Day Five Camino de Santiago

4/22/14 Rubaies

arrowamazing waterfall

So far Ponté de Lima is my favorite city. There are a few people in the albergue that we met in the albergue last night. The woman from Holland is very nice and we run into her a lot. There are two men from New Zealand who are really cool as well. One of them passed out while riding his bike on the Camino, woke up in an ambulance, recovered for 10 days in a hospital, and is now walking to Santiago. That is dedication. We climbed a huge mountain today but were rewarded with a downhill trip to the albergue. Paul shipped 2 kilos of his stuff home this morning, so his load was lighter today. I had washed my clothes at the albergue in Ponté de Lima and hung them to dry, but it rained rainy dayovernight and my clothes were all wet. I hope they dry tonight. Tomorrow we are crossing into Tuí. I am excited for this. There is nothing really going on in this city, but we may go to the bar for dinner. Tuí should be much more exciting, plus it is in Spain! I felt homesick last night and we still have a ways to go, but I am very happy to be on this journey and will be proud to reach Santiago. The knee brace I got yesterday morning has helped so much. This is the best I’ve felt after a day of walking yet. 11 miles today. Paul’s ankle is hurting very bad, I hope the ankle brace helps him.

hand holdin

Reflecting on José and Christina again, I imagine they don’t fight. If Paul were dying, would I bother to point out every time he did something that annoyed me, or did something in a way I didn’t like? No. I’d like to remember this and live this way. Unless truly offended, why bother to make a bad situation by criticizing. I am wishing now that I could send a note to my family and let them know how the trip is going. There were two cowscows in the road today (I was hoping I would see that) and when we stopped to eat we encountered other pilgrims and two cats that caught mice for a treat of their own. It rained for about an hour this morning, which made the rain gear useful. I am getting better at peeing on the side of the trail. Paul and I have broken some bathroom/ modesty boundaries (mostly me). Last night, while feeling homesick, I wanted Paul near me for comfort. Then I had a strange feeling that Paul and I are strangers. We are married, that is ridiculous, but I can’t shake this feeling. Do we really know each other? Am I fully myself with him? This is a weird feeling, but an interesting one, like I am looking forward to getting to know each other. That is a journey itself.  Bom Camino!

cross and arrow albergue

Day 5 again, just had a great dinner at the one place in town. We went with Holland (I can’t pronounce her name), we met two American pilgrims there, the New Zealand guys came in and then the Irish girl we met earlier came in by herself and we invited her to eat with Holland and us. Her name is Evelyn an she is really cool. She considers herself a Lady Moc. She has her bag sent ahead and has a hair dryer and makeup. She was a semi-professional hurling player. Great conversation. By the end of the night 4 more pilgrims (Germans) from our albergue showed up. I love the moments with just Paul and I and I also love these interactions. One German couple told us that a lot of Germans are inspired to do the Camino because of a book written by a German comedian called something like, “I’m going away for a long time.” I’d like to check this book out. – OK good night.

Bom Camino

Up to this point, I had been sleeping in one set of clothes and walking in another. Since my bunk bedsday clothes were soaking wet in the morning, I had to walk in my night clothes, which had been relatively clean. We saw so many incredible things every day. It is interesting, the things I chose to write down and capture each evening. Our routine was that when we checked into our albergue each night, we would shower, then Paul would lay down for a bit and I would write. Then we’d go explore the town we were in and get dinner. It stayed light really late there. Oh, and we’d also rub each other’s feet after we were all fresh and clean again. This was a necessary part of the journey. I had never experienced the feeling of being homesick before. To be honest, I don’t think I ever thought that was a real thing. I can only describe it as a mild anxiety and general feeling that something isn’t right. This is likely what generated the whole, “Paul is a stranger feeling”. I cant really put into words what that feeling was like. It wasn’t a bad thing, it made me think for a minute almost like someone presented me with a handsome man and said, “this is your husband, figure it out.” I look back fondly at this feeling. I’m sure there is a lesson in it somewhere.

Ham and cheese & pastries! Again.

Ham and cheese & pastries! Again.

