Travel: Ledges State Park, Iowa

I was in the mood to do some hiking last week while I was in Iowa and one of my friends suggested we take a trip to Ledges State Park. I grew up close to Ledges, and even went to girl scout camp about a minute away, but had never been to the park before. I didn’t know what to expect but we had a great experience.

The first thing we saw was a swampy area.

Ledges State Park Swamp

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I personally love areas like this, as long as they don’t smell. Fortunately, this one was all good. AND there was a lovely surprise! If you look closely at the picture, you can see dozens of tiny cricket frogs sticking out of the algae.

Swamp with frogs

The following is another section of the same pond. If you look to the left of the big branch, you can see little froggie heads sticking up.

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Next we walked to the “secret lake” – not really sure how a giant green swamp is a secret, but it was lovely. Here is a pic of my friend Mikey, the wonderful guy who took me to Ledges.

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Now, the secret lake ended up being one of the best experiences of my entire life. The entire shore was covered in bull frogs and cricket frogs, so every time we moved a dozen would hop into the water.

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You can see some of the frogs in the photo above if you look closely. There aren’t as many close to the camera, but if you look further out you can see just how many were on the shore.

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This next one really worried me. Wasn’t sure if it was a monstrosity or a normal development. Apparently it’s a polliwog. I thought that was a Pokemon, but my friend explained that she is actually a scientist and its a mix between tadpole and frog.

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I never wanted to leave that area, but apparently since we were at Ledges State Park we were required to see the actual ledges.

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Here is Mike being an ~expert~ hiker. He even has a backpack with a water pouch!

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Here is me. I’m a normal hiker. I put lipstick on before hitting the trails.

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The view of the Des Moines river was quite lovely.

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This next ledge was a little terrifying. Normally I would have been a daredevil and tried to hop onto it, but apparently some guy died doing that this summer and I wasn’t super interested in following in his footsteps.

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I loved the park and had a great experience, especially the jumping frogs. What is the coolest thing that you’ve seen at a state park?

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Summer Goals Update

Earlier this summer I made two posts with goals for the summer. The first was travel related and the second was related to personal goals. Since the end of July is coming up quick, I wanted to check-in on my goals to see what I have accomplished, what is still manageable, and what will probably need to be pushed back to next year.

For travel, my five goals were to go hiking at Devil’s Lake, get drunk in a cabin with friends, visit Door County, explore a new cave, and visit Canada. I have done 2/5, hiking at Devil’s Lake and getting drunk in a cabin with friends. Both were lovely experiences. I will not be able to go to Door County or Canada this summer, so I will save those for my 2018 summer bucket list. I will be traveling in August so will check with friends and family to see if anyone would like to check out a cave.

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As far as my personal goals, I wanted to break even on my net worth, lose 15 pounds, spend more time with friends, read a book, and prepare to do well in school. Since this section is a little bit longer, I’ll break each one down a bit more.

  1. Break even on net worth: I don’t think that I will be able to accomplish this goal. My networth was -4k at the beginning of summer and is now -3k. I’m a little bummed out, but I am glad I have made progress. I will keep working toward this goal in August and try to get as close as I can. However, I don’t have a job anymore so there is no way that I am going to be able to pay bills, pay for life, and pay off $3k in debt.
  2. Lose 15 pounds: I have not lost any weight but I have been maintaining which is a positive. I no longer have access to a gym and would like to find a way to work out in August. I actually feel pretty good physically so I am not super worried about losing weight at the moment.
  3. Spend more time with friends: I have spent a lot of time with wonderful people this summer. I have made more of an effort to be in touch with my closer friends, and have had lunches/coffee with people who I care about. I can’t spend all my time with everyone which is a bummer, but it’s been really nice to connect this summer.
  4. Read a book: I have read TWO books ūüėÄ – I would like to finish the book that I am currently reading and find another good one or two to read while I am traveling.
  5. Prepare to do well in school: I have been medium on this. I’ve had a lot of anxiety about starting school but am starting to get it together. Mostly I need to get started on my summer math prep class so that I don’t fail stats this fall.

Lovely lovely. How are you doing on your summer goals?

My Favorite Blogs

Before I started blogging I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the blogging community. I had a photoblog back in the 2000s where I posted dozens of pictures of what I was doing every day, and I’ve started various small blogs for specific purposes, but nothing all-encompassing or long lasting. I also have not spent a lot of time visiting websites on the internet outside of social media / reddit / personal finances the last couple of years.

Now that I have this blog and can appreciate the amount of dedication it takes to have a blog and post in it regularly, I’ve been making sure to peruse my friends blogs on a regular basis. Here are a few that I visit + some comments on what I like about them.

