40Gal Bucket List

A list of life's 'to-do's' before turning 50 … our journey of gettin' stuff done

Archive for the tag “Bucket List”

Love Shack


Gingerbread houses are soooo 2 months ago, but because gingerbread is one of my husband’s favorite treats, I decided to give him a Love Shack he will never forget for Valentine’s Day.


It was a big hit and a check off my Bucket List (although secretly I want to make one from scratch one day too – this was a kit from Trader Joes).  Now I just need to get that song out of my head!


Bagpipes, Burns and Haggis

I love when a Bucket List item goes above and beyond my expectations. It’s happened a few times. Once when checking Indiana off my list and instead of just visiting Indiana, I walked into a Civil War reenactment! And just last week, when I just wanted a taste of Scotland at The Highlands, a NYC Scottish Restaurant, I instead got a full Scottish experience: bagpipes, poetry, whisky, kilts and Scots included.

I had never tasted Scottish food and in fact, I am not sure how to even describe Scottish food, but when I saw that OpenTable had an open table for a special event called a Burns Supper at The Highlands I booked a reservation. It was a prix fixe meal and event celebrating Robert Burns, a man I never knew I knew.

robert burnsSo Robert Burns? He is known as the national poet of Scotland and turned 258 on January 25. To a little ole American girl like me, he’s the guy who wrote “Auld Lang Syne.” Ah, yes, I know him! A Burns Supper celebrates the life and works of Robert Burns on his birthday and is a yearly event in Scotland and Ireland and has been since the end of the 18th century. The Burns Supper consists of readings of his poetry, bagpipe entertainment, a traditional Scottish meal, and toast to the Lassies.

poetry readingBefore our meal was served by our Scottish waiter/host in kilt we first were read a traditional Scottish Grace and then we were entertained by the most serious of musicians, a bagpiper. He marched up and down the tiny aisle expressionless and winded, which I suppose is the point. He was impressive.


The menu was outlined for us, which was perfect since I had no clue what I would have ordered. In fact, even after reading the menu, I still had no clue what I was about to eat. Really, what is Haggis?


Our food finally arrived …

Course 1: Smoked Salmon

Course 1: Smoked Salmon

The Smoked Salmon came first.  I could taste the freshness, but I just don’t like salmon.  Second was the Cullen Skink which is a soup, a  very hearty soup, perfect for the cold winter’s day.  Tasted like a creamy potato soup.  The main meal of Haggis with Neeps and Tatties finally arrived.  Neeps and Tatties are Turnips and Potatoes – easy enough and delicious!  Now on to the Haggis.  Why did we ask, I do not know, but once we understood what we were eating we proceeded with caution.  This how Wikipedia describes haggis:  “savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck (heart, liver and lungs); minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach and simmered for approximately three hours.”  Our waiter pretty much described it the same way; however, ours was made with lamb liver and they now cook it differently since FDA banned cooking haggis in the “casing of the animal’s stomach” in the 1990’s.  

Course 2: Cullen Skink

Course 2: Cullen Skink

Well now, I supposed that’s good news. So what did it taste like?  To be honest, I liked it.  It was a little greasy, and the lamb taste, which I do not like lamb, was hidden by all the spices they use.  It was good and if I didn’t know what it was before I ate it, I probably would have enjoyed it more.  It reminded my of my Mom’s eggplant dressing she makes for Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving makes me happy, so I suppose Haggis makes me happy too.  So, it’s not as scary and disgusting as it sounds.  I recommend you try.  Finally dessert, my favorite course!  The Cranachan was a very light and refreshing dessert of raspberries and cream.  And the Salted Dark Chocolate Bark which is not picture, but you know what it looks like, right?  Oh delicious, but really, it’s chocolate.  Yum!

Course 3: Haggis with Neeps and Tatties

Course 3: Haggis with Neeps and Tatties

Course 4: Cranachan

Course 4: Cranachan

The dinner was exception and the experience was more than I could have ever imagined.  To learn about  Robert Burns and to participate in a Burns Supper is to experience Scotland. 

