Six Months with Annie

first favorite

Today is the six month anniversary of having Annie as part of our family! It’s been a pretty crazy journey with a lot of extreme highs and lows. Having a dog is so much more work than I realized, but also as rewarding as I anticipated. And Annie is so perfect for us that she’s even won her way into Greg’s heart! I thought I’d celebrate today by writing about what I’ve learned since becoming a first time (as an adult) dog owner.

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1. The early days, weeks, and months are so, so hard. 

I grew up with dogs, always. I’ve always considered myself a dog person, despite the fact that we’ve had cats for the last 12 years. I adore dogs in any breed or size and dreamed of the day we were finally able to get one. I did not, however, truly understand how much work they are. Especially the first few months. Those first two months I constantly doubted if we made the right decision. I partially hoped her original owners would be found and we would be able to go back to the easy life of cats that practically take care of themselves. Those months were HARD. I felt like I was immediately thrown back into early toddler stages with my third child. Every waking minute was spent worrying about and doing things for Annie. It was draining and ridiculously exhausting. I was in tears every day. But I’m glad I powered through.

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2. All dogs (probably) need potty training.

I assumed since Annie wasn’t a puppy she would be potty trained. But she was also a stray for however long and was thrown into a lot of new situations in a short period of time. Her potty training was nonexistent. Those first few months I was taking her outside literally every 45 minutes, and she’d still go in the house multiple times a day. We had to block off the upstairs for a long time. I threw away some rugs she used frequently. I’d say it took a good three or four months before she stopped peeing in the house. And she’d still poop in the house until four or five months. So it definitely got better, but if I’m not constantly aware of what time I’m feeding her in the evenings and what kind of food she gets, I still come downstairs to a surprise mess every once in awhile.

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3. Most dogs have energy that needs to be spent!

I also assumed since Annie was supposedly three years old, she would not have the energy of a puppy. I was pretty adamant about not getting a puppy because I did not want to deal with boundless energy. When I met Annie at the humane society she was so calm and friendly. A week or two into having her at our house? Totally new dog. She has SO MUCH ENERGY. She’s wildest in the mornings and evenings. During the school year, when it’s just the two of us in the house, she’s usually pretty sleepy and laid back. But the boys (and cats) bring out her wild side. I think if there was one thing I could change about Annie, this would be it. It can be really exhausting to deal with, especially on days that I just have too much else going on and can’t properly exercise her.

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4. Exercise is a must! 

I guess I was spoiled growing up and having a sort of fenced in yard for our dogs. Or I just don’t remember having young dogs, because my mom’s dogs are all getting up there in age these days. But Annie desperately needs exercise every single day or she’s crazy. Her whole demeanor is changed, though, if she’s had a chance to wear off her energy. Ideally, she’d probably be happiest if we took a 3-5 mile walk every morning or spent over an hour at the dog park. During school days we usually get 1-2 miles in the morning with occasional afternoon or evening dog park visits, depending on how obnoxious she’s being. The GOOD news is that having her also gets ME exercising more often. It was harder during summer, but now that we’re back to school, I love those morning walks. It just gets frustrating, like I mentioned above, on days when I just don’t have time for it and she starts getting naughty and destructive with her excess energy.

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5. Crate training is pretty normal. 

I used to be pretty dang judgmental about people who put their dogs in crates. And for the record, people that put their dogs in crates all the time are still getting my judgement!! But I’ve come to see it as a very necessary tool in helping Annie adjust to a new home. The first many times we used it, she was super anxious and chewed through the wires at everything she could reach. She even managed to pull and entire 5×7 rug through a tiny section of wire and shred it while I was only gone about an hour. But over time it’s gotten a lot easier. I guess we’re lucky that she doesn’t need to sleep in there at night. Knowing we’re in the house with her keeps her anxiety at bay. But every time I need to leave, in the crate she goes. I always give her peanut butter filled kongs, longer lasting chews, and a bone and toy. It’s probably not necessary now that she’s used to it, but it makes me feel better to bribe her before locking her into such a tiny space. Fortunately, she’s usually only crated 1-2 hours a day. Maybe once or twice a week it’s 4-5 hours and almost never longer.

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6. Medium sized dogs can feel like giants more often than you think. 

When we were looking for dogs, I wanted a big one. The biggest. I was only looking at large breed dogs because those are my favorite and the kind I always saw myself getting. Greg was more hesitant about the size thing, especially after we visited a wild lab puppy that jumped all over Shepard and terrified him. In the end, Annie is the dog I saw and wanted immediately, and her size would have to do! She was 35 pounds when we got her, though I’m guessing she’s 40-45 pounds now because she was so thin after being a stray. Anyway, those 40 pounds? They are STRONG. Before I got the proper collar, four months in, she practically ripped my arms off every time we went on a walk. If I’m laying on the couch and she decides to run and jump on me? It hurts. I honestly don’t even know how I would have been able to handle a 70 pound or heavier dog. Annie is perfect. I’d probably have a permanently dislocated shoulder with a dog any bigger.

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7. Pinch collars are magical.

After Annie’s very first walk I realized her regular collar was not going to do. I bought her a harness, so at least she wouldn’t choke or slip the collar over her head, but it definitely didn’t stop her from pulling. I was going to try a gentle leader, but saw so many reviews online about dogs that rubbed the tops of their noses raw because they stilled tried to pull so much. I bought a different kind of gentle leader that pulled tighter around her torso and attached to a double lead leash. It didn’t make much difference. Finally – at a free obedience class – I learned about pinch collars. They look horrendous. I was so scared to use one, afraid I’d hurt Annie. But honestly? It works SO WELL. When I signed up for my regular obedience class they convinced every single person to buy one. It was essential to the training process. With the exception of one smaller dog that yelped every time it was tugged (and left the class after that), it never seemed to bother any of the dogs. Annie gets excited about putting it on because she knows it means a longer walk. And she’s never made any sort of noise of pain when wearing it. She still pulls to an extent while walking, but it’s a million times better than it used to be. And it’s the only one thing that really works for behavior correction.

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8. Obedience class is worth it. 