#1 SkinnedCartree – My friend Corinne runs a UK Lifestyle blog. She makes a TON of money blogging and does such a great job with social media engagement. She is truly an inspiration. I love her blog because she combines practical information with product reviews and other goodies. She posts daily and I always love stopping by to see what she’s been up to.

Favorite Post: Postcode Pride – Corinne recently posted about the absolutely beautiful city of Bath in the UK. I recently visited in April and was just in love. It should be on everyone’s bucket list.

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Corinne and I loving each other at the Louvre in 2008

#2 Champagne Taste – Sarah recently started a fashion/lifestyle blog and I am so excited about it. I know nothing about fashion other than the fact that I really love everything Khloe Kardashian wears and I can’t afford any of it. Life is really hard. Sarah’s blog is full of tips on how to find quality items at decent prices. I’m looking forward to utilizing these tips when I have an income again after grad school!

Favorite Post: Why You Need It: the Louis Vuitton Speedy Bag – I actually really need this bag now. Thanks a lot, Sarah! This was one of her first posts and it was very persuasive, she’s definitely going to do great things with her blog.

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This is the only picture of me and Sarah that isn’t terribly embarrassing.

#3 Inspo & Co – I have never really talked to Katrina about her blog so she might be surprised by this mention, but I absolutely love it. Everything that Katrina does is so beautiful and I find her work very inspiring. From body positivity to vibrant and colorful photos, her blog is a visual treat. Side note, Katrina used to pick up books from the library I worked at and I’ve always thought we should be better friends because everything she checked out was something I loved.

Favorite Post: L. Feminine Hygiene Products are the Bomb – I like this post because we need more real talk about tampons. I’m currently using Lola but it’s a bit of a pricey service, so I’m definitely looking forward to checking this product out. I had no idea there was something so neat and affordable at Target. This is why we need bloggers!

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Katrina and I don’t have a lot of pics together.. But we’re both in this one!

If you have a blog that you want me to check out, let me know! I’d love to learn more about your interests!

Top 5 things I want to do for myself this summer

I recently posted a list of the top five things I want to do this summer, but while I was putting it together I kept thinking of things I wanted to do for myself. I do a fairly good job of taking care of myself and my goals, but it never hurts to outline them and put some extra work into holding myself accountable.

1. Break even on my net worth: Between my student loans, car loan, travel habits, and regular monthly bills, I have not been able to break even on my net worth for years. I am currently sitting at a net worth around -$4,000, which is a big improvement over this time last year (-$12,000). While I’m proud of the work that I’ve put in to lowering my debt and saving for the future, I want to start grad school on a positive note financially. You know, before plunging tens of thousands of dollars into debt again.

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2. Lose 15 pounds: When will it not be a goal to lose 15 pounds? This goal is important to me because I love being active and fit and want to continue on a positive path toward good health.

3. Spend more time with friends: I am very lucky to have so many wonderful friends, both near and far. Unfortunately, I rarely spend time with them. It is way too easy to hang out with the people I see on a daily basis and not put any effort in to spending time with the majority of the people I care about. I would like to spend time with at least one friend each week who is not a part of my normal day-to-day routine.

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Recent extremely enjoyable friend time.

4. Read a book: I am the absolute worst. I love reading, I request dozens of books from the library, and I have only finished a few so far this year. It’s unacceptable. I need to pick up a book and read it from start to finish.

5. Prepare for doing well in school: I want to be successful in grad school, so I need to do everything I can this summer to start off on a good foot. I would like to attend all of the grad school events that are scheduled this summer, buy some super adorable school supplies, figure out bus routes and class locations, and make sure that I do suuuppperrr well in my summer stats class.

What are some of the things that you would like to do this summer? How possible do you think they are, and what do you need to get you there?

OH I almost forgot – I have a goal of taking my dogs on a walk/to the dog park once a week. I don’t currently live with them but they are so happy when we go out together. I need to make sure this is a thing all summer long.

Travel: Top 5 things I want to do this summer

I am a big fan of getting away as much as possible and I’ve gone on more than my fair share of weekend trips over the last few years. Unfortunately for me (but fortunate for my wallet) I have taken on a weekend babysitting job that lasts from 6am-3pm on Saturdays and Sundays for almost all weekends of the summer. My grandpa is also in hospice in Iowa and I would like to spend as much time with him as possible. This means that my weekend trips will be few and far between this summer. Knowing that, there are still a BUNCH of things that I want to do this year. These are my top 5.

1. Hiking at Devil’s Lake: I went to Devil’s Lake often as a teenager and I have never had a bad experience. However, as a kid we went for the beach and swimming, and now I would like to go for hiking purposes. I can’t wait to get up on the rocky cliffs and look out at the beautiful water.

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Just beautiful.

2. Get drunk in a cabin with my closest friends: Listen, I’m an adult, and if I want to safely get drunk in a cabin in the middle of nowhere with my favorite people, that’s allowed. I’m the one who has to suffer the consequences of the now unavoidable multi-day hangovers.

