Goal: Increasing the Fun Level

This past weekend my goal was to do at least one fun, unexpected thing each day. Mission accomplished. It is too easy to fill free hours with errands, busywork, chores.   Recent life events made me realize that I need to grab a hold of my time when I can, not let my life slip away.  Some weekends are scheduled from start to finish, some productive, but hopefully there is some time to explore, enjoy.

I spent an evening socializing with friends, saw Bad Moms with a neighbor (very funny, from someone who endured the PTO Primadonnas), gardened, walked my dogs, went out to eat.

One of the highlights was biking in the Lake County Forest Preserve. It was a gorgeous morning and so reminded me of my childhood. Eight friends on bikes, riding for miles while laughing, reminiscing, planning, joking, only one getting lost for a brief few minutes. No real schedule, no set plans, other than to enjoy our morning, leaving all responsibilities behind.

 

 

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Can you spot the 3 sandhill cranes?   

And the weekend is upon us again. So I shall set the same goal—do one spontaneous thing each day. Try it.  And let me know what new experiences you have!

C

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Become a Child Again, Time Permitting.

Schedules, lists, calendars. They rule our daily lives, with some deadlines and events unmovable and others set arbitrarily in our minds. (you know, the to-do lists and laundry that MUST get done on a gorgeous day).

As we become adults with more responsibilities, I think it’s easy to become more rigid in our routines, our expectations of completing “tasks” and reaching goals. We can easily lose our sense of childlike adventure and impromptu schedule changes. I am starting to reclaim that whimsical side, and the results have been….fun.

Be spontaneous—take an opportunity to change your course. What will you find? It can be a simple reward, the hummingbird who enjoys my flowers while we sit on the front porch. It can be so much more, too. Freedom. Memories.

This weekend we stopped into a new distillery in town that was extremely fun, warm, welcoming, and served up some delicious cocktails. We will be back.

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The Copper Fiddle.  Lake Zurich, IL

And an unplanned invitation to ride on a neighbor’s boat after kayaking turned into an extremely fun evening with new and old friends.

Realistically, I know that I won’t be able to grab these moments every day. Heck, even be offered them that frequently. Some days truly are scheduled from before wake up to bedtime. But I have become more flexible when I CAN change my schedule. I find that the more I do the unexpected, the more moments of chance encounters appear.   Or maybe I am just more aware of them.

Perhaps wanting to embrace new opportunities has even subconsciously encouraged me to handle those “to do” lists in a more effective manner. Summer is arriving soon—make it a summer goal to be more free spirited. Find some chance moments to explore your locale—solo, with friends, with family. Hopefully, you won’t end up wishing you had done more this summer when autumn arrives. Summer will feel well-lived.

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Often my fave moments are found on that road less travelled.  Photo taken by me outside Scottsdale, AZ.

C

17 Ways to Cheaply Escape the February Rut

Mid-winter in the midwest. Humdrum. I am ready for a few changes at the start of the second month of the new year.

We get so caught up in our daily schedules, they become rote and we exist instead of live. How can we make small changes to improve our curiosity and mood, separate the hours, the days? Here is a starter list I created of simple, no cost or inexpensive ways we can entice more enthusiasm out of the lengthening but still cold, grey days:

  1. Drive a different route to your every day destinations.
  2. Move furniture in your house, either around one room or swap furniture from one room to another. Or buy a few new pillows, swap out your artwork or photos on display.
  3. Paint a neutral wall/room an inviting color.
  4. Cook one new recipe each week for a month.
  5. Start a jigsaw or crossword puzzle. Color.
  6. Try a new class at the gym or online exercise video.
  7. If you can, change up where you work. A different office, library, coffee shop.
  8. Clean out your closet. Donate unworn items to charity.
  9. After completing #8, find new combinations of your existing clothes to wear.
  10. Order something new at a coffee shop or restaurant.
  11. Invite over an eclectic group of friends for an evening of fun. Ask them to bring a board game, appetizer, or bottle of wine to share.
  12. Go to the movies during daylight hours. Eat popcorn for lunch or dinner, preferably with M&M’s© mixed in.
  13. Read a book from a new genre for you, free from your local library or neighbors.
  14. Dance or sing out loud! (alone or with your kids or friends, no judgement allowed)
  15. Walk or bike outside somewhere new, on a clear day. Forest preserve, a beach, a neighborhood not your own.
  16. Smile and say hi to a stranger. Better yet, start a conversation with them.
  17. Visit a local town center or city you don’t really know. Chicago has lots of free museum days in February, if you live nearby. Combine with #10 above to learn it’s flavor, literally.

