Category Archives: about the blogger

I like kids stuff and I’ll thank you not to be a jerk about it…

(April the giraffe better have her baby soon because I’m sick of hearing about it. The live stream shows up on my Facebook feed every couple of posts and I’m about to lose my mind. It’s even on the news! Drop that baby already, April! We’re all tired of staring at your backside.)

Ok, world, listen up, if I want a row of little tiny plastic pony shaped toys in colors not found in nature on my shelf then I will have a row of little tiny plastic pony shaped toys in colors not found in nature on my shelf and you standing there with a mean grin on yourself face asking me ‘My Little Pony is for kids, why do you have those’ like my fondness for lighthearted, fantasy based entertainment somehow makes me touched in the head or less of an adult just makes you look like a jackass.

Yes, I like kids stuff and I’ll thank you not to be a jerk about it.

Princess_Luna

Princess Luna is my favorite and is the best and most awesome.
Fight me if you don’t think so.

I also have some Harry Potter Funko Pops! and minis, some Disney Dorbz, some assorted mini figures,and a good sized collection of Marvel Avengers action figures, bobble heads, and Lego sets. And the aforementioned My Little Pony toys. Other odds and ends of the literary sort. I recently bought a set of The Man from Uncle 1960’s novels. I plan to collect all 23 of them. And a Totoro plush from my Hayao Miyazaki / Studio Ghibli phase. There is also a tub of anime DVD’s under my bed. Some Sailor Moon stuff.

And the point is, these things make me happy. I’m drawn to entertainment that is light, colorful, fantasy based, and escapist. I need them. Without them, life is dreary and monotonous. Dreadfully boring. Pressing, and not in a good way. I need that outlet. And what right does anyone have to decide my outlet is weird or not appropriate for my age? I find your scrapbooking (or whatever) boring but I’m not picking up your glue dots or paper strips and asking you why you waste so much money on this crap. Because it’s rude and mean.

Without that outlet, I could not see myself coping. (It would be interesting, and probably helpful and enlightening, to see how many people that are fans of such child aimed entertainment as MLP, fandom, and cosplay actually have some form of mental illness (fuck! I HATE those words) and are using those child aimed entertainment and geeky pursuits as a coping mechanism.) [I HATE the words ‘mental illness’. The social connotations around them make me feel like there is something wrong with me. There is nothing wrong with me. I am not broken. There is no need to look at me with pity when I get excited about a new Funko Pop! figure, My Little Pony movie, or Ever After High special. Fuck you very much.]

It also pisses me off that there seems to be a level of interest that is acceptable and a level of interest that is not acceptable. Like a measuring stick for your crazy. “I like Star Wars. I have all the movies.” – acceptable. “I like Star Wars. I went to a Con dressed as Rey.” – unacceptable. Personally, if you don’t love something enough to let it consume you, then you are weak. Weak!

Everyone has their coping mechanisms. Just because mine doesn’t involve stinking cigarettes, booze, or whatever sex filled murder TV show is currently occupying the evening time slots does not mean I’m immature or mentally deficient. Apparently, your coping mechanisms are only acceptable if you are killing yourself faster every time you use them. If a show or movie meets a certain standard; interesting plot, engaging characters, detailed world building, then the kid or adult status we label things with is just stupid. And there are bad kids TV shows, don’t get me wrong.  Teen Titans was awesome. Teen Titans Go! makes me want to stab someone.

And don’t even start with me about girl verses boy TV shows. I will cut you.

harry-potterAnd everyone loves Harry Potter. I don’t care who you are or how old you are. You love Harry Potter. You’ve seen the movies, you’ve read the books, and you are a fan of a child aimed story about magic and wizardery. You’ve taken the online “What House Am I?” quiz.  I know you have. (I’m a Ravenclaw, by the way.) So don’t pretend you are the most adulty adult to ever adult in the world of adults because your pants are on fire. You love Harry Potter. If I want to put on a robe I made and take a wand to a midnight showing of Harry Potter whatever part, then that is my level of love for Harry Potter and you can keep your scorn and obnoxious false superiority to yourself.