I was going back and forth on whether I wanted to go to an obedience class with Annie. The vet told me that the classes they offered were really directed to completely untrained puppies and it would have been useless. She already knew a bunch of commands when we got her, but I struggled with the walking and getting her to stay or lay down or stop jumping on people. So I signed up for an eight week class over the summer. I hated going every week because it was hard work! And it was really hard getting reprimanded in front of people week after week. But the good part? Being with other people in the same boat as me. We were all having struggles and it felt good to know I wasn’t alone. And while Annie didn’t come out of that class being perfectly trained, it did help me to feel more secure as a dog owner.

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9. Socialization with other dogs – and people – is key!

I’m SO glad Columbus has such an amazing dog park. We probably go 4-6 times a week. Annie LOVES it. She loves playing with other dogs so much. She loves running with other dogs! And I think it’s just important for her to get used to being around dogs so she behaves better on walks and any kind of social interaction. The downside is that you never know which dogs are going to be at the park. She generally leaves dogs alone when they show no interest in playing back with her. But on days when the park is filled with runners and wrestlers? She is totally in heaven.

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10. Dogs are always up for adventures!

The boys and I had a lot of fun over the summer trying out a few new parks and trails with Annie. I think next summer when we’re even more comfortable we’ll be a bit more ambitious. But Annie adores going on any type of walk and if it involves doing something like wading through rivers? She is always game!

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11. Dogs provide so much laughter and entertainment!

I love how every dog’s personality is just so distinct. I’m so glad I picked a funny one! 🙂 She does the craziest things sometimes and it’s just so funny! We’re always laughing over new antics. She lightens the mood and makes us all a lot happier!

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12. Dogs really are man’s best friend.

Annie is such a loyal companion! It’s ones of the main reasons I really wanted a dog. I’m going to continue working at home for the foreseeable future. And while I love my cats, they’re also getting up there in age and I can’t exactly tote them around town with me or take them on walks. I was hoping that whatever dog we picked would end up being my best buddy. And she is! She’s not much of a cuddler, but she’s within five feet of me pretty much day and night. Occasionally she’ll tag along with one of the boys if they’re relaxing somewhere. But she knows I’m her number one human and she keeps me company all the time.

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13. Dogs give introverts an excuse to get away.

This is probably something I should take advantage of more than I do! 🙂 When things get a bit insane around the house, I love that I always have a reason to go do something with Annie. Boys are being whiny and obnoxious? Oh, I think Annie needs to go on a long evening walk! Stressful day of interacting with people? I think a trip to the dog park, even in the rain, is totally on my evening agenda. It’s pretty great.

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14. Dogs and cats can get along…most of the time.

Okay, so we’re still working on this one. I think it has a lot to do with Annie’s breed, that she has a hard time leaving the cats alone. She doesn’t try to hurt them, but she likes to herd them. She’s pretty good with Jack because he always sticks around, even if he’s annoyed by her. Rory spends a lot of time in the basement, so it’s always a novelty when he comes up. Annie likes to chase him back to the basement door. But if she’s not already hyped up, they’re all getting a lot better at coexisting.

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15. It’s been a journey, there’s been a learning curve, but I’m glad we stuck it out. 

I’d say that six months is a pretty good time frame to decide if dog owning is really for you. And for me, it is! There are still occasionally times when I wish I just had the ease of being dog free. Like when I want to leave the house for 10 hours at a time or when I have to stop what I’m doing multiple nights a week to take Annie to the dog park because she’s driving us all crazy. But overall? It’s so worth it. I love Annie so much! She’s the most perfect dog for our family and we are blessed to have her in our lives!

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What I’m Listening To: Podcasts September 2017

Let’s talk a minute about podcasts. I started listening to them a little over a year ago for the very first time and now my life sometimes feels like it revolves around them. I realize this isn’t exactly a good thing, but I can no longer work – in any capacity – without listening to a podcast at the same time. Sometimes, I listen to music. Rarely. But doing literally anything slightly mindless without an accompanying podcast in my ears feels like a wasted opportunity. I love them, and I can’t get enough of them.

A few months ago I tacked this segment onto my large end of the month media consumption post, but I’ve decided to do it a little more justice and provide its own monthly recap on what I listened to most, why I like it, and specific episodes that you might enjoy if you’re just getting into the podcast lifestyle. I go through spurts of listening to the same handful of podcasts all day every day for weeks. And then there are weeks when I’m more open to branching out and I try new things. I find a lot of duds because it’s hard to feel attached when I’m already so invested in my favorites. But every once in awhile I come across one I really love and it moves its way up to the top of my list. So I’m sure as I write these posts each month there will be a lot of repeats. But also a few new discoveries that I will always list first.

For the Love Podcast with Jen Hatmaker

I just started listening to this one a few weeks ago when I heard about it after beginning Jen’s book Of Mess and Moxie. And it’s pretty amazing. It’s also fairly new, so there are only 12 episodes out and completely worth starting at the beginning and listening to all of them. Jen is structuring the podcast to go through series of guests that will speak with her about a certain topic. The first five episodes are about For the Love of Girlfriends. Jen and her guest discuss friendship in ways that will make you laugh your head off and feel green with envy. The second series is For the Love of Moxie. It’s about women that are full of moxie, oftentimes ones who started their own companies and are making a huge difference in the world. Each episode is funny, moving, and rooted in faith. They will uplift you and make you a better person for having listened.

Favorite episodes:

For the Love of Girlfriends: Episode 05: Real Girlfriends Stories from the Tribe

Listen to this. Seriously, listen to it. The words will absolutely convict you about your own friendships and challenge you to be so much more invested and reliable to the ones you love. Warning, it WILL make you cry. Even if you’re walking around town with your dog while you listen and determined not to make a fool of yourself in front of strangers.

For the Love of Moxie: Episode 03: Food, Freedom & The Whole30 with Melissa Hartwig

I didn’t really know anything about Whole30 before listening to this episode. I try to stay away from diet trends because they overwhelm me and feel so restricting. But I found this interview and the whole story behind the company and plan to be pretty fascinating. All of the guests on the Moxie series have been great, but this one felt the most powerful to me.

