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My #ShopLocal Gift Guide!

#shoplocal gift guide

In addition to shopping online for gifts, now is the best time to #shoplocal! You can find unique gifts for everyone while supporting great local businesses in your area.

The Seattle area has so many amazing local businesses, it’s tough to narrow it down to just a few. Whether you’re shopping for friends and family here, or looking to ship gifts across the country, there are so many great things out there! Here are some things I’m looking at this year to send out to loved ones (or get for myself)!

My #ShopLocal Gift Guide: Seattle

Boehm’s Candies

The Seattle area is home to several local chocolatiers, but this one is my favorite. For one thing, it’s about a 5-minute drive from my home in Issaquah! They have amazing holiday chocolates (including solid dark chocolate Santas), licorice, and even dog treats!


I found out about Jungmaven through IndieGetUp, a site dedicated to helping you find local shops in your area. They make hemp and cotton clothing, bedding, and other fun accessories. I’m seriously digging the Sherpa Crewneck Sweatshirt – it looks so lived-in and comfy!

Stumptown Coffee

Okay, so technically this company started out in Portland, Oregon, but it’s still a local favorite of coffee shops around the Seattle area. Their Hairbender blend is one of my favorites, and it pairs well with just about anything I put in it! Their packaging is also gorgeous, which makes for a great gift during the holidays!

Big Dipper Wax Works

Based in Seattle, this candle company is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I’ve burned through a few of their Meditation candles this past year, and I can’t wait to stock up on more! They make great stocking stuffers or gifts for the office!

George’s Sausage & Delicatessen

If you’re a good little Polish lady like me, Christmas means eating your weight in kielbasa. If you live in the Seattle area, head downtown to check out George’s for all the kielbasa and Polish goodies you can carry! It’s honestly the best kielbasa I’ve ever had, and I need to get back out there soon to stock up for the holiday season. They also have a ton of Polish candy, pickled everything, and wine…tons of wine!

If you’re looking for local shops in your area, check out IndieGetUp to see what your state has to offer!

Getting Active: 10 Actions, 100 Days

10 actions 100 days postcards

Even though the Women’s March on Washington is over, we have to stay active. The 10 Actions / 100 Days campaign is a great place to start!

Our first task was to write to our senators. We should encourage them to fight cabinet appointments, advocate for issues that matter to us, and show we’re not going anywhere. The people who represent us should reflect our values, and it’s important to remind them what our values are. We want to see our education system is in good hands, global warming is taken seriously, our LGBTQIA friends live openly and freely, Muslims don’t wind up persecuted, refugees can seek asylum, black communities can trust their police forces again, and women aren’t pushed back to being second-class citizens.

I wrote to both my current senators in Washington and former senators from Ohio. I’m lucky as hell to live in a state where Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are already doing great things. They are both outspoken about issues I already care about, and are in opposition to Trump’s cabinet choices. Instead of railing on them to change, I thanked them for the work they do – and let them know I recognize and appreciate it.

Writing to my former senators in Ohio, however, proved challenging. It’s hard to write to a senator who disagrees with you, but it was worth it. I think arming yourself with information is important for this exercise. It served as a reminder that our senators do good work for their state – yes, even the ones who belong to a different party than me.

For example, the Republican senator from Ohio does a lot of work with military veterans and bringing back jobs. Both Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman care deeply about the opioid epidemic in Ohio, an issue anyone living in Ohio is painfully aware of. While they disagree on some things, both senators work hard to make Ohio a better place to live. I can certainly respect that.

I started by thanking each person for their service to this country and the states they represent – and I truly meant it. Taking time to put it on paper, I thought about how thankless working in government can be at times. If this is the first time I wrote to them, how many others never bother? We vote for them, and trust them to do what’s best for us. How often do we truly thank them for taking on such tireless and thankless work?

It’s important to stay strong and loud during this fight. However, it’s also time to acknowledge and appreciate those who work hard on our behalf. We need to stay focused while being humane in all this.