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Day Four Camino de Santiago

Monday, April 21, 2014 Ponte de Lima

arrow in the sceneryI am in the albergue in Ponte de Lima. This is the most incredible location, a room with this view would be considered a luxury. There are 40 beds in this room with about 33 albergue bedsoccupants. The  woman we met yesterday from Holland is here, she is very nice. We met a lot of people in our albergue and it was wonderful having dinner on the patio in the city and saying hello to our “friends” as they walked by. This morning I woke in our beautiful hotel room after having the best night’s sleep I have had since last Monday. We leisurely got ready and had an amazing breakfast buffet served by our hosts. We asked José where the pharmacy was so that we could get ibuprofen and after breakfast he drove us to the farmácia and dropped us off at the Camino. I have learned so much from José and Christina and I pray that I don’t forget their lessons.

view from our albergue 2 view from our albergue

Sadly, one of the lessons learned from them is the beauty of living like you, or your loved one is dying. José has a problem with his lungs, which has moved to his brain, it sounds like cancer, and he expects to live only a few more months. He is expecting his first grandchild in one week. José sees the beauty in life , his wife, his family, and his home. It makes me wonder how I would live and be if Paul or I were dying, which we all are in a sense. Their anniversary is April 23rd, just three days after us (but 24 more years).

path moss covered wall

The firework continued all day again and I can hear barking dogs. We walked a little over 10 miles. I am so glad that we split the 20 miles in half, for a million reasons. My left beauty of the wayknee is quite sore as is Paul’s left ankle, this albergue has no pillows or blankets, so we will make do without. I miss the intimacy that is absent when you are n your own bed and/ or sleeping bag. Again, our bed last night was a gift. Forests and more vineyards made up most of the day’s walking. We heard the song “Sunny” playing from someone’s garage and saw a frenchie today, I miss my baby girl. The church bells just chimed 10pm and someone turned off the lights. Bed time. Good thing my kindle lights up. My wish/ prayer for this trip is to strengthen the bond between Paul and I, to come home a better version of myself, and that God’s will will be done regarding children for us. Is it possible we conceived last night?, we’ll see…

Buen Camino.

Looking at my journal and laughing as after the lights had gone out, I was no longer writing in the lines. I can’t believe I didn’t write more about that breakfast we had. It was the best breakfast buffet I have ever had, or seen. José and Christina had asked us the day ponte de lima bridgebefore if we could wait until 9 am for breakfast, they were worried that we’d want to get back on the Camino early and it takes them 8 hours to prepare the breakfast. But they said that if it was too late, they’d get up even earlier. I am telling you I have never experienced hospitality and kindness to strangers like we did in Portugal. It was unbelievable. A trait that I very much wanted to take home with us. We had a tearful goodbye with José and Christina. We told each other that we would always hold each other in our hearts and I have every intention to. One of the more magical moments of the Camino was when José dropped us off and he asked me to give word to St. James for him. I felt honored to be the bearer of this powerful request.

patio dining ponte de lima 2

Ponte de Lima was my favorite city. It is a place that I would love to live. It has a main city street right on the river with an ancient bridge. Cafés and restaurants lined the street and people walked everywhere. I long to live in a city where people walk everywhere. We also saw people walking their dogs which was nice, because up to this point and throughout most of Portugal, we only saw barking dogs used as watch dogs and they were chained up and did not seem happy. This city was beautiful and the buildings and their windows were trimmed with lights which made the night seem grand.

bridge lit up ponte de lima at night

A fun little side story from this night was that there was a German woman (who we later referred to as  the crazy German lady) who was doing the Camino with her 14 year old grandson. When we met them in the albergue, she was in panic mode as her grandson lost quick resthis passport. She believed it was left in the previous town the day before. I can’t imagine loosing my passport while traveling abroad. While we were eating dinner later that evening, the German woman and her grandson walked by and said hi. She told us, that someone from the previous town had found his passport and driven it to Ponte de Lima, assuming that this was their next stop and they had somehow found them and returned the passport!! This is the kindness that we saw everywhere.

