Fall Foliage – New York’s Route 97

While away in the Catskills this weekend, I wanted to take advantage of the time of year and check out the beautiful fall foliage. I wasn’t sure where the best driving views would be, so I Googled and found out that the road right down the block from my house was listed as having a great view! Lucky me!

Instead of just taking a scenic drive, we decided to take the road less traveled home and drove down Route 97 from Hankins to Port Jervis to enjoy the views along the way. What’s great about the drive is that there are several roadside pull-offs with great views.

The foliage this year seems a bit “off”. Some maps say we are past peak, others say we are at peak. I just was happy to not have missed it altogether.

Here are a few shots (The colors were much better in person. The sun was in a bad position for well-lit shots, but you’ll get the gist):

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Adventures in Hiking – Hoffman Park (aka ticks ticks and more ticks!)

Hiking in Hoffman Park will go down in history as the first hike I have done where I never once felt like I was lost! Woohoo! Perhaps I am making progress…..or perhaps the trails were so worn and wide and obvious that I couldn’t help but stay on track.2014-10-15 10.57.55

By staying on track, I mean wandering around, missing the turns I was supposed to make, etc. So I guess technically I was off the hiking trail pathway that was listed in Hiking with Dogs, New Jersey. In any case, the hike was a really nice, non-taxing walk, albeit a bit boring. Aside from a few tiny lakes, some hawks, one lone deer and a caterpillar, I didn’t really see anything too interesting. I did purposely veer off the trail from the book since the map posted online pointed out the other trails in between were easily accessible and wouldn’t add much mileage to the hike. The fall foliage was quite pretty to look at though, so I think the hike was worth the time.2014-10-15 11.03.22 2014-10-15 12.13.46.

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Oh! What I did see was a tick on Mimi that I was able to swat off and we were lucky enough to take at least one giant tick home on Eli that I found the next day. Removing that was a huge task. It was stuck on his ear so deeply that I really had to yank it out. I had to enlist the help of a friend for moral support as the ear was so red and inflamed that I was nervous and needed an assist!

It didn’t help that I think Eli had a reaction to the flea and tick treatment I gave him the night before after the hike. He was shaking and breathing weird and was basically glued to my side the whole day.

I guess the lesson learned from this hike was do not stray from the path like I did and take the tick warning signs very seriously. Also make sure that your dogs are up to date on their lyme vaccine and flea/tick treatments.  PS. find one that your dog does not have an adverse reaction to.

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Perhaps it’s really the bat trail?

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Microchips – may be the only way to find your lost pet!

Recently, I started volunteering at my local animal shelter. I have learned many things – like how much work goes into caring for these animals. Their cages are constantly cleaned, they are walked at least three times per day, fed twice a day, medicine given, vet visits, socialization, etc. I also learned that they don’t do anything to help you find your lost animal.

In my mind, I envisioned that if a shelter receives an animal that was found as a stray, it would post it up on its website, send out a notice to local vets, and post on a lost pet page. They do none of this! Instead, they hold your animal for 7 days and then release it to be adopted.

I asked how a person is supposed to find their pet as I didn’t even know this shelter existed up until a few weeks ago. I was told that when you lose your pet, you should go to the police station and tell them about your pet, and they should give you the information of the shelter that should have picked it up if it was found on the street. Now I find this to be ridiculous. What if your pet wandered over to the other town? What if it was picked up by someone in a car and driven to their local shelter?

There has to be a better way. I realize everyone is overwhelmed but at my orientation, there were two other people who offered to do office work for the shelter. Couldn’t these people take on the task of getting the word out there that an animal was picked up?

I am going to try to get this process improved at my shelter, but if it’s not happening there, I’m guessing that it is not happening at many other shelters around the country.

The bottom line is get your pet microchipped! It may be the only way to get your pet returned to you if it goes missing 😦

stray bar microchip

Adventures in Hiking – Paw Pad Protection

Well, if you have been following my blog, you know that I only go hiking with my two Chihuahuas, Eli and Mimi. This weekend I learned that I am a bad mommy. This is what happened to my poor little girl!

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See the pink pad at the right? 😦

Yes, the black protective covering on her paw is MISSING! Now, she is not limping and doesn’t seem to be in pain. I am able to touch it without her pulling away (at least no more than when she pulls away because she thinks I’m going to clip her nails!)

I inspected the rest of her paws and they are all looking pretty ragged. I put some neosporin on the bare pad and a bandaid around her foot to help aid healing. She is good and does not bite on the bandage.

I also have purchased a paw protector salve that should help healing and also will give her protection against the elements outdoors. I will use this from now on when we go hiking as her paws obviously cannot take the wear and tear of so many miles!

My girl is delicate. I have to remember to treat her that way!

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So remember, when you are out and about with your pups, be sure to inspect their paws on a regular basis. They only get to wear one pair of shoes for life. (Well, unless they actually let you put shoes on them!)

Adventures in Hiking – Swartswood Spring Lake Trail

In the book 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles of New York City, I found a hike for Swartswood Spring Lake Trail in Newton, NJ. It was said to be a quick and easy 3.8 mile hike with lots of things to see – like bears and foxes – neither of which I hoped to see.

Initially, I accidentally passed the parking lot for the hike, so I continued into the parking lot for the lake instead. I decided to quickly check that out and noticed the restrooms, picnic area and, of course, the lake….. Seems like a nice place to spend a day.

