Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Mt. Simon Park Mystery and A New Restaurant

 A few weeks ago I shared that my husband and I have been having "Sunday Fundays" exploring our own hometown.  We have lived in the area for over 25 years, yet, there are so many places we have never visited.  One of them, I'm going to call "The Mystery Park", otherwise known as "Mount Simon Park".

I have seen many beautiful photos on FB over the years from friends who have gone hiking there, but I had never been there.  So when my husband and I were deciding what to do on our next Sunday Funday I said I wanted to go to this park.  We looked it up on the Internet and thought we knew where we going.  Now, keep in mind, even though we have lived in Eau Claire for 25 years, this is not a easy city to navigate.  The Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers run all through the city, so there are lots of bridges and twists and turns that make no logical sense.

My husband drove to where he thought the park was.  We did see one tiny sign with a arrow pointing in the direction of the park.  We headed up that road and reached a dead end with a small gravel parking pad.  "Can this seriously be it?" we thought.  There were two worn paths leading off of the parking pad, so we decided to take one of them.  The first one followed a chain link fence.  We walked on that one, then determined to turn around and get on the other path, because it didn't seem to be a real path.  How odd that there were no signs stating we were at the park, and no trail maps.

The second path was much nicer.  And we did meet other hikers on this path, so even though there were not any maps, at least we felt we were on a designated trail.  It was a very short climb to this I recognized immediately because I saw it on FB so many times.  "Yes!"  I said to my husband, "We really are in the right place!"

When you climb up on this rock from the other side, you get this view.  The Chippewa River is in the background and the city of Eau Claire can be seen on the right (not visible in this picture).

Well, after we climbed to the top I said to my husband "Is that all this park is?  Just some rugged trails in the woods to get to this viewpoint?"  He said "I guess so."  It just didn't seem right to me.  People always posted such amazing pictures of this place.  I felt we were missing something.  But we agreed to just have lunch and then call it a day.

My husband did surprise me by taking me to a new restaurant that just opened up in Eau Claire:  "Cowboy Jacks"!  It is located in a swanky new development in Eau Claire (actually the city of Altoona) right next to the Eau Claire River.

"Cowboy Jacks" offers both indoor and outdoor dining...and the outdoor dining is AMAZING!  I can't even begin to tell you how amazing this place is!  FINALLY Eau Claire has a exciting restaurant with great ambiance that one usually only finds in bigger cities.

It was super hot this day, and we were overheated from hiking, so we chose to eat inside and enjoy the air conditioning.  Although I can't wait to go back and enjoy the outdoor dining soon.  The interior decor was so fun!  It was very difficult to get quality pictures with the dim lighting, but I did my best.

All the decor was western from the top of the ceiling to the floor.  I loved this wagon wheel light fixture.

The restaurant had a sports bar atmosphere so there were T.V.s and screens everywhere playing all different sports.

There was a huge fieldstone fireplace on the back wall, and the windows had river views.

They have a variety of seating options from booths and bar stools, and even this couch!  Great for having late night drinks or coffee!

The menu was fabulous.  They offer a variety of burgers (including buffalo burgers), sandwiches, salads, wraps, fish, barbecue, and more.  I ordered a wrap and my husband got a patty melt.  Everything was absolutely delicious, but a bit on the pricey side for us.  I ended up only being able to eat about half my wrap because it was so huge;  it was then that we determined if we came back, to split a meal to save money since I can't eat it all anyway.

They have very unique twisty french fries.  They are so yummy!

Now don't laugh, but my favorite part of my meal was this Raspberry Ice Tea.  Maybe I was dehydrated from the heat and hiking, but this tea was SO GOOD!  I think I downed three glasses, I loved it so much!

 After we were done eating, we snooped around outside to check out the outdoor eating area.  It had a street level, and two balcony levels.  AMAZING!  Look at the lights!  I bet it's so pretty at night.  I would love to come here for dinner after dark sometime.

I seriously cannot believe anything as cool as this place is in Eau Claire, Wisconsin!

