Saturday night surprise: Love birds, paintbrushes and red wine


Love birds

Remember song, “Everybody’s working for the weekend?”

Saturday nights – the traditional time to get out of the house with friends or someone special – can be magical.

But first you sometimes have to get past your initial reluctance if you, like me, have become more of a homebody.

The key to enjoyment: Either have a plan, or unequivocally say yes when someone else comes up with one, and then go along with their idea with complete abandon.

Sometimes easier said than done.

But this year, I made a commitment to myself to get out more and try to do at least one new thing a week.

An ideal I shared with my husband, so I would hold myself accountable. He not only approved, but has been trying to join in.

So last night, my husband surprised me with a date night idea: dinner out and then a couples’ painting class at Ultimate Painter Art Gallery in Clermont, which he signed us up for online. (

After dinner at a restaurant near the art gallery, we arrived for the class a little early and found the place locked, so we sat in the parking lot listening to NPR while we waited, watching as the Chipotle restaurant next door did a brisk business.

A few minutes before 7 pm, the teacher called to say she’d be a few minutes late, as she hadn’t realized anyone had signed up for the class that night.

Turns out we were the only ones, so we got a private lesson.

When the teacher arrived, she set up easels and paints for us, put on some New Age music and gave me a glass of  delicious Southern Red wine from Lakeridge Winery, also in Clermont. (

We started out at the top of the canvas and worked our way down, learning to blend acrylics, and then layer on trees using a sea sponge.

You can see the result above: Mine on the left and his on the right, where he decided to add two love birds to represent us. (He’s so romantic!)

The teacher suggested we paint one tree that crossed both canvases, make sure our trees looked similar and have our mountains line up with each other.

It was a really fun way to spend an evening together, rather than sitting at home watching TV.

In fact, I plan to go back to take my oldest grandson, who loves art. It also got me interested in making a trip to the winery sometime in the near future. The teacher recommended we go when the winery holds a festival, which, according to its website, happens at least monthly.

What about you? Have you ever tried a couples’ painting class or visited a winery? And if so, would you do it again?


New year, new experiences: Trading empty-nest malaise for volunteering, art, travel and more


2014 will be the year of new experiences for me.

After becoming an empty nester four years ago and no longer ferrying my 2 sons to after-school activities, I found myself becoming a homebody on my days off from work, rarely leaving the house if my husband works on those days.

And then, I started not really wanting to leave the house even when he was home with me.

I don’t suffer from any form of agoraphobia — it feels more like mild mental malaise.

So I’m determined to try new things this year.

In fact, my goal is to go somewhere/try something new every week.

That way, when people ask me what I’ve been up to, I can tell them something about me, rather than only being able to talk about my sons’ or grandkids’ latest exploits.

I’ve signed up to become a literacy tutor, and hope to take the training class in January so I can get started.

I’ve also asked my husband, who used to paint, to pick up that hobby again, only this time with me, so we have a shared hobby.

I may try to kick-start that by signing us up for one of those one-day classes where people all go and learn to paint their own version of the same thing.

And I want to get back into photography (forcing myself to go out to get interesting shots), and possibly incorporate prints of some of my photos into multimedia paintings.

Plus, we will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary next summer, so I hope to plan a cool trip.

I’m thinking either a cabin in the Smokey Mountains, an island cottage in South Carolina or a jaunt to Rhode Island.

Smoky Mountains

What about you? What have you done to overcome empty-nest malaise, and how did it work out for you?

Also, what’s the coolest trip in the U.S. you’ve taken recently?