backstage passes. A thank-you also goes to my husband, Scott Gorges, for contributing his photos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Enchantment of Snow

Why does snow falling have the ability to make us feel so entranced and enchanted?

“Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes,

Silver white winters that melt into springs,

These are a few of my favorite things.”

Aw, I still love those famous lyrics from my favorite movie as a child, Sound of Music.

Family Snow Day

Family Snow Day

Although we live in the California desert, we’re only an hour drive away from the mountains. This weekend my husband, son, grandchildren, and I went up to Idyllwild to play in the snow.

The trip got me to thinking about why snow can make us feel so darn happy.

(And yes, I am aware that I was only visiting the snow and didn’t have to live, shovel, or deal with the slush afterward. But don’t rain – or snow – on my parade!)

Here are my top three reasons snow brings us such unadulterated joy:

The Magic of Nature

snow gate “Silently, like thoughts that come and go, the snowflakes fall, each one a gem.” — William Hamilton Gibson

Actually, I lived in northern California as a child, Idyllwild as a teen, and Washington State for a few years as an adult. I remember well the pure excitement of waking up to a white winter wonderland where the snow gently kisses meadows and trees in a breathtaking way.

I know some of my friends up north and back east may be sick of the snow by now, but let’s not lose that childlike wonderment and genuine delight. No matter how old we are, we can still appreciate the way snow beautifies everything it touches, creating a still and stunning landscape.

Forming those first footprints in a vast white pristine field while breathing in the invigorating fresh cold air allows us to connect with our natural surroundings in a profound way.

Live in the Present

“A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky – unbidden – and seems like a thing of wonder.”   Susan Orlean

Catching snowflakes on their tongues.

Catching snowflakes on their tongues.

A fleeting snowfall forces us to pause and take note of the entrancing beauty. No matter what’s happening in our lives, peaceful falling snow has the serene power to calm us down.

Who can dwell on the past or worry about the future while we’re watching snowflakes gently float soundlessly from the sky?

Who can frown while creating a funny, fat snowman, playfully catching snowflakes on our tongues, or enjoying the thrill of a sled ride? Who can resist screaming with delight during a snowball fight?

And who can stop laughing when you discover your granddaughter is photobombing you in the snowstorm? Not me, as evidenced in the photo below!

snow photo bomb

Time with Your Family

“We build statues out of snow, and weep to see them melt.” — Walter Scott

Ah, so true. Whether you’re skiing, snowboarding, sledding, or creating snow angels, snow forts, or snowmen, or having a raucous snowball fight, snow naturally brings families together. But as the poem notes, all good things have to come to an end. Well, sort of.

Eventually my granddaughter cried because her fingers were painfully cold and it was time to head for the warmth of our home. Luckily, the joy of a snow day continues after you go inside to warm up by a roaring fire with a mug of hot chocolate.  It’s a wonderful chance to snuggle with your loved ones and reminisce about the glory of the day.

So all of you snow haters out there, excuse this Californian’s enthusiasm for the white stuff, but I can’t help feeling the same way as American novelist Candace Bushnell, who eloquently wrote:

“Thank goodness for the first snow. It was a reminder — no matter how old you became and how much you’d seen, things could still be new if you were willing to believe they still mattered.”

 

Desert Trip Rocks with The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney!

Talk about baby boomer bliss! “Can’t Get No Satisfaction” certainly did not apply to Desert Trip – a music extravaganza with rock legends The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters, and The Who.

desert-trip-paul-mcartney

The iconic festival was held this last weekend, October 7, 8, and 9, 2016, at the Empire Polo Club in Indio and I was thanking my lucky stars to be in the audience.

Oldchella

The Empire Polo Club in Indio Friday afternoon before the event began.

The massive grounds where the epic concert was held at the Empire Polo Club in Indio Friday afternoon before the event began.

The lineup was every baby boomer’s dream team. Yeah, they made fun of us, dubbing the festival held on the same grounds as Coachella, “Oldchella.” Who cares? We baby boomers are embracing the title. This was a historical moment that has never happened before and may never be repeated again. It’s certainly a weekend I won’t ever forget.

Call it whatever you want. I blissfully and joyfully sang “Hey Jude” with Paul McCartney, as he took the lead cheerfully oozing charisma, with 75,000 other fellow humans in a massive chorus, waving our arms in unison. It was a magical awe-inspiring moment. (See the video under the Paul McCartney subheading below to get a glimpse of what that was like.)

Completely awe struck that I was actually listening and watching Sir Paul, the profound moment reminded me of the Beatles legacy of joy, hopefulness, peace and optimism that we all found so addictive when we were young – and still do during a turbulent time in the world.

Besides, some of the humor about Oldchella is downright funny. Ellen DeGeneres, a baby boomer herself at the age of 58, says, “It’s like Woodstock, but with prescription drugs.” 20161009_180415In a hilarious segment , she shows a chart comparing the Coachella with Oldchella:  “Coachella: You go because you’re excited to see your favorite band live. Old-chella: You go because you’re excited to see that your favorite band is alive.” Funny stuff.

There was even a pick-up and drop-off parking lot, an actual spot where middle-aged kids could drop off their gray-haired parents ready to boogie down til midnight and pretend they were back in the day.

Surprisingly – although there were tons of AARP eligible fans like me crossing off bucket lists – there were plenty of people in their 20s and 30s too. Even teens attended in their fringed and tie dyed shirts enjoying the hippy vibe. It was fun to see them experience the glory days of rock ‘n’ roll with such abandonment and enthusiasm – arms in the air and rocking out right along with us.

