10 MUST-DO’s in Sanibel, Florida!

Greetings, nature lovers! I am excited to be back to writing about adventure again for you all. The past month has been wacky to say the least. First, I got fully vaccinated! I rewarded myself with a honey cinnamon latte from Jubilee Coffee Roasters (A+ coffee), then I flew to Montana for my friend’s wedding. I came back home to work before my school district went on spring break. Then on the first day of break, Colorado got FEET of snow in 48 hours causing me to spend 8+ hours shoveling in a day! There was so much!! But it allowed me to clean a little bit and get excited for a trip to Sanibel Island, FL!

Sanibel has always had a special place in my heart. My family has been vacationing there every year for as long as I can remember. I have biked my way through its preserves, swam in the Gulf, ate my weight in wings, and much, much more. This blog post is going to be me sharing some of my favorite things about this unique island with you all.

To begin, Sanibel Island is found on the west side of Florida off the coast of Fort Meyers. Right in the Gulf of Mexico, Sanibel Island offers plenty of Florida’s best in terms of flora, fauna, wildlife, and beaches. Below is a little map of Sanibel and Captiva Island.

Street Map Of Sanibel Island Florida | vincegray2014

Alright, now that we’ve covered the geography, let’s get to the fun stuff!

10 MUST DO’s in Sanibel, FL

10 – Rent a Bike!

Biking is THE way to get around the island. There are plenty of bike paths that will take you just about anywhere you’d like to go! The two hottest spots to rent bikes are Finnhmores’s and Billy’s Bikes.

9 – Hunt for Shells!

Sanibel is known for its world class shelling. In fact, it’s been called “Sea Shell Capital of the World.” The reason for this is because the island runs perpendicular to Florida which causes the currents to flush water downward. Simply taking a stroll down any beach side will allow you to find some of gems of the sea!

Bonus! If you’re interested in learning more about shells, you simply must check out the Bailey Matthews National Shell Museum.

8 – Visit Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge!

Take a drive or bike ride through a national treasure. For only $1 you can bike through this National Wildlife Refuge to see if you’ll be lucky enough to see exotic birds or alligators!

I got this pic off Wikipedia

7 – Get Coffee at The Bean!

Honestly, I just feel like I have to throw this coffee spot on my list. I mean, if you’re not a coffee drinker, I get it. BUT The Bean also has breakfast and lunch, along with other non-coffee drinks. I would bike there every morning, wait in a long line (it’s popular for sure…cause it’s the best) and order a medium iced vanilla latte. I’d sit under a palm tree, sip this magic, and journal. It was a great way to start the morning. Also, it’s right by the library, a park, the historical village of Sanibel, and a lot of different shopping areas! The Bean is a gem.

6 – Visit the Sunday Farmers Market!

Each Sunday morning, local artisans from Sanibel, Captiva, and Ft. Meyers gather to show their best! You can find this fun farmers market by the library. We always get the guacamole! They make it fresh right there and it is so fun to watch! Also, make sure you bike there! Parking is tight, but when you bike you can zip in and zip out!

5 – Take a Sunset Cruise!

There are a few different companies that will take you on a sunset cruise whether it’s from Sanibel of Ft. Meyers, it’s definitely worth it. Bonus points if you see dolphins playing alongside the wake of the boat!

4 – Kayak or Paddle Tarpon Bay!

What’s better than a little paddle through a Floria wetland? Tarpon Bay is a great place to spend the morning or afternoon with your family (depending on high tides, and trust me you want to go during the high tide). Bring some snacks, wear uncomfortable life vests, and see what fun birds and wildlife you can find.

3 – Eat Breakfast at Lighthouse Cafe & Check out the Lighthouse!

A tried and true classic. Check out the beach by the lighthouse before or after having the world’s best breakfast at Lighthouse Cafe! I had their Blueberry Hot Cakes when I was there this trip and all I can say is…YUMMMM. I would eat those every day if I could.

2 – Eat Chicken Wings at Lazy Flamingo!

You’ll just have to trust me on this. Teriyaki, terra-hot, and hot wings are the best. Also, Lazy Flamingo has amazing Caesar salad and the best garlic bread! GO THERE.

1 – Watch Sunsets and Sunrises (Obviously)!

I mean, you’re on an island. You’re shelling, strolling, swimming, eating, and now you want to either see a new day begin or a beautiful day end. Obviously, you’ll want to see a beautiful sunrise or sunset! The lighthouse beach in the morning is always good, and any of the public beaches on the west side of the island is great for sunset!

Thank you all for reading along! I hope that if you ever do go to Sanibel you take some of these recommendations. There’s more to do while you’re there, but I think you’ll be happy with doing these things on this list!

Happy adventuring!

Michelle

I Took 10 Personality Quizzes Telling me Where to Live…

And the results are in! I used a list on Bustle that claims the results of each quiz are “pretty spot on” https://www.bustle.com/life/personality-quizzes-about-where-to-live

My results were pretty scattered, to be honest. So here’s what I got:

1 – Brainfall’s What US State Should You Live In?

I got Wisconsin???

2 – Playbuzz’s “Which City” Quiz

I got Manhattan, NY…I should’ve went to college there!

3 – ProProf’s Quiz on “Which US City Should You Live in?”

Portland, OR (seems accurate, honestly).

4 – Quizony’s quiz “Which State Should You Live in?”

