All posts by CadyLy

The Great American Novel Puzzle Reading Challenge!

We wanted to pick up a new puzzle to work on, after *finally* finishing the Thomas Kincaid puzzle that was a pastel, fuzzy-edged nightmare to complete. We wanted something brightly colored, easy, and fun. This puzzle of 50 Great American Novels was just the thing! In fact, we started and completed it in one day!

After we finished it, we decided that it would be fun to turn this experience into a challenge. We both want to read more literature and classics, and enjoy reading books together. We also think it would be fun to explore them more academically and Donald suggested that we could even write little book reports on them and discuss the major themes and ideas that resonated with us.

We have each read a selection of the books already, but decided for the purposes of this challenge, we would re-read books and read them at the same time as each other.

Books Jenn has previously read:

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

Books Donald has previously read:

  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London

We love making choices using random methods. For selecting which book to read next (and subsequent books), we took a photo of the poster that came with the puzzle, printed it out, cut each book apart, folded it up and stuck it in a large jar, which Donald then proceeded to vigorously shake around. Then, I picked one without looking, and we unfolded it together.

Our first read is going to be Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut!

Keep an eye out for our review of this book after we have completed it!

In Search of Fall Colors

Since this is Donald’s first Fall in Michigan, I wanted him to get the best view of the trees changing colors as possible. I had always heard about the Tunnel of Trees at the north end of the lower peninsula, but I’d never made the trip at the right time to be able to see the leaves at peak color.

We are trying to do that this year! Most years, it seems as if it is nearing peak time, but then just before you go out to see the colors, it rains a ton and all of the leaves fall off the trees and you are left with bare twigs and brown leaves to look at until spring.

They are predicting that this year the colors should be more intense, since we are having a warmer than usual end-of-summer.

One of the ways we are trying to time our trip is to look at webcams near the Tunnel of Trees (which extends from Harbor Springs to Cross Village, MI). There is a YouTube feed of the Steeple Cam Live View of Downtown Harbor Springs, MI that gives us a good look around. It seems as if most trees right now are fairly green, but the colors can change fairly quickly. We will check again in a week to see how things are progressing!

Until then, let me know what your favorite spot is to view the fall colors!

— Jenn

Fantasy Football! Who Knew?!

I signed up for a Fantasy Football league with my coworkers, having no idea what I was getting into. 30 minutes prior, on the day of our draft, I was frantically combing YouTube and Google for some nuggets of information on what I should be doing. I didn’t know how to interact with the app, much less who I should pick or what stats were relevant.

Draft Time! Donald and I sat down in front of the computer and started picking players when it was our turn. In between turns, Donald would be researching the next position we wanted to fill, to see if there were any leads about who would be a good fit. Most of the time, I just sorted different stat headers and tried to go for the top suggestion. Sometimes it would be the person who scored the most Fantasy Football points the preceding year, or who had the most rushing yards, or the most passing yards, or whatever. To be fair, we really don’t follow football too closely and don’t know most of these people. Draft day was very exciting and we started to get into the spirit of it.

Week 1: We paired off with my boss. We didn’t think to look at any of the games until Monday Night Football. That was an exciting game and we very nearly won our match up! I mean VERY nearly. We lost by 0.04 points. We really wanted our running back to go in for the last 5 minutes of the game, but to be fair to the team, the other running back was having a better night and their goal was to try to win the game, not to help along our Fantasy game. 🙂

Week 2: Currently in progress! This time, we watched the Thursday Night Football game, which was playing on Amazon. Amazon as a place to watch sports was news to us, but there you go. It was also a very good game. Our quarterback was playing against one of my coworker’s quarterbacks (although we are not matched up in the Fantasy league this week). We ended up making over 30 points towards our overall total! I even went into the app prior to the game and changed out a few players to try and give us a better shot at winning our Fantasy match up this week.

The Winning Grillers with pic of us and our score at the time of the screenshot.
Donald and I are “The Winning Grillers”

We are starting to get into it and even think that it would be beneficial to watch more of the NFL games – even the ones where we do not have players – so that we can get a sense of who the real stars are and who are “on fire” this season. Perhaps we will be able to trade for them at some point during the season and help us win some Fantasy games!

