Tulip Timing is Everything Thursday, May 5 2022 

Have you ever experienced a time when everything you did turned out perfectly? You set out for an adventure, and with each step, you happened to be at the most opportune moment for the ultimate outcome. Everything you hoped for fell right into place.

Well, this week, my boyfriend and I went on a quick three-day get-away, and most everything we experienced, wasn’t that. In fact, the trip was quite disappointing.

Paul and I drove about three and a half hours to Holland, Michigan, a sweet little town on the east side of Lake Michigan. The plan was to enjoy the views and experiences of Holland a few days before their annual tulip festival. We imagined discovering a tulip haven, a mini paradise with tulips growing everywhere prior to the expected crowds.

We arrived late afternoon on Monday and checked into the Staybridge Suites on James Street. The hotel was very nice with friendly, accommodating staff. We had a full kitchen with counter seating, a sitting room, and a comfortable bed. The price was reasonable as our reservation was a bit off-season, and they offered a military discount. So far, so good.

We unpacked and went out to find a restaurant. Initially, we only spotted fast-food chains, which rarely are our food of choice. Google showed most of the local restaurants to be on a main strip, but with so many one-way streets, it was tricky to get there. We could see where we wanted to go but had difficulty figuring out how to get there. Later, we learned that U-turns are a thing in Michigan for just this reason.

When we arrived at the four-block downtown area on 8th Street, our next challenge was to search for a parking lot that had an open spot that wasn’t reserved. After touring several of the area’s public lots, we finally found a space and walked over to a lovely street with trees in bloom and attractive shops.

Restaurants were scattered throughout. To our dismay, they were closed on Mondays. At the end of the downtown area, we found an Irish Pub that was open. Damp and chilled from the drizzling rain, tired, and very hungry having only eaten snacks all day, we got a comfy table by the fireplace. A friendly waitress served us a couple of beers and a delicious, hearty dinner of Irish stew for me and shepherd’s pie for Paul. Rejuvenated, we were ready to go again.

Since tulips were the reason we ventured to Holland, we headed out to the main parks. We expected the town to be decked out in the blooms. Surprisingly, few homes showcased them. More tulips are blooming in my own neighborhood.

The main location to see tulips in Holland is Windmill Island Gardens. Unfortunately, we arrived a few minutes after 5pm and were told that the last tickets for the day were sold. The ticket vendor said that we could come back after 6pm when the windmill closed (a key viewing spot) and wander through the gardens. However, she added there was little to see. Because of the unusually cold and rainy weather, only about 25% of the tulips were open.

The lady suggested we check out a nearby park called Window on the Waterfront that had more open buds. The tulip photos shown here were taken at that park. The location claims 100,000 tulips. The winding paths were pretty, but it was difficult to take a photo that didn’t include the cars and buildings on the streets surrounding it. And much like Windmill Island Gardens, the majority of tulips were yet to open.

We woke Tuesday morning to heavy rain, and the forecast stated it would continue like that all day. We searched online for museums only to find ones of interest were not open. We did try one that some online information indicated was open. After running through a downpour from the lot behind the building to the museum door in front, we discovered it was closed until Friday.

Soaked and frustrated, we decided to pack up and return home. Paul was just getting over a bad cold, and the weather was not good for him especially. Plus, I had a work event to attend on Thursday and a meeting on Friday.

The drive home took us two extra hours due to the weather and a truck accident, which thankfully, did not include us. We crawled in traffic long enough for me to read through my hundreds of emails.

In retrospect, we should have done more research on the sites and restaurants in Holland, their hours and days of operation as well as ticket prices, and considered the weather forecast. We also could have checked this online tulip tracker to learn how many flowers were currently in bloom. No doubt, the parks will be beautiful next week.

Holland wasn’t what we expected but probably is a good destination for young families. The beaches along Lake Macatawa are said to be clean and fun. There also are some activities, such as the wooden shoe factory and Nelis’ Dutch Village, a cute, albeit small, Dutch-themed park that young children would enjoy.

Do you have any advice on where to or not to go for a little getaway? I’d love to hear about it.

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Alzheimer’s disease is frighteningly common. Help out your friends who care for loved ones with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Give them the gift of information and understanding with the books, The Alzheimer’s Spouse, Navigating Alzheimer’s, and the Inspired Caregiver.