So, next time you feel the need to make a comment on my Tardis keychain or pick up and fondle my Pikachu plush like it’s something exotic and new, know that you are a jerk and can shove it where the sun don’t shine. Your stuck up ‘adult’ judgment just makes you an ass. I love my toys and figures and dolls and DVD’s and Netflix queue filled with cartoons and fantasy shows and I have better things to do than pander to your stagnate idea of how an adult should act. I have an evil wizard to defeat with my lightsaber. So nah.

Thank you for reading!

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Am I still a blogger? The Mysterious Ability to Focus and Maintain Motivation

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If one does not blog,

Is one still a blogger?

It’s been, yikes, four months since there has been any activity on this blog. I haven’t been reading. I got Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter for the October Owl Crate box and I was trying to read it but just couldn’t focus enough. I think it’s still sitting on a shelf, book mark half way through. I’ve gotten a couple of books since then that I haven’t even opened. Some of them look really interesting but it doesn’t seem to help.

This happens sometimes. You might call it depression or ADHD or whatever you like. But I go through periods where my brain just does not want to function correctly. Other times I read a book in a couple of days and it’s no problem. Then there are the times where it’s a struggle to even watch TV because I can’t focus or have any desire to pay attention or care at all that I’m missing something that I might at other times really enjoy. I can almost never finish TV show seasons because of this. I just can’t stick with it. Movies are a little better. Shorter timeframe, really. But a Netflix movie could languish in my possession for a couple months or more before I can dredge up the desire to watch it. Even then I might pause it and wander off a couple of times to do the dishes or tidy up or annoy the cat.

Then there are the things I obsess over. Like fandom. I read fanfiction. Adore it, really. Once I have an interest in a fandom, that’s it. It rules to the exclusion of all else. A little over a year ago I loved the Avengers Steve/Tony ship. My love for the Avengers was total, all encompassing. I devoured fanfic and fanart for Avengers like my life depended on it. I could read fanfic all day and all night long. It was hard to stop but I had no trouble focusing.

Then I saw the new Man from Uncle movie, which lead to discovering the Man from Uncle TV show from the 60’s and the lovely, beautiful ship of Illya/Napoleon. I was hooked. Now I devour fanfic and fanart for the Man from Uncle fandom. Which really sucks because it’s a substantially smaller fandom than Avengers was. I’ve already gone through the Archive of Our Own fanfics and now I’m desperately looking for more to read.

But now I have no interest for Avengers. Just Man from Uncle. My brain is fucked up.

I can read and read and read fanfic but I can’t do the same for original books. I don’t understand why, either.

I also try to write in my chosen fandom but that’s another thing I can’t focus on. I obsess over Man from Uncle but it’s a struggle to focus and complete fanfic ideas. I have a lot of started ideas but very rarely complete anything to post. You would think my ability to obsess over a fandom would carry over to writing fanfic for it but my motivation kind of trickles away.

I have two Avenger fanfics that I started posting and now I fear I’ll never finish them because my interest has moved on. I’ve sworn to never post anything that wasn’t already done because of this. Those two fanfics will probably languish forever.

Does anybody else experience this? Can you just obsess over something, absolutely adore it, but not be able to focus on other things? Or lose interest and motivation on projects? It’s not like I don’t have time to read books or write. I have loads of time. Just no follow through on projects. Is it ADHD? Depression? Hormonal? Anybody have any advice?

Thank you for reading!

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Welcome to November!

goodmorningcoffeecupbedding

Once was a coincidence. Twice is a bloody pattern. Next Halloween I’m hiding in a closet for 48 hours.

Last year, on November 1, I fell and chipped a bone in my elbow. It required surgery and I was out of work for almost two months. I came back just before Christmas, with two new screws in my right arm. This year, I was driving to a friend’s house for some Halloween shenanigans Saturday night and spun out on a ramp, ending up in a ditch. I’m fine-ish. The car is fine-ish. Luckily, my back tires were still on asphalt and the cop was able to back the car out of the grass. No tow truck required. He checked it over and sent me on my way. I was closer to my friend’s place than mine at that point, so I just went to her place rather than head home. Of course, the adrenaline crash meant I was zonked out before midnight. What a night!

The best thing about this shit, are the mini panic attacks I’m going to have every time I get into that car for at least a couple of months.