We were so surprised to see that Fantasy Football as an industry pulled in more revenue than the NFL itself, but we can definitely see the draw!

Until next time, let us know if you are getting involved in football this season and, if so, what the best part about the sport is.

— Jennie (and Donald)

Mémère’s House

For some reason, I woke up at 5 am this morning with some very vivid memories of my Mémère’s house. Mémère was my great-grandmother – my mom’s mom’s mom.

Her house was in Madison Heights, MI on a street called Harwood, if I’m remembering correctly. It was a brick house with an extra lot to the left side, where Mémère had a bunch of raspberry plants.

My mom and her older sister, Marilyn, in Mémère’s backyard.

When you went in the front door, the hallway would turn to the right to bring you into the living room, but immediately to the left was a low, rectangular curio cabinet. Inside, Mémère kept her collection of salt and pepper shakers. She must have had hundreds of pairs, in all different colors and shapes.

In the hallway, there was either some chairs or maybe a couch. I don’t recall this precisely, but I do remember seeing Mémère sitting down in that hallway area praying the rosary.

The living room, I think, was a light green color. On the far right wall, there were two large, oval black and white photos – each showing a portrait of a man. When I asked Mémère who they were of, she would answer “Pépé.” What I didn’t understand as a kid was that they were two different people, and that Pépé could have more than one meaning. One was our Pépé, her husband, who had passed away when I was about a week old. But the other one was Pope John Paul II, our Holy Father at the time. So, yeah, I grew up thinking that an image of the pope was my great-grandfather.

Mémère and Pépé

Once you turned the corner into the living room, the house went straight back. On the left were two fairly small bedrooms, and on the right just behind the living room was the bathroom.

The hallway ended in the kitchen. There was a small table on the left, the refrigerator straight ahead by the back door, the sink to the right, and the stove on the wall opposite the refrigerator. On the counter between the sink and the stove was a large toaster oven, which I thought was really cool; I had only seen the kind where the bread pops up from the top.

One of the things that Mémère was known for was always having tomato rice soup waiting for you when you came over. Mom says that it was very simple: just rice and water and tomatoes. I just remember that there was always a pot bubbling away on the stove and it was delicious. I think I added a bunch of salt to mine – I was really into a lot of salt in my food when I was younger.

Isn’t it interesting how places can leave their own imprint on you, even decades later? I could relay some of my memories of Mémère, but I think I’ll leave that for another blog post. If you have any specific memories of a loved one’s home or a special food item they made, please share in the comments.

Until our next adventure!
— Jenn

Stage Nature Center

It has been a little while since we have indulged in one of our favorite lunchtime pastimes: finding a new city park to explore. We tend to do this a little more in Tallahassee, but we have found that there are quite a few local parks in Troy which are beautiful and fun to explore – particularly in summertime. Today, we returned to the Stage Nature Center – where we had seen the mink earlier in the year – to see how it looks when everything has had a chance to green up.

This is the Rouge River, as it is here in Troy, a little more than a creek.

We only had about 30 minutes to spend at the park during my lunch hour, so we made a quick trip around the Sugar Maple loop. It was really neat to see the different colors of green in the leaves and how the sun lit up the trees. The part of the loop that we walked also had a display of the various stages of tree/forest lifecycle, with logs in various stages of decay and decomposition.

The nature center has programs in the winter/early spring where you can rent a tap for a sugar maple tree, then collect the maple syrup produced from the sap.

We spent a few minutes at this crossroads in the paths to watch some chipmunks. They are FAST little ones! One of them ran up a tree and started chittering very loudly for quite some time. At first, I didn’t know what was making that sound and ended up recording it on my Bird ID app. I’m not sure if he was mad or excited, but he certainly wanted everyone in the forest to hear what he had to say!

Just as we were about to move on from the chipmunk area, we spied four deer running parallel to our path. Donald’s phone has much better zoom on the camera and he was able to get this incredible photo.

A view of the Rouge River from the other side of the Sugar Maple loop.

We just did the short 0.4 mile Sugar Maple Loop today, as I only had an hour for lunch. It was really pretty and we want to come back after work one day to see what animals are active in the early evening, as well as spend more time in the back half to see if we can spot our mink friend again.

