Tag Archives: Travel

Austin Texas Part One

Janet and I noticed, last year, that Jesse had a weird five day weekend in celebration of President’s Day and decided to take advantage by heading over to Austin. What a brilliant idea. I can’t remember enjoying myself that much on another trip in recent memory. It was all about the food. Oh…and we saw friends too, but it was mostly about the food.

It’s quite startling to get on a plane in Seattle and step out into Austin weather. It’s brutal in August but really lovely in February. We landed during the perfect Austin weather weekend: clear skies and highs in the low 80s. I can’t remember when I felt 80 in Seattle. August, maybe?

We dropped Jesse off with her BFF and immediately went to dinner. What can I say about our favorite barbeque place, Rudy’s? DELICIOUS! I swear I want to open up a Rudy’s in the Seattle area but I would not be as small as I am now. Janet ordered her usual moist brisket and I ordered the dry (I have issues with fatty meat). There was a long line and I love the fact they have bottles of beer and sodas lining the Disneyland like barriers.

We sat down like little kids and dug into our brisket, coleslaw, white squishy bread and delicious bbq sause. I hope the noises we were making didn’t go far beyond our table. You try and be discreet but sometimes, especially if it’s been a while, you just can’t contain the noises of joy. We had ordered enough for leftovers and rolled out to our rental Jeep, the sweet smell of brisket leaving a trail of delicious behind.

The next morning, fueled by a breakfast of brisket, we met a group of friends for a hike. We went to one of the gems of Austin: McKinney Falls State Park. I used to live just to the west of McKinney Falls, on William Cannon, and would go there to hike around and relax. I just love it there. The trail we hiked, the Homestead trail, hadn’t been too damaged during the October floods but parts of the park are still closed.

The women we went with, members of TOWN (Texas Outdoor Womens Network), were a joy to be around. I miss these women and their group immensely. I have never met a group of women who were as nice, caring, accepting and full of life as TOWN women. I miss them mostly because they made me realize how important friends can be in life. That’s what life’s all about, friendship; and brisket, of course.

jenn

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The Oregon Coast and Our Impending Bike Ride

The family and I just spent a few days in Newport which is located along the coast in the middle of the beautiful state of Oregon. I can honestly say the Oregon coast is much different from the Gulf coast. The major difference being in Oregon it’s freakin’ cold during the summer; the Gulf not so much.

Since we had two kids with us, Jessie and her visiting BFF from Austin, we had to eat more organized meals instead of the normal cereal I like to eat two or three times a day. Here are a couple of pretty good restaurants (and a candy store, of course) we found on our trip, in case you’re ever in the Newport area visiting.

Cosmic Soda Pop and Candy Shop – Okay, this one is actually in downtown Portland, where we made a pit stop on the way to Newport, but it’s worth a look if you’re anywhere near Portland and have a sweet tooth as big as my snarly toothed monster. This shop had a wonderful collection of old school candies and a large selection of soda for the kids and kids at heart.

My mom brought me back, from London, a candy bar I absolutely adored called Crunchie by Cadbury…or something along those lines, I’ve forgotten already, and Cosmic actually carried it! I’ve had a heck of a time trying to find my new favorite candy bar. Especially when I have such a hard time describing it: it’s chocolaty, with a honeycomb thing in the center…I can’t remember what it’s called though…it’s crunchy and airy and delicious…do you have that?

Mo’s – I try not to eat too much fish & chips, I know fish is brain food but I’m pretty sure the grease they fry it in isn’t, but sometimes I just have to have a little F&C. Even better: Mo’s serves their F&C in cahoots with a cup of their world famous clam chowder. Yum. Mo’s clam chowder was delicious: creamy, flavorful with just the right amount of small clam pieces. Just how I like it.

My favorite part of F&C, the fish, didn’t disappoint. It tasted like they had just caught the cod that morning and fried it up before the poor fish knew what hit him. I would have to say Mo’s F&C are my second all time favorite, a distant second to Spud fish & chips mind you, but Janet swears the F&C are better in New England. I’ll be the judge of that!

Savory Café & Pizzeria – I just love pizza. I love cheese, marinara and meats loaded on a giant piece of bread! Janet and I ordered the Mexican pizza and weren’t disappointed. It was just what we needed: pizza and Mexican food wrapped into one tasty, spicy package. The kids had spaghetti with meatballs and a giant chicken and rice burrito which reminded me of Chuy’s (an Austin Tex-mex favorite) big as yo face burritos.

