This month was a little rough as far as going on dates goes. I’m not going to lie, I thought we were going to have to skip it. Then I realized that we have some big goals coming up this year (travel, paying down debt, both girls in college in the fall) and we will probably need to be better about budgeting. So, we had a Create a Budget date at home.
I wish I could say that we didn’t find any surprises when we dove into our finances, but I would be lying. It is amazing how much we have been spending on restaurants – and I have actually been cooking a lot, so I would hate to see what it was just a couple months ago. Rising prices have not helped, but we have definitely gotten used to the convenience of grabbing food on the go or treating ourselves to a nice dinner more than we should.
We’ve also been spending more on coffee shops (Tim Hortons, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Starbucks) than I would have ever suspected. I will take full ownership that this is mostly me, and I have been taking steps to eat breakfast at home more, so I know this will improve dramatically.
After analyzing several categories over the past few months, we have made a budget that should allow us to pay down some debt and also save some money towards other goals. We did not include my income in the budget, so that is where our Adventure and Create dates will likely come from and also where things like hair cuts, mani/pedis, and gifts will come from. It isn’t perfect and will likely need adjusted, but it should make a real impact on our spending habits.
For your viewing pleasure, here is our workspace and our faces when we finished.
Do you have a budgeting system? Any tips on things we should always include? Let us know in the comments! 🙂
The last two years at Christmas, I have been aware of several friends and acquaintances touring a place called the Christmas Tree Home. After one friend in particular posted a link to a Facebook group, I joined in the hopes that we would be able to visit in the future. This year, I was alerted when they posted the sign up page, so I was able to snag us a time slot to visit. The home is only open 3 Saturdays and 3 Sundays each year, and the hours are quite limited. Probably because it is an actual house on a cul-de-sac and they are trying to be good neighbors.
When we arrived, we found a place to park and walked up to the house – as you can see, the weather cooperated to make the scene look quite wintery. The house was impressive even from the outside! The front porch reminded me of the department store window displays we used to go see when I was really young.
When we got inside, we were greeted with so. many. Christmas. trees. At last count, the owner, Barb, had 649 trees. They are all sizes and made from all materials. Barb also had a fun juke box where you could pick favorite Christmas songs to play. Oh, and also, there is a cat. My girls were very happy about that. 🙂 Here is just a small selection of her displays.
In addition, Barb offers everyone that visits a homemade cookie and what I hear is really amazing hot chocolate. You also have the opportunity to donate money to causes that help food insecure and homeless people in the Columbus area. Last I heard, they had raised over $2000, so that is fantastic.
While I don’t know that we will go every year, I do think this is worth at least one visit. It is impressive and Barb is a wonderful hostess. I definitely left with more Christmas spirit, and that’s never a bad thing.
Have you visited the Christmas Tree Home? What did you think? Share your thoughts in the comments!
This past weekend, three of us were able to get away to Hocking Hills for the day. Living only about an hour away from Hocking Hills has been so wonderful – we try to make it to the park at least a couple times each year. My favorite time to be in the woods is Fall with all the beautiful colors, followed closely by Winter when everything in white and frozen. It is still very much Summer, but we have to go when we have the time. I’m hoping for another trip this Fall, but we will have to wait and see.
We started out at Old Man’s Cave. The new Welcome Center has been standing for a few years now, but with COVID restrictions, it was never open when we were there. So, we were excited to check it out before hiking. We did not wander the whole place, but we did enjoy the upstairs space, and I am sure we will be back to check out the gift shop soon. It is a really beautiful building and I love the enormous map on the wall by the help desk.
We have been to Old Man’s Cave recently, but we’ve stuck to the upper falls area for the past several years. So, we decided the time had come to return to the lower part of the area. It was super crowded and there were so many people on the trail until it split – most people went to the actual cave part of the trail, so we decided very quickly to take the other way. We continued on down to the lower falls where it was actually not too hard to get photos without people for a change. It might be because it was a bit cooler (although still really humid), so no one was swimming under the falls. I know that I sound like an old “keep those kids off my lawn” stick in the mud, but I believe in following trail signs. If it says no wading or swimming, I stay out of the water. If it says stop, no hiking beyond this point, I stop. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s fun, but I also want these parks to be open to the public for everyone’s enjoyment for a long time to come.