I turned back and went to the correct parking lot. There was a K-9 cop car there already but no one else. I parked and continued on my way. The trail began as a wide and distinct trail with informational kiosks along the way. There wasn’t much to see along the first leg of the trail except for a completely dry pond, and it soon ended with a road block. At this point, I got very confused and headed in the wrong direction along the street to the right of the path.

I wandered for a while down the road checking out the large beautiful houses. I eventually realized this could not be the correct way, so I turned back, but I was fortunate to see a large family of deer grazing on the front lawn of a McMansion. I again made a wrong turn as I headed down another road, but I realized my mistake sooner this time. I only had one road left to turn onto, so I figured third time’s a charm! I walked along this road for a bit but still didn’t see a trail. After dodging a car, I finally saw a path through the trees to my left. I shuffled down a small embankment and was finally on the correct trail where I could follow along in the book.

First interesting thing I saw

First interesting thing I saw

After my bad start, I should have known that the hike was going to be a fail. Once I knew I was heading in the right direction, I felt better about the hike; however, I shouldn’t have gotten so confident. For quite a while, I followed the directions in the book. White trail, red trail, green trail, blue trail, back to the red trail……….. that’s where I lost it. The book neglects to mention that the Y that they want you to find is basically right across from the end of the blue trail. I turned right and completely missed it. I ended up back on a trail I had already walked (fortunately I had purposely taken a detour earlier and checked out Spring Lake, so I was familiar with the area). I stumbled back around Spring Lake at the wrong section, dragging my dogs through high brush because I was afraid the trail was just covered over.

At this point, I started to get stressed and had to stop and think about next steps – what if I just avoided the Y, where would I end up? The red trail! Always the red trail! Fortunately, I was using my Endomondo app so I was able to compare where I already walked with the trail in the book. I backtracked to the blue trail and started over. I actually found the Y this time and checked it out but didn’t really enjoy it, because, at this point, I was ready for this hike to be over!

Spring Lake

Spring Lake

I think this is Frog Pond, but maybe not.

I think this is Spring Lake too, but maybe not.

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Anyway, the red trail did lead me past Frog Pond which just looked like a high grass field. I did have to hop over a tree trunk at some point, but that was about all that was interesting on any of this trail. I saw some squirrels and chipmunks…didn’t even see any interesting birds. Oh and there was a turtle on a rock in Spring Lake. Woo hoo!

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I thought these trees were kind of cool.

By the end of the hike, we had walked over 6 miles instead of the 3.8 miles we were supposed to walk. I did learn a valuable lesson – if there is an available bathroom, use it before you start hiking. OR just carry tissue and do your biz the old fashion way, but don’t spend the whole hike thinking about whether or not you really have to pee!  🙂

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Adventures in Hiking – Schooley’s Mountain – Patriots’ Path

Recently I hiked Schooley’s Mountain in Morris County, New Jersey (#16 in the book Hiking New Jersey). Again, I was reminded how bad of a hiker I am. Luckily, my directional instincts are pretty good, but I spent a bunch of the hike feeling lost. It’s definitely time to invest in a compass!

Figured seeing this sign meant I went the wrong way!

Figured seeing this sign meant I went the wrong way!

My journey started off well. I found the parking lot after adjusting the GPS a bit. I was the only one there as usual. I left the car and headed across the street to Patriots’ Path. The trail was narrow but clear except for a few thorny stalks.

There were signs about hunting all over the place. Of course, I was wearing camo colors so I was ready to get accidentally hit with a bow at any moment.

There were signs about hunting all over the place. Of course, I was wearing camo colors so I was ready to get accidentally hit with a bow at any moment.

I made a few accidental detours while trying to ensure I was still on the right trail but ultimately, I made it to another parking lot where there were benches and picnic tables along with bathrooms.

The next part of the trail threw me off a bit as there wasn’t a sign pointing down to the lake. Fortunately, a couple of fishermen were walking back to their car so I deduced that the lake must be in the direction they were coming from. Sometimes I am just so smart! 🙂

I headed down the path hoping it was the right way as it was all downhill, and I really didn’t want to walk back up again. Sure enough, the lake quickly came into view. Unfortunately, the directions then called for me to cross a floating bridge. Bridges, me and dogs do not get along but the bridge looked wide enough and there were no waves or anything since it was a lake so I figured it wouldn’t be too bad. But wait! Nothing is ever easy for me. There was a 5-sided piece of wood blocking off the bridge. Just then a couple walked by. I called out to them and they came over. I asked them if they ever saw the bridge closed. They hadn’t, so the guy decided to cross over the bridge to ensure it was safe for me to do so. Isn’t that awesome?

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While he was crossing the bridge, his girlfriend was telling me about a cool hike where waterfalls were visible, but she didn’t think it would be good for me as my dogs were small and probably couldn’t do it. Well, lo and behold, the trail had me cross back over another bridge at the top of the dam a couple of minutes later and I had to do the rock scramble with the pups anyway!

This is the dam that I used to cross back over the lake.

This is the dam that I used to cross back over the lake.

Thankfully she had warned me about what the trail looked like, because I don’t know if I would have braved it without speaking to her first. On this same section of path you lose the trail markers again. While I was scrambling down rocks on my booty with Mimi in her pouch and Eli either scrambling along or in my arms, I realized that I was once again lost……but now I was lost at the bottom of a mountain. (Okay, to be fair, it would have been easy to backtrack – just follow the water, but I felt really lost!)

Booty crawling rocks!

Booty crawling rocks!