Thanksgiving Mussels Monday, Nov 23 2020 

The aroma of turkey roasting in the oven along with stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie lures us to the kitchen every Thanksgiving. However, this traditional meal has evolved since the first historic dinner. According to the pilgrim writer, Edward Winslow, crustaceans and mollusks were an important part of that first feast.

Europeans ventured through North America and established settlements since the 1500s. Friendly and hostile interaction with indigenous people occurred from the beginning. The holiday we celebrate today goes back to an event between the English setters who landed in Plymouth in 1620 and wanted to give thanks sometime in the fall of 1621 for their first abundant harvest and the assistance of their neighbors.

The little documentation we have tells of a three-day celebration between 90 Wampanoag indigenous people and about 50 English settlers. The food was prepared by the only four women (Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster, and Susanna White) who survived the Mayflower voyage and first year in the New World. Young daughters and male and female servants likely assisted the women.

In addition to crustaceans, mollusks, and fish, one account states that the settlers hunted for fowl for the celebration. They returned with turkeys, venison, ducks, geese, and swans. Herbs, onions, and nuts were added to the meat before roasting.

Local vegetables likely included onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, and carrots. Corn was ground, boiled, and pounded into a thick porridge that may have been sweetened with molasses. Neither white nor sweet potatoes were yet available in the area.

Fruits indigenous to the region included blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries, raspberries, and cranberries. The pilgrim’s sugar supply was depleted by then, so no sugared cranberry sauce reached their table that year.

The settlers also lacked butter and wheat flour to make pie crust. That prevented pie or bread stuffing from being on the menu. Nor did they have ovens for baking. Some accounts do say that early English settlers in North America roasted pumpkins by filling the shells with milk, honey, and spices and baked the pumpkins in hot ashes.

Although the holiday did, and continues to center on food, the occasion was to show gratitude. This year has been a tough one for so many, but we likely have things to be thankful for, none-the-less. It’s a good idea to take a few moments this week to recognize our gifts and give thanks.

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Looking for gift ideas for caregivers? How about the uplifting book, Inspired Caregiving, or The Alzheimer’s Spouse, or Navigating Alzheimer’s?

Do you know there’s a New Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Sweet Twisted History Wednesday, Dec 12 2018 

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With the progression of the seasons comes the move from everything pumpkin to everything peppermint. But if the iconic Christmas peppermint candy canes aren’t your thing, you can appease your sweet tooth with your choice of an array of other flavors. Sour Patch, Jolly Ranchers, Orange Crush, and A&W are some, as well as–believe it or not–rotisserie chicken and pickle.

Legends about the origins of candy canes link a preacher and his lessons on Christianity to the candy. The story is that candy canes were designed with red to represent Jesus’ blood, white for the Resurrection, and the J-shape for the name, Jesus.

None of this is true, but it didn’t stop an elementary school principle in Nebraska from banning candy canes for these reasons. Most likely, the basis of the legend came from someone who indeed did use candy canes to teach about Jesus, but artwork shows images of candy canes long before these stories first circulated.

White, straight candy sticks date to the 17th century and came in several flavors, including mint. The twist of red and white began showing up around the turn of the 20th century. And the hook shape may have begun as a means to hang them on decorated Christmas trees, a German custom that became more popular when Queen Victoria and her German husband displayed them in their home in the mid-1800s.

What’s your favorite flavor? I’m still a traditionalist and like the peppermint, especially  when it’s crushed and mixed with white chocolate.

(Have you seen my latest posts on my other blog including: Save it For Those Who Listen, Soulful Connections, and The Alzheimer’s Teacher?)

Stop! Reflect! Give Thanks! Wednesday, Nov 23 2016 

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I’m not one to long for the past. My life’s been a mix of extremes—excellent and dreadful times. I look back on the good ones with gratitude and prefer not to relive those that were difficult.

However, I do miss the Thanksgivings of my childhood. Thanksgiving weekend was relaxing. We laid around through the weekend, savored the leftovers, watched tv, and visited friends and family. We were happy doing nothing! The Christmas chaos didn’t begin for weeks.

There’s no down time anymore. We clear the lavish Thanksgiving table without digesting that last piece of pumpkin pie, and are off and running through the New Year. There’s so much to do: shopping, wrapping, card writing, baking, cooking, and partying.

