Girl Talk #3

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Time: Apr 10, 2020 08:00 PM Central Time (US and Canada)

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Surviving Social Distancing

So we have been told to stay at home, and some of us are having a hard time while others have found new callings, and our new wardrobe. Why is it so hard for some of us to be alone when really in todays world we are never alone? You know with all the social media there is always someone there.

I actually don’t remember my first few days of social distancing since I was frantically converting my face-to-face classes to online classes. It had to be done, and done quickly. After working furiously and relentlessly it was time to rest. So my next few days of social distancing were spent in pajamas. It was time to catch up on rest (you can catch up).

My first days were spent going from the bed to my favorite chair(s). There was a lot of looking at magazines, trying to find something to watch on television–I can’t binge watch. It helped that it was raining all day and night.

I kept in touch with friends and family by calling, texting, social media and more. My kids and I could see each other over the phone/computer. So all in all it wasn’t that bad. My husband was still going to court for a few hours a day, and that helped.

When you can’t go anywhere it makes you want to go more, and it was beginning to happen to my friends and me. Then we all decided that there was things that we could do.

Here are some of the things that we did:

  • Got up and moved. There were those that could do an exercise program via the internet, social media, television and more. You can do a different one every day. I have found out that I have no rhythm–Latin Zumba and I do not see eye to eye. I did however keep moving. There are some people who took walks around the block or on the track. Some that finally used that stationary bike and other equipment that was collecting dust.
  • When the sun finally came out there was yard work to be done, mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges, repotting plants and even planting flowers and that vegetable garden. I repotted plants, planted a vegetable garden, but then ran into a snake so no flowers were planted in the front flower boxes (and they may not get planted this season).
  • Many of us were a little bit more culinary inclined. Instead of preparing what we always prepared, we tried different things. We took out those gadgets, you know the Instant Pot, the airfryer, the electric skillet–we finally figured out what the convection button was on the oven.
  • Some of us even briefly went out. My sister and I went to the location of Hardie’s Fresh Foods truck, and got fruits and vegetables. They did social distancing. You never got out of the car–they bought everything to your car and loaded it.
  • We held our first Meet and Greet–Girl Talk via Zoom. Our next one is April 3 at 8 pm CST via Zoom. (Use the ID 843-171-852).
  • Deep cleaning your house is always an option. My shutters and blinds are getting deeped cleaned, and are now their original bright white.
  • Hopefully creative juices will start to flow like a river and not a slow moving one.
  • Read just for pleasure. I’m reading another Robert Parker book. It helps that I imagine Tom Selleck as Jesse Stone.
  • Prayers..no need to say anything else.

There are so many other things that people are doing and dealing with during this pandemic. Reach out to those that are truly alone, give them a call, send them a quick note. There are a large group of people who do not do social media. Remember “thisisyourbestyear“, please be safe.

Our next Zoom “Girl Talk” will be on Friday, April 3 at 8 PM CST. Please use the ID 843-171-852. See you soon.

let’s get together

We’ve been social distancing for a few days so let’s get together and have a little girl talk. Join us for about 40 minutes of getting to know each other, and sharing our tips on surviving social distancing.

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DOWNTON ABBEY VISITS THE BILTMORE ESTATE

In my third and final installment regarding my visit to the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina the package I purchased included a special treat from our friends from across the pond.  Just recently I saw the movie “Downton Abbey.”  The film picks up where the PBS series left off and I am a big fan of the show.  

While visiting the magnificent Biltmore during the Christmas holidays to view the incredible decorations, it just so happened that “The Downton Abbey Exhibition” had recently opened at the estate.  There were of course costumes from the series and movie as well as furniture, documents, props and audio visual presentations regarding the life of the British aristocracy in the early 20th century.  I loved the exhibition and the history that went with it.  The “Downton Abbey Exhibition” will be at the Biltmore Estate until April 2020.  If you’re a fan of the show, it’s definitely worth the price of admission.

In my best British accent–remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

a CULINARY EXPERIENCE At The Biltmore

by CY Cooper

In my last post for THIS IS YOUR BEST YEAR, I told all about my trip to see the Incredible Biltmore Estate for the Christmas Holidays.  As I explained in my last communication, I actually stayed at one of the hotels on the estate grounds…..The Village Inn.  Not only can you stay at one of the two hotels on the estate but there are also amazing restaurants on the property where you can dine.  The Biltmore has seven restaurants that offer a wide range of fine and casual dining choices.  The menus showcase fresh produce and meats that are raised and harvested on the Biltmore estate.  

