Friday, September 30, 2011

Bullwinkle in the Backyard and Other Autumn Items

We moved to Denver last year at the end of fall, so we have now almost completed all four seasons here.  By far, I've enjoyed the autumn weather the most.  It's been sunny, warm but not hot, and absolutely spectacular.  I've felt like a whiny Goldilocks when it comes to the Denver weather:  the winter was, at times, too cold; the spring was too wet; and the summer was too hot.  But, I gotta admit, fall is just right.  

The Flatirons near Boulder (where the hike/walk took place)
And I've been trying to take advantage of this lovely weather, making the effort to do more outdoorsy things (but, I still fall very short in this category compared to my fellow Coloradans).  I've even taken a small hike, which I would just call a walk.  This reminds me of the question that I've had since I moved here:  what is the difference between a hike and a walk?  I would never say that I'm taking a hike to Main Street, so maybe it has something to do with whether it's in the city or the country?  Or is the difference whether you're walking on a paved surface versus dirt?  Or, as one friend suggested to me, when you drive to a place just so you can walk, that's a hike.  

There are beautiful sunsets every night that we enjoy from the terrace.

Bullwinkle in the Backyard (note the golden aspens in the background)
I drove to the mountains to see an old Texas friend this week.  As her dog barked on the deck, we went outside to see what was going on.  There was a very large moose in her backyard, who bore a suspicious resemblance to Bullwinkle.  It's beautiful in the mountains this time of year.  The many aspen trees are all turning a golden yellow, and they absolutely glimmer.

View from the lunch table at Breckenridge

Fall is also a time to celebrate the birthday of my lovely and talented daughter, Emily Shur.   She turned 35 this past week, which makes me feel incredibly old.  I know that I gave birth to her a very long time ago, in the days when seeing a pregnant woman have a glass of wine would not bring consternation from the public at large.  In fact, the night before Emily was born, I called my doctor to tell him that I had started having contractions.  His advice was to drink the strongest alcoholic drink that I could and go to sleep.  He said if I was really in labor, I would need the rest and would eventually wake up because no one has ever slept through labor.  I followed his advice and, yes, I did wake up, but somehow I think he would not give the same advice today.  Anyway, I hope Emily enjoys her year as much as I enjoy having her as my daughter.

Happy fall to all.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bonny Scotland

We're back from our trip to Bonny Scotland - beautiful scenery, historic surroundings.

We started our road trip at St. Andrews.

St. Andrew's Castle from the 12th Century

St. Andrew's Cathedral, a relative newcomer from the 14th Century

On the way north to Inverness, we stopped at Glamis Castle where the Queen Mother's family lived.

Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle from the garden
Glamis Castle Livestock

My favorite was the Isle of Skye, which, in parts, reminded me of the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand.  We took a great drive around the Trotternish Peninsula that was spectacular.

Next we went south to Oban on the only awful day weather-wise - rainy and very blustery.  We stayed at a lovely place, once owned by the Duke of Argyll.

Dungallan Country House, Oban

After 5 days on the road, we were happy to give up the car.  The reverse driving was a challenge, as were the narrow curving roads.  Sometimes, there was only one lane for both directions and we relied on the other guy to stop where necessary.   Sometimes we didn't understand the signs, even though they were in English, and sometimes the signs were unmistakably clear. 


They didn't have to tell me twice

We finally settled in Edinburgh for the last part of the trip.  Of course, history abounds here, and we enjoyed staying in Old Town (even New Town is a few hundred years old).

View of Edinburgh from the Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle (yes, that's me in the bottom left)

Outside the National Gallery of Scotland

The fitting finale for the trip was the wedding we attended at Dundas Castle where the ceremony took place in the Auld Keep, built in 1416.  A beautiful event, complete with the wedding rings being flown in during the ceremony by a white owl.  

Bride and Groom with bird friends

Wedding cake befitting a castle

Dundas Castle at night

A magical place and a magical trip.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Happiness Project

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I would provide a book report of sorts on The Happiness Project.  Well, I've completed reading the book, and while it isn't exactly my kind of book (or, for that matter, my kind of project), there were some worthwhile tidbits in it that I'd like to share.  

The author, Gretchen Rubin, is far too anal for me.  She spent a year trying to be happier by assigning a topic each month to work on. For example, one of her resolutions during one month was to make three new friends.  I had to wonder what kind of friendship you can create when making friends is simply something on your to-do list to be checked off.  She even broke down "fun" into three separate categories. Hey, it's not "fun" if you have to categorize it.  The author has a "Resolutions Chart" where she gives herself check marks or stars if she follows through on her resolutions. She has "12 Commandments" as well as "Secrets of Adulthood" that she uses as the basis for her project.  

While this attempt at happiness is way too structured for me, I did think that there was some worthwhile information in the book - not rocket science and maybe things that I already knew, but sometimes it's good to see it in writing.   Some of her 12 Commandments resonated with me, such as "Be Gretchen" (or, in my case, Be Judi); "Let it go";  "Act the way I want to feel"; "Enjoy the process".   Her "Secrets of Adulthood" ranged from "Do good, feel good" to such things as "Bring a sweater".

So the basic premise of the book is to try to create the optimum atmosphere for happiness by tackling topics such as vitality (exercise better and get more sleep) to relationships (marriage, parenthood, friendship) to mindfulness (be more in the moment as you go about your busy life).  There is some merit in taking time to consider how we react to our environment and the people around us.  Rubin discusses studies that show "emotional contagion" where we unconsciously catch emotions from other people - both good and bad moods.  We all know that to be true, but maybe being a little more aware of this will help us avoid the bad and emphasize the good.

One of the most interesting (to me) topics mentioned in the book is that for both men and women, "the most reliable predictor of not being lonely is the amount of contact with women. Time spent with men doesn't make a difference."   So that's why I value my lady friends so much.  Aha!

I did identify with some of her suggestions, like find more fun, take time to be silly, enjoy now, be grateful, fake it till you feel it, and laugh out loud.  The book encouraged me to continue my own mood makeover in my own way, trying always to be more in the moment, lighter and, well, just plain old happier.  And to never, not for a second, forget how grateful I am.

Postscript to Post:  We take off for 10 days on Friday to Scotland for a vacation and, at the end, a wedding in a castle.  Stay tuned for photos posted here in mid-September. My goal for today is to fit everything I'm packing in one carry-on.  Ah, true happiness if I'm successful.