I’m taking the car to the shop to have it checked out today. The tires are not that old and I want everything looked over. I’ve driven it a couple of times and it seems to be ok but I’m surprised I didn’t wake up this morning to a flat tire or something. Just what I didn’t need to spend money on right now. I’m hoping for an all clear but I fully expect to have fucked something up that will cost a nice penny to fix. Oh joy.

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But it’s November! For those of you not in the know, that means it’s National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo. Or NaNo for short. NaNo is crazy. The goal is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. That’s 1,667 words a day. If you’re a writer, or would just like to be, head over to NaNoWriMo and sign up. Pick your home region (I’m Saint Louis, MO.) and meet some people, join some write-ins, and get cracking on those words. Don’t stop. Don’t edit. Just keep writing. This is about quantity, not quality. My first write-in is on Saturday. This means I’ll have to get my butt out of bed in the morning. I am not a morning person. Hiss. Boo.

Happy November, everybody!

Thank you for reading!

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Photo Diary: Colorado, Day 1, part 2

pdcolorado

After we left the Stanley Hotel, we drove back to the main road and stopped at KFC for lunch. I know; not very exciting but we were in a hurry and didn’t want to rush through a restaurant meal that really deserved more time than we had available. We ended up getting the 8 piece meal so we’d have something to eat later. Then we headed over to the jeep tour meeting place. (Click on photo to see larger on Flickr. There are also more photos in the Colorado Album, if you want to see them.)

We used Rocky Mountain Rush for our jeep tour and opted for the Panoramic Peak Tour, the medium wild with tower photo tour. It had begun to drizzle at this point, which was a little disappointing, but they gave us rain slickers and covered the seats of the 4 wheeler we would ride in. Now, I want to make something very clear here that I did not think of at the time. I’m fat. I readily admit it. I’m also not agile and my balance sucks. My brain did not make that connection with the fact that these are jeeps and thus pretty high off the ground. I needed a step ladder to get into and out of the jeep. They had one and besides some embarrassment and ungraceful moments on my part, it was fine. But there was no way I could haul myself in and out of those things without the step ladder. If you have problems with mobility, I suggest calling and asking a couple of questions just to see if this is for you. We did drive past the jeep they use for the milder tours that looked easier to manage, so don’t count yourself out until you check. Ok?

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Now, the tour we chose didn’t take us into Rocky Mountain National Park. (Again, I really suggest you call and double check everything. You’ll get more details talking with someone at Rush than just relying on the website like we did.) Our tour instead took up back up Highway 36 into the Roosevelt National Forest. It’s still forest and mountains but it’s not where we thought we were going. Our driver switched the jeep to four wheel drive and up the trail we went. There was a lot of pretty scenery and our driver was a wealth of information. We stopped once on the way up to wander around an aspen tree cluster and have some snacks. (He brought snacks for us and bottled water. I thought that was a nice touch.) I was very impressed with our driver. Then I hauled my ungraceful-self back up into the jeep and we headed to the top of the trail to the watch tower.

Alright, fair warning. The trail is rough. You will be tossed around. The jeep goes fairly slowly but it’s still a bumpy ride. Do not try and hold yourself still. You will pull something and be sore as hell the next day. (Yeah. Ow.) Be loose and sway with the jeep. You’ll be fine.

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

There I am in all my wind blown, pink cheeked glory. I’m in the blue jacket on the left. My travel companion is in the tan on the right.

When we reached the tower we all piled out and climbed up the stairs. I’m scared of heights but I was fine. The stairs are solid and I didn’t feel unsafe going up. There is a little room under the top deck if you don’t want to go all the way up. There were more snacks. (I had a mini pack of Oreos.) Then we all trooped up to the top. This is where the tour earns it panoramic title. It was a little cloudy but had stopped raining by that time and you could see all the way down into Estes Park and clear across the horizon. It was really a beautiful view.

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Way down there, kind of middle right, is the white speck that is the Stanley Hotel.

We spent around 15 minutes up there before heading back down to the jeep and then down the trail back to Estes Park. We didn’t see any animals up there; which I know disappointed my travel companion. It is a rather noisy jeep, so I think they know to steer clear. We then headed back into Estes Park and I kissed the ground when we finally stopped. I felt like a shaken cocktail by the end. Oh my god.