36 Questions

Here’s a fun one for you! It’s a musical podcast. Described as an experiment on what podcasting could eventually be, this is a three act production in a musical format about a couple trying to find their way back from divorce using a list of 36 questions that they ask each other. Each act is an hour or less so you can do what I did and listen to it all in a day. The podcast is acted out by Jonathan Broff and Jessie Shelton who just felt perfect for their rolls. I’m a little bit in love with Jonathan Broff now. This was definitely a unique experience and I hope it sets a new trend for similar podcasts. Expertly created with interesting sound effects, a believable and heartfelt storyline, and beautiful songs, 36 Questions was truly a treat.

The Popcast with Knox and Jamie

I think it’s officially safe to say that this is my all time favorite podcast. I like it so much that I recently decided to become a Patreon supporter, which gives me access to hundreds of episodes of bonus content from the past few years, plus everything new to come. I think one of the things that makes this podcast so great is that Knox and Jamie now do this for a living. It is their job and they take it seriously. Every episode is so well researched and put together, with tons of creative and interesting new topics every week. And the best part – it’s FUNNY. Oh, so funny!!! They discuss pop culture, argue about so many things, and just make you laugh without fail. I love it. There are hundreds of back episodes, which I’m not even caught up with yet. But if you’re just starting I’d probably go with the newest few just because they’ll be the most pertinent. I love Knox and Jamie as people and pretty much everything they have to say. Jamie is especially snarky and opinionated, but the podcast itself is clean. Besides their main topic each week, they also discuss news for the week (more in depth for Patreon supporters), and their red and green lights. I always LOVE recommendations from people, especially recommendations on books, tv, and movies. Which is what they almost always stick with. I have learned that I have very different tastes than Jamie, but it’s always exciting to see what she has to say. This summer they went on tour to various states and co-hosted with other podcasters I also listen to. I was so insanely jealous none of them were close enough for me to go to. If they have another live tour next summer, it might have to be my vacation destination.

Their website lists a guide for episodes you should start with if you’re new to them. I’d have to agree. Episode 181: Misunderstood and Misheard Song Lyrics is my absolute favorite. I laughed so hard I was crying and I laughed about it all day long. All of the NOs Of episodes are also especially hilarious. I love the Urban Dictionary episodes too. So many laughs. Check this one out, for real, guys. If you’re into pop culture AT ALL, I think you’ll enjoy this podcast.

Front Porch with the Fitzes

This is the first podcast I ever listened to and it definitely holds a special place in my heart. I started at the beginning with this one, though they just had their 100th episode and it might be hard to catch up. But there are many references to past conversations in other episodes, so it’s a more enriched listening experience if you understand all the inside jokes. Anyway, this podcast is just a group of family members that get together every week to discuss what’s going on in their lives. The main hosts are mom Elyse Fitzpatrick, daughter Jessica Thomson, and son Joel Fitzpatrick. (Elyse and Jessica are Christian authors and speakers and Joel is a pastor. But don’t let that they deter you – they are feisty!) In more recent episodes Pop, the dad, has been a regular. And occasionally they have their spouses or kids on, though I enjoy it the most when it’s just the three of them. A lot of times topics they discuss are silly, but it’s always a guaranteed laugh. They’re the kind of family you wish you could belong to. Always teasing, filled with laughter, but also rooted in love and affection for each other. They recently started a segment on book/tv/movie recommendations (my fave!) and they close out each podcast with a devotional. Overall, I greatly look forward to Tuesday mornings when I can listen to the latest episode.

Happier with Gretchen Rubin

This podcast is hosted by happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin, and her sister Elizabeth Craft. Each week they discuss happiness hacks, listener questions, stumbling blocks, and give out gold stars and demerits for things that have happened to them over the week. I like this one because it’s always positive and uplifting and gives great suggestions for things you can do to make you happier. But it’s never done in a way to make you feel guilty or like you’re not doing enough. I started this one at the beginning and I’m not quite caught up, but only have about 15 left. It’s not necessary, but they do often refer back to topics or listener questions from previous episodes. On every tenth episode they have a “very special episode” where they might address a more exciting topic or have a special guest on. They also talk a lot about personality frameworks, as it’s something Gretchen specializes in. I feel like so much of what they talk about is relevant to anyone who listens, regardless of age or gender. Everyone could use a few tips to be happier, right? I don’t have any favorite episodes, but they’re all pretty similar in quality of content.

What Should I Read Next? with Annie Bogel

Anne Bogel is creator of the amazing blog ModernMrsDarcy.com. Which is an incredible resource for anybody who shares a love of reading. She has so much awesome content about every genre of book, filled with recommendations for any type you could possibly want. It’s basically my dream job and I’m supremely jealous. I follow her on every form of social media and it’s just books galore! Anyway, in her podcast she interviews a guest each week about their reading habits and gives them three suggestions of what they should read next. She makes these recommendations based on books they love, books they hate, what they’re currently reading, and what they wished was different in their reading lives. I find the entire thing so interesting! I love to hear what other people are reading and listen to book talk in general. Because each guest and topic is different each week, it’s not necessary to listen in any sort of order. I usually jump all around to what guests or topics sound the most intriguing.

Sorta Awesome

I really go back and forth on whether I actually like this podcast or not. It’s one of the first ones I listened to, but after awhile aspects of it and the hosts started to grate on me. It’s made by Meg Tietz who rotates with three co-hosts: Laura Tremaine, Rebekah Hoffer, and Kelly Gordon. Occasionally they have group shows with all four of them. Kelly is my favorite co-host. Meg is the one who grates on me and there’s no avoiding her. BUT, the thing I like most about this podcast, is that it has an accompanying facebook group called Sorta Awesome Hangout. And from that hangout, there are tons of spin-off groups. I’m in a book lovers group, a planner obsessed group, and a YA group. I love being in these groups so much because every day tons of people are starting the most interesting conversations and asking for advice on every topic under the sun. Basically, these sorta awesome groups (called “awesomes”) are my entire facebook world. None of my real life friends ever post anything. But these women love to discuss things and they give amazing advice if you’re looking for answers to a random question too. I recently asked for suggestions on gifts for my mother-in-law’s birthday and party foods for Caden’s Harry Potter party. The groups are so big that I doubt I’ll ever form definitive friendships with anyone, but it’s fun to belong. So I’ll always be a bit loyal to the podcast itself. I don’t listen regularly, but if a particular episode is getting a lot of buzz, I try to tune in. My favorite segment is when everybody shares their awesome of the week (sensing a theme here?). I’ve gotten a lot of cool gift, makeup, book, podcast, and tv ideas from here.

