Heather's Hangout

Sharing the people, places & little moments that make a difference.

Perfect book for history and horse lovers April 20, 2017

PerfectHorsebookI’ve been addicted to fiction books lately, as it’s sometimes nice to escape to new worlds and other ‘people’s’ stories. But when I was walking through the library the other day, a nonfiction book cover caught my eye and made me pause in the aisle. Many of you know that I’m a major horse lover so when I saw the cover for “The Perfect Horse,” with the beautiful head of a white horse along with military troops, I was intrigued. I’m happy I was!

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If you’re a history buff, you’ll enjoy the book as it takes place during World War II. If you’re an animal lover, you’ll enjoy this book as it tells the story of a daring rescue mission to protect some of the world’s priceless, purebred horses from the Nazis.

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“The Perfect Horse” by Elizabeth Betts is a true story of how Hitler sought to breed the perfect military horse by gathering some of the world’s finest purebreds. The book tells the tale of U.S. Army troops who took huge risks to rescue these horses at the end of the war, before the Russians, refugees or others could slaughter these horses for food or other.

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I found the book fascinating from the start. You learn about the different horse farms in Germany, Poland and Austria that bred Arabians and Lippizzaners. I loved learning about the prestigious and historic Spanish Riding School in Vienna, which has practiced classical equitation for nearly 450 years. The book also shares the history of the U.S. cavalry and their role in military actions.

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As much as I’m a horse lover, it was also horrifying to read how the Nazis looked the other way as millions of people were murdered while horses were treated with kindness and warmth at farms not far from concentration camps. It’s sickening to read how the Germans wanted purebred horses as much as purebred humans and would stop at nothing to accomplish this. I also was fascinated by the loyalty and duty many of the veterinarians, grooms, riders and farm managers felt for these horses, as they considered the horses national treasures. The book chronicles the decisions and challenges the farm directors faced while the war raged around the farms and the Germans began to lose.

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The book shares the stories of the many American troops who played a significant role in rescuing these horses from the Germans and before others could harm or kill the animals. These horses were among the finest purebreds in the world so it ultimately was important to try to rescue them as the war ended. To do this, Americans, Germans, Polish and other countrymen worked together to protect the stallions, mares and foals. Overall, this was a well-told story and interesting book.

 

When bowling and football collide April 16, 2017

SamM_HHfowling42017A friend recently invited me to join a group of people to play fowling. I had heard of this activity but never played or seen it in action. I was interested in checking it out.

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What’s fowling (pronounced FOE-ling)? It’s a football bowling pin game. Fowling was invented by some guys right here in metro Detroit. It involves the traditional set up of 10 bowling pins on a flat plywood board. Another set of pins is placed about 48 feet apart, then you take turns throwing a football from your board to your opponent’s board, trying to be the first to knock down all of your pins.

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It turns into chaotic fun. And it’s not as easy as you think (although I didn’t think it was going to be easy at all!). The ball, which is much lighter than the pins, may hit the board, floor or wall (or person!) at an odd angle, causing it to bounce around. Sometimes it hits the pins, sometimes it hits the person standing near the board (I have a bruise on my thigh as proof). If the ball bounces and then knocks the pins down, that counts. And if another team’s ball bounces (from another lane) and knocks the pins down, it counts. If you go to grab the ball and accidentally knock a pin down, it counts (I thankfully didn’t do this but saw it happen a few times). So it got pretty comical watching people grab at or try to deflect a bouncing football.

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We played at the HUB Stadium (which stands for House of Urban Bowling) in Auburnfowlingpins Hills. I noticed on their website that they call the activity bombowling (fowling by another name). There are 16 lanes, which were consistently busy. A full menu and two bars, plus space for private parties made for a very busy place.

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The guy that originally coined the fowling term and established the rules opened The Fowling Warehouse in Hamtramck. There is no food onsite but they allow outside food, and have a full bar. Several people mentioned they also have been to this location and enjoyed the large space to play.

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The game was a lot of fun and I definitely would play again. It would be a great tailgate, camping or outdoor game. Have you been fowling?

 

A few miles at a time reaches a goal April 9, 2017

bikeshoesGarminbottleSometimes our good intentions go….a little unplanned. For instance, I had plans to get up with the sun today, after a rainy, dreary week, to be on the bike trails so I could ride some good miles. However, those good intentions didn’t go as planned because I wrenched my back yesterday and could hardly move by the time I went to bed.