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

Colorado Jeep Tour

We headed to the hotel to check in after the jeep tour. We stayed at the Best Western Plus off of Big Thompson Ave. It was the most expensive hotel we stayed at during our trip, at about $130 for one night, but it was also the nicest. The room had its own mini fridge, microwave, and coffee pot. We booked a double room, so we each had our own full sized bed. They even had an indoor pool, although we did not have time to go for a dip. My only complaint is that the sink and vanity were pretty much out in the room. The toilet and shower were behind a door. I’m not really thrilled with the idea of someone being able to see me brush my teeth even if they are my friend.

My travel companion pulled out her laptop from her suitcase to see where we should have dinner. It was then that we discovered her bag had been pulled for a random search, they leave a little card inside, and they had pretty much broken everything inside while doing it. Her laptop screen was broken. Even the mirror in her makeup case had been shattered. It kind of put a downer on the trip. She called the airline and got the process for reimbursement started but it sucked. (And took her and her husband several months to get the full amount for what had been broken. One big headache.) I’m glad I thought to take my camera out of my bag before getting it checked. Honestly people, all of your electronics should travel on the plane with you. Airport personnel just sling those bags and suitcases through the air like it’s a game. If it cost you more than $20 to purchase, it should be in your carry on/backpack.

We headed out for dinner blind. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from and we knew we’d find something. The main road through Estes Park is a cute strip with stores and restaurants and everything you could want. There is fast food, if you want to go simple, but we opted to eat at The GrubSteak. Why, you ask? Two words. Elk. Burgers. Like most non-cow burgers, the elk burgers there were juicy and yummy and probably one of the better burgers I’ve ever eaten. (I’ve had bison and venison [specifically deer] burgers too.) Too bad I had kind of lost my appetite from being tossed around in the jeep all afternoon and only managed to eat half my burger. I planned to eat the rest of it later but never got around to it. I mourned that uneaten elk burger. I really did.

We went back to the hotel and pretty much just crashed. My friend called her husband and her kids. We both showered and watched a little TV before pretty much zonking out. I got up in the middle of the night with a cramp in my calf because my body hates me. We had plans to meet up with my friend that had moved to Colorado a couple years ago for breakfast. She was nice enough to drive up to Estes Park even though it was a workday for her. I was really excited to see her. And I don’t think she minded having an excuse to head into the mountain even for just a couple of hours.

On my next post, The Egg & I, up into the mountains we go, and then tumbling back down them.

Thank you for reading!

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Greetings on this Monday Morning

goodmorningcoffeecupbedding

Well, here we are again. Monday morning. I know you are all as thrilled to see another beginning to the work week as I am. (That was sarcasm right there.) I ended up losing my whole Sunday to a migraine. I have TMJ and I clinch my teeth when I sleep. So I have a lot of jaw pain and a lot of headaches, even after spending several thousand dollars on trying to find relief. Then I get the occasional massive, debilitating migraine. These happen about once a month and they just take me out. My whole day, just gone. The whole day spent either asleep in bed or asleep on the couch with pain patches all over my neck and a heat pack on my forehead. I take the max number of pain pills on these days. And when it’s finally over, I feel as if a heavy weight wrestler has beaten the shit out of me. I slept all day yesterday and half the night and I still feel exhausted right now. I feel vaguely nauseous and sore. It’s horrible. Fist bump to all my fellow migraine sufferers. This sucks.

My reserve for Fat Girl Walking: Sex, Food, Love, and Being Comfortable in Your Skin…Every Inch of It by Brittany Gibbons is in at the library, so I’ll stop by after work to pick that up. I’m also waiting for a copy of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell to become available because, hello!, published fanfiction. (Yes, I realize it’s not really fanfiction [I have read Fangirl.] but it’s going to read like fanfiction and I’m a fanfiction junkie and I can’t wait!) There is a long list and somebody on there has kept their book over by 3 weeks. I’m about ready to hunt that person down, I tell ya. Hand in your books people! Especially if it’s a new release! You are being rude!

