As I have been getting older, I seem to be having to teach myself, using Google and YouTube, how to do a lot of things. Something I had never done before is polish tarnished silver. When my mom sold our childhood home last year, I inherited many things, including a set of silver spoons that has been past down from my great grandparents. The frame they were in originally was awful looking, so much so I will not post a picture of it, and the spoons looked just as awful, so I decided to polish them and re-frame them.
I Googled the different ways that you could polish silver at home and one of the best ways seemed to be using water, aluminum foil, and baking soda. So I followed some directions using the stove, boiling water, aluminum foil, and baking soda. That process seemed to be too slow, and I had to physically make the foil touch the spoons one at a time. It was taking too long.
I then looked up another way using the same idea but boiling the water, adding salt and baking soda, then vinegar. Once all the grains were dissolved (because they can damage the silver) you add the water to an aluminum foiled lined dish. Then you add the pieces you want to the dish filled with the solution. This worked so much better and I was able to get others things done while I waited for the solution to do its thing.
So here are the directions that I used which helped the best with the spoons, a little modified to what worked best for me. I ended up doubling what I needed to make sure the solution completely submerged the spoons.
What you need:
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- Aluminum foil
- Baking dish or basin
- Soft/Microfiber cloth
- Bring water to a boil in a pan on the stove.
- Add the salt and baking soda.
- Slowly add the vinegar to the boiling mixture.
- Dissolve all of the salt and baking soda, as the small bits can scratch and damage your silver.
- As you’re waiting for the salt and baking soda to dissolve, line the baking dish/basin with a sheet of aluminum foil (with the shiny side up).
- Next pour your boiling solution into the dish/basin.
- Drop the pieces of silver into the basin so that each piece is touching the foil.
- To ensure the best results, turn each piece onto every side to touch the foil.
- For pieces with dark/heavy tarnish, keep the piece in longer.
- Remove each piece one at a time a buff it with the cloth. Do NOT use a paper towel as it will scratch the silver. The tarnish will then rub off.
For pieces like mine with heavy tarnish, using this approach helped but I ended up needed to using silver polish to remove the tarnish not removed by the solution. I purchased Wright’s Silver Cream from Walmart, which came with a little sponge. I followed the instructions and the rest of the tarnish came off without any problems.
I wasn’t sure how I wanted to display the spoons since the original frame they were in just made them all look very dated and old. I ended up buying a Black Panel Shadow Box by Studio Decor at Michael’s; dimensions 9″ by 20″. To ensure the spoons stayed in place I also bout 2 Prong Display Pins in silver.
My final result was almost as I expected, except I think the spoons look a bit crowded. I may end up buying a second shadow box, but I like the end result nonetheless, and the spoons look a million times better.
As you graduate high school, you are told you have been given the tools you need to succeed in life. You have taken four years of English classes, Science classes, History / Social Studies classes, Math classes, etc. You were also given the chance to take extracurricular classes, like Chorus and Band, or Art and Photography, and even additional Gym classes if you are so inclined. For the life of me I cannot remember being offered a class (in high school or college for that matter) on things that would truly matter when I was out in the big bad world without the guidance of my parents, or teachers, coaches, or role models. Some of us are lucky and our parents have helped to guide us when we have needed the help, but the decisions we make are ours to make. If you make a bad one it could seriously hurt your future in more ways than one.
Should I take the job offer that increased my income by $10,000 a year, but the company has a bad reputation? Should I buy the car that will increase my car payment? Can I afford a more expensive car? And if I can, how do I do it? Will my dad go with me to help me through the process? How exactly does a credit card work? Should I move back in with my parents to save money after college? What is credit?
These are some of the questions that I pondered after I graduated college and ventured into the unknown that is adulthood.
It’s so exciting though, isn’t it? Graduating school; getting that first full-time job; renting your first apartment. And then the unknowns start to creep in. I have to buy my own health insurance? Car insurance, how do I know what I need? I have to pay for sewage? Gas? Electric? Internet and TV is how much? Even as a bundle? How am I supposed to pay for all of this with my student loans looming over my head on an entry level salary?
The answer is much simpler than I believed it was when I first moved out of my parents’ house, after a year living at home after college. Trial and error. If you can’t pay your car payment because you felt like going on a shopping spree, guess you better return everything. The world is not as forgiving as “accidently” using that credit card your parents let you use in high school. Not making payments can seriously hurt your credit; a bad credit score can prevent you from making big life decisions in the future, like buying a car, purchasing a house, and even opening credit cards.
Trial and error. Error is how you are going to learn, but you still have to think with your brain and use common sense. Missing one car payment so you can keep all the clothes and shoes you bought on your shopping spree? Bad idea. Chances are the fee for missing any payment is at least $25, and then the next month you owe twice as much money (two months’ worth of payments) AND the late fee.
So unless you want to eat Ramen every day for lunch and dinner, I highly recommend you make yourself a budget. Don’t be late on your payments. Don’t buy what you don’t need, especially if you have priorities to pay for first, like your electricity for example. Companies will turn of your utilities if you’re not paying them. You need to prioritize your needs first, your wants can come later.
The best thing I ever did for myself is come up with a budget. Below I will walk through how I created a budget for myself, which I still follow to this day. In the case you don’t want to create your own, there are apps you can use as well (like PocketGuard, HomeBudget, Wally). However, I like having my own, and I update it at least once a week to make sure I am on track and not overspending.
Creating Your Budget
One of the biggest things I regret not doing when I first went out on my own, was creating a budget. I just kind of crossed my fingers and hoped I didn’t overdraw my account before the next payday. When I did get close to overdrawing, I would move money from my savings to my checking to make sure I didn’t overdraw, but would deplete my savings because I was over spending. By the time I was almost 27 years old and had maxed out my credit cards, thinking no biggie I’ll just pay them off. Wrong.
So I had to come up with a plan. I needed to pay more than the minimums on my cards to pay them off and put money into my savings account (rainy day fund), so the extra money would have to come out my spending budget.
I created a new excel spreadsheet, and labeled each tab: Monthly Minimum Payments, Payday Overview, Accounts Overview, and a tab for each credit card. I also included one for my student loans and car payments as well.
1. Monthly Minimum Payments. On the first tab (which I named Monthly Minimum Payments), I made a list of everything that I needed to make payments on monthly, like my car payment, car insurance, rent, renter’s insurance, credit cards, utilities, etc.
– For each payment, I included the minimum payment for each, the payment due date, and if I had a reoccurring payment set up (automatic payments). This helped me know which I needed to physically pay myself.
– Then I totaled up the minimum payments to show what I was expected to pay each month, at a minimum. For example, it looked something like this:
– Below the total, I multiplied the number in A14 by six, which equals $7,026. This is an example of how much money I would need to have in my savings if something happened, like say I lost my job; some experts have said to save for six months of unemployment. So the money in my savings account would need to cover my bills for at least six months. AKA, my rainy day fund.
2. The next step was to create tabs for Payday Overview, Accounts Overview, each credit card, my car payment, and any other monthly payments. The goal here is to create a separate tab for each account money is owed to keep track of the account; the Accounts Overview tab shows the total owed overall.
3. Payday Overview. This is to create a budget for each payday. This needs to be created based on what your company’s payday cycle is. For me, my company pays us every two weeks, so my budget is based off of every 14 days and initially looks something like this (the payday being the first day of each time frame):– Do this for each pay period throughout the year.
– Begin filling in the cells. In the second column in each box include the name of the account that had a payment within the time period, how much was due, and the date it was due (leaving the first column empty). I also have a savings option for those of you in the position to do so. Eventually it would look something like this:
Once you have paid that bill for the month, I put an “X” in the most left column. Including the “X” when you pay a bill just helps keep track of what you have and haven’t paid so it’s easier to keep track of your expenses.
4. Accounts Overview. In line “1” include the headings Account, Payment Date, Minimum Due, and Owe.
– Then below each, add in each of the accounts where you owe money (like your credit cards and student loans). It will look something like this.
– By using the “SUM” tool you can add up the “Owe” column to see what your debt looks like.
5. Accounts Tabs. Once you have the three main tabs set up, you can set up each of your accounts tabs by using the same format. Be sure you also rename each tab with the account name as well.
– Then you can start filling in the account information.
– In the column to the right of owe, I usually put in the payment confirmation number as well so I have it in the case I need it. Every month I add a row to keep track of all the payments and how much I owe.
I have used this exact budget for the past five years and it has worked like a charm. It keeps me organized on what payments are due and when. I have a perfect payment history because of this system. It may not be for everyone, but it helped me pay down my cards and stay on a payoff plan.
Regardless of how you do you it, create a budget or money management plan.
Day 6 – Exploring Bar Harbor & Acadia National Park
Waking up in Bar Harbor was wonderful. We made some breakfast and got ready for our day before hopping on the 9:40 AM shuttle bus into Bar Harbor. We spent the morning walking around and visiting a few shops, including the Bar Harbor Tea Company and Bark Harbor, where I spent way too much money on Reagan. The owner at Bark Harbor was excellent, and she was more than helpful when picking out what gifts to take home to our ever so energetic pup.
Before we knew it, it was time for lunch. We had passed a place the night before that we wanted to try out for lunch, so we stopped in at Bar Harbor Beer Works. We ordered the biggest pretzel I have ever seen in my life, my second ever beer flight, and some burgers that were simply mouthwatering. To top it off, since it was just the beginning of their down season, we had no wait to get a table. After lunch, I got ice cream at CJ’s Big Dipper (Jake did not as he doesn’t like sweets).
After our bellies were full, we decided we wanted to go check out Thunder Hole. Thunder Hole is in Acadia National Park, which is a short bus ride from “downtown” Bar Harbor. Before we reached Thunder Hole, we stopped at Sand Beach, where the sand is mainly made up of shell fragments and the water is a brisk 55 degrees in the summer. We did go out to touch the water, but there was no way we were going for a swim. However, there were people going out into the water.
From Sand Beach, there is an ocean-side trail that you can walk to Thunder Hole, and then on to Otter Cliff (about a mile), but we decided to hop back on the bus since it was raining and I had a few bags from shopping.
When we arrived at Thunder Hole, I was expecting some big crashing waves and water being catapulted into the air, but that was not the case. We were told it was low tide so it was not that impressive. They were right. I was able to get some beautiful pictures and a video at low tide, but we decided we needed to come back at high tide when the water would be more active and exciting.
Before hoping back on the bus, I stopped in to the gift shop (which was super hot inside because the AC was out) and bought some waters and a few postcards. The bus picked us up and dropped us off at the entrance to the campground on the ocean side, and we walked up to our campsite.
We changed our clothes and had a drink before hoping right back on the bus back into Bar Harbor for dinner at Stewman’s Downtown, which was right on the water. Once again, the food was incredible and the views were wonderful. We ended up sitting right next to a couple from New Jersey, but the husband had worked in Richmond many years ago.
After dinner, we were deciding what we wanted to do since the buses stopped running at 7:45 PM, so we called an Uber to pick us up and take us back to Thunder Hole, as it was now high tide. Luckily, we got the same driver as the night before (Steven) and offered him $30 to turn off his Uber to take us to Thunder Hole and then to the campground after. You are only able to get cell service in the town of Bar Harbor, so we wouldn’t have been able to get a ride back unless we offered him some money to help us out.
Steven happened to be a professional photographer and decided to walk down with us to the water to get some pictures. I was quite disappointed when we returned to Thunder Hole and the water wasn’t any more impressive than low tide. The pictures that we had seen of Thunder Hole were pretty neat and our experience (at both low and high tide) was alright, but what the travel brochures and information on Thunder Hole seem to neglect to mention that the best times to visit, to see in its glory, are when storms (and I mean big storms, like hurricanes) are approaching.
We left Thunder Hole and headed back to the campground, but Steven missed the turn and we ended up getting a nice little detour around the island. Once we were back at the campsite, we made some dinner and started packing everything up. We were getting up at 4 AM to see the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain, so we made sure everything that we could pack was packed and ready to go.
Day 7 – Cadillac Mountain & Cape May, NJ
Our alarms went off at 4 AM, we dressed and finished packing up. We were on the road by 5 AM, and a good thing too because when we reach the top of Cadillac Mountain people we already there and picking their spots for an epic sunrise. Cadillac Mountain is a part of Arcadia National Park and looks over the entire island and down on Bar Harbor to the east. When the sun rises you are the first to see it on the east coast of the U.S., as it is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard.
Hundreds of people ended up being there for the sunrise and it was a beautiful sunrise. There were some clouds blocking right where the sun came up, but it was still beautiful.
When we got back to the truck, we set our destination to Cape May, New Jersey as our “halfway” point back to Northern Virginia. It was a long and interesting ride (about 12 hours). We saw several accidents that held us up a little bit, but we finally arrived around between 5 PM and 6 PM. New Jersey was much more humid than Maine and the mosquitoes were out in full force.
After setting up camp at The Depot Travel Park and taking showers, we grabbed an Uber, and headed out to dinner close to the beach. We decided on Iron Pier Craft House, and sat at the bar. The entire place was neat looking with Edison lights throughout with an old school feel, and they even had a guy playing music. There was a Bachelorette/Birthday Party gathered at the bar as well, who were super entertaining to watch the entire time we were there.
The food was pretty dang good. We had a cheese and fruit platter to share, then Jake ordered their Sushi and I tried the Shrimp Mac and Cheese. Everything was so good! Once we paid our check, we decided to walk to Washington Street, which is a few pedestrian streets of shopping. I was able to grab a shot glass to add to my unhealthy collection, as well as a few gifts for family. It was a really nice night so we enjoyed walking around for a little while before getting a Lyft (no Uber was available) back to the campground.
Unfortunately, the campground did not allow campfires so we sat under the awning and had a few drinks before we decided to call it a night and head to bed. The next day was to be a bit shorter travel wise.
Pros of The Depot Travel Park:
– Nice, well kept bathrooms
– Electric and water at every site
Cons of The Depot Travel Park:
– No campfires allowed
– 5 MPH speed limit, very strict (Jake’s truck idols at 10 MPH)
– More of an RV park – no other tent campers
– Not much of a camp store, just a check in house
Day 8 – The Drive Home
At 3 AM we were awakened by the tornado sirens that were triggered by the storms rolling through that night, which if you’re camping and those go off, it’s a little scary. Trying to go back to sleep was a little difficult after that but we managed. It was a rainy day when we climbed out of the tent. It took us a little while to pack up because of the rain and we were exhausted. Once we did, we left the campground and had breakfast at Dock Mike’s Pancake House (which is cash only btw). The service was very quick and the food was pretty dang good too!
We gassed up the truck and caught the 10:30 AM Lewes Ferry to Delaware, an hour and a half trip. The ferry was nicely equipped with a restaurant, a bar, and a gift shop.
After picking up Reagan in Maryland and eating some lunch, we finally arrived home around 6 PM.
Our plan is to one day go back to Maine to spend more time in the North Maine Woods and Bar Harbor, as one week is not enough time to explore either place.
We are excited to share our next adventure with everyone sometime in 2019!
Day 3 – Closing the Gap on the North Maine Woods
Day three started out by eating breakfast, packing up, and taking showers. Every day that we stayed in a place with a bath house we made sure to take showers right before leaving. We never knew if the next place we camped would have showers or not.
I was also able to get some pictures of the lake before we left:
At check out, the owner gave us some directions so we wouldn’t get stopped by a closed gate and have to backtrack, which would cost us time and sunlight. When we left the store, a Vanagan was parked right next to us outside and Jake went into full fangirl mode. The owner came out of the store right after us and Jake immediately started up a conversation and allowed us to take a peak inside. It was in almost perfect condition.
We left the campground and, at the suggestion of the campground owner, we traveled around Mooselookmeguntic Lake. The next couple hours were spent on a combination of dirt roads and paved roads until we reached 201 North. We had planned on taking a different route to Jackman, Maine, but taking 201 definitely saved us some time.