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So I woke up, iced my still hurting back, drank a cup of coffee and watched the beautiful sun rise in the clear, blue sky. And took some Motrin, rub a cream on my lower back and put on my biking clothes. I thought I could ‘just try it.’ If my back hurt too much on the bike, I promised myself I would stop. And instead of the planned 20-30 miles, I set a goal of five. Instead of the bike trail, I stayed closer to home in case it got too uncomfortable.

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You know what? My back felt great! I cruised through a new neighborhood I recently discovered, enjoying the early morning hour that kept the streets fairly quiet. My body felt so good that my Garmin registered 10 miles before I knew it. I decided not to push my luck and headed home. Off the bike, I was pretty sore so I showered, iced my back again, stretched, ran errands, ate lunch….and decided to head back out on the bike because my back was feeling a little better and had felt fine on the bike.

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So I rode another 10 miles. This time was a bit more difficult as the wind had kicked up Rubybikeso it took more energy and effort to get the miles done. But I did it. I got home, stretched my legs and back, iced my back. I relaxed, read some of my current book, talked with friends….and got back on my bike. This time I did stick with five miles! And admittedly, the five miles might have pushed my back a little too much. I’m pretty tight and sore tonight.

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But I’m proud that I was still able to hit my mileage goal. It was a good lesson of breaking down a larger goal into smaller, manageable goals. It was also a good reminder that we need to listen to our body as to what we’re able to do, be happy with what we can accomplish, and not beat ourselves up if we don’t quite hit the original goal.

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I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and accomplished whatever goal you set!

 

Riding into spring April 2, 2017

HHBike32017It was a long, physically tiring week. I pushed my leg (with a titanium rod) too much and the days of rain didn’t help. I felt exhausted enough that I assured my body a weekend of rest if I could get through it. And I had very good intentions to honor that assurance. Except then I didn’t. Because it was SO beautiful this weekend! Sunshine, warm temps, no rain, soft breezes. How can a nature lover be expected to stay indoors and not be active?? I needed some fresh air to clear my mind anyway.

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And Ruby needed some loving. Um, yes, Ruby my bike. It’s been a few weeks since we shared a ride so today seemed like a wonderful day to get fresh air, test Ruby’s gears, and stretch my legs. The great news is that despite my leg aching all week (I mostly blame this on the ongoing rain and chilly temps, not the heavy lifting), it felt fine while riding. No pain, no ache. And I didn’t completely beat myself up….I stuck with a shorter ride of 10 miles. I didn’t even wear my cycling shoes so there wouldn’t be any pressure on my leg when I unclipped from the pedal (although my brain must be wired to clip now when I ride Ruby because I caught myself doing the motions every time I came to a stop! I’m sure I looked funny to passing cars).

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I recently discovered a nearby neighborhood and school are great for biking. The school is empty on the weekend and has a large parking lot and straightaway so I like to do some loops as I practice higher speeds, turning quickly and clipping/unclippping (not today). The neighborhood is usually fairly low on traffic, which makes it safer for biking. It was wonderful to see so many people outside enjoying Michigan’s spring weather. Neighbors were doing yard work, children were playing basketball and riding bikes, dogs were lounging on the lawn. I love this time of year when people start venturing outdoors and become a community again.

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It’s supposed to rain again this week so I’ll be sure to give my body some rest time. As long as Mother Nature doesn’t change her mind……

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What fun activity did you enjoy this weekend?

 

A love for Detroit sports March 8, 2017

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Fun at the Detroit Pistons game!

If you’re a sports fan, living in metro Detroit is a good thing. You have your pick of professional sports teams and a host of collegiate teams. There’s no promise that any of these teams will be great all the time (or at all) but you at least get the enjoyment of having a home team to cheer on during games. I know there are many cities that have team spirit but there is nothing quite like being part of Detroit’s love of our teams.

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My dad was a big sports fan (although he often complained of the huge salaries that professional players receive). My sisters and I grew up to be fans of the Detroit Red Wings, Tigers, Lions and Pistons. And we were not raised to be ‘fair-weather fans.’ No, we stand beside our teams even through the most painful, defeating games and seasons (and we’ve faced many of those with certain teams!). My childhood memories are filled with mental images of listening to the Lions and Tigers’ games in the garage with my dad, driving home from the cider mill on a Sunday afternoon while the Lions’ game played on the radio, and staying up past bedtime to watch the Bad Boys win another basketball playoff game. My parents often hosted football watching parties. My grandmother was a diehard Red Wings fan and could spout statistics more accurately and faster than most sportscasters. When I finished chemo and during recovery of my second leg surgery, many of my dad’s colleagues and business partners had season tickets to the Red Wings and Pistons so my younger sister and I could often be found at these games.