I got Alaska…which I used to be convinced I’d live in, but now I’m not so sure.

5 – Quizexpo’s “Where Should I Live Quiz”

London, UK!! Trust me, if I could live in London, I would. 100%.

6 – TIME’s “Which State Matches Your Personality”

I got New Mexico because I’m “relaxed and creative”

7 – Kaplan Quiz “Which US City do you Belong in?”

Seattle, WA…hey, that’s where my brother lives!

8 – Magi Quiz “What City Matches Your Personality?”

Minneapolis, MN…and the explanation kills me it says, “Since your idea of a good time is pumping it up, why not live in a fitness-fanatic’s paradise?” LOL. Yes, I love running and hiking, butttttt…where would you hike in the MOUNTAINS in MN? Yes, I know there’s Lake Superior’s coast, which I do like, but still.

9 – My Real Personality City Personality Test (what a name…)

San Francisco, CA.

10 – uQuiz’s “Best US Cities to Live and Work Remotely”

This one was different in the sense that you pick topics that are important to you so with my top qualities of urban, rural, single people (gosh why am I alone??), religious, walkability, low crime, low traffic, affordable living, and educated in the West/Midwest, my top cities were Santa Monica, CA, Ann Arbor, MI, Minneapolis, MN, Boulder, CO, Madison, WI and Tempe, AZ.

In the South and Northeast, my top cities were Cambridge, MA, West Chester, PA, Boston, MA, Albany, NY, Pittsburgh, PA, and Charlottesville, VA.

Interesting stuff…

I really am looking to move, so I appreciate that there are quizzes like this out there! I do not know where I’ll end up, but I hope it will be somewhere I love! For now, I just want to go sit on a beach somewhere and get tan.

Until then, I hope you enjoyed this post! Go check these quizzes out at the link at the begging of the post! Maybe you’ll discover where you belong!

Best of luck!

Michelle

A Simple Song

Hi there, friends!

It has been a minute since I have last wrote on here. Truthfully, I have struggled with trying to figure out what I want this blog to truly be. Do I want it to be a place where I share cool hiking tips? Do I want it to be about the beauty of adventure? Or, do I want it to be a space where I am allowed to be more than just a ‘hiker/traveler’? I still do not have an answer, but I do have a thought to share with you all.

2020 has uprooted my life and my definition of progress. A year ago, I would not have been ok if you told me this is where my life would be now. Due to COVID, I lost my job(s), job prospects, and ambition. I continued to hope, apply, and interview for jobs I believed would be a great fit for me, but ended up deeply disappointed. These job rejections I have received have felt more personal than even ever before. Why? I don’t know. Maybe because for the first time ever, I feel like I *need* the positions I’m applying for.

I am privileged, though. Regardless of how I feel, I am lucky. I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, heat, health, food to eat, and no debt to stress over. I do not need these things I am yearning after, I simply wish I could contribute to the world around me.

I am currently substitute teaching in a school district just south of me. It has been ok. I am exposed to COVID more often than I’d like, but I just keep cleaning. I am receiving my vaccine soon, and I hope it will allow me to be a better community member.

What is the point of this post? I’m not sure. No one will read it, so I guess it’s just a little benchmark for me to look back on. Hopefully I’ll look back and see that I grew.

If anyone is reading and wants to know three things I have learned during this pandemic, here they are:

1 – Don’t be in a Rush

It does you no good to feel like every opportunity has to be “the thing.” You will get to where you need to be.

2 – Learn what you Truly Want

I have learned a lot about what I actually want. This has looked like me turning down job opportunities and thinking long-term.

3 – Say ‘YES’ to Spontaneous

Don’t fret about spending money on gas to go to the mountains to snowshoe with your friend. Just go and enjoy it, even if you spend your time eating chips and doing a puzzle.

Thanks for hearing me out, internet.

Michelle

Reflecting on Travels Pre-COVID

Greetings, everyone in the blog-verse! I hope all of you are having a good weekend so far despite all of the civil unrest we have been experiencing here in the US. Just incase anyone reading wondered: I believe that Black Lives Matter. I believe that there needs to be some changes made to the way law enforcement utilizes their power, and I also believe that Jesus is King. I have a lot of feelings about the current state of the world, but let’s all remember what’s most important: KINDNESS. Let’s all be kind to one another, ok? Ok.

After the craziness of life lately, I have been reflecting on my trip abroad in the fall of 2019. Not only do I miss the thrill of travel and the opportunities to discover new places and culture, but I miss TRAVELING. COVID sucks a little bit, let’s be honest. But what doesn’t suck is going through old pictures and daydreaming about future trips!

Here is my brief account of my solo travels around Europe from 2019. I hope it inspires you to go out and plan some excursions in the future!

October 7-12 // ICELAND (with my mom!)

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I kicked off my trip with a 5 day visit to Iceland! I had wanted to visit this volcanic island for quite some time, and was happy to finally make that dream come true.

I did a 5 day, 4 night tour with Gj Travel, so I didn’t have to worry about renting a car or getting my own accommodations. It was super nice, and pretty cheap for everything being included (minus food). I landed in Iceland at 6am and spent the entire day wandering around Reykjavik. It’s such a fun little sea town! I visited the viking museum, animal reserve park, and wandered through Hallgrimskirkja (the church).