Favorite recent episode:

This episode will give you a good idea who each of the hosts are. And it’s hysterical. Not all of the episodes are particularly funny, but this was a good one.

Spilled Milk

So I almost hesitate to recommend this one. But there are 299 episodes and I’ve listened to every single one of them. In each episode the hosts, Matthew Amster-Burton and Molly Wizenberg, discuss a certain food. They usually get different brands or varieties of whatever food they’re discussing, eat it, and then talk about it. The earliest episodes are hard to listen to because they had no idea what they were doing. But they hit their stride and many episodes are extremely funny. Definitely not any intense looks into the food topic, but fun to listen to regardless. I do feel like more recently they’re just phoning it in. They rarely stay on topic, they don’t seem to go the extra mile, forget to buy certain things, etc. It feels like a bit of a mess. Like The Popcast, this podcast is the hosts’ main source of income. But they put out a 15 minute episode every two weeks. Popcast puts out hours of content every week. Anyway, this sounds like a really bad review. I still listen to it and I’ll continue listening to it. It’s a nice lighthearted thing to listen to while you’re making dinner. It’s good for a laugh.

And that’s it for this month! I did listen to occasional episodes of other podcasts, but I’ll stick with what I look forward to hearing the most. Please let me know your favorite podcasts as well! I LOVE recommendations! 😀

Book Review: Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Sourdough by Robin Sloan
Rating: 3.5 stars

Lois is a woman who spends most of her life at work. She recently moved to San Francisco to be a programmer at a robotics company. She and her co-workers are expected to spend about every waking minute at work, including sleeping over and spending weekends at the office. She falls into a pattern where all she does is program, doesn’t have any friends, eats a nutritional “slurry” for all her meals, and feels sluggish and ill all the time. One day she has a flyer at her door for a local delivery only restaurant that sells sandwiches, soups, and sourdough. She orders her first meal and instantly feels more alive. She starts ordering the same meal every single night and her life begins to change. One day she receives news that the restaurant owners need to close and move back to Europe, but as a gift for being their number one customer, they give her their sourdough starter. Lois has never baked a thing in her life, but she looks up directions online and is startled to realize how satisfying it is to bake a nourishing and delicious loaf of bread.

Sourdough follows Lois’ journey and she embarks on a new side business making and selling her own sourdough from the magical starter. With almost no planning, she makes her own outdoor oven, researches bread baking books, and instantly has a reputation for her talent. At the suggestion of her office chef, she auditions to work in one of the Bay area farmer’s markets. She is given a spot at a new upcoming destination called The Marrow Market. On one condition – she has to bring one of her robotic arms to help her bake.

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book. It’s so delightful to see someone discover a piece of themselves they didn’t realize they were missing. As someone who also loves to bake, I enjoyed learning more about sourdough and the bread baking process. It felt slightly unbelievable that someone could start baking and days later be offered a position in a new market, in San Francisco (sourdough central!) of all places. But I rolled with it and it was fun to watch her journey. The second half of the book, however, got a bit odd. The Marrow Market was a collection of people finding new ways to produce food. Everyone had an angle to make them more unique than what you could find at a regular farmer’s market. I didn’t really care for any of the robotics stuff. It didn’t seem to serve any purpose other than an interesting novelty to customers. Lois also starts mixing her starter with other starters to be able to produce larger quantities of bread and everything gets a bit crazy at that point. A lot of weird stuff happens and it’s so abstractly described that it kind of lost me. I really had no real idea what was happening at one point. I feel like at that point, most of the heart that the first half held, was gone.

Overall, this is a fast and easy read. I like how it encourages readers to go after their own hobbies and dreams, even if they’re not as financially adequate as a soul destroying career they might currently have. If you like to bake, you’ll probably enjoy this book. Though fair warning – it will also make you want to have a piece of bread in your hand and mouth as soon as possible!!

Book Review: Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse

Seven Days of You by Cecilia Vinesse
Rating: 3 stars

In this book, 17 year old Sophia is counting down her final days of living in Tokyo before she has to move back to the States after a four year stay. She’s upset about leaving the only friends she’s ever had, but determined to make the most of her final days. Until she finds out Jamie, a boy she knew years before, is on his way back to Tokyo. Jamie and Sophia parted on terrible terms three years ago after a missent text and haven’t spoken since. You travel along with Sophia as she spends full days and nights reliving her best memories of Tokyo and making new ones with her best friends – and Jamie.

It might have something to do with the last book I read also being a countdown to some inevitable tragedy. But I did not enjoy the premise of this book at all. I thought the misunderstanding between Sophia and Jamie that happened when they were only 13 and 14 years old, was a little bit ridiculous. And the way they suddenly jump into a relationship despite how many times Sophia says she hates Jamie, was kind of unbelievable. I liked Jamie. And it was vaguely interesting to learn about their favorite spots around Tokyo. But there were also a lot of allusions to other big topics that were not fully explained. If this book eventually has a sequel, I think I’d like it better.

Overall, Seven Days of You felt pretty mediocre to me. I was interested enough to keep going, but it was not be memorable. Nothing about any of the characters truly sparked my investment. If you’ve been to Tokyo or are interested in it, this might be a fast and fun YA for you. If you’re not, I’d say skip it. There are plenty of better ones out there.

Sunday Intentions

It’s another busy week ahead! Probably one of the busiest because birthday parties are a lot of work! That’s the main thing on the agenda all week. Getting ready for Caden’s friend party on Friday afternoon and his family party on Sunday. Plus my mother-in-law’s actual birthday on Tuesday, which I’m guessing we will be spending with her. She’s on her way home from Ireland at the moment and we haven’t seen her in two weeks, so they’re sure to be at least one get together this week!

Top Priority – Make the birthday parties happen and happen well! 

