12 Things I’ve Learned in My First Year of Motherhood


Last month my baby turned one.

I am a mix of happiness, sadness and everything in-between. It’s a bittersweet feeling that I’ve only heard other moms talk about before…until it was my turn to actually experience it.

Now I understand it for myself. I understand the sadness, like time is slipping right through my fingers and I can’t stop it. But I also understand the immense joy that comes with seeing my baby experience new things. It’s like I want to freeze her this little forever, but I also ache to know her as she grows.

It really is a miracle when you think about creating life and bringing a little soul into the world. It seems surreal to think that the same tiny, pink baby I first met is now this babbling, silly little thing stumbling around our house.

Becoming a parent is wild and incredible.

So in honor of my baby, Hadley, turning one, I’d like to reflect back on the last 12 months and what I learned as a first time mom.

1.) Babies aren’t nearly as fragile as you think (AKA you’re not going to break them!) I remember the nurse plopping my daughter on my chest after she was born and staring down at her. I was in pure shock and I tried not to move. We laid skin-to-skin for about an hour and then a nurse told me it was time to switch rooms. The nurse instructed me that she would help me up (hello post-leg epidural!) if I could cradle the baby. Instantly, I began to cry. I was so terrified to pick Hadley up! Where do I place my hands? Didn’t I have to hold her head? What if I drop her or hurt her? …Now listen, I’ve held a baby before, but this was different. This was MY baby and I was responsible for her. My sweet husband and the nurse helped me get adjusted and talked me through it. Looking back I laugh at this story, but as a first time mom and someone who did NOT have much baby experience, this was overwhelming. Even in the day or two that followed I didn’t have much confidence picking her up. I will say though, by day three it quickly changed! You learn that babies are pretty reliance and solid. Sure, they are soft and tiny, but they aren’t made of glass.

2.) Your confidence as a mom will grow. As scared as I was of breaking Hadley the first several days we had her, that fear quickly faded. People aren’t lying when they say you develop a mother’s instinct. I was lucky to have my husband home with me on maternity leave for 10 of my 12 weeks (yes, I understand how lucky we were). As soon as my maternity leave started I began to fear the last two weeks when I would be solo. In fact, my husband had to go in for an emergency dental procedure when Hadley was just three days old and I was terrified of being alone with her (spoiler alert, we were fine). I used to feel the need to ask my husband “Should I pick her up?” or “Do you think I should try to feed her?” before I did anything because I had ZERO confidence in myself. But take it from one amateur first time mom to another – you will get there. The confidence will come. You are their mother and you know this tiny little baby better than anyone else in the world!  

3.) Breastfeeding is a marathon, not a sprint. We were extremely lucky that breastfeeding was easy and natural for us. (Yes, I know that’s not typically the case.) But around six months I began to feel restless about it. I was back in the groove at work, Hadley was starting to be a little more independent, I was back to pre-pregnancy weight and I just felt…over it. My original goal was to make it six months, which felt like a sprint to the finish line. I had tunnel vision just to make it to February 2022. But once I hit six months, I realized I could keep going. That and a national formula shortage fueled me to continue. And I’m so glad I did! I realized that six months was nothing in the grand scheme of things and neither was 12 months. I knew that one day I would look back and miss it. Breastfeeding is a ton of work. It requires patience, discipline and consistency. It’s truly a marathon that you have to take day by day. But I adore being Hadley’s safe space, I love providing for her and I cherish our breastfeeding bond. So here we are almost 14 months strong! Yes this marathon is long, but it’s SO worth it. Try not to view breastfeeding with an expiration date. It really is a journey.

4.) It will take about a year to feel “normal” again. I mean this in terms of both your body and your life. I heard this on a podcast once when I was pregnant and I figured that a year was probably on the longer side…but nope. It’s pretty freaking accurate! I will say that every month of postpartum I did inch towards feeling a little more normal, but it’s a solid year (or longer) to finally feel like you have some sort of grasp on this new life and body. The first 3 to 4 months were the hardest. I felt frustrated because I didn’t FEEL like I did before I was pregnant in terms of my body. Things were…softer…slower…rounder. It was just different. And in terms of life, well, it really did take a solid 8 to 9 months to fully comprehend that we have another member of our family. I imagine it’s like this for every kid you add to your family, but for a first timer, the shock of you entire world getting turned upside down is intense. I remember crying one time when Hadley was probably two weeks old because I was just so shocked by how much work it was! (LOL.) I couldn’t even recognize our life! But guess what? If you give it time, it will become normal. It will become less daunting and scary and slowly it will start to feel less crazy. I promise you will feel “normal” again in some aspect of your life and body, but it will likely take a while.

5.) Be patient and kind to your postpartum body. I remember sitting at my desk at work the first week back from maternity leave and just feeling….uncomfortable. My pants felt tight and I felt like I had a muffin top. I just felt weird and out of place. Of course that little voice in the back of my head was losing her mind. Why do you still have this little stomach pooch?! Don’t you feel it hanging over your pants?! You look so bad in these clothes!! But thinking back to that time, I was just three months postpartum. My hormones were still going crazy, I was still learning how to take care of a baby (and myself), I was adjusting to becoming a working mom and I was still in the thick of breastfeeding. I was trying my best and I was at a point in my life that I had never been at before. I wish I could go back in time and hug myself. I was feeling so overwhelmed and I needed to show myself some grace and kindness. Your entire life and body just went through this massive change, be gentle with yourself.  

6.) The first year is all about adjustment. Hormones, sleep, time management, learning how to be a parent, learning to put someone else’s needs before your own – it all takes adjustment. Sure, there are days where I feel like I have it figured out. I clean the house, I pump 12+oz, I’m patient and kind all day, I prep dinner and I kill it at work. Then there are days where I hand the baby to my husband and drink a White Claw in the basement while crying (yes, true story!) Some moments I feel completely lost and overwhelmed in this new world of motherhood and other times I feel so stupidly happy and obsessed with Hadley that I feel like I’m dreaming. I never understood people before when they said that becoming a parent is the best and hardest thing in the world. But now I get it. I had lunch with a friend when Hadley was about 7 months old. My friend and has two little kids and is a big gardener. I asked her how on earth she finds time to garden while being a busy mom. I confessed that once we had Hadley last summer, all of my plants withered and died because I didn’t have any time. “You’re still in the first year,” she explained. “Once they get a little more independent and older, you get a little more time and yourself back.” …And I am just now finding that to be so true! Don’t get me wrong, you don’t suddenly get hours each day to do whatever you want again, but you find little pockets that were pretty much nonexistent before as a newborn or young baby. Like a standard nap and bedtime, some sort of routine, a little bit of independent play…that sort of thing. It gets easier with time and the phases don’t last. You just have to become good at adjusting.

7.) It’s OK to ask for help or a break. Many people want to help when you have a baby, they just don’t know how. When Hadley was a few weeks old, I remember calling my mother-in-law and asking if she could come over for an hour for me to go running and shower. I felt bad, but I desperately needed the time for myself. I just wanted to feel the sun, get my heartrate up and shower without hearing and worrying about phantom cries. (Raise your hand if you’ve ever jumped out of the shower soaking wet and ran to your baby who was peacefully sitting in her swing because you were CONVINCED you heard her crying. . .Oh just me???) Anyways, my mother-in-law was thrilled to do it and I continued to ask for this from time-to-time. Needing a break isn’t a big deal. You take breaks with anything else you do in life and parenting is no exception. And guess what? When you get a break, you show up as a better, happier version of yourself. I learned pretty quickly that ALL parents need breaks and there is no shame in that, nor does it mean you love your baby any less.

8.) It’s OK to admit it’s difficult. Remember when I said that one time I handed the baby to my husband and drank a White Claw by myself in the basement? I also started crying once when we attempted to go for a walk and got about five houses down the street when Hadley lost it and we had to turn around. I remember feeling so frustrated and trapped because we couldn’t even go for a simple walk, but then feeling guilty because I felt that way…LISTEN. Even though you become a parent, you’re still a human with valid feelings and emotions! Becoming a parent is freaking hard and just because we signed up for this doesn’t mean we can’t admit that there are challenging moments. Learning to put someone else’s needs and wants in front of your own is a GIANT adjustment and it’s difficult to get into that mindset. Almost all of my friends told me that during the newborn phase they questioned what they had done (LOL). It’s a natural reaction. You know you’re in the thick of postpartum and the “fourth trimester” when you Google “How to put my baby back inside me.”  

9.) Your relationship will change, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. My husband and I were married for almost six years before we had Hadley and we’ve been together for 10 years. It’s always just been us and I’ve cherished that. But the truth is, your family dynamics change when you have a baby. After all, there is suddenly a third person in your house and another seat at the dinner table. Watching your spouse become a parent is so special. You’re seeing them in an entirely new role and they you. But when you both become parents, things shift and you gotta learn to shift and adjust together. If you thought communication was key to a relationship before kids, just wait. When Hadley was first born, my husband and I promised each other that we would be honest about everything we’re feeling. I remember coming home one day from shopping and showing him some new clothes that I had bought for Hadley. The clothes wouldn’t fit her for another six months or so. “I’m feeling a little overwhelmed right now thinking about six months from now” my husband confessed to me. And I instantly understood. His brain couldn’t compute and we were already in the thick of adjusting to parenthood. My advice would be to share all of your feelings with your spouse, even the ugly ones and especially in the beginning. You will feel less alone and overwhelmed and will feel united by the conversations. Your relationship will look different after adding a baby to your family, but that isn’t a bad thing.