I love seeing all the different colors of green!

This was a very BIG bee on this flower. It’s in an area of the nature center which has been planted as a monarch butterfly migration station.

I love when parks make boards like this to help people know what kinds of flowers and plants are indigenous to the area, and to promote planting native plants in gardens. Sometimes, you will see a companion board, where they will inform you of invasive species in the area and ask people visiting the park to help remove the invasive species if they are seen during your walk.

This was just a quick out and back visit, but we had a lot of fun. It was great to take a break and get away from the house for a bit, as well as to enjoy the warm, sunny, non-humid weather while we have it!

You can now listen to our blog via our podcast! It is available from Anchor via Spotify, but we are also working to get it published to other podcast platforms. Don’t worry, we will be working on our audio quality as we go! Enjoy!

In Search of Fall Colors Paroxysm of Giggles

This episode is also available as a blog post:
  1. In Search of Fall Colors
  2. Stage Nature Center

Golf Newbie!

In the beginning of our relationship, we talked about playing games together, and Donald wanted to teach me how to play cribbage.

We bought a cribbage set and would play every so often.

A couple of weeks ago, I brought up that I remembered having fun playing Gin Rummy with my Dad as a kid. We looked up how to play on YouTube and played a couple times.

This afternoon, after work, I felt like learning a new card game. I was anticipating researching one online, but Donald had a suggestion ready to go: Golf. He remembers playing it with his Dad.

It is kind of like a game of Memory, as you keep your set of 4 cards face down and have the opportunity to swap one out each turn, but have to remember what you had. The goal is to have less points than your opponent. When you think you are as low as you can go (or lower than your competitors), you can “knock,” which signals the last round. Then, all players turn over their cards and count the points. Number cards are their value, Aces =1, J and Q are 10, and K=0.

Donald is both lucky and a great strategist. It looked while playing that he had a commanding lead over me. But when the round of Golf (9 “holes”) was completed, he had won by the slimmest of margins! 😀

Gameplay is very quick and the game is easy to learn. We will have to teach this to Gabby when we are in town; that little card sharp will love it!

Beef Stew

I started by combining 1/4 c flour with a tablespoon of pepper and some salt in a mixing bowl. I added the beef stew meat and mixed until it was coated on all sides. I added some canola oil to a skillet and cooked the meat to get brown on all edges.

I added McCormick beef stew seasoning and 3 c water to the slow cooker, then added in the beef. I put the slow cooker on high while I prepped the veggies.

I cut up 5 carrots and 1/2 bag of small potatoes into bite sized pieces and boiled them until tender in chicken stock (I didn’t have any beef stock). When they were done, I added them, the chicken stock and the rest of the flour mixture to the slow cooker and let it cook on high for 4-6 hours.

We served the stew over some jasmine rice. It was delicious and we had enough leftovers for another meal.

Funeral Preparations/Plans

I originally had these plans listed on a separate page at the top of my blog under “The Bucket List,” when my terminal illness loomed more menacingly and present before me. However, I’ve been feeling great for a while and things do not seem to be progressing, so I’d rather file these away under a standard post that people can look for if needed and repurpose my Bucket List into an actual list of things to do and see. 😊 Below is the un-updated funeral plans. Remind me at some point to update them.

Okay, so Fr. JJ thinks that I should have a “Bucket List,” a list of the things that I would like to do before I die.  Fr. John thinks that it is a good idea to plan for your funeral.

Here is as good a place as any to do that, I suppose, so that people can just look it up online, instead of trying to find that one scrap of paper where I would have scribbled this stuff down. 

Funeral Songs:
The Servant Song
Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee (or one of the other Ode to Joy variants)
Here I Am, Lord
Taste and See

Divine Mercy Chaplet: There’s not a place for this in the Funeral Mass, but as a rule, I prefer it sung. I don’t know the words otherwise. 😂

I.  Vigil for the Deceased

Opening Prayer A:

Lord our God,
the death of our sister, Jenn
recalls our human condition
and the brevity of our lives on earth.
But for those who believe in your love
death is not the end,
nor does it destroy the bonds
that you forge in our lives.
We share the faith of your Son’s disciples
and the hope of the children of God.
Bring the light of Christ’s resurrection
to this time of testing and pain
as we pray for Jenn and for those who love her,
through Christ our Lord.