Rocky terrain by the water

Rocky terrain by the water

 

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Fortunately, the book gives decent descriptions of the trail so I was able to wander a bit and find the right way to get back up the hill. For a while, the trail goes uphill which meant it was a good time to stop and snack.  Soon we continued on our way and ran into our buddies again. Once again, they were extremely helpful. They called out to me from a ledge and insisted I check out the view. The guy even offered to hold the barking dogs for me so I didn’t have to worry they would fall over (and no, I didn’t think they would steal my dogs, lol). The view was very nice and I definitely would have missed it had I not run into them.

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We didn’t stay long because at that point I was ready for the hike to be over. Unfortunately, the trail markers were not always clear on the way down, but it was easier to follow since I knew I just had to get back down the mountain.

Overall, I thought this was a nice hike and the park overall seems like a nice place to spend a day.

19 Struggles Of Having An Outgoing Personality But Actually Being Introverted

19 Struggles Of Having An Outgoing Personality But Actually Being Introverted.

 

I feel like the person who wrote the blog above went into my head and took the words out – obviously more eloquently than I could have done. So many of the points he lists apply to me. I had an ex who just didn’t get it……. why could I be so outgoing at times, but so shy at others? Thankfully I realized it was his issue and not mine 🙂

Thanks to the author for reading my mind and doing the work of writing a blog about it for me 🙂

Mimi and Milo – A match made in heaven – Interspecies love

Two years ago this month, I became mom to an interesting couple of animals – Mimi the dog and Milo the cat. However, their story started 5 months before I even came into the picture. You see, I belong to a Chihuahua meetup group that also assists in rescuing Chihuahuas in need. A Facebook post by Ada Nieves about a Chihuahua and kitten that needed a home caught my eye. My family already consisted of two 12 year old cats – one with chronic sinusitis and the other an anti-social 22 pounder, a 5 year old Chihuahua and an 18 year old turtle. Most people would think my house was full, but I knew there was a piece missing. I debated on adopting a playmate for the dog or a social cat for my lonely cat but was having trouble deciding. When I read Ada’s post, I thought that it may be the answer to my problem. I could help keep the pair together and finally stop worrying about making the wrong choice.

The story of why Mimi and Milo needed to stay together is more than just animals getting along. Mimi had become a surrogate mother for Milo (then named Rover). I will start from the beginning…..

In the Spring of 2012, a lady named Jen took in two little furbabies as she is known to do; however, this time she didn’t realize what an adventure she was setting out on. Mimi was taken in by Jen and her husband after her original mom became critically ill while Mimi was pregnant and was no longer able to care for her. She had a c-section because she only had one puppy in the womb, and unfortunately her puppy was not born alive. The week before they brought Mimi home, Rover was brought into her sister’s grooming salon by a man who said his Mastiffs brought him the kitten! Rover barely had his eyes open, so they hand-fed him until the next week when Mimi arrived. Mimi seemed very depressed, so they offered her the tiny kitten. It was instant love – proven when she started to nurse him. Rover played so gently with her and their bond was amazing…they truly loved each other. It was then that Jen knew that this pair could never be separated. She set on a quest to find them a furever home. Through Ada, she searched high and low to find them the perfect placement.

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First pic of Mimi and Milo together

Baby Milo

Baby Milo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, Mimi’s troubles were far from over. Later during her spay surgery in August, she developed a hernia along her spay incision, so yet another surgery was required. She actually developed an additional hernia right after I adopted her and needed another surgery then as well – that’s 3 surgeries in one month if you’re counting!

Anyway, while Mimi healed from the first hernia surgery, Jen and I had many conversations to make sure my home was the right one for Mimi and Rover. Fortunately for me, she thought we would fit well together, and I was able to complete my furry family! We each drove many hours to meet halfway between our homes and ended up meeting in a McDonald’s parking lot! Yup… I’m lovin’ it!

When I finally arrived back home, I was worried about how they would adapt to their new surroundings and siblings and vice versa but everyone tolerated each other well right from the start. I could tell that Mimi and Milo (Rover was a good name for the tough guy at the beginning but now he was a mush and needed a mushy name like Milo!) were completely bonded and inseparable. They would sleep in the same bed and many nights I was woken up by the sounds of Milo still nursing on Mimi – 5 months later!

It’s two years later, and their bond is as strong as ever. Milo is now twice as big as Mimi, but he plays with her like they are the same size. Mimi and Milo have completely settled into their new digs. Milo has taken his place as the bratty little brother and chases around the older cats, and Mimi has taught her Chihuahua brother how to be a nicer guy.  In Jen’s words: Milo is like the perfect mix of cat and dog, and Mimi is just a ray of sunshine.


Mimi is now a therapy dog bringing smiles to residents of physical rehabilitation centers, and Milo helps raise money for animal charities by starring in the annual cat fashion show at the Algonquin Hotel in New York City.

 Bonus pictures!

They love to cuddle and sleep near each other.

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I love this pic of them sleeping with Milo's feet on Mimi's face!

I love this pic of them sleeping with Milo’s feet on Mimi’s face!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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4 out of 5 of the furry zoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonus videos!

Adventures in Hiking – Bouchoux Trail (Jensen’s Ledges) – Lordville, NY

Labor day weekend is always bittersweet. It’s a long weekend away from work, filled with friends and activities, but it also means the summer is coming to an end. For this year’s weekend, I decided to enjoy the time by going on a quick hike a few miles from my home in Upstate New York.