The friend party is in five days and I still don’t have a clue what we’re serving. His party was supposed to be on Saturday during the afternoon and non-meal time. But nobody could come, so we had to change it to Friday and now need to serve a meal. I’ve never served a meal at a kid party before! I think most people just serve pizza. But Caden doesn’t eat pizza, and I’d like to put out something he will enjoy too. Bonus points if it’s Harry Potter themed. Except I don’t really want to spend much more money on this party because even though it’s fun to go all out, I don’t think the kids really care. So…we’ll see what happens!! I wanted to do a little more research and come up with a concrete plan today, but I still don’t feel that great and we’re still working on putting up shelves and reorganizing everything in the house. So, first thing tomorrow morning. A plan will be made. Grocery lists written. And then I’ll feel a whole lot better.

Second Priority – Clean and get back on track

With the room rearranging and new shelves being put up, there’s a lot of chaos going on. Some rooms look better than usual. But some rooms definitely need some work. It would be so nice for ALL rooms to look pretty and done by the family party next Sunday.

Third Priority – Work lists

I’m at such a loss on what to sew next. I’m not feeling very inspired or motivated. Granted, it’s been a really busy couple of weeks. And the next two are super busy as well. But I’m just not feeling it. I asked my customers for suggestions on what they’d like me to make next and I didn’t really like anything they had to say! Mostly because it was all things I’ve never made before, required extra clothing or style components, and basically just more work for the same – or less- money. I’ve been on a roll sticking with what I know the last few months and it serves me well. Everything I try something new it never goes over as well as I expect. So. I don’t know. I probably won’t get much actual sewing done this week, but I would like to make a solid plan for what to do next.

Fourth Priority – Blog Posts

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve been trying to write a lot more often! I started writing longer book reviews for each individual book I read. I’m also splitting my super long weekend posts into two segments – Saturday Reflections and Sunday Intentions. I’ve decided to split up my huge end of the month post into three separate categories as well. And it’s the last week of the month, so I have a lot to write! One on tv/movies, one on podcasts, one on books. Plus posts about Caden’s parties. I’m realizing lately how much I really love writing. It energizes me in a way that nothing else can. And I want it to be a bigger part of my life. Even if nobody ever reads it, I still want to write it.

Meal Plans – Tentatively

I’m going to try and eat from the food we have for the next week or two. I go to such extremes in my meal planning and cooking. Either I want nothing to do with it, or I want it to be amazing. And amazing almost always requires trips to the store for unique ingredients. With the expensive party foods I need to buy, I want to be more frugal about daily meals. So…what we have is what we’re eating!

Monday – Pork Roast

Tuesday – Birthday with Cindy, food unknown!

Wednesday – Chicken shakers

Thursday – Pizza, maybe

Friday – Party…I think the main food will be a sub sandwich shaped into a snake form

Saturday – Chicken nuggets, sandwiches, something easy while we prep for Sunday’s party

Sunday – Taco Feast!

Have a good week!

Caden’s 9th Birthday

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Yesterday was Caden’s 9th birthday. How do we already have a nine year old?! I feel like he’s been in our lives forever, and yet it flew by in the blink of an eye. He’s definitely growing up! One last year in the single digits.

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We started the day eating Dunkin’ Donuts, which they picked out the night before after seeing the Ninjago Lego movie with Greg.

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Once everyone was awake we moved on to presents!

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Shepard was suffering from some severe jealousy. I don’t even want to think about how bad it might be next weekend when Caden has his birthday parties. He does NOT like the attention being solely on Caden.

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We gave him the newest Mario game, which he was very excited about.

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And a big Minecraft Lego set.

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Shepard gave Caden some geodes. Mostly because he wanted geodes for himself and hoped/expected Caden to share.

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And a giant whoopie cushion. Along with a few books, a bathrobe, Harry Potter Clue, a collectable quidditch set, and a golden snitch keychain.

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After presents, the guys immediately had to try out the new Mario game. And basically played that the entire day. I was kind of disappointed we couldn’t think of anything more exciting to do at least part of the day. But it was 95 degrees with horrible humidity again and nobody wanted to be outside. I also relapsed with the queasiness I had earlier in the week and just plain didn’t have energy for anything beyond making him food. So it was a quiet day, mostly at home, playing video games. Which is pretty much Caden’s ideal day. We did go out for a little bit to get lunch at Taco Bell and pick some raspberries at Grandma’s house.

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Working on smashing up some geodes.

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Caden requested “noodles” for his birthday dinner. Maybe someday my kids will mix their noodles with their sauce.

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Yesterday was also Annie’s half birthday. She was found as a stray on March 23rd, so that’s the date the humane society listed as her birthday. They said she was 3 and our vet thought she was closer to 1 or 2, so we’re saying that she’s now 2.5.

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I’m glad he picked such easy meals and desserts because I was so worn out from Cranberry Fest and not feeling great. Cookie dough ice cream was pretty easy on me! Though I did make extra cookie dough and butterscotch sauce for topping.

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I think nine will be a good year for him! He seems to really like school again now that he’s in third grade. They do so many fun things! He has a lot of deep interest in coding, gardening, and basically anything techy. He loves to read, which makes me so happy. And he of course loves video games.

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He also loves our animals! He’s the only one Annie will let brush her. He’s Jack’s favorite human and they cuddle in bed every night while he reads.

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Annie chewing on her new nine braided bully stick.

And that was the day! Not particularly exciting, but it’s what made him happy. He ended the night by sleeping on the futon. I’m not sure why he gets so excited about that, but apparently it feels extra special. I think overall he had a pretty great day!

Saturday Reflections

This has turned into one whirlwind of a week! The week of Caden’s birthday and Cranberry Fest is always pretty crazy. But this year all four of us managed to come down with some sort of illness and we had a full house upheaval of rearranging and organization that really should have been done at literally any other point in the year besides this week. But, we made it.

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On Sunday, Greg and Caden decided to clean and rearrange his room. Which then somehow turned into them moving the entire lego area from the living room to Caden’s room. Let the record state that I was totally and completely against this. No, I do not like having a constant mess in the prettiest room of our house. But I’m very aware that legos are the one and only thing everyone else in my house plays with and plays with every single day. I was fine with it being in the living room, as long as they didn’t mess with my cozy little reading nook next to the fireplace. But they ignored my protests and still made the switch. So far, Caden is happy with the decision. But he already has the smallest room in the entire house. Now it’s crowded to the max. And Shepard is upset because he plays with legos the most, often early in the morning when he’s the first one up. He can’t go into Caden’s room to play if Caden is still sleeping.