To conclude the evening and the Burns Supper (and this post) we were entertained with the familiar, “Auld Lang Syne.”

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never thought upon;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet Heart now grown so cold,
that loving Breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old long syne.


On Old long syne my Jo,On Old long syne,That thou canst never once reflect,On Old long syne.

February: Love & Marriage

love and marriage

With Valentine’s Day 2 weeks away, February is the perfect month to focus on love and marriage.  I feel very lucky and blessed as my marriage is strong and healthy, but of course, like all couples, we have our challenges.  And after 2 ½ years of marriage, we are drawing near to the time when we could start taking each other for granted.  I don’t think we are there just yet and I hope this month’s Happiness Project of focusing on Love & Marriage will help us maintain our strong bond.

So this month I have decided to focus on 5 Daily Goals:

  1. Say Hello & Goodbye with the 6 sec Hug: This one is so simple and from what I read it can really make a difference in any relationship. My husband is the love of my life and I am genuinely happy when he gets home and a little sad when he leaves, so why don’t I greet him and send him off to tackle his day with a big hug and kiss to let him know how I feel?  It would make him feel happy, and I bet it will make me feel happy too.  Oh and the 6 sec hug?  “It’s the minimum time necessary to promote the flow of oxytocin and serotonin, mood-boosting chemicals that promote bonding.” This I learned from The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.
  2. Share Gratitude: Remembering daily what you are grateful for is definitly a key to happiness.  I have started my very own Gratitude journal/app so I can remind myself of the sunsets, snow days and kind strangers that made my day special, but what about reminding myself daily what I am grateful for in my marriage? What impact would this have my relationship and on my happiness?
  3. No TV in the Bedroom: TV in the bedroom means no intimacy. TV must be turned off.
  4. Walk and Fall in Love:  When my husband and I were ‘courting’ we would walk and talk for hours, it was during these walks that I fell in love with my him.  That is how we got to really know each other and I really enjoyed that one-on-one time; I know he enjoyed it too. Long walks to nowhere is a bit more difficult now in Austin rather than back in NYC, but we do have a neighborhood behind us that we can stroll in the evenings   at least once a week.  I hope my husband is up for the walk!
  5. Be Present:  I learned from reading The Happiness Project that men and women view intimacy differently.  “Women’s idea of an intimate moment is a face-to-face conversation, while men feel close when they work or play sitting alongside someone.” Hummm, well this could explains why my husband will often give me a look, or ask if something is wrong when I am on my phone at the same time we are watching a TV show together. He views this time together as intimacy, where I feel like it is just watching TV.  Ah!Ha! So when we sit together and watch Ghost Adventures or The Daily Show this is quality time.  I need to respect these moments, put the phone away and be present.

I am ready for February to focus on my marriage and my husband.  Let the lovin’ begin!

Happiness Project: January Review

January is coming to a close and it’s time for me to recap how I did with Month 1 of My Happiness Project.  Let’s see:

  1. Set the Day’s Schedule Daily: I think this particular goal was achieved due to a tiny little app I found while searching on iTunes: Any.Do. This app made my daily checklist easy to write, read, and check off!  And any recurring ‘to-do’s are already set on my calendar!  What a great find!


  1. Move Move Move!: I started going back to my favorite form of exercise: spin class and committed to 10,000 steps a day.  I am proud to say that I have been to spin class enough times that my special area no longer hurts and I did 10,000 step every day in the month of January except once while I was at a convention – by the time I realized that I did not meet my goal it was already passed midnight :-(  Oh well. But I walked 10,000 steps every other day of the month! Also, I found another handy app to help motivate me to move:  GymPact.  The way GymPact works is you set your goal and give it a dollar amount that you promise to pay if you don’t meet that goal.  At the week’s end, if you met your goal you pay nothing into the pot, but others on the app that did not meet their goal will have to pay. That money is then divvied up to all of the app users that accomplished their goal. I committed to working out 3 days a week and I did it every week this month! Money really does motivate! Try it out!


