A Gratitude Lesson From a Rainy Vacation Day

A recent vacation taught me an unexpected lesson on gratitude.

The  vacation itinerary that I drew up for a recent trip that I took with my daughter included a morning drive along the Hood River County Fruit Loop, a 35-mile route dotted with 30 farm stands in Oregon between the Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood.

It was prime  harvesting season when I was there in October so I envisioned lots of apple picking on a crisp, sun-splashed fall day. Then we’d have lunch at a local winery and enjoy an afternoon of bicycling  on America’s original scenic byway. Perhaps we would hike a little of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The only question was how could we choose among those 30 points of interest–fruit stands and berry farms, wineries and cider houses, u-pick apple and pear orchards, lavender farms, an alpaca farm and even a chestnut  farm.

The Fruit Loop brochure had me excited as I looked at the farms pictured with blue skies, dahlias in the foreground and snow-capped Mt. Hood in the background. Likewise, the historic Columbia Gorge Highway site had postcard-worthy photos of bicycle trails.  I packed a few of the new almond butter-filled Clif bars just to create a photo similar to the one of a cyclist on the package.


But it was not to be. It rained miserably all day. So we didn’t get to bicycle or hike at all. We didn’t ride the Fruit Loop with our windows down and sun roof open as we had hoped. We should have peeked through the sun roof with our umbrella for a amusing photo op, but frankly I was too bummed out.

We did drive along Highway 35 and the side roads that make up the Fruit Loop. We stopped at a  few farm stands — Packer Orchards, Apple Valley Country Store & Bakery and Draper Girls Country Farm. We found the best variety at Draper Girls — Pacific Rose, Spice and Pink Pearl to name a few. The latter had a bit of pink in the flesh.


Our adventure for the day: Returning to the Airbnb to watch Reese Witherspoon in “Wild.” And eating some of those apples.

So what was the gratitude lesson?

It took me a while upon returning home, but I reflected on past vacations. On one trip to the beach, rain was forecast every day of the week–we almost cancelled our condo. But as it turned out, it rained none of the days we were there.

We did experience a downpour three years ago during one of the vacation days in New York City, but that was one day of rain, four days of sunshine. (And can you really whine on a rainy day in New York when that means spending it in the Metropolitan Museum of Art?)

On my rough scorecard of vacations past, I’m averaging about  9 out of 10 sunny days. Was I as grateful for those as I was complaining about my rainy October trip to Washington and Oregon?

From now on, I’m going to start vacations with less of an entitlement mindset about the weather. Then, when a vacation day is wrapped in sunshine, maybe I’ll treat it like a gift.

And be more thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!









Kickstands and Wedding Plans-Bridal Gown Shopping

Saying yes to THE dress means having to say no to some wonderful dresses and a wonderful bridal boutique.

In planning a wedding, there are a lot of side stories that don’t get shared in the Sunday newspaper write-up or even in the reception toasts.

My older daughter, Claire, is getting married in April, and we spent last weekend bridal gown shopping.  I’ve got to say we have more pictures of that experience than we have from my entire wedding and honeymoon .

In fact, we have more photos from the places where we did not buy than from my wedding. On that note, I want to give a shoutout to Bridal Boutique in Lewisville, Texas for their customer service.

The bride ended up buying a gown elsewhere and is thrilled with her choice. But she was momentarily sad that Bridal Boutique didn’t get the sale and Carol, our consultant, didn’t get the commission.

I’m enjoying learning about the bridal industry, and Bridal Boutique is the poster child for customer service. For starters, you walk in and a chalkboard lettering welcomes the brides with appointments –25 on the Saturday we were there — by name and wedding date.

Soon after check-in, your party is offered champagne. The consultant brings in the gowns that match your style and Pinterest postings. The consultant seems genuinely interested in the bride, the engagement ring, how she met the groom, how the proposal went and how the lighting in the wedding and reception venue will be. The store manager swings by a couple of times with more words of welcome and more champagne.

Behind the scenes, Bridal Boutique has adapted well to technology and warranted this article in Entrepreneur magazine. Apparently, they are doing a lot of things right. Bridal Boutique opened in 1990 in Lewisville, 25 miles north of Dallas. It has expanded several times, taking in what was once a bank and a Masonic Hall downtown. In fact the entire town of Lewisville has embraced the wedding industry–there’s a bakery, wedding rental business, alterations, separate shop for bridesmaids and mother of the brides, even a wedding chapel in its historic old Main Street.

As I am learning there is money to be made in this industry, I am particularly interested in small town bridal gown destinations. Although Lewisville is a fast-growing Dallas suburb, it’s old downtown has small-town charm. We didn’t make it to Brinkley, a town of little more than 3,000 in Arkansas, but many friends have and walked away with a gown from Low’s there. Low’s opened in 1977 when a pharmacist’s wife began selling a few gowns upstairs above the drug store. It’s now housed in  a restored railroad hotel and sells more than 5,000 gowns a year (The Lewisville store,  no small volume store, sells 1,500 a year)

Claire ended up finding the perfect dress in a nice boutique but the  the decor looked more like the waiting room at H&R Block than the fairy-tale like baroque furnishings of the Lewisville store. And the customer service was lacking.

Out of respect for the bride, I’ll save pictures of the dress until the wedding day. Suffice it to say she looks stunning. It was the  right choice, but we’ll always remember the place in Lewisville, Texas where she didn’t say “yes.”



An Apple a Day on My Recent Vacay

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from blog writing recently. My older daughter Claire got engaged in October. It will be #kickstandsandweddingplans around our house during the next few months. Meantime, I’ll share a little bit about a recent trip to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest with my younger daughter Mary Grace.

During my first visit to Seattle’s Pike Place Market a few weeks ago, I spent most of my time checking out the produce vendors, especially looking for different varieties of Washington apples. Did you know that six out of every 10 apples consumed in the United States are grown in the state of Washington? I didn’t know it was that high, but check out this informative site.

So I packed my apple corer for the trip and picked up a few at the market. Can’t say they were much better than the Honeycrisps I’ve been getting at my local Kroger. They have been exceptionally good this fall, and they are grown in Washington. I can’t wait to try this salted caramel apple wheel recipe from Chelan Fresh.

I did make it to the famous Pike Place fishmonger booths and learned you could pack just about any seafood in a TSA-approved box, but I didn’t buy any.

I enjoyed all of the colors and sampling a few different fruit and vegetable varieties at Pike Place. Here are a few photos.