In other news, I’ve gone gluten free and lost 5 pounds in the last two weeks. Holla! People keep offering me cake and I can’t have it and it’s driving me nuts. Why have I gone gluten free? I don’t have celiac disease but I do have PCOS, which is a hormone disorder that can be exasperated by a chemical produced when digesting gluten. I’m hoping that going gluten free will help with some of my stomach upset and skin condition. I’ll see if I can’t get a post together with more information on that. I’ll also be doing some taste tests and reviews of gluten free products and recipes. It’s been hard to cut gluten from my diet but it’s going well so far.

I hope you all have an awesome week!

Thank you for reading!

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The Cat in the Haunted House

I bought my kitten one of those haunted house cardboard scratcher things from Target a couple weeks ago. Let me just tell you, I am not smarter than the instructions. Even for a cardboard cat house. I didn’t bend the tabs down before trying to slot it together and tried to fix it with duct tape because I’m a stubborn idiot. Then my brain kicked into gear and I actually read the instructions that came with the house. Nothing brings you down a peg than failing to put together something that doesn’t even have screws. Yay, me.

At least Fiona likes it. She sleeps in it and stores her supply of mice in the back corner.

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It was $29.99. Although, I hear you can order it online for cheaper.

Today I took Fiona to the vet to have her little lady bits snipped and to have her micro-chipped. Maybe she’ll calm down a little once she’s fixed. Ha! Yeah right. For a 6 month old kitten, that girl has some attitude. I kind of wish she’d stop attacking the drapes. And me.

Thank you for reading!

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The Woman Who Called Me Trisha

My Mom’s nickname for me was Trisha. Tuesday was the one year anniversary of my Mom’s death from gastrointestinal cancer. As I’m sure you can imagine, yesterday was not a very good day for me. I held my cool through work, even if I felt like screaming at every little whiny asshole bitching at me that they hadn’t gotten a callback for their broken machinery in three days. (Stop breaking your shit and you won’t have that problem.) My Mom was only 65 years old when she died. She actually had her 65th birthday while slowly dying in hospice care at home. 

My Mom’s was never a healthy woman. She’d had problems since I was a little kid. Most times she’d make plans and then had to cancel them when her stomach would act up. She saw doctors and took medicine for IBS and Ulcerative Colitis and a whole host of other things. Certain foods sent her running to the bathroom. She’d get up two hours before she’d have to leave for work just to sit on the toilet. I have to wonder how long the cancer had been growing inside her, waiting. She had a hysterectomy when I was about 10 years old. She started bleeding like she was having her menstrual cycle and just didn’t stop. Mom was on the cusp of her 40’s and already had two kids, so the doctors gave her the hysterectomy with little trouble. She had a hernia surgery when I was in my teens. 

It was actually the mesh from the hernia surgery they thought was the problem when the pain in my Mom’s stomach got so bad she went to the ER. They went in to repair what they thought was a twisted mesh. They found cancer. They ended up removing most of her intestines and portions of her colon, if I remember correctly. When she woke up, they told her what they had found and that it was stage 4. She refused medical treatment after that. I think by that point, the years of pain and ill health were just too much for her. I still get angry sometimes that she didn’t try to fight but I understand. Treatment would have been hard and would have only prolonged her life a little. That’s no way to live. 

We took her home. My Dad took leave from work and spent most days with her. I’d stop by in the evenings after work so my Dad could get some uninterrupted sleep. My brother took weekends. We all knew that Mom had made the decision to die on her own terms but it was not easy to watch. For the first half it was merely embarrassing and awkward. She was still healing from surgery and was confined to the electric medical bed at home. My Dad had to prepare her meals and change her bedpan and empty her urine bag. It was messy and we all hated it, especially my Mom. For the second half, she started to fade and her mind was going. She’d get confused and then scared. She’d call for my Dad when he was standing right next to her. She’d mix up the male members of our family. Thank all the gods I’m the only female in our immediate family. I could tell it broke my Dad’s heart when she’d mistake him for her brother, my uncle. She’d call my brother our Dad’s name. There was no dignity in the way my Mom died. It took two months for her to finally slip away. 

I was actually driving to work in the morning when my brother called asking me where I was. He asked if I had time to stop by the house, the nurse wanted to talk to us about something. Turns out he just didn’t want to tell me that Mom had died a little while before while I was driving. And that was it. The hospice nurse pronounced her dead and the cornier collected the body. They didn’t come take the empty bed until the next day. I hate the medical company for that; leaving the bed my Mom died in sitting in our home. When it became obvious that they weren’t coming to get the bed that day, we tried to get my Dad to spend the night at my brother’s house or at least go to a hotel. But he’s a stubborn so and so and refused. He slept in the empty house with that damn bed. 