After we had that hike under our belts, we headed to a completely new-to-us area of the park – the Rock Climbing and Rappelling Area. It is very near to Conkle’s Hollow – one of my favorite parts of the Hocking Hills Area. The area is not well marked, especially if you are coming from inside – the signs all point the other direction, so we ended up having to turn around and back track. Once we parked in the gravel lot, we did not cross the street to get to the actual Rock Climbing and Rappelling area, we instead followed the bridle trail located at the far end the parking lot. Being that it was a bridle trail, we had to constantly be watching where we stepped – the horses in Hocking Hills are apparently very well fed. Keith and Charlotte wished they had put on bug spray, but I did not have any problems. We did encounter A LOT of mud, and we had to do some creek crossings, so waterproof hiking boots are a must if you choose to do this hike. I did not take photos of the worst parts of the trail, but here are a few photos of the not so bad parts.
We followed the orange blazes and then the white blazes. Pretty soon, we saw a sign that said “No horses beyond this point.” I took that as a sign that we were supposed to take the trail up, but it turned out that it was a more difficult and roundabout way that would have led to a double waterfall if there was more water in the creeks. Keith has pretty much told me he will not hike this again (he hates mud and mess), so we will not be seeing the Twin Falls near Chapel Cave. We did eventually come to the cave, though. When we arrived there was a group of people on horseback in the cave, so we communicated with them about where we should be to make their horses feel safe. This cave is also called 21 Horse Cave because you could supposedly fit 21 horses in it, so it was kind of cool to get to see horses here.
After we explored the inside of the cave, it was time to head back. On the way back, we accidentally took a different path through one of the really, really muddy parts and Charlotte ended up stuck in pretty deep mud – not quite over her boots. I found a path around to help pull her out, and thankfully her boots stayed on her feet. She waded in the water a bit to clean off the mud, but then her socks and boots were pretty wet. So, we headed for the car as quick as we could to get her cleaned off a bit. Thankful for wet wipes and napkins and a stash of plastic bags in the back of the car! Obviously this put an end to our hiking for the day, but we were all pretty ready to go home and shower anyway.
Our reviews of this one were a little mixed. I loved the hike because it was challenging. Keith hated the mud and bugs. Charlotte loved the adventure and was happy until the wet boots at the end. I am going to give it an 8/10 just because I can see how it is not the perfect hike for everyone.
Have you ever been to Hocking Hills? What is your favorite area of the park? Have you been to Chapel Falls? Let us know in the comments! 🙂
When we arrived home from Seattle it was July 28th. I knew that I wanted to create the start of a photo collage wall with some of our trip photos, so we immediately started trying to narrow down our choices. If you have read all of my July Adventure Date blogs, you know that we had some gorgeous photos – and the best ones weren’t the ones I posted here from my phone. I knew it was going to be a struggle, but I did not foresee my husband testing positive for COVID two days later. That definitely stalled our date opportunities. We did, finally, narrow our choices down to 3 photos that represented the core of our trip. Our first choice is this beauty that has Chihuly and The Space Needle both represented.
Our second choice was this shot of an Orca from our FRS Skipper Whale Watching Tour.
Rounding out our pics is this gorgeous shot of Mount Rainier with some tiny rapids and waterfalls in front from our time in Paradise.
