Hitting the Empty Nester Lifestyle Hard

disney-fireworks-jfk

Sitting in the airport waiting to board our Southwest Airlines flight to Orlando, Florida, I felt a mix of excitement and guilt. We were traveling to the Happiest Place on Earth without our kids. It was definitely a weird feeling. When John and I talk about our happy places, it is different for each of us. Mine is a pool or Spain. His is Disney World. We hadn’t been back since 2010. How was that possible? It didn’t seem like it could be that long ago. Sheesh. How old are we? The short answer is old, but not too old for Disney World!

We were quickly struck by how much had changed. We had wristbands that contained our park passes and room keys, which, it turns out, was very convenient. We later found that the bands also held our photos from rides and character encounters. Wow. It was awesome. A little freaky for privacy seekers, but overall very cool and useful. Also, the refillable cups are now equipped with sensors that know when your stay is over, so no more bringing back last year’s cup and getting free soda for a week. We were never that organized but other people must have been to lead the Disney powers that be to put chips in those cups. That can’t be cheap, can it?

We began our week with the excitement of our recently married selves when we last visited Disney without kids. The approximately 25 years difference was almost immediately obvious by our earlier bedtime and willingness to call it a day sooner than our young selves would have. We were logging over 20,000 steps daily and feeling every one of them. We noticed a plethora of motorized scooters and can proudly and gratefully say that we are still young and healthy enough that the many, ever-present scooters annoyed us.

west-orange-trail-view

We also took the opportunity to go on a mid-week bike ride. As you can imagine, Florida has a number of wonderful trails from which to choose. John’s research lead us to two trails that both sounded great. One trail went through an area that was described as having a lot of opportunities to see wildlife and sounded more isolated. Readers of this blog know how I feel about wildlife… I thought that it sounded like there was a distinct possibility that one or both of us could be eaten by an alligator and no one would know. So, while in theory I’d love to see a bunch of animals with a variety of diets up close during a scenic bike ride, in practice, the answer is actually (as kids these days say) a hard no. Which nudged us toward the West Orange Trail. It is a flat, paved, rail trail that included key points such as, 20 easy miles and restaurants along the route. It was also closer to our vacation accommodations in Orlando, and offered a conveniently located bike rental shop, Bikes and Blades, at the Killarney Station trailhead.

west-orange-trail-bridge

We set out with our newly rented bikes on a really nice, sunny and warm day. We peddled along feeling proud of ourselves for taking a break from the happiness of Disney to ride. But mostly I was feeling grateful to be doing something other than walking. We enjoyed the peaceful ride with few other people on the trail. We managed an ambitious 24 + miles total. We were tired but very pleased we were able to ride in February.

We were back in Disney World by mid-afternoon and moving onward with our agenda of fun. We took a quick trip to Epcot to ride Soarin’. Twice. It was different than the last time we did it, and still very fun. We then raced off to the Magic Kingdom for a quick dinner and reservations for the Fireworks Dessert Party at the Tomorrowland Terrace. It was a delicious dessert buffet and front row seats for the fireworks. It was all quite fantastic, and the next morning I couldn’t move. I was so sore and tired, I decided I needed a day by the pool. John, however, did not want to chill by the pool, but instead went off to see Stars Wars things in Hollywood Studios.

disney-selfies

Two additional big changes we noted were how much Disney Springs (which was called Downtown Disney the last time we were there) had grown. There were a lot of new restaurants and shopping! It was fun to spend the evening there. We went almost every night. We also decided to try Animal Kingdom again.

animal-kingdom-elephant

The last time we were there it was maybe a year old, and I wasn’t impressed. This time, it was very enjoyable. We saw a lot of animals and really thought it was worth the trip.

animal-kingdom-lion

We decided we could have easily stayed another week, which means we may be back in Disney sooner than last time.

 

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Very Empty Nesty of Us, Again

This is an amazing photo of the Big Dipper Taken by John Kozlowski, August 12, 2015

This is an amazing photo of the Big Dipper Taken by John Kozlowski, August 12, 2015

Sometimes you just have to step out of your comfort zone and say, “What the heck.” Or, in our case, “Who needs sleep?” For years, many of them, I have wanted to see actual shooting stars during a Perseid Meteor Shower. I thought I had a great opportunity two years in a row when we vacationed at a dude ranch in the Adirondacks. But, despite the comfortable lounge chairs and the uber dark setting, we weren’t able to see any either of those weeks. Zero shooting stars. Last night’s meteor shower was getting the pre-event hype of a World Cup soccer match. At least according to my Twitter feed. So, since we are still working to regain our top Empty Nester form, we made an impromptu decision to have a date night under the stars in hopes of finally seeing the elusive shooting stars. Clearly, we are on a empty nester roll!