The outdoor seating was a mix of booths, patio furniture, a bar seating area, and even swings.  Yes, you heard me correctly, swings!  See the table at the top end of the picture under the pergola?  There are two swings the children are sitting in.

I noticed they was construction going on next too this restaurant.  I wonder what else they plan on building here?  So EXCITING!

This is the outdoor bar area.  I love the fire pit!  It reminds me of a lot of the restaurants in Florida.

 And the people sitting in this area get a lovely view of the Eau Claire River.  See the path next the river?  That's a bike path that follows the river connecting Eau Claire to Altoona and Chippewa Falls. My husband and I hope to get bikes this fall and go bike riding on this path.

Now I'm sure anyone who lives in a big city is probably laughing at my giddiness over this restaurant, but seriously, I've lived here over 25 years, and the most exciting restaurant in town was Texas Roadhouse, so this is really something special to me!  I usually only see restaurants like this when I travel.

But now, back to Mt. Simon Park.  When we got home, I looked Mt. Simon Park up on the Internet again and saw lots of pictures of areas we did not see.  So, my husband and I determined to go back the following weekend.

On our second visit, we found the main entrance to the park.  There was a playground, and an actual sign with the name of the park.  There was a road leading into the park which comes to a dead end.  There is a boat landing there, along with pavilions to picnic in.  But I still didn't see any trail maps.  We found two unmarked trails.  One went up, away from the river, and into the woods.  We didn't take that one because we figured it would just take us to the peak of Mt. Simon, where we were the week before.  So we decided on the trail next to the river.  It was a nice trail, but very rugged and I didn't have the correct footwear so unfortunately we couldn't walk far before we had to turn around.

If you saw Monday's Fashion Post, those pictures were taken on this trail.  The two pictures of the Chippewa River below, were taken from the floating pier...before my husband suffered vertigo!  LOL! That funny story is also on Monday's Fashion Post.

I was disappointed, yet again, to leave this park feeling like I was missing something.  I've seen so many amazing pictures of people hiking along the river.  I'm sure we were on the right path, but without proper trail maps we couldn't find anything.  My husband and I started wondering if any of the paths were designated park trails, or are they just worn paths created by locals.  On the park's website, it does say that there are "hiking and biking trails throughout the area" but that's a confusing sentence.  That's not exactly saying "In the park".  And there are not any trail maps available for the park.

So, I went on YouTube and I found many videos of kids cliff-jumping in this park.  When I was watching the video I saw the same chain link fence we saw on our first visit to the park.  And then I saw them climb the bridge.  "NO!  There's no other way to get to the cliffs except over the bridge?  I'm not doing that!"  Oh, the courage (or lack of sanity) of these kids is amazing.  I included the video so you could see for yourself!

There are many videos on YouTube about cliff jumping in Mt. Simon.  I was going to comment on one of the videos asking for directions on how to get to this cliff, but I noticed someone else had already asked this question and didn't receive much of a response.  The videographer just replied "There are no maps.  Just ask a local when you get to Eau Claire.  Most locals know where it is."  I had to laugh at that response, because I'm a local and I tried twice to find it and failed.  But then again, if it involves crosses a bridge...I'm not going to do it! LOL!

I really hope there's some other way to get to see these cliffs other than climbing across this bridge!  I think my husband and I will go back in the fall, when the leaves are changing colors, and we will wear proper clothing and footwear and explore these trails. Hopefully, we'll discover all these fun spots.  In the meantime, I'm going to continue to refer to this park as "The Mystery Park".

Have a Great Day!  Amy

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Monday, August 28, 2017

My $4.00 H&M Dress

 In an earlier fashion post I mentioned that when we were in Illinois for the birth of my granddaughter my husband and I went to a nearby mall while our daughter was resting.  It happened to be the 4th of July weekend, so all the stores were having HUGE holiday sales.  I picked up a cute blush sleeveless top  and this dress for only $4.00 each!  I remember asking myself when I saw the sales sign "Are my eyes deceiving me?".  Because I thought it was the prettiest, most unique dress!  I could envision all the multitude of ways I could wear it...alone, with a jacket, dressed up or down.  It was available in blush, gold, blue, and black too!