Second Weekend Tickets

The event repeats this weekend starting Friday, October 14, 15 & 16 and there are tickets available at reduced prices. I’ve seen prices on StubHub ranging from $139 for a one night pass and three-day passes for $225 in the grand stands.

desert-trip-lawnThis is quite a deal since prices for three day passes originally ranged from $399 for bringing chairs and sitting in the grassy area to $1,599 for the standing pit area directly in front of the stage. Thankfully the epic concert was held in my own backyard and I saved money on travel expenses and shuttles.

According to Billboard. Sean Penn, Leonardo DiCaprio, Christian Bale, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones with their kids, Rob Lowe, Cindy Crawford, and James Spader were some of the big names that could be found in cushy areas in the grandstands and  in the mosh pit .

desert-trip-audience

Where the action was!

The elite crowd was not to be seen in the cheap seats where I sat with my family in the lawn area. In my opinion, it wasn’t a bad place to be with everyone on their feet singing, dancing, and whooping it up the entire time.

Attend the Concert Vicariously

If you’re unable to attend, I’m happy to share my incredible weekend with you including lots of photos and videos so you can live vicariously through my once-in-a-lifetime experience. Enjoy!

NIGHT ONE:

Bob Dylan

desert-trip-bob-dylanCall me unsophisticated, and some of you will be appalled, but I was never that into Bob Dylan. I respect the icon – he was just awarded the Nobel Prize in literature today. He is an iconic singer/songwriter, a spokesman for the baby boomer generation, culturally significant with his political, social, philosophical, and literary influence.

I enjoyed chilling to some of this influential musician’s songs with a few classics that included “Rainy Day Women.” The way he sang “Everybody Must Get Stoned” with a smirk at the age of 75 cracked me up.

But exciting, he was not.

desert-trip-scott-and-julie-nightFamous for being reclusive and, as a rule, refusing to be photographed, at first, he allowed his image to be displayed on the gigantic screens as he was seated at a piano so everyone could see him. But after a few songs, only black and white historic scenes played on the screens. (There was a rumor that this was due to a glitch, which is possible.)

Perhaps not surprising, there was no stage banter whatsoever. I can’t remember him saying anything to the crowds, in fact.

Nonetheless, when the Rolling Stones took the stage after Dylan, both Mick Jagger and Keith Richards called him their “opening act,” I gasped with the rest of the audience.

The Rolling Stones

rolling-stone-collageI was up on my feet singing and dancing when the crowd-pleasing Rolling Stones literally roared onto the stage with the energetic and fun “Start Me Up.”

Mick Jagger, not about to act his age, rooster strutted down the catwalk and gesticulated all over the stage with seemingly endless energy and stamina. Keep in mind this 73-year-old is still producing children.

His powerful voice led the way as Keith Richards with his blaze of white hair dangled a cigarette and played alongside with obvious joy and abandonment.

Don't say good-bye! Can't we start over and do it again?

Don’t say good-bye! Can’t we start over and do it again?

Their nonstop hits included “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (but I Like It)”, “Honky Tonk Women,” “Brown Sugar” and even the Beatle’s “Come Together. In honor of a forthcoming blues album, they treated us to one of the great songs, “Ride ‘Em Down.”

Unlike Dylan, Jagger chatted it up with the crowd and we were thrilled. At one point, he raised a guitar into the air and danced toward crowd: “If you know how to party, say, ‘Oh, yeah!'” We were more than pleased to comply.

Before I knew it, they were playing an encore of “Can’t Get No Satisfaction.” Best concert ever!

Here’s a video of their opening song, “Start Me Up.”

NIGHT TWO

Neil Young

desert-trip-neil-youngPerhaps best known for his number one hit, “Heart of Gold,” Neil Young’s stage setup was unique with tepees and two women in plaid shirts and overalls walking the stage throwing seeds on the floor.

Songs included “Mother Earth” which included three men in hazmat suits acting as if they were spraying the grounds.

Neil Young is known for his explosive guitar skills, and “Down by the River” lasted about 20 minutes. Personally, the intense, loud, overpowering guitar lasted too long for my ears which literally hurt from the crashing sounds as Young shredded his well-worn guitar.

Maybe I am getting old.

Here’s Young’s famous Heart of Gold:

Paul McCartney

The rock legend was as warm, funny, personable, and delightfully enchanting as you would expect. I couldn’t quit thinking in disbelief – I get to see a Beatle! How lucky am I?

desert-trip-paul-and-neil-duoHe fired up the crowd with the classics “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Jet” and “Can’t Buy me Love.”

Then he took a moment to look out at the massive stadium with people as far as the eye could see. “This is cool to be here, right?” the 74-year-old star asked. “I’m going to take a moment here to drink this all in for myself.”

Although McCartney treated us with many of the classic Beatle songs, he also included the newer “My Valentine” he dedicated to his wife, Nancy. It was their anniversary the next day, he said. A little oddly, but sweet at the same, he next performed “Maybe I’m Amazed,” and dedicated it to his late first wife, Linda.

McCartney shared interesting and funny stories for our entertainment. For example, he explained that “Blackbird” was inspired by the civil rights movement – something I never knew. The funniest moment was when McCartney told us he knew which songs we liked because the masses raised their cell phones when he played classic Beatle songs. “When we play one you don’t know it’s like a black hole,” he said.

desert-trip-fireworksMcCartney brought Neil Young back on stage for three duos, including the raucous, bluesy  “Why Don’t We Do It in the Road?” According to legend, the song was written after McCartney saw two monkeys doing the deed on a road in India,  The song fit perfectly with Young’s rowdy guitar.

Oh, how I hate to say this, but McCartney’s voice did quiver just a bit during a few of the slower songs at the top of his tenor range, You’ll have to believe me that It didn’t matter one bit. McCartney still rocked the concert, made his sophisticated melodies seem easy, and his falsetto was pure as ever.