Cystic Fibrosis Cycle for Life Ride

For those of you super fit people (you know who you are) 35 miles on a bike probably doesn’t concern you much. To an asthmatic 44 year old, fairly out of shape woman who prefers to lift weights than actually move around, it’s a terrifying thought. So, of course, my better half, in a Snapple and chocolate induced haze, signed us up for the “short” route. On the bright side: Janet could have signed us up for the 65 mile route!

She registered us several months ago and you might assume that gave us enough time to actually train for said ride. You would be mistaken. I’m pretty sure we’ll survive the event but just in case we both got all our finances in order. Just in case. I did forget to say a long and emotional goodbye to Jessie, before she left to go camping with her dad, but she knows I love her.

The CF ride sounds like a well run, pain free event, with mechanics, support vehicles and rest stops scattered along the route. To say I’m terrified would be slightly exaggerating my feelings. I’m just downright scared. I’m glad we’re arriving at seven in the morning, for the ride, so I can sleep through the first part. I might just make it that way.

jenn

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Celebrating Our Anniversary in Dog Years

Janet and I will celebrate our fifth anniversary next month. That’s right; we’re a handful now. I can’t believe we’ve been together for that long. It seems like just yesterday I met her at Gueros, in Austin, for our first date. What a wild ride it’s been. We’re not even in the same state!

Janet does not work in Washington, she works out of state so she flies out at the buttcrack of dawn on Monday mornings and flies back home late on Thursday nights (in theory). She occasionally gets to work remote some weeks but normally we only see each other on the weekends.

So, I told Janet yesterday, really we’ve only been together a total of about a year, if you add up all the weekends. Exactly, Janet replied, I was just telling everyone at work we can only celebrate about every seven years. We celebrate our anniversary in dog years! Brilliant, Janet, brilliant!

Janet said, ‘celebrate’ but I heard, “let’s spend a lot of money going somewhere exotic and expensive. Don’t worry about the cost. You are worth every penny and credit card charge!” I’m so glad she told me this with two years to spare because now I have time to organize a doozy of a trip. I’m thinking Greece or New Zealand, personally. Maybe a week long train ride in Canada, eh?

We’ll probably postpone our trip until September or October when families stop traveling and are back at home. That way we can have all of Paris to ourselves! I’ve always wanted to see Machu Picchu and I’m not getting any younger. The world is my oyster. Hmmm…what was that noise? Was that Janet hitting the floor?

Anyhoo, since I enjoy working on our budget so much (retch) I’ll try and find some extra money to put aside for our dog year anniversary celebrations. I don’t have long to save, this time, because time sure does fly by, the older I get. The past five years have been wonderful: full of laughter, excitement and the normal roller coaster ride of a truly great relationship. I can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring.

jenn

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Discovery Bay, Washington

Yes, we are on vacation yet again.  Our trip to Discovery Bay was, originally, going to be our only true vacation this summer.  We booked it about a year ago.  I don’t include moving to Bend for the summer a vacation, although Budge seems to disagree.  Going to South Dakota was a late addition to our calendar and was time specific or else we probably would have separated the two a little more.

These two vacations, Discovery Bay and South Dakota, couldn’t be more different if I’d tried to write the stories.  Discovery Bay’s temperatures linger around 70 as a high (instead of 100), the views are amazing here (I could sit at the visitor’s center at Hurricane Ridge and breathe in the Cascades for days) and the condo here is large and private.

It’s cold, I’m not going to lie.  I would never leave this place if it was 85 or 90 degrees and sunny, not with the impressive views of the bay and surrounding mountains.  The fact that it’s 65 at noon and the sun has yet to show itself leaves me with a desire to take the ferry over to Seattle to see if it’s any warmer.  I shudder to think what it’s like here in January and February.

The views here are breathtaking.  When we are sitting at the table, eating a meal, and you look out onto the bay, it looks like we’re in the water and not just near it.  The views from the two balconies are unobstructed bay views and I couldn’t be happier with them.  Janet even saw two otters frolicking in the water the other morning.  We keep looking for whales but I don’t think they like coming into the bay much; too much like taking a bath for them.