To get to the Bouchoux Trail (Jensen’s Ledges) (I don’t believe those GPS coordinates are correct by the way as they send you to Pennsylvania.) travel on Route 97 north of Long Eddy and South of Hancock, turn at the Lordville sign onto Lordville Road. Take the road to the T-intersection where you will see an old white building with separate entrances for ladies and gents, then turn left. You will see a bridge on your right side and a dead end sign in front of you. Go straight onto that dead end road (Bouchouxville Road). Travel to the end where you will find the trailhead. Along this road, you will see interesting sights like houses – both run down and beautiful and hunters with guns and bows & arrows. Also be prepared for speeding cars even though there is barely space for two cars on the road. You may even encounter a ghost (see details on Lordville at the end of this blog).

The official trails are on private property but open to the public. There are two trails – the one that leads up to the ledges and another that leads down to the river. Both are clear and defined and have security cameras, so behave yourselves! On the river trail, there’s even a picnic bench and bbq which I assume belongs to the property owner and should not be used. The river trail splits into two where you can climb up to the railroad tracks and down the other side through a cut path in the bushes or you can walk under the tracks through the water to the rocky entrance to the Delaware. Climbing up to the tracks will give you a beautiful panoramic view of the river and fields below.

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The river trail is a great walk for people steady on their feet. You will encounter slippery rocks in the river or a steep ascent and descent if you go over the tracks, but a five month pregnant woman had no trouble maneuvering through. It would also be a nice place to sit on some rocks and watch the boats go by.

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The more difficult trail is the one up to the ledges. It has a pretty steep ascent right at the beginning and it feels uphill most of the way. I have gone to the top twice and have always had to take a break ¾ of the way through. Working to get to the top is worth it. The views are beautiful and the formations that have been created are awesome. There is also a waterfall and great place to sit and have a picnic. (Note the pictures below were taken in October 2013.)

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The town of Lordville also has its own interesting points. When we were leaving Bouchouxville Road, I noticed a mannequin in the top floor window of the house near the corner. It was spooky and eerie, but it made me think that perhaps there was more to Lordville’s story than first appears. When driving through Lordville, it seems like perhaps it is a hippie town with peace signs and artwork; however, the story goes much deeper. I found this Tumblr site where I learned that there is a documentary of Lordville and a history of ghost encounters. Being in Lordville gives you the feeling that you are in a bit of a time warp. One day I hope to explore it further.

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Adventures in Hiking – The Princeton Woods – Princeton Battlefield State Park

On an overcast Friday in August, I traveled an hour to hike The Princeton Woods – Princeton Battlefield State Park – Hike #24 in the book Hiking New Jersey. I am history-challenged so I had no idea that there was a battle between the British and George Washington’s army. This made this hike doubly interesting since I was able to learn something along the way

This hike was one of the best and easiest hikes I have ever done. There were no slopes, trails were wide, it was quiet and peaceful, saw deer, frogs, birds, grasshoppers, and only encountered two other people along the way. Also, there was a very clean bathroom at the beginning of the trail by the Thomas Clarke House’s shed!

The only negative was that trails are not clearly marked at all so I spent most of the time feeling lost and a bit stressed that I was wandering around aimlessly and would never find my way back to civilization.

You start the hike by walking behind the Thomas Clarke House. You will find the trail behind the circular field (on the right side). Right away you will see that the trail is wide and well-maintained. 2014-08-22 12.29.38

You will also notice no signage or tree markings. In the book, it says things like “You will arrive at the Trolley Track Trail.” Um, says who?? There are no signs stating that. There must be an invisible map somewhere that I am not privy to.

You will quickly notice while traveling along these pathways that there are many intersections not mentioned in the book. As I was trying to follow the directions, I attempted to stay on the trail they describe but had to guess at which way to turn many times. At the beginning the guesses were logical (turn right to go further into the trees instead of turning left to head back to the parking lot). However, once you were deeper into the hike, it was very difficult to figure out which way was the correct way to go.

Anyway, the first bit of wildlife I spotted was only about 2 minutes into the hike. I saw some grass on the path move and found this little guy. 2014-08-22 12.35.35

Soon after I reached the five-point intersection and a huge open field. I took a few steps forward to view the field and spotted this group of friends. They stood there watching me until I walked away.

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Finding the right trail to continue on my way was a matter of luck. I suppose I should invest in a compass since directions are sometimes in the form of “turn north”. I try to base cardinal directions on the placement of the sun but when the sun is high in the sky, that becomes quite difficult! I chose the trail directly to the left of the field which if you count the five points clockwise from where you reach them with the trail you are standing on as 1, it would be number 3, the field would be number 4.

 As I continued down the trail, I met this guy. 2014-08-22 13.03.32

Further along that path, I found the hanging bridge and attempted to cross it with Mimi in her pouch and Eli leading the way. Unfortunately, the bridge was a real swinger and its walkway leaned into the river so we turned around about a third of the way in. I’m sure most people would be thrilled to hear if Eli took a dive off the bridge into the river, but I didn’t want him to meet his maker that day.

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We also stopped for a snack and a quick rest.

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So psyched to see this!

The next instructions were to turn right onto the Pipeline Trail (again, why they are named, I don’t know). This was where I saw the only two tree markers on the entire trail. Information is that the trail is “a real wide red-shale lane”. Well, the beginning of the trail is overgrown with grass, so again, I wasn’t sure if I was making the right choice of trail picks.