If you haven’t written to your senators yet, I highly recommend it. Check out the Women’s March on Washington website for ideas and inspiration, and to find your senators. I also recommend finding something, however small, to thank your senators for. They work hard on both sides of the aisle – and showing appreciation, not just opposition, might encourage change. It can’t hurt, right?

Summer Hiking

Summer Hiking

Summer hiking spots (clockwise from top-left):
Lewis Creek Park / Cougar Mountain / Cougar Mountain / Timberlake Park

Hiking this summer has been…sporadic at best. The weather was either extremely rainy or extremely hot – neither of which make for great hikes. I was looking forward to August, when we usually get a break from the extreme weather…but that didn’t happen this year!

At the beginning of August, I stayed near home because every time I went out, it would start pouring down rain. I don’t mind a little rain while I’m outside, but a crazy deluge isn’t fun. As the month dragged on, it got warmer – a lot warmer. We are seeing temperatures well into the 90s, so any hiking I do now has to be early in the morning (if at all).

In my summer hiking adventures, I managed to check out a few new parks. Timberlake Park was my most recent trek, and it was the perfect, flat loop out to Lake Sammamish that I need when I’m looking for an easy morning run (yes, I sometimes run…I know, crazy me). The views are amazing, and it’s only a few minutes from home. I also mentioned a few places I checked out earlier in the summer in my “Chasing Views” post if you want to see more!

I haven’t gotten out as often as I’d like to, but isn’t that always the case? I’m hoping things will chill out (literally and figuratively) in September. I also want to start going to some new places, and revisit some old favorites I went to last fall. Let’s hope the weather cooperates!

Where have you been hiking lately? Any great places to try out this fall?

Chasing Views

Chasing Views

(Clockwise from top-left: Twin Falls, Rattlesnake Ridge, Poo Poo Point, Snoqualmie Falls)

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed,
and to have my senses put in order.”
~John Burroughs

Hiking lately has looked a lot different for me. Instead of heading out on the same old trails, I am exploring more challenging trips. Aside from the killer views, I learned a few things about myself along the way:

I’m slow. Like, really slow.

As a solo hiker, I thought I was an average hiker in terms of speed. As it turns out, I’m not. I’m embarrassingly slow. Sometimes I’m slow because I’m not ready to handle the trek (as was the case with Poo Poo Point), and other times it’s because I would rather stop and enjoy the view (as was the case with Twin Falls). I’m learning that racing to the top is not my style. I’d rather wander and see things than race to the top with my head down.

I’m too hard on myself.

I hiked up 3 mountains this year, yet only summited 2 – and that one I didn’t summit still pisses me off. I got a bit lost, a bit tired, and had to give up. I know that I should appreciate what I accomplish, and not focus on what I didn’t. I also know it was an important lesson to listen to my body instead of risking getting hurt or really lost. It still makes me mad that I can’t do everything I want to do, but I’m getting better about it.

Hiking is great therapy.

Whenever life sucks donkey balls, I like to head outside. It is a great way for me to get whatever is bothering me out of my system, and to physically push myself to exhaustion. It’s a great outlet when I need one. However, I worry sometimes that I’ll start associating hiking with being upset or angry because that seems to be the only times I do it now. I did that with bike riding in Ohio, and grew to dislike it somewhat. Guess that’s something I need to deal with.

Heights bother me now.

When hiking Rattlesnake Ridge with a small group recently, I discovered one reason I’m a slow hiker might be a mild case of vertigo. After about a 1,500 foot climb, I found myself dizzy, out of breath, and nauseated – which scared the crap out of me. Since then, I’ve done a few 1,000ft+ climbs and the same thing happens each time. I have done much longer hikes with shorter ascents that don’t do this to me, which is why I think it might be vertigo and not just an in/out of shape thing. Maybe this flat-land Ohio girl isn’t meant to climb mountains? If you’re a seasoned hiker and have any ideas of how to help, I’m all ears!

The views are always worth it. Always.

Even if it takes me forever, I’m angry with the world around me, and I’m dizzy as fuck, it’s always a great feeling to make it to my destination. Being rewarded with a great mountaintop view or a beautiful waterfall is worth the shit I put up with to get there. It’s also a consolation to know the trip back will be easier (and usually downhill)!