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So it’s with a little nostalgia that I recognize that two of our sports stadiums are closing after their current seasons. The Detroit Red Wings will leave  Joe Louis Arena and the Detroit Pistons will end their season at the Palace of Auburn Hills. Both teams will be moving to the new Little Caesars Arena in downtown Detroit.

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Awesome Red Wings game!

I was lucky to take in a final game at each location before the end. My friend and I attended a great Wings’ game a few weeks ago, with an exciting win during an overtime shootout. It was his first game at the Joe and my last. The Joe holds many memories for me. My sisters and I have attended many hockey games, concerts and other entertainment shows at this iconic stadium. I recall being on crutches and hiking up the outdoors stairs. I remember hugging strangers when the Wings made the playoffs one season.

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A few days ago, my niece and I attended a Pistons game at the Palace. It was her first time at a Pistons game and my last game at this stadium. And guess what? The Pistons won! It was actually a pretty exciting game. The Palace too holds lots of fun memories of sports games, concerts, Disney on Ice shows, and many other entertainment shows. I smile when I think of all the memories that I have from this place, many with my family.

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While our memories will soon end at these longtime stadiums, I also remember Tiger Stadium before Comerica Park and the Silverdome that came before Ford Field. So I know that all of us Detroit sports fans will get used to the new stadium, as we did the ones that we’re leaving when they were shiny new locations (my true hope is that the cities won’t let these huge buildings fall to disrepair and gloom as the other stadiums have sadly become). Unfortunately, neither of these Detroit teams are ending their current seasons very well. We can only hope that the new stadium will bring much good luck to them, and all of their fans. Because that, my friends, is the spirit of Detroit. I look forward to the fun memories to come.

 

Travel planning tips February 20, 2017

Travel planning tips

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Traveling has always been a favorite activity. When I was younger, I loved our family getaways (and still do!) and now as an adult, ‘travel’ is a definite budget line item goal so I can afford to plan my own trips and choose new destinations. I love exploring new locations, learning new cultures (even those local cultures in the U.S.!), trying new activities and simply getting away from life’s daily responsibilities and grind.

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There are many factors that help make a trip memorable, fun and smooth. I truly believe that the people you travel with are the greatest factors in a successful trip. Finding someone/some people who are flexible, easy going and can ‘go with the flow’ if snafus happen can make or break a trip. I recall one of my backpacking trips to South Manitou Island with a group of friends – we woke one morning to thunderstorms and hard rain. Three of us girls piled into a tent and spent a few hours sharing stories, laughing, braiding hair and basically making the most of the unplanned event. When the storms cleared, the planned hikes and fun resumed but it was awesome to be with people who shrugged at the circumstance and moved on.

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Hiking outside of Las Vegas

Traveling solo can be fun too. You can set your own plans and pace, and either do as much or as little as you want without worrying about keeping everyone happy.

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Regardless of how and who you travel with, the advance planning of a trip will help ensure you have a smooth, enjoyable time once you arrive at your destination. Here are a few tips to get you started:

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1. Be prepared to spend some time doing research. Whether it was Maui, Ireland, Alaska or somewhere in Michigan, I took the time to check out local websites and read reviews. This up front research helped me know some local spots, things to be cautious about, and feel a bit more comfortable with a new area. This was especially important when I went to Ireland, as despite it being an English-speaking country, it was still a foreign country with different cultures, currency and customs.

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2. Check out the homes, cottages and condos available on rental sites, such as Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO.com), Air BnB, HomeAway.com and others. I found the awesome oceanfront Maui condo on VRBO, thanks to the suggestion of a friend. These options can sometimes be more affordable, spacious and cozier than a standard hotel (I especially like having the option of buying your own food and making meals when you want). Some questions to consider: When were the pictures taken? If there’s a kitchen, what’s included (dishes, coffee, detergent, etc.)? Are laundry facilities available? Is there a local person to contact if something happens? Is there a cleaning fee and other fees not included in the listed nightly fee?

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3. Read reviews. I like to find a potential facility on TripAdvisor to get some feedback. VRBO usually also has guest reviews of each facility. Keep in mind that these reviews are subjective (what one person finds lacking may not be a big deal to another). However, if consistent problems or concerns are listed, it might be time to look at another facility. For example, my family was ready to book a location for our summer trip until we skimmed the reviews and noticed a lot of recent complaints about cleanliness and cranky staff. We moved on. Check dates of the reviews to ensure the concerns aren’t from years ago. If you want to pay it forward, write a review after your trip of the lodging, entertainment venue or restaurants you experienced during your trip.

