finnich glen | the devil’s pulpit.

the muddy steps, [and i use the word steps so very lightly] that will sharply & quickly lead you downward into the unarguably magical gorge that presides below, are not for the faint of heart. the pathway down into the gorge at finnich glen was undoubtedly one of the two most dangerous hikes we partook in whilst visiting scotland. equally tied with the all-too-well-known dangers/death risks of the steall falls hike, a hike which contains steep drop-offs just next to narrow ledge rock scrambles, through cascading waterfalls as you slowly & carefully make your way back to the rope bridge & falls. our cram-packed schedule did not afford us the time we would have liked to wait out any questionable weather situations — so with each and every adventure, it was a ‘must trudge on unless we will certainly die‘ sort of mentality that we had already prepared our minds with. the day we explored finnich glen happened to be just after and during a lot of rainfall [yes, i know — practically every location in all of scotland happens to exist just before, just after & during rainfall]. there is always rainfall. it’s scotland. however, the steps at finnich glen were particularly dangerous as they were utterly drenched in sopping mud and water. and as i had mentioned above — not all of the ‘steps’ were as you would imagine a step to be. some of them were mere rocks with a flat face that angled downward – completely impossible to step onto. . .forcing us to grip the ropes tighter (though, those too were absolutely covered in mud) and step off to the side in a steep slope of slippery mud as we descended the 200 year old stair case to the bottom floor, not quite 100 feet below. i can remember the burning feeling on my palms from the rope sliding along as we carefully made our way down. i think i was gripping on for dear life, even giving the rope a once-over wrap-around just to be sure that if i lost my footing, yes my hands may be fractured or bruised but my arms would hopefully catch my fall so as not to knock down the brave souls in front of me — sending them tumbling 100 feet into the gorge below. as i contemplated each step as if it were my last, i looked around and realized that the muddy ropes, which seemed to be fairly sturdy, were wrapped only once around a few of the tree branches and as i pulled tighter, the trees swayed with each passing move. i wondered how many more people could take their toll on the ropes before the trees would give-way & there would be an accident. we reached a point where it became a little frightening and nick had asked me if i wanted to turn back. ‘hell no, we aren’t turning back!’ remember the ‘must trudge on unless we will certainly die‘ mentality? we had gone all that way [4,000+ miles from home] and without any phone service, mind you, meaning that every single location in which we had our eyes and hearts on setting foot — was a journey even to get to before embarking on the actual journeys themselves. does that make sense? we had all of these maps which we had saved and the directions aren’t always so clear in scotland. like for instance, we have street names here in the states. and all of the roads are so well laid out. our infrastructure. their roads are laid out well also — however, their directions are more something like. . .take three wee turns over the wee bridge and you’ll see six wee, ivory sheep & one brindle, hairy coo off to the left-hand side in a meadow. this is you. take this turn and you’ll see the signs. (‘what signs?!’ sometimes there weren’t any signs) — if you pass a cobblestone street, you’ve gone too far. (‘but there are cobblestone streets everywhere!’). does it make more sense now? obviously i am over-embellishing — but it was rough to get around with such little navigation on the GPS we had in the car. our phones had zero service all over the island & without proper directions to some of the locations we wanted to visit, at times, it felt impossible to get anywhere. anyway, we had gone all that way. and there was already a small list of adventures in which we had come so close to the end that we could taste it and feel it but then had to turn back because of time constraints. this was not about to make the cut on that list! we were half way down the staircase and i was not about to turn back. i told nick, of course, that if he was uncomfortable he could slowly ascend and i would only be a few minutes taking in all of the magical sights below. he kept on keeping on. we did. until, eventually, we hit a wet, dark slab of large rock at the bottom that had a guardrail in front of it (as it was still a steep lean over that one could easily topple off of). i suppose that guardrail should have provided some sort of assurance & comfort. . . .knowing that had we fallen from the top of the staircase, we may have eventually been stopped by a metal bar before further toppling down a large hill and into the stream with large rocks below. we couldn’t even speak once we reached the floor. there aren’t words to explain to you what we saw and how we felt. i have never seen anything like it in my entire life. so magical. i keep using the word magical. because it’s all that comes to mind when i remember the way it looked. the moss covered everything, the red sandstone underneath the stream full of pebbles. ferns. the light coming down into the glen. the people enjoying the experiences with us. exploring the stream and trying to all capture the best images to show their friends and family. i can look at photographs that i took of finnich glen and the gorge below all day long and none of them will ever make me feel the way i felt when we were exploring down there. it looked as though it were something out of a fairy-tale story. only. . . .it was real life. and i couldn’t believe that we had made it there and it was real and we were experiencing it. . . .together. it made me want to cry, like i did at the jacobite train. that place brought out a wild, curious side of nick that i had never seen before. he wanted to rip his boots and socks off and climb over things to follow a river that would lead him. . . .well, we don’t know. because we didn’t have the time. we left the devil’s pulpit knowing that there would be a next time. in fact, we left all of scotland knowing that there would be a next time. and a next time after that. and after that. because we aren’t finished with it just yet. i’m not sure that i’ll ever feel finished with scotland. all of the quiet, remote wilderness and difficult hikes stirred up something in me that i didn’t even know existed. and isn’t that what travels are for? to find yourself? through all of that wanderlust? i like to think so.