Why am I telling you all this? If anybody is bothering to read this, that is. This is massive overshare if there ever was one. Well, I’m sharing because she existed, damn it. My Mom worked in an insurance office and pushed paper around all day. She was an ok cook and her house was messy and she had wrinkles and gray hairs and lived in a typical suburb and she was stubborn and sarcastic and she fucking lived. She called me Trisha. She was the only one who called me Trisha.  

My mom’s name was Phyllis Ann Hull. We share a middle name. Most would consider her unremarkable. She left no grand legacy. Just a daughter she called Trisha. Who, unfortunately for you, has a computer and internet access and a blog she mostly ignores. 

Say Hi…

babymom
Tiny baby Mom with my Grandma.

highschool
Mom in high school.

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My Grandma in front, in the mustard shirt, and my Mom in back in the green sweater. She would have been 18 years old.

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My Mom and Dad in a truly 70’s wedding.

mom&me
And a very excited kid me with my Mom. This is Christmas 1984. I would have been just shy of 2 years old.

I miss you, Mom.

Thank you for reading!

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Happy First Day of October!

happyoctober

Sunny and in the upper 60’s today. I walked outside this morning and let out this huge breath. Ahhh. Hello, Autumn. Hello, October. My favorite month in my favorite season. Boneregard, my 6 foot skeleton, is going out on the balcony this evening. During the Halloween season, he waves at people to get them in the spirit. Ok, he doesn’t really wave but his arm is in the air like he’s waving. You get the idea. 

punchFor Halloween this year, I’m going to be a tooth fairy. Not the one from the Guardians movie but just a simple tooth fairy. I’m going to get a pink shirt, leggings and a tutu. Stick on some fairy wings, a cheap plastic crown, and magic up a tooth wand, and I’ll be rocking the tooth fairy look. I’m thinking about getting a leather pouch and filling it will chocolate coins to give to my coworkers and trick or treaters. Of course, I require a tooth in exchange. Hold still while I knock one out. 

I need to get some more Halloween decoration review posts up. I still have the videos from Target and now pictures from Hobby Lobby and Home Goods to share. Then I want to get another post of my Colorado vacation up, which I’ve been meaning to do forever. And I have a couple of book reviews I should type up and post. Man, I’m lazy. Where did the time go?

Thank you for reading!

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Photo Diary: Colorado, Day 1, part 1

pdcolorado

Bad, blogger. Bad. This was supposed to be up Monday. What can I say? Procrastination is my worst bad habit.

Last year a friend and I took a trip to Colorado. We flew out of Lambert Saint Louis International Airport in Missouri early Tuesday, September 9th and then flew home from Denver International Airport early Saturday, September 13th. I must say, the Denver airport was the largest I’ve ever been in. You have to take a train – a train – to get from the main building to the terminal arms and even then you have to hoof it to your gate. That airport is freaking huge. It puts the Lambert Airport in Saint Louis to shame.

We landed in Denver around 8am, collected our bags after wandering around trying to figure out where the hell the baggage claim was (did I mention the Denver Airport was freakn’ huge?), and then caught the bus to our car rental place. I talked my travel buddy, Jamie, into springing for an upgrade on our rental car. She was going to get a compact car but I knew we’d be doing a lot of mountain driving and did not want to be sitting in a little car like that for the amount we planned to drive. We got a mid-sized SUV and were incredibly grateful that we did. It made a lot of difference in how safe we felt on those winding, high roads. Trust me, if you are traveling to mountain country for the first time, spring for a better car rental.

We headed for our first stop, Estes Park (elevation of 7,522 feet). Most of the way was highway driving but once you start climbing, you climb quick. Luckily it was sunny and beautiful on the way up and we reached Estes Park without problems. We had a tour at the infamous Stanley Hotel booked, which we were late for, but they just stuck us in the next tour. (Click on photos to see larger versions on my Flickr. Also, sorry for the freaking date stamp in the corner. They are all like that because I’m an idiot and forgot to turn it off.)