Winter Hiking

winter hiking

Instead of doing my monthly “PNW Parks” posts this winter, I decided to stick with parks I already know and love. This means I don’t take too many photos of my treks, since I’ve shared so many photos from these places already. I also haven’t really blogged about them much, since it’s hard to say anything new about a park I run laps around 3 times a week!

While sticking to my usual haunts, I find myself becoming a stronger and more confident hiker. Each time I visit a park I’ve been to a dozen times, I try to push myself just a little bit harder, and a little farther out of my comfort zone. This has led me to find amazing new sights (like the waterfall above), gain better understanding of the trail system, and even rescue a dog who got stuck in a nearby creek (to his credit, he was chasing a tennis ball and didn’t want to abandon it). I even got a little lost on my Valentine’s Day hike, and ended up at the wrong parking lot – but I eventually figured it out, and got back to my car without much trouble. That will teach me to rely too heavily on my GPS (which crapped out in the middle of my hike without my knowing it)!

Thankfully, the weather this winter has worked out heavily in my favor. Sure, it rains a lot during the winter here, but when the temperatures stay hovering around 50 every day, even a rainy day is a great day to get outside. I’m thankful that the winters here are mild, which means I get outside a lot more than I ever used to in Ohio. I don’t know how long this warm trend will last, but I’m taking advantage of it every chance I get!

As the weather starts to warm up, I’ll be heading back out to find new and amazing parks in the PNW area. For now, though, I’m happy sticking to the familiar.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving Cooking, Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

The big day is finally here, and I hope you’re all having a very happy Thanksgiving so far! In case you’re curious about what I am taking for Thanksgiving this year, I decided on trying two versions of stuffing – Butternut Squash Stuffing and Vegetable Herb Stuffing. I also baked an Alton Brown Shoo-Fly Pie for dessert, and really hope someone else brings another dessert because in all honesty, I don’t like shoo-fly pie.

I hope everyone is having a great day with family, eating tons of great food, and maybe sneaking in a solid nap this afternoon!

I’ll be back tomorrow to share some of my favorites for the week, if I’m not still in a food coma!

(*If you’re in Washington, don’t forget that Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks will be free to the public tomorrow in an effort to support the #GreenFriday and #OptOutside initiatives! It’ll be a great way to avoid all the Black Friday insanity, and maybe walk off some of that pie we’re all going to eat today!)

One Year in Washington!

One Year in Washington!

August 17, 2014: Leaving Ohio…

I know it sounds cliche, but it’s hard to believe that I’ve been in Washington for a year now.

Parts of this year flew by quickly, while others have crawled along slowly. My first few months here were a flurry of changes, from a new apartment, new job, and new city to navigate. It was also the only time in our 10 year relationship that my husband and I spent any real time apart. The time spent alone, getting to know my new surroundings, was both scary and liberating. This past year showed me that I am capable of doing a lot more on my own than I ever thought, and that it’s important for my well being to keep pushing myself to do things for myself.

One Year in Washington!

(Clockwise from top left) Bellevue Strawberry Festival / Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room / On Pine St. in front of the Pike Place Market…and some amazing flowers / View from my old job’s parking lot

One of the main reasons I wanted to move here was that I kept hearing how beautiful it is – and so far, Washington has lived up to the hype. I’ve spent more time outside here than I ever did in Ohio, thanks to the better-than-normal weather and an amazing parks system. I’ve found mountains to hike, beaches to lie on, and a hiking trail right outside my back door. There are hundreds of parks in the area to explore, and I’m looking forward to branching out to see more in the next year.

One Year in Washington! (Clockwise from top left) Newport Beach Park / Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park / Lake Sammamish State Park / Newport Beach Park..I go there a lot

The past year hasn’t all been a positive experience, though. Losing my job early on was a huge disappointment, and being led on by my former employer for months made finding a new job much harder. I said goodbye to teaching for the time being, which was tough. It has been insanely stressful to not know where my career is headed, but I’m hopeful that it’ll lead somewhere great. Whenever I start feeling down, I go back to my old blog to remind that while life is much harder now in some ways, I’m more confident, resilient, and happier than I was. In the meantime, I’m spending time applying for jobs in new career fields, going outside as much as possible, and building this blog. It hasn’t been a perfect year, but compared to where I was before, it’s a hell of a lot better. 🙂 Here’s to another amazing year!