Get out of the winter rut I know many of my friends and I are experiencing. Just pick one item on this list and do it! Feel free to comment with other ideas you think would be fun to try.

C

Perfect New York Visit

Hello, lonely blog.  Summer used to be a slow, lazy time for families. No more.  Between working overtime, kids choosing to continue sports camps, family obligations, volunteering, and blistering hot  weather, it feels only like a slow-motion of the school year.  Since we did not have a long summer trip planned, I took my girls with me to New York for a business trip and play weekend.  It was wonderful to spend time with them when there was no sports tournament, no college visits, no homework.

Here are 8 highlights (non-work-related) from our recent trip:

8. The only perfect-summer-weather for 6 consecutive days this year. Fantastic for walking the Highline or taking photos on the final day of the year to take pics between the buildings.

Sunset view in NYC

7. Friendly, sometimes unusual people sparking up conversations in taxis, hotels, shops, the park, coffee shops.

6. Eating a different ethnic food daily–Greek, Thai, Italian, Mexican. Some our own finds, some recommendations from friends.

5. Friends sharing our hotel for a night, with a day walking from Central Park to Rockefeller Plaza and beyond, sharing appetizers and drink at the lively Eataly before dinner.

Yummy fresh cheese, meats, fruits and wine at Eataly.

4. A day of sight seeing at Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and WTC Memorial.  A ferry ride, lots of walking, a bit of learning, no teenage complaints.

3. Shopping, shopping, shopping at familiar stores, one-of-a-kind places, in So-Ho, Chelsea, Times Square, Fifth Ave and everywhere in between.

2. Seeing the fantastic Tony-award winning play “Once” on Broadway , then watching the girls’ faces as we exited the theatre, walking into Times Square the first time nearing midnight.  The masses, the lights, the chaos.  Then seeing Steve Kazee, the “Once” lead several days later by the theater, chatting and taking photos with him.

1. Spending unhurried, explorative days with my two daughters in such a phenomenal city as New York.  It’s a trip we will always remember taking together.  one day off work felt a week to me.  C

Summer Festivals!

Local festivals rock.  Go explore one this summer, whether it’s theme is art, a specific food (ice cream, corn, garlic), a region, music, sports, some fictional character, a hobby.  Yesterday my daughter Devon, her friend Courtney and I went to the Long Grove Strawberry Festival, right up the road from us.  The main goal was to see my friend Cindy’s band Centerfold Band play on the center stage–they were awesome, belting out  many familiar songs– but we had a great time experiencing the entire event.

Centerfold Band

Long Grove has been hit HARD by this economy.  Many of the stalwart shops have closed, leaving barren windows during the week, but yesterday the traffic was halted, the paths teeming with families. It was wonderful to see such a variety of people mixing, laughing, sharing a drink, fresh strawberries, listening to live music, spending money in the shops, the booths and the restaurants.

Gorgeous chocolate covered strawberries!

We all saw people we knew, other friends joined us, we chatted and laughed with people we just met. I found a new clothing shop I will definitely return to, on a quieter day. And we bought gifts in a couple familiar places.

If we all visited one local festival this summer, we would support our small businesses, encourage new development, learn about local bands and artists, bond with our neighbors, spend time with our families and–most importantly–have inexpensive FUN in our backyard or a short drive away,  rummaging  through a new area.  Be inspired by the day, the unexpected, the laughter.  C

fruit for sale!