Before we knew it, “Live and Let Die” was accompanied by a spectacular explosion of flames, lasers, and fireworks as McCartney pounded the keyboard. Then the magical moment of Hey Jude (don’t miss the video below for both those numbers that gave me goosebumps!) Graciously, he performed three encore songs, staying on the stage for almost three hours. We loved every minute.

As promised, here’s the video of the magical moments – Live and Let Die is followed by Hey Jude:

NIGHT THREE

The Who

Pete Townshend’s signature windmill move as he strums the guitar and Roger Daltrey’s famous microphone cord swing were still intact as they sang their famous hits like “My desert-trip-the-whoGeneration,” “You Bet,” “Who Are You?” and “Pinball Wizard.”

Looking back on the band’s American breakthrough with “I Can See for Miles,” Townshend said, “Roger and I are so glad to be out here at our age.”

So were we!

He went on to express appreciation for all the young fans in front of him. “You young ones, we love you for coming to see us,” he said. “It must be pretty tough out there for the old ones. Why don’t you make a little chair for them, and they can sit down and rest.”

I’d be offended, except for the fact that Townshend is 15 years older than I am!

In their finale, their 1970s anthem, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” Daltrey nailed his famous big scream, to bring their set to a rousing close. Enjoy the video!

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd

deesert-trip-roger-watersThe night turned political when Roger Waters took the stage using it as a pulpit to express his feelings about the election, Trump, and Israel’s occupation in Palestine.

During his performance of “Another Brick in the Wall,” school-age children came onstage wearing T-shirts that read, “Derriba el muro” — Spanish for “Take down the wall.”

20161009_233100His set included classics like “Money,” Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” and “Wish You Were Here.”

He closed out the festival with his famous inflatable pig floating above the audience. This one had Trump’s face painted on the side with the words “ignorant, lying, racist, sexist pig.” Just in case you somehow failed to make the connection, the big screens flashed “Trump is a pig.”

Helpful Hints:

If you’re lucky enough to attend the second weekend here are a few tips:

Slightly excited to be there!

Slightly excited to be there!

  • Don’t come too early. It is still hot here in the California desert. The first day, my husband, my sister and I got there when the gates opened at 2:00 p.m. to stake out our seats. It was 98 degrees and the mile hike from day parking made me sick. Hardly anyone was there – and there wasn’t a huge difference in the grass section. However, don’t come too late either – the traffic and lines to get in can become annoying. About 4:00 is a good enough time to arrive in my opinion. If you do get there early, the photography exhibition has air conditioning and couches.
  • Again, it’s hot here. Use sunscreen, drink plenty of water, and put a wet bandanna around your neck to stay cool.
  • The combination of cigarette smoke, pot fumes, dust, and grass was not pleasant. Some people wore a paint mask, scarf or bandanna over their face. Not a bad idea, especially if you have any respiratory issues.
  • Thankfully, my son who has attended Coachella, warned me not to tighten your wristband too tight, because you can’t loosen it afterwards.
  • The lines for food and drinks in the grandstand areas on the side were longer and the staff unorganized. Eat and drink in the rear in the Twelve Peaks/General Admission area where the food is better and the lines shorter.
  • Some of the bathrooms were air conditioned, some not. Look for the AC ones – whatever you do, do not use the outhouses! (Unlike Coachella, we have this option. Catering to us older folks, I guess!)

Let’s Do It Again!

Three nights getting home around 2:00 a.m. is killing me this week. I don’t consider myself old at 55, but I ain’t exactly 20 anymore either. There’s definitely some recoup time involved.

Still worth it!

We baby boomers are a hardy bunch. There was a lot of discussion about the possibility of another event and who could perform.

My top choices: Elton John, Billy Joel, the Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac. Who would your dream team be? Please share in the comments below!

Posing in front of the Rolling Stones poster after the concert sadly ended.

Posing in front of the Rolling Stones poster after the concert sadly ended.

A big thanks to my husband, Scott Gorges, my son, Jonathan Gorges, and my sister, Joanie Hacker, who contributed photos and videos to make this post awesome!

Book Lovers Day: Why I Love Books

It’s summertime – the perfect time for a little book bliss!

Girl Reading BookIn honor of Book Lovers Day on August 9th, my writerly pals and I are having fun by sharing all the ways we adore reading. Please join me and the awesome bloggers listed at the end of this post who also share their libre love.

There are so many reasons I love books, but I’ve narrowed it down to five:

A Way to Escape Reality

“Literature is the most agreeable way of ignoring life,” wrote Fernando Pessoa in The Book of Disquiet.

Oh, the luxury of getting caught up in a good story that takes you away!  Especially when life gets a bit tough. Much better than watching TV. Books allow us to stretch our imaginations and immerse ourselves in another world. Let’s be honest, books can save our sanity sometimes.

Some Spiritual Inspiration

This is one of the greatest things about reading. I’ve been reading the lyrical book of Psalms this summer and it is positively uplifting and strengthening. I write a lot about finding happiness, but the Bible wisely tells us the secret: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.”

Read something spiritual and inspirational every day and reap the benefits!

A Chance to Cuddle with Our Kids and Grandkids

Book with ChildWhen my children were small, I loved snuggling and sharing my favorite books with them.

Some of the classic books they loved were Goodnight Moon, Are You My Mother?, Dr. Seuss books, Where the Wild Things Are, Bernstein Bear books, The Boxcar Children, Runaway Ralph, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Charlotte’s Web.

Now, lucky me, there are grandchildren!

An Opportunity to Learn and Explore

“The world was hers for the reading,” Betty Smith wrote in A tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Since I was a child, I’ve always loved reading nonfiction books to learn more about the world. In fact, books inspired me to want to see more the world – which I’ve been fortunate to do over the years.

At a writer’s conference years ago, Ray Bradbury told us aspiring writers to read one short story, one poem, and one essay on a variety of topics each night for a great intellectual foundation. Great advice!