10.) You will never be the same person you were after having a baby. And that’s OK. Sure, you will see and feel familiar things about yourself, but your heart is now walking around outside of your body. The concept of never being the same person again scared me at first, but after the past 12 months, I know that I don’t ever want to be the person I was before Hadley. The day she was born was the absolute best day of my life. Parenthood is a love you can’t comprehend until you feel it yourself. It’s intense, overwhelming, bittersweet and a joy I can’t explain. I think about the girl who walked into the labor and delivery room at the hospital and the girl who walked out holding a baby. One minute you’re carefree and childless and the next minute, there’s a little baby crying on your chest that YOU are now responsible for. What an honor it is to be a little baby’s everything.

11.) Your will learn about the “mental load” of parenthood. I need to pack the diaper bag…I need to do the baby’s laundry…I need to schedule her six-month checkup… I need to order more baby Tylenol…I should pick up diapers on my way home from work…Do you think she’s eating enough?…the list goes on and on and on. Add in baby toys that light up and play music, a messy house, a dog following you around, a career and pinging emails, a relationship and marriage to maintain, friendships to foster, workouts to squeeze in – it’s A LOT. Sometimes I struggle thinking about balancing it all with two kids, but I know I’m getting ahead of myself. Still, I had no idea about the mental load of motherhood before it happened. It’s quiet, but it’s always there. My best advice is to share your thoughts and feelings with your partner. Chances are good that they are carrying some of the mental load too, it just might look a little different than yours.

12.) You will run out of time very easily, so pick your commitments wisely. I feel like since giving birth, someone has hit “fast forward” on my life. Days seem to be gone in the blink of an eye and every time I turn around I feel like I have to pump, breastfeed, change a diaper, send an email, preheat the oven, do a load of laundry – the list goes on! That’s why I try to outsource what I can. Think – hiring someone to cut the grass or hiring a cleaning person to come by once a week. I’ve also had to rethink commitments as a whole. I only say “yes” to events outside of work that are absolutely necessary or that I truly want to attend. Shortly after returning to work from maternity leave, I made the mistake of taking on too much. It was between running from meeting to meeting, trying to pump, going to an after work event and rushing home to try to make it for bedtime that I realized I needed to be more selective on what I said “yes” to from then on. I was exhausted and on the brink of a breakdown and something had to change. Remember, once you become a parent, your time and energy has never been more precious – don’t just spend it on anything! Be intentional about what gets your time and attention.   

Still, parenthood is the greatest adventure and love I’ve ever known. It’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done before, but it’s so beautiful and worth it. Enjoy every step of the journey – especially your first year as a new parent – because you will never be in this space again.

Training for Our Biggest Race Yet – Baby Holloway


We are four days away from the greatest endurance sport we’ve ever participated in – parenthood!

Baby girl is due to arrive on August 12! (But let’s be honest, if she’s anything like me, she’ll be arriving casually late!)

It’s crazy to think about the past nine months. There are parts that seem to have crawled by. Like January, February and March during the dead of winter. Then, there are parts that flew by. Like when we found out we were having a girl and we began to tell more people and it finally started to feel real.

The last nine months have been filled with endless to-do lists, research, shopping, conversations and preparation. But it’s also been filled with so much fun, adventure, new experiences, growth, change and excitement.

Attending one of several weddings while pregnant these past nine months!

It’s also crazy to think about the fact that we were actually pregnant on Thanksgiving! Granted, we didn’t know yet, but baby girl was definitely there. (I actually ran seven miles on Thanksgiving morning and felt like a million bucks!)

We found out we were expecting the first weekend of December. *Cut to scene where the faintest line appears on a pregnancy test and my husband and I lose our minds for two days straight*

That weekend was filled with multiple pregnancy tests, Googling and then FINALLY being convinced that we WERE, in fact, pregnant.

We broke the news to our immediate family (parents and siblings) on Christmas and then swore everyone to secrecy since it was still so early. We wrapped up little signs that announced we were pregnant and had our family open. It was a perfect surprise and I’ll cherish the videos we took of it forever!

We stayed quiet about our news for several weeks and I honestly LOVED it. I was working remotely at the time, which made it super easy. But I also know that even had I been in the office, I could have easily hidden it. I had absolutely no symptoms. I wasn’t nauseas or sick or even tired. I had no weird taste, smell or food aversions. I wasn’t sleeping all the time or cranky or emotional. In fact, I often re-questioned it – wait, was I REALLY pregnant? Maybe the tests weren’t accurate? Maybe the ultrasound tech misread the sonogram??

Fast forward to about week 21 where I had stayed indictably pregnant until the tiniest baby bump finally started to appear. But even then, you’d really have to know me to notice it. During my first 7 months of pregnancy I gained 12 pounds.

I’m honestly one of the lucky ones because pregnancy has been… *looks around cautiously and whispers* … very easy for me. I never even felt the famous “pregnancy fatigue” that everyone talks about. I’d even venture into the realm of those annoying women who claim “I LOVE BEING PREGNANT!” Because I actually do. It’s been a dream come true. I often joke that I’m the most non-pregnant, pregnant person.

Still, I know how lucky I am based off friends who have had tough or even miserable pregnancies. However, I believe a solid foundation of good habits played a big factor in my easy pregnancy.

I eat well. I sleep well. I drink a ton of water. I manage stress and I move my body every.single.day. 

Before getting pregnant I was working out six days a week because that’s just what worked for me and helped me feel my best. From week 1 to week 26, I continued working out six days a week. Then I dropped to five days a week between week 27 and week 30 and actually started a new job around this time! (Yep, very on brand for me because I like to do lots of new stuff all at once – ha!)

I found it challenging to balance office life with workouts and pregnancy and had to eventually be OK with dropping my training down to about four days a week. Since then and even into almost week 40, I’ve stayed pretty consistent at around four days.  

It’s been wild to watch my body change, especially as an athlete. And it’s been humbling to take all of the changes with confidence and acceptance. I still remember the first time I had to modify high knees and tuck jumps during one of my workouts and I thought to myself – WOW! This is getting real!

First Trimester.
Second Trimester.
Third Trimester.

My only two pregnancy symptoms in late third trimester have been heartburn and the occasional lower backache. But both are pretty manageable with medicine and/or rest. I still sleep really well too, even without a massive pregnancy pillow like so many of my friends told me I must have.   

Going into pregnancy, I knew I didn’t want to spend nine months being bored and miserable. I think that’s why I pushed so hard to continue healthy habits and enjoying life. I know friends who turned into cranky hermits and women who couldn’t even go out to dinner or to a friend’s house because pregnancy was so hard on them. And although I do believe every pregnancy is different and there are some women who really draw the short end of the stick with symptoms – I also believe a huge chunk of it is your mindset.

Life doesn’t stop just because you’re pregnant. We still do ALL the things and even though I was nervous and it felt crazy to start a new job at seven months pregnant – it’s been THE best decision. I have also loved being pregnant in the summer. In fact, I rolled my eyes at the 900 people who made comments about surviving the summer heat during pregnancy. I’ve always loved hot weather and summer is my favorite season. I’d much rather wear a flowy, cool dress than cover up in eight layers and a massive coat. Summer is all about adventure and being outside – and we made the best of it!

Going to the beach, swimming, tubing, paddleboarding + hiking over 10 miles in Lake Tahoe!

We’ve gone swimming, hiking (we hiked 10+ miles in Lake Tahoe when I was 21 weeks pregnant!), tubing, kayaking, paddleboarding, boating and even jet skiing. We’ve been to multiple weddings, grad parties, a cabin and random get-to-gathers. Pregnancy has never once hindered us or made us feel less fun. And I was so thankful that COVID was so scarce all summer, which allowed us to have a regular baby shower, attend in-person baby classes and my husband even hosted a “huggies and chuggies” party where we received over 1,800 diapers from family and friends.  

I’ve enjoyed running for two over the past nine months. To date, I’ve ran 322 miles while pregnant. (Thanks to KT Tape and learning to ignore my comically slow Garmin times!) You turn into a bit of a spectacle running down the street with a big ‘ole belly and going through a workout in the free weight area – but again, it’s been pretty on brand for me! I love to push the envelope in terms of what my body can handle and do and I know myself very well so I knew I was being safe.  

Thanks to KT tape for the belly support (and my secret admirer/running buddy patiently waiting for me to hurry up to go out for a run)!

I’m at the point now (at almost 40 weeks) where I can only run about 2 miles at a time. I ran 3.2 last weekend and my hips were pretty achy after that. Consistently over the past several weeks I have been running twice a week. But I still do a lot of spinning and elliptical workouts. I’ve also incorporated VersaClimber classes, weight training, weight machines, TRX and resistance bands. I even got the greenlight from my doctor to attend hot yoga classes, although I haven’t been to one since about week 25 because I didn’t like having a belly during chaturanga!

Still, as we approach our due date I’m not immune to all of the emotions that come with becoming a parent for the first time. (Although I imagine these feelings probably happen whenever someone has a child, be it their first or eighth!)

You feel like you prepare, make lists and get everything together and done, but you’re still left wondering if you’re actually really ready. It reminds me of similar feelings before Ironman Lake Placid. You spend all of this time training, researching and preparing, but at the end of the day – you’re at the mercy of whatever happens to you on race day.