  1. Turn off the TV: I have been much better with this, but I still think there is improvement.  Over this last month I have turned the TV off after the Today Show and until I am done working, but then it is back on.  I think once it’s not 20 degrees out, maybe it won’t be as tempting, but for now, I’m enjoying re-runs of Friends on TBS.
  2. Don’t put off tomorrow what I can check off my ‘To-do’ list today: I did this … for the most part.  I mean, there are some items that I can just do tomorrow.  Ok, Ok, need to continue to work on this one.
  3. Clean my space: Clear my mind: I’ve been pretty good at this, but once my routine changes (like traveling for 2 weeks) I tend to get off track and need a few days to get back. Like today.  I still have a suitcase to unpack.  Damn, Ok need to work on this one too!

So my challenge of focusing on managing my time better and getting my energy back up is complete, but these action items will have to continue or really what’s the point? I do think it was helpful to have these typical New Year’s Resolutions disguised as a Happiness Project, because it felt less like I was trying to change something and more like I was trying to gain something – more happiness.  So did it work?  Well, while I may not have completed each task to the level I consider a success, I am proud of myself for trying and not quitting, and even now sharing this with you.  So that in itself has made me happier. Check!


My Birthday Bucket List Surprise


It was a cold December night and I was instructed to wear something comfortable and to make hot chocolate for our evening adventure. He wouldn’t tell me where we were going which made my birthday even more exciting! So all bundled up in the car we drove up to what looked like an abandoned parking lot near the old airport in Austin when all of a sudden a small sign came into sight. We were at the Blue Starlight Drive-In! Yeah! I love getting Bucket List surprises!

open screen

We drove straight to the blown up screen that was plopped in the middle of the parking lot. We were in the front row and immediately latched on the portable speaker to the window so we could hear the movie. We had blankets, hot chocolate, snacks and each other. It was the perfect Birthday date.

snacksBefore the movie, we enjoyed old commercials that were shown at drive-ins “back in the day” promoting the smallest portions of French fries, popcorn and soda. There was nothing supersized that is for sure! After watching cartoon characters dance around with nostalgic refreshments for about 10 minutes, we decided to venture out into the dark cold to the refreshment stand/camper that was not far away where we found 1950 portions of hot dogs, popcorn and soda waiting for us. So authentic and perfect! Just how I had imagined! Well, except the port-a-potties that were near-by. I didn’t imagine that I would have to pee in the dark confines of a plastic mobile (and stinky) toilet. But ya gotta do what ya gotta do!


Back in the car and all bundled up the movie finally started: Best in Show. Great movie! And for the double feature, we also watched Waiting for Guffman, not as good in my opinion, but still funny. It was time to head home. The surrounding cars lights started popping on and people drove off (well except for 2 cars that need jumper cables – oops) we followed.

This was definitely one of the most fun birthdays I have ever had and a Bucket List item was checked off! Thank you my love!

My Happiness Project

happiness project

The more I researched The Happiness Project, the more I realized I am already in the middle of my very own Happiness Project: My 40Gal Bucket List.   To me, they are very similar:  create a focus, work towards a goal, and joy follows.  The biggest difference is that The Happiness Project focuses on various areas of your life (home, marriage, money) and then create measurable action items to accomplish with the hopes that they will become a habit, where as a Bucket List is just that, a list of ‘to-do’s’ which will often be checked off never to re-visit again.  Both ‘projects’ I think are very beneficial. Obviously the Bucket List is something I cherish and it has brought me happiness, but what about the other ‘stuff’ I should to work on? Like home, marriage, money? With this said, I decided to embark on a yearlong Happiness Project to focus on various areas of my life.  As I begin to map out the year I can already see how My 40Gal Bucket List could easily be integrated into this monthly project; however, I believe The Happiness Project will bring new challenges that will enriched my life and bring me more happiness.