the gorge itself isn’t the easiest place to find if you don’t have specific instruction — so below i have written directions the best i can remember. and suggestions/recommendations based off of our own personal experiences. just to try and make things easier on you.

if you are driving up from the heart of glasgow such as we so bravely did. . . .you are going to want to get on the A809 and take this all the way up. the A809, however, starts out in glasgow as drymen road, which then turns into stockiemuir road, eventually transitioning into the A809. seems simple, right? it isn’t really when you are in glasgow traffic and trying to route yourself there. if you are that lucky person who has a GPS working, it will somehow eventually route you to the A809. this one main road will take you all the way from glasgow up to the ‘car-park’ for the devil’s pulpit (if a car-park is even what you want to call it). you are going to pass through several small villages/suburbs of glasgow before eventually reaching craighat. when you hit an intersection where the A809 meets B834 (you can only turn right on a turn-off and there will be a brown cottage on your left), you will see that in the middle of that turn-off there sits a triangle space which people use as a car-park for finnich glen. there is a Give Way sign right next to the section where the cars park. just be sure that you aren’t sticking out in the main road because cars do use this when connecting to both the A809 and B834. unfortunately, i did not take any pictures of the ‘car-park’ (or walk back to the glen) but this is what you’ll be looking for (just in case there aren’t any cars already parked there, you will have an idea of what the general location looks like!). see that grassy triangle on my google maps? that’s where you’ll want to be.

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see the give way sign behind (tired, old) me below? now imagine where we were parked in coordination with where you see that sign. and park there. **i feel the need to mention this because we saw several places where this was/could have been a problem at different car-parks all over skye, the highlands and down south. don’t be that asshole that blocks in cars if it’s crazy busy and the only spot for you to make it to your destination will be to block a car in the direct center of this lot. find another way. those spots eventually clear up and there will be a spot for you. i promise. several people left right around the same time as us, leaving the lot nearly empty!

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okay. . . .now, the fun part! as you were driving up (if you were coming from glasgow), you likely saw a couple of places off to the right where you thought ‘hey! that looks like the spot where i saw people jumping the fence when i was researching!’ because that’s what we thought. and you are exactly right. so you will walk back toward the way you drove in from (on A809, heading south). hug the trees! hug the trees! have you ever wanted to be a tree-hugger?? now is your chance. . . .no joke. there is barely any shoulder in some parts and if you aren’t familiar with which way the cars will be coming from because you are a confused, tired, slightly delirious traveler who is used to driving on the right side of the road. . . .you may want to watch for cars and. . . .hug the trees. you will cross a section right up top where you will see a bridge of sorts to the left. keep walking alongside the road until you come to an entrance where the wire fencing has been torn down. you will need to hop over some large stones. from here, i believe you will need to get over another fence (this one is barbed wire so please be careful!) — the easiest spot for me to get over it was near the massive tree trunk. you’ll see where it’s fallen and you can just hop one leg over the giant tree and make your way over the fence. uh. . . .now i’m doing it. see what i mean with the directions. i just told you that the easiest spot to find your way through the forest is near a massive tree trunk. there are literally hundreds of trees in that very forest. you’ll know. you’ll know. you can then head over to the left and peak over the edge! and be amazed at what you see down below. and wonder ‘how in the hell do i get from all the way up here to all the way down there?!’ keep walking alongside the gorge all the way to the back. you will know. i know that sounds vague but again, you will know. the forest will curve you around to the left and you will meet the top of a somewhat hidden staircase. you may hear people down below as you get closer to the back. i realize this all sounds like something out of zelda: a link to the past. . . .like you are in the lost woods trying to find the master sword. but that’s basically what this place looks and feels like. you will want to be very careful not only at the top of the staircase and all the way down it but also traveling alongside the ledge as you are walking back. it’s quite the long fall down into the glen should you accidentally slip — and i don’t imagine the beautiful, red sandstone floor below would be too inviting. watch. your. children. if you are crazy enough to take children down the staircase. sorry for calling you crazy. it’s just. . . .i know how clumsy children can be. because mine are clumsy. and i cannot even imagine them on this staircase. i know i sound motherly. . . .but seriously. there are ropes to aid you in your descent down the staircase. also, please don’t let my photograph (to follow) deceive you. yes, these stairs at the bottom look like literal, easy stairs to climb. it gets tricky in the middle section. hence why there are no photographs of the middle section. only gopro footage. . . .which looks like something out of the blair witch. and you can find over on my FB page later. if the entire staircase looked like the photograph below, we would have been up & down in no time. and you wouldn’t read about people on the BBC — people who have to call a rescue team to come and help them up & out.

