Friday, January 31, 2014

Snow Bliss

We received about 5" of snow during the morning hours yesterday and had all new snow piles to play in the backyard!

A sweet bonus: temperatures were finally above zero! Because road conditions were terrible, I was given the afternoon off work, which was great because I don't think I could have gotten out of the driveway anyway. Instead of working, Charlie and I romped around in the backyard all afternoon.

I was mostly an observer, watching her muscles move with each leap into the snow banks. She seemed more interested in burying her own toys and then proceeding to dig them up rather than allowing me to throw them for a game of fetch, but occasionally she'd relent and bring me a frisbee to throw. I was content to just lean against the garage and watch her bliss. I think I even saw her smile.

Here are some "action" photos of our afternoon snow adventures:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lunar New Year

The Lunar New Year begins tomorrow, January 31st. I read something recently that described the time between December 31st and the Lunar New Year as a "grace period"... a time to get clear and confident on how you want the year to unfold.

I really like the idea of a "grace period."

The December holidays are such a busy time of year that by the time New Year's Eve rolls around I'm exhausted! I've barely had time to reflect on the past year and begin to plan for the new year.

Since January is such a cold and dull month anyway, it's a good time to give myself a mental break while preparing for the new year. And with nature and the outdoors being such a big part of my life, I like that the moon dictates the flow of each new year.

Here are a few DO's and DON'Ts for tomorrow:

~ DO eat sweets! Eating sweets on New Year’s Day ensures sweet days to follow.
~ DO wish and pray for people.
~ DO spend time with your family and your friends.
~ DO wear red!
~ DO share kind words, think kind thoughts.

 ~ Do NOT clean. In fact, make sure that your brooms & vacuums are put away out of sight. You don’t want to sweep away your good fortune for the year, or even be tempted to.
 ~ Do NOT borrow or lend money.
 ~ Do NOT use a knife (thought to sever good fortune of the family)
 ~ Do NOT wash your hair (thought to wash away your good luck)
 ~ Do NOT mention death.
 ~ Do NOT cry or yell as this sets the tone for the year to come!
 ~ Do NOT prepare food. Do all of the food prep in advance so come New Year’sDay, you can relax and enjoy your family & friends.

Remember, what happens on this day sets the pace and tone for the remainder of this year. Make it a good one!

Charlie will be wearing her "red" tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Amateur Indoor Agility Course

In my attempt to keep Charlie exercised - both mind and body - while staying indoors due to the cold temps, I found a really neat online article at with DIY agility course ideas.

I already had the mesh tunnel from a tent/tunnel combo I purchased at Wal-Mart about a year ago...

The remaining components were a matter of pulling the ottoman into the middle of the living room and creating a "bridge" to the couch with a sturdy board that was wide enough for Charlie to walk across.
I have a REALLY tiny living room - just 10' by 11' - so I think anyone could create something similar in just about any space you have available. It wasn't difficult to re-purpose regular household items I already had so there isn't a huge expense to doing this either. The article on Modern Dog Magazine even recommended searching your basement and yard sales for items to save money.
Anything is possible with a little creativity!
I'm going to keep my eye out for some used ski poles to create the weave pole station in the backyard when the ground thaws and will utilize bricks and the board for a dogwalk. I also need to remember to get a hula hoop next time I'm out shopping! I plan to just hold the hula hoop in my hand for Charlie to jump through rather than suspending it from a tree; I think she'll have a lot of fun with that one!
But for now, the living room agility course is working well to get Charlie's heart rate going on the super cold days and she seems to really enjoy it.
We practiced the course for about 10 minutes before recording the following video. I use a clicker-treat combo to reward her for successfully completing each command.
**I am NOT a trainer, and I'm sure I made a ton of mistakes in my use of the clicker and commands, but Charlie doesn't seem to mind and I get good results so I'm not going to stress it too much. After all, this is supposed to be fun for both of us!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Boot Upgrade

Even though wind chills were ridiculously cold yesterday, I bundled Charlie up in her jacket and Pawz Boots for a walk around the neighborhood. She was not thrilled with the "bundling up" process but was happy to be out walking again.

Unfortunately the freezing wind was gusting up to 45 mph and way too cold for me so we cut our walk short. I opted to play frisbee in the backyard with Charlie instead since the yard is fairly sheltered from wind.

She was having so much fun but all the racing around and digging in the snowbanks had shredded her Pawz Boots, which I ended up taking off because they weren't doing much good anymore. Within a few minutes she was doing the 3-legged-walk when her feet became too cold.

I tried coaxing her in with some treats, but she was not falling for it; she wanted to be outside. I went inside and waited by the back door to see if she would give in. When she failed to give her usual "bark" to come in, I opened the door and started laughing: she had removed her jacket like a two-year-old having a tantrum and was just sitting there obstinately.

She finally relented and came in. But later on I found her snuggled on her dog bed with her leash again... definitely not happy about being inside.

Because the Pawz Boots are better suited for "light use" during neighborhood walks or quick potty breaks in the backyard, I decided to upgrade and order her a pair of Ruffwear Summit Trex boots which should hopefully arrive next week.