Hallgrimskirja

After some dinner, and the most expensive gin & tonic EVER, I finally hit the hay. The next morning, I wandered down the checkered street to grab some coffee before meeting up with our tour bus. We drove around the city, then started out towards a little fishing village for lunch. Following that, we crossed over to the bridge between continents, and then soaked in the healing waters of the Blue Lagoon! We ended our day in the small town of Hella in the southern peninsula. I got my own little cabin by the river and saw the most amazing sunset!

That night, our group learned about the Northern Lights and stayed up watching. There was a glimmer of green in the distance, but that’s the best view we got. The next morning, we set off to see some waterfalls. To begin, we went to Seljalandsfoss, a very pretty waterfall where you can go behind the falls! I ran around like a crazy person because NATURE.

Then, we went off to a museum right by Skogafoss, and learned all about the art and quirkiness of Iceland’s past. After a latte, I then proceeded to run around Skogafoss. You could take a little trail up to the top of the waterfall then go further back to see cascades running through the hillside. SO PRETTY.

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From the top of Skogafoss

That afternoon, we headed to the black sanded coast of Vik! The amazing rock features were so unreal, which is probably why the beach was crazy busy. After snapping some pics, I wandered down the beach away from the crowds and witnessed a sweet German couple getting engaged! I snapped a picture as it was happening, then waited around awkwardly to get their email address. Bottom line, if you ever need a secret engagement photographer, I’m your girl.

There were no Northern Lights that night, but our group enjoyed some hot chocolate and sharing of cultures. For example, some Aussie girls showed me pictures from a Spongebob theme party they went to. Their costumes were amazing.

The following day, we started at an organic tomato greenhouse!! We got a tour of the property then got to indulge in everything tomato! Beer, soup, ice cream, bloody mary’s, etc. EVERYTHING TOMATO. Following this, we got to meet some real Icelandic horses!! My favorite!! We got to pet the horses then watch a private horse show where we learned all about the different gaits Icelandic horses have. It was one of my favorite parts of the whole trip, honestly.

Next, we headed out to a couple National Parks (I honestly don’t remember their names) and the town of Geysir where Gullfoss and some geysirs are. Gulfoss is a wonderfully powerful waterfall that spews cold mist at everyone who greets it.

The day ended back in Reykjavik where my mom and I walked around and had a nice Asian fusion meal. I went to bed nice and early because the following morning I was up and off to Brussels!

October 12-19 // BELGIUM (with myself!)

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Grand Place at night

I found myself in Brussels. Surrounded by a train system I did not understand, I wandered awkwardly onto a train hoping it went to downtown Brussels. It did! I got off the station at Brussels North, and was instantly lost. I wandered into the the old Botanic gardens with my big ‘ol bag, feeling like a silly American tourist (because I was). I wandered and wandered, until I found Grand Place and my first waffle of the week. YAY. The rest of the day included finding my Airbnb, getting super lost, and making some spaghetti.

On Sunday, I went to Waterloo! Why Waterloo you ask? Because I went to Church! Crazily enough, my church in Denver, Colorado has a campus in Waterloo. I took the train down, wandered the charming streets and found Red Rocks Church nestled in a neighborhood school. I was greeted with coffee and pastries and some wonderful worship. I went back to Brussels for the afternoon, where I continued to get lost in wonder as I wandered aimlessly through the old streets.

Monday was fun! I went to the old medieval town of Bruges! IT IS SO COOL.  It is heavily influenced by the Dutch, so there were windmills, canals, river cruises, and a town square. I spent most of the day wandering its quaint streets lined with old churches, historic architecture, and climbing windmills. I even had my first official Belgium beer, Zot! This is all very exciting, I know. To top it off, I also saw the Madonna of Bruges which was sculpted by Michelangelo. I spent all day being stoked on Bruges and having the freedom to do whatever I wanted and go down whatever streets spoke to me.

Tuesday was interesting. I was supposed to go to Amsterdam, but plans changed, so I booked a train ticket to Blankenberge, on the coast of Belgium. I spent the morning on the walking on the beach and enjoying The Belgium Pier. Truth be told, I had no idea Belgium even had a beach, so it was fun. In the afternoon, I went to Ghent, which is a town similar to Bruges and just walked around enjoying it. There was a man making bubbles in front of an old church, so it was magical to watch.

Back in Brussels, I was at a loss for what to do on Wednesday. I wanted to explore more of the country, but I wasn’t sure where or what I should do, so I turned to my trusty friend…the internet. I discovered that there was a town down south called Dinant with a citadel and old church. So on Wednesday, I boarded the Luxembourg train to head down south. It was rainy when I finally got to Dinant, but I was so stoked on the view! The Collegiate Church of Notre Dame stood tall before the citadel behind it on the cliff. I first went to the Citadel where I climbed some 480 stairs to the top, and went through the craziest museum I’ve ever been to. I highly recommend it. I’d explain it to you, but it’s honestly better experienced in my opinion. Plus, I’m doing a poor job keeping this post short like I promised. Also! Dinant is where the inventor of the saxophone was born so there were sculptures of saxophones all over as well as a cute little saxophone museum. As always, I spent the rest of the day wandering and ended up back in Brussels, tired and ready for sleep on my futon.

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View from the citadel!
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^^^ Dinant! See, I told you it was cool.

The rest of my days in Brussels consisted of going to all the museums I possibly could. I cried in the MOOF Museum while watching a film on the creator of the Smurfs (also from Belgium) and tried to take mirror selfies in every museum for fun. I had the Brussels card, so I could get into 40 museums for freeeee!