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if it is as muddy & rainy as it was when we went, you are going to want to use these ropes. especially if you have younger/older people in your party. i found that having boots with incredible traction really helped when we reached those spots where the rock faces were straight slants and we had no steps to step onto. invest. in. gear. if. you. are. going. to. visit. scotland. (or iceland. or the faroe islands. or any other place with similar weather conditions and rough terrain) c’mon, don’t be an idiot abroad [no offense Karl Pilkington – we love you. and you had great gear]. trust yourself as you travel down and move slowly. . . .before you know it, you will be at the bottom! from there it will be pretty self-explanatory. you’ll stand in awe and wonder. . . .sheer amazement. on your way back up, be sure to watch for travelers/hikers descending down as the hundred-foot staircase is narrow and there isn’t much room for large crowds of people. i can only imagine what this place looks like in the summer time, peak-season, with heaps of tourists! we luckily (and very purposely) planned our trip during a cooler time in the off-season which allowed for us to fully enjoy many of our adventures alone in the quiet. however, finnich glen seems to attract a lot of locals on the weekends so try to visit on a weekday if you are avoiding crowds. it’s a beautiful place to hike, even if for any reason, you are unable to make the descent. the forest will be lovely enough. but don’t miss out if you are able. the sights below will absolutely take your breath away. pictures of the devil’s pulpit (even though, there, seeing in person is believing)? i’ll post a few below. if you’d like to see the entire album, head over to my FB page. enjoy! xx.

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hot tea toddy.

i was beginning to think that i may becoming superhuman. in fact, my husband + i had a lengthy conversation just last week. we were in complete bewilderment as to why neither of us [nor our two children] had caught any colds in the past couple of years. real colds. the ones where you don’t get out of bed colds. i’m not talking the flu. because too often people mistake actual influenza for a cold. anyway, i started the conversation & it maybe sounded something like this:

you know, i haven’t been sick in years! like actually sick.

come to think of it, neither have i. it’s been a couple of years.

neither have the kids. i’m going to attribute this to all of the vitamins, garlic, antioxidants + ACV. let’s knock on some wood?

maybe we are becoming superhuman!!! **huge smile on his face**

**eye roll. laugh. eye roll.**

and then we caught something. what a disappointment. with 30 nearing, i thought it might be cool if i were actually beginning to develop an immunity to all viruses. ha! unrealistic thought, i know. but a fun thought, nevertheless. it all began with our seven year old. she came down with a cold last week. i was nurse-mom for several days while she was out from studies, tending to her every need. and then. . .lo & behold. . .(unsurprisingly) i came down with the most terrible head cold. which eventually developed into an all-over-body-hurting type of cold. coupled with a sinus infection. oh, and AF. AF decided to make an appearance the other night. so add in some slightly unbearable cramping. . . .& voila! recipe for disaster. it must have been all of those kisses she & i shared. because kisses are the cure to viruses, right? lesson learned. currently, i am still in the throes of it all & my husband is in the beginning stages. he’s in for a lovely treat **uh**. we plan on locking ourselves indoors all weekend, all four of us snuggling and caring for one another. if you must find me, i will be here at home & i will very likely be in my most comfortable sweat pants, raw honey or moroccan clay smeared all over my face, dripping runny nose, a messy bun right atop my head, drinking buckets of tea with lemon, ACV & perhaps a few hot toddies. oh and doing something called R-E-S-T-I-N-G. strange how from time to time, we find ourselves guilty of being so very good at pushing right up to or over the limits, forgetting all about rest + relaxation that are vital for refueling the mind and body. i rarely sit. i hate naps. ask my husband. i am constantly on the go. i like. . .no, love. . .to consistently be doing something. because of these things, meditation is the most difficult practice and one of which i often have to force myself into. my hands are always working. baking. cooking. knitting. cleaning. tidying. helping the kids. then there are times when my body completely takes over and demands rest. .much as it is this week. and as sad as it may sound, i feel like sickness is the only time resting feels completely acceptable. so over the past few days (& likely over the next) i have been giving my body the rest it deserves. once we are well again we plan to book some acupuncture sessions for nick + i. and a two hour massage for myself because my neck sounds similar to popping corn when i roll it around. which i’m fairly certain is not a good sign. yoga practice has been lacking. as well as body work. and i’ll kindly take this cold as a reminder to do a better job of caring for myself as a whole.