Jessie’s best friend from Texas, we’ll call her Destiny, came along for this trip and we took them to the Olympic National Forest to check it out.  What a stunning chunk of land.  I think Destiny was impressed with her surroundings since she was born and raised in Texas, a much flatter and sometimes browner place to live.

Janet told me, before we made it to Hurricane Ridge, about the similarities to The Sound of Music I’d notice in the hillsides and I really had the urge to break into song when we stopped at the top.  I actually did break into song at one point until my clearly embarrassed daughter told me to stop.  She said the twirling was too over the top.

Staying in the condo is a much better setup than the hotel room on our first trip.  Not that I didn’t enjoy sharing a room with my mother-in-law and bed with my kicking, hitting, teeth grinder of a daughter, but separate rooms are really nice.  This condo is three floors and the setup is adult friendly.

When you come in through the front door, it’s a split level entrance.  If you go up to the left you come into the main living area: kitchen, dining area and living room with a nice gas fireplace (we use it every day – it’s cold here).  Off the dining area is a patio with a gas grill – Janet’s preferred form of cooking.  We’ve already grilled pork chops, sausage, and chicken; all delicious.

If you keep going up, on the landing between the main floor and the upstairs, the girls’ full bathroom is off to the left.  The girls’ room is up at the top with a beautiful view of the bay and two of the narrowest beds I have ever seen.  Yesterday morning, while Janet and I were up and watching the Olympics, we heard a loud thud followed closely by an ‘owwww’.  Destiny had fallen out of bed and I was surprised that was the only time it had happened.  I would just have to sleep on the floor.

If, after entering the unit, you were to go to the right and down you would find yourself in the master bedroom.  A wonderful, soft, king sized bed (a joy after sleeping on a double futon in Bend), a sitting area with a TV and a VCR (I didn’t know they still had those), a Jacuzzi bathtub, a shower in the bathroom, and our own personal deck.  The condo turned into quite the pleasant surprise, especially after sharing a hotel room for a week.  Not that I didn’t enjoy the perfectly lovely tiny hotel room with my mother-in-law and daughter.

I can’t begin to describe what our budget looks like after two vacation weeks in July.  Well, I could, but I will spare you the gore.  Budge does not look good; she is cowering in the corner, looking weak and anemic.  It helps having a kitchen in this unit, but we still went over (doubled) our budgets for dining out and groceries.  I’m so glad it’s August now and we can try and stop the blood loss.

We flew to the South Dakota trip (expensive) and drove to this one (not quite as expensive with the Prius), but having two weeks of vacation almost back to back:  this will be hard to recover from.  We’d been doing relatively well with Budge up to this point.  We’d been close to our goal amount, and when we did go over it was only by a couple hundred dollars.  But in July we went several hundred dollars over.

It’s a hard thing to justify, spending so much money on travel.  Should we stay at home and deny ourselves one of our true passions: travel?  Or should we ditch our goals (the main one being saving enough money to get Janet off the road) and travel and spend with abandon.  I’m a Libra, so I’m thinking we should try and find a balance somewhere.  That and I should stop getting all those travel deal emails.  Those are killing me.

jenn

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Let’s Go to Bend!

Janet and I went to Bend this past weekend and found a place to stay for the summer!  Okay, we had a little scare in the beginning thinking we wouldn’t be able to find a place, but it all worked out in the end.  Seriously, we thought in this economy it would be easy to find someone who wanted to rent their second, heavily mortgaged home to us on a month to month basis.  We were mistaken.

We arrived in Bend and realized that bringing our shorts was just wishful thinking; it’s still pretty cold up there.  Who knew we would need to bring our parkas to Bend and Seattle at the end of May? It was in the 80s and 90s in Sacramento and most of the rest of the world.

We started our search for a home on Craigslist and found some listings but couldn’t get anyone to respond to our inquiries.  When we called a realtor who specializes in vacation rentals she told us stories about listings on Craigslist from people who are in foreclosure and people who stopped paying their mortgages who are just looking to make a quick buck.  So, of course, our response was to panic.

Me being the level headed one (don’t laugh Janet), I decided against moving to Bend at all.  It just didn’t seem to be in the cards for us.  But then we found a great management company who had the perfect month to month rental for us.  The only problem is the fact that it’s a pretty small condo.  It’s a 2/1 with small bedrooms and a tiny living room.  It’s probably only 650 square feet.

