Life Lately….

I have come to the conclusion in life that once one matter is handled the next big pressing situation is never very far behind.  It’s sort of like when you come into a bonus amount of money and you never quite know what to do with it….until…..the refrigerator decides to stop working in the middle of the night, the washing machine decides to spring a major leak during your last load of laundry, or you slip and fall on the ice and need an x-ray when your deductible is not met yet. Yeh, thankfully none of this has happened for us recently but just when things starting calming down after Christmas the next big thing(s) starting popping up. Let me catch you all up on life as it is here today.

We have our first glamping (glamorous camping) trip planned for 2018 and I am excited…very excited. Once again we are returning to what I consider is Wisconsins best state park….Devil’s Lake. We missed visiting this park last year and I really missed it. We have hiked Devil’s Lake every year for at least the past 5 years, but last year we skipped it due to other trips we had planned and we just could not fit it in anywhere. Plus, this year we are glamping for the first time ever with my brother and his family. We have cabins rented at our favorite nearby campground and we plan to campfire, hike, explore and celebrate springs arrival. No one will ever be as happy as I am when spring finally arrives!!!

I also am loving that my husband is finally getting some projects done that have been laying around waiting for completion for quite sometime. My brother, one year for Christmas, had some pictures made up into puzzles for us. Once they were assembled my husband thought it would be cool to glue them and make red rock frames to go with the red rock theme of the puzzles. I agreed, then life happened, and they sat there. Well, they are now completed and I love them. Now we just have to figure out where to hang them.

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I have now expanded my cookbook selection to include one more clean eating/plant based cookbook to make meal planning easier. Since cutting out artificial sweetener in all our diets and with the amazing success my husband has had with this change, I am now finding it much harder to make casseroles. And casseroles were my “go to” for an easy make ahead and throw in the oven meal in the winter months. However, I am really finding plant based meals to be fulfilling and much less work than I ever imagined. Plus, my grocery bill is pretty nice also.

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I do have to give a shout out to my other half lately. It’s been one of those winters where everything keeps breaking. Nothing huge but big enough that thankfully with his repair skills he has saved us so much money just this year alone so far. I love having my own maintenance man in the house. Some people marry for money, some marry for love, I married for love and the money he saves us.

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And last but not least, the one big thing I have been working very hard on is our next big trip…the one where we are renewing our marriage vows for our 25th. anniversary this year. Do you know how difficult it is to find a minister that is willing to hike up to the top of a mountain to perform a renewal ceremony for this occasion? Well, I can tell you how difficult it is……VERY DIFFICULT!!!! However, I found one, we have talked with him and explained how important it is for him to make this trek for us, and he assures me he can do this as long as we are not trail runners and plan to race up the mountain. I promised him we could take as long as he needed to arrive safely at the top and for him to grant us his services. Now I just have to figure out a proper tip to give this gentleman since he is clearly putting his life on the line to make our wishes come true. I cannot wait to say “I Still Do” to the one I love in a place that brought such happiness to us the first time we saw it.

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What would you tip the minister in this situation? I would be grateful for your suggestions.

 

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Weekend Outdoor Fun….Yes, Outdoor Fun…Can You Believe It?

Oh my, was it a great weekend to be outside. I went outside in January….and had fun….simply amazing!!!! It was so warm….in the 40’s here in Green Bay both days…yeh!!!!

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I had planned to go to yoga Saturday morning as usual but when my husband mentioned to me that it was going to be warm enough to venture out and take a hike I immediately changed my plans.

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We stayed close to home since we knew the snow depth in our area and arrived at one of our favorite nearby trails. I was very happy to see it was not nearly as snow covered as I had thought it would have been. IMG_0275

We walked along the trail and took in the sunshine on our faces with great pleasure. It felt so good to breathe fresh air and get in some outdoor exercise.

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We watched the ice fishermen nearby on the Bay of Green Bay, all the while thinking to myself how crazy of a sport ice fishing is. IMG_0277

We did not see much wildlife while we hiked but we did run across a trail friend who was moving very, very slowly but moving none the less.

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Three miles later we ended our hike and it felt amazing.

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Then on Sunday I woke up, got in a gym workout, came home to meal prep, and once again headed back outside for yet another hike with a friend this time.

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We walked 5 miles, saw one bald eagle that I scared away trying to get a picture of, and lots of melting happening all along the way. IMG_0301

I know it’s too early to be this excited about the weather being so nice but you know what, I will take what I can get and enjoy every last hour until the next snow fall happens or the next ice storm glazes over everything in sight(which could happen tomorrow from what they are saying).

All in all it was a great weekend. I feel refreshed and ready for another long week ahead.

 

Another Reader Request Answered: Exercise….How Do I Find The Time?

Finding time to exercise is not something I need to usually do. I will admit, at times, life gets hectic and it’s just not possible. However, finding no time to exercise, in my opinion, is 95% of the time just an excuse. Let me explain.