That was Belgium! It was the most fun. Fun fact: I also left a pair a of pants in my Airbnb’s refrigerator because someone told me that would clean them?? And then I totally forgot they were in there when I left…oops.

October 19-27 // SCOTLAND (with myself!)

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OH MY WORD. It felt GOOD to be in the UK after having been in French speaking Belgium for a week. I mean, first of all, it was wonderful to understand which bus to get on and which stop I needed to get off at to find my Airbnb. I stayed in Darly, Edinburgh, and it was charming and lovely and cute and amazing and friendly and people smiled and it was just amazing and if I keep talking like this I’ll never stop and wow I just love Scotland.

Right off the bat I headed to High Street and watched the sunset right outside of Edinburgh Castle. Dreamy. I cried, actually. I watched The Good Place on Netflix then went right to bed.

On Sunday, I took my time (meaning, I got super lost several times) and found the birthplace of Harry Potter at the Elephant House, then got coffee at Black Medicine Coffee. Next, I strolled to Arthur’s Seat where I got the best view of the city, ocean, and hills! Then I walked up Calton Hill, bought some replacement pants at H&M, HAD A BURRITO, strolled Victoria Street, and visited the graveyard where Tom Riddle was buried at sunset. Once again, Edinburgh is dreamy and one of the best places on the planet.

In honor of keeping things “quick” Monday and Tuesday consisted of seeking out latte art, visiting bookstores, gaping at art in museums, learning history, Scotch tastings, wandering the National Botanic Gardens of Scotland in the freezing rain/wind, touring Edinburgh Castle, and wandering the streets by night after eating some delicious cake from Lovecrumbs. Oh, and more.

Wednesday I made my way up to the highlands on a tour. It was a LONG day. I was super cranky because I didn’t get to move as much as I would have liked, but it was a pretty place. We stopped in Glen Coe, where we learned the sad tale of its’ past, then journeyed up to Loch Ness. Let me tell ya, Scotland is an amazing country. It is beautiful. The accents are beautiful. The history, though, is tragic, but the people are proud, and that’s beautiful.

Ok! Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The last three days of my solo travels were pretty good. I had a cold, but I made myself push on. I took the train up to Aberdour, a cute seaside town just north of Edinburgh. Totally cute, and it goes along the Fife Hiking Trail. I took that for a couple of miles along the coast then turned around to get some soup. Back in the city, I continued to wander, hiked up Arthur’s Seat again, and revisited my old “haunts” the rest of the days. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what I did or where I went, I loved Scotland and that’s the main thing I want everyone reading to know.

Currently // THE PRESENT

Well, what fun it has been reliving my travels with you all. It turns out recounting three weeks worth of travel was a lot harder than I thought, mostly because I had to pick and choose what to put in and leave out. Bottom line is this: I’m happy I had the chance to do it. Hopefully I’ll get to do some more soon.

Cheers,

Michelle

A Living Scrapbook – The Christmas Tree

This is a stupid title. But, I wanted to talk about Christmas trees real fast. The Christmas tree tradition dates back to the 16th century in Germany! I don’t have time to go into a history lesson here, so if you want to know more, check out this website: https://www.countryliving.com/life/a45590/christmas-tree-origin/

What I really want to to talk about is the best part about Christmas trees – ornaments. My mom has been collecting ornaments since before I was born, and her obsession has resulted in about 5 large boxes of ornaments. Every year, regardless of tree size, we are unable to put all of the ornaments on the tree. And every year, we continue to add to our collection.

I bet your family has their own Christmas ornament traditions, too! I’m going to share some of my favorite ornaments from my family’s collection below to commemorate the season. I hope you enjoy!

Type 1 – Family Staples

Our family as carolers
My grandma made these adorable ice skates!
A true classic. My brother and I being all filled with the Christmas spirit.

Type 2 – Getting Crafty

Sir Seashell the Snowman – some hot glue and glitter glue to keep it all together.
My mom stitched about 50 of these one year in her 20’s to give to her classmates.
We made a melting snowman trapped in a globe!

Type 3 – Memories from Travels

My cute little heart from Scotland!
A Kiwi from New Zealand – from Christmas 2009
Telluride’s Main St. a classic vacation spot to see family

Type 4 – Family Favorites

BUTTER is a staple in our family. Makes sense we put it on our tree.
Santa Star! I have no clue where he came from, but he always ends up on our tree.

Type 6 – Honorable Mentions

What a cutie.
We really like seashells.
I’m a horse girl at heart, so of course this makes the list.
This angel reminds me of the thing the Grinch makes Martha May in the Jim Carey movie.

I hope this post will inspire you to collect ornaments throughout the year so your tree each Christmas can be a big scrapbook of happy times!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! 2021 is so close, and I don’t know about you, but I’m excited for it.

Cheers,
Michelle

Our Noble Fir 2020

A Glimmer of Hope (aka cute dogs)

I am not going to lie to you all (well, the like 3 people who stumble upon this post), I have been discouraged lately. I’m not entirely sure why either. Maybe it’s the myriad of people getting engaged, having babies, buying houses, and getting promoted while I sit and apply to job after job after job, being alone and sad. Or maybe it’s the holiday season during a pandemic throwing a wrench into traditions. I’m not sure. It’s probably a combo, but either way, I am discouraged.

