Friday, March 22, 2019

So.........She Said Hesitantly...

So, it's been a week or two (or maybe three!) since I wrote this last post. I'm still here. The blog is still here. 

On the one hand, I haven't felt the burning need to run to my computer or tablet and write a post. On the other hand. I have been making a short but constantly growing list of blog post ideas in my notebooks of notebooks.

I've also spent some time (still spending some time, truthfully) looking at future options and choices. Including a mini snowbird thing, some more vacation travel, life long learning health issues and a whole PILE of other stuff. Including a new budget.

All of course, against the background of my frugal finances (which are much looser these days, praise the lord), changing health issues and the rest of life in general.

Which leads me a decision to .....slowly.....return to blogging. There will be some differences. There will be fewer generalized "what I did today posts" (although there will still be plenty,  am sure). There will be more frugal posts (with specifics on my budget). there will be more vacation planning and weekend trip posts. There will be many more posts on crafts and creativity and life long learning (although I know there is that group of readers for whom that is not their thing). There will be more posts on health and aging. More posts on Denver and Colorado and things going on here. In fact I am considering leaving the URL the same and changing the title to something that implies a Colorado retirement, but we'll wait and see on that one. And, as I hinted at in previous thoughts on what to write about, there will be what some will see as political posts and that I see as discussions on human rights (including immigration, the refugee issue and senior poverty). There will also be more posts on senior retirement, women in retirement, and yes, posts about widowhood.

Finally, I'm going to be making some changes visually. Changes that include some moderate revamping, removing and adding some blogs on the sidebar and more.

It's going to take me awhile, and in the beginning at least there may be no regular schedule when it comes to blogging. 

At least for now.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Moving On ...

Note: since writing this blog post less than a day ago, I 've been asked why I don't just change the direction of my writing but keep it here. While it's a possibility, the main reason is that people come here for the kind of writing they get now and that change may not resonate as well, although it's a possibility. Also, it's still blogging on a regular basis, which is something I need to see if I really want to continue. Either way, it will take me time to figure out my new direction, to say the least.

When I began this blog, it was at the end of 2007. I continued to blog sporadically through 2008, as I found my groove as they say.  I was a new widow. I was working my way through what was then enforced retirement (as in the idea of not being able to get a job had never occurred to me). I worked my way through a host of emotional and yes, financial issues.

Eventually I found my way when it came to this blog and writing. I shared about my own life. I was also, I hoped, showing other people who were retiring on much less than they had hoped that in many cases, there was still a way forward. Not only that, but a joyous way forward with all kinds of opportunities, if one was open to them.

I have shared what it was like being a widowed single parent with a dependent child and then a dependent young adult when the economy sucked. I have shared about  financial choices, good and bad. The worst of course, being putting all of my nest egg in an IRA at fifty something and then realizing I had to pull money out to live on long before sixty five. Heck, I paid more in taxes in the end than I actually had in life insurance.

I have written about living alone (which I loved), living with an adult child (same) and sharing a house. All of which were good. I have traveled across the country alone in a car from Dallas to Denver to California, to Montana and written about it.

Some of what I have written about has been simply my day to day life, usually from a frugal perspective. Sometimes I have written specific articles about "how I did that". Honestly, my writing has been all over the place.

If I have a regret it is that I have not emphasized the survived widow aspect. Even though there were requests, more than one, about the getting on. Especially on the getting on when we are young (I was in my early fifties and my husband was younger). If I were to write one post more, it would probably be titled, no longer a widow. To all those widows who are reading, you heard right. Grief exists, as do many things. But there was a time when people asked me about myself and I either said "My husband died in......", or "I'm a recent (or early) widow" and then continued onward. Now, I introduce myself as Barbara an talk about myself. If I get asked how I came to Colorado from Dallas from Germany, I mention my husband. But his death no longer is how identify my status. Hopefully that is helpful.

The bottom line though, is that I have felt that this blog has had no direction for awhile, other than being a daily diary of my life with some type of theme day when I think about it. I read, and enjoy, a good twenty blogs that are written along those lines. But I have learned that this type of writing is not for me-I need more specificity. I do my best writing when I am talking about the hows and whens and wheres-and the truth is that is where my readership has been the greatest. Whether I am writing a four month step by step series on downsizing and moving across the country or something else.