The gym I attend, I will often see people sitting in workout clothes, taking up space on a machine without any movement happening except for their fingers going a mile a minute on their phones. This could take anywhere from a few minutes to as long as 20 minutes on the same machine without any exercise happening at all. Now, not to be rude or inconsiderate (like they clearly are being), I feel individuals like this are simply mooching off the free WIFI while dressed like they should be dressed at a gym and taking up space where they should not be taking up space. We have tables and chairs at our gym for this sort of thing. Which brings me to my point on why having no time if often an excuse. If you are up to date and current on all your social media accounts….you surely have time to exercise, it’s simply not a priority in your life.

Another important aspect I believe is that you need to look at how to MAKE time to exercise if you want it bad enough. Either to lose weight, get healthy, for energy, or simply just to feel good, do you want it bad enough to make time in your daily life for this activity? For me, this is a no brainer, I simply feel best when I exercise so little to no thought is needed to make time.

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Let’s look at what you do for exercise. If you are a treadmill person and dread the thought of walking/running on this motorized belt everyday, of course you may find it difficult to keep at it. If your a treadmill walker/runner and enjoy the time this machine allows you to walk without the outdoor elements getting in your way, then I can see you looking forward to this activity everyday. Doing something you enjoy rather than dread is always easier. Experiment with different exercises and find one that you really enjoy, one that gives you satisfaction and then you may find it easier to continue once you begin.

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Ultimately, for me, exercise is made a top priority in my life. I feel better, my body hurts less when I exercise, my mind resets, and I know it makes me stay healthy enough to enjoy the things I love to do.

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It helps me reach my goals and get to some of the most magnificent destinations a person could ever hope to see.

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Without daily exercise my body would never allow me the pleasure of reaching some of the crazy places I wish to see before its too late. And for this I am so thankful.

IMG_9503For me working out is a way to work everything out…..try it and you may find it life changing. I sure did.

 

Happy New Year

First, let me wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! This morning I loved hearing my alarm go off, grabbing a half cup of coffee, and hitting the gym early. Routine…it is a wonderful thing! Tomorrow we are all back to work, a meal plan is made for the first time in over two weeks, and our shelves and refrigerator are stocked with healthy options to begin the year. I have made no great new years resolutions since I already feel I do my best physically when my body allows, I do my best financially when the funds are there, and well, I guess the only thing I can hope for in the new year is good health. Which I really have no control over above and beyond what I already do to stay healthy, so I will let it be what it shall be.

Let’s see, Christmas for us was wonderful. Family…as small as our is, is a wonderful thing. We ate, drank and were merry as many of you were also I would imagine.

We celebrated one birthday during the holiday…our son’s falls the day after Christmas.

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And since he is an adult now, many of his gifts revolved around getting out on his own and having the basics he will need when this happens. Yes, I did buy my son a laundry hamper as a gift. He told me to buy practical gifts which I did….and I LOVED every minute of it;-)

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We also had a milestone happen in our family. Our son bought his first car which we picked up the day before Christmas Eve. These moments make me proud as a mom….slowly he is making a life for himself and spreading his wings. Next, he tells me, is apartment hunting. Oh boy, this brings me back many years. Can I seriously be this old already that my son is ready to move out….wow, where do the years go?

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Lets see, back to Christmas, we ate tons of food….some healthy and some not so healthy…..but all artificial sweetener free. We host here at our home every year and we also pick a theme to celebrate the holiday. This year we decided on a home cooked meal and pajama Christmas. So meatloaf, glazed carrots, and mashed potatoes were on the menu. Birthday cake and ice cream was dessert. Along with some appetizers to share before dinner like this pickled shrimp recipe we tried for the first time which ended up being a big hit.

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I even snuck in a new treat….and I assure you it was well deserved some days.

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With the week off between holidays, I had ample time to restock the freezer with freezer meals. Soup is a favorite for me to freeze and eat later.

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I am killing the early morning workouts….which I am proud to say I missed not a single day through the holidays. However, this is more for my mental health than my physical health during this time of year. It’s a great holiday stress reliever.

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I also have been experimenting with some new recipes from a new cookbook I received from Christmas. I know most people get new recipes online now a days but I don’t have a whole lot of time to search and find recipes. So books are still my favorite way to find new recipes. And my slow cooker is going to be my best friend with two newborn babies starting with in a week of each other here. Oh boy, time will be limited for sure.

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Also over the holiday break I enjoyed an afternoon snow hike with my son and a few feathered friends we saw along the way.

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And let me tell ya, snow adds a whole different spin on hiking….wow, were we tired after about 3 miles of snow hiking an area trail.

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We did this hike while dad ventured out for the first time to ice fish an area lake. I, like always, thought it was too early, our son also thought it was too early, but arguing with a fisherman is pointless so we made ourselves busy while he took his chances with the ice thickness. He came home a few hours later with not a great ice report but enough to be able to limit out on his catch of the day. IMG_0099

That sums up my last two weeks. As I adjust to new children to care for and we all adjust to going back to work, let’s savor the reality that routine is really a nice thing to have. I loved the holiday break but for me personally, normal life is not a bad thing either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park/Hiking Brandywine Falls

Finishing up our Virginia vacation was a planned stop about 4 hours into our 16 hour drive home at Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park to hike Brandywine Gorge Trail.  I knew we would need to stretch our legs and this national park was on the route home so we figured why not stop and check it out.