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Day Three Camino de Santiago

Aka Our one year wedding anniversary aka Easter!love you arrow

This moment is so magical, I am almost in tears. We are at the most incredible hotel with the best host ever, who told us that for today, this is our home, and I wish it was. We are at the Casas do Rio, a sprawling landscape of heaven. Green everywhere, it has beautiful trees, it is on a lake, there is a fountain, pool, jacuzzi, swans, a duck pond, chicken area, and a game house with billiards, a beautiful chess table, darts, and foosball. As I am writing we hear church choir music filling the whole valley. This is like nothing else. Our hosts José and Cristina are about to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. When we asked for marriage advice, José (pronounces zho-zay) said that there will be troubles, but we should use our troubles as ways to grow closer. Our room is awesome, it has a fire place, orange canopy and a really nice bathroom. The rug by the couch felt like a cloud under back packinmy sore feet. We talked to José after walking around a bit and he shared their story. He was teaching at the university and worked for a company and he wanted to find a place that touched a river. They found this place, which was really worn down, and have fixed it up over a nine year period. The original Camino route passed right through the property as did a Roman route to an important Portuguese city. Back to their story, the quit their lives and followed this dream. He described it as doing something without knowing why you are doing it, so beautiful! José told us he was once told that there are three parts to our brains; instinct/ fear, pleasure, and affection/ happiness, and that affection and happiness suffer when the focus is on pleasure. Cristina told Paul that we have to come back for our 25 year anniversary. I say “yes, let’s do it”.

hotel beauty amazing breakfast

Our walking journey today: We were hungry when we left the albergue and wanted real breakfast (no more cafés). While asking someone where we can find a ristoranté and gesturing ‘food’ , a man drove up and asked if we wanted “comida” and he drove us to a place to eat. It was cool, but only had café and pastries. I wanted eggs so bad, but oh well. We started our Camino and Paul read from our guidebook, “Ask, and ye shall receive, seek, and ye shall find”. We walked through a pretty vineyard and the things I asked for in my mind were received. There was a café at the perfect moment. After leaving the café, we saw a fellow pilgrim we had met the night before (we think his name was Andreas). We walked with him for a bit and a pilgrim lady from Holland joined us. She dropped off soon, but we walked with Andreas (who is from Austria) until we had to veer off to get to our beautiful hotel. While walking I was in pain. My collar bones and feet hurt from the weight of my pack ad I have blisters on the pads of my two smallest toes on both feet. As I am writing now, we just got back from dinner (where someone who works there drove to pick us up and drop us off). Looking forward to a bath and a good night’s sleep. As we walked past many homes, including our hotel, we saw that a lot of people put flower petals leading up to their door. I imagine this  is for Easter, but want to research this further. Bath time.

Buen Camino!

flower petals to doorstep our dear friend Jose

There is no way I can ever put into words the magic of this day. We heard fireworks all day long, from morning until night. Paul said it was for our anniversary, but Easter may have had something to do with it. While we walked we heard people ringing bells and saw what looked like a priest with a small entourage walking through the towns. Apparently, the

Cheers to one year! In my homemade anniversary top.

Cheers to one year! In my homemade anniversary top.

flower petals leading up to the doors is an invitation for them to stop by and bless your home. So cool. I want to decorate the path to our door next Easter, I imagine the neighbors may think this is strange. At the hotel were other guests, who were dressed like they’d be staying in a nice hotel. I felt so dirty and scrubby in comparison as I only had the clothes I had been wearing on the Camino. I wanted to look nice for our anniversary dinner, but had limited options, so I started playing with the scarf I had brought and, with Paul’s help, managed to twist it into a one shouldered top which I wore with my black leggings. It was small, it helped make me feel like I was “dressed up” for a moment.

This is the coolest one year anniversary I can ever imagine.