And while I could go back to being the frugal retiree, I've written an awful lot about that. And I think it is time for a new challenge. One, I expect that cannot be met here, or that you would necessarily enjoy. These days my passions are frugal travel (still), creativity, human rights and seniors in general.

You guys may remember that I talked about a craft blog in the past. This still calls me. As does the idea of a blog for seniors in my south metro area (a blog that would cover social opportunities, discounts and assistance available to a specific geographic area) or even a saving money in Denver blog. I'm still working on it.

Regular readers probably know I have thought on this for awhile. I've hinted at it here and there. And truthfully, in August of 17 when I lost my URL and blog and had to start over, I almost left it behind. Except that I was not willing to leave readers hanging. And I guess I felt that I still had at least something to say.

It will be hard to leave this blog behind after eleven and a half years. And I admit that I have seen others make this decision and return, which is why for now I leave this blog where it is while I stew a bit. I'm still willing to admit I might return. If I did though, this blog would be much more about a retired, frugal, single widowed gal. Who lives in Denver and talks about the place I live and the things I do here. With crafting. Which would please some readers and alienate some.

I'm willing say that I might change my mind.While I don't believe I'll do that, it's one of the options I'm considering. And if I begin that craft blog (or one on another topic), I promise to share that we my readers.

Meanwhile as I mull through the decision making process, this blog will stay as it is-if only because of all the links I have here to friends everywhere. And for now at least, I 'll be posting a few times a week on the Facebook page, as a way to let people know what I'm doing and where I am going.

I have truly loved blogging and I have made many, many friends, in real life as they say, as well as in the blogging world. But has been almost twelve years since I first made the attempt to write a blog, and writing life is (I think) moving in another way. 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

The February That Was, and the March That's Here

So, I apologize, but I have not been on the ball on commenting the past week or so. Starting this week I should be back in the flow. Meanwhile, there went February!! Another month bites the dust, even Colorado is experiencing the the chill this weekend, and another month has begun.

So, since I've been a very off and on again blogger this month (mainly due to birthdays and other events) a quick wrap up, frugal and otherwise, of this February in retirement:

Before I get on to the goals though, first let me say that I've been eating REALLY well (to say the least)! Four birthdays in as many weeks, a very full afternoon tea, breakfast at the original pancake house, various happy hours and one afternoon at Smokin Fins (hello lobster stuffed deviled eggs) have put me seriously on the over indulgence train-which isn't over. We still have Monday night birthday dinner at the Post, and a dinner out and a dinner cooked at home by my brother next weekend. After that I'll try to get back on the healthy wagon at least for awhile before Easter. Having a weekly Lenten dinner with soup, salad and my bread at church will help. Oh, and I forgot about that lunch at the Buckhorn. I did not go over my entertainment/dining out budget which is pretty generous these days though (see below). Mainly because we do a lot of lunches, my sister in law refused to accept payment for the lunch outing and there have been no movies or concerts that are calling me as such.

Second, I am thrilled to say that my son got another grant, so I am no longer the keeper of the tuition bill! In the next week I plan to make a budget based on what I have left after after monthly regular bills, all the ones that automatically disappear from the account. While I'll share those, I see none of those changing drastically any time soon, although some time in the spring I'll do a quick comparison estimate on my insurances and such. Instead I'll make a spending budget on the balance of what's left.

And third, in a couple bits of serendipity, I've gotten three sweaters that were sixty plus dollars originally for less than ten bucks each in the past few days, alone with two necklaces and five pairs of earrings for pennies. A super duper haul even for me. Post about this coming!!

Now as for those February goals (see bar above)

  • I'm pleased to say that I came in at $360 for groceries, but in all fairness it was a short month and I did a big shop in January (and my increased eating out is taking up the difference).
  • I have not been exercising out of the house two days a week, although I have been mall walking at least once a week. I have however been doing a half an hour of strength training daily, and walking as close to 30 minutes in total as I can. 
  • I've been doing much better with being device-less and having an hour to an hour and a half of downtime before sleep. I'm finding that if I get in bed, turn down the lights, journal or read and listen to music in bed for the first hour, then when I turn off the light and turn on my sleep music, I am ready to go.
  • As far as getting caught up on the Now that I'm not paying tuition, April may be time to return to the every other week cleaning help.
  • I did do  my Valentine crafts. I did not finish either a quilting or knitting project, although in my defense this was a heavy reading month. Next month will be a TV month and I anticipate some serious knitting and sketching going one
  • Birthday purchases are done, although the celebrations are not. I'll share what I did for birthdays after the final day is over.
  • Only one "exploring the local" day, but that was with out of town guests and it took more than half a day.
  • For now we won't talk about my online time, although beginning the first, I started tracking it
  • I did completely plan a train trip to Chicago, with everything except the dates. Once I figure out the dates of all the offspring, then I can plan my own time. I did offer to take my son to Chicago for a graduation trip but he would rather choose a different trip at a different time.
Now, those March goals  and plans........coming soon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Afternoon Tea-and Friendship in Retirement