Stack of BooksThe Feel and Smell of Books

My Mom and I used to spend hours scouring old bookstores.

As a result, I’ve got quite the book collection including some cherished first editions from the 1800’s. I absolutely adore looking at, feeling, and smelling these old books.

A library gives me the same warm, fuzzy feeling.

Ways to Celebrate National Book Lovers Day

My writer friends and I are obviously in love with words and we’ll use any excuse to celebrate our love of books. 

National Book Lovers Day encourages you to find your favorite reading spot, a good book, and read the day away.

So revisit a favorite novel, learn something new from a non-fiction book, explore a place you’ve never visited in a travel book, dive into something motivational or inspirational, visit your library or a used bookstore, read a book to a child, or discover a new author. 

Thanks for stopping by! For more book love, please visit these awesome bloggers next. Then, please share all the reasons you love reading in the comment section below!

Cat Michaels, Cat’s Corner

Ode to Books: Check out this fun poem that celebrates books from this wonderful children’s author!

Auden Johnson, Dark Treasury

Celebrating Books Through Photography: Auden creatively combines her love of books and photography in her blog.

Carmela Dutra, A Blog for Your Thoughts

Book Lover’s Day: A heartwarming article that reinforces the importance of reading to our children.

JD Holiday, JD’s Writer’s Blog

Celebrating Book Lover’s Day on 9 August: Enjoy these pics that demonstrate the joy of reading anywhere!

Corrina Holyoake, Venturing into the Unknown

Book Lovers Day: Corrina shares ways she will be celebrating Book Lovers Day!

Leigh Shearin, Writer

Paging Mr. Jonathan Seagull: “Books will love you through it all, tolerant of scorn and neglect, they remain faithful even while the hours of your life whirl and lash around you,” she writes. Elegantly written!

Söndra N. Rymer, Fairy Tales Imagery

Book Lovers Day: Sondra asks you to go back in time and look at that one special book in your childhood or as a teenager that laid a brick to your path as a future artist.

Rhonda Paglia, Children’s Author 

Book Lover’s Day Blog Hop Fun! Fellow baby boomer and Grandma Rhonda shares her memories of her favorite books as a child as well as her favorites today that you may want to check out.

Sandra Bennett, Sandy’s Story Chair

Seven Signs You are a Bookahollic: No. 1 sign you are a bookaholic – your bookcases are overflowing with books in every room and it would break your heart to throw even one away. Oh dear…that’s me!

Author K. Lamb

A Book Lover’s Birthday : Book Lovers Day just happens to be the day this author gave birth to her daughter – and in sense the birth of her protagonist Dani as well.

Maurice Chuka, David Chuka, Children’s Book Author

Book Lover’s Day: This author traces his love of books back to his childhood growing up in Nigeria and power outages.

Rosie Russell, Rosie’s KidLit Blog

What Books Mean to Me: Books are treasure chests, full of imagination, inspirations, characters, and tales of the unexpected.

 

Images, in order of appearance, courtesy of khunaspix, Ambro, and Paul at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Baby Boomer Travel Trends

“The gladdest moment in human life, me thinks, is a departure into unknown lands,” said Sir Richard Burton.

TravelOh, how I love to travel. Turns out I’m not alone. According to a new study by AARP, America’s 76 million baby boomers spend over $120 billion annually on travel.

No surprise. Baby boomers have the numbers, the influence, and the money to travel.

Our generation spreads over many years with “leading boomers” (born between 1946 and 1957) and “shadow boomers (like me, born between 1946 and 1957). As a result, we look at things differently sometimes. However, we have some things in common when it comes to traveling.

What are some of those baby boomer trends?

Baby Boomers Want Unique and Adventurous Vacations

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world,” Mary Anne Radmacher wrote.

africaI’m passionate about traveling. To me, it is pure joy to experience another world outside my own, enjoy new experiences, explore a different culture, discover new foods, and meet different people. My family and I were always looking for new adventures.

And we found them – including white water rafting down a wild five-plus river in New Zealand, sprinting down a beach in Mexico to soar into the sky on a parasail, climbing the Great Wall, swimming with dolphins, and riding a boat underneath a roaring waterfall in Brazil. I’m a bit more cautious these days, but I still like a good adventure.

True to our roots, we baby boomers tend to rebel against overly structured vacations and want some freedom to explore on our own. We aren’t like the previous generation who waited until retirement to travel. While Europe and tropical locations are still popular with baby boomers, many of us have already visited these places and are looking for more exotic and unconventional destinations. In other words, we’re looking to cross some items off our bucket lists.

The old-fashioned travel group vacations some of our parents seemed to love with labels like “Senior Travel” and crowded tour buses full of grey-haired people visiting popular touristy spots – not so much.

Of course, we think of ourselves as forever young and are always up for a challenge. After all, aren’t we the generation of the fitness craze who took up jogging, were inspired by Jack LaLanne, and sculpted our bodies with Jane Fonda videos? Many boomers still try to stay in shape. As a result, active adventure travel including kayaking, cycling, trekking through the wilderness, scuba diving, paddle boarding, and skiing is especially popular with the 50-plus crowd. The travel industry has taken note and are adding more categories every year targeted at the more daring baby boomers.

Baby Boomers Love to Travel with Family

family vacationFollowing my parents’ example, when my kids were younger, I took them on all our foreign vacations. We were willing to live with hand-me-down furniture and older cars to do so.

Now, I love going places with my grandchildren. Perhaps that’s because as we age, we appreciate our personal relationships with family and cherish the time with them even more.

Once again, I’m in good company with other baby boomers. According to a recent survey conducted by AAA Travel, an increasing number of travelers choose to book trips with extended family members.