At 10:00 PM, I had packed a bag of water, snacks, a sweatshirt, and bug spray. The chairs and blankets were already in the car. And, we were heading off to the Howard County Conservancy, which was having a Perseid Meteor Shower viewing party. We found a spot among a large group of folks that we couldn’t really see, in a field that we couldn’t see. It was very dark, except for the cars streaming in and out of the grounds. I was really excited. It seemed like a great night for some meteors!  And it was. We saw our first shooting star within 10 minutes of sitting down. It appeared to us almost in slow motion and took its time sailing across the sky. We were both shocked that we saw it so easily. Then, we missed a couple, as evidenced by the oh’s and ah’s from the folks who were looking in the right place at the right time. After waiting minutes on end without seeing any, we became a little frustrated at the sporadic nature of these buggers. It’s definitely not as easy as sitting in a crowd for a fireworks display, where most people are unlikely to miss any of the pyrotechnics. Especially, because of the telltale “whump” sound that gives you a second to look up. There is no warning “whump” with these meteors. You’re either looking in the right place or not. We did manage to catch a couple more and a couple that may or may not have been ones.

Actual Fireworks That are Easy to See and Photograph

Actual Fireworks That are Easy to See and Photograph

The wisps of light flitting fleetingly through the night are a joy to witness and, frankly,  annoying to miss. Our need to be able to function today prevented us from staying too late, but we had a great time staring off into the beautiful night sky. We appreciate the Howard County Conservancy for hosting this event! It was a great date night and very Empty Nesty of us.

 

 

@HoCoBlogs

 

Painting (in) the Town

 

I love it when I discover something really fun to do close to home. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have seen some of my paintings. And, I know I have a long way to go to be an artist, but I'm trying to not let that deter me. I have never been good at art. In fact, I intensely disliked elementary and middle school art classes growing up. I couldn't draw or create to save my life. Well, with age comes a certain willingness to try new things. I was invited to a painting party at my friend and fellow blogger, Terri's house last year and it awakened my inner artist. Since then I've hosted a painting party and then set out on my own…with mixed results. I'm pretty critical of my own artwork. And, I still fall into the trap of wanting everything to look like a photograph. But, today, for Mother's Day, my daughter and I tried a new paint party studio in Turf Valley called Pinot's Palette. It was awesome. We both loved the atmosphere and the music they played. We were able to relax and be guided through painting a pretty spring scene. There was a wide selection of beverages and some snacks available for purchase. The room was filled with mothers, daughters, sons, fathers, grandmothers, and grandchildren. The two hour time slot flew by, as we were intently focused on our canvases from the moment we started. We were pretty brave to pick the painting we came to do (painting butterflies is trickier than it sounds). And, despite our butterflies over painting the butterflies, we did just fine. It was such a delightful way to spend the afternoon – surprisingly relaxing and yet exciting at the same time. I think we will both be planning to paint at Pinot's Palette again soon.

#HoCoBlogs

 

A Winter Trip to Buffalo, Yes, Please!

Beautiful Canal and Bridge, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Beautiful Canal and Bridge, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Thinking of taking a trip to the Buffalo/Niagara area, why not do so over the winter?

Yes, I just suggested that you should plan a trip to one of the reputed snowiest places in the U.S. that is not known for its skiing. To the very city where, on November 18, 2014 , a heavy snowstorm left a 7 to 8 foot swath of snow, courtesy of Lake Erie, on neighborhoods and highways in Buffalo suburbs in surgical fashion. The places that were hit, were hit hard. Others just minutes away got a dusting. The snow has long since melted. We were trekking up to visit family just after Christmas. The weather was mild and perfect for travel.

Most of the folks I know that go to Buffalo, go to visit family or have planned a family vacation to Niagara Falls. That is all well and good. However, I want to give you an awesome tip on a fun, family vacation in which Buffalo is THE, if not A destination, as well. There are plenty of fun things to do there now, including skating, curling, or biking (yes, I wrote biking. Ice biking, to be specific) on the new and recently opened Canalside ice rink. It is, as they say,  “on fleek”; awesome and amazing and wonderful all at once. I was very eager to skate on the rink, as soon as I saw pictures of it. I found, tried on, and then packed my skates. I was so excited.

Canalside Ice Rink When Closed.

Canalside Ice Rink When Closed.

Unfortunately (and fortunately all at the same time), the weather was very mild. It was too mild to skate on Saturday. The rink was closed, but because we were going to the Buffalo Sabres hockey game that night, we went downtown early to check out the recently developed Canalside area and the new HarborCenter. We walked around the waterfront and then ambled over to where the ice rink is located. It looked really nice and was a good size. We walked around it and moved on to our next stop: the new (716) Food and Sport restaurant in the HarborCenter that John really wanted to try. (716 is the area code for Buffalo.)