I read a devotional this morning saying that a Christian’s ultimate encouragement comes from what God has done (sending Jesus), is doing (being present), and will do (bring us to Heaven). This is true, and it is helpful to put my small, insignificant sadness into perspective, but I need a little extra boost today. So I’m going to create my own happiness by looking at dog pictures.

I thought I’d share these pictures with you all, because maybe you need a little bit of cuteness in your day, too.

1 – A CORGI/GOLDEN RETRIEVER MIX

Corgi Golden Retriever Mix Facts | Reviewed By Veterinarians
https://www.thedogdigest.com/corgi-golden-retriever-mix/

Look at this cuteness!! Two of the best kind of dogs mixed into one. Ready for adventure!

2 – SNOW PUPS

Bernese Mountain Dog puppies - Care, training and more | Pawzy
https://pawzy.co/dog-breeds/bernese-mountain-dogs/puppies

These two lil Bernese Mountain Dogs are melting my heart.

3 – A CUTE GERMAN SHEPHERD

New German shepherd puppy? Start here! - German Shepherd Central
https://germanshhttps://germanshepherdcentral.net/puppy-start-here/epherdcentral.net/puppy-start-here/

Feeling stressed? Just look at his cute little face.

4 – NAP DOGS

How Much Do Siberian Huskies Cost? The Ultimate Buyer's Guide - Perfect Dog  Breeds
https://www.perfectdogbreeds.com/siberian-husky-price/

Even our furry friends like something to cuddle up with.

5 – SOMEONE TO GROW OLD WITH

Old Labrador – How to Care for Your Lab As They Age
https://dogsnet.com/old-labrador/

Sometimes you just need to chill out and go for a walk with an old friend.

6 – MIX IT UP

Are Mixed Breed Dogs Healthier Than Purebreads? | Canna-Pet®
https://canna-pet.com/are-mixed-breed-dogs-healthier-than-purebreads/

Remember to smile if you’re feeling down!

7 – GENTLE GIANTS

Fundraiser by Ted Marsh : Great Dane Ricky
https://www.gofundme.com/f/Great-Dane-Ricky

Buddyyyyy.

8 – LOOK AT THAT FACE

How Much Does It Cost To Buy & Care For A Boxer Dog? – PetsGetStarted
https://petsgetstarted.com/boxer-dog-cost/

Don’t you just wanna smoosh that cute little face??

9 – KNOCK KNOCK WHO’S THERE?

All About Beagles: Breed Info, Characteristics, Size, Temperament & More
https://www.loveyourdog.com/beagle/

It’s me, the cutest lil pup you ever did see.

10 – PROTECTOR

9 Best Mountain Dogs - Whitelines Snowboarding
https://whitelines.com/archive/features/9-best-mountain-dogs.html

I will be your lionheart, little dude.

11 – EAT UP

My Dog Won't Eat. What To Try If Your Newfie Refuses Food - My Brown Newfies
https://mybrownnewfies.com/2017/09/21/my-dog-wont-eat-what-to-do-if-your-newfie-refuses-their-food/

Get those nutrients!

12 – TAKE A HIKE

Cousin's corgi decided to become a mountain climber : corgi
https://www.reddit.com/r/corgi/comments/bkfpc5/cousins_corgi_decided_to_become_a_mountain_climber/

Hiking with a pal is always a good idea!

13 – PLAY DRESS UP

Dogs in Costumes | Pet Forums
https://www.petforums.com/threads/dogs-in-costumes.248/

Look at this little bear!

14 – FAMILY FIRST

80 Fluffy Dog Breeds | The Comprehensive AKC Double Coated Dog Breed List -  The Modern Bark | Dog Training Tips
https://themodernbark.petgiftsonline.com/2013/05/fluffy-dog-breeds-double-coated-dog.html

Listen to your mom!

15 – DIVE RIGHT IN

Keeping Pets Cool in the Summer: Swimming Safety for Dogs
https://blueskyvet.com/veterinarian-blog-bend/keeping-pets-cool-in-the-summer-swimming-safety-for-dogs

Go for a swim.

16 – EMBRACE THOSE WRINKLES

Nine dog breeds at higher risk of heatstroke – and what you can do to  prevent it
https://theconversation.com/nine-dog-breeds-at-higher-risk-of-heatstroke-and-what-you-can-do-to-prevent-it-139501

Strut your stuff, too.

17 – LISTEN TO YOUR HEART

Cute Small Dog Clothes Pet Guitar Clothes Dog Guitarist Dressing Pets  Singer Costume Puppy Playing Guitar Costume Party Halloween,M:  Amazon.co.uk: Kitchen & Home
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Clothes-Guitarist-Dressing-Costume-Halloween/dp/B07XX4TX1C

You may be small, but your song is mighty.

18 – EXERCISE

Paw-mazing Pets: Watch These Thrill-Seeking Dogs Doing Some Extreme Sports  [VIDEOS] - DogTime
https://dogtime.com/lifestyle/76629-dogs-doing-extreme-sports-videos

A great cure for the zoomies.

19 – BEACH DAY

12 Dogs Having the Best Day at the Beach Ever
https://www.treehugger.com/dogs-love-beach-4862906

Get a tan, play in the sand, and soak up the waves.

20 – HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS

Owners to buy Christmas presents for their pets | Nature | News |  Express.co.uk
https://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/625717/Santa-Paws-coming-owners-spend-millions-Christmas-gifts-pets

Aw!