You might get a flat tire, the weather might be awful, your digestive system might not cooperate, your gear malfunctions, you get injured. The list goes on and on…

It’s the same thing with pregnancy, labor, delivery and then finally coming home with a tiny little human. We attended all of the classes, we asked all of the questions, we read the books and blogs, purchased the baby gear, we prepared her nursery, meal prepped two week’s worth of dinners and made a plan for how we want things to go. But at the end of the day, we really are at the mercy of whoever this little baby turns out to be.

I’m nervous for all the change, but excited about this next chapter. A part of me is also sad to be almost done with pregnancy because I’ve really enjoyed the experience and I know how lucky I am. I’m nervous for maternity leave because I’m the type of person who likes to be busy (not that I won’t be with a newborn), but sitting around at home all day sounds awful. I’m anxious and intensely curious about labor and delivery. I’m also nervous for how our pets, especially our dog, will handle a new baby. It’s crazy to me to think that there will suddenly be a third person in our house with us! And it’s weird to think that after almost six years of marriage (and over 10 years of being together), it won’t be just my husband and I anymore.

LOL at Zeus’s face (the cat). Spartan is the dog.

Despite all of the uncertainty right now, one thing is for certain…I know we will never be in this same place again. I’m nervous, scared, excited and overjoyed – and that’s all OK. I want to cherish these last couple days and remember every little movement and kick and remember every little nerve and excited moment that my husband and I share together.

Despite everything and all of the nerves and fear, carrying our baby over the last nine months and knowing she will soon be here is magical. There are times she feels so real and there are times when I still feel like it’s all fake because I cannot fathom what it possibly means to be a parent yet. I can’t wait to see what she looks like and see my husband with her. I cannot wait to hold her for the first time and find out who in the world she is.

2020 Camping and Glamping Trips Review


2020 has been a weird year for everyone.

My husband and I had big dreams for international travel in 2020, but as COVID-19 took off across the globe, that hope quickly disappeared. Even national travel started to seem unlikely as state restrictions increased. We soon came to the realization that we’d really have to lower the bar on any sort of “vacation” we were going to take this year.

So, in true optimistic form, we tried to look for the silver lining. Instead of a jammed packed summer like usual, most of our weekends were now free, thanks to a global pandemic. We decided that we were going to stay in Ohio and camp as much as we could. We explored everything from tent camping, to glamping, to going completely off the grid. It was the perfect time to explore Ohio’s great outdoors.

Here’s our list of all 14 places we stayed in 2020, complete with reviews, advice about booking and how to get the best prices. I’ve also included tips about how to find unique places to stay in your area.  


Strong Cabin | Madison, Ohio | Rustic Cabin

This is one of two cabins available through Lake Metroparks.

We stayed at this cabin with a group of friends the weekend before everything hit the fan with COVID. It’s weird to think about because I remember sitting around the fireplace and talking about coronavirus. We had NO idea what was going to unfold the following week.

To start off, one of my biggest pieces of advice for booking neat places is to check with local park districts in your area. Often times these organizations have inexpensive campsites and cabin rentals available. With our local park district, you get a price discount if you live in the county, but you can still book even if you don’t. This cabin through Lake Metropark ranges from $70 to $80 a night.

Things to know:

  • There is a great fishing pond right next to the cabin, but since it was March, we didn’t have much luck with catching anything. I imagine it would be awesome in the summer.
  • The cabin sleeps eight people – all in bunk beds. As a group of 20 and 30-year-olds, we found this hilarious.
  • There is running water and a bathroom, but no shower.
  • There is a full size kitchen, but we did see a mouse in there! I would describe this cabin as very rustic. It has decent amenities, but it’s still a cabin in the middle of the woods.
  • It’s located in Hodge Ridge Park and is within walking distance to some great trails.
  • Dogs are allowed at this cabin.


Getaway House Cleveland/Pittsburg | Lisbon, Ohio | Glamping

This was our second time staying at Getaway House Cleveland as we were there in November 2019. In May, my parents, husband and I rented two separate campers. We went mid-week and were able to use a referral code (more on that below). Both the code and traveling during the week saved on the price.

Things to know:

  • If you’re coming from the Cleveland area, you’ll drive about 1.5 hours to get to the site. My advice would be to book two nights, because by the time you drive all the way out there and get settled, it feels like you have to turn around and drive home. (Check-in is at 3PM, checkout is at 11AM.)
  • The sites are dog friendly, but you’ll have to pay extra.
  • The Cleveland/Pittsburg location is located near Beaver Creek State Park. You can find some pretty decent hiking trails in that area. 
  • This site is perfect for “glamping” if you’re not used to camping or don’t like roughing it, but it can be pricy. 

Tips to save money: My suggestion for Getaway is to book during the week. It’s cheaper and there’s more availability. Getaway has a phenomenal COVID cleaning policy, but unfortunately it limits what’s available. There’s also a referral discount on the website. If someone books using your code, you each get $25 off. If you have access to two email accounts, try signing up with one email and sending the referral code to the other.

I’ve also seen a few people on Instagram post Getaway House discount codes, but that would require some serious social media hunting. Getaway House comes stocked with food and firewood, but using it will cost you extra. In theory, it’s great for people who don’t feel like planning or know too much about camping. But you could easily save money by bringing your own stuff. 

Lakeshore Reservation | Perry, Ohio | Primitive Tent Camping

This tent camping site is available through Lake Metroparks. It does not include water or electric. Firewood is provided. This site is a Lake Erie lover’s dream!

Things to know:

  • The bathrooms are a .3 mile walk from the site and does not include a shower. I recommend only staying one night if that’s important to you!
  • The site is located overlooking Lake Erie, so although you can hear the waves, you cannot access the beach directly from the site.
  • We’ve seen quite a few bald eagles at this campsite, which is always very cool.
  • There are walking paths and trails surrounding the site, so depending on the leaves, this site isn’t completely private.

Tips to save and important booking information: In early May, Lake Metropark campsite registration opens up and most are available from the first weekend of May through mid-November. BUT, you have to be quick as the best weekends throughout the summer are booked within minutes. It’s $10 a night if you’re a resident of Lake County and $20 if you’re not. Compared to most state parks, this is a steal for a campsite. Combine this price point with the fact that firewood is provided and it can’t be beat!


Punderson State Park | Newbury, Ohio | Tent & RV Camping

We stayed here in early June, but I think it’s important to note that I booked this site in December! We’ve tent camped at Punderson before and have had a blast, but I really wanted to get a site along the lake. I happened to check in December and was shocked to see many of the lake sites already booked for the summer, so I didn’t hesitate.

This state park offers full RV hookups, tent sites with electric and primitive (VERY secluded) campsites. We stayed at site 23, but the real gem you want is site 21, which has a beautiful view of the lake.

Things to know:

  • If you’re new to camping, this is a great first place to start since there are plenty of shower houses and restrooms. There’s also a camp store for purchasing firewood and other random stuff you might have forgot.
  • Some sites have an electric box so you can charge your phone or Bluetooth speaker, but make sure you book one with those amenities.
  • There is plenty to do at this park including a beach for swimming, boat rental, playgrounds, hiking and lots of picnic areas.
  • Although separate from the state park, there are also cabins available at Punderson.

Important booking information: Check often and book early as the best sites fill up quickly. Also make sure you know exactly where you’re booking because some sites are no more than camping in a parking lot and others are so secluded that they can be difficult to get to (read: dragging your stuff there would be a huge pain).

Regarding prices: I’m always a little annoyed at how expensive state park camping is. It’s $28 a night, plus tax and processing fees. For a typical 2 night, weekend stay, it’s going to cost you about $65. Relatively speaking that’s nothing, but for sleeping in the woods it always seems a bit pricey to me! 🙂

Hidden Lake | Leroy, Ohio | Primitive Tent Camping

This tent camping site is available through Lake Metroparks. It does not include water or electric. Firewood is provided. All things considered – this is my favorite campsite in Northeastern, Ohio!! If you’re looking for a beautiful, somewhat private campsite, this is your spot.

Things to know:

  • You’ll want to bring some sort of wagon to help carry your stuff since it’s a long haul from the parking lot to the campsite. BUT, it’s extremely worth it because this site is gorgeous!
  • This site sits directly next to the water, giving you perfect access to fishing. We also brought kayaks and were able to launch them from the bank of the campsite.
  • There is one, wood tent pad, but multiple tents will fit in the area.
  • Walking trails surround this site and you’ll see many fishers and people walking from the other sides of the lake. Be sure to close the gate leading into the campsite, otherwise you might be surprised by people walking into your area if they don’t know the campsite is taken!

Regarding booking: This site will fill up the quickest – because I’m telling you – it’s amazing. When registration opens every year, this is the campsite I try to book first because every weekend will be booked within a matter of minutes. In the past, we’ve taken Friday off work and stayed here on a random Thursday night if we couldn’t reserve a weekend night.


Tappan Lake | Deersville, Ohio | Cabin

We stayed at this cabin with family in July. It’s about 15 minutes from Tappan Lake and comfortably fits eight people. We booked this site on Vrbo, which I had never used before, but my sister-in-law came across it and it had amazing reviews – plus it was only $89 a night!

We have family down in the area and were able meet up with them during the day at Tappan Lake and had a blast swimming and hiking.

Things to know:

  • This is pretty much a complete dead zone with wifi and cell service. We knew this going in, but even our hotspots were having difficulty connecting. You really are very secluded.
  • I ran with our dog one morning and I saw all sorts of little hideaway cabins tucked into the woods along the road. Some were nice and some weren’t more than a shack that looked like a horror movie.
  • This cabin comes fully stocked with pretty much anything you could think of and my nieces had a blast in the basement with tons of games and toys.
  • Since you are so far in the country, be careful of ticks. I pulled one off our dog one night, but thankfully he is treated and it didn’t stick.
  • The listing says “no pets” but I reached out to the host and she allowed us to bring our dog for an extra $30 for the weekend.