3. Visit Door County: A few years ago I went to Sturgeon Bay for an event and really fell in love. The city was beautiful, the shops were adorable, and I absolutely want to go back. I haven’t been further up the peninsula, so this is the number one weekend trip that I want to make happen.

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I now have a mission to find this building, hiding somewhere in Door County.

4. Explore a new cave: I absolutely love caves. I don’t think anything in America will compare to the absolutely incredible experience that I had in Belize (there were SKELETONS) but I am hoping there is some sort of beautiful cave within driving distance.

5. Visit Canada: Considering that I only live six hours from Canada, I have not been there enough. My passport only has another six months on it so I would love to head up to Canada for a long weekend. I went with my family years ago and found this beautiful place called Harmony Beach РI would love to go and spend a day or two there.

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He kept trying to splash me, so I picked him up and nearly dropped him. Love my little brother!

There you have it! The top five things that I want to do this summer. What do you have in mind?

Madison, this weekend is your last chance to see the Do Ho Suh exhibit locally

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to check out the Do Ho Suh exhibit at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, a free art museum here in Madison.¬†I didn’t know much about the artist, but I had seen the exhibit advertised a couple of times over the last few months and had come across an exhibit while on vacation in another city. When I realized that the exhibit was coming to an end, I made plans to check it out right away.

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The exhibit is an intricate setting. The artist traced his apartment in New York City and then constructed the apartment with delicate fabric. Some parts of the fabric are sparse and others are more detailed.

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The exhibit was really beautiful and one of a kind. I highly recommend taking the opportunity to see it this weekend before it leaves Madison.

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It was definitely a great way to spend a day out with one of my besties. We also found a secret toward the end..

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Looking for more things to do in Madison? Check out my recent post about the beautiful flowers at the UW-Madison Arboretum.

 

Review: Rodan and Fields Mini Facial

I was recently able to try the Rodan and Fields products thanks to my friend Sarah. I had not previously heard of this brand but I did a little bit of research and it looks like a brand I could really get behind.
Sarah sent me a mini-facial kit. I was extra excited when the products arrived because she put them in the cutest packaging. Basically after I post this I will be doing a google so that I can find out where to buy similarly cute packaging.

 

First I unpacked the products. I loved the way that they sent the samples. The tiny capsules are a good way to not waste a ton of plastic/paper on packaging and I found that all three of the products were very easy to open and dispense. I also enjoyed the fact that there was a step by step guide that told me what the products were and how to use them.
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The microdermabrasion paste (step 1) was very interesting – I don’t usually use scrubs so this was a new experience for me. I did not really care for the smell (it wasn’t scented, just chemically) and while I was using the paste, some got in my mouth and it tasted salty. I was also a little worried when I read the directions because it said not to use on sensitive skin. I can never figure out what the blanket “sensitive skin” statement means, but it usually concerns me given that my skin is quite acne prone.
The paste itself did a great job. I massaged it into my face for about 1min 30 seconds (I like to get what I can out of a sample, lol) and when I rinsed, my skin felt very smooth and moisturized.
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Next I took out the¬†blue capsule, which was Night Renewing Serum. This product also worried me because it didn’t come with information and I am genuinely terrified that things will have acne triggers. However, my fears went out the window as¬†soon as I put the liquid on my fingers and applied it to my face. This product is amazing. It spreads quickly and has a matte texture after use. It felt very luxious and fancy. I would likely buy this product if I could confirm that it would not make my skin breakout. I definitely wish there would have been more of this because I absolutely loved the way it felt.
Afterwards I used the lip treatment which had a vanilla scent/taste. I did not think that the lip treatment was any better than the night time lip treatment that I currently use. There was a bit too much of the product so I overapplied and felt a little gooey. But lets be real – that was more of a personal problem than a product problem.¬†I don’t think that I would purchase this product because I’m not the biggest fan of vanilla lip treatments and I prefer the flavor of the product I am currently using. However, if you’re looking for a good lip treatment with vanilla flavor, this might be a good option for you.
All-in-all this was an enjoyable experience. Of the three, I would be most likely to purchase the middle product. I did start to experience a breakout the next day, but my skin is so unpredictable that I can’t say for sure whether it was because of the Rodan and Fields products or for some other random reason. I know that the company has products that are ok for acne so I will look into those.
If you’re interested in receiving a sample kit so that you can try these products, please send me an email and I will connect you with Sarah. You can also check out her R&F website.
Have you ever tried these products? What are your favorites?

Recipe Review: Unicorn Bars

I received a recipe for unicorn bars in my email last week and figured I should try it out. The internet keeps telling me that unicorns are a thing and who am I to pass up a delicious, colorful treat?