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Day Two Camino de Santiago

laundry drying off my packI’m already forgetting to write down details. Paul just reminded me that I was going to write about a cool cemetery we saw yesterday. Last night we ate at the café near our albergue and met a nice woman called Carolina (as I write I am getting a flood of memories I want to capture, if only I could write so fast!) Carolina was born in Zimbabwe, lived in South Africa, now in Vilahreno for a long time. We both had spaghetti (bolognese and carbonara) and there was no sauce on it. We decided that if we were still around when the café opened at 8am, we’d have breakfast there.  That was not the case… I woke up at one point and Paul was wide awake. I asked him what time it was, 3:40 am. The dogs in the back yard barked all night. Even with ear plugs we could hear them. I tried, for a while, to go back to sleep, but ultimately decided to get up. We did some yoga, packed our things and started walking at 5:30 am. This was an adventure… it was still dark (with street lights) and as the sun rose we were walking in the forest and over an ancient bridge (the bridge was before he sunrise).  We thought we’d finish early in the day with such a head start, but we were wrong. At one beautiful scenery day 2 Typical mealpoint we noticed we hadn’t seen arrows in a while and stopped to consult our map. A friendly Portuguese  biker (who spoke French) tried to help us as did a woman (who also spoke Portuguese and French) who had stopped her car. They told us to head down a certain road and the woman offered to drive us 5 minutes to get us back on track (which I declined because ‘our’ Camino is a travel by foot- whether you are lost or not). As we walked down that road, we saw a yellow X indicating the wrong way, but which also meant there would be arrows nearby :). So, we found arrows and started following them, but after a while, we noticed that we were traveling northwest, when we wanted to be going northeast. Paul figured out that we had somehow gotten on the coastal route of the Camino Portuguese- Which isn’t “wrong” really, it is ‘our’ Camino and we were exactly where we were meant to be. We met a man who spoke English in his front yard who confirmed that we were near the coast. We had a decision to make… We were on route to Santiago, but how much longer would the coastal route take, would we be able to get back on track, what about our hotel reservations for tomorrow (I can’t wait for that)? We chose to walk our own path down a road that we knew would get us to the city Day 2 meal after being lostwe were supposed to end today at and get back on track. (“We chose” = I trusted Paul’s judgement even though I wanted to stay with my beloved arrows). It was a long grueling walk back eastward (we had the north part down), but eventually we got to town and saw little yellow arrows again! Barcelos is adorable and has a cool shopping street. It looks like it will light up at night, but I don’t know if we have it in us to venture back out. We are at our second albergue and it is similar to what I imagined (no more double bed and a room to ourselves). We had the choice of bunk beds in separate rooms, or cots next to each other in the main front room where people sign in. We chose the latter which means we let people in when they ring the bell. We walked more miles than planned today, but exactly as many as we were meant to. Very exhausted and very sore and blistered :(. I am looking forward to Easter tomorrow, our anniversary, and being able to eat sweets after giving them up for Lent. I hope we sleep well tonight and have a good journey to our hotel tomorrow. Oh yeah, as we were looking for our albergue, there was a lady who has a ceramic shop who was excited to see us and said that she’d stamp our credentials. There were a couple of people in the shop who spoke English and seemed excited that we were pilgrims. On our way out, Paul went back to give the woman one of his kindness cards and she hugged him and kissed him on the cheek, then she gave him a little ceramic thing with a man, woman and child on it. Did I get an answer on the Camino? Is that me, Paul, and Future Harwood…

Buen Camino

Tulips and bike

day 2 again

We walked down the city street tonight and it was not lit up. I assume the lights are hung for the big rooster festival that starts next weekend. There was a neat little carnival though and we walked around for a bit and Paul got a strawberry filled churro.

our room day 2

What a day this was. The day we got lost. In our frustration at being lost and determination to bet back to the path, we walked harder and faster than we should have. We would pay for this later. I still wouldn’t trade what we did for anything. While we were off the path trying t get back on, we ate lunch at a place called ‘La Bomba’ and it had a logo with a bomb on it. The waiter spoke some English, not much. I ended up ordering some type of meat platter and then being afraid to eat most of it. There was an egg on it, which I trusted, but the description mentioned lingua which made me thing of linguistics and then I was convinced that it was tongue, so I hid it under something else on my plate. Paul asked for salt and was given three different sauces instead, oh well. The waiter seemed impressed that we were going to walk to the next town. It is impressive, I suppose. My Story of the roosterpack was still heavy and it was killing my collar bone, but there was no choice but to carry on. The albergue was where we first saw other pilgrims. We slept in the lobby which was spacious, but had no privacy and there was an emergency light that stayed on all night. To get back in the albergue after leaving, you would ring the bell or get the key from the bar next door. I can vividly picture this place in my mind, but can’t seem to put it into words. Many details from the day were lost by the time I sat down to write at not, or I just didn’t have the energy to write everything down. Looking back at my journal entry made me laugh, the things that mattered to me at the time. It is fun being able to peek into my mindset when I didn’t know what lay ahead yet.

