Category Archives: Travel and Leisure

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

What Star Wars Teaches Us About Happiness

I was standing in line for the new Star Wars movie on opening night with my kids (I call them kids, but they are both in their 30’s now). My youngest turns to me and asks how old I was when the original Star Wars came out. All these young heads turned to look at me with renewed interest.

Me and my niece, Bella (left), and granddaughter, Eden (right).

Me and my niece, Bella (left), and granddaughter, Eden (right).

It was then I realized I was one of the few old relics at the theater, who at the age of 16 stood in those long lines in 1977 to see the latest phenomenon they called Star Wars.

Who could have predicted that 38 years later, the younger generation would still be fascinated with Luke Skywalker, wookies, Ewoks, Darth Vader, Yoda, the Millennium Falcon and all those cheesy jokes?

But make their triumphant return, they did!

Two weeks ago my granddaughter and niece, ages 9 and 8, started making plans for a party and chose Star Wars as the theme. So, Saturday I donned a Princess Leia costume at my grandchildren’s request.

Star Wars Photo 9We cut pool noodles in half and decorated them with duct tape to look like light sabers, My daughter-in-law slaved for two days making an amazing Death Star cake.

star Wars photo 14

 

 

 

 

 

The party got me to thinking about what we can learn from this classic movie. So, in honor of our Star Wars party, here are five lessons we can learn about happiness:

Don’t Allow Fear to Rule Your Life

Star Wars Photo 13“Never tell me the odds.” — Han Solo

Don’t let odds hold you back — even if an asteroid field is hurling towards you and your odds of success are 3,720 to 1.

People told me that less than one percent of submitted works are accepted for publication. They told me stories of how aspiring writers worked for years and years and had nothing to show for it besides a stack of rejection letters. That you had to have connections to get published.

Good thing I didn’t listen. Oh yes, I had that huge stack of rejection letters and it was years before I became published. Nonetheless, I overcame those odds even though I didn’t know anyone in the publishing business. I went on to have a book published by the prestigious publishing company, McGraw Hill, and hundreds of articles and short stories published in magazines. Even if I didn’t have any success, it would have been worth the effort. At least I wouldn’t go to my death bed with regrets of not pursuing my dream.

Star Wars Photo 3

So commit, make a decision, and move forward. In other words, go for it! As Yoda said, “Do or do not… there is no try.”

No more procrastination. Don’t be afraid of failure which only freezes you into inaction, cripples you, and prevents you from the person you were meant to be.

Yoda’s advice reminds me of Thomas A. Edison’s famous quote when trying to invent the light bulb: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Clearly, Yoda was onto something.

Star Wars Photo 5Value the Power of Relationships

The power that supportive relationships have in our lives is invaluable. Star Wars teaches us to have integrity and to be loyal to our family and friends through all their lows and highs.

Don’t forget, that lovable, small, scrappy group of friends took down a whole corrupt empire!

However, make sure you are choosing the right kinds of friends.

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.” — Darth Vader

Star Wars Photo 4Surround yourself with people who support you and believe in you. People who make you laugh and inspire you. Detox your life of negative people who do not believe in you and bring you down.

Don’t be fooled by appearances either.

“Why, you stuck up, half-witted, scruffy-looking Nerf herder,” Princess Leia said to Han Solo.

Lesson learned: Don’t discount or give up on that scruffy-looking nerd. If you have faith and believe in him, he just might turn out to be a hero one day.

 

Let Go of the Hate

Star Wars Photo 12“Fear leads to anger,” Yoda patiently explained. “Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Or as Luke Skywalker said plainly in Return of the Jedi, “Let go of your hate.”

Free yourself from fear, anger, and hate. Let the bitterness, resentment, and thoughts of vengeance go. Forgive so you can have inner peace, feel free, and be happy.

“Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny,” Yoda said.

Focus on the Positive

“Your focus determines your reality,” Qui-Gon Jinn told Anakin.

This concept is so empowering, yet many people tend to overlook it. Your perception of life is affected by what you choose to focus your mind on.  Focusing on even small and seemingly insignificant things that give you joy helps you to be present in the moment and absorb the beauty in the world.

This kind of positive thinking helps you be creative, search for solutions, and consider possibilities you can’t envision when your head is clouded with hopelessness, frustration, and self-pity. Don’t focus on everything that is going wrong in your life or negative people or disappointments. Make the best out of every precious moment. Concentrate on fun and exciting goals for the future.

Star Wars Photo 7A Little Humor Goes a Long Way

Who can forget Han Solo’s line as a massive garbage compactor closes in on our heroes. “One thing’s for sure, we’re all gonna be a lot thinner,” he said with a wry look on his face.

Humor lightens the mood and allows everyone time to regroup and reassess the situation. Share your humor with others. Everyone needs more laughter in their lives, so spread it around. A sense of humor keeps spirits high and empowers people to do what needs to be done.

