Saturday, November 30, 2013

Small Business Saturday + Dog-Lover Gifts

***Warning: this post contains shameless self-promotion!

In 2011 after adopting my dog, Charlie, I began baking dog treats at home due to her constant digestive issues. I had so many treats leftover that I began giving them away to friends and family. These people requested more treats and suggested that I start a business selling them.

So I did! After tons of research, I started the Kanine Kitchen Dog Treat Bakery in January 2012 with just a website and a dream.

The treats were such a hit that within a few months, four local retailers began carrying them in their stores, including a natural pet food store, Katzenbarkers, and the local whole food market, Downtown Grocery. I also began purchasing ingredients for the dog biscuits from The Planted Seed and Owl Ridge General Store... and they also became outlets for selling my treats.

People love to support local businesses and give gifts of locally-made products, and since today is Small Business Saturday, it makes sense to promote my own small business while giving thanks to the other small businesses that make mine possible.

If you're looking for a unique gift idea for dog-lovers on your holiday list, check out the Kanine Kitchen website and take advantage of our $5.00 holiday shipping special*!

*Due to pet food regulations, we currently ship to continental U.S. addresses only - sorry for any inconvenience.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

So Thankful

We enjoyed a quiet and very small Thanksgiving today... just me, my mom, our two dogs and a cat. The radio was tuned to the Christmas music channel as we sat down to enjoy a long, leisurely meal while giving thanks for this wonderful year.

There was so much for us to be thankful for as we started reminiscing about the many hiking and travel adventures we experienced throughout the year, choosing our favorites while appreciating each other's company. The dogs were just grateful to have some chicken scraps and spoonfuls of sweet potatoes!

I hope all my family, friends and readers are also having an enjoyable Thanksgiving and taking a moment to be grateful. Even in the toughest of times, there is always something to be grateful for. I know this because while we've had a fun-filled year, it has also been full of challenges. But remember that you always have a choice to make the best of it; to make lemonade out of lemons.

...I have a puppy nosing my elbow and trying to crawl into my lap so I guess it's time to sign off and get back to the family, plus the homemade apple crisp with vanilla custard is calling me. I hope I have room for dessert!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Christmas-Card Snow

Charlie and I took a quick walk around one of our area city parks along the Wisconsin River this morning while playing fetch with her tennis ball. Snow had just begun to fall as we left the house and by the time we reached the park, it was coming down pretty good. We had the park all to ourselves on this quiet Tuesday morning... and even more so since it was snowing.

As we made our way around Picnic Island, I observed a muskrat swimming along the icy shore and watched a bald eagle harass a flock of migrating geese. Snowflakes swirled around me and I held out my black mitten to catch a few of them, mesmerized with their unique shapes before they melted into water droplets from the radiating heat of my hand.

The dark green pine trees and red branches of dogwood contrasted beautifully against the thin layer of white snow gradually building along the riverbank where ice is beginning to form, growing outward from the shore.

I stood with my back against a giant tree trunk, sheltering myself from the wind, and watched the snow flying around me, all the while feeling like I was standing in a scene from a Christmas card. Occasionally Charlie would drop her tennis ball at my feet and nudge it toward me, urging me to throw it one more time.

Just 20 minutes at a local park in a quiet setting, spending quality time with my dog and breathing in as much nature as possible... so refreshing! Don't let cold weather hold you back from experiencing time with nature. The time spent will be good for your soul, maybe even priceless.


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Four Degrees + Friendship

There was absolute stillness this morning as Charlie and I took a brisk (and brief) walk through the neighborhood. At just four degrees, the icy air hurt to breathe but the snow crystals sparkled in the early dawn light and the half moon shone brightly above, making the walk worth the discomfort.

Exposed skin could quickly become frost-bit at these temperatures, so I knew we would not be hiking today. In addition to the extremely low temperature, this weekend was also opening weekend for gun-deer season in Wisconsin and I typically avoid hiking during this time anyway.

Today was going to be a day for indulging one of my passions - baking!

Inspiration struck in the kitchen as I whipped up a batch of Chocolate-Peppermint Biscotti and Walnut Fudge, then later filling cookie sheets with Ginger-Molasses and Chocolate-Chip Oatmeal cookies. Care packages to friends and family will be mailed out tomorrow, packed with all the goodies created today, spreading smiles and love with their arrival.