We added our bicycle spin art to the wall as well – might as well make it about as many Create Dates as we can, right? We also added a little painting that we bought with 2 ladybugs because it reminds us of a story Keith used to tell the girls when they were younger. I LOVE how it turned out and I can’t wait to continue adding to it. We may go back and add some things from previous trips, or we may wait to add new adventures to it. Only time will tell. 🙂
Do you ever display photographs from trips? Do you have a photo wall? I would love to see and hear about it in the comments! 🙂
Our last adventure for the month of July was a trip to the Seattle Art Museum. We had some extra time our last afternoon in Seattle, so 3 of us decided to use that time to explore the Seattle Art Museum. It was a really cool place and we wish we had more time to spend there.
After we bought our tickets and checked our bags, we headed up the escalator. The first exhibit we entered was Frisson: The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection. I’m not sure I would have liked to live with all of their art, but it was interesting to look at and read about. Here is our favorite view from that collection – my husband says this is exactly how sunflowers feel to him, and I just found it very striking.
Our next exploration took place up the next set of escalators. We were greeted with an amazing site at the top – so many masks! They were from many cultures around the world, and I was completely in love with the displays. Here are some favorites.
We went on to explore a few more areas of the museum. I really enjoyed the Porcelain Room and the Italian Room in particular.
By the time we made it through most of the collections it was time for a very brief stop in the gift shop and then heading out for a snack at Pike Place Market. I would definitely go back another time to explore what we may have missed. Definitely happy with the experience.
Have you ever been to the Seattle Art Musuem? What were your favorite parts? Let us know in the comments! 🙂
When we were talking to some of our friends about our trip to Seattle, they told us that we HAD to get tickets for the Seattle Underground Tour. We didn’t really understand what that meant, but we obediently booked that tour for the last day of our trip. It wasn’t until our first walking tour, where we heard the story of the Great Seattle Fire that we understood just what the Underground Tour would entail. The story goes like this (the photos are from the Seattle Free Walking Tour and the Seattle Underground Tour. We saw different parts of this through both tours). In 1889, a carpentry apprentice was melting down some wood glue to be used in the shop. He got distracted and the glue overflowed into the fire, and a series of events that would burn down 33 blocks in Seattle was put into motion. Today, you can see the original site of the fire and the memorial they constructed to the fire.
After the fire, which miraculously killed no one, the people of Seattle realized that rebuilding with wood was a really bad idea. They were also really keen to do something about all of the plumbing and sewer issues they were having because the city was so close to sea level. So, they decided to build all of the buildings so that the second floor would become the entry floor eventually. They raised the streets first to install new plumbing that would flow down and not back up with the tide. They knocked down 2 of the original hills of Seattle for the fill dirt to raise the streets. While this was happening, there were ladders at each corner so people could climb up to cross the street and down to get to the entrances of shops. Here is a drawing of what that looked like along with a photo of the building our tour started in and photos of the underground first floor of that building today. I am also including a photo of a building that was constructed at that time to have the entrance on the second level, but then they ran out of hill to knock down, so the street was only raised about a foot, making the door on the bottom floor very short and the intended main entrance very high.
After the roads were all raised, the sidewalks were built over to the main entrances of the buildings. The underground remained – and sometimes still remains – intact underneath, which was actually quite convenient if it happened to be raining – you could go to several stores on the same block without going outside. They used manganese glass to make skylights to light the underground space. After a few years of sun exposure, the glass turned purple, so you will still see some purple glass in the sidewalks as you walk around Seattle.
It was really cool to walk around under the sidewalks. There were lots of stories, but I don’t want to ruin the tour. I did find it really fascinating that businesses could use their underground spaces for whatever they like. Some use it for retail or restaurant/bar space while some use it to store things leftover from renovations. One of my favorite things we saw underground was this elevator gear.
The tour ends at a little Seattle history museum with lots of photos of Seattle founders and important people. It was really interesting and I would definitely recommend this tour to anyone that wants to get a unique perspective on Seattle’s history. Our tour guide also had a really great sense of humor, so he made it super enjoyable to learn about plumbing and construction.
