Monday, May 9, 2016

A Day Off To Reconnect With Nature

It's no secret that Americans work too much. I've read several articles stating that we don't get as much vacation as other countries and when we actually do use our vacation, we work through at least some of it. Technology is making it increasingly hard to disconnect from obligations and reconnect with nature.

And I guess I kind of get it. When you have a really great job you want to give 100% as often as possible, especially since really great jobs are hard to find.

I'm lucky enough to have one of those really great jobs right now and it truly is hard to take a day off without thinking about everything that needs to be done.

But these past few weeks I've been feeling a little burned out and I have a couple of busy months ahead of me, so I took a vacation day today... a mental holiday if you will. Just a little extension to the weekend so Charlie and I could have one more day out on the trails enjoying nature.

And it was a lovely day for it! As soon as we drove into Big Eau Pleine County Park, I turned off the radio and rolled down the windows so we could breathe in the cool, sweet air and listen to the birds chirping all around.

Trees are finally budding out and the soft glow of green welcomed us. A strong breeze was blowing today and the trees were alive with the sound of wind. Bird-chirps echoed through the woods and waves crashed along the shore.

Wildflowers were blooming along the forest floor and fern fronds were unfurling. A white pelican floated on the waves just off-shore and a bald eagle flew within 20 feet of us. The park was alive with magic today.

VIDEO (turn up the volume to hear the bird-song):

My mind drifted and daydreamed... not about work and deadlines, but about love and life and enjoying the simple pleasures and beauty surrounding us. Not thinking about what lies ahead tomorrow, but simply being in the moment.

Smiling and laughing as Charlie bounced along the trail searching for the perfect stick and watching her little butt swaying with the waves while she played in the water. Taking a moment to just breathe and be grateful for this wonderful life.

Throwing her stick for another game of fetch!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day @ Grandfather Falls (with Recipe!)

To avoid another Mother's Day Mishap like what happened last year, I decided to take my mom to Grandfather Falls today. I knew I could let her relax along the shore of the Wisconsin River at Camp New Wood County Park while Charlie and I hiked a short section of the Grandfather Falls Segment of the Ice Age Trail, allowing all of us to get a taste of nature in our own preferred settings.

Charlie and I got into a good rhythm along the narrow trail cut into the steep hillside along the Wisconsin River, navigating roots and rocks at a quick pace. The babbling sound of water increased as we neared the rapids of Grandfather Falls and Charlie wanted to stop often to take swimming breaks where I could throw her stick and play fetch for a while.

Once she was tired out enough, we headed back to the county park to play some more fetch and hang out with mom for a bit.

I surprised Mom with her favorite treat when we got home... french crepes! I'm including the recipe below if you want to give them a try...

1 cup flour
2 Tbsp sugar
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 eggs
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt

Put all ingredients into a blender and blend batter until smooth, about 20 seconds. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and spray pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour 1/3 cup of batter in heated pan and swirl to get a thin even circle. Cook until slightly browned edges, about 40 seconds and then flip over, cook for another 10 seconds or until lightly browned. Makes 9-12 crepes depending on pan size.

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1-1/2 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup sugar
2/3 cup Cool Whip

Beat together cream cheese, milk and sugar until creamy. Fold in Cool Whip. Spread filling onto crepe and roll up. Serve with your choice of toppings: berries, jam, maple syrup, etc.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

I Hiked Today...

I hiked today.
I hiked today for all the people who are no longer with us.
I hiked today for all the people who are physically incapable of hiking.
I hiked today for all the people, for whatever reason, are in a place in life where they cannot hike.
I hiked today.
I hiked because I can.

Thoughts of life and death flowed through my mind during our walk today. The way nature gives and takes and how it's all just a balancing act.

The way time can speed up or slow down depending on where you are, who you are with and what you are doing.

How every person that comes into our lives is there for a reason... friend or foe, they are part of our story and helping shape the person we are becoming.

Some are with us for longer than we like and others, well... forever will never be enough time. Some people stand by us no matter what and some people forget about us like we never existed.

But every person has a purpose. Whether to challenge us, to help us, or to make us think.

Cherish everyone.

We are all a part of this universe. Interconnected in ways we'll never understand.

Hiking Friends

Charlie's fear-aggression toward other dogs often leaves her without dog-friends to play with. Fortunately I had the luck of meeting a great neighbor last year who was interested in helping me socialize Charlie with her dog, Ellie. Not only did our dogs become friends, but so did Sara and I. And even though my friend Sara has since moved to another neighborhood, we still find time to walk our dogs together.

Tiny pink wildflowers are emerging from the leaves.

Last weekend Charlie and I were introduced to some new trails on Rib Mt. and this weekend, we revisited those trails and explored further with Sara and Ellie. Ellie is a coon-hound mix about the same age as Charlie and one of the few dogs that I trust Charlie with.

And while Ellie has helped Charlie with her socialization skills, Charlie has in turn helped Ellie learn to love playing in water! They've become great friends, as have Sara and I. It's really great having friends (both dog and human) to hike with.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Charlie's Choice

Unexpected results present themselves when you allow your dog to make the choice of where you walk. Sometimes, to shake up the routine of our weekday walks, I let Charlie choose our direction. Oftentimes, she takes us to Thom Field, a local high school athletic field, where she has the uncanny ability to find lacrosse balls in the woods and marshy area along one side of the field. We play some fetch with the found ball and then she gets to bring her "treasure" home with her. Because of her skilled nose, we have quite the collection of lacrosse balls at home now.

But earlier this week, we took one of these "Charlie's Choice" walks and ended up at Whitewater Park in downtown Wausau, where Charlie got to play with sticks and swim in the calm pools before the rapids. It was a beautifully unexpected walk and the "treasure" of this day was watching Charlie romp and play with such joy and me feeling like the luckiest dog-mom in the world.