steamy tea toddy

6 oz oolong tea {or tea of choice}, brewed + prepared

2 Tbsp raw, unfiltered {preferably local!} honey

1 1/2 oz quality whiskey

lemon slices//wedges to taste

2 apple slices

5 whole cloves

5 whole allspice

1/2 cinnamon stick

fresh nutmeg, grated – 3 pinches

properly brew tea. the brewing method, vessel & water temperature will widely depend upon which type of tea leaves you are using. put 2 Tbsp raw, unfiltered honey into the bottom of a mug, leaving the measuring spoon in the cup. slowly pour the hot tea over the spoon + honey, filling the mug. add 1 1/2 oz whiskey of choice. mix well. place apple slices and lemon wedge(s) into drink. to the mug, add: 5 whole cloves, 5 whole allspice, and 1/2 cinnamon stick. top with 3 pinches of freshly grated nutmeg. allow to sit for a few moments before consuming. get some zz’s + thank me later. xx.

iris’.

sunnyside up. a cafe that is. Iris’ Sunnyside Up cafe in hopkins, located in the stann creek district of belize.

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it appears i am a whirlwind of bad luck. it began with a restaurant where nick & i had one of our first dates. the place closed down. not only did it shut down, but months following. .it was bulldozed to smithereens. and then several months ago there was Kevin’s Place. KP’s. my favorite breakfast place in the whole entire world. W-O-R-L-D. i travel a lot for a busy parent [considering our active lifestyle, two children & two pets] and i’m known to enjoy breakfasting. what i’m saying is, i’ve enjoyed a lot of breakfasts. . . .yelping my way all over north & parts of central america. coast-to-coast. top to bottom. many of the states. canada. calgary. banff. as well as all over the entire country of Belize. both high-end & slummin’ it in all of these places. and my faaaavorite place lied in a northern, quiet suburb of chicago. Kevin’s Place. a hole in the wall, literally. you’d miss it if you blinked while walking by. they shut their doors a few months back. and i cried. overly-emotional? perhaps. this month, a place that held so many meaningful travel experiences and provided us with the most fantastic breakfasts & warm company while honeymooning decided to call it quits when the lease was up.

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and omg look at the fry jacks!!!!!! iris’ were good but when we stayed in the tree-houses, those were the best! if we only went back to belize for the traditional fry jacks with beans, my heart would forever be content.

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i remember having over an hour long conversation with Maureen [the owner] one of the mornings that we biked down the long dusty road to the village for breakfast at iris’.

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she told me all about her days growing up in south africa, about her dad, her kids and their life in belize. and about her restaurant. i miss it. and we always said we would go back. there are just too many places to see in this world so i feel like repeat travels always have to be put on the back burner to the new sights & adventures we seek out. it sucks saying goodbye to all of these incredible, sentimental buildings & food & people. the people are the best part. and we somehow always manage to cling on to the best people. i suppose i’ll miss the feral kitties that hung around also.

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another one bites the dust. farewell iris’. xx.

tasty mexican hot cocoa.

since the forecast calls for snow all weekend, i think i can finally get this post up. i’m sure this won’t be our last snow. it usually trickles in throughout may. a lot of people act surprised, but really. . . .we know it’s coming every spring. if you live in a colder climate or at least somewhere winter hasn’t quite yet left, maybe you’ll have a chance to make this one last time before the seasons change & the chill disappears!

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four years ago, while wedding planning — nick & i were deciding upon favors. we wanted them all to be handmade, homemade & full of love. my sister sewed all the pairs of lace, hand-warmers full of lavender for everyone. they were so lovely & sweet smelling.

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if you have yet to notice, this post is incredibly media-heavy [sorry up front! i promise the recipe in the end is worth the scroll through]. since the hot cocoa is so nostalgic for us, i wanted to share photographs from our wedding day as well. i promise to keep it under fifty.

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i had spent hours over a few scattered evenings scouring the internet for the best hot cocoa mix recipe. the site i came across and landed on for sure immediately upon finding was really difficult to discover. i had searched a lot of different key terms for so long. for some reason, i forgot to bookmark the blog site. the year following our winter wonderland, canadian wedding, i went searching for the site again and was lucky enough to come across it. a friend had asked me for the recipe and i had to dig it out of the depths of cyberspace so that i could send it over to her. and yet again, i failed to bookmark it. ahh! but how?? finally, three years later i was ready to do a third search, trying to remember what it was that i had used for key terms. i tried everything. i even tried specifically putting in the wording from the preparation instructions. nothing was bringing it up. i began to wonder if the site had been removed and i started to get disheartened. nick was able to locate the blog using an internet history site that sweeps the web & saves copies of pages & sites. I.N.C.R.E.D.I.B.L.E.