Have you ever taken an Underground Tour in Seattle? What did you think? Let us know in the comments. 🙂
I have to be honest, I had picked out a day tour to Olympic National Park when I was planning the trip – it sounded amazing with waterfalls and mountains and so much more. However, by the time I could book our tours in May, that particular excursion was sold out. So, a Mount Rainier Day Trip was booked instead. I have very few regrets about this tour – it was breathtakingly beautiful to be in Mount Rainier National Park, and it was really nice to have someone that knew all the history and the best vistas to show us around.
The tour started bright and early when Customized Tours picked us up at our hotel – they also dropped us off at the end of the day which was perfect since we decided not to rent a car. About 45 minutes into the trip, we stopped at a grocery store to get lunch and drinks for the day – it was nice to be able to save a little money on lunch, and it was also the ONLY time we had Starbucks the whole time we were in Washington. (Not for lack of trying, but they were either closed or prohibitively busy the whole time in Seattle.) The bus driver even provided a cooler with ice and some waters for us to grab throughout the day, and he allowed us to keep some of our lunch and drink items in it as well.
Shortly after we stopped for food, we stopped for our first views of Mount Rainier at a very small community park. It was a quick on and off stop, but got us pretty excited to get closer looks.
As you can see, we dressed in layers in anticipation of some cooler temperatures up on the mountain. We were to be sorely mistaken, though, as it was 85 degrees at the highest elevations we reached. Even with the snow still on the ground. Alas, our trip did not end up being the cooler temps we had heard about and longed for…
We kept traveling through a few more small towns and finally made it into the National Park. Our first stop in the park was in Longmire to hike a short trail, see our first in park views of the mountain, and shop at the gift shop. Oh, and use the restrooms, a necessity if you are busy hydrating all day. The short trail was through some forest – the trees were tall and beautiful. It was a lovely walk, although we felt rushed when we realized we were only halfway through the hike and had 5 minutes before our bus was supposed to leave…
Our next stop was at a scenic overlook. We had to practically drag Charlotte back to the bus at this stop – she kept wandering further down the road to take photos.
A little further up the road we made the next stop – Narada Falls. It is a 188 foot drop, so it actually towers over Niagara Falls, and it has a beautiful rainbow from most angles. It also gave us a lovely misting when we went to the view area – very welcome in the unexpected heat.
How gorgeous is that?!? We were also supposed to see Christine Falls, but that parking lot was under construction, so we were unable to stop. No worries, our next stop was Paradise (no really, that is what it is called) and we got to hike up to another waterfall called Myrtle Falls. The views were gorgeous, we were able to make snowballs, and there was once again a gift shop and bathrooms. Practically perfect in every way.
After leaving Paradise, a sharp-eyed passenger on our bus spotted a momma bear and 2 cubs in the distance. If you look closely at this photo, they are the black spot that looks like a dog and the slightly smaller black spots in the distance. It was really cool to watch them from afar.
Our last stop in the park was at the reflection lakes area. It is a series of 4-5 different lakes that could be really reflective on a calm day. Our day the water was a bit rough, so this is what we saw – still gorgeous!
After the reflection lakes, we made 2 quick stops at a suspension bridge over the Nisqually River and then a stop at a Ukranian bakery on the way home for some amazing pastries. It was so good that I didn’t even pause to take a photo.
I mentioned above that I have very few regrets, but I did have 3. The first regret is that we did not wear shorts – it was so hot, but the forecast had not really predicted that when we left. The second is that I wish we had a little more time at a few of the stops – nothing that could be helped, it was a group tour that had promised some set things and needed to deliver. Those regrets I can 100% live with and take responsibility for. The third regret is that I did not have noise canceling headphones like the rest of my family for the trip home. On the way home, a German grad student (studying history with a focus on war) asked our tour guide for war stories because he had served in the special forces in the Middle East. The guide used the bus’s PA system to start with a story that then quickly went off the rails into conspiracy theories. I have no problem with people believing differently than I do, but I do not think that this was the proper use of the PA system on a bus with a wide variety of people on it. So, in summary, dress for the actual weather, be ready to cut things a little short sometimes, and take noise canceling headphones and you will have a marvelous time on this tour.