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4. Look for a Groupon or other discounts in the local area for lodging, meals and entertainment. If you’re looking for local ideas at your destination, search Groupon, Living Social or similar online discount sites for discounted tickets, restaurant and activity coupons. There are a lot of great choices. You may find a food spot or activity that you wouldn’t have known about without searching.

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Exploring Alaska, one of my favorite trips.

5. Cash in credit card or airline miles. Many people don’t know that these earned miles aren’t just for airline tickets. Most of the time you can redeem for car rentals, restaurant gift cards, cameras, hotel rooms and more. Make sure you know the redemption rules to check on blackout dates and fees.

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6. Ask for input from friends and family. A plus of social media is the ability to share your personal business with a large group of people at once. Heck, often times, friends of friends can learn your business with the click of a button. Take advantage of this by asking for input, suggestions and reviews on Facebook, Twitter and other sites.

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7. Be flexible. If you can adjust dates and also be flexible in the type of lodging or car you reserve, you may find a better deal. Also, once you arrive at your destination, be flexible in your activities if possible. I like to have some ideas for activities but try not to set too much in stone so I can be ready to try something new if the opportunity arises. When my friend and I went to Riviera Maya, we had zero plans except relaxing at the resort. However, I woke one morning and decided to hike the ruins. It was fun!

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8. Check out Costco or other member companies. While I haven’t personally used Costco to book travel, several friends regularly book rental cars, hotels and more through the big store and assure me that they receive great discounts.

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If you put a little time into the planning portion of your trip, you can relax and have fun on the actual trip. And the golden rule of travel for me is to take life in stride – you’re on vacation, enjoy it! And don’t forget to take pictures!

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What tips do you have for trip planning?

 

Trying the coffee craze February 8, 2017

Filed under: Random Travels & Exploring — Heather @ 11:00 am
Tags: , , ,

keurigbrewingIn a kick off to my best year ever, I decided to finally kick my pop habit (yes, that’s what we call the liquid in the Midwest).

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I didn’t drink coffee so Dr Pepper was my daily caffeine. I usually had one in the morning, at my work desk, while I caught up on email and prepared for the day’s meetings and projects. I’d drink one here and there on the weekend and vacation. But here’s the weird thing – I only drank Dr Pepper so if the store/restaurant didn’t carry that brand, I wouldn’t drink any pop. At any rate, I know that pop isn’t the best for you (even diet pop is bad) so I decided to kick it. And I did. I stopped drinking Dr Pepper over the holidays and have drank only two since then (and I didn’t really even enjoy it anymore so didn’t finish those!).

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I also needed to cut back on my Starbucks Chai latte, which is high in sugar. Not to mention adds up in cost. I didn’t drink these daily but enough to note that I needed to scale back. So I convinced myself to limit the crave to once per week. And I’ve been able to manage that since early January (and it’s a yummy indulgence when the one time arrives!).

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So as I removed both of these drinks from my regular routine, what could I add in place when I need a pick me up? I drink plenty of water and have enough tea. I suddenly found myself starting to drink…coffee! I haven’t had coffee since I was 10 when my mom let us drink a cup on Saturday mornings while watching cartoons (keeping in mind that cup was mostly milk, a dash of sugar and some coffee!).

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Some people ask why start drinking anything new? Why start drinking coffee at this point in life? Good questions….but I didn’t commit to cutting out caffeine and can drink only so much tea, so why not? On a funnier note, several cycling friends said that many cyclists drink beer and coffee. I guess I’ll fit into the cycling community a bit better this year (whew, because you know I was worried. Ha)!

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I’m still figuring out my tastes. Dark roasts are too strong. A few of the light roasts are too….well, light. I’m on the fence on flavored coffees, although I like a hazelnut flavored coffee, but vanilla is a little strong. I definitely need a creamer or splash of milk. I like some flavored creamers but nothing too sweet. I don’t even want to know about ‘fancy’ coffees until I get a bit more settled  – OMG do I sound like an adult or what?? Geesh. Although, now that I mention it, I do feel a bit more adult-like, getting my coffee in the morning, enjoying the aroma and warm taste!

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What’s your favorite brand, flavor, way to drink coffee? I need some suggestions!

 

**PS. Yes, I recycle my K-cups. 🙂

 

 
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