Alright, friends I’m finished. I hope you enjoyed these cuties. I hope they all brought a little smile to your face, too. I know they cheered me up!

Happy December,

Michelle

Honesty Hour: Unemployment Fatigue in the COVID Season

Hello friends! Welcome to honesty hour with Michelle. Today, I’d like to speak on the subject of unemployment fatigue.

I’ve been unemployed on and off since March 2020. I have a masters degree and am an extremely hard worker. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought I’d be unemployed for 8 months. I worked way too hard in my life to end up without a job. And maybe some of you feel the same way.

I know I can go get a job at a grocery store or warehouse if I need, but the thing is I’m afraid of COVID. I am afraid of giving this virus to the people I love. It’s as simple as that. This season is full of unknowns, and I am just riding the tide.

What have I done during this long winded season of unemployment you ask? Well, I have tried to make the most of it. For example, I started a college certificate program for Marketing and Sales, which I will finish in December. I have worked as a preschool teacher for a few weeks, until they let me go due to the low number of students (why did they hire me knowing this???). I planned and trained for a thru-hike of the Colorado Trail. I hike all 485 miles of the Colorado Trail. I took a few trips around the state of Colorado to hike and drink coffee in different places. I visited Montana to visit old friends and feed some goats. I read my Bible every day. Prayed for joy, hope, and love over this planet, my country, and my future. I watched The Office a lot. I had some really great experiences.

But.

I have also had countless sleepless nights. I’ve been depressed and anxious about the future. I have baked over 100 million calories worth of cakes and cookies (which is only bad because I’ve eaten all these things). I have applied to over 100 jobs. I have gotten into fights with people I’m close to because I lash out. I spent wayyy too much money on things I don’t need. I lost interest in several things that used to bring me joy, and the list could just go on and on.

I believe this phenomena is called “unemployment fatigue.” And it is a fatigue unlike any other, because it is taking time during a pandemic. I. Am. Tired.

I want to contribute to the world. I want to know what my purpose is. I was about to start a new full-time job (with benefits!) in April, but that came to a halt when COVID caused the first shut down. I was on track, and then suddenly, I was stranded without any way of escape. Well, besides the obvious jobs that would put myself and my family at risk.

Let me just say, that I appreciate all the hard work the essential workers have done during the pandemic. I especially admire all the health care workers who continue to do their part even after seeing how stupid humanity can be. I thank you, I applaud you, and I sincerely hope this all ends soon for your good.

I know this is a scary time, y’all. This post is just a reminder that if you are struggling, you are not alone. It is a reminder that being outside cannot always fix the doubts and questions in your mind.

However, being outside has been my greatest therapy. Well, that, and God’s goodness. I want you all to know that if you’re feeling stuck during this crazy time to go outside, get some air, and take a deep breath. We will get through this.

And when we get through this, we will be stronger, happier, and more united. I know it sounds cliche, but I have to keep telling myself these things because I need to know it, too.

Keep your heads up,

Michelle

Hot Drinks to Match Your Adventures This Winter

Winter is slowly creeping in upon us which means it’s time to break out the sweaters, Christmas decorations, and big mugs for hot drinks! If you’re anything like me, you are so excited for the snow to start falling so you can snuggle up with blankets, hit the slopes, and do some winter adventuring. 

Winter is full of opportunities for adventure. Whether you’re skiing, snuggling up by the fire, driving through a blizzard, snowshoeing, ice skating, or sledding, there is a winter activity for everyone! I will be sure to post more on winter activities around Colorado in a later post, but for now I want to talk about a hot topic I am very passionate about: hot drinks! 

NOTHING fuels me quite like a hot beverage in my hand. I say this with the utmost sincerity. There are times where I’m working or writing and have to stop because I need a cup of tea. And if I’m driving to the mountains, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be sipping a hot drink on the drive. And although I do not live inside a Hallmark Christmas movie, I do enjoy a nice hot drink whenever I find myself by a fire. 

I have compiled some hot drinks that will match your winter adventures below. I know being outside is already the best way to spend time, but you might as well enhance your experience with something hot to sip on! 

Sledding – Hot Chocolate 

WOW. How obvious is this?! Maybe my obsession with hot cocoa while sledding or building snowmen came from the various snow days I had growing up, but it’s delicious. Hot chocolate is great because there are a lot of ways to put a twist on this classic drink. Not only is hot cocoa a vehicle for marshmallows and whipped cream, you can also go crazy with it and add candy canes, ice cream, or whatever else you think sounds good. Adults can also add their special twists to it as well, but if you’re like me, you’re happy sticking to the classic. 

Driving to the Slopes – Coffee

I live in Denver, CO and there is quite a commute up I-70 to get to the slopes, so for the hour plus drive, I typically sip on some coffee. Not only does it fuel you for the drive and day ahead, I like to think it also acts as an excitement juice. To heighten my excitement, I like to plan to stop at craft coffee shops on my drive up. For example, I have a coffee shop right by my house I love to stop at before long drives, but there are also great shops up the I-70 corridor that will allow you to get out of your car for a bit. 

Another great thing about coffee is that you can have it anyway you’d like! Some days I prefer lattes, while other days I need it black with a dash of cream. Choose your own adventure when it comes to coffee! But trust me, it definitely enhances your winter nature experiences. 