It is a shift dress made of the prettiest fabric I ever did see.  It is a shimmery, crinkle material.  It is very lightweight:  so it's cool and comfy.  I did add a slip under mine the day I wore it, but I don't think that would be necessary with the darker colors.

 I absolutely LOVE the shimmer in this dress.  It is so pretty IRL.  And the shift style is my favorite style of dress!  If you desire more shape, you could add a belt.  You could also add a blazer, jacket, or cardigan to get more structure.

 On this day, I wore my dress to church, lunch, and then to a local park to take some pictures.  I wore the jacket inside the church because I don't feel comfortable having my shoulders exposed at church.  That, and the air conditioning usually bothers me.  When I was at the park, I had my hat on and I only put the jacket on for photographs because it was hot and sunny!

My hat is old.  I think I picked it up at JCPenney for only 97 cents a season or two ago.  Hats are always something I look for at the end of the season, because the clearance prices are amazing!

Even though I can see this dress worn in a multitude of ways, on this day I kept everything "earthy".  I wore earth tone make-up colors, a nude lip color, carried a brown cross body saddle bag, brown sunglasses, and silver and golden brown jewelry.

My shoes are also new.  They have all their sandals on clearance and I picked up this cute suede pair for $16.97.  I love the tassel shoe laces!   I couldn't find this exact pair on-line, but THIS PAIR is very similar.

If you're interested in this dress, it is still available HERE for only $10.00!  I would size down too, cause they run big!  For size reference, I have a medium on. 

I can't leave without showing you this picture and sharing a funny little story.  There was a floating pier at the boat dock.  My husband thought it would be great if I walked to the end of the pier and he could take my picture with just the water in the background.  But the second I stepped on the pier I got vertigo so bad because the pier shook so badly!  I literally couldn't even move to get off the pier and started going hysterical because I was so dizzy.  My husband had to turn me around and hold on to me till I was safe on solid ground.  I then asked him to walk to the end of pier, but he also had problems with vertigo.  He managed to take a few photos, including this one of me laughing at him from the safety of the shore.  Wow! What a weird experience.  Have you ever been on a floating pier before?  It's certainly not an experience I care to repeat!

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Clothes To Play In

 Every time I go to Illinois to visit my children I'm amazed at all the women who run around wearing yoga pants and sneakers.  I think we can safely say the war of "leggings as pants" is over and the pants side won.  So now that we are done debating that issue, the next question is "Has wearing activewear outside the gym become the new norm?"  From my observations, depending on where you live,  I would say "yes".  In my neck of the woods, women are still wearing jeans or leggings as pants, but they are not shopping or going out to eat wearing activewear.  However, in affluent areas, such as where my kids live, it's difficult to find a woman who isn't wearing activewear.

Now I actually think modern active wear is really cute, especially if you are fit.  My problem with it is two fold.  First of all, I think   "Don't these women get bored wearing the same thing every day and looking like everyone else?"  I mean, as comfy as activewear is, I don't want to wear it everyday, and I certainly don't want to blend in with the crowd.

Secondly, the cost.  As I previously mentioned, my kids live in affluent area.  I can guarantee you the activewear these women are wearing was not purchased at JCP or Target.  And that's what I don't understand.  I do not think there is a difference between $120.00 pair of leggings vs. a $20.00 pair of leggings.  Spandex is spandex.  But for a lot of people labels mean everything.  To me, they mean nothing.  If I can get some the same look and quality at the cheaper price,  I will always take the cheaper price!

So after visiting my children and seeing the activewear trend everywhere I went, I was startled to come home and find my own JCPenney store completely overhauled.  They discontinued some brands, reduced some brands, and shifted and moved all the other brands around.  And what did they put at the very front of the store?  The part where they usually showcase the latest fashions?  You got it!  Activewear!  They took a huge section of retail space that formerly housed a.n.a, stylus, and Levi's and turned it all into an activewear section.