Resource Center Cabin | Madison, Ohio | Cabin

This is the second of two cabins available through Lake Metroparks. The first one (Strong Cabin) we stayed at in March. We stayed at this cabin near the end of July with family.

Things to know:

  • This cabin is not as rustic as the other park cabin, which appeals more to people who don’t like “roughing it.”
  • The cabin was recently updated and has a really nice bathroom with a shower.
  • All eight beds are bunk beds in two separate rooms.
  • The kitchen is very nice with a breakfast table and then there is a very big dining room table off the kitchen. There is TONS of space at this cabin.
  • There is a massive basement, which our nieces and nephews loved!
  • This cabin is in the middle of a neighborhood, but is still surrounded by trees and is secluded.
  • There is a trail off to the side of the cabin that connects to a park with a fishing pond. The weird thing was, people kept cutting across our cabin’s front yard and driveway as a short cut to the park instead of driving around to the official entrance. It was weird and annoying because the dogs would bark like crazy when they noticed a person out in the front yard walking by. We kept saying they needed to put up a sign. 
  • There are TONS of local parks in the area (plus wineries) and The Grand River is super close.
  • Dogs are allowed.

Regarding prices: You typically get a discount if you live in the county, but you can still book even if you don’t. This cabin ranges from $70 to $80 a night.


Geneva State Park | Geneva, Ohio | Tent & RV Camping

I absolutely love this area! We stayed here for the first time in 2019 and picked the most awful site imaginable. (It was no better than camping in a field next to a road.) This year, I did research to make sure we had a site that was more woodsy and private!

Staying at this park is one of my favorite summer memories because there’s so much to do. Between the beach, trails and being less than 10 minutes from Geneva-on-the-Lake – you’ll have plenty to do. Geneva-on-the-Lake is a fun little strip of bars and restaurants that feels like a boardwalk. Even with COVID, we were able to safely walk around and sit outside at a few places with our dog.

Things to know:

  • You’ll find that most people “camp” in their RVs at this park, although we did see other token tents here and there. (For the record, I don’t consider staying in an RV real camping, although many will disagree with me!)
  • There are plenty of restrooms and one shower house. There’s also a store on site.
  • You can walk or bike directly to the beach from your site (or drive). You can also walk/run on an awesome trail that runs along Lake Erie and goes directly into Geneva-on-the-Lake.
  • Dogs are allowed on a section of the beach, which is always so much fun.

Tree House Cabin & Log Cabin | Near Canton, Ohio | Glamping

We took a long weekend near the end of August for our fifth wedding anniversary. I wrote a full review of the tree house cabin and log cabin here. In general, I highly recommend both, although the tree house cabin can be pricey. I found the log cabin through Airbnb.

One of my biggest tips for finding cabins and other unique places is to filter your search to “unique stays” when using Airbnb. This will pull up cabins, campsites, barns, campers, tiny houses, farm stays and even boats that you can stay overnight in. Also check out the app Hipcamp for more neat places near you.

Regarding prices: The tree houses are super popular and some of the best ones are booked a year in advance. Try staying during the week to lower the price and for better availability. It’s also cheaper to stay here in the off-season, which is typically November to April.


Hemlock Hideaway | Madison, Ohio | Rustic Cabin

I found this site through unique stays on Airbnb. This cabin is VERY rustic, with no electricity or running water, but it’s so much fun!

This off-the-grid cabin sits on a small ravine next to The Grand River. It’s a semi challenging hike, but if you’re up for it – head down the ravine to the river where you can fish and walk around. This cabin goes for $65 a night.

Things to know:

  • You are super secluded at this site and there’s little to no cell phone service.
  • Firewood is provided, so is the bedding, a few light sources and some other random camping supplies (think: wine opener, bug spray, paper towels, etc.).
  • The cabin is wrapped in tiny LED Christmas lights, which looks very magical and cute at night.
  • There’s a composting outhouse/toilet behind the cabin, which I was a little nervous about, but it was actually completely fine and very clean! There is no shower.

Tappan Lake | Deersville, Ohio | Tent & RV Camping

This was our second visit to Tappan Lake this year since we have family down that way. I love Tappan Lake Park so much because it’s so beautiful and there’s a lot to do.

Things to know:

  • There is a ton of camping at the park, but it’s primarily RV camping. I didn’t see any other tent in our area besides us!
  • There are lots of restrooms with a brand new shower house built just last year.
  • Our site wasn’t super scenic, but we set up camp as close as we could get to the woods.
  • The beach allows dogs in one area and you can rent boats, kayaks and paddleboards.
  • There are a few hiking trails throughout the park and it was fun to explore.
  • We ended up visiting a farm not too far from the site and going horseback riding.

Regarding prices: Staying here is pretty comparable to staying at a state park, costing about $60 to tent camp for the weekend.  

Penitentiary Glen Reservation | Kirtland, Ohio | Primitive Tent Camping

This tent camping site is available through Lake Metroparks. This site does not have water or electricity, but firewood is provided.

People are always surprised when I mention camping at this park because very few people know there’s a campsite here. I love this site since it’s so private and absolutely beautiful, especially in the fall.

  • Bring a wagon or cart to carry your stuff. It’s probably .3 miles from the parking area to the site and although you can make it without, it’s just easier.
  • There are lots of hiking areas and woods to explore all around the campsite. There is a ravine to one side that’s pretty steep, but it’s not super close to the site.
  • There is a bathroom located at the actual park entrance, but it’s probably a 1.5 mile hike to it. If you stay here, it’s probably best to accept you’ll be peeing in the woods! There are no showers.


Farm Cabin | Hartville, Ohio | Rustic Cabin

This cabin was a bit pricey for me ($90 a night), but it had great reviews, looked adorable and dogs were allowed. We stayed here with my parents and there was plenty of room for four adults.

Things to know:

  • The cabin is located on a farm with lots of stuff to do. It’s a kid’s dream!
  • There’s a pond with a canoe, a swing set, a trampoline, goats, chickens, cats and dogs. There’s also a barn that guests have access to that has a basketball court, indoor swings, a rock climbing wall and lots of other games and toys.    
  • There’s no bathroom in the cabin itself, but guests have access to the bathroom in the basement of the host’s house, which was clean and easy to access.
  • There is a full bed and twin bed downstairs and then two twin beds in the loft upstairs. I stayed in the loft on a rope bed and it was AWFUL. It was so uncomfortable that I tossed and turned all night and then woke up sore the next morning!
  • Firewood is provided and there is a nice little outside area with a porch and picnic table.


Tiny Cabin | Perrysville, Ohio | Glamping

With COVID cases continuing to surge, it was the perfect Christmas to getaway. We rented this tiny A-frame cabin through Airbnb and it did not disappoint! It was about an hour and a half drive from Cleveland and it’s located within a 5-minute drive to awesome hiking trails in Mohican State Park. It snowed pretty heavily on Christmas Eve, so waking up to a winter wonderland in the woods was pretty amazing.

Things to know:

  • Dogs are allowed at the cabin (in fact, I filtered Airbnb’s search to only include places that allowed dogs).
  • The cabin was immaculate – like SUPER clean. They had a guest book where you can read about past traveler’s stays at the cabin and you can write down info about your own stay – and when I went to write down our stay I was a bit weirded out to see someone had been there the night before! But honestly you couldn’t tell. The place was spotless.
  • I would love to come back here during the summer because they had an outdoor grill and fire pit. Plus, the backdrop of the cabin was so beautiful. Being so close to great hiking would be awesome for a summer weekend getaway.

Regarding prices: This tiny cabin was a bit pricey, clocking in at $225 a night. It was very quaint with not a lot of room, but it was a nice experience. The cabin says it fits four people, but with two adults and a dog I already felt a bit crowded. I feel for this price (we stayed two nights) we could get a much bigger cabin.

Here’s to 2021!

Overall, despite how weird and negative this past year was, I feel lucky that we were able to stay at so many cool places and make these memories. It was an adventure that booked many of our weekends and it was a welcomed distraction throughout a tough year.

Onward and upwards to 2021! Here’s to more exploring. CHEERS!

Fifth Wedding Anniversary Trip Recap


My husband and I celebrated five years of marriage on August 29! (Psst, read all about our wedding here!) It seems like so long ago, but also feels like it was just yesterday. I miss that beautiful, bright, HOT summer day. Dancing with our friends and family and sipping champagne. I can picture our wedding day so vividly sometimes!

To celebrate our day, we always try to do something pretty epic for our anniversary:

  • Year 1 – we celebrated in Italy
  • Year 2 – we splurged on a nice room at The Lodge at Geneva.
  • Year 3 – we had just gotten back from an 11-day trip to Europe, so the night of our actual anniversary we went out for an amazing steak dinner.
  • Year 4 – We road tripped to New England and hit up New York state, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. (On the day of our actual anniversary we climbed a legit mountain!)
Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire. 2019.

So with year five quickly approaching, we began to make plans. We originally talked about Utah, but as coronavirus took over, we thought another road trip down the eastern coast was in store for us. Fast forward and we made the decision to stay in Ohio since we weren’t sure about the regulations and rules around COVID.

So Ohio it would be!

We are big campers, mainly tent camping, but we love a good cabin too. We also love wine. So we decided to combine these two activities!