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so from what i can tell, jamie jimenez used to have a blog site @yours-is-the-earth.com. i’m not even sure that it was a specific food blog. i think it was artsy odds & ends and there just happened to maybe be a few recipes on there. i think i got lucky with that hot cocoa recipe. i mean i really hit the jackpot. at least that’s how i felt. guys — i have tried probably upwards of thirty hot cocoa recipes in my day. that’s kind of a lot, right? i’m not sure jamie jiminez quite understands the golden recipe she was holding onto. i have found so many sites saying the exact same thing — that it was hands down the best hot cocoa they had ever tasted. sooo lucky to have found it in the first place! and that’s how i feel now that i have found the original recipe again. for a third time.

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so after yours-is-the-earth, it appears that jamie went and helped her husband start homespun  @homespunatl.com — which she is the co-founder of — i’m not even sure if any of the things from her old blog were transferred over. however, they should seriously consider adding the hot cocoa to homespun. it would be a hit.

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anyway, back to my finding the recipe. i cannot stress enough that this is the greatest hot cocoa recipe i have ever come across. i did make a few modifications. i added ancho chile pepper, chipotle chile pepper & habanero powder. i used extra large chunks of chocolate to top off the powder in each of the mugs and i used one large mallow as opposed to littles.

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i had several requests for the recipe after everyone had safely made it home and tried the liquid chocolate gold. i have been meaning to get this on the blog for years and to be quite honest, time slips away from me many days and posts sit for a while before i actually get around to them. you know, because real life happens. this isn’t my job. and so i just sort of get to the blog when i get to it. i hope you guys enjoy this one. i really, really do! let me know if you try the hot cocoa.

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i cannot source the original site since it is no longer available. however, i did put a listing for homespun at the bottom of the page — they are actually putting together some absolutely incredible gatherings [i wish we lived closer!] and the blog and things jamie sells are so fun to look through! her husband creates some very delectable dishes! if nothing else, give their site a glance!! homespun can be found on IG via @HomespunATL and jamie can be found via @mrsjamiejimenez. if you do make the hot cocoa i’m sure you could throw a tag in there!

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so, without further ado, what you have all been waiting for [i hope] as i just talked it up for a good five minutes. the recipe {listed exactly as it were on yours-is-the-earth.com}. . . . [my modifications are listed just below it.]

recipe courtesy — jamie jimenez from Homespun ATL.

photo credit for all pictured above: kristy-anne swart from up and away studios.

tasty mexican hot cocoa

INSTRUCTIONS:

In your handled mason jar, mix the following ingredients:

-3 Tbsp cocoa powder
-¼ Cup of sugar, mixed with a teaspoon of vanilla extract (or a scraped vanilla bean)
-½ tsp of salt
-½ tsp cinnamon
-¼ tsp nutmeg
-A dash of cayenne or chili powder (optional)
-½ Cup chopped semisweet chocolate (or morsels)
-Approximately 1 cup large marshmallows. These will fill the space at the top of the jar.

*When it comes time to enjoy the cocoa (for one serving):
Set marshmallows aside. Put ¼ of the mix in a mug. Warm a cup of milk. Pour just enough of the warm milk into the mug to make a paste with the mix. This will prevent clumping. Then pour in the rest of the milk and stir. Add the marshmallows on top, and enjoy. This can easily be made in whole batches, by diving all of the mix between 4 mugs, and using 4 cups of milk.

*For dairy allergies, almond milk makes this drink quite delish!

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**the first time around (for the wedding favors), i used vanilla essence. the second time around and most recently, i used vanilla bean paste in place of the essence and prefer it that way.

**add to powdered mix:  1/8-1/4 tsp. ancho chile pepper, 1/8-1/4 tsp. chipotle chile pepper, a pinch of habañero powder {i used a decent-size pinch, but you can tailor based off of how spicy you want the hot cocoa!}

**lastly — do not go cheap! splurge on good quality chocolate. i used a bar that we had from nuance chocolate in fort collins — a specialty shop that imports chocolate from all over the world. we had a bar from belize that we threw into our most recent jar! in the end, you will be so happy you spent the few extra dollars! after you have drank your warm mug of cocoa right down to the last drop, ‘thank you’s‘ for recovering this glorious recipe can be sent to moi — @country.bumpkin on IG, or here — simply leave your comments below! [of course i’m totally kidding, but seriously — ENJOY!] xx.