Well, if you can't beat them join them.  Keeping an upcoming vacation in mind where 4 days of hiking will be involved, I purchased two active wear skorts, a new pair of leggings, two active wear tee shirts, a tank, and a sexy sports bra.  I'm all set to join the activewear trend!

This is new activewear skort I purchased.  I had a old friend come visit me the day I wore this outfit.  I wanted to wear something nice (because it's a friend, and it's not like friends come over to my house everyday) yet comfortable and practical.  I thought it was the perfect time to pull out my new skort.

The skort is 100% polyester, has an elastic and drawstring waist, and pockets!  The fabric is so soft and comfortable.  And I love the fact that underneath the skirt is a built in pair of shorts.  I feel I can move freely and bend over without ever worrying that something might be showing!

I did buy several tops to coordinate with the skort, but on this day I chose to wear an old tee shirt also from JCP.

I love this skirt so much, I've worn it three times already!  That says a lot, because I don't usually repeat clothes often.  I wore it on a long car drive to Illinois.  It's great for traveling because it's so comfortable.  And then I wore it with sneakers and an active wear top and jacket for a day of shopping and a dentist appointment.

Even though the skort was probably made for playing golf or tennis in, I can wear it like a regular skirt and dress it up or down depending on the occasion.  It's the perfect item for running around wonder they call this style activewear!

I normally wear sneakers when I wear this skort, but on this day I chose flip flops because I was at home entertaining.  I like to wear flip flops at home so I can easily remove my footwear after being outside.

These flip flops are super old.  I bought them at Dress Barn ages ago!

The skort is regularly priced $30.00.  I paid $12.99 for mine, plus I used coupons, so I got all my activewear at a great price.  Unfortunately, it's back to regular price HERE,  but if you use a coupon, you can still get a reduced price!

And for those curious about the shorts underneath the skirt, here is a picture.  I read one review on JCP where they thought the shorts were a bit tight.  They are skin tight so that no bulges appear on the outside, but I did not find them tight at all.  I am small in the butt/hip/thigh area and I purchased a size medium.  Maybe this reviewer carries her weight in that area, or she bought the wrong size.

Have a Great Day!  Amy

Linking Up with these Fabulous Blogs HERE!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Celebrating 30 Years Of Marriage

My husband and I celebrated thirty years of marriage last week.  Because our big anniversary fell on a Tuesday, other than cards and flowers, we didn't do anything.  We are planning a vacation in September and will celebrate then.  Nothing big, we're just going to do what we love most...hiking in state parks enjoying God's beautiful creation.

I started to make a hand made card to celebrate our anniversary using a card from Pinterest to case as usual.  I was almost done with that card when I saw this old photograph just laying on my counter.  It was already worn, faded, and cropped to fit an old photo frame that broke.  Months ago, I put the photograph on my desk thinking I would re frame it someday then I forgot about it.  I picked this old photograph up, covered in layers of dust, and thought "Look at those kids!"  It seemed like it was only yesterday we tied the knot, how could it be thirty years already?  I knew then, that I would have to make a different card and I would have to use this photograph.  Don't worry, I have a nephew getting married soon, and I will give him the other card I made!

I created a frame card by using Spellbinders Nestabilities to create the circular frame.  Then I glued the photograph to the inside of the card and added a circular frame around it to cover up the raw edges.

 I stamped a sentiment underneath the picture, and then I wrote a short, yet very meaningful message to my husband on the other side of the card.  He seemed very touched by what I wrote.

For the front of the card, I used heart patterned paper, then cut "30 Years" out of pink paper with my Cricut Express Machine.  I added one heart behind the number using a MFT heart die.

It's a very simple card, but it says it all, and my husband really, really loved it.  I was so happy I saw the photograph at the last minute, and changed the direction of my card and made it more personal.

On our anniversary day, I woke up to these beautiful flowers and a lovely card with a hand-written note.