I have made a lot of good friends through this blog in the past year, possibly more friends than I've ever had at any time in my life. And I don't just mean "social media" friends; I'm talking about real people... the kind of people you can call in a crisis and they're there for you. Never in my life could I have imagined the internet would open up my world so much, but it's true and it's undeniable.

In the spirit of friendship, I finally joined Twitter this weekend! I'd love to connect with you and make even more friends so I've added some social media buttons to my blog to make connecting with me even easier!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Let it Snow!

We had our first accumulating snowfall last night... big, fluffy flakes coating every surface making a sweet little winter wonderland! In honor of the new season, I'm rolling out the winter logo.

Tree branches hung low with the heavy weight of the freshly fallen snow as Charlie and I headed out for our evening walk after dinner, enjoying the silently falling snow and empty sidewalks. Street lights lit up the blanket of white, reflecting a deceiving brightness all around. Insulating properties of the snow caused sounds to be muted and muffled my laughter as I watched Charlie's tail wag a full 180 degrees from one flank to the other as she reveled in the new season. She was so distracted with the snow that she didn't even care about the treats in my pocket. Charlie is a winter dog and snow brings out the puppy in her!

With the snow comes a grateful spirit as the holidays approach and I look forward to spending time with family & friends while enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the season. I hope this holiday spirit finds you and warms your heart.

Smile. And pass on happiness to all those you smile upon.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Dog Joy

"Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?"  ~ Mary Oliver

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Warm November Afternoon

The weather in Wisconsin can be a little confusing sometimes. We can have sunny, mild days in January; snowstorms in May; and tornadoes in November. But last Friday, Charlie and I enjoyed a rare warm November afternoon at one of my favorite parks... and it came at a time when entering into that comfort zone and having all afternoon to decompress was absolutely essential.

We followed a deer trail out to the tip of a peninsula and explored the entire shoreline of what felt like our own private retreat. The wind was absolutely still and the only accompaniment to the silence was the music of migrating cranes echoing across the lake.

One side of the peninsula was in full sun and the sand was warm and soft. I quickly got too warm for my winter jacket and ended up carrying it while we made our way through fallen trees and drift wood along the shore. Charlie romped around in the water, collecting sticks and constantly placed them in my path, trying to entice me to play fetch.

As we rounded the tip of the peninsula, I found myself in the shade on the opposite shore. I put my coat back on as the coolness enveloped me. Icy waves lay frozen on the beach and the chilled sand was solid beneath my feet. Expanses of shallow, reedy shoreline, normally inaccessible in warmer weather, were now available for exploration; frozen sand and mud had formed a hard, stable surface. A thin layer of ice hugged the shoreline within the boundaries of shade and the weight of Charlie on the ice as she ventured out to explore made tiny popping sounds as it strained to stay solid. She was careful to stay close to shore, but even so, the water was so shallow here that there was no threat of her breaking through.

We sat on a log and watched a few fishermen float by on boats across the lake and listened to the crane-song drifting through the still air. Spiders had strung garlands of silvery strands all along the rocks, trees and tall grasses and they glistened in the slanting sun. With a refreshed attitude and invigorated mind, we made our way back home, looking back occasionally at our afternoon retreat and knowing in my heart that the memory of this day will be with me for a long time.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bathroom Humor


I typically stop at the bathroom before embarking on long hikes. Last week, I found a squirrel's winter stash of nuts behind the pit toilet at my favorite county park.

What do you think... a good place to hide nuts?

Saturday, November 16, 2013


1. A stone marker set up on a roadside to indicate the distance in miles from a given point.
2. An important event, as in a person's career, the history of a nation, or the advancement of knowledge in a field; a turning point.

Yesterday, this blog reached a milestone in terms of page views. I'm humbled and happy that so many of you find interesting things to read here and hopefully gain inspiration to get out into nature with your own dog.

When I started this blog, I figured it would be a fun way to document adventures with my dog and have something fun to look back on and to share with friends and family. It has grown into something much more since then and it thrills me to be able to motivate, inspire and help others in their pursuit of the outdoors. I never thought I'd have this many page views in less than a year and I'm ever-so-grateful to have touched so many of you.

In the spirit of gratefulness, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy life to come along on my adventures through my words and photos. I hope to share many more adventures and continue motivating and inspiring for years to come!

And so, the journey continues...