Colorado, Estes Park

The first photo of the trip, taken from the parking lot of the Stanley Hotel.

Our tour guide at the Stanley Hotel was funny, energetic, and a good story teller. We went up into the balcony section of the Concert Hall where our tour guide told us the basic story of Freelan Stanley and his wife Flora. We then went down into the empty Concert Hall and walked around. We saw the piano that Flora’s ghost supposedly plays, misplaced from its usual position in the main lodge building at that time. We returned to the main lodge building to tour the dining room, men’s lounge, and music room. Then our tour guide led us up the main stairway to the upper floors. We saw the door of Room 217, the room Stephen King stayed in where he had the inspiration for his book ‘The Shining’, but weren’t able to go in.

Stanely Hotel 5

Stanley Hotel 6

The front of the main lodge building.

We walked around the hallways while our tour guide told the story of ghost children heard playing at night and of a housekeeper who reportedly still continues her duties despite having died years before. I could have sworn I took at least one picture of the hallway while we were up on the fourth floor but for the life of me I can’t find it. It’s not on my camera either, even though I haven’t deleted any of the photos. Ugh! I wish I had taken more photos while we were on the upper floors but I was too busy listening to the tour guide and spaced.

We did have one slight ghostly encounter. Flora, Stanley’s wife, was said to wear rose perfume, which supposedly you are able to smell in odd places. Our tour guide had just told us this and then this floral scent overcame us as we were walking up the stairs. Someone else in our group asked “do you smell that?” and my travel buddy said she could. Jamie asked if I could too and I could but I can’t really accept it as paranormal because we were all trooping up the stairs, touching the polished wood banister that I know is probably cleaned with a scented cleaner, and then there was a cleaning cart in the hallway when we got up to the third floor. I think I sort of burst everyone’s bubble when I pointed it out. Sorry!

The tour guide then took us down to the basement and the tunnels. She told us about the story of the maintenance workers seen down there and about her own experience seeing someone out of time and place. I really enjoyed the whole tour. It was interesting, even for those who might be less enthused about the paranormal aspect and just there for the history and architecture.

We did some wondering around the lobby and the gift shop at the end before leaving for lunch. The Stanley Hotel is a beautiful place and I’m glad we went. This was one of the things that my travel buddy agreed to for my sake. I don’t think Jamie had any interest in it but there was no way I was going to Estes Park without seeing the most haunted building in Colorado!

Stanley Hotel 3

Stanley Hotel 9

A couple pictures of the main stairway in the lobby.

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The lobby.

Stanley Hotel 1

The Stanley Steamer car on display in the lobby.

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Safe on display downstairs.

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Plaque out on the front porch.

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Stanley Hotel 7

A couple of photos from the front veranda of the Stanley Hotel.

It was nice and sunny when we arrived at the Stanley Hotel but by the time was left it had started to rain. We had lunch at a KFC, of all things, and then headed over to the jeep tour. I’ll talk about that and show you the photos next week. Estes Park was an adorable little town. The main street is lined with restaurants, more interesting than KFC chicken, I promise, little shops, and boutiques. I bought a couple of post cards and a key chain from the “trading depot” and some loose leaf tea from the tea shop. (More about that later.) I plan to go back at some point. We only spent a day and a half there before going south and I wish we’d stayed longer. Estes Park was the prettiest part to the whole trip, in my opinion.

Up next week: the jeep tour and the hotel.

Thank you for reading!

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Budgeting: tips and April roundup.

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April was the first month I tried to create a budget and stick to it. After the last couple of months had slowly eaten away at my bank accounts, I decided it was time to buckle down and stop spending money willy-dilly. I’d never given money much thought until I opened my online banking website in early April and found my account sitting at -26 cents. I moved money over from my saving account but it was a shock to find I had overspent.

I don’t spend money regularly but if I do have occasion to spend money, like a special shopping trip to the antique mall or going out with friends, I don’t give much thought on how much I am spending. Meaning, that while I don’t constantly spend money, when I do, I spend a lot. An antique mall trip might only happen a couple times a year but each time could see a couple hundred dollars going out the door. (I have a vintage teacup obsession.) Then I don’t really think about how much I am spending at normal places, like the grocery store.