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And now we have a big empty hole in the living room. Which looks pretty lame right now! When we first bought the house I imagined this corner having a large overstuffed chair and ottoman. A perfect place for someone to read, the cats to sleep, and for me to work more comfortably when I have a lot of hand sewing to do. Then we moved the legos there last spring and I gave up that vision. Now it’s maybe once again a possibility? IF the lego situation stays upstairs. Which I’m still not sure will really happen…

Moving on from legos for a minute… On Sunday, I took Shepard to the apple orchard because we needed to get out of the house. When we got there, Shepard threw up. I thought he was carsick and didn’t think much of it, but then it continued the rest of the day. I guess Caden didn’t feel the greatest Friday morning, Greg felt crummy most of Saturday, and Shepard was the one to throw up (as usual). He went to bed at 5:15 Sunday night. Slept 12 hours and woke up still looking very out of it, so he stayed home from school. I originally had plans to run errands all day, but turned it into a workday instead. I certainly had plenty to keep me busy.

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A giant fall Annie I finished up. I’m really tempted to keep her. This is my favorite size, but also the most expensive one I make, so it’s hard to keep it for myself knowing I might have a big sale!

Shepard took a long nap on Monday afternoon and then threw up an hour later. I had errands I seriously needed to run after being gone last week, so I took off for that as soon as Greg got home from work. Then I met my friends for dinner out. It was much needed! I love that we have this monthly dinner date finally figured out, but I wish we could find ways to get together more often.

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On Wednesday, Shepard was still pretty upset about not having a downstairs lego area, so we decided to take matters into our own hands to give him a space in his room to play too. His room has always been home to all the rest of our toys. But he never plays with them. And they were always just a huge mess over his floor. Wednesday was the first late start of the year, so right when we woke up we began packing up a lot of the bigger toys and cleaning out and reorganizing everything in his entire room. It freed up a lot of space! He has the biggest bedroom.

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The rest of Wednesday was quite labor intensive! Right after I brought the boys to school I ran around to thrift stores looking for some sort of shelving Shepard could use in his room for his favorite lego sets. I ended up just buying a cheap bookshelf at Walmart that I then had to build. I also bought a new rug for Caden’s room because I looked really hard for that pretty yellow and gray rug that I bought specifically for the living room. And I want it back. I also bought supplies to build nine more shelves for the family room, sewing room, Caden’s room, and Shepard’s room. Greg loves legos as display pieces, and wanted/needed more shelves for his sets. Making space for those shelves, I had to rearrange all the decorations I had in the family room, including a whole wall of my shelves and knick knacks. Compromise, people.

Overall, this whole lego thing was maybe a good thing just because it forced us to do a lot of deeper cleaning throughout most of the house. Greg wasn’t very happy about the extra things I needed to buy, but HE is the one who made this whole thing happen. I’m the one trying to make the most of it and keep it beneficial for all four of us. The shelves are still piled where I left them, but hopefully once those are built and hung everything will look a lot nicer.

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On Thursday, I put up fall decorations. And wrapped Caden’s presents. And prepped a lot of stuff for Friday and Saturday. And got the boys out of school early to take Caden to a therapy appointment. And ran some grocery errands with Shepard. It was a pretty crazy day.

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I finished Thursday making Caden’s school treat for his birthday. He wanted dirt cake cups. He was very pleased with how they turned out and said his class went crazy for them. Unfortunately, they took up so much space that his teacher turned them away in the morning, so Greg had to carry them back a second time in the afternoon.

During all this house related stuff over the week, I also felt sick myself. The first half of the week with semi-queasiness. Never sick enough to make me stop what I was doing, but enough to make it feel extra hard. The second half of the week I caught Caden’s cold and/or had allergies. I thought it was a cold, but I took my nighttime allergy medicine again last night and feel a lot better today, so that might be the culprit. I do have fall allergies, according to my allergy testing a few years ago. But it’s never been strong enough for me to notice before.

Finally, Friday was Cranberry Fest! Just like every year, I had a horrible time falling asleep early the night before. Too excited/nervous and this year I couldn’t breathe. 😛 I got about two or three hours of very crappy sleep. Woke up at 3am to shower and get ready and head over to my parents’ so we could drive together. I don’t think I’d manage that trip every year if my dad wasn’t driving us!

Cranberry Fest is usually one of my favorite days of the year, but this year it felt kind of like a bust. Because it was 95 degrees. Most years I’m pretty sure it’s around 40 when we get there in the early mornings. Which is WAY better than what it was like yesterday. We did get a chance to walk through most of the craft areas, but didn’t have any interest in sticking around and going through a second time, or searching the flea market areas. It was just so dang hot and disgusting outside.

We left around 11:30, I think. Went to our favorite crafty stores in Tomah. Then had a late lunch at HuHot in La Crosse. My mom and I then spent well over an hour in Ulta trying out new makeups. We needed it after all our makeup melted away in the morning! 😀 Then we drove back to the Craft Barn in WI Dells. And finished the night getting popcorn and ice cream in Portage. Despite the heat it was still a really fun day! I didn’t get a whole lot of cool things this year, but it’s always fun to look.

While I was gone, Greg had another vacation day and took care of things on the homefront. Carrying boxes of dirt cake back and forth to school and bringing Annie to the dog park. After school the three of them went to see the new Ninjago movie and then picked up donuts for today’s breakfast.

And today is Caden’s 9th birthday! But I’ll write a separate post on that later. 🙂 Overall, it was a pretty exhausting week. It’s definitely not how I planned on spending – or feeling – the last few days. But we made it work.

Book Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
Rating: 3 stars

In this book, people are given calls by a company called Death Cast in the early hours on the day they will die. They’re not told how or what time that day they will die, just that it’s their last day and they should live it to the fullest. This story revolves around Mateo, an 18 year old recluse who lives with his dad, except that his dad has been in the hospital in a coma for the last couple of weeks, and Rufus, a 17 year old who watched his entire family die when their car crashed into the Hudson River four months earlier. After receiving their Death Cast calls, each boy downloads the Last Friend app and eventually find each other and spend their final hours forming a friendship. They have a variety of adventures throughout the day, trying to make it last as long as possible. Rufus helps Mateo come out of his shell of fear and Mateo helps Rufus see his life in color, despite the great loss he suffered watching his family die.