Heart-shaped rock I found on the trail... a good omen.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Nine Mile County Forest

It's a little embarrassing to admit that I've never been to Nine Mile Forest during the 17 years I've lived in this area, but a friend recently hiked some of these trails with her dog and encouraged me to check it out.

The trails are mainly used by mountain bikes in the summer and cross-country skiers in the winter, but this is a multi-use area that incorporates horseback riding, hiking and snowmobile use as well. There is a shooting range nearby where occasional gun-shots echo through the woods, so if your dog is skittish around that kind of noise, you may want to consider alternate hiking areas. Charlie was a bit nervous of the distant gun-shots at first, but quickly focused her attention on the exciting new trails ahead of us.

The trails are all numbered, but without a map and being unfamiliar with the trails and the distance they covered, I decided to stay on loops near the main Chalet and parking area. We had limited time to hike today and I didn't want to get lost on a long trail!

Trails constantly intersect each other and trail conditions and widths are varied. Some were wide and flat, like access roads, and others were narrow one-track trails. Many of the more difficult bike trails consisted of packed dirt with rocks and tree roots. Occasionally we would come to an open space with wide grassy paths.

After reading the detailed information about Nine Mile on the Marathon County website, I realized this area would require a lot more time to explore the extensive trail system. There is so much more to see than our short hike allowed, including two trout streams, marshes and wetland areas.

Because hunting is allowed on this land, please remember to wear blaze orange and outfit your dog with items to increase their visibility as well. Charlie typically wears her red hiking harness and a blaze orange neck warmer acquired at the local outdoor gear store, but many specialty pet stores also carry blaze orange vests, collars and leashes made specially for dogs to assist with increasing their visibility and provide protection against accidentally being mistaken for game animals. It's always better to be safe than sorry!

View of Chalet near main parking area.
Nine Mile County Forest is the perfect "sister park" to the nearby Rib Mountain State Park, so if you're in the area for only a short time, it's possible to visit both of these gems during a visit - which I highly recommend.

View of Rib Mountain from entrance to Nine Mile parking area.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A-MAZE-ing Power

Charlie and I visited a post-Halloween corn maze for a little exploring this weekend. For those readers who don't know what a corn maze is, farmers sometimes harvest their corn in a series of paths to make a "maze" for families to enjoy during harvest season (typically through Halloween) in conjunction with a pumpkin patch or apple orchard. It's a fun and festive tradition to celebrate harvest time and get people in the holiday spirit.

As we made our way through the paths, the corn stalks were unusually noisy, blowing and rustling in the strong wind. But all the noise couldn't keep my imagination from blooming. And as I walked, I began to think about the movie, The Labyrinth, which was very fitting considering I was in a labyrinth of sorts myself.

In the movie, the Goblin King kidnaps a young girl's baby brother and steals him away to a magical land where she has to find her way through the labyrinth in time to save her brother. My favorite line of the movie is near the end when she confronts the Goblin King after going through the labyrinth, fulfilling all his "tests" and she realizes, "You have no power over me."

What a profound realization.

Remember this whenever you have to confront a Goblin King in your life; remember that line and repeat it to yourself often:

You are the only person who can change your life. No one is in control of your destiny. If you don't like something about your life, change it. Because you know what? YOU have the power to do that.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Mission: Cat Adoption - SUCCESS!

These two have become best friends over the past week.
In fact, I think they were made for each other.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

IAT: Wood Lake Segment

A scenic drive along county highways provided an hour's worth of scenery on our way to a new hiking spot on the Ice Age Trail today. Ribbons of unharvested corn alternated with pastures of cows as the roads passed through farm country interspersed with wooded areas. We saw more wildlife along the roads leading to our hiking trail than on the trail itself. Deer, cranes, wild turkey and grouse all made an appearance today.

Upon arriving at Wood Lake County Park in Taylor County, I found the picnic area and bathrooms conveniently located right off the parking area near the beach. I made use of the pit toilets before getting started on the trail and discovered a huge family of ladybugs had set up residence in the toilet paper dispenser, eliciting a tiny scream from me. It's situations like this that make me glad I always bring my own paper!

We could hear distant gunshots echoing across the lake and I was glad Charlie had her red hiking vest as well as her blaze orange on today. I don't take any chance that Charlie will be mistaken for wild game in the forest so every year I purchase a blaze orange neck-warmer or hat (with the tip cut off) that she wears around her neck when we're hiking. It's an easy and affordable way to make your dog visible in the woods during hunting seasons.