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Day One Camino de Santiago

April 18, 2014

We did it! 16.1 miles from Porto to Vilarinho. We got to hear the choir sing before the Found the first waymarkerservice started at Sé Cathedral. We said our prayers there and started our Camino. I was so excited when a bicyclist shouted “Bom Camino”, it was our first one.  Several people wished us a “bon viaje’ which is very nice. At the café where we had breakfast, Paul ordered us a lunch to bring on our trip (ham and cheese sandwiches). Many hours and miles later we ate them in a field by the side of the road. As we approached Vilarinho, the road was scary. It had no shoulders or sidewalk and the cars went so fast. We are now at the first Camino albergue- Casa de Laura. It is nice, we are the only pilgrims here and we got our very own room with a double bed (and ants). Resting for a bit, then we’ll find dinner and call it a night.

Buen Camino

P lunch on side of road day 1street view day 1

Ha! Ham and cheese, little did we know… The café where we had breakfast was cool, we saw a man sip and espresso and smoke a cigarette for what felt like a half an hour. This was our first taste of how much espresso was a part of life in Portugal and Spain. I remember how excited I felt walking along the Camino. This day was mostly leaving Porto so we walked through city streets. I had given up sweets for Lent and enviously stared in the windows of the pastry shops. I knew from watching the movie The Way and the documentary about the Camino that people would say “Buen Camino” and I was so happy to hear it for the first time. There wasn’t much to the town we stayed in that night, the restaurant that we had dinner at was right next to our albergue. The hosts of the albergue lived in the main house which was separate from the quarters from the pilgrims. They had a nice patio and a place to wash laundry in a sink, which Paul and I did. There were lounge chairs in the grass to relax at. There was a book to sign in and we received our first stamps in our pilgrims passports. While we were out at dinner, the hosts had set out a bowl with muffins and some house wine. The muffins were crawling with ants, but it was a nice thought, our first taste of the hospitality we were about to experience. They didn’t speak English, so they did not interact with us much at all. It felt a bit isolating, but I imagined that we wouldn’t have many other nights alone, so I enjoyed it. I wrote about the rest of that night in my day 2 post, so you’ll hear about it soon.

vineyardhandsome husband walking on the wall

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And Away We Go…

I am excited to share a small piece of the magic that was the Camino Portuguese. I’ll share my journal entry and then any additional reflections that I have about that day. I hope you enjoy it.

Harwoods by the Porto river

Thursday, April 17, 2014

On a plane from Lisbon to Porto. Very tired. We left Phoenix yesterday around noon, flew 4 1/2 hours to Philadelphia, 8 hours to Lisbon, and are now on a 40 minute flight to Porto, where we will start the Camino de Santiago. We are doing this pilgrimage as our one year anniversary/ honeymoon. I have tried to avoid researching and learning too much so that this journey will feel new and surprising. 

My pack feels heavy already and we’ve only walked through airports! I am confident (hopeful really) that the proper adjustments will make my pack more comfortable. If I could go back in time, I would have learned some basic Portuguese and more Spanish (or at least written down some useful phrases). When we land, we will be looking for a shuttle bus to Porto’s city center, we will take a regular bus if we can’t find one. Once we get there, the plan is to eat and find our hostel. I am tempted to sleep right away, but am going to try to stay up until nighttime to help adjust to the time here. I am very excited to be on this journey with Paul and hope to return home as a better version of my self.


Post from that evening…

Porto is awesome! I feel like we explored the whole city today! The teenager working the hostel desk pointed out a few points of interest, including the bookstore from Harry Potter!! Of course we went (they don’t allow photos inside) and it totally looked like it does in the movie. Who knew those scenes were filmed in Porto. There are beautiful old buildings and the city is romantic. There are a lot of lovers publicly displaying their affection. We fit right in :). Not everyone speaks English, which was expected, and we ordered our lunch by means of animated pointing. We did learn to say “thank you” in Portuguese – Obrigada (for girls) Obrigado (for boys). We walked so much this afternoon (as if the upcoming 150 miles isn’t enough). We ended up taking the light rail (metro) from the airport and walking to the hostel. We’ve managed to stay awake (Paul is “resting” with his eyes closed now) so far. We are hanging out in our room and will probably venture out for dinner and to get water. Oh yeah, in our adventures today we made it Sé Cathedral where the Camino Portugués begins (if starting in Porto). We got to see the first few way markers which was so exciting. We have a huge journey ahead of us, it isn’t going to be easy, but I pray it is going to be a lot of fun. By the way, you can see Sé  Cathedral from our room window.