This afternoon some of my gals group went to afternoon tea. Every so often I do a search of places we can go and see if anything new appears-which it usually does since in the Denver area there are really good restaurants opening up all the time. This time I went searching for tea-and lo and behold, a new tea restaurant had opened up just at the beginning of January in my little suburb. 

So yea, this afternoon seven of us went off to tea!  While I am generally loath to take pictures of my food when I am eating, this is a sample of the dessert course, with four desserts for each person, all of which were so very yummy. We also had three scones each (with clotted cream, lemon curd and strawberry preserves), Lemon cream, blueberry, and poppy seed. And of course my friends, there were sandwiches. Curried egg salad, chicken salad croissants, cucumber sandwiches, mini quiche Florentine, and two other canapes. It's a darned good thing I walked both before and after said tea service, let me tell you.

Since this was a new place, and not just a new place to us, we spent time talking to the owner. It seems that her daughter's dream was to open a tea shop. Mom already was making baked goods and selling them to various restaurants and such. So they combined both their loves, chose a location and went into business. The kind of story you love to hear, from people who jumped into their small business with both feet. As a group, we women of a certain age are committed to supporting local businesses, so I just know we will be returning as a group and individually!

We left satiated, relaxed and talking about what else we would like to do in the near future. a fun afternoon was had by all. This even though we are fluid group and some had never met each other before. I had a lovely afternoon. And I realized that much of this was because a. I was open to friendship from others, and b. I was willing to post that question on my local Facebook group all those months ago: "If I started a group for women of a certain age, what would we call it"?

I am not an introvert, although it can take me awhile to step off the precipice into a new social situation.  And I was not "lonely" as such when I began this group. I was active in my church, knitting and happy hour-ing every week, and meeting folks through workouts and such. But... I knew I wanted more. And I knew that there were people like me-and different from me-with the same needs. People who had come to Colorado to be closer to kids and grand kids and didn't know anyone. Women who were retired and who had husbands still working and needed a social outlet. Women who had just retired and had no social outlets outside of work and didn't know where to turn. Women who were single, women who were married and women who were probably in between.

In today's tea group there is a woman from my church who is married and who travels and quilts. One woman is a lifelong Colorado-er who has recently retired and is looking to make friends. Another gal is here half the month and in New York half the month with the rest of her family-and is still looking to make friends. Two of us are widows, one is a divorcee and the rest are married. And we possibly would not have met, except for a group like this one.

If there is one thing I have learned in retirement, it is that socialization and friendship are important. Many of us are in new situations, even if we have not moved. We are looking to connect. No matter where we are. Married, single, widow, all or none. Grandparents and not grandparents. Liberals and moderate and conservatives. Home bodies or social butterflies. Not only is it important to be willing to step outside of your conform zone to meet these "others", you should be willing to take the initiation if that is what's needed. 

And I say that realizing just how hard it is to do both.

Another thing I have learned is that not all those friendships and connections will be deep, close and personal. Many will be based on chatting at lunch, taking trips and going to concerts together, and sharing a hobby. And that's just fine. Just as it's fine that some in my group will be closer to each other than others will be on occasion. One of the gals in my group has become my "plus one" at things like church dinner groups. We are not BFFs and may never be, but we have found common ground in some areas and as such see each other outside the group. This will happen for some, and not for others. Connections, are connections, period. And every connection, friendship, social encounter does not have to be of the deep "I feel you" variety. Or, as a Dallas friend once said to me: She has her best friend from childhood. She also has her church friends and her knitting friends and her book group friends. Some times those cross over and sometimes they don't. And that works for her.