I shared the recipe with a friend and we decided to try it out during our monthly cooking date. We had originally planned to make a sweet chili tofu recipe but ended up going in completely the opposite direction health-wise due to time constraints.

We started making the bars after 9pm and¬†it was probably one of the latest cooking parties I’ve ever attended. We didn’t buy any sprinkles specifically for this project but instead used a pre-mix of colorful sprinkle balls that my friend had on hand.

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The beautiful mixture was a nice prequel of the cuteness to come.

After everything was mixed, we put it in the pan. It was very difficult to spread, so we had a nice shake shake shake dance party and there were some heavy pounding noises.

We cut the bars into pieces that would be big enough for the frosting – they turned out super adorable.

We used the frosting recipe that was included and added in blue food coloring. We only needed one tablespoon of milk, and the frosting turned out perfect and delicious.

After we were done decorating our goodies, we took a few selfies before diving into the required taste tests.

If you’re looking for a delicious treat that is 100% a wonderful addition to a selfie or your Instagram account, unicorn bars are a definite option. I personally did not love the sugar load, but they were super tasty and would definitely cure any sweet tooth needs. However, keep them safe if you have any men around. 2/3 of our unicorn bars were devoured by the men in our lives. Without permission.

Ready for the recipe? Here it is (from dearchrissy.com)

INGREDIENTS:

For the bars

  • 1 Box vanilla cake mix
  • 1 small box instant vanilla pudding (just pour the powdered mix in your bowl)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons sprinkles

For the frosting

  • ‚Öď cup butter, softened
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
  • assorted sprinkles of your choosing!

DIRECTIONS:

For the bars

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine cake mix, pudding, water, vegetable oil, eggs, chips and sprinkles in large bowl. I used a wooden spoon to stir.
  3. Pour the batter (it’s going to be thick) into a 9×13 pan lined with foil and sprayed with non- stick cooking spray.
  4. Bake your bars for 20-30 minutes (I took mine out at 25.) Bake just until the middle isn’t wobbly and edges are golden brown.
  5. Cool completely then lift out of the pan using the foil.

For the frosting

  1. Using an electric mixer beat together the butter and powdered sugar until well blended and smooth. Beat in the vanilla and 1 tablespoon of the milk. If necessary beat in  the remaining milk a little at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  2. Add several drops of gel food coloring to frosting and stir.
  3. I piped some frosting on the middle of each bar, but, you could alternatively spread onto the cooled bars and decorate with additional sprinkles.

Interested in trying this out yourself? Let me know how it goes! I want to see your color combinations and decorating skills.

 

Travel Review: The Stable Cider Bar

One of my newest favorite things in life is drinking a delicious cider in London. I have had several ciders throughout the years but I’ve never taken a liking to them – they are usually too sweet and too low on alcohol to be worth the full feeling that comes along with finishing a glass. However, I tried several different types of cider in London this pas week and enjoyed most of them. My favorite experience was at The Stable cider bar, located in Whitechapel.

When we first arrived the bar/restaurant was rather empty, but that changed quickly. By the end of our visit, all of the tables were filled and everyone seemed to be having a lovely time.

We were sat right in the middle and we ordered our first drinks.

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The two ciders in the back belonged to friends and they enjoyed them. Mine (front) was a sweet cider with 7% alcohol content. Needless to say, I loved it. It tasted like delicious alcoholic apple juice. I would love to shout it out but the bar does not have their cider menu online.

After we finished our pints, we decided to order the sampler tray. We were not in love with it but did our best to do our jobs and finish our drinks. We did have some thoughts on the drinks that we wanted to share with the world.

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  1. Kingston Black 7.2%: I personally did not enjoy this drink and I immediately remarked “IT TASTES LIKE HAM” as soon as I took a sip. Marina agreed, “There’s something off,” she said while making a grossed out face. Arian did not enjoy the cider either, and it was the only one to remain unfinished at the end of the night.
  2. Red Hen 6.2%: We all agreed that this was a rather average cider. I can’t remember anything specific about it, so our “tastes average” comment describes just about how average it must have been.
  3. Hawked 5%: This taster led to a rather lengthy and well thought-out discussion. Upon trying the drink, Marina opined, “It’s okay, not nice.. But okay.” When I asked what the flavor was, she responded, “Mothballs. No, not mothballs. Mildew.”

    We may have become a bit more intoxicated at this point, as the quality of the comments dwindles and the alcohol percentage was not included in the notes.

  4. Devon Gold: “Good.”
  5. Lilly’s Strawberry: “Strawberry and smokey.”

All in all, the sampler was not very good. We managed to drink most of the cider, but didn’t enjoy a great deal of it. However, we do still recommend checking out The Stable and trying out a few of the ciders that might suit your tastes.

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Cheers!