“It is proven psychologically that we make stronger family bonds when we travel than any other time of the year when we are home,” says AARP Travel Ambassador Samantha Brown. “It really is an investment in your life.”

The survey showed multi-generational family vacations were becoming more popular. In fact, 36 percent of families interviewed planned to take a multi-generational family trip the following year. One in five grandparents reported going on a Disney vacation with their grandchildren.

Of course, Disneyland isn’t the only place we’re traveling with our families. As mentioned before, we love adventure and are interested in taking our grandchildren on safaris in Africa, snorkeling and zip lining expeditions in Costa Rica, or scenic and adventurous Alaskan cruises.

Baby Boomers like a Bit of Luxury

Okay, okay, maybe the days of sleeping in tents, on shaky cots, and hostels are over. We may be an adventurous bunch, but we hesitantly have to admit we are getting just a little bit older and need some creature comforts.

massageFour and five star hotels and cabins with an ocean view on cruises become more important as we age.

After all, many baby boomers are retired or at a period in our lives when we can take more time off after climbing the corporate ladder and have more income – which puts us in a position to demand better accommodations.

Plus, we’re not too proud to take advantage of perks and reduced senior rates to get those more luxurious hotels. For example, Marriott slashes rates by 15 percent or more for seniors 62 and older staying at any of their 4,000-plus properties across the globe. Why not?

After exploring the wilderness, give us soothing massages, good wine and food, a comfortable bed, and some rest and relaxation.

Yeah, baby!

Baby Boomers are More Relaxed Travelers

airportBoomers enjoy the whole travel experience for the most part. Of course, we’re not fond of the increased difficulty of clearing security, flight delays, and the lack of legroom on planes. However, we are more likely to go with the flow.

Younger generations report higher levels of travel stress and nervous feelings compared to baby boomers. According to the research by AARP, millennials are the most stressed generation while flying and baby boomers are the most relaxed.

We keep ourselves connected and busy, which may help. A whopping 90% of boomers travel with some type of electronic device, primarily a smartphone and 56% of boomers use airport Wi-Fi, if it’s free.

Baby boomers also take advantage of airport amenities. We arrive, at least, two hours before our flight compared to our millennial counterparts, who typically arrive with just enough time to board their flight. That may, in part, explain why we’re less stressed. Boomers are not dashing frantically across the airport to catch our plane. Instead, we can often be found enjoying a meal or a glass of wine while waiting for our flights. Nearly 49% of boomers bought food and drinks and 28% sat down and ate at a restaurant before their flight.

Baby Boomers are Traveling Close to Home

usaMaybe those living in the United States are not seeing the USA in a Chevrolet, but baby boomers are traveling more domestically.

In fact, more than 75% of the baby boomers surveyed by AARP say they took their last flight to a domestic destination.

My husband and I certainly fit into those statistics. The last trips we took were to Chicago, San Francisco, Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks, and the Florida Keys. There’s plenty of adventure to be had in our own countries – and I must admit those long 18 hour flights are getting harder.

Maybe that’s why baby boomers like summer vacations in our home countries and weekend getaways so much.

Of course, while I enjoy seeing the sights close to my home, I have to admit, Africa is still calling my name with its dramatic landscapes, glorious wildlife, and  exotic cultures. It’s the only continent I haven’t seen yet (except for Antarctica – which is waaaay too cold for me).

One day…

As a famous quotes states: “We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”

Images (in order of their appearance) courtesy of Graphics Mouse, Hal Brindley, photostock, stockimages, artur84, and porbital at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Top Ten Sailing Quotes

Is it the feel of brisk sea air in your face, the disconnection from all the stress, noise, and worries, the sounds of the gentle lapping of the water at the helm and the hum of the wind in the sails, or the deep connection with nature, peace, and serenity?

Sailing 1Hard to point to one reason why sailing is so addicting. Add in the spiritual connection, the profound appreciation for God’s creations when you see joyful dolphins or playful sea lions.

My husband would no doubt describe how sailing makes you feel one with the boat, the wind, and the sea. How he loves the sense of control and skill, the elation of trimming the sails perfectly, the speed, the anticipation of adventure, and the freedom. It’s all that and more.

Whatever the case, I blame our addiction on my father who bought a small sailboat from a friend 35 years ago. We’ve been sailing ever since. A few years ago, my husband and I were fortunate to buy a 1972 25-foot MacGregor for a mere $1000 and some trade work. Nothing fancy, and sure, it needed some work, but it was fun fixing it up.

I’d highly recommend trying sailing at least once in your lifetime for some guaranteed bliss. Last weekend we had two perfect days of sailing which has inspired today’s blog. There’s actually a lot of wisdom in some of these quotes.

So here you go – here are 10 of my favorite sailing quotes along with some sailing photos sure to soothe your soul:

Sailing in Chicago

Sailing in Chicago.

Quote One:

“I really don’t know why it is that all of us are so committed to the sea, except I think it’s because in addition to the fact that the sea changes, and the light changes, and ships change, it’s because we all came from the sea. And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.”

John F. Kennedy’s remarks at the Dinner for the America’s Cup Crews, September 14 1962

 

My friend, Cindy, took this photo sailing in the Outer Banks.

My friend, Cindy, took this photo sailing in the Outer Banks.

Quote Two:

“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

~Mark Twain

IMG_0579

The next generation – my grandson – learning to sail.

Quote Three:

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

— William Arthur Ward

Quote Four:

“hark, now hear the sailors cry,

smell the sea, and feel the sky

let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…”

― Van Morrison

Sailing EveningQuote Five:

“We clear the harbor and the wind catches her sails and my beautiful ship leans over ever so gracefully, and her elegant bow cuts cleanly into the increasing chop of the waves. I take a deep breath and my chest expands and my heart starts thumping so strongly I fear the others might see it beat through the cloth of my jacket. I face the wind and my lips peel back from my teeth in a grin of pure joy.”