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heather’s sleeping diaries part I – happy birthday.

she was always really great at sleeping, heather ann. i mean reeeaallly great at it.

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it was like one of her signature traits. i had kids too-early-on & she slept. i was always jealous of her zzz’s and restfulness.

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today, she can be found on IG under the name @imtryingtogetsomesleep. she grabbed that name years ago for one of her separate accounts and has used it since — i’m really glad because it is incredibly fitting.

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i don’t think she’s quite as rested these days due to a full-load of highly intense chemistry courses at the university. . . .but she still looks ever just as lovely as she did.

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and i love her ever just as much as i did waaay back then.

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from the time we were teenagers, i began taking silly photographs of her sleeping, because she was always sleeping. with specific blankets — on the couch, beds, chairs, anywhere she could just be and sleep. i felt like the photos were going to have a purpose one day. and i suppose that purpose is for country bumpkin. because i’m sharing some of my favorites with you here on the blog. she won’t mind. **all right, maybe just a little.** this next one is my absolute favorite. . . .

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she turned twenty seven yesterday. jesus, life moves soo quickly. both of us are leaving our twenties in a couple of years [yikes!] and i feel like it was only yesterday that we were teenagers.

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her birthdays have always been super special — from the first birthday [see that kid in the background opening up your birthday gifts? that was me. and i’m really sorry for that, 26 years later. we could maybe just chalk that up to one of those asshole sibling moves i mention later on in here?]

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#creepyminniemouseseeforyourself. .

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to the 18th. . . .

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to the 19th. . . .

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20th. . . .

heather 20th birthday 2

and 22. . . .

heather 22nd birthday 3

. . . .so happy birthday.

From left -Heather Ann Heinz, Nicole Suzanna Heinz

happy birthday to the girl who i always picked on in our yester years. it was only because i wanted to make you stronger [yeah. i am pretty sure that’s exactly the reason i was an asshole sibling. we’ll go with that.]

1993-From left, Nicole Suzanna and Heather Ann

happy birthday to one of the world’s greatest aunts. remember that night dristyn riley was fussy and you lulled him to sleep in the rocking chair as though it were second nature to you? “boom.”

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happy birthday to one of the world’s greatest, most supportive sisters. remember the night you answered your phone after midnight and let me sleep in your apartment? you made me hot tea when i got there even though we were both exhausted. you would so selflessly do anything for me. and certainly likewise.

From left- Heather Ann Heinz, Nicole Suzanna Heinz

happy birthday to the strongest, brightest ray of sunshine. you have always been able to dig your way out of the darkness and up to the sun, no matter how dim the shadows that may surround you.

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happy birthday to one of the world’s craftiest & most creative humans. if you had a pile of scraps and rubbish, something beautiful would come of it. most things you touch become an absolute work of art and i really admire that about you.

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happy birthday to the world’s greatest pep-talk giver, advice lender, life coach.

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happy birthday to one of the world’s greatest, untrained doulas. hard to argue with that one.

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happy birthday to one of the world’s greatest, heartfelt friends. i have seen the way you befriend people. warmly. lovingly. genuinely. your friends are lucky to have you. and i know they can feel that.

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happy birthday to the one of the world’s greatest writers, readers, listeners & public speakers.

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happy birthday to the world’s greatest sleeper. you’re really, really good at it. you take the gold. three cheers for getting enough rest. xx.

it’s a brand new day!

whilst dropping off eva, dristyn & my best friend’s child at school this morning, i noticed that the flags were flying at half mast. i could only assume it was because the US government had found out about my favorite breakfast joint closing its doors and the entire country would now be in mourning right alongside myself for quite some time. just kidding — i know it’s in honor of nancy reagan. but seriously — have you ever cried when a restaurant closed? because i have. and i’d like to not be the only one who raises my hand to answer yes to that question. nick & i have shared so many wonderful  memories there. chicago is our favorite city in the country and i honestly think kevin’s place became a large contributor to that favoritism. there wasn’t one trip where we didn’t make the trek up to deerfield so that we could have breakfast in his wonderful, hole-in-the-wall restaurant. even on ‘business’ trips. we took friends there half of the time. i took one of my surro-sisters. and when we were stuck in colorado — i would share the name Kevin’s Place with anyone I knew that was visiting chicago. a couple of the mornings we spent there, kevin sat down at our table and talked with us for a bit — he could often be found roaming the large but quaint room and joking with the customers at tables, making people smile. especially kiddos. it was like everyone was family. i love the way he ran his business and the food was only an added benefit. . . .from the crunchy french toast to the oatmeal pancakes to the chocolate milk that was piled sky-high with whipped cream & sprinkles to my absolute favorite, the chorizo skillet — it was seriously the greatest.