We had heard from family members that the restaurant is a huge hit and there is usually a wait. So, we thought we had planned accordingly. We got to Canalside around 3:00 PM and wandered around. There were a lot of people everywhere. This is a complete change from before the downtown redevelopment started. It used to be more like a ghost town than a destination.

But, clearly, it has become a destination. We walked over to (716) to put our names on the list at about 3:30/3:45 PM. There was a line of people snaking around under a pop up tent outside the door. As we were getting our bearings and finding our way into the line, we heard the young lady with the clipboard saying, “There is a three to four hour wait for a table at this time.” Wut?

Yes, she said that. Our perfectly planned outing hit another snafu…the first being the ice rink was closed due to the mild weather. It was not going to work for us to get a table, eat and make it to the hockey game on time.

Waterfront, Buffalo, NY December 2014

Waterfront, Buffalo, NY December 2014

 

Happily, with the help of John’s sisters and a nephew, we were able to find another restaurant that could seat us almost right away. We ate at the Liberty Hound, a quaint restaurant situated in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park, at the original terminus of the historic Erie Canal. Afterwards, we walked over to the First Niagara Center for the game. It was a great game, which ended in a Buffalo win in a shootout.

 

Canalside Ice Rink Open! Buffalo, NY December 2014

Canalside Ice Rink Open! Buffalo, NY December 2014

Fast forward to Sunday. We found out that the rink was going to be open that afternoon. Hurrah! I was very excited, although some in our party were less than thrilled with the idea of going ice skating–at first. As soon as we got there and saw the throngs of people, the excitement spread through our party.

All Smiles!

All Smiles!

The ice was filled with people skating. We saw the ice bikes and they looked fun and manageable. We also saw a group getting a curling lesson and really wanted in on that activity. It was almost too much to take in, but we focused and found our ticket line. It seemed really long, but it went really fast. There was such a steady turnover of skaters that we hardly noticed the wait. I had my skates, but everyone else needed to wait in a second line to get their skates. That line didn’t take long either, thankfully. John zipped over to (716) to put our name on the list again and was told there was a 2 hour wait, which was perfect for us to skate then head over.

 

We all had so much fun on the ice. It was a blast. Some of us hadn’t skated for several years, so we were lucky to stay on our feet the whole time.

Happy Skaters!

Happy Skaters!

 

 

 

 

 

The entry fee and rental fees were very reasonable. I wished we had more time to take the curling lesson and to try the ice bikes. But, just about the time when we were starting to get fatigued, John got the text from (716) that our table was ready. Alyssa was able to get her skates off and sprint over to the restaurant first, to ensure we didn’t lose the table. The rest of us moved as quickly as we could to get there too. And, we were not disappointed. The food was fantastic. I had a house salad with steak on it that was delicious. There is no doubt that we will get back to Canalside on our next visit, and we highly recommend it – even in the winter.

 

Me and John Skating Together, Canalside Buffalo, NY

Me and John Skating Together, Canalside Buffalo, NY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canalside Ice Rink at Night Buffalo, NY December 2014

Canalside Ice Rink at Night
Buffalo, NY
December 2014

 

Historical Society Holiday House Tour Was a Hit

Maycroft Elkridge, Maryland

Maycroft
Elkridge, Maryland

I am so glad that I learned about and was able to participate in an annual holiday event in my hometown this past weekend. I am often surprised at the multitude of activities and events that happen virtually right around the corner from me that I don’t hear about until they have passed. So, I’m feeling very happy to be in on this one. My mom and I attended The 38th Annual Howard County Historical Society Holiday House Tour. This tour took a very large group (there were five Eyre buses!) to tour five sites in Elkridge (formerly Elk Ridge), which is the oldest settlement in Howard County. And, interestingly enough, almost where my family and I lived. Apparently we could have had an Elkridge address when we moved into our home; however somehow our neighborhood ended up requesting and getting an Ellicott City address. So, we are very physically close to the sites on this tour, but I had only heard of two of the five beforehand. The tour was wonderful. We checked in at 12:30 PM and were warmly greeted by both the Historical Society and the tour’s main sponsor, The Bob Lucido Team. We had not pre purchased a snack, so we headed straight for the buses. Each bus was following a different itinerary, so as not to overwhelm any one location by our large numbers.


Our first stop was Maycroft. A lovely home with gracious homeowners, who introduced us to the property and its history. It was modernized, but yet still is quite close to the original house. 