Since we were arriving in Asheville, North Carolina in the afternoon, I went online before the trip and checked out the menu, reviews and made a reservation for the dinner buffet at DeerPark Restaurant.  If I have to say so myself, it was a great choice.  This buffet had everything from slow roasted prime rib, herb crusted turkey breast to citrus roasted salmon.  Let’s not mention the many appetizers, soups, salads, side dishes and of course numerous desserts including, a crepe station, black forest pavlova and eggnog cheesecake.  ALL the food was DELICIOUS.  

Now since we were staying at The Village Inn and had purchased the Christmas Tour Package, breakfast was included with the stay.  As you may know, I absolutely LOVE breakfast and the morning meal at the Village Social restaurant definitely started off each day in the correct way.  For some reason each morning I ordered the Social Breakfast which included two eggs (over medium) heirloom potatoes, toast and thick cut bacon.  Service was exceptional right along with the food.  

Because each day was started off with a satisfying breakfast, there really was no need for lunch.  Maybe a stop here and there for snacks but not a full blown lunch.  Next to the actual Biltmore estate,  there’s a section where there are shops and a restaurant called The Stable Cafe.  It’s a fitting name as it was once the estate’s actual horse stable.  The Stable Cafe features Appalachian comfort food for lunch including house smoked meats, Carolina barbeque, classic burgers, and salads.  The Dinner Menu at the Stable Cafe is simply OUTSTANDING. The dining room for dinner is located on the 2nd level.  Decorated beautifully for the holidays, the dining experience at The Stable Cafe was simply AMAZING.  Service was fantastic and the food was wonderful.  I ordered the Bone-In Pork Chop with sweet potato puree, fried brussel sprouts & apple sage butter.  My friend ordered the Shrimp & Grits with sauteed shrimp, Anson Mills blue corn grits, lobster butter, andouille sausage & scallions.  Please note at the end of the meal there was nothing left on either plate.  

As I mentioned in the previous post, this was my second visit to this magnificent house.  On my first trip I enjoyed afternoon tea in the Library Lounge at The Inn on Biltmore Estate.  The Inn is a 4 star hotel located on the grounds with incredible sweeping views of the estate.  On this trip I booked their Holiday Tea located in The Dining Room at The Inn on Biltmore Estate.  With Mount Pisgah in the background, we enjoyed a full service afternoon tea with delicious scones, sandwiches & desserts.  As you have come to expect with anything associated with The Biltmore, service along with the food was impeccable.  

Enjoying the sights and sounds of the holidays at the Biltmore was a dream come true for me.  BUT there was another perk that was added in that I didn’t see coming and that was……The Downton Abbey Exhibition currently on display at the Biltmore until April, 2020.  More about that in my next post.  

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”, and savor the moment.


Holiday Magic At The Biltmore

Guest blogger CY Cooper

Happy Holidays, one and all.  My family and friends know that yours truly is a history enthusiast.  So, in the spirit of the season I began my celebrating the holidays by traveling to Asheville, North Carolina the first week of December and visiting the magnificent Biltmore Estate.  It’s simply known as the Biltmore or as I like to call it, America’s Downton Abbey. No matter what time of year you go to see this incredible structure, it is breathtaking BUT during Christmas it’s even more amazing.  


Biltmore was the family home of George Vanderbilt, his wife Edith and their daughter Cornelia.  The house, over 175,000 square feet and 250 plus rooms, was under construction for over five (5) years.  On Christmas Eve in 1895, George Vanderbilt officially opened the doors of the grand house to family and friends.  At the time it was constructed Biltmore had all the latest conveniences for a home in the late 1800’s.  

During my visit, I stayed at one of the two hotels located on the grounds of the estate.  The Village Hotel and the The Inn are not far from the main house.  When you stay at either one of the hotels there’s a shuttle that takes you back and forth from the house, to the winery, gardens, conservatory, equestrian center, shopping areas and restaurants.  In fact, you don’t have to leave the estate grounds unless you want to explore Asheville.  There are several tours available pertaining to the estate, including a guided house tour, roof top tour, a tour of what went on through the eyes of the servants’ garden tours and my favorite, legacy of the land tour.  Biltmore is not just a large home with beautiful gardens, it’s a brief but fun and fascinating glimpse into the past of America.  


Thousands of people visit the estate during the holidays to view this spectacular home with its beautiful decorations during the day and also in the evenings where the house is illuminated by candlelight.  There is so much to talk about regarding my visit that I can’t put it all in one post.  Look for upcoming posts regarding reviews of the restaurants on the estate as well as a recap of The Downton Abbey Exhibition currently running at the Biltmore.