The next few directions of the hike are really unclear. I made a wrong turn but fortunately it led to a dead end so I was able to backtrack. It was during this section that I finally heard a person in the distance. I was more confident now that I knew I was at least near civilization and at the very least could walk on a road back to the car if need be.

While I was walking on the trail feeling lost, I came upon another intersection. I stopped to read the directions and finally figured out that I was indeed on the correct trail and was at the 2.2 mile direction – cross through the trees over some boards and pass through a red barn and a house – talk about not obvious! 2014-08-22 13.43.25

This area where some of the greatest minds walked is a good place to stop at the picnic table and take a break.

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Then it’s back to the trail! Entering back in at mailbox 330, the trail is wide and obvious. You are now at the final leg of the hike, closing your circle and are very close to the parking lot (but can’t see it). Once you join the bike path, you will be in a very pretty flowered field – the Princeton Battlefield.

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 You should definitely head across the field (perhaps stopping at the lone bench to enjoy the beauty around you) and explore the Colonnade across the street. This area reminds you of the seriousness of the events that occurred on that land and makes you stop and think.

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I then crossed the street again at the crosswalk (a nice truck even did as he was supposed to and stopped to wait for me to cross!) It was then that I explored the area in front of the Thomas Clarke house and read the kiosks – very informative and interesting!

I want to go back to this area one day soon and explore the side trails….now that I know that you are never very far from civilization, and I won’t get lost forever! I also want to brave the hanging bridge and go explore the other side (with Eli in his pouch so he doesn’t fall into the water – sorry to disappoint!)

Here are a few bonus shots from the day.

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What is this thing growing on the tree? It almost wrapped all the way around

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Pond on the last leg

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Eli enjoyed the hike as well!

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A heart leaf!

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I always want to eat the berries!

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Towards the end of the hike, there were several benches to sit on.

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Institute for Advanced Study

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Lost Mimi in the grass at some point

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Butterfly was not even scared of us walking by

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Someone drew a heart!

Not another canker sore!!!!!!!!

To all the people out there including my hygienist who claim that canker sores are caused by a virus….. I don’t believe you!  There are many conflicting reports on the Internet debating on what causes canker sores. Well, I know what causes them for me. .  Tomato sauce and other acidic foods when eaten in high quantities. If I brush my teeth too hard or slip and scratch my gums when I bite into something, that causes one as well.

Once you know your canker sore triggers, you can start working on ways to prevent them. If prevention fails and you get that very painful ulcer, you may want to try swishing tea tree oil around in your mouth. I have found this actually does help speed up the healing process. There is also a special mouth sore mouthwash by Colgate called Peroxyl – Mouth Sore Rinse. It’s active ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, but it tastes better than swishing straight up hydrogen peroxide – yuck!

Things that cover the sore like Colgate’s Orabase (it’s a gritty paste) are useful for overnight healing. It only really helps when you are sleeping. Otherwise, your saliva quickly washes away the product. I’ve also tried Canker-X by G-U-M which is a gel, but I find it doesn’t last as long as Orabase. When using these types of products, be sure to dry the area first with a clean cloth soi the product can adhere better.

Overall, time is what will heal this suckers but it sure would be nice to avoid them in the first place!

canker sore

Adventures in Hiking – The Pequannock Highlands – Silas Condict County Park

I borrowed the book Hiking New Jersey from my friend. It lists 50 of NJ’s greatest hiking adventures. I had been having trouble finding good detailed information online for hikes nearby. This book is pretty good. It lists where the hike is, distance, difficulty, if dogs are allowed, fees and what the trail is like. It also gives a description of the hike and also gives distance details on what you will see at each point and where to continue the trail.

The problem with today’s hike in Silas Condict County Park (hike # 14 in the book) was that I thought I was solely following the white trail but I ended up on the red trail as well. I also couldn’t find the viewpoint at the end of the red trail so that was disappointing. My mileage on the hike was around 2.75 miles so I feel I was close to finding the viewpoint but close is not good enough!

Because I was walking with my Chihuahuas, I ended up doing a 34 minute mile which is really slow, but because of all the ascents, I can’t say I would have done it much faster without them. But hey! Let’s just blame them for my slowness and not the fact that I’m really out of shape!

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Start of white trail

The hike starts out pretty clear. You park in the first parking lot on the left and walk into the parking lot of a maintenance yard. Even though the trail is not marked with a sign, the trail is wide and clear to the right of the building.

 

 

 

 

If you follow along the directions in the book, they mention a viewpoint to the left .3 miles into the trail. Perhaps this has a better view in the fall when the trees have lost their leaves. All I could see were treetops.

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Viewpoint?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next left leads to a picnic table and then a bench that overlooks the lake (when trees have no leaves). It was a nice spot for me to stop and give the dogs some water and a snack.

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The trail continues on from there until you hit a large parking lot. From here, you just follow the parking lot around to the left, heading in the direction of the lake. Here is where I lost the white trail. I followed the instructions to head towards the ballfield and saw another wide, clear trail right by center field. Luckily, no one was playing ball that day or I may have gotten hit by a home run!

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Large open picnic area behind the casino/stone building

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Lake view from the other side of the casino

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is where I got confused. Upon entering this trail, you see the colors on the trees have now changed to red. In my limited hiking knowledge I felt like I remembered that if trails were overlapping, they would have both colors on the trees, but alas I forged ahead anyway since the book seemed to point me in that direction.