So there’s your five nuggets of wisdom from the Star War franchise. I’ll leave you with one last piece of wisdom from Yoda: “Twilight is upon me, and soon night must fall. That is the way of things.”

So it is. Therefore seize the day and cherish each moment you have with those you love.

Star Wars Photo 15

 

Eight Fun Ways to Spend Leap Day

What would you do with an extra day? A whole extra 24 hours? Start thinking about it now because it’s leap year and we all get that gift.

Leap for Joy - It's Leap Day!

Leap for Joy – It’s Leap Day!

I say we have some fun and celebrate! How? Here are eight ways:

Throw a Party

Embrace the leap day theme with a fun party.

Start with Leap Year Cocktails developed in 1928 at the Savoy Hotel in London. Here are the ingredients:  2 ounces gin, 1/2 ounce Grand Marnier, 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth, and 1 dash fresh lemon juice. Just pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake well for 10 seconds and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Twist a piece of lemon peel over the drink and use for garnish.

Play songs from the Leap Year movie soundtrack. Songs could include Randy Edelman’s score, A Leap Year Promise, Nat ‘King’ Cole’s More and More Of Your Amor, and The Mamas and the Papas’ Dream A Little Dream Of Me.

Give out blank cards and ask guests to write where they would like to be in four years when leap day arrives again in 2020.

If you have kids (or are young at heart), play a game of leap frog or make cute origami frogs. Maybe you can all pretend to be leaping lizards. Or just leap for joy!

Try Something New!

Try Something New!

Do Something New and Exciting

You’ve been given an extra day, remember? Don’t waste it. Take a quick road trip or hike to somewhere you’ve never visited before, zip line, learn how to glass blow, try a daring haircut and donate your hair, or fly in a hot air balloon.

Do something that makes you laugh, skip, dance, sing, and feel happy.

If you try something new and it doesn’t work out, just pretend it never happened. February 29 doesn’t really exist anyway, right?

Watch Your Favorite Time Movie

Of course, there is the 2010 movie, Leap Year, which I never saw and hear it didn’t get very good reviews. But, hey, you might want to check it out just for the fun of it.

Or enjoy your other favorite movies about time like Groundhog Day or Back to the Future. Try watching the funny 30 Rock’s “Leap Day” episode with cameos by Jim Carrey and Andie MacDowell on Hulu.

Pay it Forward

Use the extra 24 hours to make this day better for others.

Find something you’re passionate about and dive in to help out your community. Drop donations off at a food bank, help beautify your neighborhood, run an errand for an elderly person, or simply buy the person behind you in line a cup of coffee. Any random act of kindness will do.

Pick Up an Old Hobby

Pick Up an Old Hobby

Rediscover an Old Passion 

Maybe you let an old hobby or interest fall to the wayside because you never had enough time to pursue it. Perhaps you always wanted to write a book, learn a new language, or take up painting, photography, or gardening.

Here’s your chance to dive in with an extra 24 hours and get started on that project you never began or finished. Who knows, maybe you’ll keep it up after the day is done.

Learn all about Leap Year

It may seem boring, but it’s kind of interesting to learn about how leap year originated and how it keeps our calendar in harmony with the solar orbit.

Turns out there are a lot of fun facts about this holiday. For example, did you know that US Presidential elections and Summer Olympic Games are both held every four years and occur during leap years? Or that century years are not leap years unless they can be evenly divided by 400? The years 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years, but 1600 and 2000 were. Okay, that fact gives me a little bit of a headache.

Here’s some more fun facts. Your chances of being born on a leap day are approximately 1 in 1500. People born on leap day are called leaplings. In most states, leaplings must wait until March 1st to be eligible for any age-specific privileges (ages 16, 18, 21). In Greece, people believe it is bad luck to get married in a leap year. On the other hand, in Ireland, women can propose to a man.

Oh, I could go on and on. Maybe I’m weird, but the inner nerd in me finds this stuff kind of fascinating.

Take Time for Yourself

Take Time for Yourself

Chill and Relax

Maybe you’ll want to focus on you on leap day.

Get a massage, write in a journal, read a book, or meet a friend for lunch. Sleep in or take a luxurious mid-afternoon nap. Listen to some relaxing time-related music like Time in a Bottle by Jim Croce.

Kick off the next four years with positive, forward-thinking.

Make a Four-Year Plan

Leap days offer you the perfect chance to sit down and think about the four years ahead. Where do you want to be on the next leap day? What are your hopes for the next four years? What new things would you like to try?

Just for fun, make a list of things you’d like to accomplish by the time the next leap day arrives. Pull it out in 2020 and see how you did.

So try any one or more of these fun days and have an enjoyable, memorable, and inspirational leap day!