Christmas Tree Hunting – Apple Cider

Sure, apple cider is a classic hot drink for fall, but it is also a classic for picking out your tree! That smell of cinnamon goes wonderfully with the pine scent wafting into your nose as you hunt for the perfect tree!

Post Snowshoeing, Skiing, or Snowboarding – Chai Tea Latte

Mmmm. This may be one of my favorite traditions I totally made up. Chai is so good, y’all. After a day on the trials or the slopes, sipping on a creamy, steamy chai is just what you’ll want. Chai has become a staple of joy in my life. A prime example of this is when I had just completed an 18 day backpacking trip in the Northern Cascades in Washington, and my group and I stopped at a farm. The farm was surrounded by a beautiful sunflower field, and was selling chai. The first sip of a chai tea latte after 18 days in the wilderness brought tears to my eyes. Trust me, it will make any situation you’re in a little bit more beautiful. 

Getting Cozy by the Fire – Tea 

There’s nothing better than grabbing a book, blanket, and cup of tea when you’re cuddled up by a fire. Especially if you have some cookies, but I’m getting off topic. Anyway, tea is the perfect drink to have by your side. The best thing about tea are all the different kinds! You can have wild berry, ginger, peppermint, green tea, green tea with jasmine, earl gray, chamomile, english breakfast, blueberry, lemon zinger, throat coat, etc, etc, etc. There truly is a kind of tea for everyone. And if you don’t believe me, just go tour Celestial Seasonings in Boulder. They have a tasting room where you can sample any one of their teas! Oh, it’s just so good.

Gift Wrapping – Eggnog

A classic holiday treat while wrapping presents for loved ones, what a combo! Eggnog will put you into the holiday spirit thanks to its creamy blend of festive flavors, and bonus perks of omega 3 fatty acids! Adults can also dress it up with libations to make any holiday celebration extra festive.

…And there you have it! A few suggestions to help enhance your winter adventures! However you choose to spend your winter, I hope you enjoy tasty hot drinks!

Cheers!

Michelle

Take Aways From Traveling During COVID-19

Last week I took a trip to Montana. I was let go of a job I had just gotten due to COVID reasons and felt defeated. I spontaneously bought some plane tickets a couple weeks ahead of time and began to shield myself from the world. I wanted to make sure I was healthy while in the airport, plane, and in my old town.

I felt great leading up to the trip, so all the updates I received from the airline about masks, rules, and the cleaning procedures did not wig me out. I only got nervous as I drove up to the airport, took my final breath of fresh air for 6 hours, and strapped my mask on. I got my ticket from a kiosk because of United’s insane rules with Basic Economy, and made my way to security. I breezed through the line, but there was a guy breathing down my neck while waiting to put our things through the scanners. I contorted my body to be out of his way, and this is when the nerves truly began. To my horror, they didn’t have any way of wiping down the bins you put your things in, nor did they have anyone spray them before new users touched them. EW. Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like those security bins are definite germ hubs. AND THEN, my bag got pulled aside to be checked (of course). I had to wait quite some time before a security agent began to take my stuff backpack apart.

To my horror, she placed everything onto a table. I had just watched her place another lady’s items on that table and not wipe it down afterwards. AH! I quickly asked her if she could clean it. Thankfully, she obliged, before she proceeded taking every single item in my overly stuffed bag out. She could not find what she was looking for and once every item of clothing, bag of snacks, and books were all out, she found what she was looking for in my first aid kit. Then she left me to repack everything back into my backpack. It originally took me 30 minutes to pack that bag, but now, surrounded by people rushing to the train, I stuffed everything into my backpack in less than five. I cried.

I was so frustrated by this interaction that I didn’t know how to carry on. I boarded the train without touching anything and stood with my feet wide apart in order to keep balance. I ran off the train when we arrived at the B gates, rode the escalator up, and then a wave of people were coming at me.

Stress. Stress. Stress.

Y’all I had not been around that many people since March 2020. It freaked me out. Yes, everyone had masks on, but I just felt attacked. There were people who were eating just out in the open, people dodging in and out of the crowds, and honestly, people EVERYWHERE. Haha, I mean, of course there were, it’s an airport! I was so stressed out.

I was so relieved when I finally boarded my flight. First of all, my flight attendant told me I was pretty. Then, I got a window seat in the very last row which I ended up having all to myself! It was an ideal situation. I was the last one off the plane, and the last one walking through the small airport in Kalispell. I was so happy to be in Montana after a year away.

My friend ran up to me in the airport, and all my stress was gone. I was happy to be taking my mask off finally! The next five days were kind of a blur. I visited all my old stomping grounds, saw a few friends, met a lot of cute dogs, and spent some time in the great outdoors.

I was surprised by how different Montana was from Colorado in terms of COVID restrictions, though. For instance, the grocery stores had people without masks, employees who had their masks pulled down, and a lack of hand sanitizer. While I was out on runs, people did not move to the edge of the sidewalks, but stayed right in the middle. It was kind of a culture shock to be honest. In Colorado, masks are everywhere. Sure, they fall below noses sometimes, but at least people are considerate enough to wear them.

Despite all the feels, I was able to take away 2 key things about traveling during COVID from this trip.

1 – WEAR A MASK

This is easy. Obviously airlines require masks as well as most establishments, but you can always wear a mask. Yes, sometimes you may feel peer pressured out of it, but if you want to stay safe for yourself and loved ones, just wear it.