Stopped to spy on a chipmunk having lunch

Stopped to spy on a chipmunk having lunch

 

While on this section of the hike, I didn’t see any good views but did enjoy a quiet walk interrupted by only a few other people (It was a Tuesday.) I decided to turn around when I reached another large parking lot where I felt very lost and couldn’t figure out which direction to head. I finally decided to walk through the picnic area and ended up back on the trail I took to the parking lot. At least I knew that if I kept walking on that trail, I would eventually end up back at the car!

Eli couldn't miss out on the treats so he stuck his head in the slats of a bench to grab one

Eli couldn’t miss out on the treats so he stuck his head in the slats of a bench to grab one

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I arrived back at the ballfield, I decided to walk on the side of the lake to see where that led. Lo and behold, there was the white trail! However, the map and markers showed that it was the end (or beginning) of the white trail. Just past the map was a locked gate, so I don’t know if the white trail used to continue around the lake but that area is now off-limits (although the fence is pushed down in one part, so if you really want to enter, you can hop it.)

Map by the locked gate

Map by the locked gate

There are a couple of nice places to sit and look at the lake here so it’s worth the detour.

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 On the way back to the car, I stayed to the left of the trail and didn’t detour to the picnic table or bench. The walk back was much quicker as it was mostly downhill.

Overall, this is a nice short hike, mostly shaded and fairly flat. My dogs were pooped by the end even though we stopped a lot. It would be good to pack a lunch and enjoy one of the many picnic areas or if they are taken (there were signs for reservations for each), just lay a blanket on the grass and do it old school! There are also restrooms by the casino by the lake and plenty of parking lots scattered throughout the park.

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This is the trail I took today – tracked by my Endomondo app.

View of full hike and surrounding area

View of full hike and surrounding area

View of red trail

View of red trail

View of beginning/end of hike, including detour to side of lake

View of beginning/end of hike, including detour to side of lake

Confessions from a former stalker

Have you ever found someone from your past on the Internet? Or, have they ever just randomly popped back into your life? Is it ever a good experience?

For me, there is maybe one person that I’ve reconnected with over the years (thanks, Facebook!) that I feel is a good addition to my life. Mostly, if I read someone’s profile or hear about them through the grapevine, my reaction is not a good one. Lots of times people don’t turn out to be the people that you thought they would be.

When looking up (or stalking) an ex, what do you want to find? Even if you are just curious about a person and don’t want to be with them, the outcome is rarely ideal. If they are with someone new and that person seems great, you wonder how a loser snagged a winner. If they are alone and you wanted them to truly have a nice life, then you feel bad.

If you reunite with someone who wasn’t very nice to you in school and find out that they live a perfect life, are you the bigger person and feel happy for them? Or, are you frustrated at the lack of karma in life? If you are unhappy that they are living a great life, do you then feel upset with yourself that you aren’t the bigger person?

See! There is just no way for you to be happy by stalking people. So stop! Right now! Okay, I’m kidding; go ahead and Google that ex. At the very least you can be happy that you don’t have to deal with any of his/her crap anymore 🙂

ex coffee

Spontaneous pneumothorax? What the heck is that?

In 1998, three months before my 21st birthday, I was driving home from work and felt a sharp pain in my back. Because I figured it was a pulled muscle, I popped a bunch of Advil, had a neighbor try to beat my back to loosen the muscle and continued on my way to a couple of parties (It was Christmastime after all!). All night, the pain remained but being young and stupid, I tried to drink it away. Only after arriving home and laying down in bed did I realize there may be an actual problem…..I couldn’t breathe. Off to the hospital I went!

Turns out when you go to the emergency room and are having trouble breathing, they rush you into triage. I didn’t even have to fill out my paperwork! After a quick check of my vitals, I got moved into the main ER where they took x-rays and only then did they tell me that I had a collapsed lung. Well, that sure was a surprise! There was a ton of fluid sitting in the outside cavity of my lung. Turns out when I laid down, the shift of my body caused the fluid that was sitting outside of my lung to move in a way that no longer allowed air to enter. Who knew!

Because I was under 21 and the hospital was overrun with cases of the flu, I was admitted to the pediatric unit which was a huge blessing. I got very personalized care with great nurses. I even got to make Christmas decorations for the hospital!

So long story short, that was the beginning of many years of dealing with a bum lung. My first surgery was a chest tube right there in the emergency room. I wasn’t at a teaching hospital, yet I had a bunch of people in the room, just to watch – even my dad watched by peeking around the curtain. I was in the hospital for a couple of weeks but the lung wasn’t properly reinflating. The doctor removed the tube so that I could go home for Christmas, but in the process, air got into the hole in my chest and made the situation worse. (I actually heard and felt the air enter my body.) They had me come in once a week to see if it would resolve itself, but it didn’t. Back to the hospital I went! My second stay involved another chest tube and then thoracoscopy, bleb resection, and talc pleurodesis.

During this three week stint in the hospital, I also developed three blot clots in my leg (due to being on the Depo Provera birth control shot and constant bed rest) which led to lots of doses of heparin and blood being drawn several times a day. This caused my veins to explode and once the tube full of blood even exploded. (Was quite a site – nurse, me, wall, floor all covered in blood. Too bad I didn’t get pics!)

Finally, all my issues were resolved, and I was sent home on a coumadin regimen for the next six months.