So what is it like to be married for thirty years?  It wasn't always easy.  The early years were the most difficult as we were plagued with financial problems, health problems, and extended family issues.  Then when our kids went to high school and college, we went through other difficult trials that those years bring.  But we prayed, and prayed, and prayed, and God answered those prayers beyond measure.  Through it all, the good and the bad, we stayed committed to one another.  Were there times I wanted to bolt?  You betcha!  But God would never allow me to harden my heart long enough to do that.

I will say, the past five years have been the BEST years of our entire marriage.  Many marriages suffer and fall apart during the "empty nest" phase.  Ours seemed to blossom and flourish.  It all started with our very first vacation that we ever took alone together.  It was a short trip to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville,  North Carolina.  It was that trip where we seemed to fall in love with each other all over again.  Not that we were ever out of love, but our marriage prior to that trip was mostly trying to build a life:  establishing careers, renovating and building a home, raising children.  This trip, it was just about us.  Spending time together, exploring together, having fun, with each other, alone!  It was this trip that started our "Road Trip Adventures" that I write about every Wednesday in my travel posts.

Since that trip, we've made it a priority in our lives to get out and explore on a regular basis.  Some years, we were able to take more costly vacations, and some we weren't.  But whether the money was there or not, WE DID SOMETHING!  Lately I've been writing a lot about staycations:  how we're having fun every weekend exploring our own hometown.  You can find fun, free things to do with each other anywhere that hardly costs a dime.

Looking back over the past thirty years and how many times I may have wanted to bolt, or how many times I've questioned whether I made the right decision, I'm so happy, so grateful, that God kept pursuing me and never allowed my heart to remain hard after an argument.  I'm also grateful I'm married to someone who is so forgiving and is always the first to humble himself and say "I'm Sorry", because trust me, forgiveness and saying "I'm Sorry" is very, very difficult for me.  And if he wasn't the one to almost always say it first, I don't know if we would still be married.  God certainly knows what He is doing when He picks a mate for you!  He puts the right personalities together!

Have a Great Day!  Amy

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Monday, August 21, 2017

Classic Black and White

I've been noticing so much black and white in the stores, in advertising, and on blogs.  Even though it's really trending right now, I have always been a fan of classic black and white!

I've had this black and white knit skirt for years.  It's one of the few items I received from Stitch Fix that stood the test of time (sorry Stitch Fix).  I've shown it to you many times before HERE,  HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Other than adding color through accessories, I have never worn this skirt with anything other than white or black on top.  I tried, but I never felt comfortable with it.  I prefer the clean and simple look of black and white, and bringing in a spot of color through accessories.

For this look, I used a simple white scoop neck tee from a.n.a.  The neckline is very flattering for all figures.  I did wear a camisole under mine as it was kind of thin and see-thru.  I love thin t-shirts because I find them more comfortable to wear, but I know not everyone is a fan of them.  I think the young ones wear those pretty lace bralettes under them, so they don't mind the sheerness of the fabric.

I wore this outfit to church, lunch, and then shopping.

I decided to glam up the casual tee a bit with this sparkly statement necklace.

My sandals are Adrienne Vittadini Claud Gladiator Sandals from DSW.  Would you believe these sandals are one of their top selling sandals?  After having them for awhile, I can see why.  They are so comfortable!  I was wearing them while I was shopping and a young gal said "I love your sandals, where did you get them?  I've been looking for a pair like that forever.  I want something comfortable yet stylish."  I thought her comment was spot on.  They are comfortable and stylish, who says shoes can't be both?

I brought a little bit of color with this mint green cross body bag that was a gift from my daughter.  I added more silver with silver bracelets and rings.  I wore white sunglasses to coordinate with the black and white clothes.

You've often heard me say that I won't wear anything that isn't comfortable.  But that doesn't mean I want to live in sneakers and active wear (which is unfortunately a trend I keep seeing everywhere).  I think we can dress up, and still feel at ease by choosing cozy fabrics like soft knits, stretch denim, etc., and comfortable, yet stylish footwear.

Have a Great Day!  Amy

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