We opted for cabins this trip because we wanted to look presentable. (When we road tripped to New England last year we camped the majority of the time, which was amazing, but we definitely LOOKED like we had been tent camping for five days straight, LOL.)

Night 1 | Mohican Tree House Cabin

I’ve had my eye on a tree house cabin in this area for a while now. Granted, they’re PRICEY, but they’re also amazing. They also tend to fill up very quickly and almost every weekend is booked months (maybe even a year) in advance. I opted to put us there on a Thursday night leading into a long weekend. It was also slightly less expensive and offered more availability.

There are six or seven tree house cabins on the property along with a couple cabins. I picked one of the cheaper tree house cabins and hoped for the best.

Luckily, I picked right!

We laughed because our tree house was called “Little Brew Haus” and it was pretty ironic because my husband and I actually met at a bar called Brew House back in 2011. (I didn’t even know the name of the tree house, so it was even funnier once we got there and saw it.)

We were easily the most secluded site on the property, which we preferred. The cabin was clean and included a lofted queen size bed, couch, TV, kitchen with mini fridge, two burners, coffee maker and place settings. It also had a large rope bridge and wrap around deck with outdoor seating (where we spent all of our time).

The cabin had an outdoor shower for warm weather, which we were able to use since it was late August. I was a little nervous to shower outside, but we laughed that it was weirdly invigorating to be surrounded by woods while you’re showering.

We made tacos and had margaritas out on the deck and danced and listened to music for hours. The cabin was wrapped in hundreds of LED Christmas lights, which made for a pretty magical atmosphere, especially because we were among the canopy of the trees and there wasn’t a soul in sight.

The tree house also had an adorable swing underneath it and room for a campfire, although we didn’t make one because they didn’t provide the firewood and we didn’t want to haul it from home.

I wanted to see a couple of the other tree house sites so we walked around a little after dinner. (We may or may not have enjoyed an adult beverage as we walked.)

The other tree houses were amazing to see. Some could fit six or more people and were much larger and more impressive in terms of size and design. I would have loved to explore every single one! 

Night 2 | Log Cabin Near Gervasi Winery  

We had to be out of the tree house by 11 a.m. the next morning, so we woke up early for a quick work out and run around the property. We made breakfast and drank coffee among the tress and then packed it all up and headed out.

We drove to Pleasant Hill Marina (about 20 minutes from the tree house cabin) and rented paddleboards for a couple of hours. The lake was beautiful and calm and we had a blast just floating around, waving at all of the boats around us. We drove around the park and saw a few really nice cabins, which we promptly added to our 2021 trip list!

After paddle boarding we drove to the Hartville Flea Market, which was a bit disappointing. By the time we got there it was pouring, which was OK by us since we didn’t have any outdoor plans. Shortly after we headed to our log cabin where we’d be staying the next two nights.

A few minutes after we arrived our host met us and gave us a run-down of the place, which was very nice, but kind of unnecessary. We’ve used AirBNB quite a bit and I’ve never had a host physically meet us and walk us around. (He even explained the light switches to us, which I found slightly annoying, but he was very, very nice…but still, it was kinda like, uhh COVID?)  

By this time it was Friday night and very dark and rainy out – but all was good in our world! We cranked up the music, poured some wine and started to make homemade pizza from scratch, including the sauce! We made a flatbread and a deep dish pizza in a cast iron skillet. We topped the pizzas with homegrown veggies and enjoyed it while the rain sloshed against the windows and roof. It was a perfect evening.

Night 3 | Log Cabin Near Gervasi Winery (Again)

Another early morning workout for me on Saturday, which was the day of our actual anniversary. We drank coffee and ate breakfast out in the backyard and exchanged presents. Every year we try to follow the anniversary gift rules, you know: first anniversary paper, third anniversary leather…

For five years, the theme was “wood.” We laughed as we exchanged gifts. Me gifting him a wooden wall bottle opener with our last name and he gave me a wooden charcuterie board transcribed with a message and the date. It was…perfect. *Cue eye rolling, I know*

We were really excited for this day because not only was it our actual anniversary, but we had a tour and dinner scheduled at a popular local winery, Gervasi. Our cabin was 2 miles from the winery, so a quick, $7 Uber got us there easily. 

We ended up being the only people in our tour, so it lasted longer than usual, probably because we made friends with the gal and spent a good chunk of time chitchatting. After the tour, we walked around a bit more and stopped at two other places on the property to get appetizers and more drinks.

Our dinner reservation was at 6:15 p.m. at The Bistro, so we played bocce ball (that game is very easy and weirdly fun!) for a little while. We made friends with people around us and laughed, drank wine and took pictures. There was also a wedding happening and we tried to get as close as we could to tell them they had picked a GREAT wedding date 🙂

When it was finally time for our reservation I was a bit nervous. We had not eaten indoors at a restaurant since March. It took a little bit to forget that our waitress had on a face mask, but we didn’t. (Hello, guilt.)

BUT…the Bistro at Gervasi was outstanding! The reviews lived up to everything people said. 

Overall it was an amazing long weekend, which was needed in this crazy world right now. As usual, we crammed lots of activities in during a short amount of time. We always joke that we are great travelers because we think of everything (for the most part) and are very efficient in how we travel.  (We’re notoriously fast museum visitors, FYI.)  

We’re already missing our cabins and hoping for better news and a better state of the world for next year on our sixth wedding anniversary trip! (P.S. the gift theme for six is candy or iron!)

Our New Normal: Coronavirus


A woke up this morning and for a few moments I forgot about the news. For those brief couple of seconds I tried to remember what day it was and if I was already late for the gym.

You know, those normal thoughts I used to have every morning.

But then I remembered.

I remembered our current reality. And every time it hits you, it turns your gut.

Sickness. Threat. Panic. Fear. This is coronavirus. This is our world right now.

So much is unknown. Things are moving and changing so quickly. Sometimes it feels overwhelming and scary, because no one knows how this thing will end. Or when it will end for that matter. We are now heading into quarantine week six. It’s hard to comprehend that we’ve been doing this for so long already.

My feelings are in a constant game of tug-of-war. One minute I’ve assured myself that all will be fine. I utter the cliché, “This too shall pass.” And I nod and feel OK. Then the next minute I’m panicked and on edge, frantically texting my parents and spiraling into a puddle of worry and guilt. When the uneasiness hits you, it almost doesn’t feel real.

Will we be alright? Is my family safe?

And with those questions comes a flood of others about unemployment, finances, safety and the very real fear of a second (or even third) wave.  

I want to take everyone I love and lock them away in a house and board up all the windows. I want to protect them and keep them safe from a reality that sometimes feels like the plot of a movie.

It’s now spring, one of my favorite times of the year. I love feeling the cold melt into warmth. Everything starts to come alive again, including myself. I should be feeling better, the frost of seasonal depression starting to drip off. But I think about the next several months and wonder what on earth will happen. And suddenly the sting of the spring sunshine feels more like a blade. The confusion of this whole thing always feels freshly shocking.

It’s not supposed to be like this…

I miss so much about my own normalcy. Going to church, the gym, happy hour, work. Dinners with family, nights out with friends. The anticipation and excitement of planning an upcoming trip.

I miss not feeling an overarching nervousness hanging over everything.

And yet, I know how lucky I am. So many people are sacrificing. So many people have already experienced loss: Loss of life. Loss of income or a job. Loss of celebrating life events and dreams. Loss of normalcy.

I know working from home is a luxury right now. Not everyone is lucky enough to be able to do it and I understand that. But it gets lonely. I feel isolated. Once a week I feel the waves of anxiety and despair wash over me as it sinks in that I have to spend another full week cooped up in my house.  

Yet I know doctors and nurses feel those same waves of anxiety every day. Grocery store and pharmacy workers feel scared, yet they still go into work to help our world run as it should. And then I think of my situation and the guilt hits me hard.    

Right now it feels like we’re all holding our breath – and we don’t know for how long.

And I get angry too. I don’t want to put my life on hold. I don’t want to lose anyone to this cruel, invisible enemy. Anger fuels my questions – why is this happening? Are we supposed to do this forever? Why won’t this just end?!

My heartaches for seniors in high school and college. For brides and grooms who were looking forward to spring and summer weddings.  For hopeful parents who had to put their dream of having a child on hold. For new parents welcoming a baby into this world in its current state. For cancer patients who still desperately need treatment and are scared.

And yet again I know how lucky I am. I hope and pray that there will be minimal loss of life, minimal financial impact and that my family will be unharmed. I have no choice but to trust in our government and to count on and support our front line healthcare and essential workers. I can follow directions and do what I’m supposed to do. I will focus on what I can control.

I will look for and focus on those who are helping others. And I hope I can be one of those helpers too.

2019 Book Review


In 2018 I set a goal to read more. I aimed to read 12 books that year and finished the year off with 15. I went into 2019 with the ambition that I was going to beat my 2018 number, but I ended up tying it and reading 15 books again in 2019.

Here’s my review off all 15 books from 2019. (And don’t worry there are no spoilers!)


Book #1: When Life Gives Your Lululemons
By: Lauren Weisberger
Who doesn’t love a Devil Wears Prada connection? The main characters from the book and movie are all major players in this story. This was a quick read and I can see exactly why it was anticipated as a sequel. The main character, Emily, was just snarky and independent enough that it was entertaining and kept my attention. I also loved how Miranda Priestly made cameos throughout the book.