i wish nick would have told me while i was sitting down. because it really was the saddest news & i didn’t take it so well. you would think somebody died! my eyes immediately filled with tears and i’ve been full of sadness ever since. i wish there were a way for us to save it & have the doors re-opened. kevin had shared with us that he was going through cancer treatment while we were visiting and i’ve always kept him in my thoughts, staying hopeful for remission and full recovery. he’s a really special person who brings so much happiness & light to the world. the walls of the restaurant are covered in photographs of him in different theatre productions and places. it’s incredibly neat and when you talk with him, you can see that he’s so very passionate about life. i love this little interview the chicago tribune did in their deerfield review. in january of 2015, the restaurant closed due to unpaid sales taxes. the community had the business re-opened almost immediately, contributing nearly $20,000 to a go-fund me account, completely surpassing the $5,000 goal that had originally been set. had we known about this all when it happened, we would not have thought twice about giving to this cause. the public & fans very obviously saw the special uniqueness that this place brought to so many people’s lives. you can read more about the event through the following links.

Community Support Brings Back Kevin’s Place | Deerfield Patch

Kevin’s Place Reopens in Downtown Deerfield | Chicago Tribune

Community Steps Up to Reopen Kevin’s Place | Chicago Tribune

i’m not exactly sure why it’s closed this time around and i certainly don’t want to speculate or make assumptions but if it has anything to do with finances or medical bills, i strongly feel that the people would gladly step-up and support.

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i plan on holding this mug near and dear to my heart. nooo — i know exactly what you’re thinking! you’re thinking i pocketed the mug. you are thinking somehow that large cup fit snugly inside my pocket & i carried it away from the restaurant. i didn’t. kevin gave it to us because i was such a huge fan and we were there visiting for one of two anniversaries we spent in chicago. aahh, the memories.

so there are a lot of conflicting articles and the initial piece we came across mentioned that K.P.’s would be closing on the 15th of this month. i did what any sane person would do and whilst sudsing up in the shower this morning, i began planning a 14+ hour road trip for this weekend so that we could have one last hoorah, kids in tow and all! we planned to take them there this summer anyway during a chicago mini-vacation. they didn’t get to experience all of the fun that is Kevin’s Place. the mural on the back wall or the fun sayings that are painted around the restaurant — the extravagantly whimsical chocolate milk or better yet, Kevin himself. sadly, after looking into it all more, it appears we are just a couple of weeks shy of the close date – and not in our favor. my external hard drive is currently broken and most of my photographs from K.P.’s are on there but i’ve found a few so i have to share these pictures with you guys because the memories & conversations & meetings – they all happened right there. xx.

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a real sabbatical.

holding a fairly low space on our list of ‘places to see,’ hawaii had nick & i completely uninterested. maximum tourism at its finest. over-priced. typical, lush, picturesque scenery. over-rated? maybe. the more we began to think about whether or not some of the islands would provide a suitable dose of relaxation for ourselves & the kids, the more we were convinced that they would absolutely make a neat experience for all of us. we were looking for warmth & beach life anyway. a trip away from home to a destination that would be entirely atypical of the rocky mountains, plains & farmland environment that colorado consistently surrounds us with. after settling on the location, we very slowly began booking. airline prices were fluctuating like a roller coaster depending on the day and we eventually opted out of following prices and booked with one of the cheapest, unsafe airlines known to man: allegiant. thank you nick. yeah. i’m blaming you should we go down in a fiery ride of glory. . . .to sleep with the fishes. a day after we booked, articles began popping up all over regarding several emergency landings that had been made. the more research i did, the less safe i felt. in fact, i was convinced we’d soon be swimming with sharks for FREE. however, neither of us wanted to eat over $1600 and re-book with another carrier. thus began, a whirlwind of what has now turned into a very long, somewhat insane vacation. sounds like something we’d do. allegiant flies out of los angeles. meaning that we will be flying into & back out of the LA area. what happens to be in LA but the LARGEST THEME PARK ENTITY in the WORLD? that’s right. disneyland. that’s happening too. we have tacked on five additional days [both to the front & back] of what originally began as a ten-day vacation & i could not be more excited. this is much needed. for everybody. it just seems to keep growing. we were supposed to fly into LA the morning of November 02 so that we could catch our flight out to o’ahu. . . .but then i figured ‘eh, what the hell? that’ll be unnecessarily stressful. let’s just add another day in Los Angeles before we fly out.’ so our trip will look something like this:

fly to LAX in the AM on november 01 for some meltdown comics, good food, hollywood aaanndd who knows where the day will take us. perhaps knott’s berry farm or an extra day at the disney park? dan harmon will be doing harmontown @ meltdown this night — perhaps we could swing it.

