a cabin in the woods

I don't like reading vacation recaps. Ok great, you went to San Francisco and now you're an expert and are telling me where to eat and what to do and where to stay? Guess what! I don't care.

This is not one of those posts.

A few months ago, we searched AirBnB for a place to stay near Lake Erie. For some reason, a cabin in the hills on the opposite end of the state popped up in the search results. It was cheap and had its own pond and hiking trails. Sold.

We drove down Friday afternoon. James and I were so engrossed in conversation that we missed an exit. Two roads diverged on a highway, and we took the one less traveled. AND IT MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE. We were rerouted through steep, hilly, twisty one lane backroads. Not sure how clear I've made this in the past (sarcasm), but I am so very prone to motion sickness. Thirty minutes of these roads about did me in, and it was all I could do not to throw up all over the car.

Thankfully, things turned around once we arrived. The cabin was even better than the pictures online. The family who owns it decorated it with family pictures and antiques dating back to the civil war. It was AMAZING. My jaw was on the floor looking at pictures from the 1800s, and even a wedding dress display from the 40s.

It felt like a museum. Like we were quite literally spending a night at the museum. James immediately started fishing in the pond below. Gracie ran around playing, and I sat in one of the adirondacks on the front porch and read a book.

Once we got Gracie to bed, we went back outside, grabbed the kayaks, and kayaked all over the very large pond until the sun went down.

The next morning, we had muffins and coffee on the front porch. It was sweltering outside, so we fished/kayaked/played/hiked outside and then had to go inside and rest in the air conditioning. There were supposedly hiking trails around, so I set off after breakfast to find them. I could find nary a trail. I walked all over the hills near the woods looking for them, that by the time I finally found a trail, I had already gone on the equivalent of a hike.

I went inside to rest a bit when we looked out the window to see a grown man and woman roll up in an ATV, strip some of their clothes off, and jump in the pond. The pond that was OURS for the weekend. They were screaming and being extremely loud and disruptive, and I was just NOT having it. I messaged the owner of the cabin to see if we were supposed to share the pond with anyone, and she said no. I told her what was happening, and she was very upset but not in the area to deal with it. I walked out on the front porch with my best mom glare and raised my arms in the "what on earth do you think you're doing?" position. The guy looked at me, waved, and jumped back in the water.

MY BLOOD WAS BOILING. And not from the 100 degree heat! I tried to be gracious and assume they were trying to cool off from the heat, but then things got worse. They grabbed the kayaks we were paying good money to rent, and started to get in. I pulled James outside with me, and he had some strong words with them and sent them on their way. The owner later discovered it was the son of a neighbor who came to visit, and at the time they just didn't care that they were on someone else's property, even with our car and things making it clear someone was there.

With that settled, we went back to our routine of fishing, reading, kayaking, and grilling.

Let me be clear on the fishing: James did the fishing. Gracie and I occasionally held the rod for a few seconds. She was more into it than I was.

James and Gracie caught several fish, and I managed to plow through two books. All in all, it was very successful getaway and I am ETERNALLY grateful we finally got to do it.

Here's my code for 15% off your next cabin getaway if you book with---JUST KIDDING.


currently, july edition

in a love/hate relationship with: the 4th of July. I love the 4th--patriotic outfits, cookouts, fireworks, it's so fun. But this year I declared it my least favorite holiday. Fireworks are legal in Iowa and sold on every street corner it seemed, and my parents' neighbors set them off ALL NIGHT EVERY NIGHT. Like 8pm-2 or 3am. Gracie became more and more traumatized every night. I got so angry I started going outside screaming things at anyone within earshot. I got NO sleep. I hated everything about the 4th. Then I drove home on the 4th, and I was too exhausted to meet our friends for fireworks and Gracie couldn't stay awake. Our town puts on a great fireworks show, and we got a front row seat with zero crowds from our driveway. Gracie somehow slept through it, and it charmed its way back into my heart. Much better than live-streaming them from bed while Gracie slept like we did the last two years. How people take young kids to fireworks is BEYOND ME.