― L.A. Meyer, Under the Jolly Roger: Being an Account of the Further Nautical Adventures of Jacky Faber

Oh, all the elegance in those words. Here are five more famous quotes with some sage sailing advice that applies to life as well:

Quotes Seven Through Ten:

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

Sailing 3

“A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”~Franklin D. Roosevelt

“A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd.

“I can’t control the wind but I can adjust the sail.”~Ricky Skaggs

“On a day when the wind is perfect, the sail just needs to open and the world is full of beauty. Today is such a day.” Rumi

Yes, today is such a day and always remember that the world is full of beauty. Hope these quotes and photos lifted your spirit a bit. I wish you all a happy day, happy sailing, and a happy life!

My husband, Scott, and I on our boat, the Jules of the Sea, last weekend.

My husband, Scott, and I on our boat, the Jules of the Sea, last weekend.

 

 

What to See and Do in Chicago

The debate was on. It was me and hubby’s 38th anniversary and we had two free domestic airline tickets. Where would we go? Hubby’s top pick was Chicago. I had never been and wasn’t sure what there was to do in the Windy City, but went along with the ride.

Am I glad I did! If you go, what should you do? Where should you stay? Where should you eat? Here is my itinerary along with some tips:

Day One: The Whitehall Hotel and John Hancock Center

The View from the John Hancock Center

The stunning view from the John Hancock Center.

We landed in O’Hare at about 3:00 p.m. and took the “L” train – or Chicago’s version of the subway – into the city. Here’s my personal opinion and first piece of advice. Whether you’re in New York, London, or Chicago, if you want to get a true feeling for the city and its residents, forget the taxis. Ride the subway as much as possible.

Second piece of advice: use Hotwire. Maybe you’ve had a different experience, but they haven’t steered me wrong yet. The disadvantage is you don’t know exactly where you’ll be staying until you book it, but that’s part of the adventure and you usually pay about half price. I typed in a four star hotel and ended up at Whitehall Hotel. An older, remodeled hotel in Magnificent Mile (the swanky area of Chicago with expensive shops and trendy restaurants) with a super friendly doorman. Great stay.

chicago the tilt

The Tilt – and yes, it tilts down to give you that extra sense of vertigo.

We only had a few hours, and the John Hancock Center was a block away, so that’s where we headed. The observatory is now called 360 degree Chicago with spectacular views of the waterfront and Chicago’s famous skyline.

Although there is much debate whether the John Hancock Center or Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) is the better option, we decided to do both. So which one did I think was better? Hard to say. John Hancock had a better view of the waterfront, a bar where we sat and had a drink (there’s no such place at Willis), and The Tilt. For an extra $7 you can lean against a glass wall that actually tilts down so you can have an extra dose of vertigo from 1,000 feet up. Fortunately, it wasn’t crowded the day we went and I didn’t get a chance to see how this worked before I jumped on – and was shocked the wall moved. I’m afraid of heights and am darn proud I did this! Willis Tower (which I write about below) has the famous Skydeck and a better view of the river. It is a bit expensive, but since we didn’t know when we would return to Chicago, we splurged and did both. No regrets.

We had dinner at Fornett Mei. This charming Italian restaurant, conveniently tucked next to Whitehall, has plenty of ambiance, phenomenal service, and great food. We had a specialty thin crust grape and sausage pizza. Sounds like an odd combination, but it was delicious.

Day Two: Willis Tower, Cloud Gate, River Walk, and Sunset Cruise

chicago skydeck

I’m afraid of heights but got up the nerve to sit on the famous Skydeck – over a thousand feet in the air with a glass bottom.

Jumped the subway and started day two at Willis Tower. I figured we’d get my fear of the heights completely out of the way so I could enjoy the town with my feet firmly planted on the ground the rest of the time. The elevator ride itself was exhilarating. Up 103 floors in 90 seconds with a video that lets you know when you are as high as the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower. Freaked me out a bit, but interesting. When you get off the elevator you’re a whopping 1,353 feet in the air with great views 50 miles out and you can actually see four states on a clear day.

Okay, let’s talk the Skydeck. These famous scary glass boxes extend out four feet with views all the way down. As I mentioned before, even though I’m afraid of heights, I was determined to do this. I’ve had a rough few years and I just wanted to start living again. The secret? Don’t look down. Step out, refuse to think of how high up you are, and look straight at the camera thinking of the awesome photo you’ll have to share with family and friends. I only looked down as I was ready to safely step off. The view was terrifying, but I’m still happy I did it.

chicago cloud gate

The view from underneath Chicago’s famous landmark, Cloud Gate, nicknamed The Bean because of its shape.

Next stop. We walked to Cloud Gate in Millennium Park for some cool pictures. Be sure and walk around this beautiful park in the middle of the city.

One interesting sight is the Crown Fountain with two glass block towers at each end of a shallow reflecting pool. The towers project faces of Chicago residents with water flowing through an outlet that makes it look like water is spouting from their mouths.

Then off to the River Walk with spectacular views. We ate at O’Brien’s – great hamburgers, good service, and the perfect spot to relax on the river.

chicago river walk

The gorgeous River Walk where you can catch a boat tour, walk, or rent a kayak.

 

My sister, Joanie, booked us a sunset cruise for an anniversary present which included an architectural tour of the city’s famous buildings at dusk, then a cruise ride on Lake Michigan for views of Chicago’s magnificent skyline after dark. Very romantic!

If you take one of the sunset cruises you can see Chicago's skyline during daylight, sunset, and at night.

If you take one of the sunset cruises you can see Chicago’s skyline during daylight, sunset, and at night.