So we begin.  Below is the list of each month’s focus or theme for 2014.  I will not dig deep into each now, but will decide the nitty-gritty when I am approaching that month. Each month’s focus will have various measurable goals which I will work on daily to meet.  I have and will continue to use the books:  The Happiness Project and Happier in the Home by Gretchen Rubin, as well as her blog: http://gretchenrubin.com/ to guide me through the process.  I am excited about where My Happiness Project will lead me … let the journey begin!

  • January: Time & Energy
  • February: Love & Marriage
  • March: Work & Passion
  • April:  Play & Leisure
  • May:  Family Near & Far
  • June:  Spirituality & Eternity
  • July:  Friends & Friendship
  • August:  Self Design
  • September:  Home & Neighborhood
  • October:  Money & Possessions
  • November:  Thanks & Gratitude
  • December:  Balance

Tribeca Film Festival


It’s been 10 years since the very first Tribeca Film Festival and I have always been curious to attend, so when American Express offered tickets to their members (me and my husband), we jumped at the chance.

The film we would be viewing was Sunlight Jr. starring Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon.  The screening was at the Crosby Street Hotel this past Monday.  I will admit, I was a bit annoyed that our film wasn’t actually showing in Tribeca, but instead Soho; however this was a convenient plus since it was just a block from the 6 train which made our commute way easy (lookin’ at the positive).

We arrived at 6:45pm for the cocktail reception at the hotel which was very nice and very “New York”,  whatever that means.  We were greeted by two tall and thin girls wearing flight attendant outfits.  Ah yes, our American Express is a Delta Amex – I suppose any opportunity to promote they will take it.  We registered, got our ‘boarding pass’ and joined the other guest in a lovely room to consume any cocktail of our liking and hors d’oeuvres fit for a wedding reception.



By 8 pm our tummies were full and we were ready for the movie.  The doors to the screening room finally opened.  As we walked in, we were offered gourmet popcorn and water.  Wow!  If only all movie theaters were this nice with plush, orange seats and enough leg room to not have to stand up when people walk in front of you.  If only Delta’s airplanes had this much space – they should learn from their own sponsored event.  Soon everyone was seated, the lights dimmed and the movie began sans previews – missed but we figured.

Sunlight Jr. (2013)

With a name like Sunlight Jr. we were hoping for a happy, sunshiny movie like the off-beat road film, Little Miss Sunshine or the gruesome dramedy Sunshine Cleaners, but we got neither.  So very contrary to it’s name, Sunlight Jr. was uncomfortable to watch and quite depressing.  I wouldn’t say we hated it, but, well, I didn’t love it.  I will say, both Naomi Watts and Matt Dillon did a fantastic job portraying Melissa (Naomi Watts) and Richie (Matt Dillon), a struggling couple living in poverty in rural Florida.  Their lives are tough and it’s hard not to judge the ignorance of the characters because you can see what they should do even with what little they have.  Melissa is a cashier at Sunshine Jr., a gas station/convenience store and Richie is an ex-construction worker now in a wheelchair due to an accident.  They live paycheck to paycheck in a pay-by-month motel.  She wants to move up the ‘corporate ladder’ at Sunshine, but has no clue what that means and eventually loses her job; he is a good support for her, but is struggling with his own demons.  They are faced with a jealous ex-boyfriend, a drunk mother whom graciously takes care of a few foster children, and a pregnancy that was both wanted and unwanted at the same time.  You see the characters struggle, and get the impression they have always struggled and will continue to do so which makes you want to scream.  The movie was a snapshot of these people’s lives.  The beginning and end wasn’t neither a beginning nor an end.  You’re left feeling sorry for them just as you did in the opening scene.  No more, no less.  Maybe I didn’t like it because it was frustrating.  These characters pissed me off, the system pisses me off, I left feeling like sunshine was nowhere near and never ever attainable, and that is depressing.  But, I guess, maybe that was the point of the movie.