Book #2: The Friends We Keep
By: Susan Mallery
I’ve read a couple books from this author and although her plots are a little predictable, they’re always entertaining and light. Her books make excellent audio books for driving – light enough that you know what’s going on, but if you zone out you can still piece together what just happened. This author delicately covered teenage pregnancy, miscarriage and struggling relationships, but she connected it all together at the end. It was a feel good read.



Book #3: Heartburn
By: Nora Ephron
This book was hilarious, yet kind of sad. I loved that the audio book was read by Meryl Streep. I could see her playing the main character in a movie and I feel like it made the entire experience of the book. The main character is a cookbook author, so the story is scattered with random recipes that the author weaves in. It was clever, but sometimes annoying. I vividly remember a section about mashed potatoes that I swear went on for forever. I also feel like the ending was empowering, but left me feeling a little sad.


Book #4: Manhattan Beach
By: Jennifer Egan
This book was set in New York City during World War II and it instantly hooked me with a Great Gatsby feel. It was fascinating to learn about women working during the war and hear the vivid tales directly from battle. I liked that the book switched points of view between the characters. I also loved the main character’s account of nights out in New York City and encounters with crooked gangsters with mob ties. I didn’t feel satisfied with how it ended, but it was interesting enough that I didn’t see it coming. (And sometimes that’s better than a predictable ending anyways!)


Book #5: The Death of Mrs. Westaway
By: Ruth Ware
Dang this book was good! Ruth Ware is fantastic! It was suspenseful, well-written and shocking. The story is set in London and follows how the family dynamics after a death slowly unfolds – along with many secrets. Not everyone in the family is who they claim to be and there were a few twists and character betrayals that were shocking. If you’re looking for a semi dark, quick read – look no further!



Book #6: Sippy Cups Are Not Chardonnay
By: Stefanie Wilder-Taylor
A bunch of my friends read this book and said it was hilarious. We’re not expecting, but I figured what the hell, it’s probably a quick read and I wanted to see what all the buzz was about. This book is written with a hilarious humor that left me laughing out loud. I also liked the chapter specifically about friends who don’t have babies yet. In a world where my husband and I are pretty much the last couple on earth to not have kids yet, it made me feel better that the author was justifying us. I specifically liked the comment – not everyone gives a shit about your baby or pregnancy as much as you do. Amen sista, amen.


Book #7: The Women in Cabin 10
By: Ruth Ware
*Favorite book of 2019*
Another awesome Ruth Ware read!! I feel like I’ve seen this book all over the place, so when it was available for audio, I downloaded it and quickly finished it. This book was another suspenseful tale and multiple times I thought the story was going to be over, but then another screwed up thing happened! I remember laying in bed listening to this book and feeling my heart race. I imagined what I’d do in a similar situation and was scared speechless. I love how the main character builds and gains confidence throughout the story.

Book #8: The Life-changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck
By: Sara Knight
I often listened to this book on my morning walks with the dog…and numerous times I felt embarrassed when I passed someone and the audio book was spewing the F word. Still, this book was a nice reminder to reevaluate what truly matters. There were exercises to do that involved writing things down, which I didn’t do physically, but I followed along. This book was all about how to enjoy your life without feeling guilty for saying no to things that you don’t really care about. It gave me a different way to look at things and is one of the better “self help” books out there.

Book #9: Yes Please
By: Amy Poehler
I love a good memoir, but often times I prefer to listen to them. This is especially true of comedian’s books. I attempted to read Tina Fey’s book last year and couldn’t get through it, but when I downloaded the audio book I started to enjoy it. (I think mainly because it reads like standup comedy.) The same was true with Amy’s book. My husband and I listened to it during a road trip and enjoyed it. But I’m not sure I would have had the same opinion had I listened to it just driving to and from work. The long hours in the car were nice for zoning in and out.


Book #10: My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward
By: Mark Lukach
I won’t beat around the bush with this book – it f’d me up. I’m not sure if it was because mental illness runs in my family, or because of how rare and sudden a mental illness can come on. But this story was intense and frightening. It was a memoir from a husband whose wife has a psychotic break at age 27, which is apparently rare for a mental disorder to manifest that late. It was sad, but told beautifully. I also really related to the husband in that he turned to working out, running and being active to harbor a lot of his pain. It was more hopeful at the end, but if you’re looking for a truthfully frightening book about mental health, this is for you.


Book #11: Inside Out
By: Demi Moore
I’m not going to lie, I wanted to read this book after I read about Ashton Kutcher’s responses  to it on Twitter. I wanted to find out all the juicy details! In truth this was a quick read. Demi has a powerful story to tell, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for her in the end. Her story is the classic Hollywood fall from grace and her self-acceptance often relied on men or her body image. Still, it was interesting to get her perspective on what it was like being an icon in Hollywood in the 80’s and 90’s. I also enjoyed learning about life on movie sets and her personal stories from shooting G.I. Jane. 

Book #12: Becoming
By: Michelle Obama
My friend recommended this book after she told me that Michelle wrote so beautifully that she would often close the book and sit there for a few minutes after reading, letting it all sink in. I’m a fan of Michelle, so I knew I had to give it a try. It was interesting to learn about her background and how she grew up. I also enjoyed the stories about becoming the first lady and moving into the White House. I never thought too much about the secret service, but it was intriguing to hear quirky little stories about them following the Obama family around Target. I thought her chapter on her father’s death was beautiful, but so sad. She really captured the emotion and strangeness of death.

Book #13: Girl, Stop Apologizing
By: Rachel Hollis
What can I say about Rachel Hollis. I love her and at the same time she annoys the crap outta me. And I GET IT. There are some women out there who need to hear her message and need a fire lit under their butts. But for someone like me (who already practices a lot of what she preaches) I get very annoyed at hearing her bragging. (We get it, you’re a millionaire who built a company off what you learned on Google.) This was supposed to be her most tactical book yet, but I left with no real takeaways. There are some women who probably think everything she writes is holy (and she is a fantastic writer don’t get me wrong), but I’m not lacking in the discipline or motivation department so this book didn’t really do anything for me. I have also never been one of those women who say “I’m sorry” all the time (if ever, LOL), so that didn’t resonant with me either.

Book #14: Sleepless in Manhattan
By: Sarah Morga
*Least favorite book of 2019*
This book was cheese city. I wanted a quick, light read after reading so many memoirs back-to-back. But this book just turned out to be a goofy rom com that wasn’t very deep. About 10 pages in you could guess the entire plot of the story. I did like the main character and her sense of independence, but that was about it. Even the title of the book is unimpressive and not very clever.



Book #15: A Stranger in the House
By: Shari Lapena
I’ve seen this book around and knew it would probably be a quick read because of the suspense. It kept me guessing the entire time and there was a slight twist in the end that I didn’t see coming. It was written in first person, which I thought was a little weird and awkward to read, but overall this book was good.

30 Things I’ve Learned in 30 Years 


I’ve never liked my birthday very much.

And it’s not because it means that I turn another year older, it’s more about the time of year.

It’s way too close to Christmas and as a child that sucked. Now as an adult, I feel like my birthday is just one more thing to tack onto the holidays for everyone else. Aren’t we all busy enough already?

So no, you’ll never find me announcing “IT’S MY BIRTHDAY MONTH” or planning my own party.

But the one thing I have always liked about my birthday is that it’s close to the New Year. Every December 16th I turn a year older and less than two weeks later the year changes with me. And since I was born right on the cusp of 1989 and 1990 – my age has always reflected the last digit of the year.

So while I turn another year older and flip over the calendar to 2020, I think it’s only fitting to reflect on the past 30 years. (Whoa that’s weird to say.) I’m entering a new decade and so is the world. That’s pretty cool right?!

And I know, I know. Aren’t there enough of these lists floating around the internet? Probably. But this is my list and I’m the one turning 30 today 🙂


Here are 30 things I’ve learned at 30:

  1. You don’t have to hang out with anyone who is negative or makes you feel anxious or upset. Don’t tolerate crappy people or situations that stress you out. You’re under no obligation to be around people who steal your joy or make you feel bad about yourself.

  2. Relationships are the foundation of happiness. Your friends are your sounding board, your console and your support system. You can try to convince yourself that you don’t need friends, or even new friends at that – but you do. Guard your friends, protect them fiercely and chose them wisely.

  3. It’s true what they say – when you meet the person you’re going to marry, you’ll know it. It might not be a giant, flashing “love at first sight” moment like in the movies, but it will be there nonetheless. A tiny inkling. A feeling that you can’t shake. A small nudge on your heart that whispers “This one’s a good one. Pick him.”

  4. Don’t let the internet or anything else rush you. Careers, marriage, babies — these things should be on your own schedule. (And don’t bully yourself about these things either.) There is no set timeline for your life, no matter what you read or what people tell you. Don’t be in a rush to get through your life.

  5. Being happy for someone else and cheering for their dreams won’t stop you from achieving yours. Someone else’s success does not mean you have failed. True friends cheer each other on.

  6. Make learning a priority. Formal education and higher education isn’t for everyone, but continuous learning should still be important. How sad would it be to never learn anything outside of your own little world? How boring would life be if you were never challenged by learning something new?

  7. Anything that you can do to make your life easier tomorrow, do today. This is true when it comes to grocery shopping and meal prepping, packing your gym bag, making a phone call or finishing up a project at work. Keep moving forward.  

  8. Never stop reading. Audio books have made it so incredibly easy to read and learn new things. Always be able to answer the question “What are you reading lately?”