Day Three: Sailing Lake Michigan

Me and hubby own a sailboat and have been sailing for 30 years. We rented a boat and took a relaxing sail on Lake Michigan, the second largest Great Lake, with Chicago’s skyline in the background. The wind was great! You can rent a captained boat if you don’t know how to sail.

Sailing from Belmont Harbor.

Sailing from Belmont Harbor.

Another transportation hint: Taking the subway to Belmont Harbor, located in Lincoln Park, seemed a bit complicated, so we called Uber. I personally prefer Uber over taxis. The drivers seemed more relaxed and friendly. In fact, as a writer, I enjoyed getting their life stories.

As a bonus, most, but not all, had lived in Chicago their entire lives and were happy to make recommendations.

We just happened to be there when the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Chicago at Navy Pier was taking place which put my husband in seventh heaven. After watching the trials, our Uber driver and other locals recommended the very casual Al’s Italian Beef for a typical Chicago meal. We ate their award-winning steak sandwich with sweet peppers. Yum. If you visit Chicago, also try their specialty popcorn – a delectable combination of sweet caramel and savory cheese.

Of course, you can’t visit Chicago without trying their signature deep dish pizza. Lou Mainati’s Pizzeria on Rush Street was recommended by a local and within walking distance of our hotel. Tried their famous recipe that has been handed down through generations and considered one of the oldest family names in Chicago and fell in love!

Day Four: The Art Institute of Chicago

chicago art museum

The famous American Gothic at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Okay, this is going to make me sound terrible and uncultured, but museums are not normally at the top of my list of things to do when visiting a new place. I’d rather be outside having new experiences.

Except in big cities with museums brimming with impressive and stunning collections. In New York, you must see the Met and when you visit Paris you’d be remiss not to see the Louvre. Chicago has many world-acclaimed museum, but perhaps most famous is it’s Art Institute. With more than 300,000 artworks and artifacts from all over the world and every era, famous modern and contemporary art, and fabulous views of Millennium Park, it’s a must-see. Bonus for me – the miniature rooms – which I’ve been fascinated with since I was a kid. Even Ferris Bueller visited the museum. He had the right idea.

One of my sister’s friends, a former Chicago resident, recommended Carmine’s on Rush Street for dinner. On Magnificent Mile, it was fun watching the Lamborghini’s pull up with the happening crowds dressed to the nines. Affordable for downtown Chicago, the food was fabulous. We had baked clams as an appetizer – to die for!

Ah, alas, time to go home. After watching the news recently about three hour waits at O’Hare, we got there nice and early. We got through security in about 10 minutes and then had a lot of time to kill. We were the first ones at our gate. Guess everyone else knew better and somehow I didn’t get the memo!

As you can tell, I fell in love with Chicago. It ranks right up there with my other favorite cities: Sydney, Seattle, London, and Paris. If you ever get the chance, don’t miss visiting this welcoming, clean, exciting, and fun city!

CURRENTLY: How I’m Finding my Bliss the Summer of 2016

One of my fellow bloggers asked me to join a blog hop to share where we are currently in life. Our dreams and what we’re reading, watching, listening to, and loving in the CURRENTLY Summer 2016 Blog Hop.

In other words, how am I finding my bliss this summer? Sounded like a fun idea and I’m game. So sit back, have a read, and enjoy.  Then visit the other #Gr8Blogs  listed at the end of this post  for more Summer 2016 CURRENTLY inspiration.

Here we go…

Scott and Julie Skydeck*Loving…

My hubby. We celebrate our 38th anniversary on the 17th of this month and I’m beyond grateful for every moment I’ve had with the love of my life.

I’m also loving Chicago, where we went on our anniversary trip (which I’ll be writing about in my next blog). Here’s a picture of us 1,353 feet up on the famous Skydeck. First time visiting this fabulous city and it ranks right up there with my other favorite cities: Seattle, Sydney, London, and Paris.

*Reading…

If you read my blog, you know I just finished reading a copy of legendary teen idol Bobby Rydell’s autobiography for a book review. I’m excited that this man, famous for hits like Volare and starring in Bye Bye Birdie, did an interview for me as well. His answers to my questions were brutally honest – which is so refreshing.

Book at BeachI just started reading a new book, Descent, by Tim Johnston. The publisher calls the novel a “literary thriller.” As a review by the Washington Post notes, “It’s a thriller because it concerns a girl of 18 who is abducted during a family vacation in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains. It’s literary because Johnston’s prose is lyrical, even poetic, to a degree rarely found in fiction, literary or otherwise.” Sounds like the perfect summer read and I’m on board!

*Watching…

10 Cloverfield Lane. Man, I haven’t seen a movie this good in a long time. If you haven’t seen it yet, the less you know, the better. Don’t read any reviews. Here’s what you need to know: This movie captures your attention immediately and keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. The acting is phenomenal. John Goodman defines the word creepy. The tense, chilling thriller reminds me a bit of Hitchcock and will keep you guessing to the end. Oh, and the ending! Just spectacular and guaranteed to knock you off your feet. A must-see. It just debuted on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On Demand on June 14, 2016. Check it out!

(For the perfect feel-good, funny, and inspiring movie, watch Eddie the Eagle. Just watched last night and loved! Hugh Jackman is just perfect in his role.)

As far as TV, love Big Bang Theory to make me laugh. And I’m oh so ashamed to admit I’m hooked on the trashy but entertaining Bachelorette. Don’t ask me to explain why.

Music*Listening…

Paul McCartney is releasing his latest album this month, Pure McCartney, a collection of 67 of his hits starting in 1970. It includes songs like “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Live and Let Die.” Sounds cool, but recently, I discovered this laid back solo from his debut album: “That Would be Something.” Unfortunately, the song didn’t make the final cut for his album, but I’m obsessed with it. Click here to check out a live performance of this simple but oh-so-groovy song.