To find more inspiration for spending your extra hours on Leap Day, please visit these inspiring blogs:

Carmela Dutra, A Blog for Your Thoughts: The Perfect Leap Day

Cat Michael, Cat’s Corner: Top 10 Things I’d Do with My Extra 24 Hours on Leap Day

Author Nelson’s Suit’s: Five Fun Ideas to Nourish Your Soul on Leap Day

Do you have plans or fun ideas to celebrate leap day? Please share in the comments below.

Images courtesy of imagerymajestic, J Frasse, panpote, and stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net respectively in the order the images appear.

 

California Dreaming: San Francisco in a Day

As Mark Twain once famously said: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” 

Looking back over my life, the trips I’ve been fortunate enough to take around the world have indeed been some of the happiest moments. So with that in mind, I’m adding a travel and leisure section to my Baby Boomer Bliss blog.

Bridge Sunrise

My first article will feature my most recent trip – a quick one to San Francisco the first part of December. And I do mean quick. My son, Jonathan, was attending a one-day work conference in Monterey and my daughter-in-law, Johnni, had never seen either Monterey or San Francisco.

Whizzing up the I-5 for our whirlwind trip to San Francisco.

Whizzing up the I-5 for our whirlwind trip to San Francisco.

Even though we only had one day in each place, that inspired a last minute sprint up the I-5 from our home near Palm Springs to Monterey.  Sometimes the best road trips are the ones you don’t plan.

Our one day in Monterey was spent walking along Cannery Row and visiting the amazing Monterey Bay Aquarium while Jonathan attended his work conference. Then it was on to the City by the Bay.

Of course, I don’t recommend seeing San Francisco in a day, but if you’re in a situation like ours and you only have 12 hours or so to explore, here are my recommendations. Turns out you can fit a lot into just one day and have a blast doing it! However, to achieve this feat, try and visit during off-season like us.

This was our itinerary:

Painted Ladies

Painted Ladies Overview

After a quick stop at the set of Myth Busters for a photo (yes, we are a bunch of nerds), we ventured forward to the famous Painted Ladies.  

A must-see if this is your first visit to the Golden City. The quaint and colorful Victorian houses with downtown skyscrapers in the background provides a stunning contrast. Be sure and climb to the top of Alamo Square Park across the street for some spectacular photos of the city. 

Lombard Street

Lombard StreetThis is a touristy spot that normally I would avoid. The long line of cars waiting for their turn to go down the “crookedest street in the world” can be awful. However, this was Johnni’s first time to Frisco and she wanted to see the famous sight.

We lucked out – during the winter months it wasn’t crowded at all and we entered the steep, windy street and drove past all the gorgeous Victorian mansions. I have to admit, for me, the funnest part was watching my son, Jonathan, run down the narrow steps trying to take photos of us. He,he,he.

Tip: After visiting the Myth Busters set, we ran across another alternative to Lombard Street: Filbert Street. According to Wikipedia, it ties with 22nd Street as the steepest street in San Francisco. It was less crowded than Lombard Street and one adventurous ride. When you start down the hill, you can’t see the road below. It feels like you’re driving off the edge of a cliff. Wheee! Fun stuff!

Fisherman’s Wharf

SF cable carFisherman’s Wharf runs all the way from Pier 39 to Municipal Pier at the end of Aquatic Park. Famous for having some of the best seafood restaurants in the city, we were sure to end our busy day there with a relaxing dinner at Fog Harbor Fish House.

Before crossing the Golden Gate, we stopped at Municipal Pier to take photos with the historic cable cars and visit every chocolate lover’s paradise, Ghirardelli Square. Heavenly! And since we love all things sailing, we made a quick stop at the Maritime Museum.

 

Palace of Fine Arts

San Francisco Art MuseumDon’t ask me why I had never visited this place on previous trips to San Francisco. This has to be one of the most peaceful places on earth with its classic Grecian Roman rotunda and elegant swans floating in a European-style lagoon.

We stopped briefly, but next time I come here, I want to have a picnic and unwind in this idyllic park.

The Golden Gate Bridge

BridgeGoes without saying, right? Johnni was jumping up and down in her seat with anticipation. She squealed with delight at the sight of the spectacular world-renowned bridge. We parked at the crowded north vista point and walked part of the bridge.

Overlook BridgeHowever, the best part for me was heading up the winding road past Battery Spencer to Hawk’s Hill with lookout points perched on mountain tops. The panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the city, and the Bay Area were breathtaking.

Muir Woods

Muir WoodsAs a child, I lived in northern California (Willits and Ukiah), but somehow never hiked the Muir Woods. Don’t ask how we found the time, but we took a short drive north of the city to walk among 380-foot-tall redwood trees on this easy, but spectacular, hike. My cousin, who lives nearby in Napa met us there and confessed she had never been there before either. As I mentioned before, our family is kind of geeky and we were impressed by the fact that part of The Return of the Jedi was filmed there.

So, there you go. At 55, I still have it! Oh yes, there was some recoup time involved when I got home, but it was worth it!