Me being the cerebral, non emotional one (stop laughing), I agreed to it and then, after I’d thought about it, said it was too small and let’s just move to Seattle now instead of waiting until September.  We really couldn’t find anything better than the little condo so Janet took me to IKEA and we played; I too can be an interior designer at HGTV.

WE CAN DO THIS.  We treated it like a game as we analyzed each of IKEA’s little roomed apartment layouts 359 sqft,  594 sqft, 650 sqft.  How can we create as much space as possible with as little furniture as we can but still have places to sit down?  Since most of our furniture will not fit, we’ll have to be careful not to make Budge too angry (curse you, Budge!).  Thrift stores here we come!

The whole point in going to Bend is our desire to spend more time in the Great Outdoors, so having a small domicile isn’t that big of a deal.  And according to Janet, the condo has the one thing we need, the one thing that has been missing from our lives the past year, the one thing Janet has been dreaming about for twelve long months: space for a BBQ grill.  I see pork chops and applesauce in my future.

At the end of the weekend, with our Bend situation under control now, we moved on to Seattle so we could see the Mariner’s game on Monday night.  The Texas Rangers were in town and Yu Darvish was the pitcher for the Rangers.  Since I’m so non-emotional, my first thought was, “Oh crap!  Why bother even going?  The Mariners will definitely lose.”  I went, of course, and not just because Janet hit me upside the head with our already bought tickets; I went because I was buying the first baseball for my brand new baseball collection.  (The Mariners won decisively, btw.  I knew they would.)

I decided, a while back, to collect one baseball from every stadium except for the New York Yankees.  Since the Mariners are my first and strongest baseball loves, I wanted to start at Safeco Field.  I’m pretty sure I’ve seen display cases for baseballs for all 30 teams; I’ll just scratch out the Yankees and buy a ball at a minor league game; maybe an affiliate of the Mariners?  Or I can take Jessie to a Round Rock Express game, the Ranger affiliate.  She loves the outfield grass and I’m a halfway infatuated Rangers fan.

It rained all afternoon, before the game, but it stopped raining and the clouds dispersed just in time for the game.  They actually retracted the roof so we could see that large yellow orb in the sky.  I believe you people call that the sun.  We were pretty cold as the game temp was only 60.  Seriously, how do these people live here in the tundra?  My nails turned blue and I thought I was going to lose skin off my cheeks; mostly the ones on my face.

Anyhoo, life is pretty good now: I’m warmer, we have a place to stay for the summer, I bought the first baseball for my collection (my UFO baseball from Roswell, New Mexico and my <save the> Alamo ball from San Antonio don’t count), and I had pizza for dinner.  What more could a level headed person like me need?  Well, long pants for one.

Book Update: I am this close, THIS CLOSE, to being done.  Stay tuned.  Devan’s Story: Blue Hydrangeas.  Book One of the Vancouver Series.

jenn

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Our Anniversary 2012

Our anniversary, Janet and mine, is coming up soon and we’ll be this many (just imagine me with 4 fingers held up).  It’s hard to believe Janet has put up with me for as long as she has and she swears she’s not done with me yet!

How do people stay together after the initial honeymoon phase is over?  I have no clue.  I think it helps if you like each other and love each other at the same time.  Yes, those are two very different and important feelings.  I also think it’s important when the things you have in common are big and the places you differ are small and mostly just add spice to your life.

Here are some things we have in common.

Our Basic Fibers

Call them what you want: morals, ethics, principles, beliefs.  Your fundamental beliefs should be very similar, in my opinion.  Our right and wrong meters are closely linked and I don’t know of any real differences in our morals.  I’m pretty sure Janet’s not a serial killer.  I’m still here.

Our Sense of Humor

I had a hard time deciding where to put this one, our funny bones are very different, but decided on a commonality because we both love humor; it’s such an important part of our lives together.  I’m more of a slapstick kind of a gal.  I have a knack for saying things people are not expecting.  Janet is more of a straightforward humorist.  But we both crack each other up on a daily basis.