We decided to not attend the film discussion following the movie (my husband had a very early morning train to catch the next day) and, along with a few others, snuck out of the tiny theatre.  We were handed a small swag bag full of goodies – just like all movie premiers I am sure ;-) – and headed home.


Attending the Tribeca Film Festival and screening a movie not yet released was a great experience.  We’re glad we put this one on the list!

Saved by my ‘To-Do’ List

To Do List

I read once that a Sunday New York Times has more information in it than what an average person from the 16th century learned in a lifetime. It’s no wonder why we are so overwhelmed. We live in a world of so much. So much to do, see, read, learn, hear, think, taste, smell … the list can go on and on. It’s so overwhelming that what happens is you end up doing nothing of significance and then wonder where the time went? This can happen in your day, year and in your lifetime.

That is why I create lists.  My daily ‘to-do’ and my life ‘to-do’ aka Bucket List all help me become less overwhelmed and more productive.

But what happens when creating your ‘to-do’ becomes another task that overwhelms you?  That is what I have been feeling for the last few days.  Overwhelmed and stuck because I have so much floating in my head right now that I don’t know where to begin. 

What is the answer?  I have struggled with this and it just dawned on me about an 2 hours ago that I need to just do it.  I know so … Nike commercial, but so very true.  I just need to stop thinking in circles and start doing.  Just write the damn list already and move forward.

So after a day, or 3, I finally got out of my head and wrote down my day and week’s ‘to-do’ list, and I even reviewed my bucket list to see what I need to work on next.  I feel much better already.  My sanity was saved by my ‘to-do’ list!  And now, let’s start checking things off!

What do I love and desire?

Source: piccsy.com via Debbie on Pinterest


I’ve been thinking a lot about the questions I posed in my post PASSION …

  1. What is so important to me that I am willing to suffer for it? 
  2. What drives my emotions?
  3. What do I love and desire?

To answer them, I decided to start with a piece of paper, pencil and a wandering mind.  I also decided to exclude my husband, family and friends as potential answers since obviously I am willing to suffer for them, they drive my emotions and I love them to pieces.  Once you go down that route of focusing on those around you, you lose all ideas of what could be an individual passion that could lead to a career. 

Ok, back to answering the questions … here we go …

Ummm … Ok this is much harder than I thought, especially the question involving suffering.  There is nothing I can think of that I would risk my life’s savings or my life for except my husband, family and friends. So for this first exercise in uncovering my passions I decided to focus on question #3.  The easiest question to answer since we tend to “love” many things.  I let my mind regurgitate all my love and desires.

So again the question: What do I love and desire?

  • My bucket list
  • Blogging
  • Good conversation
  • Politics
  • History
  • Watching Football
  • Challenges
  • Dining out
  • Travel
  • Change
  • Autumn
  • Decorating
  • Bright Colors
  • Exploring
  • My Iphone
  • Cheese and Wine
  • Documentaries
  • Travel
  • Diversity
  • Mexican food
  • Walking/Hiking
  • New York City
  • Genealogy
  • Word With Friends
  • Art
  • Talk shows
  • San Francisco
  • Podcast
  • Learning
  • Fashion
  • Etsy
  • New Orleans
  • Spinning

So that’s my random list I things I love and desire.  There seems to be nothing on this list that is black and white, concrete, an “AH-HA!” of what I am passionate about.  My life’s loves seem to be various shades of gray.  Some I like a little more than others today, but tomorrow I will love another more.  So when does something you “love” become something you “LOVE” and drives your every being?  For Instance,  I have always been one to love decorating and my friends always complimented me on my home style, and I am an avid HGTV watcher, but it stops there, and it stops when the paint dries and we can’t fit anything new into our 600 sq ft NY apartment.  Is this a true passion or just a hobby? I know decorating can be a career, but can it be a career I can be passionate about?