  9. Working out and being active will do wonders for your mental health. Don’t let your depression or anxiety get so bad that you can’t work out anymore. Be proactive. Working out is my meditation and prayer time. I need it to feel calm and like my truest self. Lord knows how much happier I am after a work out!

  10. Speaking of working out – the main benefit of exercise is to feel good. I spent so many years working out to look good, but the most important thing I’ve learned is that you should do it to feel good from the inside out. It brightens your mood, helps you sleep better and gives you energy. I crave that constant buzz of endorphins pumping through my body. Once I understood this concept it was a game changer. It’s how I’ve consistently worked out 5 to 6 days a week for over 7 years now.

  11. Get a pet. It doesn’t matter if it’s a dog, cat, fish or ferret. Take care of something smaller than you. It teaches you responsibility, it helps build your family and it will bring you unlimited happiness.

  12. A great wedding doesn’t have to cost a fortune. It’s actually rather simple: Marry your best friend, invite your favorite family and friends, play good music and serve free booze.

  13. International travel should change your life. Make it a priority. Few things besides international travel will help put things in perspective for you. See how big the world is and experience it from a different culture and view.

  14. The middle of the night is not the time or place to solve your most complex life problems. Go back to sleep. Thinking about your student loans or that annoying work email at 3 a.m. will do nothing but enhance your stress and worry. Chances are you’ll have a more realistic feel for the issue in the morning.

  15. Jealously is a liar and comparison is a losing game. Both will steal your current joy and rob you of the good in your life. Rise above the negative thoughts trying to distract you from what you currently have.

  16. Catch more sunrises. There’s magic in watching the world turn from dark to light. The moment right before the sunrises is my absolute favorite time of the day. Everything is blue and faint and doesn’t really seem real. Then suddenly the sky is overtaken with bright color. It makes me feel so damn lucky and grateful. It’s a daily reminder that we get another chance to live our lives with purpose. Don’t waste it!

  17. Spend less time on your phone. Scrolling mindlessly makes me feel yucky. Plus there’s enough evidence out there that tells us that social media is bad for our mental health. Spend less time comparing your life to what you see on the internet. And spend less time being occupied with your phone while out in public or at an event. Don’t live your life behind a screen.

  18. It’s always better to be the person who smiled and waved than the person who ignored the smile and wave. This is true while out running, in the hallway at work or sitting in the lobby at the dentist’s office. Acknowledge other people around you. You don’t even have to have a conversation. A simple smile or head nod is all it takes to show we’re humans and we have some sort of soul that connects us. If Jesus or the president walked by you, would you still keep your head down and pretend to be in your own little world?! Of course not. Better yet, err on the side of caution and just treat everybody like Jesus.

  19. Never underestimate the power of sending a simple text. People like to be remembered. A quick “Hey thought of you today…” to a sibling or friend can change someone’s outlook and it takes about 1 minute of your own time. A text from a friend telling me something funny that I would appreciate makes my day.

  20. If it’s not a “Hell Ya!” then it’s a no. You’re in control of your schedule. You can say no to things you don’t want to attend without being an asshole. You don’t have to attend every baby sprinkle, work happy hour or family party if you don’t want to. (Just don’t confuse this with being lazy or being a jerk.) The older I get and the more time I spend working and doing all the other life maintenance things that adults have to do, the more I realize that time is sacred. Guard and protect your time fiercely. If you’re not all in and pumped up about attending something – say no thank you and don’t go.

  21. If you eat like crap you will feel like crap. It took me years to realize that what you eat is so much more than just how it affects your body from the outside. Fuel your body with food that makes you feel good, but it’s ok to have a little fun. I like to follow the 80/20 rule. About 80% of the time I eat clean and the other 20% of the time I’m out here enjoying life – like wine and cheese. I mean who doesn’t love a good charcuterie board with a bottle – er, I mean – glass of wine?

  22. You really do need to find a job you love. If you aren’t happy (or challenged) at work then you need to make a plan and change your course of direction. We spend way too much time at work to be miserable while we’re there. (And along the lines of work – I 100% believe that you need to have a work best friend. Or “squad” as we like to call it in my office.)

  23. Every college student should be poor for a couple years. Sometimes I laugh out loud thinking about making $60 a week while in college. Why? Well first because it makes me appreciate my paycheck so much more now. But also because I like to remind myself that living off $60 a week were some of the best years of my life. Money was the last thing on my mind back then, yet I was so happy. And don’t get me wrong, having money now is great, but the principle of this is never lost on me.   

  24. People change, including you. And that’s perfectly alright. We’re supposed to change and evolve. Imagine looking back 10 years from now — wouldn’t it be a shame to learn you’re still the exact same person as before? In the past 10 years you’ve learned nothing that’s changed you? Achieved nothing that’s moved you? Experienced nothing that’s made you different? Change is good, change is constant and change is supposed to happen.  

  25. My parents are awesome. The older I get the more I am struck by how amazing my own parents are. How many times did they go without so that my siblings and I could play sports or get new clothes? You don’t realize how hard being a parent is or how much sacrifice is involved until you get older.

  26. Everything really does happen for a reason. And before you roll your eyes, think about it. And I mean REALLY think about it. A thousand little decisions and events have slowly shaped your life. Things that didn’t seem like a big deal at the time have created your entire world. An email I sent back in 2012 eventually led me to landing a job with my current employer. But what if I hadn’t sent it? One night in college in 2011 my friends went outside for a smoke break, which set the scene for me to meet my husband for the first time. But what if we had gone to a different bar that night? While standing in line at the zoo one summer day in 2013, I noticed that the couple in front of me had matching Ironman tattoos. I went home that night and Googled what an Ironman triathlon was and a dream was born. But what if I never saw those people? Things that you’re doing right now are helping to shape and mold your future. It’s so simple and so complex at the same time.

  27. Actions speak louder than words. And I don’t necessarily mean this advice in terms of a relationship, although that’s important too. Instead I’m talking about taking action with the things you want for your life. If you know anything about me then you’ll know that I’m a woman of action. Talking about your dreams or plans only goes so far. Do you want to run a marathon or lose weight? Do you need a better job? Are you looking to make more friends? Then go out there and do it. Nothing annoys me more than people sitting around just talking about stuff they want to accomplish or do. ACTION MEANS EVERYTHING. 

  28. Everything gets better when you stop caring what other people think. This is easier said than done and there are times I find myself taking two steps forward and one step back when it comes to this, but I strive for it every day. I’m in constant pursuit of no one else having power over my life except for me.

  29. Gossip gets you nowhere. I know, I know. Sometimes it feels good to vent and get it out of your system. Plus gossip is a quick way to bond with other people. But the older I get the more gross I feel after gossiping about someone or something. I feel negative and simple minded. I know it’s hard, but try to stay away from it.

  30. Confidence comes with age. I’m not saying that once you achieve a certain level of confidence that you’ll never slide back into old patterns, because there are times that confidence does fluctuate. Instead I believe that the older you get and the better you know yourself – the more confident you become across all aspects of your life. I remember standing outside of a coworker’s office rehearsing what I was going to say because I was so nervous to ask for clarification about a project. (Granted I was 23-years-old and brand new at the company.) But today I would never hesitate to ask questions or for clarification when it comes to work. Confidence is a skill. It takes years of training to improve and constant practice to maintain.

Our Mini Retreat to Getaway House


You’ve seen the Instagram ads.

Cozy couples posing in front of a giant window, surrounded by trees. Friends laughing and snuggled together around a bonfire. A tiny cabin, nestled in the forest with an inspirational quote about disconnecting…

We’re talking about Getaway House – the new, tiny cabin camping destination of millennials.

We wondered, was this place as Instagram worthy as advertised or was it a scam? Would we be isolated in a tiny field without wifi or cell service? Would we be sitting ducks just waiting for a killer to come for us??

Well, you can breathe a sigh of relief because we did live to tell about it.

Overall we were pleasantly surprised by how fantastic, accommodating and neat the entire experience was! Read on to get the details about what Getaway House is all about.

The venue and campsite

Hubby and I escaped to Getaway House for a night in November. The closest site to us was in Lisbon, Ohio. (About an hour and 30 minutes outside of Cleveland.) We headed out on a Sunday night because we had Monday off work.

Getaway House is extremely easy to contact and their response time is quick. As soon as you book they will send you a confirmation text and encourage you to reach out with any additional questions.

The day before our reservation I texted the number because I had a question about what type of coffee to bring. I received a reply back within a few minutes. (FYI: pack instant coffee if you’re bringing your own, or you can pay and use the stuff they provide in your cabin.)

The closer we got to the venue the more I was expecting to lose cell service, but we pulled right onto the site with perfect reception. We didn’t stop to double check, but it looked like there were a few buildings at the front of the site where people were working, maybe cleaning or administrative staff . There might have been a small store there too and I bet someone stayed the night in one of those buildings. Either way, we felt safe and like there was somewhere we could go if need be.

We drove around the site to get our bearings and were surprised to see that there were close to 20 other tiny cabins. They were pretty decently spaced out, with either trees or mounds of landscaping between cabins.

A couple hours before you check-in, Getaway House texts you the name of the cabin you’ll be staying in along with a map of the venue and a code to unlock the door. We were staying in “Bennie” and found it easily. (Cue singing *Bennie and the jets* all night long.)

We had neighbors on both sides of us, but everyone waved and was friendly.

Check-in was at 3 p.m. and checkout the following morning was at 11 a.m.

(To help maximize our time we arrived at 3:15 a.m.  and seriously didn’t close the door to leave our cabin until 10:58 a.m. the next morning!)