Our Love of Travel

Not shocking, really (curse you, Budge!).  It would be cheaper if neither of us liked to travel, but since that’s not the case, I’m glad we both do with equal fervor.  Even with her travels for work, Janet still loves to travel for fun.  This year we’re going to the Dakotas and next year, if all goes according to schedule, we’re heading for Greece for our 5th.  Unless the Greeks are still rioting in the streets, then we’ll go to the Florida Keys or somewhere else mellow.

Our Love of Eating Out

Another Budge buster, but something we definitely have in common.  I like to eat out because I’m not much for cooking and clean-ups are a breeze.  Janet likes to eat out to try things she doesn’t want to or won’t make at home.  Fried chicken is a good example: it’s a lot of work to make and I won’t let Janet make that big of a mess in the kitchen.

 

Here are some of our differences.

Birthplaces

I was born on the west coast and Janet was born on that other coast.  The east coast is much more formal than the west, much older and conservative.  I spent my first 23 years in Seattle; and, well, Janet’s probably really happy that I shave.  This isn’t such a bad difference; Janet has brought some formality into my manners and I’ve taught her the art of snarkiness and drama queen-isms.

Our Love of Animals

I was a little concerned, at first, with Janet’s lack of enthusiasm for puppies and kittens, but I think she’s coming around to Jessie and my point of view.  I think the pros of animals outweigh the cons by a ton or two.  We’ll talk about this point in a few months.

Our Temperaments

Janet and I are the polar opposites in temperaments with Janet not liking confrontations and me enjoying them immensely.  I’m a hot head and Janet gets very quiet when shown anger.  She just steps back and lets me fizzle out.  I don’t believe this is a deal breaker, at least not so far, but it’s something I should probably work on.

Alcohol

Janet doesn’t drink.  At all.  She will take sips of wine and exotic drinks of mine but that’s as far as her consumption goes.  I, on the other hand, enjoy drinking.  I don’t drink as much as I used to and if I did I’m sure this would become a problem for us.  It sucks being sober around heavy drinkers: they’re loud, obnoxious and think they’re funny.  I don’t need alcohol to act like that.

This blog was harder than I thought it would be to write: Janet and I have a lot in common and very few really important differences.  I could have mentioned a lot more things in common.  For instance: our love of learning, our fear of getting older, our love of the outdoors, how we both love a good commitment, our love/hate relationship with TV/exercise/eating healthy…the list goes on and on.

I still love and like Janet.  I find her funny, intelligent, driven, and loving.  Our goals are the same (get Janet off the road), our different styles of humor surprise and amuse us, and we’re concentrating on, not only the here and now, but our future together as a family of three.  All in four short years.

jenn

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Curse You, Budge!

So, Janet and I started the year out with about 50 resolutions.  Don’t worry: this is perfectly normal.  I like to have a lot so when I fail a few it’s not a big deal.  I like to aim for 50% completion.  Hey!  Just like high school!

I have an issue with accountability: if I’m not paying attention to something, I have no clue what’s going on.  This is very true with money and calories.  I usually walk around with a vague idea of what’s going on around me but sometimes I wonder about myself.  I don’t know what I did to survive without Janet leading me around by the hand.

Having a budget (budge), and sticking to the budge, was a top priority for us this year.  I don’t like budge.  It holds me accountable for my spending and that sucks. Ignorant bliss is behind me now.  Ah, good times.

Janet and I spent the past week in San Francisco (Janet had to work, I had to tag along), and then to Austin to visit friends.  We walked a lot in San Fran and ate a lot in Austin.  I’m drooling right now thinking about bbq and Chuy’s.  After scrutinizing budge yesterday, it seems Janet and I falter in two areas: travel and more travel.  I really didn’t see that coming.

It’s shocking to realize how much we spend and where we spend the money.  I kinda knew about the travel part, but I never realized how much we (Janet) spend on gifts.  Wow, do we really know that many people?  If yes, do we really like them that much?  Just kidding, Mom.

Aside from budge (curse you, budge!), I like most of our other resolutions.  Some are typical: go see our doctors, get our teeth checked, eat better, lose weight, etc.  Some are writing related: self publish two books, publish an article, etc.  And a few seem to go against other resolutions: buy new glasses (budge), spend the summer in Oregon (budge again), attend a couple of fall weddings in Austin (curse you, budge!).