Please don’t let this very important holiday pass without a moment of pause. Reflect on our abundance and give thanks. Acknowledge our many blessings and appreciate the food and friendship around us. These are the riches of life.

The Dawn of Spring Saturday, Mar 19 2016 

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Color returning to our baby’s cheeks. The price of gasoline going down. Greenery poking through the dark earth. We search for signs of hope, and the dawn of spring does that in the gentlest ways.

Today marks the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere, its earliest arrival since 1896. The season corresponds with the vernal equinox, the day when day and night are nearly the same. Equinox comes from the Latin aequus and nox, meaning equal night. Earth’s two hemispheres receive the sun’s rays nearly the same amount of time because the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun. The equinox occurs at the identical moment worldwide regardless of the time on the clock.

Nature responds to the increasing sunlight with birds singing, trees budding, crocus blooming, and temperatures climbing. Resurrection, new beginnings, and life anew. Our spirit is lifted in anticipation of happy, sunny days.

©2016, Mary K Doyle

What a Woman Wants Saturday, Feb 13 2016 

 

IMG_1649Heads up guys—I have the secret for making your Valentine very happy.

The days of my husband, Marshall, showering me with lavish gifts are long gone. No more jewelry, flowers, or chocolates from my sweetheart. But he does give me everything I need from him.

Marshall was a generous gift-giver. He showered his loved ones with extravagant treats and never hesitated to pick up the dinner tab. The more money he made, the more he gave. He spoiled all of us, and himself, without going beyond his means. He gave what he had when he had it.

He’s been retired a decade, and unaware of the meaning of Valentine’s Day for many years. He still tells me he’d “like to do something nice for me.” But because of Alzheimer’s disease, those thoughts are fleeting and have no connection to significant occasions on the calendar. He no longer can show me how he feels with store-bought gifts.

What he does do is to tell me how he feels. Repeatedly he tells me how much he loves me and what I mean to him. Today he said that he lives for me. How romantic is that?

What a woman wants is to feel special. We want to know that our man holds us close to his heart. My love has done that for me every day since the day we met. No present is better than that.

So my suggestion to you is to say those things you hold in your heart. We need to hear it, even if we know. Don’t hold back this Valentine’s Day. Tell the one you love how dear they are to you.

And give her a little something to open. Those “I love yous” don’t get the rest of you off-the-hook for a gift.

©2016, Mary K. Doyle

 

How to Keep That Resolution Thursday, Dec 31 2015 

Tonight’s the night to begin anew. The approach of the New Year raises hopes for better living, and we do this with resolutions, our part in making a change.

British psychologist Richard Wiseman found through his research that only 12% of us actually follow through with our resolutions. He also found why those who did succeed were able to do so. Surprisingly, our willpower had little to do with it.

Here are a few of the steps found to be effective:

  • Make only one resolution.
  • Write it down.
  • Set specific deadlines for small steps along the way.
  • Publicly declare your resolution. Telling friends and family makes us more accountable.
  • Reward yourself as you progress.
  • Don’t quit. If you stumble, pick yourself up and move forward

My resolution is to live healthier. One of the ways I’m doing this is by using skin and beauty products without harmful chemicals. Beauty Counter uses as many natural and organic ingredients as possible. Any synthetics are carefully researched to ensure safety. These items are some of the safest for consumers and the environment available anywhere. And they are effective and luxurious.

Thank you to my daughter, Lisa, for leading me to Beauty Counter. Why not check out their line for yourself?

Good luck on making your own resolutions!

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

What Time Is It? Saturday, Nov 21 2015 

My apologies for the lapse in posting. The last month and a half flew by vacationing with one of my daughters and her family; preparing for two different 75 minute talks, working a booth and presenting at a conference in California; revising one of my books; enjoying time with my son who was in town; and completing all the regular daily work, home, and family activities.

Time is a funny thing, isn’t it? Sometimes it speeds way past us. Other times it crawls slower than a turtle. The clock continuously clicks away at the same speed whether we are lost in a movie or worrying about our teenager out on a Saturday night. It isn’t time but our perception of it that changes with the events that are occurring.

Children perceive  the arrival of Christmas morning as endless, unlike middle-aged adults who feel like we just packed up those decorations. When we consider that a four-year old waited a quarter of their life for Christmas to come again, it’s easier to comprehend their anticipation.