I wish that was where my story ended. Unfortunately, a few years later (2002) while at work, I felt that now familiar pain in my back again. A co-worker drove me to the hospital emergency room where they took an x-ray of my chest and sent me home because the lung was only 10% deflated. My previous pulmonologist and cardio thoracic surgeon had stopped practising, so I had begun seeing a new pulmonologist near my job after that. A few months later, I felt the pain again while at work, so I went to see him and sure enough my lung had collapsed – significantly this time. He made arrangements for me to meet a surgeon at a hospital closer to my house. This time I felt like a pro so I drove all the way home, took a shower and packed a bag, grabbed my mom and off to the emergency room we went! (Going to the hospital via the ER is a way around having to schedule surgery, so even though my new surgeon was now waiting for me at the hospital, I still had to be admitted via the ER.)

This time I also had my chest tube inserted in the ER but while my mother was allowed to stay in for the procedure, she chose to leave the room anyway (big baby!).  After several days, the doctor decided that it would be a good idea to do more surgery to fix what he thought was a botched job the first time around (lots of staples and old school techniques, which left a lot of scarring). He removed the staples and performed a segmentectomy (part of the top lobe of my right lung was removed).  He swore that lung would never collapse again. Well, he was wrong!

I think I’ve had at least two collapses since that last surgery. A year or so later (2003-ish) my lung collapsed while I was at work at lunch with some friends. I just said “Ouch, my lung just collapsed.” and went back to eating. Took a couple of days off, then went back to work.

After that last surgery, I decided to not go to the hospital any more for my collapses. They seem to resolve themselves within 10 days, and then I can move on with my life.

Over the years, treatment for spontaneous pneumothorax has improved. Many years ago, I met someone who had the same condition but had to have his entire chest sliced open and was left with a huge scar that looked like a magician had tried to saw him in half (I Googled to share this, but the images were too gross to include here. Feel free to Google and see for yourself!) I am fortunate to only have these tiny scars.

View of the right side of my back / slight side angle

View of the right side of my back / slight side angle

Even though it has been several years since my last collapse, every time I feel a twinge in that area, I pause to decipher what it going on. Because it has been so long, if I ever do feel that all familiar pain, I may have to give in and head back to the ER. Hope I never see you there!

 

I see my dead cat

I see my dead cat. …. yes,  that is an odd and creepy statement. However, I believe it to be true.  Let me back up. ….. 2.5 years ago I was faced with whether or not to put my cat Simon to sleep. He had been battling thyroid issues for a long time, and there came a time where nothing I did for him improved his quality of life. I had to make the difficult decision to end his life. Even now as I write this, I cry for him and for my loss. You can read about his struggles here

Happy Simon!

Happy Simon!

But alas the point of this blog is twofold. The day I put Simon to sleep was one of the hardest in my life. I knew I was doing the right thing. I believe Simon agreed. It didn’t make it any easier. I was fortunate to have my then boyfriend with me to drive us to the vet.  I had one last chat with the vet to confirm we had tried everything and then we went into the back room.

The room was sterile and cold.  He took Simon from me and laid him on the table. He was given a sedative so he wouldn’t be scared. Simon just laid there, calm and still. I said my goodbyes and let the vet do his job. I stayed with him the whole time and knew it was over when his eyes glazed over.

It was so quick and I’m told painless. …. at least for Simon. I sobbed and sobbed and had to leave the boyfriend with my credit card to pay the bill.  I sat in the car and cried. …I got home and cried. ..All day I just sat in my lonely house where Simon used to be happy and free. Well I guess he was then in a new place to be happy and free.

But this is where I come to the second part of my story.

As I  sat on the couch mourning my loss, I heard a sound at the window. It was a mourning dove on the fire escape. I had never seen one there before and this one just stayed watching me singing its song.

First sighting of the new Simon

First sighting of the new Simon

Now you don’t believe me, but I really feel that Simon’s spirit was in that bird. It gave me comfort when I most needed it and has continued to comfort me to this day.

Doves have continued to perch on the fire escape. …. sometimes more than one at a time. I learned that they are common in this area, but I never saw one before that day.

The birds sit outside my window even though my dogs bark and the cats sit and watch them. I just know that Simon sends these birds.

Go ahead. ….. think I’m crazy. ….. but I know I’m right.

Simon bird

 

Let’s make a beer cake!

One day last summer, I was shopping at a flea market and found this awesome cake mold of a beer mug. Seriously….how cool is that!? Until now, I haven’t had an opportunity to use it. Yeah yeah, I realize many of you would make a beer cake every week, but I felt it deserved to be unveiled at a special occasion. Like 4th of July!

beer mold

 

You can see from my previous Jello post that I was not having a lot of luck in the creative foods department, but I decided to plow through and make my beer cake anyway.

Making the yellow cake mix was easy….open the box and follow directions. Done! The cake came out of the oven a bit pyramid-y but when I flipped it over, it smoothed out just fine and wasn’t wobbly.

beer before

 

Next was the icing problem. Have you ever realized they don’t sell beer colored frosting? Well, it turns out I can’t make beer colored frosting either. I couldn’t find food coloring in the store, so I thought chocolate and buttercream would do the trick for a dark lager look. Well, you decide for yourself, but I don’t think I succeeded. The top foam is just straight buttercream icing from a can applied with a spoon; the bottom markings are chocolate icing applied with a knife – yeah, you should use a piping tool instead!

beer done

Overall, I think the cake is okay enough and for the crowd I’m serving it to, it’s fine. You might want to take a bit of extra time to find that food coloring and use the piping tool.

Happy Independence Day!

 

Stained glass Jello for 4th of July – Great idea! ……… or is it?

Any holiday that includes BBQ and drinking is a great day for me. Throw in fireworks and you’ve got yourself a party! So when my friend decided to host a potluck Independence Day Party, I was beyond excited. What would I make? Should I try to be creative? Sure! Why not!

Well……I should have realized that I am not that creative, but alas I have the Internet so I hunted. I was very happy to find this post  that shows not only how to make stained glass jello but points out that you can do it in patriotic colors!

I should have known that it wouldn’t be as easy as it looked. I went and bought the ingredients; I made the jellos (in four 8 inch square pans because that’s all I had); I waited for them to chill.  Tick tock!

jello before

 

After 4 hours had passed, I realized I should start on the second half of the process. I made the gelatin mix (had to look up what jello blooming meant) and waited for it to chill. It didn’t say how long to wait to chill so I put it in the fridge……and promptly forgot about it. An hour later I remembered and had to smash up the now super chilled gelatin.

I attempted to cut my colored jello into shapes but it just became mushy slops. I put the kind of sort of cut jello in the larger pan and made sure the red and blue were spread around.

jello blocks

 

I added the gelatin mixture to the top and tossed it back in the fridge overnight. (Imagine the picture above with white goo on top.)

In the morning, I pulled out the pan and finger tested it – it bounced back! Yay jello! However, I decided to turn it over onto a sheet pan to more easily cut out the shapes and heard that liquid sound – glub glub. Uh oh! I released the pan and out came my jello goop! My red, white and blue jello goop.

I attempted to cut a shape out of it, but it just oozed out of the cutter. It still tasted okay, so I improvised and dumped the concoction into a clear bowl and stuck some flag toothpicks in.

Voila! That’s what I meant to do all along!

jello done

 

Wedding card wreath – fab-ul-lous idea!

A friend of mine posted this idea today, and I thought it was absolutely fabulous.

I made a wreath of all the cards we got at our wedding. I’m going to hang it up every anniversary so I can feel all the love again!
Wedding wreath 2

How cool is that? The wreath looks really cute, and I think any idiot with some glue and some cardboard should be able to make it! (Any idiot who got married that is – I’m just an idiot in general, not one that has gotten married!)

Check Leslie out here   She’s super crafty, and I’m secretly (okay, probably not so secretly) jealous of all her skills. Maybe one day, we will both find some time for her to pass along her wealth of knowledge to a thumb-filled chick like me 🙂

thumbs

My Samsung Galaxy S4 took a bath

Have you ever dropped your phone in water? Given it a wash in the washing machine? How about given it a long soak in the bath? Well, I did the last one and thought my phone was toast.

Once I realized that my phone had been sitting in water for several hours, I didn’t even attempt to turn it on. I promptly popped that sim card, SD card and battery out and dried it with a towel. Then I blowed it dry with the low setting on the hair dryer for a short amount of time and finally plopped it into a bag of rice for two days.

After 48 hours of being without a phone, I decided that it was time to test the phone. DEAD! Wah! But wait! maybe the battery was just bad. Nope, spare battery didn’t work either. I put the original Samsung battery back in and plugged it into the wall. BAM! It started to charge. Yay!!

I waited another 30 minutes and then turned it on. Voila! Power! However, when I tried to make a phone call the other person couldn’t hear me. :*(

Since I didn’t want to have to use a headset for calls, I decided to follow these instructions and take the phone apart. After taking out all the tiny screws, I used a credit card (I didn’t want to use anything that could slip and scratch the screen) to slice apart the screen from the hardware. Boy those parts inside are really small! I went to take a picture of the experience and then realized I use my phone to take pictures. Duh!  I really like the way this guide shows you at step 7 how to get to the inside of the phone

This video is also a good guide. I found it after I finished and put everything back together, but you may be able to stop taking apart your phone after the 1:37 section of loud speaker assembly. This may give you enough access to clean the mic.

To clean the mic, I dug around on the rubber holder and pinhole entry. No obvious dirt came out, but I decided to put it all back together and try a call again. Lo and behold they could hear me! This site will show a pic of where to clean the mic on the inside.

So to sum it up, I just wanted to let people know that there may be hope for your phone after all. If a non-technical person like me can manage to take apart a Galaxy S4, then anyone can. This is just another reason why I like Android over iPhone! (Although I did once cook an iPod Touch in the oven to dry it out, and it eventually worked again. It never was the same, though.)

android

What’s your excuse for not donating blood?

blood faqAre you a relatively healthy person who is not completely self absorbed?  Would you like to have your life saved if you were in an accident or developed a terrible disease?  Yes?  Then why aren’t you donating blood on a regular basis? It’s easy and free to do and the life you save may be your own. Do you not like needles? Seriously? Get over it. If you can’t tolerate a small prick in your arm then you should just hang your head in shame.

 

 

blood does it takeBlood donation centers have become high tech. Many of them have individual televisions for your viewing pleasure. Their new equipment also speeds up the donation process dramatically, so it only takes a few minutes of your time.

Did you know that platelet donation is also an option? You can donate platelets every few days, and because the process takes a bit longer than regular blood donation, platelet donation is in high demand.

Check to see if there is a donation center near your office and make an appointment for your lunch break.  Or how about visiting a center on the way home from work?  Is there traffic? What about detouring to a Center. You’d be sitting in traffic anyway so you won’t even be losing any time!

Donating blood is an easy and free way to help another person and make you feel good about yourself. Well…..what are you waiting for? Get up and go!

Donating-Blood-Requirements