Last but not least, and although it may be hard to believe for some (especially hearing this from me, lol) you can also be friends with people who think differently and like different things. While I have some very  strong opinions and we don't discuss politics as a rule in this group, I am not one who thinks that everyone has to believe as I do for me to socialize with them. Aside from the political thing, some of us go to church (or temple, or mosque) and some of us don't. Some of us like artistic things, and some do not. Some like games and some don't, some of us are travelers, some are not. Some of us like Indian food and some do not. Some are dog people, some are cat people. The list could go on. In this group our only guidelines other than not talking politics is that we mainly do stuff during the day (because we can) and we try hard not to talk about children as such (our children or our children's children).

Meeting people in retirement is NOT easy. Even if you've lived in the same town and in the same neighborhood most likely. But I can pretty much promise you that wherever you live, whether you believe it or not, there ARE people like you, looking to make connections and meet other people.

But to meet them you may need to step out of your comfort zone, just a little! Because believe me, if I-who took four weeks to get up the courage to go to a knitting meet-up can do it, you probably can as well.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Exploring the Local in Denver-The Buckhorn Exchange

Yesterday my sister-in-law (John's brother's wife) flew into town for a few days. Her nephew is applying for one of those newfangled "Master's into Doctorate" all in one type programs that they have for much of the medical and psych field and he was interviewing today at the University of Denver. Since the family has mainly broken down into smaller individual groups for Christmas, the last time I had seen them was at the April (which dress shall I choose?) wedding.

They are great skiers, and had flown into the airport more than once, but always driven straight to the mountains-never into or around the city or suburbs. Add to that the fact that said nephew is vegan and has been taking her to vegan restaurants and I decided that I would give her the complete opposite of vegan-while taking her to an historical landmark in Denver. One, I might add, that I had only seen from the outside up to now. 

The Buckhorn Exchange opened in 1893 and is Colorado's most historic restaurant-and bar. In fact, it holds liquor license "No 1" for the state. Founded by "Shorty Scout" Zietz, a younger and very colorful member of the Buffalo Bill Cody gang, the restaurant catered to all kinds: gamblers, miners, cattle folks, and even Indian chiefs. The Chief Sitting bull gave Shorty sword taken from General Custer, and story has it that Teddy Roosevelt came and ate and then with hunting with Shorty.  A host of Presidents have visited, as well as tons of actors and stars including Bob Hope and Charlton Heston. More than one astronaut has visited, including Jack Swigert of Apollo 13 fame. 

Guns on the doors, photos of celebreties and animal heads-lots of animal heads! The place is purposefully (I'm sure) not well lit!

So cute!
My ever so poor attempt to photograph the eagle flying overhead!

The view from my seat!

The walls are the best reason to checkout the Buckhorn. There are buffalo and sheep, all kinds of birds including a golden eagle, deer, moose, and more-as well as pistols, rifles, repeating rifles and other weapons. The building is a designated historical landmark, there is a Victorian lounge upstairs with a white oak bar (which I unfortunately could not climb to see) and there is a roof garden as well.

Yes, they are what you think they are!

My Buffalo burger, part of which came home with me

Lavender seared duck breast with rasperry sauce

History and decor are the primary reason to see the Buckhorn, but the food isn't bad at all. And varied.  Since we were there at lunch we had buffalo burgers, steak, and a green chile buffalo burger respectively-with lavender grilled duck breast for an appetizer. And we left the beer options alone. 

The dinner offerings, however, include Rocky Mountain Oyster appetizers and fried alligator tail. They offer giant steaks to share (up to three and a half pounds), as well as Quail, Elk, Buffalo, and of course Colorado Lamb. Needless to say at some point I'll be heading back for dinner.

Post lunch, we gave Sharon a quick driving tour of Denver (a small town compared to her home of Houston) and made plans to get together tomorrow at some point. I don't know what she and her nephew are doing this evening, but at least she's had her share of meat-for a day or so anyway!

Friday, February 15, 2019

Asking the Readers...Chicago, Chicago!!

Today I am reaching out to readers, near and far. One of my goals for February was to completely plan one rail trip (I'm aiming for more than one this year), and for the past couple of days I have been working on a train trip to Chicago.

And today, I want to hear from you, the readers, what you would consider your musts, musts nots, what you loved, hated and everything in between. From where to go, where to eat, and what to see.