Buen Camino!

Paul wanted to bring something to share with people we met along the Camino de Santiago. We brought some earplugs, which are very important when sleeping an a room with a bunch of snoring strangers. Paul also wanted to have something to think of his mom who had passed away a few months before we left. When Paul’s mom passed, a dear friend had given us a jar that was filled with 30 small envelopes that each contained a quote or positive message. Paul felt it in his heart that he was meant to bring these alongOur first hostel to share as well. We did not know what each card was going to say, but the right message got to the right people and the experiences were amazing.

We made our first friend on our journey on the plane. His name is Juan and he is from Cancun. Juan was the first recipient of one of these cards and he was nearly brought to tears.

Reading what I wrote in my post from the plane, I can tell that I was tired and hungry and making an effort to stay positive in my journaling despite how I felt, which was fine and excited, but also exhausted.

Porto street market 2Porto was a beautiful. It is located right next to a river and it is the kind of city I dream of living in where you can walk everywhere. Little old buildings crammed together and painted a rainbow of colors. Everyone hung their laundry outside.  There was a touristy spot by the rivers edge where there was a market out on the street. We ended up eating dinner on a patio at a nearby restaurant. It was fun to people watch and we saw a group of people doing a sort of double high-five which I now insist on doing with Paul and will no longer accept a plain old single high five from him.  In retrospect, we probably shouldn’t have walked so much this day if we had any idea of what lay ahead. This was our first hostel, ever for both of us. It was a private hostel and we did not yet know the difference. We had our own room and bathroom, which we didn’t expect to have again, with the exception of our anniversary night. We were so afraid of bed bugs that we slept in our sleeping bags, which was probably unnecessary at this place. Our room was on the fifth floor which it was good this was before we started, I don’t know that we’d be able to walk up 5 flights of stairs any other day of our journey.

It is interesting the things that stuck out to me that seemed worthy of writing in the evenings.


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Hold On, I am Still Alive

I wanted to jump in with so many stories and things to share, but when I chose this title for the blog post I decided that I’d jump around in time and start there, the best birthday of my life so far.

Christina Perri concertPenguine selfie

I happen to have the best sister ever. I could, and should dedicate an entire post to this fact someday. For my 33rd birthday, my sister got tickets for us to see Christina Perri in concert on the eve of my birthday. Pretty amazing, right? But, that’s not all, she got us super special tickets that included early entry to the show, and autographed poster, and VIP meet and greet access. Told you, best sister ever.

If you aren’t a fan of Christina Perri‘s music, then there is probably something wrong with you and you should stop reading and get help.

Christina Perri microphone

We were that close!

Early access allowed my friend and I to be in the second row of people standing at the foot of the stage. I am a chicken about pushing through crowds and didn’t know if the rest would be able to get that close and join us, but I have charming and amazing friends that were able to get right up there and start chatting with the people they just stood in front of like pros. The show was absolutely amazing Birdy was the opener and Christina’s talent blew our minds. It was great to hear the old songs that I new and loved and I fell in love with the new stuff.

There was a moment in the concert where she had us break into three sections and each sing a part to the song I Believe. One section sang, “This  is not the end of me, this is the beginning”, our section sang, “Hold on”, and the last section sang, “I am still alive”. Hearing the room sing this song was incredible, the band got quieter and eventually stopped playing while the crowd continued to sing as the band slowly walked off the stage and our voices rang out. It was such a beautiful experience that the memory of it makes me tear up.

I have amazing friends, who are beautiful, but it is their beauty inside that makes me incredibly blessed. These are the friends that truly know me, truly care, and that I can always count on. A work obligation prevented my sister from attending the concert and she generously gave up her ticket to anyone I’d have fun with. Which ended up in the hands of a friend of mine who’s special bad day happened to be that day.