The concept of time has intrigued philosophers since antiquity, although much remains unclear even today. Numerous in-depth studies have been made. Recent ones incorporate psychology, memory, biological functions, environmental changes, circadian rhythm, and the relationship between time as perceived and time as measured in physics.

Time is defined as the measured or measurable period during which an action, process, or condition exists or continues. It is the period when something occurs. Time is related to the complex experience of change. The succession of events and changes are separated by intervals called duration—such as the duration of a dinner, a walk through the park, or shaking someone’s hand.

Few durations are isolated. Most overlap. For example, we text while eating and listening to the radio.

We have no specific receptor for time, unlike our senses of taste, smell, hearing, and sight. Time perception is subjective. Psychologists believe there is a neurological system associated with sensory pathways governing the perception of time. It utilizes a distributed system in the brain. Since time cannot be directly perceived, it must be constructed.

The perception of time requires attention. New events appear to take longer because we must pay attention to them more intently. Older events are connected to our memory and already processed to some degree. Doesn’t it feel as if the trip going to a destination typically seems longer than the return home?

Attention to time comes with attention to the stream of time-data without losing concentration, which is why those with attention-deficit find it more challenging to gauge time correctly.

Time disorientation is common in people with Alzheimer’s disease. This probably is connected to the inability to concentrate as well as the mounting challenge of reading clues such as the rise and fall of the sun and hands on a clock. The person with Alzheimer’s only knows how it feels to them at the moment, since they increasingly live in the moment. For example, it may feel like we haven’t seen them in weeks when in reality, we just walked out the door. It may feel to them as if they showered moments ago, when they haven’t showered in days.

Metabolic rate also may affect the perception of time. The larger the animal, the slower their metabolic rate, and the quicker their perception of time. Smaller animals metabolize faster resulting in a slower perception of time allowing them to perceive more events in the same time span.

©2015, Mary K Doyle

Hard Baked Sunday, Mar 29 2015 

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One of the pressing questions of the week is how to make a perfect hard-boiled egg for the family Easter egg coloring marathon. A sure-proof option is not to boil at all. I recently was reminded that eggs can also be baked, as I used to do in the center of my braided Easter breads.

The traditional method of preparing eggs for coloring, or simply eating, is to either boil them until cooked or boil them for a few minutes and then allow cooking to continue in the water after removing the pot from the stove top. You can see the recipes in a previous post, (Hard Boiled, March 30, 2012).Unfortunately, we never know if the egg is under or over cooked until we break it open. Most often the yolk is too soft or dry and edged in green.

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Another option is to place the eggs in a muffin tin and bake at 325 for 30 minutes. I usually buy brown eggs, but you will want white ones if you plan on coloring them. Remove and immediately submerge the eggs in ice water.

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If your oven is calibrated correctly, the eggs will be perfectly baked. The only draw back is that the egg whites get brown spots on them.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

 

Friendship, Love, and Loyalty Saturday, Mar 14 2015 

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Shamrocks are perhaps the most common symbol of the Irish, but Claddaghs can’t be far behind. Americans from all nationalities are familiar with the intricate design, most often seen on rings, but it’s doubtful many know what it represents, much less how to say it.

The word Claddagh, pronounced klah-duh, is rich in meaning and tradition. The full Gaelic name actually is fainne Claddagh and symbolizes elements of a long-lasting relationship, specifically friendship, love, and loyalty. With these three qualities, all else, such as respect, compassion, patience, and understanding, are sure to follow. Since Roman times Irish mothers have handed down their Claddagh to their daughters in hopes that they find true love.

The Claddagh is comprised of three elements: hands which represent friendship; a heart for love; and a crown for loyalty. How the ring is worn also is symbolic:

  • If you are available and looking, the heart points toward the world and away from you.
  • If your heart has been taken, the ring’s heart points toward you.

The story is that the first Claddagh ring was designed by a young man in ancient times from the village of Claddagh, Ireland who was separated from his beloved when he was captured and sold into slavery. While in captivity, he stole small amounts of gold from his master until he had enough to fashion the special ring. When the two were finally reunited, the young man was delighted to find his lady had waited for him. He gave her the ring as a sign of their enduring love.

©2015, Mary K. Doyle

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