reading: I just finished The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan. It was both dumb and wonderful, which is what I need sometimes.

watching: we've been watching Indian Summers on Amazon Prime. It's about when the British governed over India in the 30s. The British elite would escape to the mountains in the summer to escape the oppressive heat. Scandals and drama abound. It can be a bit PG-13 and I don't love all the story lines, but it's pretty captivating. However, there are new seasons of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Nailed It, and Blue Bloods on Netflix, so BRB.

listening to: my summer playlist. It might be my favorite yet--so summery and upbeat and happy.

eating: we are all obsessed with cherries right now. We go through bags a week. Good thing they're so cheap! (sarcasm)

loving: 40 Things Everyone But You is Doing This Summer is currently my favorite thing on the internet.

cooking: we've been in love with this baked ravioli recipe.  It's not the healthiest, but it is SO GOOD and even easier. I use the roasted garlic and parm Prego, and I think it makes it taste even better. I serve it with a salad and watermelon. Yum.

thinking: sometimes I wish I were a popular enough blogger to do an Ask Me Anything post. It sounds so fun, but most of you all have been here for years and probably know me well. And I honestly think it feels borderline narcissistic to assume people would want to ask me questions about my life.

(editor's note: I wrote this JUST before I noticed the Ask Me Anything feature on IG that is being shoved down everyone's throat, but my earlier comments still stand.)

hating: mosquitos. This has been my life for the best month. I itch constantly. I itch so much I'm in pain. As soon as those bites fade, I get an entirely new batch, even with bug spray. The mosquitos must have been practicing, because I've had some of the most severe bites of my life. Several of them have caused crazy swelling. I looked like I had a baseball coming out my leg the other day!

laughing about: I love funny people on the interwebs.


a bit about me

Since this is about me, here's a picture of my face.

Callie nominated me for an award, which is very sweet. She gave me questions to answer, and let's be honest, I always enjoy answering questions about myself. It feels like Myspace all over again!

1. What is a favorite childhood memory? 

I don't know even know where to start! I have so many. The ones that stand out are Christmas tree cutting in the Sierras with friends and family. I have such vivid memories of Christmas music playing, thermoses full of hot chocolate, trudging through feet of snow and sledding off snow drifts deep in the forest. We lived in the foothills of the Sierras, and there was a big hill behind my house. At the top was a little grove of trees and brush, and there was a perfect little hiding place in them that my best friend across the street and I deemed our clubhouse. We packed lunches and climbed up the hill with them and had picnics and spent many an afternoon hiding away and playing games. If we hiked further, there was a waterfall. At the bottom of the waterfall was a horse ranch. Seriously, I lived in the best neighborhood. I miss it so much. I would also have to throw in swimming in Lake Tahoe in the summer and skiing there in the winter. I wish I had pictures of all these things--they're buried at my parents' house somewhere. 

2.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

The Scottish Highlands. I have never felt more at home anywhere in my life. In July, women were wearing dresses with leggings and boots and scarves. Sheep were grazing on every hills, rivers and lakes everywhere, HEAVEN. 

There were sheep grazing on the hills behind me. It was perfect. 

3. What was the last book you read?

English Lessons by Angela Lucado. It's a memoir about her year studying in Oxford and how she struggled with her faith. I really enjoyed it. It reminded me so much of my turbulent years in North Carolina.

4.  When you have some spare time, what do you do with it (besides blogging, of course).

I read a lot. This is probably a surprise to no one. We don't have a dishwasher at the moment, so half my life is spent at the sink scrubbing mac n cheese off plates and bowls. Whenever the weather is semi-decent and James is around to watch Gracie, I go off on long, rambling walks and listen to music or podcasts. I also go in phases of knitting a ton, and phases of just not feeling like it.