PNW Parks: Lake Sammamish State Park

PNW Parks: Lake Sammamish State ParkOne thing that Washington has that Ohio could never compete with is a great parks system. The state has national, state, and city parks that provide people beautiful beaches, amazing views, and fun activities for all ages. I swear there is a park on every corner, and since we’ve moved to Bellevue, none of them have disappointed!

The park I’ve frequented the most this summer (aside from the one right outside my apartment) is Lake Sammamish State Park. It’s one of those parks that has just about anything you’d want. I spend most of my time on the beach that overlooks Lake Sammamish, getting my tan on and watching water skiers and boaters go by. They also have hiking and biking trails, picnic areas, and sports fields – not to mention tons of great lakeside views!

My only warning to visitors is that parking can be a bit expensive – $10 for a day pass. However, if you live in WA, or plan to spend your visit in several state parks, it’s worth it to spend the $30 for an annual Discover Pass. Mine has more than paid for itself, that’s for sure! So if you’re in the Issaquah area, and looking for a great place to spend an afternoon, definitely check out Lake Sammamish State Park!

*NEWS!* Today is a Washington State Parks Free Day! Parking today is FREE, and you don’t need a Discover Pass to visit any of the Washington State Parks – so now’s your chance to check out this great park!! PNW Parks: Lake Sammamish State Park

PNW Parks: Lake Sammamish State Park

PNW Parks: Lake Sammamish State Park

PNW Parks: Lake Sammamish State Park

PNW Parks: Lake Sammamish State Park

Hiking Love

Hiking Love
Hiking in Bellevue, WA


While I wouldn’t consider myself a hardcore hiker, I have spent the past few years outside exploring different parks in both Ohio and Washington. It has been a great hobby to keep in shape, and also to keep my sanity. I’m not summiting any mountains or anything, but it has been a fun way to spend an afternoon.

I originally started hiking as a way to get in shape, after failing to work out in both at a gym and at home. Something about exercising indoors bores the shit out of me. So I looked up local parks nearby, and found one that I instantly enjoyed. The views were great (especially for boring ass Ohio), the trails were challenging, and it was a quick 10 minute drive from home and work. I found myself going out a few times a week, and more often when I needed a break.

One reason I love hiking so much is that it forces me to unplug from technology. If I work out at home, or in the gym, I still feel too distracted by my phone, computer, or the TV. When I was working as a teacher, hiking was the one time I couldn’t answer student emails or grade papers – which I spent way too much time doing. Now, as a blogger, I find that I need to get off the computer more often. I could spend hours editing photos, writing, and fiddling with my blog design – which is a good thing – but it does start to zap my energy after a while. Even if I’m only out for a little while, I always come home more energized and motivated.

Another reason I got into hiking was to reconnect with things I used to enjoy. While growing up, I spent a lot of time outside playing, whether it was riding bikes, shooting basketballs, swimming, playing softball, or just wandering around. As I got older, my summers outdoors were replaced with work, school, and the dumb assumption that I had to give up things like going outside. It wasn’t until after I got married that I realized I had given up a lot of things I loved to be what I thought an adult should be – including going outside to run around. Hiking is just one way for me to get back some of the random fun I used to have just screwing around outside. I don’t run around as much as I used to, but I’m getting there!

A major reason I pushed for moving to Washington was the outdoor recreation. There are parks everywhere here, and I have yet to find one I don’t like! There are 3 of them within walking distance of where I live, and hundreds more that are just a short drive away.

While I’ve only checked out a few area parks so far, I can’t wait to find more great places to get outside and breathe in the fresh air (even if it does make me sneeze).

If you live in the Seattle area, leave a comment below if you have any good suggestions of places to go hiking!