I have a feeling we're going to need them the way this winter is behaving. I know they will take some getting used to, but I think it will be worth the trade-off to be outside more often.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mother Nature's Sense of Humor

It was still dark this morning when I woke up. I could hear the slushy consistency of the street below my bedroom window as cars drove past; snowplows hadn't been by yet. We received another 2" of snow last night and temperatures are forecast to drop significantly over the weekend and into next week.
I threw on a thick sweater and my slippers and headed to the kitchen to get the coffee started while Charlie stayed snuggled in bed. The outside temperature was 5 degrees and as I watched the morning weather report on t.v., I realized that would be our high for the day. We'll be in the negative digits by noon with wind chills reaching -25. Another 2" of snow will arrive tonight and through Sunday morning.
I'm really not enjoying this little trick Mother Nature is playing on us this winter. The alternating sub-zero temps followed by a dumping of snow repeated over and over every week is getting a bit tedious. And while I enjoy the sparkly beauty that winter brings us each year, it's really hard to get out and enjoy it when this "Polar Vortex" is swirling over us constantly.
Last winter I had to remind myself to be patient a few times but this year seems even worse and getting harder.
I think Charlie is even succumbing to winter blues. Her energy demands have subsided, she's put on a couple pounds and seems content to beg for treats out of boredom rather than play. She no longer whines to go outside; she knows it's going to be too cold.


I'm going to have to dig deep to find some optimism to keep us going for the next couple of months.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Backyard Blizzard Fun

Mother Nature dumped about 8" of snow on us yesterday. After shoveling both sidewalks on our corner lot and enough of my driveway to get my car in, I proceeded to shovel the "doggie paths" and "potty rooms" in the backyard for both Charlie and my mom's Chihuahua, Peanut.

Amazingly, shoveling the backyard doesn't feel as tiring as the sidewalks and driveway did. Hmmm.

Once all the shoveling was done, I played a little "fetch-and-seek" with Charlie in the huge snow piles... her all-time favorite game!

The snow was light and fluffy and continued to pour down on us as we played, which of course meant that I'd have to shovel again later in the day when it finally decided to stop.

Charlie says: "THROW MY FRISBEE!"

And even though I started out in a stressed-out, grumpy mood and seem to be coming down with a cold, playing in the snow piles with Charlie made me feel like a kid again and somehow the snow no longer felt like a curse, but an opportunity to connect with my inner child.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

IAT: Dells of the Eau Claire Segment

The winter weather has definitely been keeping me from hitting the trails that I had planned to hike this month. But Sunday was such a gorgeous day, I wasn't going to let my fear of poor travel conditions keep me inside! Instead, we headed to familiar Dells of the Eau Claire County Park where I knew there would be parking available and hopefully good hiking trail conditions.

It was an odd experience descending the staircase from the parking area to the river and not hearing a sound. Typically these falls are so loud you can't hear anything but the roar of water over these 1.8-billion-year-old bedrocks. Because of the recent extremely low temperatures, the river was mostly frozen over.

There were snowmobile trails and snowshoe tracks criss-crossing the river everywhere. Many snowshoers were out enjoying the trails; we even saw people hiking with their dogs on the river!

The rock formations along the river trail were an unusual shade of white, blanketed in a fuzzy coat of ice crystals. I noticed several handprints in the ice on the rocks, so I added mine as well.

Thanks to previous hiking and snowshoe traffic, the trails were nicely packed down and easy to hike. Charlie was grateful to be outside now that the worst of the cold weather was over. With temps in the mid-30's on this beautiful day, it almost felt like spring!

Snow fell from pine boughs as the temperatures continued to warm and occasionally you could hear a soft "PUFF" as the snow fell off the branches and onto the ground. Luckily I didn't get hit with any of this falling snow, but we did have a few close calls!

We made it all the way through the Ice Age Trail segment and then back-tracked to the parking lot. It was such a beautiful and mild day that I didn't want the hike to end, but I was sore and tired by the time we got back and was glad to be back in the car.

Charlie slept peacefully on the front seat all the way home and continued her nap on the large dog pillow in the living room for the rest of the day. A tired puppy is a happy puppy!


Sunday, January 12, 2014

January Anniversary

It's hard to believe it's been a year since I started this blog. This same week a year ago, I was affixing my new state park sticker to the windshield of my Jeep and anticipating a year's worth of adventures and exploration ~ which I'm happy to say met my expectations perfectly!

I didn't get a 2014 state park sticker for Christmas, like last year, so I'll head out to a local park office soon to purchase my own.

While most of our adventures happen on the Ice Age Trail and county parks that require no admission fees, there are just as many adventures to be had in the state park system... including good camping!

Since this winter's weather hasn't been conducive to getting much hiking done, I've resorted to consulting my maps and making plans for the rest of the year instead. I've mapped out my tentative plan for hiking segments of the Ice Age Trail, and many of those trips will require 3-day camping weekends.

I hope you enjoyed the past year's trail reports and continue to check back for even more throughout 2014... and so, another year of adventure begins!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Eau Claire River Trail

After a week of too-cold-to-hike temperatures, we finally got back out there today! Charlie knew something was up when I started filling water bottles and packing up my little pink backpack with snacks and poop bags. She started doing happy-wiggles and squealing by the door.

Although the temperatures were great for hiking, Mother Nature gifted us with 2 inches of fresh snow overnight and with my car not behaving well on snowy roads, I didn't want to take a chance driving any long distances to explore new trails. I'm also having a hard time finding county parks or trail heads with plowed parking areas.

So instead of risking unsafe driving conditions or parking hassles, we headed to one of our local tried-and-true trails: Eau Claire River Trail in Weston! This is one of my favorite local trails because it's right in town but feels very far away. In winter, the snow is always packed down nicely from foot traffic, snowshoeing and even cross-country skiers, but you rarely run into anyone else on the trail.

Today we met one other couple who were just exiting the trail with their two off-leash dogs and then we had the trail to ourselves for the rest of the hike. I kept Charlie on-leash most of the way, but had her off-leash for some stick-fetching games every now and then... making sure to throw her stick far into the deep snow so she'd have to "find it" and give her brain some exercise as well!

She had a blast and after an hour of hiking and fetching, she quickly fell asleep on the drive home.

She's been napping for most of the day, woke up for a quick potty break and some dinner and is now snoozing again.

That's all it takes to keep a dog exercised and happy... one hour of hiking!

Hopefully the roads will be in better shape tomorrow so we can head out to a new segment of the Ice Age Trail.

Until then... sweet dreams!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Too Cute.

I found my fur-kid curled up on my bed with one of my hiking boots this morning as I was getting ready for work. She's really had enough of the cold temps!

Luckily the weather is turning milder this weekend with highs in the 30's so we'll be able to get out and enjoy some trail time and get active again.

In the meantime, I'm enjoying her adorable-ness!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Comfort Food + Reminders of Summer

While some crazy people were making their way into Lambeau Field today for what could be one of the Packers coldest games ever, I was cooking up some comfort food to reminisce the summer.

I found some amazingly beautiful strawberries at the grocery store which inspired me to make a strawberry pie...

And while I was at it, I decided to whip up my dad's recipe for whole-wheat pizza crust and bake myself a Spinach-Tomato-Feta pizza...

Fresh veggies for dinner and delicious strawberries for dessert, I can almost feel a warm breeze on my cheek... well, maybe not, but the food was fabulous and helped distract me from the frigid temperatures outside.

After eating half a pizza and half a strawberry pie (yes, all by myself) I'm looking forward to doing some major hiking next weekend (when temperatures return to normal) to burn off these calories!

Stay warm!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Negative Highs + Pawz Boots

The forecast is calling for some of the coldest temperatures Wisconsin has seen in years. Schools statewide have been canceled for Monday and people are being urged to stay indoors and limit the amount of time pets spend outside. This can prove very problematic for getting their "potty business" done!

A couple of months ago, I was the lucky winner of a pair of Pawz Boots from the website. I put them in Charlie's hiking first aid kit to use in case she hurt her foot on a hike, but since the weather is turning so cold, I decided to give them a try on our neighborhood walk tonight.

Pawz Boots are like a thick rubber balloon that fits snugly around your dog's ankle while giving their foot enough wiggle room inside. They are disposable but reusable so you can get quite a few wearings out of a pair. According to their website, they are made of natural rubber and are 100% biodegradable. Packages contain 12 boots, or 3 sets.

Charlie's feet are about 2" wide so we used the "blue" boots which are size Medium. The sizes are all color-coordinated to make it easier for selecting your size. You want to make sure your dog has enough room to spread their toes inside the boots while walking.

Some dogs are better than others when it comes to putting boots on. Charlie is typically NOT a patient dog when it comes to wearing any type of gear, including her harnesses. So I was surprised how easy they were to get on her!

If you're using these to go on a walk, I suggest getting yourself ready to go before putting the boots on. That way your dog isn't doing a silly 3-legged dance while you're putting your coat and mittens on. The sooner you get them outside and walking, the sooner they forget they're wearing them!

These boots are also ideal for the little dogs who don't like to go outside in cold or rainy weather to do their potty business. While these boots aren't going to protect their feet from the cold for very long, they will help keep ice, snow and salt from getting on the paws and will probably make it a little more comfortable for your little fur-kids to go outside for a quick potty break.

I could see how these would also be useful for extended walks or even trail hiking since it helps prevent "snowballs" from forming between the dog's toes. Again, these aren't going to provide a ton of protection against extreme cold, but I think they would take the edge off enough to make a walk much more comfortable!

I also like the idea of having a pair of these in a hiking first aid kit in case your dog hurts a foot on the trail and you want to keep dirt and debris from getting in the wound.

After our 30 minute neighborhood walk, Charlie's boots still look brand new! She didn't seem to mind them once we got going and even dug around in snowbanks, practically oblivious to the fact that she was wearing boots. A few people pointed and laughed at her, but I think she looks pretty cute wearing them.

All-in-all, I give this product a huge thumbs up and will definitely be buying more! Thanks for introducing me to this great product!

If you're interested in winning free products, make sure to sign up for the monthly newsletter on for future giveaways. Good luck!