There’s no denying the title of this book. They really do die at the end. And it’s pretty depressing. I understand that the theme of the book is that you should always live each day like it’s your last. Find your people and love them well. Don’t shy away from opportunity and adventure because life is worth living and living well. But I just couldn’t get past how depressing it really was. Not only that these teenagers were about to die, but that so many people in their universe got these calls every single day. Hundreds in just NYC alone? The people that are about to die are called Deckers and the city caters to them in so many ways, because there are so many of them. It’s a little bit terrifying. It’s hard to read this book and not constantly think about what you would do in that situation. It’s supposed to give you a message of hope, but I feel like knowing I could get a call like that any day would absolutely cripple me. Rufus and Mateo definitely form a unique bond as their day goes on and I like that they eventually decide being with their friends on their last day is more important than trying to save them the pain of possibly witnessing their deaths. As one that lived, I’d be so upset not to be given the opportunity to say goodbye and they realized that as well.

Overall, I was not in love with this book. I don’t shy away from sad things, though I prefer books that make me cry tears of happiness. I enjoyed the concept and the characters were mostly interesting. Mateo really spent way too long being cautious and then does a 180 in the middle of the book that felt a little bit unbelievable. But knowing your hours are limited probably does that to a person. It’s a well written and perfectly fine book, but it wasn’t for me.

Sunday Intentions

I’ve decided it’s about time I revert back to what this weekly post is supposed to be – my intentions for the week. Maybe I’ll have to introduce a new segment called Saturday Reflections or something, where I go over what I did the week before. Because I like writing about that a lot, but it really has nothing to do with the week ahead. I want to go back to Sunday posts being about looking forward instead of behind.

So! It’s a pretty busy week ahead. We are officially entering birthday season with Caden’s birthday on Saturday, my mother-in-law’s the following Tuesday, my brother-in-law’s that Friday, and then mine the next week. This is also the week of Cranberry Fest. It’s my favorite day of the entire year, but it’s such terrible timing! Most years his birthday happens right before or after, but last year and this year his birthday is on the actual day, so I can only go once. 🙁 Normally I like to go both Friday and Saturday. Oh well. Birthdays are important too! It just makes things a bit more tricky when I need to have a birthday treat for school ready on the day I’ll be gone, and have all his birthday stuff figured out and baked, knowing I won’t be home until very late and crazy exhausted the night before. Lots of planning and organizing involved to make it all run smoothly.

Top Priority – Birthday Week

That being said, this needs to be my top priority! I’m really not very on top of things this year. He wants a Harry Potter themed birthday. His parties are next weekend, but I still should really plan them out this week so I’m not running around wild in the final few days. This week – preferably today, though he’s not really on speaking terms with me at the moment – I need to nail down what he wants for a birthday breakfast, dinner, and dessert. We’ve only settled on going to Taco Bell for lunch so far. I also need to figure out his school snack. He requested dirt cake cups, but I’m not sure that’s logistically possible since they’ll need to be refrigerated. And I’m not so sure I trust him carrying those to school without a massive disaster. I could suggest he have it at his friend party instead, but that really has nothing to do with the Harry Potter theme… Anyway, I need to figure it all out! Asap. I also need to wrap his presents and make sure we’re squared away with everything.

Second Priority – Fall Decorations

It may not technically and officially be fall yet, but…it’s fall, people. Despite the 90+ degree day we had yesterday. Today the chill is back in the air. The tree in front of my house is completely orange and covering our driveway with leaves. It’s fall. And time to get out my decorations! I have more fall decor than any other season because it’s my favorite. It’s a little sad I haven’t gotten it out before now!

Third Priority – Keep Working!

I didn’t get a whole lot of work done last week with the whole Door County vacation and all. This week I need to finish the batch I’m currently working on and make a few more. It’d be nice to have all of those done by Wednesday. Improbable, but I’ll do my best.

I really do have the best of intentions for getting back to meal planning in these weekly posts. But my brain just can’t wrap around it right now. It’s been a rough weekend around here. Perhaps I’ll feel more optimistic later tonight and edit in some plans!

Happy fall!

Flying Solo in Door County

IMG_20170914_100019_696 my favorite rocks

Last night I got back from my three day solo trip to Door County. There was no purpose to this trip, other than that I really wanted a break from real life. It was the ultimate form of self care and something I desperately needed. I’m SO thankful I was able to go and enjoy myself for three full days without any responsibility to anyone other than myself. It was amazing.

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I left around 6am on Wednesday morning. Late enough that I could say a quick goodbye to everyone, but early enough that I didn’t have to pack lunches or make breakfasts. I got to see an amazing sunrise on the drive up. I tried to take a picture, but phone photos (while driving!) do NOT do gigantic red sun photos justice. I made my first stop in Sturgeon Bay. It was a bit too early for the stores I wanted to go to, so I wandered around Target to pass the time. Then I walked through the downtown area and checked out their shops. I had lunch at The Bluefront Cafe. It was a turkey, brie, arugula, and cherry jam grilled sandwich – delish!

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I worked my way up the peninsula, stopping at all the stores that looked interesting. Mostly the farm markets because finding unique locally made food goodies is my absolute favorite thing on any trip I take. Plus all the samples are always just the best. I stopped at Lautenbach Orchards and had a wine tasting. Picked up two bottles of their Summer Breeze wine – it was so tasty!

While I enjoyed stopping in at so many stores, I also had a terrible headache and was really looking forward to getting to the hotel. I checked in at Church Hill Inn right at 3:00 and was put in The Lighthouse Room. It was such a nice room! I rested for about an hour and then decided I’d rather go back out and check out a few more shops before they all shut down at 5:00. Before I left, I had some of the hotel’s afternoon appetizers – cheese, sausage, crackers, and spinach artichoke dip.

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I had dinner at Grasse’s Grill in Sister Bay. The entire reason I wanted to go there was for their sweet potato fries with curry dip. Except the lady apparently didn’t hear me say the “sweet potato” part when I requested the fry side. I always feel awkward enough eating at sit down restaurants by myself, so I decided not to make a deal out of it. The cherry chicken salad wrap I ordered was delicious, though! The best chicken salad I’ve ever had. I also ordered cherry soda, just to stay with the cherry theme. It wasn’t that great (no surprise).