My stay at the Biltmore was wonderful, but there is no place like home for the holidays. Have a wonderful holiday season, and remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Merry Christmas!

Conversation, Movie, Museum and More–A Fun Night!

Another one is in the books! We had a great time at our latest outing with a great group of ladies. This time we decided to do a number of things in one outing, and it worked. There was something for everyone. There is no schedule as to when we will do an event, it is just when we think that something may interest some ladies, and we go for it.

When we heard that the Magnolia at the Modern (Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth) would be showing one of the most talked about movies around –The Farewell, we knew this was what we had been looking for.

Then we decided why not tour the Modern before the movie and see the great art work it contains. Entry into the museum on that day was free–that’s a win, win situation.

Touring the museum is always enjoyable. There is wonderful artwork inside and outside. The weather was beautiful so we were able to enjoy both. We even had time to go into the museum store to look around and make a few purchases.

So that we could get to know each other better, we had a reservation at Cafe Modern where we enjoyed cocktails, snacks and great conversation. Having time just to talk was fun and entertaining.

Then it was off to see the movie in the comfort of the theater at Magnolia at the Modern. It may not have all of the amenities that the newer theaters have, but it is cozy, and yes each lady was given snacks because everyone knows that you can’t go to the movies without snacks.

The movie lived up to its billing. I really can’t wait to see it again and see the things I missed. I will tell you though that there are subtitles because much of the movie is in Chinese and even a little Japanese with some English thrown it.

All in all the conversation was good, the museum was fun, the movie was great and the night was a lot of fun. We look forward to our next outing, and hope that you can join us. Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

Our USA Today Best Years Magazine Interview

We were interviewed by the award winning journalist Jennifer E. Mabry for the USA Today Best Years (Fabulous Living at 50+) 2019 Fall/Winter edition. The topic of the discussion was “50–Embracing Midlife”. It is a topic that “thisisyourbestyear” is very familiar with.

Adding to the conversation were three other women of a certain age. They were Amy Yontef-McCrath who is a volunteer extraordinaire who sat a goal of volunteering to at least 50 projects between birthday 49 and 50. She completed it with time to spare, and is now deciding upon the next goal for this part of her life.

Also included in the conversation was relationship expert and therapist Dr. Audrey Chapman. She gave insight into being mentally and physically healthy as we mature. Brigid Schulte who is an author and journalist discussed work-life balance as we enter different phases of our life.

It was our honor to be included in this conversation. The link to the article is below. You can purchase the magazine at your local news stands or on line on the USA Today Magazines site.

Embracing Midlife

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. You are never too old to live your best life and do the “happy dance”–we are proof. Just go for it.

Have Luggage Will Travel

Many of you have cards that give you frequent flier miles on the airline of your choice. Most of us now select our cards by what they can give us. So I want to see how many miles my cousin and I have accumulated or at least our luggage has.

When I purchased my Samsonite luggage many years ago I was told that it would travel the world. Little did I know that it would, but it would go without me.

On June 9, 2019 with our perfectly packed luggage we arrived at DFW International Airport at the appropriate time to catch our 2:30 pm flight to Atlanta, Georgia with a connecting flight to Rome, Italy on Delta Airlines. Did I say our luggage was perfectly packed? It was.

At about 5 pm we were still waiting in the lounge at DFW International when this very nice person by the name of Mr. Okello who worked at Delta Airlines found us a flight on American Airlines that would be leaving soon. We would then fly to Paris, France and then onto Rome, Italy. We gladly accepted. He assured us that our luggage would be put on the American Airlines flight.

The American Airlines flight boarded at the stated time, but decided to try and wait on others who would miss their connecting flights. We all understood this. After almost an hour wait and no other passengers boarding we were on our way to Paris. Since no other passengers boarded we had room to spread out. I hit the mother lode with an entire row to myself–first class at coach prices.

Since we were about an hour late leaving, we arrived in Paris late. Then we taxied for what seemed like forever. We got off the plane and promptly boarded a bus that dropped us at customs with a long line. According to our watches, there was no way we were going to make our connecting flight so after clearing customs we walked (fast) to our terminal and gate and asked to catch the next flight on Air France to Rome.

We were lucky they had just closed the door and opened it for us. At that time my cousin, sister and I all said together, “our luggage will not make this flight”. Sure enough, we were correct.