fly out of LAX into Honolulu Intl. on november 02 — five hours. over the ocean. in an allegiant plane. swimming with the sharks this day?

chill in honolulu for three full days. well all over o’ahu actually. we have quite a few things booked all over the island — meaning a lot of drive time. and a lot of fun. swimming with dolphins on the 03 [this one was mainly for eva, the dolphin enthusiast], some jungle hiking on the 04 at a ranch followed by the LOST beaches, and of course more beach & hike time while we’re staying in honolulu. i haven’t decided yet if my shark diving adventure is going to be caged or free diving. nor have i figured out if it will take place while we are on o’ahu or the big island. but it’s happening. the international market looks like a shopping mall so we are going to steer clear of that — however once we are in hilo, they have some of the best farmer’s markets & we’ll instead be experiencing the markets this way.

fly out of Honolulu Intl. into hilo on november 05. arrive at the two-acre property we booked. it’s surrounded by lush greens, fruit trees, ponds, & just minutes away from HVNP.

from november 05 – november 11 we have a fairly open itinerary. HVNP will eat up one entire day. we have plans to spend one day on makalawena beach and spend part of another rummaging through some coffee fields. aside from this and shark diving [should i decide to do it on the big island] the only other activity planned is LAVA! i want to see some lava. and i am just assuming the rest of my family does as well. who wouldn’t want to see active lava flowing off of cliffs into the ocean? this is going to require another boat ride out — and from the sounds of it, it can be over pretty rough waters for a decent distance [some of them travel over 40 miles]. we will have more free time to explore and hike on the big island. we plan on traveling down into waipi’o valley [probably guided as this also provides some rough terrain, especially for kiddos] to see the 1200+ ft. waterfalls cascading down as well as going to see rainbow falls & akaka falls. a lot of falls in our future. and hopefully not from the sky.

have i mentioned snow cones | shaved ice at all? this will be happening every few hours throughout the entire trip. i hear that it’s physically impossible to get sick from too much ice & sugar.

fly out of hilo & back into Honolulu Intl. on november 11. here we will spend two more days. . . .doing whatever the hell we want. i’m sure you can guess what will be occurring the day we fly in? veteran’s day spent in hawaii means only one thing. pearl harbor & the uss arizona memorial. we could have gone on any other day. & quite frankly, i’m sure it would be much less of a mad house. however, i just figured it fitting. we’re there. we may as well see it on veteran’s day.

fly out of Honolulu Intl. into LAX on november 13. this is a late one. which i’m unhappy about because we will be arriving back at our hotel probably close to midnight, if not later. our flight out of honolulu doesn’t leave until 3, leaving us time that day for one or two small activities in the morning.

november 14 in los angeles | anaheim areas — DUN DUN DUN DUN DUUUUN — guess what happens to happen on november 13 this year? it is the first full day of the ‘holiday season’ at the disneyland resort. we could not have timed this more perfectly. gingerbread scents in the haunted mansion. . . .yes please. oddly enough, last time we went to disneyland it was over the holiday period and i think it happens to be the best time to visit. seriously. so november 14 is a FULL DAY at the disney park. and by full day, i mean we. are. getting. our. money’s. worth. open to close. we’ll be those weirdos waiting at the gate that morning. & then we’re going to shut the place down. as of now, fingers crossed, none of the big deal rides that we want to go on are going to be closed in the foreseeable future.

november 15 — homeward bound. this is an early one. not too early. but early enough. i love that disneyland is sandwiched between super late & semi early flights. that will mean that without a doubt, it’s guaranteed that at least 50% of our group will be grumpy. i’m willing to admit that i’ll be 25% of the grumpy party. but i’m admitting it now! so as to. . . .warn the rest of the group. the only way nick & i will be surviving will be through the constant surge of black coffee in our veins. fly out of LAX & back into DIA this day, finally. dristyn’s birthday will be two days after our return & party planning will have been done before leaving on holiday, making my life a whole lot easier.

get home. give sycamore jones & rigby eleanor hugs. my mother is kind enough to house and pet sit while we are away. if you’ve met our 165 lb. stubborn saint, you know that this will not be an easy job — providing her with little down time. if it isn’t the pup needing to be fed or walked or the cat needing to be fed or played with — it’s drool. constant drool in our lives. all over the walls & floors and furniture, needing to be cleaned ’round the clock. my mum’s a champ.

so in terms of any sort of countdown — it’d be safe to say that we have 34 days left. xx