I would say that the timing of check-in/checkout is one bummer of Getaway House. I wish we could have checked in earlier in the day – like noon or 1 p.m. Also because it gets dark around 4:30 in the evenings now, we didn’t have much daylight to explore once we got there.  

Still, when we opened the cabin with our key code, we were greeted with a handwritten note from the staff, a folder of information (including hiking trails) and even a little s’mores kit! It was so cute and we were excited because the cabin was really cool.

We unloaded a few bags and put the food we brought in the small refrigerator in the cabin. Then we took a quick hike on a trail that ran down into a valley that our cabin happened to overlook. There was a river and also a pound and we saw a few people walking with their dogs on the trail. Everyone was friendly.

When it started to get dark we headed back to our cabin and began to make a bonfire. Hubby started boiling some water for pasta and I cozied up with a glass of wine and turned on the cabin radio. We found an amazing classic rock station and danced, sang and drank for the next several hours. It was chilly out, but the bonfire helped keep us warm and I took a plaid blanket from the bed outside to cover up.

The tiny cabin itself

The cabin provided a lot of great accommodations, including pasta, pasta sauce, oatmeal, tea, coffee, beef jerky, Swedish fish, fire starters and firewood.

And since we brought our dog, they had set out two bowls, waste bags and a little baggie of s’more flavored dog treats – a cute touch! There was also a garbage can inside and a picnic table and two Adirondack chairs outside.

The only thing we ended up using was a bundle of firewood. (Once you checkout Getaway House takes a tally of what you used during your stay and charges your credit card on file. There was also a price list in the cabin for reference. The next day after we checked out I saw a charge for $6.50 – the price of the firewood.)

The cabin was tiny, but it was rustic and adorable. Of course I went in expecting it to be small, but the minute my husband, myself AND the dog were all inside I started to feel like we were running out of space.

I’m not sure if the 4-person (double bed) cabins are any bigger in terms of space and I’m not sure I’d like to find out! If I felt cramped in the 2-person cabin, I couldn’t imagine 4 adults and additional dogs being in there. There would be no privacy whatsoever if you had 4 adults. Plus the bathroom is standing room only for one person. I just think it would be VERY crowded.

The bed next to the giant window was one of the best parts of the cabin. I loved lying there drinking coffee the next morning and taking pictures. You can also draw the blinds at night, which we did.

The tiny cabin is equipped with a tiny kitchenette, including: a fridge, two burner stove, tea kettle, sink,  cabinets that house plates, silver wear, cups, a pot, pan and the food for sale.

There’s a radio, a phone to make emergency calls (even though we had cell service the entire time) and 6 or 7 interesting little books. Getaway House also provides bath towels, hand soap, shampoo and conditioner.

The good thing is, if you truly don’t want to worry about a thing on your mini trip, Getaway House provides most of your accommodations. (Even random stuff such as a lighter to start the fire, olive oil, coffee mugs and paper towels.)

We had a little trouble with the heat at first, but eventually it kicked on and the tiny little cabin warmed up rather nicely. (It also has AC for when it’s hot outside.)

Personally I’d love to go back during the winter, maybe in February because I think it would be beautiful in the snow. I’d also like to visit for a a long weekend in the summer.

How much does Getaway House cost?

I was a little disappointed because the day before our reservation I found two coupons – one for 15% off and another for $25 off. I debated calling Getaway House and asking if they would honor the discount after I had already booked, but time got away from me and I never ended up doing it.

Pro tip: Google or search on Instagram for discount codes. Some social media influencers will even post their own Getaway House discount code. 

Over all, Getaway House is pretty comparable to a hotel in terms of pricing.

From what I saw in the Cleveland market (and in the off-season: October, November, December), prices ranged from $119 to $199 a night.

Adding your dog to the mix will cost you an additional $40 and I believe there was some sort of cleaning fee (maybe $30 or $40) tacked on too.

In the end, our one night stay at Getaway House for two adults and one dog costs us $236.

It’s a bit pricey for our family in terms of camping because we’re already big campers to begin with. We often camp 30 minutes from our house for about $20 a night, oppose to driving over an hour away and paying over $200. Still, it was a great experience and worth checking out at least once.

In the end, Getaway House is as Instagram worthy as it looks. You’re safe and not isolated alone in the woods and you’re well taken care. It’s a glamping dream!

Fitness is Awesome


This is the first springtime in five years that I’m not starting a training plan for an upcoming race (or already in a training plan for that matter). It’s a very strange feeling not having any sort of “swim, bike, run” structure as the weather is starting to break from the long winter.

You mean I don’t have to study an Excel sheet every week and religiously record my mileage and heart rate zones?! There’s no countdown app on my phone sending me aggressive notifications that the race is just “X” weeks away??

Nope. I am free to do as I wish. And I have been. And it’s been awesome!

I’m definitely having a blast with this “new normal” level of training.

At the end of January some friends and I signed up for ClassPass. (And no, although I wish this was a paid advertisement — it’s not.) ClassPass really is as awesome as I’m about to tell you it is.

ClassPass is a mobile app that lets you book classes with different fitness studios and gyms around your zip code. Membership includes a free one-month trial and then switches to monthly fees, which range from $29 to $79.

This is genius for someone like me who likes to switch things up.

Sorry spin studio, I love you, but there’s absolutely no way I’d ever purchase your monthly unlimited ride package. I’d die of boredom if that’s all I was ever doing. And for the price they charge? It better be!! With ClassPass, my home gym and a normal gym membership ($10 a month, hmm guess where I go??) I’m able to fit in so many different workouts. I’m never doing the same thing and that’s what makes it so fun.


My recent training has included:

  • Swimming.
  • Bootcamp.
  • HIIT & circuit classes.
  • Crossfit.
  • Hot yoga.
  • Kettle bells.
  • Running (always, duh).
  • Outdoor biking & hiking.
  • Cardio kickboxing & combat conditioning.
  • Spinning.
  • Versa climbers.
  • Lifting.
  • I even busted out a surprise half marathon!

If there was ever a time to fall back in love with fitness (and to get my post-Ironman mind right) — it’s now.

And this couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, because just as I was starting to feel the itch for a training plan — I suddenly had all these options available at my fingertips. I’m valuing the fact that I have so much freedom and I’m not confined to just swim, bike, run for the next several months.

Although don’t get me wrong — that Ironman finish line is ADDICTING. And I think there will always be a part of me that wants to chase that high. But for now, I am learning to love fitness — the whole general term of it. To move my body and sweat to feel good, not just for a specific race or finish line.

No training plans, no time limits, no mileage expectations. I show up when I can (which is usually 6 to 7 days a week) and I put in work. The intensity is always there because, hey, that’s just who I am, but this balance feels really good!


Find a New Pace


Raise your hand if your entire life has gone exactly as planned.

Raise your hand if every race you’ve ever done went exactly as expected.

I’ve watched in both excitement and horror as life events have unfolded before my eyes. Some things have gone off without a hitch, exactly how I had imagined and planned. While other events and twists have fallen apart without warning.

It’s like this in races too. With Ironman you have a set plan, but sometimes things just fall apart no matter how much you prepare. A smart person never goes into an Ironman thinking “I’m just going to wing this and hope for the best.” There is a lot of planning involved in long course races. Your nutrition is timed out to the exact hour and mile. Your paces are calculated with fluid intake. You have race plans A, B and C regarding weather and heat. You train. You plan. You set goals. You chase dreams. You always plan for your best race and for perfect conditions, yet so rarely does race day arrive and everything go this way.

It’s just not realistic.

Somewhere during the course of the day you will miss a pace. You will get tired. You will freak out. The heat will get to you. The road will seem too tough. Lots of things will go wrong. But do you throw in the towel when things don’t go exactly as planned? Do you hit mile 100 and think “Nah, this isn’t the race I trained for. This isn’t the time goal I wanted for myself”? Some people quit like this. But never in my wildest dreams could I imagine doing that.

Just because things don’t go as planned doesn’t mean the entire experience and all the effort is wasted.

And it’s like this in life too. Times when rejection feels tough. When opportunities that you had wanted so tremendously fall right through your fingers. Days where the rules are hard and fast and it doesn’t seem fair. Again you think “Nah, this isn’t how it was supposed to be. This isn’t the outcome I wanted.” And do you give up then?

Of course not.

With life and in races — just because the wheels fall off somewhere along the way doesn’t mean the entire experience is wasted and race day is ruined. The race and the opportunity is still salvageable.

Sometimes you just need to focus on playing the cards you were dealt. You can drive yourself crazy thinking about how unfair it was or you can waste your energy looking for someone to blame. Or you can adjust your attitude accordingly and show up for yourself.

Instead you develop a new mindset and new plan. So you adjust the brim of your hat and find a new pace. Maybe it wasn’t the pace you had trained for, but forward is still the direction you’re headed. You consult your race plans and see that plans A, B and C didn’t work. So you accept it and focus on what’s next. Maybe that’s race plans D, E or F. But those plans are your new opportunities, despite how you got there.

Even in crappy races I have still looked up and felt lucky to be out there. Even when I felt like my lungs were burning and every step was forced, I still felt grateful to feel the sun on me. And in life now, even when I feel frustrated by the details and how things played out for me, it doesn’t mean it’s the end. I still have an opportunity. Life is still good. My heart is still beating. Things will be ok.

Failure is only an attitude. It is not the final outcome. You must learn to move forward  with a new pace, a new attitude and a new race plan.

Smiling at the spectators never hurts either 😉