5. With whom is your longest friendship?

Well, I would've said it's Colleen. She was my longest, most constant friend from middle school until she passed away. Moving around the country as a kid kind of puts a jam in lifelong friendships. The long friendships I've had have fizzled over the years or we've just gone down different paths in life. I still have several very close friends from college, Joellen and Joanna, and I would have to say them. They're the kind of friends I can go months or years without seeing, but whenever we're together we pick up right where we left off. 

6. Favorite summer beverage? 

Iced coffee with a splash of cream. I will also take a glass of strong, unsweet iced tea. 

7. If you had the opportunity to attend your own funeral, what would you hope to hear people say about you?

Oh yikes. I want to be remembered as a friend who could always be counted on and loved God and others. 

8. All you ladies are married - how did you meet your spouse?

I think I told this story recently for our anniversary. I went to a Christmas party in 2008 on a first date with someone else. That guy ignored me most of the time, but James and I sat at the same table and struck up a conversation. He played his guitar and sang that night and I was all about it. I started hanging out in his group of friends, and a few months later when I was in Reno on spring break and sick with the flu, we Facebook messaged every day for a week. He asked me out as soon as I got home, on my 20th birthday. 

9.  Finish the sentence: "In high school I could have been voted most likely to..." 

In 8th grade I was voted most likely to be an actress, and I have ZERO idea why. In high school I was known for playing the piano and knitting. As you can tell, I was VERY popular. I would probably have been voted most likely to live like an 80 year old, and I would have fulfilled it. 

10.  Tell us something that we don't already know and wouldn't think to ask you. 

I am very easily overwhelmed. I've always known this, but I'm really realizing it lately. I took the Highly Sensitive Person test at the advice of a friend (and everyone rolls their eyes--I know that stuff can be dumb), and I checked off every single answer. It was so nice to know there's a reason why I get so frazzled easily. I don't want that to sound like an excuse, but it really did comfort me in knowing there's a reason I'm so extra sensitive to lights and sounds and noise. I also don't mean sensitive in that my feelings are easily hurt (though they often are), but I'm easily overwhelmed by environmental stimuli and can't handle a ton of stressors at once without totally shutting down. This is weird, but one thing in specific that stresses me out easily online is people and their healthy living bandwagons. The people who are constantly talking about all the chemicals in our makeup and pushing cleaner makeup, the nontoxic cleaning people, the organic/cut-out-major-food-group people, the people saying we have to make fitness our utmost priority and read every label at the grocery store lest a less than ideal ingredient slip in, the people obsessed with "slow fashion" and saying we can only buy high-quality, crazy expensive clothes---I CAN'T HANDLE IT ALL. I have friends in every category. It makes me want to say WELL, GUESS I'M GOING TO DIE OF CANCER NEXT WEEK AND RUIN THE WORLD WHILE I'M AT IT. Oh, and then there are the people who say we have to forgo everything in life and TRAVEL EVERYWHERE ALWAYS IT'S ALL THAT MATTERS. I want to cover my eyes and ears and scream "YOU DON'T KNOW MY LIFE." Reading any of that stuff really and truly stresses me out. I'm not an all or nothing person--I very much thrive in moderation. I can reduce food groups in my diet but cannot cut things out entirely. I can't throw all my makeup out and buy $80 in foundation made from plants and become obsessed with making sure certain chemicals (you guys, literally everything is chemicals) never touches my skin. I get so overwhelmed at the thought. I buy my makeup from Ulta and eat well most days and exercise most days and use windex and trust God with the outcome. I do not believe I will show up at the gate of Heaven one day and God will say "I would've let you live another year, but you ate that muffin with refined sugar. Sorry."

I'm not going to nominate anyone because she nominated most of the people I would, but if you want to join in, I'm happy to make up some questions for you :) I LOVE reading answers to these things! YOU ARE ALL WINNERS TO ME. If I could find the right gif, I'd insert one of Lindsey Lohan in Mean Girls breaking off pieces of her prom? homecoming? crown and throwing it to the crowd. 


stories from the mississippi

I've been waiting for this past week to come since last year. When I lived in Reno as a kid, my aunt, uncle, and two cousins lived there too. We were all inseparable. They were the younger siblings I never had. I adored them and spent every second I could with them. Then we moved to Ohio when I started middle school, and it broke my heart.