A friend of Janet’s from work is helping us with our healthier resolutions.  We’ll call her Karen.  Karen is a sweet lady (she apparently snuck out and hid from me last time I was in California) who is coordinating a competition between several women.  She wanted to do something a little different than the usual lose weight competition so she created six different challenges and let us pick three we wanted to tackle for six weeks.

The Six Challenges are as follows:

#1: Food Journal/Tracking.  The first week starts with keeping track for 4 days per week and adding up to 7 days per week by the end.

#2: Cardio.  Karen started us slow – probably was concerned some of us might keel over from the strain (me) – with 10 minutes a day per week at the start and climbing up to 30 minutes a day per week at the end.

#3: Fruits and Veggies.  3 F & V’s per day the first week growing to 5 per day the last week.  Now, you vegetarians, don’t look down your noses at us, don’t scoff at 5 per day, some of us were born with a bag of cheetos in our hands.

#4: Water.  The first week – 32 ounces of water per day, bubbling up to 64 ounces every day by the last week.  And no, Janet, Diet Snapple doesn’t count as water.

#5: Steps.  Here’s the popular pedometer challenge!  8k steps per day the first week powering up to 12k steps at the end.  That’s a lot of steps to do every day.

#6: Strength training.  This last challenge starts with 30 minutes per week to start and pumps up to 60 minutes per week by week six.

Janet and I chose numbers 1 – 3.  We both drink a lot of water – Janet because she is thirsty all the time and me because I sweat a lot.  I know, sexy image right?  No, no – I’m already taken.  We can’t do number 5 because we both lost our pedometers – Janet’s got flushed and mine is floating around the car somewhere.  It’s not like we can buy new ones (budge!).

Number 6 we can’t do because we felt we would be cheating.  Our trainer – we’ll call him Krieg – comes by once or twice a week to beat us up for at least 60 minutes.  I think he enjoys beating us up, by the way.  Oh, I forgot, I’m supposed to be nice to Krieg for a couple more weeks.  He’s a Packers fan.  Take it from a Seahawks fan:  there’s always next year!

The catch, with the challenges you pick, is: if you miss your daily/weekly goal you have to put a dollar into the pot.  The lucky dog who puts in the least amount of money after six weeks wins the whole pot.  You know Janet and I are serious about winning: we need that money for travel expenses.

Janet and I started our food journaling on myfitnesspal.com.  What a fun game of accountability.  This is the best invention ever! Okay, maybe not – ever! – but I think it’s pretty handy.  You figure out what your resting metabolism is – mine is 1585 – and that’s the maximum number of calories you can eat in a day to maintain your weight without the burden of having to move around.  My kind of day.

So, you add the food you’ve eaten into your log and it adds up your calorie intake and also your fat, carbs, and protein grams.  The log is helping to open my eyes about what I’m eating and how I’m eating. I almost feel enlightened.  And the best part?  The part that’s like a game to me?  When you exercise, your handy exercise log will add the calories you burn over to your daily food intake.  I know!

The more you exercise the more you can eat and still maintain your girly figure.  If you have one of those; I seem to have lost mine a couple of decades ago.  I love it!  It’s a lot of fun, watching what I eat and exercising now.  I never thought I’d say that in writing.

Cardio was a challenge I really needed to do.  With Krieg, I’ve built up a lot of the muscle I lost over the last few months.  Unfortunately, you can’t see the muscle under all this weight (no, seriously, stop. I’m taken).  I need to burn off a ton of calories so you can see, what I can only assume are, my nicely defined arms.

The Fruits and Veggies challenge has got to be the hardest on the list, at least in my opinion.  Starting out with three was no big deal: you eat an apple here, a banana there and you’re good to go.  Well, now we’re into five a day and it’s hard (quiet you vegetarians and healthy people!).

With five a day I pretty much have to change the way I eat, especially in the winter.  Summertime?  No problem.  I’d just sit on the back porch with a slab of watermelon and a little shovel and be done!  All the fun fruits are, inconveniently, only grown in the summer.   I’m trying to branch out on my varieties. Yesterday, I bought cauliflower and Persian cucumbers.  Okay, that’s not much of a stretch, but I am trying.

I’m enjoying the food journaling a lot, budge not so much (curse you, budge!).  What I’ve really learned is I need to hold myself accountable for the things I do in my life or I will walk around in a smoky haze not knowing what the hell’s going on.  Hey!  Just like high school!

jenn

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