Air France was given the information about our missing luggage by all three of us. My sisters’ luggage arrived on day 3 of our trip. Seems kind of strange since we all started out together.

There were exploits with not having luggage as you can imagine. Since we are from East Texas, Longview and Tyler we knew to pack extras in our carry on, and we did. We may have had a detour with lost luggage, but we were determined to get back on the road of vacationing.

After a wonderful trip to Italy where we were in Rome, Florence, Tuscany, Pisa, and Venice we were waiting at the Venice airport when they called and said our luggage was located, and it was waiting for us in Rome. After a good laugh, we informed them that we were on our way back to the states, and they said they would send our luggage to us. We should get it in about a day. The three of us arrived back in Texas on Monday, June 17, 2019. Our luggage arrived June 22 courtesy of Mr. Humphrey.

Since I wanted to see my cousin I decided to take her luggage to her, but life got in the way so on July 3, 2019 I sent her luggage by FedEx which meant it would arrive on Friday, July 5, 2019–but they were closed that day. So hopefully, she will have her luggage on Monday, July 8 almost a month to the date.**

Upon looking at the tags, our luggage was expedited–not sure what they meant by that. It also went to JFK Airport in New York. To top it all off Air France says it will have to review our case which may take up to three months because of the complexity of our case. Complexity??

The luggage looks like it had a good time and should have a lot of frequent flier miles. Everything is still perfectly packed. Since I have another trip in a few weeks, I just put the luggage in the closet until needed. Samsonite was correct–their luggage will travel the world. Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Even with lost luggage, we had a great time exploring Italy with new friends and family.

**My cousin’s luggage is finally home in Tyler, Texas. It should have a few more frequent flier miles than mine. The picture says it all.

On The Water To Venice

From the moment I caught a glimpse of Venice I was excited. I loved everything about it. From the water taxi to it to the water taxi to the airport as we were leaving.

Venice is one of the most visited places in the world, but it seemed there were less people than in Florence. You could see the cruise ships lined up near the shore, and our guide also showed us where the cruise ship had collided with the dock a few weeks earlier.

The water taxi ride was great, you could sit inside or outside so I chose the outside. All the while we were in route the scenery grew more beautiful by the minute. It was a great cab ride–just beautiful and fun.

Upon arriving on the island, we gathered our baggage (what little we had–bags still lost) and walked a short distance to our hotel–Hotel Violino D’Oro which sat right next to the gondola rides. As soon as we dropped our luggage, we were on our way to see more of Venice.

It is amazing to see a city with no moving vehicles, and yes the streets are very narrow. We were informed that we had come at a great time because no rain was in the forecast–Venice is prone to flooding.

The next morning after breakfast we inquired about a gondola ride, and decided we were going to take one. The gondolas can hold up to six people not counting the gondolier–there were four of us. They do tilt a little. All of us enjoyed the ride through the city where we saw Mozart’s house and all of the beautiful bridges in Venice. The gondolier pushes with his feet and oar to guide his beautiful gondola. There were a few water taxis, but there was no road rage. When we got to the Grand Canal it took our breath away. The Grand Canal offered us an opportunity to see a young lady say yes to a marriage proposal, and to see another gondola with its occupants singing in Italian. Before we knew it, we were back at our starting point near the hotel.

We met up with our guide Igor at the end of the gondola ride, and he took us on a tour of the city. He did inform us that the people who live in Venice walk on average about ten to twelve miles a day. The beauty of St. Mark’s Square was something to behold.

Since we were on an island that was densely populated there was very little green space, but we were able to see some, and it was beautiful. Igor took us through the neighborhoods, local shops and more.

Our tour included a stop at the Murano Glass Company where we were given a demonstration, and a tour of their beautiful showroom. It was a sight to behold.

Afterwards we walked the high end shopping area which was nice. We seemed to gravitate more to the shops that were owned by the locals, and bargains could be found. Our last outing together was a group dinner where we laughed, talked, ate, drank wine and enjoyed the company.

It seemed that as soon as it started it was over. The following morning we checked out of the hotel, caught a water taxi and were on our way to the airport. Seeing Venice and some of the other islands at night (we left before day) was great. There was a full moon that guided our path. At the airport we went our separate ways, but it was a group of people who have exchanged information and hopefully will stay in touch.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear” the lemonade you make can be as sweet as you wish. Even with lost luggage, my cousin and I along with my sister whose luggage was found had the sweetest lemonade.

**A special thanks to Ms. Fallon Alford for her beautiful photos. Fallon is a full time educator in Atlanta, Georgia where she also freelances as a photographer.