I've seen them since at family gatherings, and I've traveled to visit a few times, the last being a college spring break. That was ten years ago, and I've seen them for only 24 hours since. It has been killing me! My baby cousins have grown up since then. The youngest graduated from high school last month, and for her graduation present she wanted to travel east to see us.

It was so nice to be around people (other than my parents) who remember my Reno life. They remember my school, my house, church, my old friends, and so many little things I had forgotten. Street names and places were thrown out that I hadn't heard in nearly 20 years. My cousin is restoring a '58 VW Bug, and he loves to drive it up to a scenic outlook on a hill at the entrance of my old neighborhood. He showed me pictures of the downtown Reno view that I used to see out my bedroom window, and it destroyed me. It reminded me that those 7 years of my life were not, in fact, just in my head. I feel so far removed from it that I sometimes wonder if it was even real.

It's been the longest since I've seen my uncle. He's one of my favorite people on the planet, even though we tease each other mercilessly. He's hilarious and is always getting himself into a pickle, like the time last weekend a woman was yelling at him to move the car in the Antique Archeology parking lot all while his shorts split and he was trying to hide it from her while she let him have it. He's a former California firefighter/medic turned Walmart truck driver who often rocks a handlebar mustache. He's full of stories of fighting wildfires and saving lives from horrible crashes.

The night our house nearly burned down from a wildfire 18 years ago, he was with us all night comforting us, helping us evacuate, listening to the police scanner, and keeping tabs on the fire. We were talking about that fire the other day when he got a news alert that the hill behind my old house was on fire again. It was unnerving, like when you merely think about something and then see an ad for it on Facebook ten minutes later. As much as I miss the West Coast, I will take the threat of tornados over fire danger and earthquakes any day of the week. There is no terror like waking up in the middle of the night smelling smoke, or a thunderstorm that doesn't bring rain.

We spent Saturday on a Mississippi riverboat. Many years ago, we all went on a similar boat on Lake Tahoe (the Tahoe Queen has since caught on fire and sunk), and never in a million years did I think the experience would be repeated on the Mississippi River. It was absolutely delightful, minus the 100+ degree heat. The boat was lined with wooden rocking chairs and served iced tea and lemonade. I loved every single second of it and didn't want to get off.

The plan after the boat was to get lunch and take the family to Antique Archaeology, since they're fans of the show American Pickers. Ever since my parents moved here, I've been bound and determined to hunt down Mike Wolfe (from the show American Pickers, since half the people I talk to give me blank stares when I say his name). Last June I missed him filming the show by 24 hours and could not get over it. This year, we got off the boat and he was STANDING RIGHT THERE. I knew he was doing an event in town, but it was during our boat ride, so I assumed we would miss him. All I wanted was to see him in person, even from a long distance. Rather, I got to chat with him, side hug him, and take a picture. I blacked out the conversation because I was so frazzled I forgot how to speak. He said my name and I nearly lost consciousness.

A heat index of 110 and an hour and a half on a boat did not make for a flattering picture, but you will hear nary a complaint from me. I'm still in shock. He was an absolutely delightful being, just as I'd imagined.

The day before, we toured a John Deere factory. If that doesn't scream SUMMER VACATION, then I don't know what does. I'm ambivalent toward tractors, but the menfolk in the family love them some JD. I happily went along, because oddly enough it sounded a little interesting. I was not expecting the level of excitement I would feel when I saw the most massive combine of all time in the entry way. They let people climb inside, and Gracie thought it was the best thing that had ever happened. That girl LOVES tractors and has her entire life.

Unfortunately, the temperature was over 100, and the factory had no AC, which I suppose is to be expected. I know that's nothing to a lot of people, but I like to say I'm "heat-sensitive," because I truly do not handle that kind of heat well. No matter how much water I drink, I feel nauseated and completely drained of life. I was not made for extreme temperatures. They took us into the paint bay which had no air flow, was much hotter than the rest of the factory, and reeked of paint. It was cool watching giant combine parts dunked into massive vats of green paint, but I thought I was going to pass out and barf.