We arrived at the parking lot for the trail and found ample parking and bathrooms.

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The trail is 1.5 miles long and offers a great view of the Brandywine Falls. It starts out as a boardwalk to the falls.

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With upper and lower viewing platforms easily accessible.

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Then you follow the path up and over the actual waterfall and begin to follow a crushed gravel path.

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This crushed gravel path leads you a short ways until you then make a left hand turn down a rocky slope. Eventually it leads back to a crushed gravel path ending back at the parking lot after following the river bank.

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I liked this park. Off the beaten path and not well known meant not a whole lot of people were here. We did see many families with small children although, I can only guess its because its close to residential homes. There was no fee for entrance into this park and its widely spread out over a few miles if you want to explore all it has to offer. We did not explore, simply stopped to hike and stretch and then got back to driving as far as we could before night fall.

This was our last stop before returning home from a week of mountain hiking and relaxation…or at least what we call relaxation. It was quite the vacation and I am already beginning to plan our next adventure. We have a big anniversary coming up in 2018 and we plan to celebrate big……with more big mountains of course.

 

 

 

 

Virginia Part #3- Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National Park Hike

I knew by today we would be tired mountain hiking and would need a bit of a break from the trail. However, we knew from past mountain hikes in Utah,Tennessee, and Sedona that sitting and doing nothing only makes the pain prolong itself so we had a plan.

Our third day we checked out of the Salem, VA hotel and drove the popular scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to the Shenandoah National Park and then continued onward via the Skyline Drive through the entire park.Gorgeous…..simply gorgeous once again.

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Again, like the day we traveled to hike Sharp Top Trail, we saw numerous bear hunters lining the road all along this route. And this is where I saw my first 2….yes 2 wild bears ever! Exciting I tell you….and wow can they run fast…..I was amazed.

We drove for 6 hours this day ending at a trail head we choose to hike to stretch our legs before heading to our next hotel in Winchester, VA. Hotels near the park are an enormous amount of money…and I am cheap…so this worked out very well. The trail we choose was the Compton Gap Trail.

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According to the sign it was a 2.4 mile trail but we clocked a bit over this.

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The parking for this trail was easily located if you follow the map given to you at the entrance of the park. Parking was sufficient and the actual tail starts on the opposite side of the street.

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This trail is also part of the AT as was McAfee Knob so you will follow the white blazes you see in the trees until you reach the post marker directing you to then follow the blue blazes to the overlook.

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The trail itself offered a bit of everything. Flat dirt, rocks, and boulders you weave through once again. There seems to be a pattern to Virginia hiking.

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The overlook is easily located since the trail simply comes to an end.

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On this trail you head down the same way you hiked up.

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My opinion of this trail is its a nice short trail for families. Not too steep and not too rocky like others if you have the proper footwear for hiking. It was a great choice for us to have a bit of time on the trail and out of the vehicle.

My opinion of the Blue Ridge Parkway is it’s gorgeous. We traveled it early in the morning until mid afternoon and had no problems with traffic. That being said, I can only imagine with fall colors and mid summer it could get a bit crazy. NOTE: There are NO gas stations on the parkway so fill your tank before you travel it.

 

 

 

 

 

Virginia Part #2 : Sharp Top Trail @ The Peaks Of Otter

After hiking McAfee Knob on day one while in Virginia we woke up sore and stiff. Although, we were not going to let that hamper our plans for the day which were to hike Sharp Top Trail next.

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Across the road from the trail head is the Peaks Of Otter Visitors Center where we first stopped for a trail map, restrooms, and a chat with the park ranger.

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Why??? Well, all the way to the Peaks of Otter on the Blue Ridge Parkway we saw numerous and I mean numerous trucks full of dogs and bear hunters.

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And sure enough when we were pointed across the road to the trail head there were also signs warning us of the bear problems nearby.

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We made sure before heading down the trail that our bear spray was on us at all times.

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This was a hell of a hike!!!! Short, at just over 2 miles according to our GPS, but wow was it rocky and very hard to manage at times.

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About 3/4 of the way up you reach an area with big boulders once again that lead you up some steps and brings you to an old building.

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Round the corner from this building and you will be speechless. Suddenly you are once again on top of the mountain looking at 360 degrees of beauty.

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Simply amazing!!!!

We spent a good amount of time up here where we had a small snack before deciding to head back down by the way of the shuttle offered at the gift shop at the bottom. Down is so much more painful than up for both my husband and myself that we agreed with the rolling rocks we climbed to get up here that the shuttle would be the safest route back. This shuttle can be taken both ways or one way either up or down. For us one way cost $6 each. The shuttles run on the hour and the entire ride up/down takes about 15 minutes.

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My opinion of this hike is its rough on the knees and ankles. It took us just under 1.5 hours to get to the top and the trail itself is straight up. We saw no bear on this trail but I will tell you we did see them very nearby so some type of bear repellent would be a safe idea. If you are not a hiker and don’t have the proper gear to attempt this hike the shuttle is worth every penny to enjoy the view from the top.