So far, my train would arrive in Chicago on 2 PM on Thursday, and depart on 2 PM on Monday-both at the beginning of June.  So I have three full days to eat, drink, tour and be merry, and I'm not yet sure how I'll fill those two half days. I suspect it may depend on where I stay (a downtown hotel or an Airbnb or VRBO, which are more likely). 

Below is my tentative plan so far, but it's just a plan.So friends and visitors, hit me, hit me, and hit me gain.  Just realize that there is no way I am doing the 360, looking down through glass, or probably going up in the wheel. I do want to eat in some really good restaurants and I do plan to get Theater tickets. Wrigley Feld is not on this list. Will I regret not going in June?

Thursday-Arrive at 2 PM, find hotel, explore and find a good restaurant

Friday-Tentative plan to do a two hour Van tour, have lunch and be outside for awhile and then take a boat tour

Saturday-Tentative Plan to go to the  Aquarium and the Field Museum

Sunday-Tentative plan to go to the Art Institute and spend the rest of the day outside-Michigan ave, Navy Pier, whatever.

Monday-no plan yet for the morning

For my frugal followers, I have subscribed to a website called Chicago on the Cheap, as well as a couple visiting Chicago on a Budget type web pages.  The aquarium is the really expensive thing on the list (other than theater tickets and on really good restaurant) so I'm interested in hearing the value-and other tightwad ideas as well as what to see!

I look forward to everything my readers have to share..........the good and the bad!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Makin' it Monday on Tuesday: Hearts and Pancakes

One of the thing's I've committed to in the past couple of years is that I sew and knit for myself. Occasionally I sew or knit for a family member, but rarely do I bother to commit to a specific day as such-instead of a "birthday shawl", I just give a shawl when it's finished. Occasionally I make an exception for a special event and occasionally I still sell or give something away. But generally I sew when I want to, I don't when I don't and that all works out.

Which is a good thing, because for the past two days, I've done nothing on my little heart mini quilt wall hanging and matching table topper. Nothing, I say! I also did not make heart shaped sugar cookies, but that's not a fail since I decided not to have tempation in the house and instead fill my portion of the gift basket with Valentine kisses or other candy.

The mini table topper unpressed and in progress.......

Sunday I went to church and took my son out to dinner. And yesterday, well yesterday, I did nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except binge watch four episodes of my current Netflix TV shosw(Bordertown, Season 2).  Oh, and then later I watched the world champion edition of America's Got Talent.  And that was pretty much my Monday. No exercise, no sewing, no housecleaning to speak of. According to my little notebook of notebooks, I was supposed to sew hearts. And walk a fast mile and workout with weights. And begin to completely re-organize my room. And yes, write a blog post.  Fortunately, I'm retired, and most of the time the things on that list are, as they say, just a guideline. A guideline ignored yesterday in spades.

I somehow managed to sort my laundry, make a quick batch of sloppy joe's and an angel food cake for my son from a cake mix.  A high energy day, let me tell you. On the one hand I can say I had a completely frugal day with no out of the house shopping, but on the other hand........

Fortunately, I'm okay with the wall hanging not being done or even hung until Wednesday or Thursday, because this is a "hanging of the month" and there is still month left.  I'll make every effort to make up the exercise thing for the rest of the week, and the room organization thing will still be there.

I'm going to need that exercise especially because, well, today's gal's day out was brunch. At the Original Pancake house. Where I had a full order of pumpkin pancakes and sausage and real maple syrup with water and a milk chaser.Three hours later, I'm still full-and thankful that I went off the frugal reservation and bought a deli chicken to have this evening with things (healthy things, mind you) on hand. 

pumpkin pancakes (Original Pancake Photo since I forgot)

Pumpkin pancakes still left after I had my "I haven't eaten since last night" fill and offered to share!

Seriously, look at the size of that omelet, which also came with pancakes and sausage!

Tomorrow, retirement life is somewhat back to normal, whatever normal is around here. I managed to find two large packages of short ribs marked down in the manager's meat sale section and I plan to make slow cooker deviled short ribs. I also have my regular knitting group, and this week we are presenting a Valentine's thank you basket to the staff so I'm bringing the basket, some candies and some painted rocks a friend made for me.

And somehow, I'm gonna get in that two mile walk-or as close as I can get.