We went to another building that had a museum and lots of tractors and bulldozers for kids to play in. Gracie had the time of her life. She loved nothing more than trying to drive tractors and spend time with her big cousins. It was the sweetest thing ever. I remember my cousin losing his mind over tractors when he was Gracie's age, and here he was with his younger cousin watching her do the same. FULL CIRCLE. I love it.

My cousin Nick and I have shared a bond since the day he was born. I mean, I vividly remember sobbing on the way to school on his first birthday because I was upset he was growing up so fast. I have such good memories of playing with him when he was Gracie's age. He LOVED trains like no kid I've ever seen before. Thomas the Train was his absolute favorite, and that just so happens to be Gracie's favorite as well. They sat on the floor playing trains together, just like I did for umpteen hours with a toddler Nick. Full circle again! They had a bond just like Nick and I used to have. I'M NOT EMOTIONAL, YOU ARE.

My cousin Adrianna was a baby when we moved away. I had harbored fantasies of taking her out for lunch or shopping or things like that when I was old enough to drive. Of course that never got to happen, but this time I took her out to coffee and a few other outings. She took care of Gracie for me the entire time, always asking if she could do whatever needed to be done. Gracie didn't always tolerate it, but I LOVED having the help. I told her she has to move in with me. Lest you think she's an angel, she may or may not have gotten a video of me screaming at the neighbors setting off fireworks and then falling off the chair I was standing on, and then playing said video for the rest of the family.

The trip wasn't without its chaos, like the infamous night where I couldn't sleep because the neighbors were setting off fireworks for hours. I started to doze off when a relative was snoring so loud I could hear it through the walls even with my white noise app on full volume. I hadn't drowned out the snoring, but apparently I drowned out Gracie's screams from the other room. I knew something was wrong when the snoring next door abruptly stopped, so I jumped out of bed just for a cousin to burst into my room sobbing that something was wrong. I assumed the worst, just to discover Gracie had woken up crying, which the cousin heard in the monitor which rattled her so much she sobbed for half an hour, but everything was fine. That adrenaline rush kept me up for another hour. Another similar night kept me up till 4am. I was a walking zombie all week, but without time to rest and doing outdoor activities in 110 degree heat. I wouldn't trade it for anything, but I'm so happy to be back to my routine.

This is my family, minus my dad who was taking the picture and my cousin who was on a plane to Iowa. I'd like to point out that I'm the SHORTEST person in my family (aside from G, obviously). The shortest! You guys, I'm 5'7", possibly 5'8". I'm not a short person! I tower above every one of my friends and always have. My dad and cousin who aren't in the picture are 6'4 and 6'3. This is why I'm convinced Gracie will be 6 feet tall.

We adventured all over the river, went out to eat, baked, played cards late at night, watched old movies, and it was just the best. It felt like I had gone back in time 20 years, except now I'm an adult with a babe and can tease my uncle back tenfold. I'm so thankful for that time with them and that Gracie got to experience some of the cousin love I used to experience. Since James and I are both only children, she has no aunts, uncles, or cousins, so I'm eternally grateful I could share mine. I drove home thinking how weirdly displaced I feel. I said goodbye to my family who I used to live in the same town with, then said goodbye to my parents living in a place that's never been my home, and drove home to the state that's my home but no longer has my parents. It's SO WEIRD having roots all over the place but no clear definition of home or hometown.

For instance, when I lived in North Carolina and watched American Pickers religiously in college, NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS did I think I would one day actually meet him in Iowa, a state I remember thinking I would probably never see, with my family who I grew up with in Nevada. Life is weird and confusing.

After a long drive on the 4th of July, I'm home now nursing a summer cold, a billion mosquito bites, and I walked into furniture this morning right where I have a bite, so every time I scratch it makes me want to scream because there's an intense bruise forming, and basically WELCOME BACK TO REALITY, MICHELLE. So grateful for two weeks with my family doing fun summer things, so thankful to be back home with my NEW FRIDGE.