Original Stained Glass Maycroft Elkridge, Maryland

Original Stained Glass
Maycroft
Elkridge, Maryland

 

Our next stop was Elkridge Assembly Rooms in the “Lawyers Hill” area of Elkridge. Both my mom and I were impressed by the strong connection to the past family owners and tight-knit nature of the community. This building is undergoing renovation and will continue to be a focal point for neighbors and anyone wishing to join in their seasonal and monthly activities. It even has a website. Visit www.elkridgeassemblyrooms.org to find out more about this warm and welcoming group of friends and neighbors.

Elkridge Assembly Rooms Elkridge, Maryland

Elkridge Assembly Rooms
Elkridge, Maryland

Our third stop was Grace Episcopal Church, which originally sat along the railroad tracks until two fires in the same year led the congregation to move the building to the top of a nearby hill. It is a lovely church with a working pipe organ and a congregation eager to grow its membership.

Grace Episcopal Church Elkridge, Maryland

Grace Episcopal Church
Elkridge, Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our fourth stop, Rockburn, another occupied home, dates back to 1695. In the 1980s, the current owners and neighbors established the Rockburn Land Trust and the property was then placed in the Maryland Environmental Trust’s perpetual conservation non-development program, which keeps it and the surrounding area, including Belmont, safe from development. This house once held early Grace Episcopal Church services, and a private school, where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s brother Samuel tutored children. It was so interesting. 

Rockburn Elkridge, Maryland

Rockburn
Elkridge, Maryland

Belmont Elkridge, Maryland

Belmont
Elkridge, Maryland

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a wonderful day and learned so much.  It was a great way to spend the afternoon, indeed. I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for next year’s tour, for sure!

 

 

 

@HoCoBlogs

Belmont

Belmont

 

 

Taking Time to Enjoy Holiday Happenings

My First (non-artist guided) Painting!

My First (non-artist guided) Painting!

I’m trying to keep myself from the usual adrenaline rush that comes when I think about how close Christmas actually is to today. No matter what day it is after Thanksgiving, I usually find myself in the sprint to Christmas. This year, as in most years, I’m trying to slow it down and take it all in and enjoy it. No sprinting around and not taking time to fully appreciate everything I love about Christmas for me this year. Nope. I’m going to take time to see, smell, taste, and enjoy the season. So, I have been looking for holiday-themed concerts and activities to enhance the jolly in my holiday. My mom had been looking for a holiday activity or two, also. Thanks to a new on-line community events calendar  and the outstanding community building and communication efforts of HoCoBlogs, I was able to hear about a neat holiday event: the Howard County Historical Society 38th Annual Holiday House Tour. It sounds like a very delightful way to spend an afternoon.  Happily, mom agreed. So, we have made plans to go. We can’t wait! The tour takes place Sunday, December 14, 2014 and is an opportunity to see five historic Howard County properties, while traveling comfortably in an Eyre bus. There is still time (but not much!) to get tickets! Visit the Howard County Historical Society’s website for details. Will we see you there? 

 

 

Truly A Treat

HoCoBlogs Party at Seasons 52
 

I kicked off my birthday month by attending the HoCoBlogs party for bloggers and blog readers at Seasons 52 in the new outdoor wing at The Mall in Columbia. What a great decision that was. I had been fighting a cold for a week, so I wasn't sure I had much energy to mix and mingle with my fellow bloggers and blog readers. But, I been very eager to check out Seasons 52, so John and I went. The Howard County Library, a co-host, greeted us at the entrance with a Choose Civility wristband and information about an upcoming Choose Civility Symposium panel discussion, The Ball's in Your Court: Can Civility and Sports Coexist? This symposium is on Thursday, October 9 at the Miller Branch of the HoCo Library System. Find details about this event at Choosecivility.org.

Our group, apparently 80 plus in number, had the outdoor seating area and it was a perfect evening to be outside. I was happy to see a few familiar faces right away. As we made our way back to the bar, we chatted with a few folks. By the time we made it there, we were ready for a cold beverage.

 

Seasons 52 Signature Flatbread

 

Seasons 52 was a delightful host. There was beer and wine at the bar, and the friendly and energetic staff quickly brought water and sodas around, as well as signature flatbreads. We were thrilled to try the flatbread appetizers we had heard about, and we were not disappointed. I liked the Garlic Pesto Chicken flatbread the most.

In addition to the familiar faces, there were quite a few new ones, too. Just as John and I were about to head back into the “mob,” a new blogger, Jamie, approached us and struck up a conversation. Her blog thepurposepages.blogspot.com is about two months young. We had a really nice time chatting, and we enjoyed introducing her to some of the long-time fixtures in the HoCoBlogs community.

Meet New HoCoBlogger Jamie!

We had a wonderful evening and are looking forward to our next HoCoblogs event.

@HoCoBlogs