So where do we go from here?  What’s next?  I have my list of things I think answer the question, but nothing stands out at this point.  This is when I need to seek more help and google becomes my assistant. 

I found a wonderful article in helping find your passion:  http://zenhabits.net/the-short-but-powerful-guide-to-finding-your-passion/

In the article they ask even more probing questions:

  1. What are you good at?
  2. What excites you?
  3. What do you read about?
  4. What have you secretly dreamed of?

The article continues with exercises to build on the answers to the above questions.  I think this is my next step.

On a positive note, this first exercise helped me compose a list my ‘loves’ which got my wheels turning.  Next, I was able to find more questions to keep those wheels turning.  I never thought finding my passions would be easy and it will be a process.  So the self-discovering continues …

Whitney Museum of American Art

After many, many, many walk-bys and a few gift shop browsings, we finally decided to pay the $18 fee and walk the exhibits at the Whitney Museum of American Art on 75Th and Madison: www.whitney.org


The Whitney is a large, 60’s modern cement box with five levels of exhibits.  The building itself is extraordinary and unique, but what makes the Whitney beyond words are the exhibits which can confuse and dazzle you at the same time. 


As we walked up to the second level we could hear the beat of club music as if we were in a rave for old people.  It wasn’t loud enough to give us a headache and it didn’t drown out the jazz musicians preparing for their performance that was to begin in 30 minutes.  This club music, along with some strobe lights, I believe, were part of the “Sinister Pop” and “Dark and Deadpan: Pop in TV and the Movies” exhibit which consisted of an odd Instagram-like video on the walls showing some sort of gambling, a box with an hologram of a fortune-teller appearing when you stood in front of it, and some other random weird videos on the walls.  It left us thinking … Wha?? 


The “Blues for Smoke” exhibition seems to be the big focus of the museum this week.  The exhibit focuses on art, music, film, and literature of ‘blue’s culture.’  As you walk onto the third floor you are immediately greeted with this weird and ooh-so-very large kid’s train set that was set up with tops of piano cases skewed about.  What is this supposed to represent?  We still haven’t figured it out.  We walked the floor in bewilderment.  There was small room covered in a red sewn tarp and set up as a church.  Everything was red, the cross, the floor, the ceiling, the benches, the lectern. Is this supposed to represent blood?  Who knows.  There was also a dark room set up with a video of a close-up to someone’s frizzy hair.  A little creepy.  It was all too … artsy.  It made me wonder: do you think someone is watching us watch the hair film, sit in the red room, stare at the kids train set stuck under the top of a piano and thinking, “Haha, I made you pay $18 bucks to see this crap!”  It just makes me wonder.




This was the highlight of the museum.  I knew nothing of Jay DeFeo and would have thought she was a he if I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit this extraordinary exhibit.  This exhibit guides you through an evolution of her work, she had an amazing talent.  My favorite piece from the exhibition was The Eyes,  it was beautiful, but of course, the piece to see and stare at was The Rose.  What an amazing piece of art and the history and the artist behind it is something to be admired.



The top level of the museum had the works of art by eighteen 20th century artist including the most familiar to me, Georgia O’Keeffe.  As we roamed the floor and admired the art, we were fortunate to run into a large group of children discussing a work of art with one of the employees from the museum.  He asked,  “What do you see? Is it day or night?  Where is this painting set?” And the kids enthusiastically raised their hands and screamed various answers until some finally got the answers right: “It’s night time” and “It’s Coney Island.” It was nice to see children learn from art and art spark the imaginations of children.  I guess that is what going to a museum is all about.  I just hope they didn’t later stick those 25 kids in the room with the hair.

Overall our experience at the Whitney was enjoyable.  If you like contemporary art and unusual exhibitions, then this museum is for you.  Also, you will be happy to know that in 2015 there will be a new Whitney Museum located in the Meatpacking district.  From what I can tell it will be a metal box rather can concrete.  Fascinating.

Post Navigation