It's every bit as beautiful as I imagined it was, just like Mike Wolfe.


as a descendant of Dwight K. Schrute, I approve this message

Greetings from the great state of Iowa!

Gracie and I ventured out here a few days ago. I had been so proud of myself for not getting very anxious about the trip like I usually do. Then the night before, I was such a nervous wreck and battling a migraine so bad I nearly threw up. The drive itself wasn't our worst but was certainly not the best. We hit some rough patches of weather, potholes so bad I was positive my tires were shredded, and truck drivers who definitely shouldn't be on the road and nearly killed us 6 times over. I was a bundle of nerves, but we made it safe and sound and had the perfect weekend.

We spent Saturday at a food truck competition on the Mississippi River. It could not have been a more small town, midwestern American summer day if it tried. We sampled the wares (one being a brat with MAC N CHEESE INSIDE!!!) and Gracie danced her heart out to a cover band playing CCR's Bad Moon Rising. We went out for ice cream after to cool off from the intense Iowa humidity.

I was basking in the air conditioning and sugar rush when James called. Lowe's had delivered our fridge, but no one could figure out how to turn the water off to hook up the water line. Apparently the water line to the fridge had no shut off, which is consistent with how things have gone with our house over the past 7 months. I knew where the main water shut off to the house was, because our realtor broke it, then had a plumber come fix it which the seller discovered during an unauthorized visit while we were at closing and KICKED THE PLUMBER OUT.

But I'm not still bitter or anything.

Our realtor walked me to the water main and spoon fed me what to do if something floods and we need to shut the water off. Unfortunately this was not useful information when our laundry room flooded.

I told James it was in the laundry room behind the dryer. He said he turned it but nothing shut off. I told him he was crazy. He insisted. The delivery guys hunted the entire house and garage, finding nothing. I told him to call our realtor. Our realtor insisted the shut off was in the crawl space. I knew this was absolutely false given our previous experience together. James crawled under the house for 15 minutes, tracing pipes and water lines (my actual worst nightmare) and found nothing.

No one could figure out how to shut the water off, but somehow the delivery guys managed to hook up the water line. I did not ask for details. Keep in mind this is the exact spot where we found blood under the carpet. It must be a cursed spot in our home. I took another bite of ice cream and thanked the Lord in heaven that I wasn't home dealing with it.

Several hours later, James told me that the spot I told him was the water shut was, indeed, the water shut off. It apparently took much longer than he expected for the water to run out of the line.

My angst over the water drama quickly subsided when James sent me pictures of the fridge. It is BEAUTIFUL. And massive. And perfect. And I can't wait to go home and hug it and rearrange everything he put inside.

Later that night, I got an even better gift. I've always known that my grandparents/great-grandparents and beyond were all farmers in California. This is not new information. However, my grandma sent a picture of my great-grandfather who I never met. He was...wait for it...A BEET FARMER.


DWIGHT SCHRUTE IS MY GREAT-GRANDFATHER AND I HAVE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER. It explains so many things. I didn't even know there were actual beet farmers in the world!!! My mom has become obsessed with The Office and was relishing this information, knowing it would give me boundless joy. It did and it has and it will forevermore.

And let us never forget I share a birthday with Michael Gary Scott. 

On Sunday, we went to a local dairy farm offering a free lunch, tours, and a petting zoo. Most people go to the beach in the summer; I go to a dairy farm in Iowa. I feel bad for the people at the beach. As I said just few weeks ago, I am OBSESSED with farms and farm animals and everything involved. I was more excited than Gracie. I was giddy. I loved every single minute of it. I pet all the cows, trying to force myself not to push kids out of the way. There were baby cows, goats, pigs, SO MANY COWS, vintage tractors, and ice cream.

The only thing missing were beets.

But at least I have plenty of room for some in my new fridge.