I met Christina Perri

She has a tattoo of a French Bulldog on her left arm. So cool!

Oh yeah, I met Christina Perri!!! While waiting in line for my chance to get an autograph and meet Christina, I tried to think of something clever to say. (I really didn’t want to say something cheesy like I imagine most of the teenage girls would). It hit me right before my turn. I decided to tell her that her cover of Roy Orbison’s crying was my favorite thing ever, which is a slight exaggeration because we all know Paul and Sunny hold the top two positions for that. She lit up, and told me a story about the time she got to sing it in front of the  man who produced that song. I nailed it, I didn’t get a quick “Thank you” I got a story.

We ended the night with a trip to In-n-Out, I was a happy lady. On my birthday, we went to Daily Dose in Old Town Scottsdale, my favorite place for breakfast, stopped by a tattoo shop (love tattoos), went to a movie, picked up a gift card that I won on the radio the day before (more to com on this later), and had dinner at Cibo (my special occasion restaurant of choice at the moment) with my family.

Best birthday ever!

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A Look Back at 2013…

My husband said it best when he said that this year was a year of big gains and big losses. I mean huge gains and losses. Over all it was amazing and I am grateful to have lived it and spent it which such incredible people.


I make fists when I am really excited!

So the year started with the best day of my life, my husband’s 35th birthday. At his birthday dinner he asked me to be his wife. I’m sure some people may say that our wedding day should be even better, but not for me. Knowing that this incredible man wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and be married was the greatest moment of my life.

In 2013 we also found a church that we absolutely adore and had many adventures. I ran both Ragnar Del Sol (a 200 mile relay race) and the Ragnar Trail Run. We say Alex Clare, who I’m slightly obsessed with, in concert. And as if my ass wasn’t lucky enough, I won tickets to see my all time favorite musician in the world…. Prince! -The man puts on an amazing show. We went to Vegas a couple times to celebrate with friends entering their 30′s and friends getting married. On one of these trips we walked away with matching tattoos!

Wedding pic 1

We got married and had a reception both here in Arizona and in my husbands hometown in Wisconsin. I hadn’t met most of his family until the wedding and so my family has grown.. a lot.

We lost my husbands mom this year, which was completely unexpected and a big loss for our family. I am so fortunate to have had the chance to meet this incredible woman. The timing of things is always fascinating and leaves me know doubt that we all have a purpose and that I am exactly where I am supposed to be at this moment. We are so glad that we had her at the wedding and she could see us so happy and let her in on what are plans for the future were (hint: baby).

My husband started his own business this year and is now officially the best handyman and pool service man that ever existed. I ended the year with a promotion at work. This year has been crazy and sad and amazing. Life does what it does and we can just hope to be present in the moment, dream of bright futures and hang on for the ride.

Sunny Unicorn

Let’s see what 2014 brings…

Posted in Adventure, Family Planning, Honeymoon, Marriage | Leave a comment

“Safe” Deodorant Reviews…

As you know from my Dangers of Deodorant post I have tried out a couple different deodorants that are considered to be non toxic. I am happy to share our experience and help you to make a decision about which brands of “healthy” deodorant you may want to try out.

The first non toxic deodorant I ordered was called “Pit Putty” from Bubble and Bee.

I ordered Orange Vanilla Pit Putty Organic Deodorant with Baking Soda, for me and Lemon & Clove Pit Putty Organic Deodorant with Baking Soda for P.


Ingredients: Organic arrowroot powder, organic coconut oil, aluminum-free baking soda, and essential oils (and organic vanilla extract in mine). That’s it… No “Bad” Stuff!         Their deodorant is certified organic. It is free from parabens, aluminum, and propylene glycol.

Smell: I love the smell of the Orange Vanilla; it is very fresh, and not strong or artificial smelling. The Lemon and Clove is a little too hippie smelling for me, but I should have known that when I ordered clove, again, it wasn’t too strong though.

Usability: It goes on well for the most part. Little clumps do come off, but I’ve never had a problem with it getting on my clothes. It is a little crumbly, but they do not use chemical binders which make it even more safe, so that is a fair trade for me. It seems to go on smoother with hairless armpits than it did on P’s manly armpits.