By this time, I was pretty upset that I had yet to see a moose, and we were on Day Three!
Jackman, Maine is located in Moose River Valley, population 862 (2010 census), and 15 miles from the Quebec border; it is the largest town in the region. Jackman is well known for ice fishing, snowmobiling/four wheeling trails (also their main transportation), snowshoeing, and working forests (similar to that of the North Maine Woods). We made it to Jackman at about 12 PM. There are only two gas stations in Jackman, so it wasn’t difficult to figure out where to fill up diesel, and as for grocery stores, there is only one so we didn’t have a choice of where to stop to grab the few essentials we needed.
Since it was lunch time and we were getting a little hungry, we decided to eat at Four Seasons Restaurant and Lounge, one of only three restaurants (that we saw). They have an area to sit down to eat inside, as well as a bar area but don’t expect a four star restaurant; we sat outside since it was nice and cool. We ordered potato skins to share, Jake order the hot atomic wings, and I got a grilled chicken sandwich. The food was alright, seemed to be a lot of bar type food, but it was still good.
When we were done with our meals, we started plotting our route to Twenty Mile Checkpoint to the North Maine Woods. There were a few locals sitting outside drinking, so Jake being the extrovert he is, strolled over to them to ask for directions with the Atlas. Not two minutes later Jake was best friends with a local named Wild Bill. He was hammered, but he still knew his stuff. Wild Bill was hilarious and we learned that he had lived in Jackman his entire life and never crossed the “lookout” south of town. Everyone in the town knew him and he knew them, who he kept instigating us to flick off with him, which we did. He also challenged us to a cornhole game which they apparently call “bean bag toss.” We lost. Badly. By the time we were ready to leave Wild Bill had told us some really bad, yet funny jokes, as well as nicknamed me “Hairdryer” (thanks Jake).
Taking Route 15 / Route 6 out of Jackman, we FINALLY encountered our first moose of the trip. She came running out of the forest and was about to collide with us when she turned and ran parallel with us in the ditch before she slowed down and crossed the road behind us. She was beautiful and huge! Even though she was running beside us three feet lower in the ditch, her head was right at the passenger window so I had an amazing view of her! We were very lucky that she turned at the last minute and didn’t hit the truck. Hitting a moose, or a moose hitting you, is just as bad if not worst than hitting deer in the southern states. Unfortunately the encounter happened so quickly I didn’t have time to take a picture, but here are some to give you an idea of how big even small moose are.
We continued on to Northern Road north to Pittston Farm north of Rockwood, Maine, where we set up our home for the night. As soon as we finished setting up it started to storm, which lasted no more than 20 minutes. Our awning came in handy as we were able to lower it and put our chairs under it to wait out the rain. When the rain did stop, we walked to the main house to get water, see where the showers were, and to check out their museum. Jake prepared fish tacos once the rain stopped and we sat by the fire enjoying each other’s company the remainder of the night.
Pros of Pittston Farm:
– Dry firewood
– Neat museum
– Groomed ATV and snowmobiling trails
– Nice sites for campers
– Year round camper sites
– Gateway to the North Woods at twenty mile checkpoint across the river.
Cons of Pittston Farm:
– Store was pretty much empty (it was the end of summer season)
– Pit toilet outhouses throughout campground
– Only showers (2) were at the main house
– More suited for campers than tent camping
– Looks uninviting when arriving
Day 4 – The North Maine Woods
On the morning of Day 4, we packed up and took showers before crossing the North Branch Penobscot River to the 20 Mile Checkpoint into the North Maine Woods. We paid our day fee at the checkpoint, $15/person/day fee and entered the woods!
Our next stop was Eagle Lake Tramway. The Golden Road took us most of the way there, then took a few smaller roads to Caucomgomoc Lake. The only down side to traveling so much each day is we didn’t stop too long in some of the places we went, so we ended up just driving by the lake and on to the Eagle Lake Tramway.
Ran into some logging trucks as well…
We used the atlas to navigate the access roads until we spotted signs leading us the rest of the way. Recently, a parking area has been cleared so the walk to the Tramway is only about a mile (20 minutes or so). At the parking lot, Jake grilled up some lunch before we headed out to the Tramway.
The Eagle Lake Tramway was extraordinary! Built to haul pulpwood (spruce trees) between Eagle Lake and Chamberlain Lake, the Tramway was basically a railway system that ran for six years before being abandoned in 1907. From 1927 to 1933, the Eagle Lake end of the Tramway was modified as an end station or terminal of the Eagle Lake and West Branch Railroad, which was used to haul pulpwood south. The two engines are the only survivors from its operation. The engines (Ghost Trains), cars, and additional parts of equipment can still be found here today and is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012, volunteers restored parts of the Tramway to bring it back to life, as time, the harsh weather of Maine, and souvenir hunters had battered its existence.
Leaving the Tramway, we hiked the mile back to the truck and continued on to our campsite for the night. We couldn’t seem to find the campsite we had been looking for from our Atlas, so we stopped at a ranger station where the rangers gave Jake directions to the only campsite close by that was accessible by motor vehicle. It took us a little time to find it, but once we did it was definitely worth the detour to find it.
Using the Atlas, I directed Jake about ten miles from the rangers station where, after some confusion of where exactly we were, we made a left onto an overgrown road with a sign that read “Umbazooksus East.” We picked up a few pinstripes, and at one point we were about to try and turn around thinking this was not the correct road. But the dense bushes and trees finally gave way to a clearing that had been perfectly manicured by the North Maine Woods (Bureau of Parks and Lands). It was perfect. A nice shelter with a picnic table, a clean and well constructed pit toilet, and two convenient campsites.
We hopped out of the truck to look around, and that’s when I noticed a grassy walkway that led away from the campsites. I followed it to an opening that was right out to a beautiful waterfront campsite. I called for Jake and he came running down to the campsite, which is when we noticed a moose, standing in the water looking directly at us. Jake ran to get my camera and I was barely able to get a picture as he ran off.
We positioned the truck so that we had a nice view of the lake and quickly set up. Of course by the time we had made the trip to Maine, most of the lakes had already been partially drained for the winter season, but our view was still spectacular.
For firewood, Jake cut down a dead tree with his handy battery powered chainsaw that he bought solely for this trip. He had a fire going in no time with enough wood for a nice little fire in the morning.
We made chili and cornbread for dinner while we watched an amazing sunset right over the lake. We could not have asked for a more perfect setting or a more perfect night.
Pros of Umbazooksus East Campsites:
– Well maintained
– Two picnic tables / fire range
– A well constructed pit toilet
– Absolutely stunning views
– Sunset was picture perfect
– Quiet and relaxing
Cons of Umbazooksus East Campsites:
– Rough road driving in
– No firewood provided, must find and chop your own
– Muddy near the water, but it was also drained in September
Day 5 – Out of The North Maine Woods and on to Bar Harbor
The morning of Day 5 was probably my favorite. Breakfast was bacon and eggs right on the water, and the temperature was just right.
After packing up the truck, we left our campsite and headed out of the North Maine Woods. Not long into our drive, a mama bear and her cub crossed the road in front of us. It was so exciting to see them as my list and number count of the animals we had seen during our trip was low! We had now seen two moose, two bear, and one deer.
While on the Golden Road, we stopped at the Abol Bridge Campground & Store to grab a snack and to take pictures of Mount Katahdin, which is the beginning of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in Maine. The view was incredible and one of my favorites for sure.
We continued on, through a few villages and towns before we reached I95 South and civilization (which was weird after not seeing many people for a few days). We took I95 South to Bangor, Maine, where we stopped for lunch at Sea Dog Brewing Co. for lunch. Since the weather was perfect we sat on their porch overlooking Penobscot River while eating a few appetizers before our meals came. I also tried my first flight. Of course all of the food was delicious, and any leftovers we had went in to our refrigerator in the back of the truck for later.
After lunch, we headed east to Bar Harbor. Everything in Bar Harbor was beautiful. We decided to stop in the town before heading to our campground to walk around (since we had been in the truck for many hours), see the cruise ships, and go in a few shops. We also came across, from a distance, a natural land bridge that is only accessible during low tide that crosses the harbor to Bar Island. As much as we wanted to drive across and explore, our schedule just didn’t allow us the time so we observed from afar.
We headed to our campground to get settled and take some much deserved showers. Once we arrived at Blackwoods Campground, however, we discovered that the campground did not have showers, only a place to use the restroom. So before we could set up, we drove back out of the campground and down the street to a bathhouse where we had to pay (in quarters for time) to use the shower. Jake’s shower cost us $2 and mine cost us $6, go figure.
The bathhouse also sold firewood, so we grabbed some of that as well before heading back to the campground to set up. After we had set up we decided on taking the shuttle bus (which was free btw) back into Bar Harbor for some dinner.
We had a delicious dinner at Testa’s Restaurant. We ordered Crab Stuffed Mushrooms to share; Jake had two very large lobster with corn and red potatoes. Because I’m allergic to lobster (or so they say) and scallops I had crap soup and a salad, while jealously watching Jake devour his lobster. Everything was amazing, as we expected it to be. The food in Maine did not disappoint in the least bit.
Since the buses had stopped running at 7:45 PM, we took to the only available Uber (Steven, cool dude) back to the campground for a night cap before passing out for some much needed sleep after a pretty long day. The next day we planned on spending doing some shopping, exploring Bar Harbor as much as possible, and eating some more amazing food, so we needed all the sleep we could get.
Pros of Blackwoods Campground
– Campsites are well maintained with fire ring and lots of trees
– Free shuttle bus stop to and around Bar Harbor
– Campground is right on the Harbor/ocean, short walk down trail
– Bathrooms are nicely maintained (only toilets and sinks)
– Amphitheater with shows in the Summers
– Tours are offered in the Summers
– Always a breeze since it’s right on the water
Cons of Blackwoods Campground
– No showers in the campground
– Do not have a store or sell firewood
– Campsites aren’t very private, close to all neighbors
-No cell service outside of main Bar Harbor (unless you have AT&T apparently)
As most of you know, Jake and I like to go on adventures and this year was no exception. After purchasing our Colorado and rooftop tent we wanted to do something that not many people have done before. We decided to head to The North Maine Woods and do a bit of off-roading to get away from people and relax in the quiet, yet beautiful landscape that is the North Maine Woods.
The Set Up
Jake purchased a 2017 Chevy Colorado Duramax Z71 CCSB in early 2017 and decided he wanted to put some work into it to make it more of an off-roading vehicle.
First, he wanted a mild lift yet reliable suspension, so he purchased a Bajakits Chase Kit from Bajakits. Next he installed tires/wheels that would be tough enough to handle the terrain that we would be traveling, which is when he purchased a set of Relations Race Wheels wrapped in BFG A/T KO2 275/70/17s. As for the protection, he installed 589 Fabrication front and oil pan skids.
After a pretty miserable weekend beach trip to Cape Lookout, North Carolina (we camped on the beach in a ground tent), we decided that a rooftop tent would be much more beneficial (especially since the wind was so brutal on our tent) for off-road camping. We saved our pennies to have a custom modular bed rack built, by Alexander Fabrication, where the rooftop tent would be mounted to.
Once the rack was complete, we were able to mount our tent on top. We purchased our tent from Tuff Stuff 4×4, the Delta RTT two person. We have plenty of room for both Jake and myself, and Reagan when she comes with us. Even with the three of us it is pretty spacious. We also purchased the Tuff Stuff 4×4 4.5 x 6 ft awning to give us a little shade and shelter in the case of some wet weather or the brutal sun.
On top of the rooftop tent, Jake positioned two Bogue RV 100w flexible solar panels which charges a 100Ah bed mounted deep cycle battery for us to have power while on the road. He is able to remotely control and monitor the solar panel using a Victron 75/15 SmartSolar charge controller. Because we were going to be pretty secluded, we purchased a Snomaster Expedition 75qt refrigerator that runs off the solar panel and the battery to keep food cold when having a cooler is not sufficient.
Getting gear from the bed of the truck was a chore with the rooftop tent sitting over it, so Jake installed a Bed Slide. The bed slide allows us to pack and unpack with ease every time we moved locations.
Our set up time of 30 minutes includes setting up the tent and the awning, hanging lights, making the tent bed, and setting up the camp kitchen, which Jake built out of a Pelican case to make cooking while traveling more efficient. Break down time also takes about 30 minutes.
Day 1 – The Drive to New Hampshire
We started out on a Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend, leaving the house around 6 AM, heading north. Not much to tell when your first day consists of sitting in the truck for 11 hours. But as always, the beginning of a road trip can be very exciting! We traveled through Northern Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire in one day.
Vermont was beautiful. We didn’t spend much time in the state, and we never saw one building that wasn’t a house. Once we crossed the state line and river into New Hampshire, we saw the first town in at least two hours.
We also drove through my very first covered bridge.
Since we left the house early, we arrived at our first campground around 5 PM, Branch Brook Campground in the Town of Campton, New Hampshire. We had only called when we were a few hours away and they only had one site open (it was Labor Day weekend so everything was booked, and I do mean everything).
We checked in at the front gate, bought some firewood at the camp store, and headed back to our campsite. Our campsite was about a half mile from the front of the campground in a field with three foot high weeds and each campsite had been mowed out. The only bathroom was at the camp store, so if we needed to use the bathroom it was a “pop and squat” situation.
We situated the truck close to the fire pit and began to unpack. But not before we somehow (and by we I mean Jake) locked the keys in the truck. A great start to our vacation. Luckily, we had the back sliding window open to allow for the refrigerator to plug in to the truck while we were driving. We pulled out some tools we had brought in the case of an emergency and loosened the rooftop tent to slide back so Jake could fit between the tent and the cab. He was able to reach his arm into the cab of the truck, but he could not reach the door handle. I went back to the tools and found a 3/8 inch extended breaker bar which Jake was able to use to reach the rest of the way and pull open the door handle. Crisis averted.
Now that we were back on track, I started to set up the tent/awning while Jake unpacked the kitchen and started making dinner, Paella, which was delicious! Jake took the leftovers to our neighbors, who on one side were so drunk I’m not sure they had enough room for food. He went to the other neighbors and offered as well, and was engulfed by a cloud of pot. Not sure how they turned down food, but they did.
Trying to sleep that night was difficult as there was a party going on pretty much the entire night, but the mattress was comfortable and it didn’t get all that hot or cold.
Pros of Branch Brook Campground:
– Family friendly with playground, pool, baseball/softball fields
– Pet friendly
– Store with standard camp conveniences
– Close entry gate from 9 PM to 8 AM
– Bath house is nice and seems to be able to accommodate a full campground
Cons of Branch Brook Campground:
– Back sites are in open fields with weeds three feet high
– Bathrooms/bath house (only 1) is at the front of the campground, 1/2 mile away from back sites
– Wet fire wood
– Only two cars per site, so others parked their car in our campsite
Day 2 – Journey to the North Main Woods
We got up at 7 AM, ate breakfast, and were packed up by 8:30 AM. Before leaving, we stopped at the bathhouse to take showers and were on the road by 9 AM. The day was beautiful! Clear skies and open roads were a nice start as we headed to Sandwich, New Hampshire. Sandwich is a small community of about 1,330 people, located in Carroll County. The Historic Sandwich Notch Road is also found here; established in 1801 as an interstate highway that allowed farmers and craftsmen to travel from Vermont and northwestern New Hampshire to the coastal area of New Hampshire.
In the New England area, passes or gaps (like the Cumberland Gap in Virginia) are known as a Notch. We traveled through the small town of Sandwich, which had some of the most beautiful houses and views I have ever seen. Jake and I noticed that most of the houses were also connected to their barns. After doing some research (when we had cell service), we learned that in the New England area it is common for the houses to be connected to their barns, or as they call it “continuous architecture.” This style of building helped to avoid the harsh winters of New England. Instead on constantly shoveling snow to create a path to the outlying structures, farmers/homeowners are able to reach the buildings through interior connections.
As we traveled down Sandwich Notch Road and entered White Mountain National Forest, we crossed over two notches and three watersheds. The views were beautiful!
Our next stop of the day was in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, population 247 (2010 census). The Waterville Valley Resort resides here and is a yearly getaway destination spot for many people in the New England area. We stopped to take some pictures and a snack break on the tailgate of the truck.
Leaving Waterville Valley, we drove down Tripoli Road (closed in the winter). It was very busy since it was Labor Day weekend, and the road was completely full with people parked on the side who were camping for the weekend. There were portable bathrooms and a trash service available, but we didn’t see any rangers patrolling this area; it was definitely a local party spot.
When we reached the end of Tripoli Road, we hopped on I-93 north where we drove through the Franconia Notch which was eight miles long between the Kinsman and Franconia mountain ranges. Although we didn’t stop, we were able to get some breathtaking photos of the Notch. The Franconia Notch is located in Franconia Notch State Park in the White Mountain National Forest. If you are ever so inclined, you can stop at the Flume Gorge Visitor Center and take the Cannon Mountain Areal Tramway on a spectacular eight minute ride to the summit of Cannon Mountain. While at the summit, it is said on clear days that you can see views as of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Canada, and New York. There is a plethora of activities you can enjoy with the State Park as well, including a visit the to Sky Museum, swim at Echo Lake, hike a part of the Appalachian Trail, etc.
We continued a few miles further where we took Route 3 (Daniel Webster Highway) through Carroll to Whitefield, New Hampshire. We weren’t actually planning on stopping here, but we noticed a vinyl shop as we drove by, so we stopped to look around at Chris’s Nostalgia Shop. We ended up buying about five or six vinyls, and the guy who owns the place (Chris, obviously) was super knowledgeable.
By the time we left we were getting a bit hungry, so we stopped in Lancaster, New Hampshire for a bite and a drink at Copper Big Brewery. The brewery is located in an old brick bank, right on the banks of the Isreal River. We ordered some food and a few beers, which was all amazing! And we sat at a table right next to the bank’s old vault. It was a neat old building, the perfect place to have a brewery. There was also a patio where you could eat/drink outside as well, right next to the river.
Nash Stream Forest was our next destination, so we left Lancaster (driving by their County Fair on the way) continuing on Route 3 to Route 110, where we traveled through Stark, NH and another covered bridge.
From 110 we hit Route 16. We turned off Route 16 onto Drummer Pond Road to do a little off-roading through Colebrook, NH. There were several windmill parks as we drove through the forest, including around Mount Kelsey.
Fun Fact: The nations first real wind farm was located in New Hampshire, on Crotched Mountain in Francestown.
We headed north to Route 26 to Dixville State Park where the Dixville Notch is located. We pulled off on a little pull off to take some pictures of the notch. We the continued up the road about a half mile to another pull off where we took pictures of the notch from the opposite side.
At this pull off, we also took pictures of the famous Balsams Grand Resort, which was sadly under construction, so we could not get any closer. But the resort was beautiful and sits right on Lake Gloriette. I’m sure in the winter months it is absolutely breathtaking with fresh snow and views. Right now, the Balsams is working on adding on one of the largest ski expansions in New Hampshire and the North East, with “2,200 ski able acres of alpine terrain.”
Turning south back down Route 26, Jake and I headed towards Errol, where we stopped and got some ice cream (Moose Tracks of course) before heading to South Arm Campground on the eastern shore of Umbagog Lake, finally entering Maine. We unpacked and set up, which many other campers complimented on how fast we did. One thing I did notice by our second night, is we got a lot of looks and compliments on the roof top tent setup.
The campground was very accommodating and everyone was so nice! So nice, in fact, that some of our neighbors asked if we wanted to smoke “the devils lettuce” with them. We declined.
We grabbed a few bundles of wood, which we paid for the next morning since they were technically closed, and started dinner. Jake always plans our meals out pretty meticulously, so we always eat very well, sometimes better than at home. This night was no exception as we had lasagna in the dutch oven. It was damn good.
As we ate our dinner, we planned out the next day, since we would be entering the North Maine woods and leaving civilization behind.
Pros of South Arm Campground:
– Lots are nicely maintained; each site has concrete fireplace
– Almost all lots are either on the lake or have a view of the lake
– Bathhouses are a little older but nicely maintained
– Site are large enough for at least two tents, and pretty flat
– Pet friendly
– Very quiet, quiet hours aside
– Lots of trees and natural feel
– Boat launch/dock/beach
– Very friendly staff/owners
– Dry firewood
Cons of South Arm Campground:
– Office/store closes at 5 PM
– No cell reception
– Store is sparse, but we were there at the end of the season
Since purchasing our 2017 Chevy Colorado Duramax Z71 CCSB, we have been taking her off road on a few adventures. One of the first trips was on Flagpole Knob, Virginia, just west of Bridgewater right on the Virginia and West Virginia boarders. The Flagpole Knob trail is known for its rocky terrain and is impassable to vehicles with a low clearance (for example the ford explorer in the video below). These trails have become very popular with Jeep owners, which is credited to their solid axles that make it easier to articulate off road.
Mind you, this trail is for intermediate to advanced off-roaders; Jake and I were very lucky to ride away with only a few pinstripes. A few essentials you should be sure to bring along include, but are not limited to: tools, tow chain or rope, spare tire, two way radios or a phone (service is spotty), etc.
Our set up consists of the following: A Bajakits Chase Kit from Bajakits, Relations Race Wheels wrapped in BFG A/T KO2 275/70/17s. As for the protection, we upgraded to 589 Fabrication front and oil pan skids.
Before I start, I just want to say that all I wanted to do was paint the bedroom and spread out the expense of the design I had pictured in my head. I have always been able to picture interior design ideas, I guess it’s an artsy thing. The first step was painting three of the four walls in our master, navy. Dark, yes I know. But navy is very “in” right now and I wanted to create the feel of a relaxing bedroom where I could retreat after a long day at work.
Eventually, I wanted to add a ceiling fan, painted ship-lap on that fourth wall, a remote controlled shade on the sliding glass doors, and some curtains. I can see the result clearly in my brain, Jake had a more difficult time picturing it.
Jake wasn’t down with the navy, so I met him halfway and we decided on a lighter blue. I painted one of the walls (with the TV) and it looked alright. It wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t the look I was going for, and thankfully Jake didn’t like how it looked either. Plus we went with a semi-gloss and the streaking (not the fun kind) was absolutely awful, no matter how many coats were applied. But I tried to deal.
The next weekend, Jake convinced me to go to Harley Davidson with him by bribing me with a new ceiling fan for the master. Score! After we picked out the fan, Jake told me he wanted to go with a darker color because he didn’t like the blue that we had picked. Excellent! Navy, in eggshell (no streaks) it is. While I was getting the paint, Jake disappeared to somewhere in the store. I finally found him talking (go figure) to one of the guys in the construction department, asking about how to install ship-lap correctly. I hit the jackpot! New paint, a ceiling fan, and a ship-lap wall all in one day!!! After spending a few hours in two different Lowes, we headed home with a truck full of supplies.
I started painting the navy on one of the walls that wasn’t the lighter blue and it looked AMAZING! So much better! I spent the rest of the weekend painting the other two walls while Jake worked on the ship-lap. I helped when I was needed, but the measuring and cutting was all Jake.
Before he started, he removed the molding around the windows, as well on the crown molding on the floor. For the ship-lap to go from wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Jake also had to cut into the crown molding of the side walls on the floor in the corners. Then, we used “chalk lines” to mark where the studs were in the wall where we would be nailing the ship-lap into place.
After all the measuring and logistics were complete, Jake began cutting wood and placing/nailing each piece into place on the wall; we were told to start at the floor because it is more level than the ceiling. We used paint sticks as the gap measurement, which was just slightly bigger than the suggested nickels. He needed to cut pieces around the two windows as well as the one outlet (which we bought an extender for). He finished the wall in about a day.
Once the ship-lap was in place, we filled the nail holes with wood filler, let it dry (for a day), then sanded it the next day. I actually thought at one point about not painting at all because it looked like a ski lodge. When the sanding was done, we painted it a light gray color. I had wanted to paint the sides before the ship-lap went on the wall, but somehow that didn’t happen. I attempted to use a small paint brush to get between the gaps, but it was going too slow and it wasn’t reaching the back. So we ventured to Michael’s to see what would help. We looked at more paint brushes and even paint guns before deciding on pipe cleaners. Pipe cleaners are small enough to get in the cracks as well as hold paint pretty well; they were also less expensive than a $130 paint gun at $1.
And they worked pretty well! We were able to paint between all the cracks in an eighth of the time it wouldn’t have taken using a paint brush.
Next, it was time to add the molding back to the windows, side walls, and ceiling. We used small, square rods of wood the same depth as the ship-lap to extend the window sill to meet the ship-lap. Once the ship-lap and the window were flush all the way around, Jake added the molding and began wood filing where the nail holes were. We also used wood filler to make the window sill, the small piece of wood, and the molding all look flush on the interior before painting it white.
Once the wood filer dried (between two and six hours) we sanded each spot, as well as the space we filled between the window sill, the wood rods, and the molding so that they all felt flush together. Because there is a lot of dust from sanding, we have a special vacuum so that the dust doesn’t get everywhere when we sand (it is bad for regular vacuums fyi). After the sanding was done, I wiped down the window to remove any extra dust to have a clean surface to paint.
Obviously, the next step is to paint. Jake had the left over molding paint from when the house was built, so we found the same paint, by the same manufacturer, online and went to our local Home Depot where they were able to match it a few days before. We tested the paint on two spots of the floor molding in the room where we removed door stops, filled them with wood filler, then sanded them down to be painted. Perfect match!
So we painted the windows. It took a few coats, and I ended up filling a few more spots with wood filler where it wasn’t as flush as it should have been, but the result was great!
Next we filled the side and ceiling molding with wood filler and let dry. Once it was dry we sanded and painted them white as well.
To finish, Jake added caulk to the side and ceiling molding to finish the room off.
We did a deep clean of the room when we were done but before we put the room back together; cleaned all the blinds, steam cleaned the carpet, dusted and cleaned the wood furniture with wood cleaner, washed the sheets and Reagan’s bed, and even cleaned out the night stands (mainly Jake’s).
Once the carpets were dry, we moved the furniture back into place and made the finishing touches. Our next purchase will be the remote blinds on the sliding glass door to replace the terrible looking vertical blinds, and some curtains to go over all the windows.
But here is the result; only took us a couple weeks to complete:
With only a few days left in Cancun, Jake and I had two days of excisions left. On day six, we got up pretty early with a couple of our friends and met up with our guide, who took us out on to the beach to a small fishing boat waiting in the water. We were going to do a half day of some fishing! I get pretty sea sick, but I was hopeful I wouldn’t this time (not a smart move, should have bought that Dramamine).
The four of us climbed on board and we set off to about 200 yards from land where the water was choppy, but no where near as rough as it would be farther out. I didn’t last five minutes before I started getting nauseous. While the two fishermen set out lines to find the fish (called Trolling), I chummed for them, a few times; I’m pretty sure they thought it I was pathetic.
After about an hour of no bites, and me heaving over the side of the boat, we dropped anchor and got in the water near the shore where the water was calm and some beautiful coral reefs were below the water. Sadly, we did not bring our go pro so we were not able to get many pictures, which I was very disappointed about.
Once we were back on the boat, we took off back to the resort. Thankfully, I did not get sick on the ride back, I contribute this to the fact that we weren’t idling down the coast, we were moving quickly over the waves, which I thoroughly enjoyed. When our feet were back on dry land, we headed inside to take showers and lay out by the pool for a little while (where Jake and I promptly fell asleep under a canopy for a couple hours). The entire wedding group was going out to dinner that night (as most were leaving the next day), but after Jake and two of our friends (the same two who went fishing with us) went out to the touristy area to visit one of the local restaurants that also happens to have a cenote.
On the way, we came across a really neat art exhibit that was set up on one of the side streets by several artists. I found one guy that I thought was really cool (Daniel Violante Paramo), and I plan on purchasing one of his pieces; one day, when I have the money haha.
When we arrived at the restaurant/cenote, we found out we were not allowed to just sit and have drinks, but they did allow us to go in a see the cenote, which was very neat. This one wasn’t like the one Jake and I went snorkeling in, it was dry, so we were able to walk around in it.
Since it was November 2nd, All Souls’ Day (Los Fieles Difuntos), the local shops and people were gearing up for another celebration that night. There were many “alters” set up on the streets with offerings, including food, candles, flowers, incense, liquor, photographs, food, and personal belongings of the deceased. Other offerings include painted skulls (probably why so many of the shops sell them) and death drawings.
Calling it a night, we headed back to the resort. The next day we were heading over to Cozumel, a little island where many cruise ships dock.
Thankfully, we were able to sleep in a little bit on Friday before walking to the ferry that would take us to Cozumel. I bought some Dramamine the day before so I was ready for another boat ride across the very choppy, but beautiful, water. We walked for about 20 minutes down Calle Quinta Avenida, where we were asked probably 50 times if we wanted to buy tickets to Cozumel (which we already purchased from the guy who sold us the excursions packages on Day Two).
I was so overwhelmed by all the people trying to sell us things I felt like I needed a nap. I get it, selling is their livelihood and it’s how they put food on the table and support their families, but I was so over it by day seven.
Once we arrived at the ferries we were surprised that there were many different companies. We found our line and waited only a few minutes before we were allowed to board. We headed up to the top deck and found our seats. I was getting a bit nervous because our snorkeling reservation was at 11 AM and as we left the dock it was just about 10:15 AM. We also we unsure of where to go once we got to the island, so my anxiety was a bit high; I do not like not knowing.
When we made it to Cozumel and were off the boat, we headed in the direction of the tourist excursions. We finally found a guy wearing the same shirt as the man who sold us our excursions and he pointed us in the right direction. We had only five minutes to run to our boat for our snorkeling excursion, but we made it. I was super excited!
Then I saw our boat. It was tiny, and the glass bottom that we were supposed to be able to look through to see the colorful Gulf of Mexico floor was covered in a layer of algae that no one could see through. The start of the day was not going well. But we paid for the excursion, so might as well go and attempt some snorkeling anyways.
Our boat loaded up with about 15 people or so, way more than I thought could fit, and we set off for some coral reefs. We past several cruise liners (which are enormous when you’re at water level looking up) and finally made it to our first spot to jump in. Right before we were in the water, we discovered that somehow (Jake) the GoPro card was not put back in the GoPro (Jake) after uploading the videos and pictures to the laptop (Jake). So this was so be our second trip snorkeling in the Gulf of Mexico without the GoPro; I was not happy, but at least I wasn’t sea sick this time.
After the initial shock of not being able to use the GoPro, we jumped in the water and began exploring the waters beneath us. I was hoping that there would be more sea life than there was the day before, but we were a little disappointed to tell you the truth. Of course there were some neat things to see, but I had set my expectations so high it just wasn’t at all what I expected.
Luckily, one of the guides was taking pictures and we were able to get some pictures together, as well as pictures of some of the sea animal life.
About an hour in the water, we all headed back to the boat and took off back to the dock and unloaded. I was happy to be back on dry land, and even happier to go change into some dry clothes at the near by Hard Rock. Once we were both changed, we headed to a scooter shop where we had reserved a scooter (on Day Two) to ride around the island. Initially, I was going to ride with Jake because I have never driven a scooter (or motorcycle) before by myself, but somehow Jake talked me into renting a second one to drive all by my lonesome. I was terrified. And I do mean terrified.
When the paperwork was completed, we had our keys, and the employee showed me how to work the scooter, we were off. I was still terrified. At one point I had meant to slow down at one of the traffic circles and ended up speeding up instead and cutting off some people (sorry!), so I was really glad when we were able to get to the side of the island that had no traffic. Jake and I even raced a little bit, which was great fun! And of course, Jake is always able to get the most ridiculous videos of me; at the suggestion of one of my friends I even added the theme song from Sons of Anarchy…
When we reached the east side of the island we stopped to take a couple pictures…
…then headed on to eat some lunch at a little sea side restaurant called Chen Rio. Of course the food was, once again, excellent! We even saw an alligator chillin’ in a little cove.
Once we had our food babies, we hopped back on the bikes and set off back to the western part of the island. We passed some of our friends on their scooter as we headed back to turn in ours. All in all, it was a great experience, but I don’t think I enjoy driving in Mexico. If you think DC traffic / driving is bad, go to Mexico.
We headed back to the ferries as the sun was starting to set, and the cruise liners were heading out as well. They were incredible floating cities to see as they started up their engines, blew their horns, and glided through the water to their next port.
When we landed back in Playa del Carmen, we began our walk back to the resort. Of course we stopped in a few shops along the way to grab last minute gifts and souvenirs. My favorite shop was the JellyFish lamp store. These lamps are made from materials natural to the Yucatan Peninsula. “Regional gourds (Langerina Sicecaria) and local jicaras(Crescentia cujete) are combined with seeds, seashells, stainglass and blown glass to make beautiful lamps.” We bought one for our neighbors for taking care of the pup while we were gone. We should have bought one for ourselves, but packing space was limited, so we didn’t.
We also stopped at the Tequila House (or Tequila Hacienda) where they also had a Tequila Museum where I have never seen more tequila in my life. So naturally, we bought some.
Then back to the resort we went, satisfied with the amount of alcohol we purchased. We also bought some at the duty free shop the next day once we reached the airport. So we were not lacking the in the tequila department.
Back at the resort, we took some showers and headed down the the resort’s cigar bar where we relaxed with the Bride and Groom and some friends before we departed the next day. It was the first time in our entire trip when it sprinkled for a couple minutes. After a few drinks we decided to call it a night and we all headed back to our rooms for our last night in paradise.
Our last morning at the resort was bitter sweet. We had everything packed and ready to go by 9 AM, luckily our flight wasn’t until about 3 PM so we were able to order some room service then hang out by the bar until our shuttle picked us up around noon.
Then we were off to the airport. It was bitter sweet leaving, we absolutely loved our time at The Royal in Playa del Carmen, but we missed our sweet pup. Jake says he was ready to go back to every day life, but I was secretly trying to figure out a way to stay and start my own business so I’d never have to leave. Any ideas?
When we left the Cancun airport it was a sunny 80 degrees; our flight back was smooth and quick. We landing in DC around 8:30 PM (EST), where it was 45 degrees and raining. Bleh. Welcome back to reality.
Stay tuned for our next adventure!
Click below to read about our other adventures in Mexico:
Days One & Two: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Day Three : Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Four & Five: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Day Four of our Mexican adventure was dedicated strictly to the beach! The weather had been amazing every single day since we had arrived, so it was time for a beach day. Our friends who were getting married had the Presidential Suite, so they were able to grab us a few cabanas right on the water next to the beach volleyball court. I actually don’t think I went swimming in the water once that day, we were having too much fun playing volleyball and laying in the cabanas.
Around 3 PM I headed inside to get ready for dinner and the Bachelorette party! We had dinner with all the friends and family of the Bride and Groom at EL MEDITERRÁNEO, which was absolutely excellent!
As we finished our meals, we all started to separate into two groups for the night for the Bachelor and Bachelorette parties! They were a blast! Lots of dancing and salsa to go round!
To be completely honest, I don’t remember the end of the night, not because I drank too much (because I promise I didn’t, Mom) but because I was so exhausted I just don’t really remember the end of the night. I’m pretty sure it had something to do with the chips and queso in the 24 hour game room though.
The Big Day!!! While the bride and the bridesmaids prepped for the walk down the aisle, the groom, his men, the family, and all us friends hung by the pool for pretty much the entire day. Vacation is tiring, btw. Some people need a vacation from their vacation, but this trip was the right about of site seeing and the right amount of lounging.
And so the festivities began; we made our way down to the venue
At promptly 5pm, the wedding party made their way down the aisle, and Renee was an absolutely stunning bride! A beach wedding, at sunset, with clear skies and clear water as the backdrop, as if out of a magazine. Stunningly perfect!
The reception began with a cocktail hour while the wedding party took pictures. The cocktail food was fantastic; stuffed mushrooms and some other mouth watering delights. A banana daiquiri also had it’s place next to my plate the entire evening.
After dinner, the dancing, and the garter and bouquet toss (which I caught, opps)…
…came the cake cutting. Even the cake was delicious.
Renee and Rolf’s wedding was perfect. The food, perfect. The setting, perfect. The weather, perfect.
Click below to read about our other adventures in Mexico:
Days One & Two: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Day Three : Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Six, Seven & Eight: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Today marks five years since Daddy passed away. I never stop thinking about him, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t question or think to myself, “Daddy really would have liked that,” or, “That’s so corny, Daddy would have chuckled.” I also find myself thinking how much he would have liked Jake; they are very similar, except Jake tends to be more of an extrovert, but their minds churn just the same. He would have liked him. Daddy also has a sweet little granddaughter now, and I am so excited to watch her grow and see what genes she inherited from her grandfather.
Nearing this five year anniversary, I often think back on what happened.
“It will never happen to me.” I said that so many times growing up as friends of mine and family members lost parents at an early age. In college, a friend of mine’s father passed away early in our freshman year and the only two things that sat in my mind were pain for her loss and that I couldn’t image losing my Daddy. He will be around for a very long time, I had no doubts. He is healthy. He takes care of himself. He even does his taxes months before they are due. The man had never done a single bad thing in his 54 years of life. He was the type of person you looked up to, he was strong, and he cared more for those around him that he did himself. I’ve had many people tell me, “Your dad was one of the nicest people I have ever met.” And it was more true than anything else I had even been told. He was simply wonderful, and so very humble.
Four years later, in October 2010, Daddy was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer. My heart broke. I will never forget the day my parents called to tell me the biopsy results came back positive. I was away at college. It was about 10 AM in the morning and I was on my way to my Journalism Portfolio class. Once I was off the phone, I walked into class and asked my professor for a word. I told him I wasn’t sure I should be in class today and I told him the news I had just been told. He sent me home.
I don’t remember much of the rest of that day, only that my roommates contacted my professors for me, and I cried on the floor in my room for hours; my roommates checked on me periodically to make sure I was okay. I wasn’t, but I don’t think they knew what else to do.
I went to my classes the next day, not because I wanted to but because I needed to. Getting out of my room and engaging in something was the only way I could keep my mind from thinking of all the possibilities. And there were many. I made the mistake of researching and learning that the survival rate of Pancreatic Cancer patients is only five to 11 percent two years after diagnosis; two percent five years after diagnosis. And in all of the patients in remission, it always came back.
Daddy stayed positive. He continued to go to work, which he loved. I think it kept his mind off things and he knew he could beat it. Momma pushed for the best doctors, and when given an opinion she didn’t like by one doctor, she was on the internet and phone to find another who would not give up on Daddy. That’s when she found the team at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.
Of course they told us the outcomes of most patients with Pancreatic cancer and those devastating percentages of survival, but they were not going to give up. They truly believed that Daddy could be that two percent, as he was in the early stages (which is rare for pancreatic cancer), he was strong, and he was healthy; a perfect concoction for survival.
They started him on chemotherapy to shrink the tumors as best as they could before they would consider him for the Whipple Procedure to remove the cancerous cells. The tumors shrank, and they continued shrinking.
I graduated from college in May 2011, got a job in my home town, and moved back home with my parents to help when and where I could. But Daddy stayed strong and continued his daily routine (aside from the treatments). He even helped me buy my very first car on my very own.
In June 2011, he underwent the Whipple Procedure, also known as pancreaticoduodenectomy. It is used to treat cancer that is contained to the pancreas (stage 1). The procedure basically removes the head of the pancreas, the duodenum, part of the bile duct, the gallbladder, and a majority of the stomach. After the surgery is complete, what is left of the intestine, bile duct, and pancreas are connected to allow food to be digested and to expel waste. Anyone who goes through this surgery will be on medication the rest of their life, as the procedure completely reconstructs the digestive system.
A very small percentage of Pancreatic cancer patients are eligible for this procedure, as the cancer must be contained in the pancreas and the patient much be strong. Daddy was very strong, stronger than anyone I have ever known. His will and determination to beat the monster that lived inside him was apparent in everything that he did. He was beating this.
After he recovered from the Whipple Procedure, Daddy went through a few rounds of radiation. According to Daddy’s doctors, it is common to give chemoradiation treatments after the Whipple to assist in survival.
A few months after the chemoradiation treatments were complete, and given time to heal, Daddy had the scan to show if the procedure and treatments were working. And they were. November 2011, Daddy was officially in remission. My brother and I were so proud of him for fighting and staying strong. We were proud of our mom for pushing to get Daddy the best care possible and the right doctors who would not give up on him.
In February 2012, I quit my job and spent time with Daddy almost every day. We went to the gym and we worked on rebuilding his muscle strength, he had gotten so skinny from the surgery and the chemo and radiation treatments. We would sit on the back deck every day and eat lunch, and enjoy the spring air. My brother graduated from Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in May, and I accepted a job as an intern in Northern Virginia and moved two hours away to start my career.
My first week went great! And to top it off, my parents were stopping by on their way back from Johns Hopkins after Daddy had his six month CT scan. We went to my favorite restaurant, Los Toltecos, where they dropped the bomb.
The cancer was back, stage 4, and other than radiation and chemotherapy, there was nothing the doctors could do, it was inoperable. They hadn’t told my brother yet, they wanted to wait until he was done with The Basic School (TBS) (training for newly commissioned and appointed Marine Corps officers). I immediately wanted to move back home, but Daddy wouldn’t let me. Daddy wanted us to continue on with our lives as if nothing was happening, he did not want us to put our lives on hold. And besides, he beat it once, he will do it again.
My brother completed TBS and moved to Blacksburg to live with my sister-in-law (SIL) while she finished school, and in August 2012 he proposed to her on the Virginia Tech campus in his uniform. They set a date for March 9th, 2013. Daddy’s health started to decline, mostly due to the chemotherapy he had started again, but this time his body could not endure the treatments.
On September 10th, my brother and SIL decided to move their wedding up five months to September 29th, 2012. Yes 19 days away. They were worried with Daddy’s declining health that five months was too long, and we were all afraid he would be too weak to attend the wedding.
The week of the wedding, Daddy spent four days in the hospital. He received some injections to help boost his immune system and give him some much needed energy; my mom called it the “Gatorade Concoction.” The day before the wedding Daddy came home from the hospital, it was the best we had seen him in months! He gave an incredible speech at the rehearsal dinner, and even stayed up late talking to the wedding party that were crashing at the house. I don’t think he went to bed until after midnight, which for those of us who know him is very rare, even when he isn’t sick.
The wedding went off without a hitch! My brother was so handsome in his uniform and my SIL was absolutely breathtaking in her wedding gown. Daddy walked me down the aisle, and my brother and SIL dedicated a song to us that we danced too, it was my very own father / daughter dance. He was in such good spirits and had so much energy. My SIL’s parents had an ambulance on hand just in case Daddy felt ill, and a recliner for him to sit in, but never did. I do believe one of my uncles passed out in the recliner at one point! Wish I had a picture of that.
The next few months Daddy was strong, and he continued to go to work while taking a break from the chemotherapy. Thanksgiving we were all so thankful for how strong and determined Daddy was to beat this monster.
In December, the CT scans showed that there was an increase in the size and number of lesions (tumors) and his doctors suggested to restart chemotherapy. Daddy also began to experience tummy pain as well as swelling in his feet and ankles.
He decided to start chemo again after Christmas, his favorite holiday. Man does than man love Christmas; the decorations, seeing family, and especially the food. At a young age he turned my brother and I on to corn pudding, and even though most of the ingredients were out of a can, it has always been our favorite dish that Daddy makes.
On January 3rd, 2013, Daddy began chemotherapy once more. He was dreading it, it made him appear sicker than he was, and we had to remind ourselves that the chemotherapy was what was making him look so sick. He continued to work, but usually came home early, it was always encouraging when he made it through an entire day!
On January 28th, 2013, Daddy went in for another chemotherapy treatment, but threw up when he got there. After giving him some fluids and calling his doctor, a CT scan was done, which showed a possible bowel obstruction, and Daddy was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond. On February 1st, Daddy had laparoscopic surgery to remove the obstructions, but was unsuccessful, so the doctors had to remove the obstruction surgically with abdominal surgery.
He felt much better, and after 11 days he was released to go home. Sadly, another CT scan showed more cancer tumors in Daddy’s abdominal cavity, so chemotherapy was now no longer an option. We were told by the doctor (who is also a family friend) that it was a good idea to start looking in to Hospice Care. Our focus was now on helping Daddy get stronger and feeling better.
On Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, Daddy was feeling nauseous again. He noticed that his clothes were wet. There was liquid coming from his incision, so Momma took him straight to the surgeon’s office where they directly admitted him back into St. Mary’s. Daddy needed another surgery. What was thought to be a simple repair to internal stitches from the first surgery, was another blockage in the smaller intestine which had abscessed and gone septic. Daddy was transferred to the Post Bariatric Surgery ICU. He was able to survive the next 48 hours, but he was very weak.
Through it all, Daddy remained positive and even talked about going back to work once he was recovered.
On Friday, February 22nd, 2013, Daddy had his third surgery to remove yet another blockage which the doctor was able to bypass, as well as repair a nick in the small intestine. As the doctor replaced and re-positioned Daddy’s G-tube (which allowed him to eat), he found another abscess. Luckily, this abscess had not gone septic. We weren’t sure when or if Daddy would go home again.
On Tuesday, February 26th, 2013, Daddy made the decision to be removed from all life prolonging treatments.
The doctors and nurses kept him comfortable on anti-nausea drugs and a pain pump. My mom called their priest, Father Steve, and he came in to plan out the memorial service with Daddy; in Daddy’s words, “I don’t want a big fuss now, no food. Just come cookies and juice.”
I came home that Friday, March 1st, 2013. He was in a good mood, and we even talked about getting him a new cell phone once he was out of the hospital. Saturday was a good day too. He was quirky and playful, but not Daddy anymore. Lots of family came to visit those two days; friends, family, work friends, church friends, etc. He was loved by so many it made my heart ache, it was as if they were all saying their goodbyes, which they were.
A little after noon he fell asleep. I was going to stay the night, I didn’t want to leave him by himself, but my brother and SIL told me I needed to go home and rest, I had been there since 8am.
My brother and I said our goodbyes around 9 PM, and although he did not open his eyes he nodded and said, “yes,” when we asked if he could hear us. We told him we, “loved him very much,” as was the common phrase we always said to each other. I was the last to leave the room, in silence and in tears. It was the last time we would see Daddy alive.
The next morning, the hospital called around 4:15 AM and told my mom that Daddy had passed away at about 4 AM. Everything from that moment forward was a blur. After calling Daddy’s sister, and his best friend, we left for the hospital.
Entering his room was a much different feeling, one I do not want to experience again. The sorrow and emptiness filled every corner as we gave Daddy a kiss, say our farewells, and the hospital’s priest came in to say a prayer with us.
Once we were back home, sleep was not an option. Family and friends rushed to be with us, but I do not remember much. Brian and I were emotionally gone. The next few days were also a blur as we prepared photo boards of his life and a scrapbook filled with birthday cards for his 61st birthday. Friends brought us food and our living room was filled with more flowers and plants than a flower shop.
We had his memorial service a week later on his 61st birthday where we were able to celebrate his life with more cookies and juice than I have ever seen! Standing room only. For a man of few words he sure did have an impact on a great number of people. His kindness, love, and loyalty showed through in many ways that day.
He fought a hard and courageous battle for two and a half years. He never, for a minute, thought he couldn’t beat it. In a way, I believe he did, even if in the end it took his life. He lived a life full of happiness. He was able to love so many things…
He loved his coworkers and his job. He worked hard and it showed. 35 years he worked for Virginia Power / Dominion; I heard recently that it now takes three people to do the job he did so well. Many people do not know that my grandmother actually helped my dad get that job; loyalty runs in the family.
He enjoyed his time spent with the Boy Scouts, and continued to lead even after my brother earned his Eagle Scout and left the troop. You could always see this small grin on his face when you knew he enjoyed doing something, and an ever so slight twinkle in his eyes.
He loved to go camping and hiking. He loved fishing. As kids he always took Brian and me camping and hiking, we always like the camping more. In the summers, after church on Sundays, he would take us fishing out in Amelia County. Both Brian and I still enjoy fishing to this day, even if we could never sit still long enough as kids to enjoy it. Pretty sure we got into trouble a few times for talking too much. I definitely remember having to write, “I will not talk while fishing,” 500 times as a punishment one time, haha.
He loved going to church, and he went every Sunday (unless there was something going on of course). He would volunteer as an usher, or a “husher” as he would often joke; he volunteered in the tree lot, and donated to the church religiously. He had his favorite spot too, about seven rows from the back, oh the right side, the aisle seat. A few people have told me that it is odd seeing someone else sit in that seat now. I think he liked that seat so much because it was a good vantage point of the alter and it was almost smack dab in the center of the church, a perfect seat to hear all the acoustics of the organ.
He loved food. Growing up with Daddy, we learned to like many “unique” foods, like fish sticks, chicken pot pies, poor man’s salads, and ice cream. Oh the ice cream, that man could down some ice cream; Neapolitan was his favorite for sure. And I cannot forget the hot dogs. Pretty sure we had hot dogs for dinner at least once a week. I think by far, his favorite meal was once a year with his dad, when they had oyster stew, fresh from our cousins on the eastern shores of Virginia.
And his family. Daddy loved his family. Whenever the holidays would start to get near he would start planning. He loved putting Christmas decorations up, it meant he would see family soon. We would decorate the trees, wrap the gifts, eat way too much Thanksgiving food, and play Christmas music starting the day after Thanksgiving. But the best part was always seeing family. I am pretty sure I get my love of Christmas from him. It still feels like every time I decorate the trees he is right there with me, we always did that together.
He is in a better place now, and is happy and healthy, and eating an endless amount of hot dogs, ice cream, and oyster stew. There is not one day that we do not think about him. We carry him in everything that we do, everywhere that we go, and forever in our hearts. My brother and SIL just had their first child, Harper Elisabeth Pool, in September, and I so wish Daddy could be here to meet her. He would have been the best grandfather! Harper sleeps with her mouth open sometimes and I can see a little bit of Daddy shinning through then.
He lives on in Brian, Harper, and me every day. Brian and I do our best to live up to his legacy, but in reality there is no one who could ever compare to how great of a father, brother, uncle, son, cousin, husband, friend, or man he was. He is our hero. I love you Daddy, very much!
As many of my friends and family (but mainly Jake, the boyfriend) know, I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is no fun for anyone that is in my life, especially if they live with me (sorry Jake, Frank, and sometimes Reagan). I use to be on medication for my ADHD which in turn helped my OCD calm down a bit. But since stopping, my OCD is probably the worse it has ever been. Poor Jake. He gets to hear my wrath of keeping the house clean probably once a week.
It is so bad, in fact, I hired a maid service (The Maids) to come every four weeks just to vacuum and mop the floors, as well as clean all the bathrooms. We have a Roomba knockoff (named bObi) that we set loose every once in a while, but it can’t clean the three flights of stairs that we have, and it doesn’t do a very “deep clean.” Also, my time is limited, and it usually takes both Jake and I about three to four hours to vacuum and steam just the stairs; the maids can vacuum all levels and the stairs, and clean the bathroom in 50 minutes or less (we still have to steam ourselves). Additionally, toilets are the one thing I REFUSE to clean.
I think the biggest thing is not putting things away. If the dishwasher is clean, empty it. If the trash/recycling is full take it out. If you get something out, put it back when you’re done with it. And so on and so fourth. So, here are some tips and tricks that I use when trying to keep our house clean; they are the most common issues that I have on a daily basis.
1) The Dishes
- Empty the Dishwasher. In the morning, or right when you get home from work/school, empty the dishwasher and put away any hand washed dishes. That way, after you make and eat dinner you can put all the dirty dishes right into the dishwasher and start it if it is full enough. We usually wash ours every other night.
- Clean as You Go. When making dinner, clean as you finish using an item. Don’t just put the dishes in the sink so they pile up. Rinse them and put them in the dishwasher (hand washed items can wait to be cleaned until after dinner or when/if your meal goes into the oven).
- Wash Pet Bowls. If you have pets, this is a great time to wash their bowls as well. I hand wash Reagan’s food/water bowl every night when doing the dishes to make sure she has a clean bowl to eat/drink out of every day. You wouldn’t eat off a dirty plate would you? Don’t let your pets either.
- EXTRA TIP: Soap Dispensers. Keep two soap dispensers on your kitchen sick, one for hand soap and the other for dish soap. This makes it simple to just pump some dish soap while you are washing dishes, rather than rummaging through the kitchen cabinet to find the dish soap.
2) Pick Up After Yourself
- Don’t Create Piles. This is so hard for some people to not do. Sadly, I do this with Jake’s and Frank’s things. They usually leave them lying around and don’t pick up, so I put their things in tidy piles to make the mess look more confined. Just put things away, it will make life so much easier on everyone.
- Give Everything it’s Own Place/Spot. I’m big on organization, so everything that I own has its own place. I even had Jake build me dividers for my desk drawers. I don’t believe in junk drawers because I think it’s just a catch all for things you don’t feel like putting away, also called clutter.
- 60 Second Rule. If it takes 60 second or less to put something away, do it. You will thank yourself later when you don’t have a list a mile long of small tasks to do, or piles of things that need to be put away.
- EXTRA TIP: Just Do It. If something needs to get done, just do it. If you let the trash over flow, the laundry pile up, and your refrigerator become unruly, you’re going to become overwhelmed and spend hours, rather than minutes, just cleaning up what could have already been done in a few minutes.
3) Replace the Toilet Paper
- Replace the Roll. This one is the easiest task to do in your home, yet people make it seem like it is such an inconvenience; if you use it and finish the roll, just replace it. Karma will come back around if you’re home alone and the roll is empty. Make sure you recycle the cardboard roll if you recycle.
- Have a TP Reserve. We keep small baskets on the floor next to the toilet with extra toilet paper (about three rolls) in them so it’s easy to replace the roll right then and there; the basket creates a look of organization. I also keep a basket in the laundry room filled with toilet paper, so when the small baskets run out, I just go grab three more to put back in the bathroom baskets. Easy peasy.
4) Put Your Laundry Away
- Get Organized. Instead of having one hamper to throw all your clothes in, we have an organizer for Jake’s clothes, two baskets for mine, and one extra for towels. Jake used to throw his clothes on the floor in a pile if his baskets were full (he waits until he has no more clean clothes to do his laundry). So I bought him a laundry organizer; it has four separate compartments, one for whites/delicates, the second for t-shirts/sweats/pajama bottoms, the third for jeans (he has A LOT), and the fourth for work shirts and pants. I promised him I would do his laundry if he kept it organized in the baskets, which has helped tremendously.
- Don’t Let it Sit. One thing I have noticed with myself, and Jake, is that if you don’t put your laundry away right after it comes out of the dryer, it will sit for days. Jake likes for his to sit in a big pile on the floor, I usually keep mine in a basket in the closet out of sight. To encourage myself to put away our laundry, I try to do only medium sized loads (as opposed to the large, washer packed loads that Jake does when he runs out of clothes). The smaller loads are easier to put away and less time consuming than the large loads.
- Wash Your Dedicates Separately. Wash all of your underwear separately from your clothes, and with hot water. I usually wash just my underwear completely separate from the rest of my dedicates (like socks, bras, and undershirts) to make sure the germs/bacteria are not washed into the rest of the clothes. My machine has three wash load sizes (small, regular, and large), so I can wash my underwear without using too much water. I also keep everything in a mesh bag so nothing will get snagged.
- Save Water and Energy. Jake makes fun of me all the time because I try to recycle and save energy as much as I can. I know that doing so doesn’t make that big of an impact, but I like to think it does. So when washing laundry, I always use cold water, except for underwear to kill the germs, I use hot then. I also don’t over pack the washer and use only medium, or regular, sized loads. Over-sized loads will sometimes not get completely clean and you end up washing almost everything a second time, which means you use more water.
- EXTRA TIP: Label Your Laundry Sorter. Sometimes Jake will just throw his clothes in a compartment rather than sort the clothes, so to make sure clothes go in the right compartment I labeled each so he knows exactly which one to put each item.
5) Take the Trash Out
- Don’t Let it Pile Up. One of the biggest issues in my house is the trash/recycling. We have a can with two compartments, one for trash and the other for recycling. Since there are three adults living in our house, it is easy to fill up at least one a day. The best thing to do here is not to let it sit. If it sits, then you start to play an unhealthy game of Tetras. However, it is simple, once it’s full, empty it.
- Take It Out. I’m usually the only one to take out the trash (I live with lazies), unless I ask. If I don’t do it, or I don’t ask, the trash bags will pile up and just sit there. So when I leave the house, I take as much out with me as I can. I remember to do so by placing the bags (and/or larger trash/recycling) right next to our steps that lead to the garage (where our cans are), so that every time I go down I take something with me.
- Replace the Bag. When you empty the cans, replace the bags. We keep our trash bags under the sink which is near our trashcan so it’s easy to replace the bag right way. I know some people keep their bags in the bottom of the trashcan so as they are within arms reach. Nothing is worse than going to toss something with your hands covered in food or water and there is no bag in the can.
- Sort It. I am big fan of recycling. We have two trashcans, one for recyclables and one for trash. If it is paper, plastic, cardboard, electronics, etc., it can be recycled. Depending on where you live will determine what your local recycling plant will take. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides a lot of information online on what you can and can’t recycle. You can also look at you local recycling center website to see what they do and don’t take (some centers will/won’t take certain items).
- Use the Symbols. This helps you determine items are accepted by your local recycling center. Some centers don’t take certain items, so this system is super handy.
- Plastic Bags. I hate plastic bags, but yet I somehow always need one. I am terrible at remembering to bring my reusable bags with me anywhere, so I usually end up with a collection of plastic bags that you CANNOT recycle with your normal recycling. Some countries, including many in Africa, have banned plastic bags; they are a danger to our wildlife and do not biodegrade. The end result is I collect them, then take them to my local grocery store (Harris Teeter) where you can recycle them; Walmart also recycles them if your grocery store doesn’t. They also recycle paper bags, but those are much easier to recycle. Click here to find a local store where you can recycle your bags. You can also check out A Bag’s Life or Earth911 to find out more on the impact of plastic bags in your community and around the world.
- Recycling/Trash Collection. Check with the county you live in to find out when trash and recycling is picked up in your community. You can also take trash/recycling to community dumps and recycling centers. Our trash is picked up on Tuesdays and Fridays, and our recycling is picked up on Wednesdays. We always have way more recycling than trash every week, which shows how much can really be recycled if you are consistent with your sorting.
- Recycling Household Items. I am a stickler for making sure that household items aren’t just tossed out. If I can’t sell it, I will give it away. I will also give items to Vietnam Veterans of America (before anyone else), The Lupus Foundation, The Salvation Army, Goodwill, and other foundations. I prefer giving to foundations before Salvation Army or Goodwill, because the foundations will usually not charge the recipients for your used items. Also, make sure the items that you are donating can be taken by the organizations and foundations, sometimes they do not take items like pet items or car parts.
7) Go Through Your Mail
- Sort It. Sort your mail into recycling, file, and shred. I do this every day when I get home. As a result I do not have any mail sitting around creating clutter. Many people have mail sorters hanging in their homes, but I believe this creates what I like to call “Controlled Chaos.” These sorters allow you to sort your mail but not go through it. Therefore, the sorted mail becomes full and will overflow.
- Shred It. When I go through and sort any documents (every day) that show money, account numbers, addresses, or personal information, these items go straight to the shredder.
- Recycle It. Pretty much all mail is in paper form, therefore it can be recycled. As I go through and open mail, I put all items that do not need to be shredded into a recycle pile. Once I am done going through the mail, it’s just one more step to toss the sorted recyclable mail into the recycling.
- File It. Luckily, these days almost all bills are electronic so we don’t have the need for filing cabinets or “paperwork.” However, every once in a while we get mail that needs our immediate attention, so I file it. I take it to our “office” and put it into a paper filer that is labeled “need to address.” Once a week I go through this file and address each item, then either file it in the filing cabinet or shred it.
- EXTRA TIP: Filing Cabinets. If you have a filing cabinet, A Bowl of Lemons has a great organizing blog on organizing your filing cabinet (I use this site for everything when I need inspiration on organizing). The only thing that I do instead of her is when labeling a folder, do it in pencil so I can reuse the tab later and not waste labeling paper (if you don’t care then by all means use a label maker). Also, here is her filing system organization, I follow this pretty closely as well. The different colored folders really do help. (BTW, I also own both of her books which are AMAZING: The Complete Book of Clean and The Complete Book of Home Organization) Toni Hammersley is seriously my spirit animal.
8) Cleaning Out the Refrigerator
- Monthly Shelf Wipe Down. I usually try to do this one a month, but sometimes it gets pushed to the bottom of my “To Do” list. I do this right before I go to the grocery store to pick up my groceries.
- Once a Week Clean Out. I pick up our groceries on a Sunday, so before I leave (and when I’m cleaning the shelves one a month) I start tossing anything that has gone bad or dump any Tupperware containers/leftovers that have been in the refrigerator since the week before. Tossing old items helps keeps the refrigerator clean and bad smells away. I also check the expiration dates on the condiments to make sure they are still good. This helps me determine what I need to buy at the store.
- Buy Arm & Hammer Fridge N Freezer. I buy these suckers once a month and replace the old ones, one in the fridge and one on the freezer (obviously). They really do help keep the refrigerator odor free, especially since we buy a lot of fish products. They have a place for you to write in the date which helps me stay on top of when I need to replace them.
- EXTRA TIP: Order Groceries Online. I added this one as an extra tip because it saves me so much time! On Sunday mornings, while making breakfast or right after, I start making my grocery list of what we need for the week. We go to Harris Teeter, so I use my laptop to pick my items on their EXPRESSlane Online Shopping site (for $5, well worth it), then I pick my time for pickup, add any comments (like substitutions if they are out of something), and hit order. They call me when my order is complete and let me know of any items they were out of. Then I go to the store. I pull up to the EXPRESSlane, call them on the box, and they bring the items out; I don’t even have to get out of my car if I don’t want to. Then pay right there. If you don’t have a Harris Teeter, there are other grocery stores that offer this service as well, just do some research. Huge time saver though; I usually spend about an hour at the store, so having someone else do it for me for $5 is money well spent.
There you have it. Some of my tips and tricks for the most commonly known cleaning issues in my house. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or if you have another problem that I didn’t mention and you need some advice.
Ah sugar. That oh so good feeling of when sugar hits your tongue and your brain does a dopamine happy dance. After a study done a few years back, it is commonly known that sugar is more addicting than some of the hardest of drugs, like cocaine. Yet, sugar is still a regularly used ingredient is almost everything (processed) that we eat, like ketchup, spaghetti sauce, granola, and even protein bars. Many foods that we think are healthy, really aren’t, like low fat yogurt, vitaminwater, and bottled smoothies. Loaded with, you guessed it, sugar.
It has only been recently that I have realized I have a sugar addiction. The cravings can be intense and I can usually hold off by eating an apple, which contains natural sugar, but I always give in. When I have made it a few days without sugar I start going through somewhat of a withdrawal, I get super cranky and mean, and my cravings intensify. It also doesn’t help that over the holidays sugar is a main ingredient in pretty much everything, and candy fills our stockings, adding to the sugar craving fuel.
Here are some sugary filled foods that I was either given or that was apart our Christmas meals: peanut M&M’s and Reeses’ minis cups in my stocking, wine, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pie and whipped cream, rolls, ham, etc. Most people think that by using artificial sweeteners or gluten free options are healthier, but can be just as addicting. For example, Rice Krispies’ treats are gluten free, but contain sugar. Artificial sweeteners are also in many foods that we don’t realize, and if we do know we think they are a healthier option. Not true.
A list of some artificial sweeteners to be on the lookout for:
So what’s the best way to eat healthy without including sugars or artificial sugars? Lately I have been hearing to eat foods that have previously had a life (similar to the Paleo Diet), like meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, vegetables, and seeds. But instead of calling it a diet, just learn to eat in moderation (or portion control) and try to watch your calories. Some people even use the “counting macros” methods.
(<IIFYM pictured left; Paleo pictured right>)
As of late, I have been trying to introduce a combination of Paleo and IIFYM (macros) methods into my meal planning. I pick foods that are more Paleo, but I try and make them fit the macros. I have done an “okay” job of sticking to it, but I still crave sugar and end up giving in by the end of the day. I want to lose weight in my thighs to be able to run faster and increase my endurance, but it can be tricky as I need calories to weight train (mainly clean protein like chicken and fish) and carbs for cardio training (mainly clean carbs like vegetables and pasta). Trying to balance these two is where I am having trouble because I tend to start craving sugar halfway through my day and give in before the day is done.
So, I am going to do a Sugar Detox. Cutting sugar completely from my daily meals (not including natural sugar which is found in many fruits and vegetables). I would say diet, but it really isn’t a diet, I just want to cut out a drug that can lead to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, gout, liver disease, and Type II Diabetes.
- Set a Goal: already done, three (3) weeks (21 days)
- Read Labels: I added this one myself because if you still plan on eating processed foods, you should be on the lookout for added sugar with other names:
- Eat Breakfast with Protein within 90 Minutes of Waking: I am terrible at this. I do not like getting up in the mornings, and usually eat when I get to the office, which means protein is out. So my goal is to pre-make a protein shake the night before, then pop it in the blender in the morning, only taking a few minutes.
- Making Lunch and Dinner with Healthy Fats filled with Omega-3’s: This is where sticking to the “if it had a previous life it is good for you” mantra comes in. So these two meals are going to be filled with fish and chicken, and vegetables. Lots of vegetables. This should satisfy the protein that I need for weight training, and the carbs I need for running.
- Snacks: Non-starchy vegetables, so I am going to stick to tomatoes and celery. I’m not a huge fan of much others as a snack. Absolutely no potatoes though, including sweet potatoes.
- Fiber: Fiber helps to curb cravings and reduce hunger; bananas are one of my favorite fruits, so I’ll be having at least one a day, as well as an apple.
- No Sauces: Instead of sauces (like dressings and BBQ sauce) adding herbs and spices is much healthier. Luckily I do not add many sauces on my foods, so this one will be easy to follow.
- Drink Lots of Water: Another rule that I am working on, but have been doing pretty well with lately, I’ve been setting a timer to remind me at work. Many people actually think they are hungry when their body is just thirsty, so they fill that void with food. You should be drinking plenty of water every single day so your body is not dehydrated. The recommended amount of water to consume on a daily basis is eight 8-ounce glasses a day, or 64 ounces. Another recommendation says this depends on each person individually: multiply your weight by .67 (2/3 or 67%), and the result is how much water you should be drinking daily. For example: you weigh is 150 pounds, so you multiply 150 by .67 and that equals 100.5 ounces of water per day. If you workout, you should add 12 ounces for every 30 minutes you workout or six (6) ounces for every 15 minutes. In short, you should be drinking two thirds your body weight in water every day, plus how ever many ounces you require to workout.
- Exercise: Everyone already knows that, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Endorphins also happen to fight the craving for dopamine and help brighten the crappy detox mood. Luckily, I also already workout at least five days a week, so I’m already moving in the right direction with this step. A combination of weight training, HIIT, and LISS help me tremendously when is comes to craving sugar. Usually, when I am done with a workout I go straight for the water and a protein filled snack / light meal, which is normally two eggs. I don’t even think about sugar after a good workout to be honest.
- And finally, Sleep: You don’t want to “overtax” your body. This is where I struggle, and sometimes I have to take a sleep aid to help me fall asleep before 10 PM, which is the goal, but I hardly ever am able to. If you are exercising on a daily basis, sleep is important so you can recharge your body and rest. Getting enough sleep also helps you stay awake during the day and to avoid that afternoon crash.
So, here we go. Below is my 21 Day Sugar Addiction Detox, day by day journal of kicking sugar to the curb.
SUGAR ADDICTION DETOX JOURNAL
11 AM: I was going to start the detox yesterday, but before I even wrote this blog I already had a banana muffin with a glaze on top because I skipped out on a normal breakfast. So I decided to start today instead, a Wednesday…and so far I am doing alright. Fruit definitely makes it easier and I am glad I have fruit three times a day for sure, the natural sugar helps ignore the added sugar cravings. I also wanted to mention that Luke Milton, from Revenge Body, responded to a comment I made on his Instagram yesterday, and I am super excited about it!!! He is one of my favorite celebrity trainers, and I wish I lived in Cali so I could train at his gym, Training Mate. So please please please open a location here in Northern Virginia, preferably Ashburn!!!
3 PM: One thing I have noticed today is that towards the end of my workday, after 2 PM, is when I start to crave sugar. Maybe I haven’t drank enough water today, which could be encouraging the cravings. I added some humus to my foods to eat as well. I was having a hard time just eating celery alone, and peanut butter is not only sugary but has a lot of ingredients that aren’t so natural. I was able to have two (2) tablespoons to accompany my cup of celery, and will be including it in my everyday snacks. Hummus is mainly made up of chickpeas (which we all know) which is a legume (or seed), so it fits well into my “if it once had a life, it is good for you” mantra. It does have Salt, Citric Acid, and Potassium Sorbate (to maintain freshness) added in, but it is a healthy option to include when you’re cutting out added sugar and need to add some taste.
7 PM: After dinner, I was still super hungry and craving something sweet, and I think I owe that to not having enough to eat at breakfast. I made a terrible protein shake and just dumped it, then only ate string cheese and a tangerine. I told Jake I was still hungry and he made me a much better shake which made my food cravings go away and now I feel more full.
11 AM: Had a rough night last night. Ended up having an allergic reaction to scallops and everything I had eaten for dinner ended up in the toilet over a matter of five hours or so. Adding to my list of lobster allergies, is now scallops. We had thought I might be allergic last year, but after seeing an allergist showed I wasn’t. So this morning, I am very weak and tired, and trying to make up for some calories today. No sugar cravings so that’s good.
3 PM: Since my lunch today was supposed to be leftovers of my scallops last night, I had to go buy my lunch. Now, going out to buy lunch at a restaurant or even Harris Teeter can be challenging. Everything, and I do mean everything, has sugar in it. So, naturally, I headed to Teeter in search of a good meal, with no added sugar and hopefully somewhat paleo. I couldn’t find a damn thing. All the chicken has some sort of sauce on it, the vegetables were also covered in sauce, and the frozen meals were loaded with preservatives. Off to the salad bar I went. I got baby spinach lettuce, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls (to make up for some of the calories I lost, and they are a decent cheese to eat because they aren’t loaded with fat and sugar), some dried cranberries, chickpeas, and cucumbers. Awesome! It looks pretty good, now dressing. And this is where I hit the wall. Every single packet of dressing has added sugar. Ok, no problem, I’ll just head over to the dressing isle. All of it. Sugar. Yes, yes I know you’re going to say get the low fat no sugar options. Well guess what, those have sugar too, even if it says no sugar on the Nutrition Facts label. I bet it says 0g sugar too. Well check out the ingredients list. Remember those two lists above with other names of sugar and artificial sugar? Well, that’s where you going to find those names, and every single one I picked up had added sugar or artificial sweeteners, except one. So I got it. Even those just two tablespoons have 170 calories, all from fat, because why? No sugar added. This entire wall of dressing, and not a one didn’t contain sugar. That’s pretty freaking sad.
Sugar Addiction Detox Conclusion
Cutting out added sugar and artificial sweeteners is HARD! Everything, and I mean everything, has some form of sugar or artificial sweetener in it. Take the dressings for example, I only found one that had no forms of sugar. Sticking mainly to a Paleo way of eating was the best thing I could have done for myself. I felt so much better eating clean, and I even wanted to go to the gym more. When I had sugar, I felt much more lazy and unhealthy, I also tended to reach for more unhealthy foods when I did eat suagar. Also, I didn’t have any bread, because most breaded options are loaded with sugar. My body went into this Ketosis state. I definitely lost some body mass, as I noticed my pants a little looser. So my conclusion to this detox is don’t eat sugar. You will feel, sleep, and live so much better and healthier when you cut out added sugar. Stick to your fruits and vegetables and you will feel just as fulfilled as you would eating Girl Scout cookies or ice cream, but with more full and with more energy.
And I mean that literally. Since I was about eight years old I have had migraines. The older I got the worst they got. At one point I think I was getting them two or three times per week. And what’s worse is I never know when one is coming, unless I get an aura of course, which doesn’t happen every time. There are of course triggers, but I have yet to pinpoint one specifically.
Some triggers include, but are certainly not limited to: stress, sleep patterns, caffeine or lack there of, hormonal changes, dehydration, lack of food, computer screens, food additives, cheese, alcohol, teeth grinding or clenching, weather and barometric pressure changes, neck tension, etc. The list goes on, those are just some of the more common triggers.
I have found that if you don’t experience them or never have experienced a migraine, then you don’t understand the toll they take and the pain they can cause. Migraines usually go through phases, but not always.
Most of the time I skip over Phase 1 and 2, and go straight to the pain. If I am lucky I get an aura about 30 minutes before I start feeling the pain. I usually experience an aura with one out of every five migraines I have, other than that pain is the only symptom to let me know one has been triggered.
For instance, this past Saturday I had a great day with my boyfriend, his parents, and our roommate out on the bikes riding through Maryland and West Virginia. It was about two or three hours into the day when that little twinge behind my eyes started pulsing; yes like a heart beat. Except this heart beat hurts.
Usually I do not know what triggers my migraines, but we were supposed to get some storms that day, and the closer they got, the worse it hurt. There was no way I could make it home on the bike, so I rode back in the truck with Jake’s mom. The entire ride home it seemed to be going away, until I got out of the truck. It was like someone had a knife to my head and was pounding it in with a sledge hammer.
Once we were inside I tried to lay down and block out the light and sound, but it kept getting worse. It hurt so bad that I was in tears and almost yelling out in pain. I went into the bathroom and turned out the lights while I hovered over the toilet, as the pain was making me nauseous. I finally stopped throwing up and went back to lay on the couch. The pain would not subside. I went upstairs a little while later, hoping laying in bed with the covers over my face would help. Nothing helped.
At this point I had tried all my little remedies to make the pain stop: drinking plenty of water, eating, caffeine, my prescription that my neurologist gave me. Nothing. Jake heated up one of those homemade rice bags and put it on my forehead (cold makes my head hurt more). Nothing. I told Jake that if I cannot get this migraine to go away he may have to take me to the Emergency Room.
After seven hours and throwing up everything in my stomach, I finally fell asleep from exhaustion caused by the pain. Two hours later, a little after 9 PM, I woke up. The pain was gone. What lingered were symptoms similar to a hangover and fatigue.
Sadly, I deal with a debilitating migraine like this once or twice a month, but it use to be more. I can usually catch the pain or see an aura early enough that I can stop the migraine in its tracks, which greatly reduces the number of migraines I have. But in order to do this I have to stay alert 24/7 (minus when I’m sleeping) and I carry around a little pink pouch filled with medications, essential oils, and caffeine tablets. This goes with me everywhere; I will not be found without it, ever. I also keep one at work, just in case I somehow forget the other one.
I have had numerous medications, seen many doctors, had MRIs and X-Rays, and have explored various other extremes to help cure me of this habitual pain, but so far the pain continues.
This is my life. Waiting. Waiting for the pain to keep me from life. I have missed work, birthday parties, baby showers, and even wedding festivities. I cannot control the pain like most people think I can. I do not choose when to have a migraine, and I most certainly do not choose to be in unbearable pain. I have stopped telling people that the reason I couldn’t make it is, “because I had a migraine.” For a long time I thought that having kidney stones was some of the worst pain I have ever felt; I was wrong. I wish I could describe the pain, but I know of nothing that compares.
I have a neurologist, who I am pretty sure doesn’t believe me and most of the time the prescription he gave me doesn’t work. There is only so much of a medication I can take within a few hours before I risk an overdose. Sometimes I am afraid that one day I will have an aneurysm or a stroke, or go blind from the auras.
Migraines are not an excuse. They are a chronic disease and Neurological disorder that cause agonizing pain and disrupt everyday life. We do not choose when to have a migraine and the pain is often so excruciating that normal function is not possible. I wish I could be rid of them, but sadly this is my life and the life of 13 percent of adults in the U.S. alone.
If you do have migraines or chronic migraines, like me, here are some remedies (although I cannot guarantee they will work every time or at all):
Update Since Original Post
I have been migraine free for 48 days. For anyone who has chronic migraines, you know what a relief that is. After seeing a neurologist for almost six months, nothing was really helping, just the medication for when a migraine would come on, and sometimes it wouldn’t help at all. One day, in late November 2017, my boyfriend mentioned trying some gaming glasses. Many gammers and people who spend a majority of their day in front of a screen (be it a TV or computer, etc.) wear gaming glasses to prevent their eyes from straining and causing damage. Since I sit in front of a computer screen for 40+ hours/week, it made sense to try them. So I ordered a pair from GUNNAR.
The glasses arrived on December 1, 2017, and I have not had a full blown migraine since. I have had one or two mild headaches, and I just took my medication and they were knocked out before they even started. These glasses, “are carefully formulated to filter and balance light while absorbing 65% of (HEV) blue light emitted from digital devices. By designing our lenses to shift the color spectrum for visual efficiency, the GUNNAR amber lens takes artificial light and precisely tunes it to the physiology of the eye.”
I was able to get mine without a prescription, since I wear contacts, but all of GUNNAR glasses are available with your own prescription as well. I will always use these glasses now. I take them everywhere too, even to the movies. They do have a yellow tint, but after wearing them a little while you don’t even notice.
Now I just need a visor or something to block the blue light from the office lights coming down from above and I’ll be set! But for real, if you sit behind a screen all day and get migraines, try these glasses, they will change your life. No more missing events, or parties, or work. My life (right now anyways) is no longer controlled by my chronic migraines.
We were up bright and early, with not a cloud in the sky, and ready for our adventure to Tulum, Grand Cenote, and Coba!!! Our van picked us up “almost” on time at 8 AM, and it was a full bus load. After picking up one other couple, and the van was at max capacity, we headed out to meet up with all the other groups at a little cenote that was owned by the touring company.
They had a little shop where you could buy some Mexican related gifts (like skulls, T-shirts, and ceramic items), a little snack bar, and a cenote, but you couldn’t swim in this one. For a minute, Jake and I thought this was the Gran Cenote we were supposed to do some snorkeling at, but it wasn’t (thank goodness). After a half hour or so, I was a little let down that this was how our adventure was starting, but we finally got back on the van and were on our way.
Our first stop: The Tulum ruins
Also known as “The Walled City,” in the Yucatec language, Tulum means “wall.” According to many researchers, in the Mayan language, Tulum was originally called Zama, which means “dawn.” Though Tulum’s rediscovery is credited to explorer Juan José Gálvez in 1840, the city was only later called “Tulum” by two explorers, John Lloyd Stephens (American) and Frederick Catherwood (British) in 1841. Their book, “Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas and Yucatan,” describe the events in more detail.
Our van parked 20 minutes later at Tulum Beach, where we walked about a quarter mile or so the entrance to the ruins.
We entered the ruins through one of the five doorways which were cut through a seven meter thick limestone wall that surrounds the entirety of the ruins on three sides (I’m pretty sure we entered the exit though). The fourth side sits on a 12 meter (39 ft) high cliff overlooking the Caribbean coast.
We walked along the path that was mostly shaded by the trees, passing many iguanas ranging in size from inches to feet. Our tour guide mentioned that the iguanas are seen as protectors of the ruins, but mainly because they are able to bask in the sunlight and warm their cold blooded bodies. After visiting in 2012, a Guatemalan film director and photographer, Alejandro Ramirez Anderson, suggests in his blog (in Spanish) that the iguanas have been inhabited by the spirits of the founders to protect the ruins:
“Hoy, cuando uno llega a Tulum,
la antigua ciudad está habitada por iguanas,
como si los seres que la fundaron se hubiesen metamorfoseado
para seguirla custodiando discreta y clandestinamente.”
“Today, when one arrives in Tulum,
the ancient city is inhabited by iguanas,
as if the founders of this city had metamorphosed
to continue protecting it, clandestinely.”
When we finally emerged from the trees, we came upon multiple buildings that were well preserved and protected by the iguanas. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, and described (in three languages no doubt, Spanish, English and German) in great detail what some of the buildings were uses for. Sadly, you cannot climb or touch these ruins like others in Mexico, but they are the most visited and, in my opinion, very beautiful.
The most important, and tallest, building is the Castillo (or Castle). It sits on the cliffs imposing an authoritative stance with a view of the ocean and coast for miles. It is by far the most famous of the buildings, and is also referred to as the lighthouse.
At the base of the Tulum ruins, is a beach, where many locals as well as tourists are able to lay in the sun, swim, and snorkel. The Mayans used this beach to dock their ships as trade around the Yucatan Peninsula was important to the Tulum settlement. We were told that the beach here gets very crowded, which it definitely was the day we were there. It was hot out too, so that made them worse, so we did not climb the stairs down.
Admission Fee: $59 pesos / person
Parking Fee: $70 pesos / car
Hours of Operation: 8 AM to 5 PM
Location: Carretera federal 307 Cancun – Chetumal Km 230, Tulum 77780, Mexico
Both Jake and I were getting very warm, so we decided to head back to the van, where we found the Santa Fe Tulum Beach Club which sat right on the beach. We ordered some drinks and a couple little feral cats (one a kitten) came out from under the porch for some food. Me being me, pet both of them. There were so skinny it made me sad, and I wanted to love on them, so I did. We noticed our group was heading back, so we paid our tab and climbed back onto the bus for a quick 20 minute drive.
Our next stop: Gran Cenote
And grand it was indeed! By far Jake and my favorite place of the day! A cenote is described as a natural sinkhole formed by the collapse of limestone bedrock that exposes groundwater, or as the locals call it “Secret Swims.” The name cenote means “sacred well,” as the Mayan people consider cenotes sacred waters. The water is fresh and crystal clear as it has been filtered by the earth’s natural elements.
At this particular cenote you can swim and snorkel, as well as dive if you’re so inclined. Jake and I decided to snorkel. We changed clothes, rinsed off, and made our way down into the cenote. It was absolutely beautiful before we even got in the water. We rented snorkel gear and a locker to put our belongings in, the hopped in the water, which is not as warm as the ocean water for sure.
There was wildlife everywhere, turtles, fish, plant life, etc. And the stalactites and stalagmites were breathtaking. At first we were swimming in water about ten feet deep, then it opened up and became this massive under water cavern that took your breath away (or that could have just been me trying to breathe with snorkel gear for the first time).
When our time was up, we turned in our gear, retrieved our belongings, and climbed back up the stairs to the grassy area where we changed back in to dry clothes. At the entrance to the cenote, there is also a small kitchen / snack bar where you can buy drinks and order some food. However, they did not have much food to order and they were out of pretty much everything to make you food with, but we did ask for a cheese quesadilla, which was AMAZING!!! I’m not sure if they have more food other times of the year, but from our experience don’t expect a meal, just snacky foods and bottled drinks.
Admission Fee: $120 pesos; and $150 pesos for divers
Parking Fee: $0
Snorkel Gear: $80 pesos
Scuba Diving Rentals: Click here
Hours of Operation: 8 AM to 6 PM
Location: In Tulum take the road to Coba just under 4 kilometers. Right side of road. (They don’t actually give you an address)
Then it was back to the van. And we were starving, even after splitting a quesadilla, so thankfully we made a stop to eat near the Coba ruins at a hole in the wall restaurant called Restaurante Nikte Ha where all of the tour groups were eating lunch (I think the company owns this place as well, which makes it cheaper for them), but the food was pretty good, and it sat right next to a really pretty lagoon (pictured above)! After lunch, we were back on the van for, literally, a one minute drive to the entrance to the Coba ruins.
Our last stop: The Ancient Mayan Ruins of Coba
Coba means “waters stirred by the wind,” which seems appropriate as there are two lagoons that surround the ruins. The Coba ruins are not as popular as other ruins because of its location, which is a shame because I enjoyed them more than the Tulum ruins for sure. It is also one of the ruins that are still un-excavated and covered in trees, which I enjoyed because that meant it was more shaded than Tulum.
After entering, we walked an easy walk to the beginning of the ruins. Most of the ruins that have been excavated include the Nohoch Mul structures (the main pyramid), Conjunto Pinturas (the spiritual area), and the Macanxoc structures. Coba also has one of the largest systems of stone causeways called sacbéob or “white roads,” 16 open to the public but more than 50 have been discovered. These roads lead to the largest pyramid, Ixmoja, and other residential areas along the way that are part of Nohoch Mul.
We spent a great deal of time with our tour guide who explained (again in Spanish, English, and German) what each of the structures were. I found the information quite entertaining, especially when discussing the two ball courts. They use to play ōllamaliztli, a traditional Mayan ballgame where a heavy rubber ball that weighs roughly nine pounds is propelled (without using hands) through a ring. Our tour guide told us that as a ritual, the captain of the winning team was sacrificed to the gods, which was a huge honor.
Our tour guide left us here to either walk, bicycle, or bike taxi to Ixmoja, the heart of the city. Jake and I each rented a bicycle and rode to Ixmoja pyramid, where we parked our bikes to look up at the 137 foot pyramid above us. Then, we began to climb. With 120 steps to the top, the Nohoch Mul pyramid is the tallest temple on the Yucatan Peninsula. Chichen Itza (a more popular site to visit) has only 91 steps to the top of the Kulkulkan Pyramid.
It took us no time to reach the top, maybe three minutes, tops. But we were also booking it, not using the rope in the center for balance and we are both in decent shape so we didn’t need to stop to take a break. When we reached the top the view was magnificent! You could see for miles in every direction, which made sense as to why they would want to build pyramids so tall.
We sat on the top of the pyramid for a few minutes before we decided to head back down. The climb down was much more slow and it was steeper than I remember it being going up. I had to grab the rope once or twice when going down a large step, but otherwise we were down almost as fast as we had gone up. Don’t get me wrong though, it was steep and you had to be careful, definitely had to step with more of an angle than you would going down steps in your house. Kids were going up and down the pyramid as well, so definitely doable without falling, unless you weren’t careful.
We were told by the man who we booked the tours through, that 2017 was the last year they were allowing people to climb the ruins at Coba, so that sold us. Now, I think he was just telling us that so that we would go. I’m glad we did though because it was a great little adventure through Mayan history.
We rode the bicycles back to the entrance and headed out to our van. We still had some time before our groups needed to be back at the vans so we stopped at one of the little shops outside of the entrance. I ended up buying a cute little handmade dress for my niece. I’m sad that she will eventually out grow out of it, being she is only a few months old, but it is probably one of the most beautiful things I had seen made down there, and she can keep it for when she has kids one day (a very long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long long time from now). The handmade items are much more interesting and beautiful than the factory made ones for sure.
Admission Fee: $38 pesos
Parking Fee: $15 pesos
Bicycle Rentals: $25 pesos / bike
Bici Taxi Ride: $100 pesos round trip
Hours of Operation: 8 AM to 5 PM
Once back in the van we started to drive through some of the slums and homes in the area. For a second I was worried because I wasn’t sure where the driver was taking us, but we stopped at a little Mayan village where some Mayan villagers still live. They offered to sell us some of the things that they make daily, which is how they make their living. The children try to hand you flowers and hand drawn pictures for money as well. I was absolutely devastated by the conditions that these people were living in, but they also knew nothing else. I meant to take some pictures here, but I was so shocked at how these people were living that it slipped my mind. To give you an idea of the state of the village, the primary school was a one room, concrete shack and the roof had collapsed.
Now, I have found a few other blogs of people who have seen these local Mayan villages, but their pictures of the villages are much nicer than the one we were taken to. Here is one that I found where the experience of the writer was much better than ours and the villagers seem to be much better off.
I did end up buying a very beautiful necklace from one of the villagers, then it was back on the van to head back to the resort. It was about a two hour drive, which included dropping some of our group members off at their resorts as well.
Enjoy a little video I put together of our excursion:
We learned a lot of this excursion too. I believe we paid the excursion company about about $350 total for the day (not including snorkeling gear or locker rental), it included transportation, Tulum, Gran Cenote, lunch, and Coba, as well as a guide at Tulum and Coba. Thinking about it, we did some math:
Tulum Admission: $59 pesos / person = $118 pesos
Tulum Parking Fee: $30 pesos / car = $30 pesos
Tulum Guide: $1441 pesos / group (you can negotiate this price, although each ruin has a display with an explanation, so you don’t really need one)
Gran Cenote Admission: $120 pesos / person = $240 pesos
Snorkeling Gear Rentals: $80 pesos / person = $160 pesos
Locker Rental: $20 pesos
Lunch: $96 / person = $192 pesos
Coba Admission: $38 pesos / person = $76 pesos
Coba Parking: $15 pesos
Coba Guide: $250 pesos / group
Coba Bicyle Rentals: $25 pesos / bike = $50 pesos
Total: $2,892 pesos or $150 U.S. dollars (not including transportation)
We definitely learned our lesson here. From now on, whenever we go anywhere, we are going to just go ourselves and save ourselves some $$$. If you don’t want to worry about transportation, then the excursion are the way to go!
Once we were back at the resort, the Bride and Groom, as well as some of their family and friends had finally arrived, so we went out for some drinks and dancing! It was quite an eventful day, and there was more fun to be had!
Click below to read about our other adventures in Mexico:
Days One & Two: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Day Three : Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Four & Five: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Six, Seven & Eight: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
I cannot tell you how excited I had been for this trip. I had not had a vacation in more than a year, so a break and some TLC was definitely needed FOR SURE! Mind you the only real reason we are going to Cancun this year is because of two of our favorite people were tying the knot! So we decided to make this trip into our vacation! And it was worth it!!!
Preparing for the trip was simple, although I did have to renew my passport which had been expired for at least five years. That process was frustrating.
Our flight out was at 6:40 AM, so we had Washington Flyer pick us up at 4 AM. New regulations now suggest you arrive at the airport three hours before an international flight, but since we needed to check our bags and the ticket counter didn’t open until 4:15 AM we figured we would be alright arriving a little after 4 AM. Our first leg was to JFK. Which is beyond me why we needed to fly up to New York just to fly back down over D.C. We landed right as the sun was coming up which was absolutely beautiful.
We had a nice little layover that gave me some time to score some excellent New York postcards (using Postcrossing), as well as grab a drink or two (yes before noon, no judging, it’s our vacation). We sat waiting for our flight for about an hour at the gate. In that time, a fellow passenger waiting became unresponsive. Luckily, another passenger was a medic and was able to take his vitals and keep the wife calm. But what really irritated me is that emergency personnel were called, and it took close to 20 minutes for two Port Authority police officers to arrive, not even medics. Anything could have happened in that time, the man could have died. He woke up right before they arrived, which let me tell you was a relief, even for me. I ended up contacting JFK once we were home to let them know that it should not have taken that long AT ALL, and that I hope they take preventative action to make sure response teams are much faster next time.
We finally boarded our 10:30 AM flight and were off to Cancun!!!
Four hours later, we were flying into the Cancun International Airport. FINALLY!!! After months of preparing we were finally there, and ready for some serious relaxation!
After going through customs, we stopped at an ATM, then headed out the door to meet our ride, LOMAS TRAVEL, who our travel agent through DestinationWeddings set up for us. If you ever travel anywhere that is remotely touristy, make sure you follow the directions you’re given when leaving the airport to find you ride. There were at least 30 people trying to offer us rides to our hotel; our agent told us that some will even say they are with the transportation company you are looking for, so just ignore them or say no thank you. Since we followed the directions and we knew who we were looking for, we didn’t have any issues finding the right people.
Our ride to the resort was about an hour, and our van made one stop to drop off the other couple riding with us, they were from Missouri. And then, a little after 3 PM…
As soon as we got out of the car we were offered drinks by the resort staff, and after waiting a few minutes were able to check in. We upgraded to a garden view suite, which at $20 extra bucks a night we were all over. They gave us our wrist bands (which you will later find out how much we disliked them), gave us a map of the resort, then had the bell hop take our bags to our room, drinks still in hand.
Everything was beautiful; the room, the view, the entire resort.
Once we were settled, we headed to grab some lunch at one of the many restaurants on the resort. Did I mention it was all inclusive? As many drinks and as much food as you want!!! Ricon Mexicano is in one of the corners of the resort, right on the beach, and next to the road access to the ferries for the cruise ships. We arrived just before the taco bar was closing for the night, so we weren’t able to get the tacos, but both Jake and I decided on some authentic enchiladas, yum!
To end the night we walked to town, Calle Quinta Avenida (the touristy part), to look around and explore. We found a neat cigar shop (The Cigar Factory) where they roll the cigars from scratch right in front of you. At one of the shops, they had tanks filled with little fish called Garra Rufa fish (aka Doctor Fish) that you could put your feet in for 20 minutes and they would eat the dead skins of your feet; I only lasted about ten minutes. But it was definitely neat! The town was also preparing for Halloween (Día de las Brujas) on October 31, All Saints’ Day (Día de Todos los Santos) on November 1, and All Souls’ Day (Los Fieles Difuntos) on November 2, which is also known as the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos). The celebration of Día de Todos los Santos and Los Fieles Difuntos is bigger than Halloween in Mexico. It was really exciting to see all of the decorations going up for the celebrations to begin in only a couple days.
We didn’t spent too much time out as we were exhausted from traveling, so we headed back to the resort and crashed.
I woke up early this morning and decided to head down to the resort gym for a run. Sadly I only made it about two miles before my foot started aching (stress fracture, ouch), so I stopped, and headed upstairs to start our day.
Before day two of our Mexican adventure, we grabbed some breakfast at SPICE (another restaurant on the resort) which was more of a buffet styled restaurant. We also stopped in at the little store in the resort where I bought a couple Mexican blankets, and Jake bought himself some sunglasses, they were offering a deal, so might as well. We also made our dinner reservations with the front desk, at one of the two restaurants you needed to make a reservation for, and the place only had two times available, it was booked solid.
We walked to a store, called Mega, that was recommended to us where we could buy some coffee grounds, which was kind of like a Walmart. They do actually have a Walmart down the street, but we didn’t feel like walking that far.
We headed back to the “touristy” area where we ended up finding a mall of sorts (Quinta Alegria Shopping Mall), where we did a little bit of shopping to pick up some gifts. The mall had some of the typical shops that you would find in the U.S., including Pandora, Forever 21, American Eagle, Columbia Sportswear, and even Starbucks. The top floor had more of a general shopping area (kind of like a small Target) which had every day items as well as some more Mexican related gifts. The building itself was pretty neat though.
As we made our way back up the street to head to the resort, we were stopped by a man who wanted to sell Jake a Harley Davidson shirt. So, of course, we followed this guy into his little shop (which was also behind another shop and smaller than our bathroom) and ended up buying the shirt from him. I figured out after our trip that there was a Harley Davidson shop in the mall, but we somehow missed it.
On our way out, the guy suggested that we talk to his buddy about doing some excursions, so we listened to his spiel, which was about 45 minutes. We ended up signing up for three excursions, 1) Tulum, Grande Cenote, and Coba, 2) A fishing and snorkeling trip, and 3) Snorkeling on Cozumel, and scooter rentals. I think the total for all three was about $600 or so. We were told that the bus / van would pick us up from our hotel, without even asking which hotel we were staying at. This is when we realized that those fun little resort bracelets were what the locals looked for so they could try and sell tourists their products.
Once we were done spending money, we headed back to the resort to grab some lunch, take a couple shots, see the beach, and check out the pool.
We spent a little bit of time down at the pool before our 6:30 PM dinner reservations. There are two pools in the main area of the resort (and a third smaller pool off in one of the corners of the resort) and it’s where all the action happens. The smaller of the two pools has a swim up bar where Jake and I decided to spend our time, where we met another couple, from Dallas. We hung out with them for a bit before we headed inside to get ready for our dinner date.
There are only two restaurants on the resort that you need a reservation for, and one of them is Maria Marie. Also, you have to pay for lobster (good thing I’m allergic) and any top shelf or more expensive wines (basically non-house beverages).
Jake and I dressed accordingly, which was a nice dress for me and khakis and a button up for Jake. We arrived on time for our reservation at Maria Marie, and the place was basically empty, which was odd since they were booked that night when we made our reservation earlier that day. Jake ordered me a very nice bottle of wine (yup we had to pay for it) and we ordered our appetizers, entrees, and desserts. Yum!
(pictured right – we clean up alright>>)
The other restaurant you must made a reservation for is Chef’s Table, which is also like an $80 charge per couple. We never ended up eating there.
After dinner we headed back to our room and pretty much fell asleep around 8 PM. I’m not sure why we were so tired, but we were. That’s alright though, because the next day were were going on a 12 hour excursion.
Click below to read about our other adventures in Mexico:
Day Three : Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Four & Five: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
Days Six, Seven & Eight: Playa del Carmen, Mexico October 28 – November 4, 2017
I have always loved Christmas, a great trait I inherited from my dad no doubt. The festive decorations, the lights, the peppermint hot chocolate, decorating the Christmas tree, enjoying time with family, etc. I have a new little niece to celebrate with this year as well, so I am super excited to enjoy spending some time with her. But one thing I hadn’t done before was explore Christmas Town at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia. Luckily, Jake’s parent’s live close enough that we can stay with them for the weekend and drive down to the park for a day.
You can purchase either “Single Day” tickets, of “Fun Cards”, or “Bounce Tickets” from the Busch Gardens website, and you can also upgrade if you are so inclined. The ticket prices vary depending on when you want to attend, so the closer to Christmas the more expensive they will be. I happened to buy ours in mid-November when they were having a sale for $25/person, definitely worth it. The only downside to buying them so far in advance is you have to select the date you want to go, and you may not know the weather situation of that day. The weekend before we went it ended up raining and snowing, so good thing we didn’t go then; although it may have been neat to go while it was snowing.
Did I mention Busch Gardens Christmas town has over eight million Christmas lights, making it the largest Christmas light display in North America? Yup! (Check out the side show at the end of the post with some of the Christmas lights)
It was a nice, clear day on December 16th, and it wasn’t too cold either, 46 was the high. I definitely needed a few layers and I ended up putting on a sweatshirt under my coat right before we entered that park, but walking around the park kept me warm so I didn’t need my gloves until after the sun went down.
The park opens at 2 PM, so we arrived about 30 minutes before hand to give us some time to park and get to the entrance. I’m glad we arrived early too, because while on a ride around 3:00 PM (Mäch Tower) we could see that the line to pay for parking was super backed up and the lots were getting pretty full.
Once we had our maps in hand, we decided to head over the Oktoberfest to eat some lunch at Das Festhaus’, but first we stopped at the Highland Stables in Scotland. The Clydesdales were beautiful!
We then took the train and walked to Das Festhaus’ where they just so happen to have a show at 2:30 PM, “Deck the Halls.” We grabbed some lunch, which included some excellent bratwurst, and sat down to enjoy the show. Since we were there when the park opened, it was not as crowded which was nice. To be frank, I enjoyed the show, and the live band and singing were pretty good, but it was super cheesy (I guess it was more for kids?). I almost spit out my cider when the dancing gingerbread men came on stage.
Once the show was over, we headed back out into the cold where we rode the bumper cars and Mäch Tower before walking through Mistletoe Marketplace (also known as Der Marktplatz during the regular season) where both Jake’s mom and I bought a painting.
We then continued to New France where one of only two open roller coasters were open, Invadr. Invadr just opened this past summer, so it was exciting to ride a coaster I hadn’t ridden before. The line was backed up all the way to the entrance, so we ended up waiting about 45 minutes or so, but the ride was worth it. Invadr is Busch Garden’s first wooden coaster (mind you it is supported by steal, so it really only feels like a wooden coaster) and was built next to Le Scoot (which was not running). I am a little sad that when I return in the summer Le Scoot will no longer be flowing through the woods as it use to. Now, Invadr will be roaring by; so now you have Invadr on one side, and Alpengeist on the other.
After the minute long ride, we had a few minutes to waste, so we headed over to Acadia Traders where Jake did some Gem Mining, then we dipped some candles in colored wax at Caribou Pottery. Busch Gardens definitely does not lack when it comes to activities for the entire family to do, that’s for sure.
The next show was at 6 PM, “‘Twas that Night” on Ice at the Royal Palace Theatre. While we were waiting for the show to start, Jake and I picked up a couple crepes and some hot chocolate and lattes at Coffee & Crepes (original, I know) to keep us warm throughout the outdoor show. It was excellent for sure! The lead, Elvis Stojko, a World-Champion figure skater, along with the entire cast made the entire experience exceptional. A must see, especially for the kids. (I wish I could post more from the shows, but they ask for no flash photography or recordings of any kind take place during some of the shows)
The show ended around 6:30 PM and we wanted to go to one last show, all the way in England, so we booked it back to the park entrance, basically, and made it to “Scrooge No More,” a musical take on “The Christmas Carol“. This show was by far our favorite!
There was so much more that we wanted to do in the park, but definitely not enough time in one day. I would suggest if you want to do Christmas Town to do it in two or three days. With all of the rides, shows, and shopping, you will not see or do it all in one day. I believe if you have Annual Passes you will be able to get a 50% off discount for Christmas Town, so might as well take advantage of it so you’re no rushing to get through the park in one day.
You can also still purchase tickets to visit through January 1, 2018.
Here is this year’s map: (Christmas Town Map PDF version)
After the Sun Went Down
Last year in 2016 I decided that I wanted to run a 5K every month for a year, and run a Half Marathon before I turned 30. And so I did.
Before the Half, I had decided I wanted to take on a marathon, so I entered the Marine Corps Marathon lottery, thinking it would take a miracle for me to get picked… but I did.
So far it has been a huge challenge. I started running in August 2016, and competed in my first 5K, ever, the DIVA 5K, which took me almost 45 minutes to complete. It was tough; I could barely run for more then two minutes at a time, let alone a mile, and boy was I sucking wind. It took me a few months before I started taking it more seriously. I didn’t have that much faith in myself, and neither did my boyfriend. He even told me there was no way I was going to be able to run a half marathon (although I think he just said that to give me some motivation).
In December 2016, I started running more regularly and following more of a training program for a 5K and 10K race. In January, I ran a 5K without stopping for the first time at about 33 minutes, my time had improved drastically. I may have been slow, but I did it, I ran the entire thing. Then on April 1, 2017, I ran the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond, Virginia, and also ran the entire thing; I was slow running here too, but it didn’t matter how fast I was, it matters than I ran the entire race and finished. I got to run it with my big from sorority too, so that made the experience so much more exciting! My time was 69 minutes!!! I was ecstatic!!!
On May 21, 2017, I ran a very difficult 13.1 miles. I had been sick for almost two months, in and out of doctor’s offices, and was on several medications. I was very close to not participating and just doing it next year, but I didn’t want to give up. So I went, and I ran about half, but I finished. I wasn’t all that proud of myself, as being sick meant I wasn’t able to train for the last two months, but I ran it with a sorority sister I hadn’t seen in a few years, so it was worth it!
And then it began. Although I was still sick, I needed to start training again so I would have a chance to get through the entire marathon. I basically started my training over, only running one to two miles at a time four days a week.
22 Weeks until MCM: The first week of June I put my sneakers to the pavement, and basically started over from scratch with a light two mile jog. I logged only eight miles this week. I could tell my allergies were acting up because I was having a hard time breathing, so I ran on the treadmill for three of the four days. I was really hoping to get back outside for these runs.
21 Weeks until MCM: This week didn’t start out too badly, although I ended up running five days in a row due to some unforeseen work and training at my company. I was able to log 12.5 miles that week and upped my ante from two mile runs to two three mile runs, one two and half mile run, and two two mile runs. I was able to start lifting again this week, and boy was a sore for a few days afterward.
20 Weeks until MCM: This week started out pretty well, I got in a three mile run after a weekend off from running. I also started a strength/workout program to start building the muscle in my legs to get me through those 26.2 miles.
19 Weeks until MCM: This week started off a little rough. I ran 4.5 miles on Monday with shin splints pain the entire time, so I ended up having to walk about a half mile total hoping the pain would subside. It seems the faster I ran, however, the pain would be less. But I didn’t want to push it too much. Basically lots of icing and rolling this week for sure.
18 Weeks until MCM: I got a late start this week, I didn’t run until Wednesday. After my run on Saturday, I took a three day break as my shin splints were torturing me. On Wednesday I hit the pavement again; this run was very difficult. I had to stop almost a mile in, and ended up walking for a majority of the run. The shin splints were debilitating, so I only ran about a mile and a half total. I didn’t run the rest of the week mainly because I did not want to make it worse.
17 Weeks until MCM: Started on Tuesday this week and ran a very productive three miles, I even PRed at 32 minutes and 47 seconds. Hopefully I am able to get back on this train because at the rate I am going right now, I may have to defer until next year. So hopefully this is the last I have seen of these shin splints. Overall, this has been a very productive week with working out and watching what I eat. I need to “really” start lifting again though, especially with my legs to gain the muscle to get me through the miles. Overall this week has been very successful. I was able to run all four of my runs, and even did 6.5 without walking with a pace of 12:17.
16 Weeks until MCM: I am looking forward to this week, as on Sunday I will be attempting to run 8.5 miles. I think I can do it because when I did my 6.5 I felt like I could totally keep going. My run on Tuesday went well, but I was feeling the shin splints on Wednesday, so I figured I may need another rest day. Sunday was my long run, and it went really well!!! 8.5 miles. I have also figured out that I need to focus on eating more carbs to get me through these runs, not on protein; that was a mistake I made as I was thinking more in terms of lifting weights. So lesson learned. (picture is of my 8.5 run on the treadmill, it was too humid outside. And yes I know it is blurry, but you try running and taking a perfectly focused picture.
15 Weeks until MCM: I am excited for this week’s runs, they are short but I am focusing on speed a little bit. Since I have also been including some body weight exercises before my runs, I think they have been helping. The only thing I need to incorporate is some lifting once or twice a week, especially in my legs. I don’t know what it is about short distances either, but I always have a harder time with shin splints (must be my stride). They hurt more after short runs than they do long runs. I missed one run this week due to the worst migraine I have ever had, but I was able to get in a few good runs. Next week I start doing longer runs every week. So fingers crossed that my training continues to go well.
14 Weeks until MCM: So I have been able to plan out my runs a few months in advance since I have so much going on this fall. I’m having to plan my runs around six weddings, my birthday, Jake’s birthday, bridal showers, a trip to Baton Rouge, and life in general. This week it is important that I stay on task and complete my runs, as well as trying to lift a little bit and do a complete workout to make sure I’m gaining muscle and losing weight. I have four runs this week: 3 miles, two 4.5 miles, and an 8.5 miles to end the week. I was not able to run 8.5 miles on Sunday, I could barely make it to 6. I need to refocus and try again next Sunday while focusing on my water intake and meals.
13 Weeks until MCM: I started a strength training program this week to start gaining some muscle to help me through these miles. I am by no means lifting heavy, but just enough to help me gain some muscle to increase my endurance. With this program, I will be working out six days a week, four of those will be running, two will be cross training on the bike, and five days will consist of strength training (leg days are on cross training days so not to wear my legs out before my runs).
12 Weeks until MCM: Had to push my long run until Monday from last week since I was attending a wedding this past weekend. I’m worried about being able to keep up with the training with all the weddings I am attending this fall. But, I was able to run 8.5 miles without walking! I have 11 miles on the calendar for this coming Sunday, so fingers crossed. The cross training is also going well, although I think I could pick up the intensity a bit as long as it doesn’t affect my runs. Also, I turn 30 this week!
11 Weeks until MCM: Had to push my 11 miles run to Monday since I had people in town for my birthday and needed Sunday to rest. I ended up just switching my Sunday and Monday workouts, so I did my 11 mile long run after work on Monday, which I completed!!! I was absolutely exhausted after, so I am going to have to work out my meals a bit better and concentrate on having gels for the runs so I don’t completely crash into a vegetative state after running. Aside from my 11 mile run, and three on Sunday (which was supposed to be Monday’s), I have three more runs this week: 6.5 miles on Wednesday, three miles on Friday, and an attempt at 13 miles on Sunday to end the week. My shin splints have been getting better and my recovery has been a millions times better. Since this is my third week on the new strength training plan, I can definitely feel it helping me get through my runs. I know I have said it before, but I think it is time to up the weight on these workouts so I can really start to feel change happening. I have been really bad with eating too, and I know I have said this before as well, but I really need to focus and concentrate on my eating. Not eating too much sugar and fats (which is my weakness).
10 Weeks until MCM: I attempted 13 miles on Sunday but for some reason by body was not cooperating, so I am going to attempt it again on Wednesday. I will get it, I just need to figure out exactly what I need to get to keep my energy up without getting nauseous, or needing to use the bathroom. So far, however, I have done a pretty good job staying on schedule with working out. I have only missed one workout and it was on my birthday, and it was a leg workout, so I’m not too torn up about it. These next few weeks are where I might struggle a little bit, schedule wise, but I am going to do my hardest to stay on track. Oh! I also starting using my Fitbit again for steps and food. I am able to track my macros which is very nice, and hopefully it will help me learn to control my eating habits.
9 Weeks until MCM: Well my 13 mile run did not go as planned on Sunday. I only ended up doing 6.5 miles, so I am going to attempt again on Wednesday. And I did it! The 13.1 mile run was successful!!! Although I did have a small bathroom mishap, but that didn’t stop me from finishing. Two