Liturgy of the Word:

1st Reading:  ?  (Sir2:1-11, Jer 31:10-14)

Psalm:  ?

Gospel:  ?


Concluding Prayer A:

Lord Jesus, our Redeemer,
you willingly gave yourself up to death,
so that all might be saved and pass from death to life.
We humbly ask you to comfort your servants in their grief
and to receive Jenn into the arms of your mercy.
You alone are the Holy One,
you are mercy itself;
by dying you unlocked the gates of life for those who believe in you.
Forgive Jenn her sins,
and grant her a place of happiness, light, and peace
in the kingdom of your glory for ever and ever.

II.  Funeral Liturgy — MASS!!!

Processional Song:  Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee

Opening Prayer B

O God,
to whom mercy and forgiveness belong,
hear our prayers on behalf of your servant Jenn,
whom you have called out of this world;
and because she put her hope and trust in you,
command that she be carried safely home to heaven
and come to enjoy your eternal reward.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Liturgy of the Word:

1st Reading:  Ezek 34:11-16 (or 11-31)

Psalm:  118 This is the Day

2nd Reading:  James 5:13-16

Gospel:  John 10:1-18, 25-30

Homily:  Fr. John

Intercessions:  ?

Liturgy of the Eucharist:

Eucharistic Prayer for Masses for Various Needs and Occasions:
III. Jesus, Way to the Father

It is truly right and just,
our duty and our salvation
always and everywhere to give you thanks,
Father of holiness, Lord of heaven and earth,
through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Through your eternal Word you created all things
and govern their course with infinite wisdom.
In the Word made flesh
you have given us a mediator
who has spoken your words to us
and called us to follow him.
He is the way that leads to you,
the truth that sets us free,
the life that makes our joy complete.
Through your Son
you gather into one family
men and women created for the glory of your name,
redeemed by the blood of the cross,
and sealed with the Holy Spirit.

And so we praise your mighty deeds
and join with the hosts of angels,
as they proclaim your glory without end:

You are truly blessed, O God of holiness:
you accompany us with love
as we journey through life.
Blessed too is your Son, Jesus Christ,
who is present among us
and whose love gathers us together.
As once he did for his disciples,
Christ now opens the scriptures for us
and breaks the bread.

Keep your Church alert in faith to the signs of the times
and eager to accept the challenge of the gospel.
Open our hearts to the needs of all humanity,
so that sharing their grief and anguish,
their joy and hope,
we may faithfully bring them the good news of salvation
and advance together on the way to your kingdom.

Be mindful of our brothers and sisters
who have fallen asleep in the peace of Christ,
and all the dead whose faith only you can know.
Lead them to the fullness of the resurrection
and gladden them with the light of your face.

When our pilgrimage on earth is complete,
welcome us into your heavenly home,
where we shall dwell with you for ever.
There, with Mary, the Virgin Mother of God,
with the apostles, the martyrs,
[St. N.,] and all the saints,
we shall praise you and give you glory.
through Jesus Christ, your Son.

III.  Rite of Committal

Scripture Verse:  John 6:39

Concluding Prayer A:

God of holiness and power,
accept our prayers on behalf of your servant Jenn;
do not count her deeds against her,
for in her heart she desired to do your will.
As her faith united her to your people on earth,
so may your mercy join her to the angels in heaven.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

And I would really, really like Fr. John to do the homily.  It would be nice if Fr. John, Fr. JJ and Fr. Stanley were there.  And any of my other priests.  And the Pope — I like him.  Someone make sure to invite the Pope.  Thanks!

Pieta Casket

What else do I need to plan out? Suggestions and comments welcome in the comment box!

Early Morning at Lake Ella

We had talked about making nutrition and exercise a priority, and thought that – on an ideal day – we could go for a walk in the morning, hike a bit at a local park during lunchtime, and then get some additional activity after work (maybe another walk, tennis, swimming, etc.).