Have you ever been to Mount Rainier? Did you go with a tour or on your own? What was your favorite part? Let me know in the comments.
I have always loved ghost stories and watching ghost shows on television – Haunted Travels Week was my Shark Week before all the streaming services. I do not like horror movies, but tell me about a ghost that might be in a hotel and I am all ears. So, when I was booking our tours for Seattle, I knew I wanted to find a ghost tour of some sort. Seattle Terrors Extended Tour was exactly what I was looking for!
Our tour guide met us by the Four Seasons Hotel in Seattle (spoiler alert – the Four Seasons is not part of the tour), and they were fantastic. They knew a lot of history and made it just spooky enough to be interesting, but not spooky enough to give my nightmares. There were serial killer stories, information about the first elevator west of the Mississippi – which was not used for the living, lots of spooky ghost stories, and ties to a couple of cults. We thoroughly enjoyed it! The tour was largely centered around Pike Place Market, but there were several other stops as well. I do not want to give too much away, but here are some photos from that evening – the market signs are amazing when it is dark!
Overall, I would definitely recommend this tour. We enjoyed the whole thing, including the extended tour stops. I would warn anyone wanting to do the tour that you will go up and down a lot of steps and hills – it is not for the faint of heart. Even the girls really enjoyed it, though, which is saying something.
Have you ever done a ghost or haunted tour? Where were you? Would you recommend it to others? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
When we decided to travel to the Pacific Northwest for our vacation, I knew there were 2 things that I wanted to do above everything else. The first was to go on a whale watching tour. I have always loved dolphins and whales. I wanted to be a Marine Biologist (until I found out how few get to work with dolphins and whales) and I even adopted a humpback whale named Pepper when I was in college. I found the FRS Clipper Whale Watching Tour and immediately knew that it was the one. They have a guarantee on their site that you will see whales on their tour (with an asterisk, because really, whales are wild creatures and can’t be controlled or completely predicted). Anyway, it was the first of our activities that I booked after we had our flights and hotel.
We arrived at the pier for our tour and had not problems getting aboard and seated. I sprung for the first class deck to give us each a little more room, and I made sure we all had forward facing seats. It was a beautiful day – you could even see the mountains, which I’m told is often not the case. Mount Rainier was on one side and the Olympic Mountains were on the other, and it was just gorgeous to be out on the water and see so much green on the shore. Here are some scenic shots of Mount Rainier, the Olympic Mountains, and some cool suspension bridges we went under (you have probably seen video of one of the bridges twisting and turning in the wind – that is why there are 2 right next to each other).
We hadn’t been traveling very long when Charlotte and I decided to get spots on the top deck. I am so glad we did, because pretty soon we were told that a humpback whale had been spotted. It was so exciting to see it come to the surface a few times in a row to breathe and then do a full dive with its tail coming up. We got to watch this cycle twice before we left in search of the Orcas. I was also really excited when I went through the photos at home and saw I captured the tail twice. 🙂
We traveled about another hour to get to the area the Orcas had been spotted. I do want to point out that I know that Orcas are actually related to dolphins and not whales, but they repeatedly called them Killer Whales, and I am fine with it. It was amazing to watch the pod of Orcas interact. We got to see them traveling and hunting something. There was one mature male and several females and juveniles. You can tell the mature male because his dorsal fin sticks straight up and much higher than the others. We were also a little amazed at how close people on jet skis were to the Orcas – I would not have been comfortable with that. Here are my favorite Orca shots.
I could have watched them for hours – it was so cool! I am completely thrilled with our tour and have no regrets. Having said that, I do have 2 things I would suggest to others looking to book this cruise.
First of all, I think that the people on the lower deck had better views of seal life. Our seats were well above the water, so we did not see the porpoises and other sea life that those in the lower deck were able to see. It also got extremely hot and stuffy on the second deck on the way back to the pier. If I did it again, I would get seats on the first deck. They also had better access to the front of the boat view area, the galley, and the bathrooms.