But I’ve had some big bills recently. I broke my arm in November 2014 and the ER trip, surgery, and then physical therapy bills are still coming in, even 6 months later. In February, I took my car in for a normal oil change and a message about the air bag on my radio dash and left with a new battery and brakes. Money has been flowing through my fingers like water lately and it needed to stop.

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So I set up a budget. As my first budget, I went easy on myself. I made a promise to shop for the majority of my groceries from the local discount store, only going to the regular grocery store for special things and those things I can’t get at the discount store. So, this meant most of my food shopping was done at ALDI with only sporadic trips to Schnucks or Dierbergs.

Budget Tip 1: Discount grocery stores are awesome.

In my area, ALDI is the best discount grocery store. Their food is fine. Milk is milk and eggs are eggs no matter was label you put on it. I actually prefer their Bremer Pepperoni Pizza Hot Stuffed Sandwiches to the Hot Pocket brand pepperoni pizza sandwiches it could get at other stores. Most of my essentials were bought from ALDI. They even have a nice selection of fresh vegetables and fruit, including mushrooms and bagged spinach. I only go to the specialty grocery stores for anything like Yukon gold potatoes and perhaps bigger cuts of meat, like roasts. What I’m saying here is, if you are hesitant to shop at discount stores because you think they are lesser quality or only truly poor families shop there, don’t. They are a resource everyone should be utilizing.

Budget Tip 2: Writing expenses down on paper.

The second thing I started to do was keep an expenditure log. I’m just like everyone else; I don’t carry cash anymore. I pay for everything with a debit card. A single swipe and I’m on my way. The problem with that is it can be hard to understand the amount of money you are spending when using a debit or credit card. Either I could have started to carry cash on me, which frankly didn’t sound like a good idea for several reasons, or I could start putting more effort into tracking my purchases.

Pinterest is full of budget printables. Simple do a search for ‘budget printables’ and a whole host of links will pop up. Here is the one I used from Queen of Free. I wanted something fairly simple looking but there are choices that are colorful and will allow you to add whatever information you want to the log. I used one side for fixed expenses; like the rent, utilities, and internet/cable, and I used the other side for variable expenses; like food, clothing, and entertainment. I made sure that for every purchase, I put it on the expenditure log so I could physically see where the money was going and how much I was spending.

I set a sliding budget for groceries up to $80 a week but with a goal of $50 a week. This gave me a bit of wiggle room while I get used to shopping at the discount store. Disregarding the first week of April, when I wasn’t keeping a budget, I did pretty well. I fell between $50 and $60 each week. That’s pretty darn good for my first try. I was spending about $40 at ALDI and about $20 at the regular grocery store.

I didn’t deprive myself either. I ate pork chops and chicken legs and mashed potatoes but I was more aware of what those things cost and that they were cheaper at ALDI. I knew if I suddenly went on a diet of cheap boxed mac & cheese, that the whole budget thing wouldn’t last a week. I was very mindful of what I was spending my money on. As a result, I bought less junk food. I didn’t cut it out altogether. I still had potato chips and nutty bars for my junk food cravings. But I spent the majority of my food budget on whole foods like veggies and meats and made big enough meals out of them that there was enough for 2 or 3 meals. That way I wasn’t cooking every single night and getting annoyed or tired of it. So, I ate well and didn’t mind being on a budget because it didn’t feel like I was. Be mindful of what you are buying and know the best places to spend your cash.

moneynotesEven with only keeping a budget for 3 weeks out of the 4 weeks in April, I still saved almost $400. I used my federal tax refund to pay a medical bill and then had to move some more money from my saving to my checking account to pay for my car insurance renewal. But taking out those two non-normal one time expenses, I saved $400. I hope to do just as well in May but I have another medical bill to pay and I need to throw money at my credit card bill. (My credit card has my vacation to Colorado, new glasses, and dental work from summer and autumn 2014 on it. I’ve been making the minimum payment on it for about 10 months now. I know, that’s bad. As soon as I pay this last medical bill [I hope to all the gods it’s the last medical bill.], I’ll start paying off the credit card.)

It will still be several months before I start saving money instead of just coming out even. I have a lot of work a head of me. Fingers crossed, everybody!

Thank you for reading!

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