We were both up early this morning and were still motivated for this, so Donald made us coffee and put it in travel mugs, and we drove over to Lake Ella. It is about 0.6 miles to walk around the lake, so that was our goal for the morning.

All of the Crêpe Myrtle trees were flowering and so pretty! We want to learn more about the flora and fauna we see around us, and become more familiar about what is indigenous and what is invasive to Tallahassee/Northern Florida. I did just a quick search, and it appears that the variety of Myrtle trees which have white flowers are known as Natchez Crêpe Myrtles (sometimes spelled Crape, but I prefer the French spelling 😉).

It was a beautiful sunrise, and many of the ducks and geese had little baby ducklings and goslings following them around. Lake Ella is known for its population of Muscovy ducks, but they also have common Mallards and Canadian geese. According to All About Birds, male Muscovy Ducks frequently mate with other species and often produce sterile hybrid offspring – we think that we have seen some of these hybrids around the lake!

We’ve been to and around Lake Ella dozens of times so far, but this is the first time I was paying attention enough to the signage to see that there was a map of the area! What we did take more notice of was the proliferation of Spin scooters in the area. There was a *lot* more scooters around the park now than before we left for Michigan. It’s as if they knew we are a little hesitant to ride them again (at least not before we get helmets!) after my tumble, and they are trying to entice us to ride them. 😊

This is probably one of my favorite views of Lake Ella. I love all of the Spanish moss in the trees!

After our leisurely stroll around the lake, sipping on our homemade coffees, we headed back home to start the work day. Mornings here tend to be a little cooler and less humid, so they are great for taking walks outside. We both really enjoyed our outing and hope to do it more frequently. Such a great start to the day: caffeine, exercise, fresh air, and beautiful views!

A New Chapter Begins at Elinor Park!

Today was our first full day back in Tallahassee after an extended stay in Michigan. Donald woke up happy and excited to get back to some of our routines.

Recently, we celebrated 6 months since I showed up on his doorstep unexpectedly. The next day, Donald took me to Elinor Knapp-Phipps park, which is nearby and one of his favorite parks to go hiking and enjoy nature.

So when lunchtime came and he asked me where I wanted to go, I picked Elinor. On the way, we talked about how this felt like a new chapter for us, and discussed some goals we had. We both want to use this feeling of a new chapter to motivate us to exercise more and establish more of a routine to our days. We want to track my diabetes more closely and spend more time reflecting on our days and recording the everyday adventures that we cherish so much.

Florida winters are far from barren, unlike Michigan, where most of the trees lose their leaves and the days are frequently overcast and cold. When we left, the Florida forests were beginning to brighten with the bright green of new growth and the azaleas and dogwood trees were blooming.

Being back, we noticed that the wooded areas have filled out to become even more lush with vegetation and there is so much more green to see wherever you look.

The weather was beautiful! It got up to 93 degrees today and was a little humid. We definitely worked up a sweat hiking around, but it was so worth it! The air was filled with the sound of cicadas and cardinals as we walked and bright green dragonflies flitted around.

I opened my Merlin app to identify some of the other bird calls we were hearing. We heard:

  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Great Crested Flycatcher
  • Carolina Wren
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Northern Cardinal
  • White-eyed Vireo
  • Northern Parula

We saw a small black and white woodpecker and spent a bit of time trying to see the Northern Parula. The app showed it as being a bright colored bird with a yellow belly and teal body. We never saw it, but we knew the general area it was in: about mid-height on a tree about 20 feet into the tree line.

The magnolias were so pretty with their dark and light, glossy leaves. This orange flower was all alone on the side of the path.

We came upon this field just as we decided to turn around to head back. We would have loved to stay longer, but somehow the lunch hour had come to a close and it was time to get back to the work day.

We both really enjoy getting out into nature and hiking around whenever we can.

After I finished work, we were going to take a swim in the pool, but it was closed. We ended up switching gears and playing tennis. It was warm and sweaty, but it felt so good to play together again.

Overall, it has been a fantastic day! We are hoping to get some movement in 3 times tomorrow: before work, lunchtime, and after work.

I can’t imagine anyone else I’d rather adventure through life with. Donald, you are the best, and I love you! 😘❤️ I can’t wait to see what this new chapter holds for us!