We chose to hike a 2.5 mile loop of this segment around spring-fed Wood Lake. The early morning fog had mostly burned off by 11am, but the sky remained cloudy for the first part of our hike with occasional spots of sunshine from time to time.

Thick frost from the previous night had melted, making the leaf-covered forest floor wet and slippery. The damp leaves released their sweet aroma of earthy decay and covered the slick mud beneath them just enough to give my boots some traction on the hilly terrain.

With the dampness comes silence. There was no crunch of leaves from underfoot and no chorus breezing through the leafy canopy. Today there was only the whispering of wind through the bare branches above, occasionally joined by the chirp-squeak of a woodpecker.

The sweet babbling of water flowing over rocks was a welcome sound by the time we reached Wood Creek. Charlie took a break to splash around and search for sticks to play with while I sat and took a few moments to clear my head of unwelcome chatter and negative thoughts. Deep breaths of fresh air, the wind playfully blowing my hair and the calming lull of the water slowly washed away the events of the previous week and I began to feel refreshed and invigorated.

With a clear head, I was ready to continue on and concentrate on the beauty of Wood Lake and the random little trickles of water flowing down the hillsides. Small rock piles made crossing these areas a little easier, although the thick leaf cover on the ground obscured ankle-twisting obstacles of rocks and roots, causing me to slow my step and be more careful. With my eyes watching the ground more often, I noticed tiny white moths flitting about in a frosty stupor, a last hurrah of the season.

White birch trees glowed brightly as the sun finally peeked out of the cloud cover and pockets of blue sky became visible. A series of wooden boardwalks helped traverse the wetland areas around the lake, and my boots echoed a hollow thud on the planks as we marched across. Charlie's toenails clicked ahead as she led the way, anxious to get closer to the water in hopes of going swimming.

Finally arriving back at the beach where we had started, Charlie dipped her paws into the clear, blue waters and went in search of more sticks for me to throw. The wind whipped across the lake causing small waves to lap against the shore. Even so, the water remained clear and sparkly as the sun filtered through, illuminating the sandy bottom below. We even found remnants of turtle eggs on the beach where they had hatched and made their way back to the lake.

The hues of the season have transitioned to shades of brown and the beauty so easily seen in the previous season is harder to find now. With an open mind and clear eyes, though, there is still beauty to be seen if you are patient and look closely. Nature is all around and always, in any season.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Introducing Leo, the House Lion

A couple of weeks ago I applied to adopt a cat from the local humane society, and by the time we were approved and he'd had his neuter surgery, the first available date to pick him up was Halloween!

So Halloween evening, after work, I picked up our newest member of the family... Leo, the House Lion!

He was a stray so there was no history on him. According to the tartar on his teeth, they estimate he is about two years old. He's kind of small/petite for a male cat but has enormous paws, he has deep-set green eyes that are a little bit cross-eyed, super affectionate and must have been raised with dogs in his past life because he absolutely ADORES Charlie! Which is perfect, because Charlie LOVES kitties.

My recent article on, How To Deal With A High Energy Dog, received tons of comments from other people with high energy dogs and one commenter suggested getting an additional high energy dog to help them burn their excess energy off with each other. Charlie and I have a pretty tight bond and I think she'd be upset sharing me with another dog, so I figured a kitty would give her a new playmate without causing any jealousy issues. So far, it's working perfectly.

Charlie is not eating Leo ~ Leo loves to be loved on.

Now Charlie has a playmate to romp around the house with while I'm writing or working in the home office, letting me get stuff done without the guilt! Soon winter will be setting in and there will be less outdoor time for hiking and exploring so this was a perfect time to find Charlie an indoor playmate.

Leo has waltzed into our lives like he was meant to be here all along. He loves being snuggled by everyone, gets along perfectly with the dogs and has filled a hole in our lives that I didn't even know existed. When I considered adding a kitty to our house, I had at first settled on a very young kitten because I thought it would be easier to raise a kitty to get used to a dog rather than adopt an older cat who may or may not like dogs. During the visit to the shelter, Leo reached out and literally grabbed us. So for any of you considering adopting a shelter animal, please make a visit! Looking at photos and online profiles is great, but you can't really know a pet's personality until you visit and you might just be surprised at which one grabs you. The lesson I take away from this is that older shelter pets can sometimes hold more joy and surprises than the younger ones. Leo is proof.

P.S. Cats are really hard to photograph!