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After dinner, I settled back in at the hotel for a full night of reading. I brought a lot of books along, but really just read fiction that night. Flipped through some of my new cookbooks. It was relaxing and wonderful.

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Despite being there alone, I still woke up at 4am. I guess that’s just my normal wake up time. I did stay in bed for quite awhile reading. The hotel’s breakfast starts at 8am, so I was down there right when it opened, along with every single other person in the hotel. Breakfast was my one complaint about Church Hill Inn. They’re known for their great breakfasts. And the food was definitely good. But it’s very awkward how they insist on seating you, serving you drinks, and requesting a tip, for a buffet style meal. Both mornings they did not seem very pleased to sit a single person at a table when couples and groups were waiting behind me. Anyway, Thursday’s breakfast was potato pancakes with applesauce, scones with whipped cream, English sausages, and fruit. It was all really good! Despite the raisins, it was the best scone I’ve ever had.

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Since it was still too early for most shops, I decided to start the day driving to Cave Point County Party. I stopped at Door County Bakery on the way, at my mom’s recommendation, to get their Corsica bread. I also had to get a French Cruller because they’re my favorite kind of donut. Plus it was only $1. The chocolate croissants also looked amazing, but those were $6.

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I’m SO glad I went here first thing. I was one of the only people there (with many groups of people filing in when I was leaving), it wasn’t very hot yet (the weather got so unusually hot all three days), and it was simply way more fun than shopping. And I love shopping.

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It must have taken people a lot of effort to make all these rock stacks, but they looked so cool! Totally worth the effort. I wasn’t expecting to see them, either, so it was a really awesome surprise. I liked these particular stacks because the top rocks look like birds.

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The rocky shores were starting to get crowded, but I didn’t want to leave yet, so I walked the contemplation trail. I figured it would be a loop, but it instead just ran into trails made by the state park nearby. It was very confusing.

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There weren’t many fall colors yet, but every once in awhile I’d spot a tree in full glorious shades of red. It’d be fun to come again a few weeks later another year when it’s all in full color display.

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After the park, I drove around until I found some more stores to check in at. I also ate one of my Corsica sticks from the bakery. They were SO good. It’s like French breadsticks infused with a massive amount of olive oil.

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I was all about the cherry culture while I was there. 🙂 Cherry jam in my sandwich, cherries in my chicken salad, cherry fudge at two different farm markets, cherry juice, cherry soda, cherry infused wine. Yum yum.

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I wasn’t super hungry for lunch, but wanted a little something else, so stopped at Not Licked Yet to get my favorite chunky monkey sundae. I didn’t like it as much as I have in the past, but still a nice treat.

Around this point I got really tired and went back to the hotel for a nap and reading time. I enjoyed the appetizers again – homemade chips, veggies, and dip.

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My original plan for the night was to just stay in with my piles of books. But I had so much fun at the park in the morning that I decided to check out a few more of the county parks. If I go back again someday I’ll buy a pass to go to the state parks, but this time I was all about the free parks. Despite all the times I’ve gone there as a kid, I don’t feel like I’ve ever been to any of the county parks. This one was Ellison Bluff scenic lookout.

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I ended at Door Bluff County Park, thinking I’d stick around for sunset. I was not expecting to get there and see there weren’t even any trails to walk on. I had to climb down a huge hill of rocks and tree roots. I was sure I’d either fall to my death, get injured and have nobody around to save me, or be attacked by the one group of men I saw while I was walking through the woods. Fortunately, none of that happened. It was quite a workout, though!

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It was another really pretty shoreline, but there was no way I was sticking around until sunset. I could barely find my way back up the mountain in the light. I never would have made it in the dark!

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My original plan was to get a pizza to take back to the hotel, but then I figured it was easier to just eat in. I went to Wild Tomato and ordered a small pepperoni pizza. It was HUGE. There’s no way any one person can eat that whole pizza. They only had room to seat me at this barstool area where all the waiters filled their drink orders. I felt super awkward and the pizza was really messy. As much as I like doing things alone, eating at restaurants is not one of them. I was very uncomfortable. But the pizza was fantastic!

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One more quick stroll along the marina before going back to the hotel. It definitely wasn’t as productive as the night before. I spent a whole lot of time playing Toy Blaster on my phone. Then tried to watch a movie that needed to buffer every five minutes. I finally gave up and went to bed way later than I usually do.

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Friday’s breakfast was not very impressive! Well, it was a lot of eggy things. Like an egg frittata with a side of scrambled eggs. Why?? They also had cinnamon buttermilk pancakes. Except when I got to them there were only two left and one person in line behind me, with nobody around to immediately refill them. So it seemed rude to take the last two, even though I didn’t want anything else. I don’t normally like pancakes, but it was pretty good. The waitress was not very happy that she had to sit me at a table for four again. I ate as quickly as I could and booked it out of there.

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I didn’t want to stick around until shops opened at 10, so I headed out with a final stop at Cana Island Lighthouse.

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I’m not really sure why, but the road to the island should have looked like this, but it was totally flooded with water. So a trip to the lighthouse was not going to happen! But I enjoyed walking around the beaches for awhile.

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This was my final stop in the peninsula. Then I said goodbye to Door County and drove down to Green Bay. I went to a couple of stores that my mom recommended.

IMG_20170915_124705_926 chipotle

Had lunch at Chipotle because I wanted to try their new queso. I wasn’t very impressed. I love their hot salsa SO much, so the queso would have had to be pretty amazing for me to give up having salsa when I go there!

I didn’t want to get home too early, giving up part of this day to myself. But I was also really tired and headachy again. I made a halfhearted attempt to go through a bunch more regular type stores in Appleton and Oshkosh. For dinner I had a Starbucks frappucino.

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I got home around 5:30. Annie acted like she hadn’t seen me in months! It was pretty sweet. Shepard was also jumping around and excited to see me. It was a nice welcome home.

Overall, it was a fantastic trip! I hope I can make it an annual thing. Despite the fact I still came back tired and achy, it was rejuvenating for my soul. Exactly what I needed.