*Thinking About…

Oh my, many, many things are rattling about in this brain of mine. June 13th was the first anniversary of my Mom’s death, so she is definitely on my mind. I’m trying to focus on all the good memories we shared instead of the awful memories of her death – and succeeding fairly well. I’m attending a sign language Bible convention this month, so I’m having good spiritual vibes. And I’m kicking around ideas for an eBook (it would be my first) and whether I actually want to write one or not. It would be a ton of work writing and promoting it. Then again, maybe I’ll just keep freelancing for magazines writing fun lifestyle and travel articles and enjoy the simple pleasures of summer. Then, I’ll do this debate in the fall. Yeah, that sounds better. 

*Anticipating…

This may explain my fascination I mentioned above with Paul McCartney, but I’m going to see him live at Desert Trip in October along with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and the Who. Can’t wait!

*Wishing…

I’m a lucky girl and many of my wishes have already come true. But at the top of my bucket list is a trip to Africa.

*Making Me Happy…

Life. Grateful for each and every day. My faith. My husband, my children, my grandchildren, the rest of my family and friends. My writing. Good memories. Sailing. My many blessings.

grandkids and puppy*Seeing in My Camera Lens…

No brainer. My adorable three grandchildren, of course! Here they are happy with their new puppy.

So there you go. Thanks for stopping by! For more Currently -Summer 2016 inspiration, visit the #Gr8blogs below. And hey, if you’re pumped about writing your own Currently – Summer 2016 post, just add your family-friendly Currently link to your blog post in the comment section. We’ll visit your blog and give you some blog love!

JD’s Writer Blog

C*U*R*R*E*N*T*L*Y What I’m Up To!

Cat Michaels, Cat’s Corner

CURRENTLY Blog Hop Summer 2016: Dreams, Inspiration of a Writerly Life

Corrina Holyoake, Venturing Into the Unknown

CURRENTLY Blog Hop – Summer Dreaming

Carmela Dutra, A Blog for your Thoughts

CURRENTLY: A Blog Hop of What I’m Up To

Auden Johnson, Dark Treasury

CURRENTLY Blog Hop – Summer 2016

 

Images courtesy of marcolm and imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

California Dreaming: Laguna Beach

Last weekend, hubby and I decided to revisit Laguna Beach for a bit of baby boomer bliss..

This charming beach town, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, with over 20 different scenic coves offers everything from surfing, paddleboarding, snorkeling, kayaking, and whale watching excursions. Add ultra-chic restaurants and shops and one-of-a-kind art galleries and you get the picture.

Laguna Beach me and ScottMy husband and I happen to have a bit of history here. When I was 16, my father had to meet someone for business in Laguna Beach (if you look behind the town, you’ll see one of my father’s proudest engineering feats, the design of Portofino Laguna, a 200 home development built into the hillside).

He offered to take me and my boyfriend, Scott, along and drop us off at the beach ( incredibly, the same guy I later married – we’ll celebrate our 38th anniversary this year!).

Did I mention that the surf can be a little rough in Laguna? We decided to do some body surfing despite the churning waters. I wiped out on a massive wave (think Beach Boys’ song: Heheheheheheee wipe oooout!) and my face – upper lip first – was smashed into the ocean floor.

Actually, I blame the Beach Boys for this entire mishap since they went and romanticized this whole surfer chick thing with songs I grew up on like Surfer Girl.

The result: the ugliest scab mustache that lasted for what seemed like a year, but in reality was just a few miserable weeks. Yes, I know, it could have been worse. I could have broken my neck, but this was a teen girl’s absolute nightmare!

I begged my Mom not to send me back to school where the teasing was merciless, to no avail. But good ol’ Scott still loved me and told me I looked beautiful despite the thick scab  that made me look like a cross betweeen Cheech Marin and Burt Reynolds. He’s a good guy; that’s why I married him.

I eventually got over the traumatizing experience and have been back to Laguna Beach a few times since then. I knew it was absolutely gorgeous. So, hubby and I went back for a romantic weekend and visited a couple of places somehow we had missed previously.

By the way, the water was waaaay too cold for me this time of year and after my experience, I’m not sure I’ll ever navigate the waves in Laguna again, so the places we visited were more about the hiking and spectacular scenery than swimming.

Heisler Park

Laguna Beach Heisler Park

Located just north of the main beach, Heisler Park offers an easy half-mile stroll along a paved path with spectacular views of the coastline and the soothing sound of crashing waves. You can take one of the paths to the beaches and tide pools, just watch the tides and weather.

Benches, picnic tables, and barbecues abound where you can enjoy the magnificent views. Hubby and I had a picnic on one of the grass areas and it was perfect!

We visited the end of April and were fortunate and didn’t run into a lot of crowds – which I know can be a nightmare during the popular summer months. There are metered spaces all along Cliff Drive if you can find a spot.

Treasure Island Park

Laguna Beach Treasure Park

A true hidden treasure, this park is located on the grounds of the five-star Montage Laguna Beach, where the truly rich stay. Exquisitely landscaped, several lookout benches line the easy-to-walk winding path to enjoy the stunning scenery. Stairways and ramps lead you down to the beach, where you can walk through a beautiful rock archway during low tide, find a spot in the sand for sunbathing, and a large tide pool.

In addition, there is plenty of grass areas for a picnic. I’d suggest bringing some wine and cheese to catch a romantic sunset.

I hear parking can be difficult on crowded days. We were lucky and used an inexpensive pay-to-park underground parking garage. There’s also free parking east on Wesley and we saw coin-metered parking along South Coast Highway.

If you visit my home state of California, be sure and stop at this magical place. I’d highly recommend it, even though the place once gifted me a scab mustache!

 

 

 

 

Located midw