Performance:  It works for me! My armpits stay dry and smell fresh all day and this was tested during the summer in Phoenix. However, P did not have the same luck. It wasn’t very effective for him at all. Keep in mind that I work in a freezing office all day, P is in and out of his car and runs around as part of his job.

Overall: Good smell (Orange Vanilla). I LOVE that this is an organic product and does not contain toxic materials. I am happy with the product and would buy it again for myself, but it didn’t work well for P.

The next “safe” deodorant we tried was Lavanila: The Healthy Deodorant Vanilla Lavender


Ingredients:  Aloe barbadensis leaf juice (Aloe juice, water/aqua), Propanediol (Corn derived), Zea mays (Corn) starch, Sodium stearate (Coconut derived), Silica, Carrageenan (Seaweed derived), Stearyl behenate (Coconut derived), Citrus medica limonum (Lemon peel oil), Inulin (Artichoke derived), Saccharomyces ferment, Alpha-Glucan oligosaccharide (Sugar derived), Yeast beta glucan, Lonicera caprifolium (Honeysuckle) flower extract, Usnea barbata (Lichen) extract, Valeriana officinalis root extract (Valerian), Hydrastis canadensis (Goldenseal) extract, Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea tree) flower/leaf/stem extract, Lycium barbarum fruit extract (Goji berry), Botanical fragrance blend. It contains NO: Parabens, Petrochemicals, Phthalates, Silicones, Propylene Glycol, Mineral Oils, Synthetic Dyes, Sulfates, Chemical Sunscreens, or Aluminum.

Smell: Very clean and fresh. Not overtly feminine, so P has no problem wearing it either.

Usability: I was expecting a similar experience to the Pit Putty assuming that “safe” deodorants were going to be the same. The Lavanila is very smooth, it has a round shape and glides on so easy. It feels a little wetter, but it isn’t wet. I instantly feel like it is covering more area. It is smooth for hairless and manly armpits.

Performance: This also works for me. I do not feel sweaty and smell fresh all day. This works much better for P. He does feel like he needs to add more halfway through his day, but smells good all day long as well.

Overall: Pretty packaging, glides amazingly, smells great. We will be buying this again as it works for both of us.


The Pit Putty from Bubble and Bee is less expensive and worked for me, plus I love how few ingredients they have, but the performance and smooth glide of the Lavanila are worth the extra price and additional ingredients in my opinion.

Posted in Healthy Products, Preconception | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment


To be honest, I thought sharing my approach to preconception health, future pregnancy health, and parenting would be met with a response of “goof for you” or “that is awesome” or my dream response of, “you’re gonna have one lucky kid with a mom that loves them this much already”. I thought I would share my experience and what I’ve learned through this blog and hoped to inspire someone or to teach them something they didn’t know that could positively impact their future child’s life.

Is that how this is going so far? Not exactly… I will say that my readers are AMAZING and have kept me motivated. However, in face to face conversations with people that I share what I am doing with (friends, family, acquaintances) I feel like I get more pushback than anything. (There are some people in my circle who support me 100% and to these few, I will be forever grateful.  I don’t know that I’d be able to get through this journey without you.) There are some well meaning people that just warn me not to get too carried away or put too much pressure on myself. There are also others that seem to think that my sharing my approach and what I am excited about is somehow a judgment about the way they approached or plan to approach their pregnancies, or how they raised their children.  This is not the case, I am just excited about my future child and am planning to take an approach that is the healthiest for ME, and falls along MY approach to life. If your kids turned out just fine and you smoked crack throughout your pregnancy, hallelujah, I’m glad they are fine, but please do not be offended that I share a different view.

I am not perfect, my preconception and pregnancy plans are not perfect. I’ll never be able to learn absolutely everything there is to know about creating a healthy, smart, happy baby, but I am going to try, I am going to take what I am learning to heart and if it turns out that epigenetics is a bunch of crap (which I don’t believe at all because I strongly believe in epigenetics) then, oh well, I tried my best and if anything, I made myself healthier.

I guess what I am asking is that you please support me, please educate me, and please share what has worked for you. Please don’t think I am judging you or that I think you did it wrong, and please don’t judge or suppress me.

Did you experience this when you were planning your family?

Posted in Family Planning, Personal, Preconception, Pregnancy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment