Cracker Barrel’s Ashtray

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   I frequent the local Cracker Barrel here in town because of their incredible service, great food, and for me it’s  entertaining to look at all the items cluttered all over the walls and play their classic peg games which adorn every table.  Today we went there for breakfast and when we were walking in I noticed that each step from the truck to the door was littered with several cigarette butts.  It’s amazing how no matter how great the front of a building looks, when people are walking they are staring at their feet (otherwise everyone would be tripping semi frequently).  I decided (during my perfect plate of eggs and ham) that I was going to pick up every cigarette butt from the restaurant door to the truck (which was parked about 30 feet from the entrance) and see how many had accumulated.  In the 5 or so minutes it took to pick them up, I counted 196 which means that thousands remain in and around the parking lot based on simple math.  The number is surprising and so is the fact that a restaurant as great as this one could overlook such a simple project like keeping it’s parking lot looking nice.  I piled the cigarettes in one of Kurt’s collector ashtrays as a suggestion to Cracker Barrel; if your employees and customers smoke like chimneys, they could use a place to put their butts. 


Total Trash count: 229

UPDATE: 3/8/2012   Kurt and I went to this same Cracker Barrel recently and right away we noticed a cleanup had taken place and now there are several trash cans throughout the parking lot that are helping to keep that area clean. Nice work Cracker Barrel Team!!!


Categories : Trashy but Cute
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Healthy, Happy, and more in love than ever!

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My parents have been married for 40 years, and met at a Ottawa High School football game in 1965.  These pictures are from 1971 and 2011. They have done a lot of the right things to have such a successful relationship, but from what I’ve seen, replacing lunch with my dad’s version of the classic green drink for the past 5 years has really been like their own personal fountain of youth.  My dad reworked the recipe to his liking for years and now I am making it at home and loving it.  And…it’s DELICIOUS!

It is quite a bit of work, so it’s great to make one big batch that lasts around 2 weeks divided in glasses in the freezer.  Take one out every day and let it thaw a bit then pop it in a blender (magic bullet is perfect) with some almond or soy milk  and  you have a yummy blended green shake that will make you feel incredible.  I needed this more than anyone I know because I am notorious for not eating my fruits and vegetables.  This healthy mix gives me everything I’m missing in my normal diet and I felt a difference within a week of drinking it for lunch.  My fiance Kurt LOVES them too.

So here’s what you need:

-4 cans Coconut milk

-4 veggies: Kale, Broccoli, Spinach, Celery

-4 Fruits: 4 bananas, 6 avocados, and 4-6 packages of frozen berries-blueberries, dark cherries, strawberries (I add a lot more berries than my dad because I like it to taste a bit more fruity than green 😉

-Stevia (or alternative natural sweetener)- sweetened to taste

All of this is put into large bowls and blended together a batch at a time until you have a huge bowl of green goodness.  With each blending add a cup of soy milk.  Then pour a serving or two in glasses or whatever you prefer, stick it in the freezer, and you’re ready to get your green drink on!

My dad adds a couple teaspoons of peppermint extract, but I don’t like peppermint so I used almond extract instead.  I think vanilla extract would be great also…point is, make it so you love it and experiment because my dad and I have found our own personal recipe we absolutely love.

To health, happiness, and longevity!





Categories : Health and Fitness
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Open the I&M Canal Trail!

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If you live locally, you are well aware of the controversy over the Illinois and Michigan Canal closure between Ottawa and Utica.  The Times newspaper has been consistently posting articles every Thursday about the outrage this has caused and articles are all over Ottawa Delivered as well.  I am on the trail either running or biking often and the section they closed down  is one of the most beautiful parts of the 60 mile trail.   Now it is gated with a sign saying “violators will be prosecuted” and is not being maintained.  I want to draw more attention to this because it’s been closed for a year now and it is not only hurting our local businesses, but it is a real bummer for those of us who want to be out there running, biking, and walking our dogs.  I created T-shirts that have a liability release on the back that can be signed and worn to poke fun at the situation and put the power back into the hands of the community.  In my opinion there is no way shots from the local gun range could ever come near the path in the first place and it is a shame that they are being blamed for the stray bullet complaints.  Wearing this T-shirt will in no way clear anyone from getting a ticket for unlawfully being on the closed section of the trail, but it might create a buzz, stir up a little trouble, and hopefully help get the ball rolling on the decision to re-open the trail for good.  According to Steve Stout of The Times, “a meeting at the range about the issue has been scheduled for Monday, Aug. 29, with representatives from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office, the IDNR, and the range expected to attend.”  If they decide in this meeting that the trail will be re-opened, these shirts will no longer be necessary because we got what we wanted.  If they don’t make a decision or decide to keep the trail closed, I encourage you to join me.  The more people we get out there, the larger our voice to get something done about this. The shirt shows a stick figure pointing a gun at a cyclist and reads: “In the event that I am injured or killed resulting from stray bullets while walking, running or biking on the Illinois-Michigan Canal, I assume full responsibility and release and discharge the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, the State of Illinois, and all employees, representatives, and agents of the State of Illinois from any and all legal responsibility.” Following that there is a place to sign your name.

The shirts are available in mens sizes, the color is Sport Grey, and they are a cotton/polyester blend. For a $5 or more donation, I will send you one. If you donate $5, it will cover the cost of shipping your Free T-Shirt and if you donate more than $5, it will go toward paying off what I spent on the first batch of tees and to buying more to give away. When I recieve the donation I will contact you via your email to get your shirt size and the address you would like me to send your shirt to.

Check out The Times article here:






See you on the Trail!

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A lesson in gratitude…

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Yesterday afternoon I was getting on Highway 39 from route 6 and there at the on-ramp was 70 year old Pedro with his thumb in the air. He knew I was going to drive right by him and he still smiled and waved. At the next exit I found myself heading the other way to pick him up.  His small sign made from cardboard and permanent marker said “El Paso” which was on my way to Peoria.

I will never see him again, but in the 40+ miles we spent together, he created a permanent place in my heart.  He got laid-off from a construction job laying stone in Pennsylvania and it took him 11 days to get here. He lost his wife to cancer in ’78 and  is the last remaining of his brothers and sisters. He is on his way to see his daughter in San Antonio, TX.

He had been standing there since 5am.  I said I couldn’t believe he went over 8 hours without someone stopping and he said “I’m just so grateful to be alive.” The man just spent the night under a bridge for shelter from the rain, someone stole his sleeping bag the night before, he has only 55 cents in his pocket, and the first thing he talks about is how grateful he is. He went on to say that he understands that people are just scared. He said, “I’m scared too, I don’t know whose car I’m getting into”.  I remember my fear when we hitchhiked into town to get groceries off the AT.  Usually people only think about the fear of who they would be letting in their car, not how afraid the person is getting in to it.

I left him at the edge of route 24 in El Paso with 20 bucks and a hug.  I hope he makes it to his daughter. It’s interesting to me that the people that have the least seem more often than not to be the most grateful. I guess for most of us we don’t really appreciate what we have until we don’t have it.  I feel blessed when I get a reminder to be grateful for what I have without having to lose someone or something to remember that.  Thank you, Pedro. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

P.S. Don’t worry mom, I don’t normally spend my time picking up strangers.  This time I just had a good feeling 😉


Categories : Be Happy
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A few weeks ago I got ready to launch for a paddle up the Fox River at my usual spot and just as I had unloaded my gear and got in my car to go park, my car key was missing.  I take it off the key chain when I paddle  so I can fit it in the small pocket of my shorts so I knew I must have dropped it.  As that is the only key I have a feeling of panic started to settle in.  I calmed myself and after 5 minutes of pavement searching and looking inside the car I realized it may have fallen into the water when I lowered my boat next to the dock.  I thought of how when Kurt loses anything he says a prayer and usually within 30 seconds, he is miraculously lead to the missing object. So I did.  It was one of those “God, I know I don’t talk to you often, but…” lines that played out in my head.  I walked out onto the dock as I finished my silent prayer and I looked down and there it was below a crack in the dock.  A single beam of sunlight was hitting it and it reflected so bright from the darkness below the boards that it caught my attention instantly.  I looked up, smiled, and said a soft “thank you”. Within a few minutes 2 fisherman were helping me formulate a plan that involved what looked like chicken wire as a retrieving device to hook and raise up the key.   It took about 15 minutes and then I had my key back and was off.

This was a story I was going to keep to myself until Saturday when I had a similar experience, but this one gave me and Kurt the chills. We had gotten into an argument that morning and when he left the house we were both in a bad emotional state.  I was getting ready to go to the same launch spot to paddle and on the kitchen floor was a small refrigerator magnet that had fallen and it was a picture of the Virgin Mary.  We have a few collections of hundreds of magnetic pictures and poetry and I had never noticed that particular one before.  As I was in a pretty dark place in that moment, looking down to see that face looking up at me was comforting.  Instead of sticking her back on the fridge I glued her to the back of my ipod and took her with me.  As I pushed away from the dock I clipped my ipod in the usual place on my tank top and thought it was neat that Mary was right next to my heart. I hit play and shuffled randomly through and stopped at a song to see where I was in my play list.  The first words to play were,  ” When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me…speaking words of wisdom…let it be.” Within a few moments tears were streaking down my face and I was laughing out loud at the same time.  Even if I wanted to chauk this one up as a major coincidence, the incredible feeling shooting through my body would not have allowed it.

Although I would consider myself a spiritual person, I am not religious by any means. I was raised Catholic and stopped going to church after I turned 18. Nevertheless, this was a reconnection for me and it left me in wonder and awe. When I got home and shared the story with Kurt he was genuinely freaked out and said earlier that day he had prayed to Mary for the very first time.

This is certainly not the first time that the outcome of an argument has lead to an even stronger connection between the two of us.  Throw a little divine intervention in the mix and now we are left with something we shared unknowingly and both of us will never forget. Now I think I will never again be going on any solo adventures as Mary has a permanent place in and next to my heart.



Categories : Journal
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Life’s Weeds

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This afternoon I spent some time with the flowers (and the weeds) in the backyard.  After about 20 minutes alone with them, my ipod, and my thoughts, I got a wake up call.  It’s been nearly 2 months since my last post.  Aside from my frustration of being out of integrity with my personal commitment to this blog, I have been uninspired lately and have been trying to figure out why.

Getting into a weed pulling rhythm today I realized that all the weeds that had grown so fast, so big, and so quickly were very easy to pull out. It was almost as if they knew they didn’t belong.  When I wrapped my hand around some flowers accidentally and pulled, they held steadfast in their rightful place.  Because their growth happened slower with more time, care, and attention, their roots are now stronger and deeper in the ground creating a much more permanent home than their weedy relatives. Apparently flowers are smarter than weeds.

Smart flowers are like smart goals. They are intentional, hopeful, and with proper care and attention…they BLOOM.  In the past few weeks I have let my bad habits (like big obnoxious weeds) overcrowd my goals so much that they were lost. The weeds were stealing the water and nourishment from the plants just like my bad habits were sucking the life out of my positive intentions.  I have a goal to eliminate time wasters in my life in order to maximize the time I spend doing the things I love; however, I am disorganized, forgetful, and have a bad habit of always misplacing everything. Keys, sunglasses, ipod, you name it.  My things don’t have a place where they belong and return to when I’m done using them so they get left everywhere and then I am searching all over the house and yard almost daily trying to figure out where I left them last. It doesn’t help that my lovely fiance is the same way and so that’s double the time we spend looking for our things and each others.

Between not being organized AND being so forgetful, my goal of not wasting time was nearly impossible to attain.  Most of my goals have gotten a bit stagnant lately as I have lost track of the specific things I want because so many little things were getting in the way.  As they piled up I became less and less excited in my daily routine and more and more lazy.  Luckily, like pulling out weeds, this is a pretty easy fix and thanks to my inspirational time sitting in the driveway pulling weeds today, I am back in track and I am left feeling renewed, mentally refreshed, and in desperate need of a shower.

It just takes a minute to get clear on what it is that you are committed to and what you do in your life on a daily basis that contradicts that commitment and stops you from taking action on it. The pictures above were both taken today, and they are a reflection of my life in the past few weeks and my life in the present. I am dedicating this weekend to getting organized and locating the other illusive weeds that have crept into my life and kindly asking them to leave.

At the inner journey seminar I took last year, I remember learning this formula for having setbacks in life:

If you have a  setback or a breakdown over something it means you have a committment and something happened that stopped you from fulfilling it.  By recognizing what that committment is and taking new action on it, it can leave you recharged with just the right amount of energy to overcome the breakdown and instead create a BREAKTHROUGH. This happened to me today and I am so thankful for this reminder.

Have you done a little weeding in your life lately?

Categories : Goals, Journal
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Kayak Lovin

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I just got the sweetest deal of a lifetime on Craigslist! At one point in CA I had Craigslist to thank for my roomates, friends, job, furniture, and where I was living. I paid $350 for a sea kayak that runs somewhere between $1600-$2300 new! If it would have been made of plastic I still would have hit the jackpot, as the plastic ones were $800 new but this one’s a  fiberglass beauty and it fits me perfectly. I picked it up in Milwaukee on Thursday night and since I worked at a kayak shop for two years I have demo’d lots of boats, but none of them fit me as perfectly as this one.  It’s a Wilderness Systems Piccolo made for a smaller adult or a child and it’s just under 14 feet long.

I took her out for the first time yesterday morning and to my surprise that river is packed with much more adventure then I expected.  Since the river is over run by Asian Carp, every time I put my paddle in the water they would jump or I would feel a thud as they swam right into the bottom of the boat.  I would actually be a little frightened to jet ski or water ski around here now since they jump the way they do.   I have heard of at least a couple times people have died by hitting one of those things in mid air at high speeds.

The most interesting wildlife was the abundance of turtles and snakes.  I turned the boat around for a closer look when I saw a weird splash on the shore out of the corner of my eye and it was a snake that just caught a catfish!  First of all, I have never seen a snake swallow a fish whole and what’s even better is that I caught it on video with my phone. When I played it back for Kurt yesterday he was like “You know what kind of snake that is right?”  When he told me it was a Cottonmouth/Water Moccasin I realized it would be a great idea next time to keep a bit more of a distance  than the close proximity I shot this video from.

All in all it was an incredible day and what a great workout kayaking is for the arms and the stomach.  I would be out right now for another one if it wasn’t raining.  Kurt showed me a great launch spot for the Vermillion River in Streator so that’s my next destination as soon as the sun comes back. I feel like a kid again and my playground is any lake, creek, or river in driving distance.  If anyone around here reading this has a kayak, please join me!

Categories : Journal
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Do you Trapeze?

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I never really thought of the flying trapeze as anything other than something I would see during a circus act prior to a few years ago. I lived a few years in Marin before I discovered Trapeze Pro in Sonoma, which is just a 45 minute drive from where I lived in Mill Valley. You can attend a beginning trapeze class here just like you would any other fitness class and the cost is only 35 dollars for one of the most thrilling experiences of a lifetime. I set up a private class last Sunday for me and my friends and the cost was the same per person.

Set in beautiful wine country, the trapeze is located outside on private property and owned by a man who tried the flying trapeze for the first time in his 60s. He fell so in love with it that he had one built in his own back yard and now Circus Arts offers classes to the public there. It is a beautiful drive up up up on a winding road and once you find it, you’re in paradise.

Our class was 2 hours long with a group of 7 and the very first time you try it you get several chances to fly including hanging upside down, doing a back flip, and also someone else catches you and you fly with them. In my opinion, the scariest part is climbing the ladder to get to the platform, everything else has a safety net. Since this was my 3rd time, they also had me try splits on the bar which I happily attempted but that one will definitely take some more work on my next trip.

In my opinion, everyone should try this at least once as it is an absolutely incredible experience, the staff are fantastic, and it is a great workout!  Check it out at, and if you live in the bay area or are visiting, definately sign up for a class!

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3 Week Road Trip

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Halfway through April I decided to head out on a solo camping trip to Mammoth Caves.  Since it is the largest cave system in the world not to far from home, I have never been there, and the weather was friendly…why not?  It was incredibly relaxing and fantastic for me to be out in the woods again where I always feel most at home. 

When I got back around Easter I received a previously unexpected tax return and decided it was perfect timing to head out to California to visit friends.  It was also the perfect opportunity to do a “Pay it Forward”.  About 6 years ago Kurt flew me out to New Orleans when we were just friends.  I was broke and entirely grateful to be going somewhere I have never been before and when I asked how I could ever repay him he said “just do this for someone else someday”.  I aimed to keep  my promise and finally I was able to.

 I drove out to Cali and flew one of my friends out to meet me in San Francisco on May 4th.  The drive out was exciting given there is so much snow in the mountains and around Tahoe I found myself in a pretty nasty snowstorm. There is something thrilling and peaceful for me driving a long distance alone.  

We had an action packed week in the bay area which included Kayaking, Hot Springs, Camping, Flying Trapeze, and Yosemite. My plan to fit everything in was successful, but the go go go of it all was pretty exhausting.  The drive home took 3 days and we made it back on Thursday and I started my classes on Monday.  I spent the weekend  in bed recuperating and now I’m sorting through video and pictures of the trip which I will be posting shortly.

It’s good to be back…

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Life in the Trash Lane

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I set a goal to reach 10,000 pieces of trash picked up by May 1st and as of right now I am at 10,230!

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Categories : Trashy but Cute
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That Free Thing

“"We don't see things as THEY are. We see things the way WE are." ”

Raymond Charles Barker