My second advice directly relates to this obstructed view. As you can probably see in my photos of the humpback whale, there were towers and bars and equipment on the front of the boat which obstructed the view from the top of the boat at times. We chose spots with a clear view almost everywhere except 11 o’clock (if straight ahead was 12 o’clock and straight behind was 6 o’clock). I figured that we would be able to see almost everything with a clear view. I was wrong, of course. The boat pretty consistently turned to keep the whales at 11 o’clock. I don’t know if it was because of some track equipment or what, but it was definitely a theme. So, choose your spots on the top deck with care so you can see at 11 o’clock.
I would 1000x do this again. It was exciting and the good far outweighed the bad for me. Have you ever been on a whale watching tour? Where were you? Would you recommend it? Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
In July our family was able to go on our first big family vacation in about 5 years, although it has been 10 years since we have flown anywhere. Our oldest daughter graduated in 2020 and we were supposed to take a trip to Disney and Universal at that time, but we all know how that story went. When we started to plan a trip for this summer, we asked her if she still wanted to go to Florida and she said she would rather go to Seattle and potentially meet up with a friend of hers. So, Seattle it was. And it was a marvelous trip full of many, many new experiences. I am happy to report she also got to meet her friend, although I will not really be covering that in the blog. 😉
Our first day there we did a walking tour and got our bearings, but our second day started our first real adventure: Seattle Center. Seattle has this really cool area which was originally created for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair. In fact, we got to ride there on a monorail that was created for that fair. It was pretty cool – not quite as smooth of a ride as you get at the Disney Parks, but still fun.
We had bought timed tickets to the Space Needle (also from the Seattle World’s Fair) and Chihuly Gardens and Glass, so we had time to walk around and explore before that. We did not realize that we would be sharing Seattle Center with the Pokemon Go Fest 2022 crowd, which was mostly fascinating and only a little bit annoying. Mainly because the number of people caused places to run out of things quickly and close hours early. The people were very nice and we actually downloaded the app again to get a few things from the Pokestops – you know, as souvenirs. We also had awesome strawberry shortcake from a little stand by the Space Needle – so yummy! Here are some photos of other things in Seattle Center – Museum of Pop Culture, Olympic Iliad Sculpture, and Pokemon Go Oasis area,
We were very excited when it was our turn to go up in the Space Needle in the glass elevators. On the way up, we got a nice view of Seattle Center and on the way down we got to look out over Puget Sound. We enjoyed seeing Seattle and it’s surrounding area from up so high – we even got our first views of Mount Rainier. We were very brave and even stood on a bench in front of the glass for photos. And looked straight town through the glass floor in the rotating lower floor (there are only three pairs of feet because our oldest is not a fan of heights). It was a pretty cool experience.
After a brief stop in the gift shop, we headed to the Chihuly Gardens and Glass. It is the 4th place we have seen Chihuly’s work on display, so we knew that we are going to love it. And we did! I think my favorite is the ceiling sculpture in the glass house. We also loved the large blue sculpture that looks like water and the boats. Here are some favorite shots.
After another gift shop visit, we were on our way to dinner. Our tour guide on our first day had recommended a sushi place, so we headed to Umi Sake House for the best happy hour in Seattle. We really did enjoy it immensely – we also had some dumplings and tempura shrimp and veggies, but we were really hungry…
After that, we just did some walking back to our hotel. I am going to leave you with a few photos from around Seattle – it really has some beautiful views. Here is the view of the city from the ferry pier, the ferry arriving with our daughter’s friend, Pike Place Market, Daily Dozen Donuts (so yummy!!), Chief Seattle (not really his name, but as close as the early settlers could get), and the sunset from the ferry pier.
I have 5 more Seattle adventures to write about here, so stay tuned! Have you ever been to Seattle Center? Which museums/sites did you visit? Let me know in the comments. 🙂