2 – JUST STAY CLOSE TO HOME

As much as this may suck, just stay close to home. I bet there are some towns you haven’t driven through not too far from your house. All the stress I had on this trip was not worth it. Yes, I loved being in Montana, but it was a completely different experience compared to what it used to be like.

Ultimately, COVID is scary because there is a lot we do not understand. The case numbers are at their highest in the US, and it’s best to play it safe and stop the spread. Traveling will still exist once there’s a vaccine, so for now, I encourage you to explore your home state with close friends and family.

Stay safe, y’all!

Michelle

5 Great Hikes near Denver (and where to eat afterwards)

Hello happy hikers! I hope this blog post finds you well and in the need for an adventure! I grew up in the Front Range and have been fortunate enough to explore some of the most beautiful places in Colorado.

In my mind, a perfect day in Colorado has a hike involved, followed by an amazing meal. Nature’s not enough, but nature and food is enough! That is why I have compiled a list of 5 hikes near Denver paired with my recommendations of where to eat afterwards.

1 – Hell’s Hole // Tommyknocker Brewery

Hell’s Hole
  • Location: Idaho Springs
  • RT Distance: 9.3 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,916 ft
  • Restaurant: Tommyknockers Brewery

This hike is a gem! It’s about a 45 minute drive from Denver, and is not very crowded. This trail does not end at a lake or summit, but it leads to a beautiful opening in the middle of some gorgeous mountains. It’s an amazing, challenging hike. There is also a campground next to the trailhead, so you can enjoy some quality camping in Arapaho National Forest, too!

After you finish this hike, you’ll drive back through the historic mining town of Idaho Springs where you should grab a bite to eat at Tommyknockers! This brewery has amazing food, beer, and a great atmosphere! They have a giant soft pretzel you will not want to miss! Check out their menu here: https://tommyknocker.com/

2 – Eagle’s View Trail Loop // Aspen Perk Cafe

Eagles view!
  • Location: Conifer
  • RT Distance: 4.2 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,082 ft
  • Restaurant: Aspen Perk Cafe

Eagle’s View Trail is found at Reynolds Ranch Park, right outside of Conifer up 285. It’s about a 35 minute drive from Denver. This trail offers a shorter workout, stellar views down south to see Pikes Peak, aspens, and forest views. There is a huge parking lot, restrooms at the trailhead, and a picnic area. It’s a lovely escape from the city.

After you complete this hike, I suggest you drive further into Conifer and enjoy some grub at Aspen Perk Cafe. They serve breakfast and lunch, and have some awesome drinks. I am seriously in love with their breakfast. Check it out here: https://www.aspenperkcafe.com/menu

3 – Bergen Peak // Evergreen Brewery

A lil woods walk up to the summit
  • Location: Evergreen
  • RT Distance: 10.3 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 2,227 ft
  • Restaurant: Evergreen Brewery

If you are looking for a challenging hike up to a mountain summit, I suggest bagging Bergen Peak. You start this hike in Elk Meadow Park, walking through a field winding through some trees, then you begin to climb. As you go up, there are some viewpoints that make lovely break spots, and then you make it to the summit, feeling satisfied.

After this challenging hike, you are going to need some grub. I definitely recommend checking out Evergreen Brewery. I know I’m suggesting a lot of breweries here, but this one has an IPA Mac and Cheese that makes you feel better after a hard hike. For more information check it out here: https://www.evergreenbrewingco.com/

4 – Gem Lake // Ed’s Cantina & Grill

It’s a gem.
  • Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park
  • RT Distance: 3.4 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 990 ft
  • Restaurant: Ed’s Cantina & Grill

Are you looking for a getaway from the front range but do not want to pay the National Park entrance fee? Well, do I have the hike for you! Gem Lake is located right outside Estes Park near the Stanley Hotel in the Lumpy Ridge section of RMNP. There is no entrance station here, so you can park at the TH without paying the entrance fee. This hike is also excellent any time of year! There are beautiful aspens, views of the town of Estes, and Long’s Peak. The lake is beautiful and if you can, you should climb up the rock formations to see an even more spectacular view!

There are many great restaurants in Estes Park, but I always enjoy Ed’s Cantina. They use fresh ingredients and have so many delicious options. It’s seriously some great Mexican. Enjoy! https://www.edscantina.com/

5 – Mount Falcon Castle Trail Loop // The Cow

Views from Mt Falcon Trail
  • Location: Morrison
  • RT Distance: 6.7 mi
  • Elevation Gain: 1,601 ft
  • Restaurant: The Cow

If you want to enjoy a hike that is right outside of Denver, come on over to Morrison and hike Mount Falcon. If you park and hike up the Castle Trail, you will enjoy views of Red Rocks Amphitheater, forests, Denver, and end up at the ruins of an old mansion. This hike truly has it all! And bonus: it’s a great workout! Just be sure to watch out for all the psycho mountain bikers (who do not yield) and get to the TH either earlier or later in the day to find a parking spot!

Once you’ve completed this hike, you’re definitely going to want a treat. Whether it’s a great breakfast spread, burger, or an ice cream cone, The Cow an Eatery has an option for everyone. Moooove on over to their website to learn more: https://thecoweatery.com/

Alright friends, there you go! I will definitely write about other hikes near Denver, but I thought I’d leave a taste here now. I hope this inspires you to get outside, hike a little, and enjoy some delicious food!

Cheers,

Michelle